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Ego Death – Beyond the self

ego death
in this article
  • Introduction
  • Ego-Death Explained
  • What do you get out of the experience?
  • Negative Aspects of Ego-Death
  • Ego-Death with Psychedelics
  • Ego Death Through Meditation
  • Conclusion

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Chemical Collective or any associated parties.

Introduction

More and more people, especially psychonauts, are searching for the door to a new dimension, the trip to your true self.

The true breakthrough experience: Ego-death

The dissolution of your own identity. Symbolic death and rebirth – at least that’s how the buddhist’s describe it.

As you let go of the individual self, you become “Nothing”. Because then you are one with all that is. 

Sounds like a pretty creepy experience…

If I am honest, personally I am scared of/have huge respect for this kind of experience and I’ve yet to brave it. But on my psychonautic, spiritual journey it’s definitely high on my wish list. 

In this article I will discuss why ego-death is or isn’t a desirable experience and the different ways you can choose to reach that state. 

The following information is not based on scientific data, but rather the subjective experiences of individuals. This is due to the fact that the expression “ego death” is more likely to be found in connection with aspects of spirituality and philosophy.

Ego-Death Explained

When you experience ego-death, your individual self and your boundaries dissolve. Your identity is temporarily lost.

Your perception of time and space disappears.

And if you have consumed psychedelics to reach this space, you will experience incredibly powerful visuals and hallucinations.

But what exactly is our identity?

Identity is what makes you special. Your personality, values, relationships, memories etc. As the ego dissolves, all these interconnected elements that make up “You” are no longer there, or relevant. We cease to comprehend ourselves as an individual, we are part of the whole.

However, it is important to mention that there are different descriptions of ego-death. Western culture often views this experience as simply a temporary effect of a psychedelic trip, which vanishes after a period of time. In many eastern philosophical traditions, though, ego-death is not a solitary moment, but a step on the way to self-transcendence: “enlightenment”. The end goal of a spiritual journey.

What do you get out of the experience?

Ego-death is often described as a mystical, spiritual adventure, which leads to profound change. The crux of the much discussed “consciousness expansion” catalysed by psychedelics, or the practice of spiritual traditions like meditation which can lead to a deeper understanding of the self and the universe.

The ego is the source of fear, suffering, “negative” thoughts and emotions. “Negative”, meaning emotions which are difficult to experience, rather than a particular value judgement. In reality there are no good or bad emotions, it is the ego which assigns a value to them. So, if the ego is removed from the equation it stands to reason that the individual’s experience of these “negative” emotions also disappears. Spiritual frameworks such as Buddhism describe this experience as reaching inner peace. 

Often people report increased feelings of empathy and compassion following an instance of ego-death, from psychedelics or otherwise. This can improve interpersonal relationships and reduce unnecessary conflicts. Egoic behaviours, or, behaviours which are self-serving, motivated by fear/greed for example, are minimized and the well-being of others be given greater consideration.

People also report that these experiences promote a deeper sense of purpose and motivation. Often we already have the answers to our personal issues and mental struggles, but the ego can hold them back. 

The ego is shaped by past experiences, opinions of others, cultural and social norms etc. Perhaps this experience can reassert your conscious realisation of this, rather than living with it on autopilot. The means to look at society or the self from a healthy distance, outside of your personal biases, can perhaps allow you to find out more about your true self and actually apply these realisations to your life as a whole.

Negative Aspects of Ego-Death

Carl Jung once said:

“Beware of unearned wisdom”

But what did he mean by that? The death of the ego can force the mind to see parts of itself for which it is unprepared. This can cause incredibly difficult experiences, terror, confusion, the famous bad trip. This experience may be very chaotic and unpredictable, especially with the addition of psychedelics as the cause. 

If you are a person who likes to cling to control and security, it can be extremely challenging.

You will be forcefully removed from your day to day experience. If you are not prepared to let go of everything, self included, do not attempt to reach this state of consciousness. There are many things to keep in mind before embarking on such a journey.

Ego-Death with Psychedelics

The fastest way to reach this state of ego-death is of course the use of mind-expanding substances. 

Magic Mushrooms 

Psilocybin, the active ingredient of magic mushrooms, can lead to ego death. It is commonly thought that a high dose of 2.5-5 grams of dried mushrooms. From 2.5 grams and up the ego can begin to dissolve.

Bear in mind this dosage range relates to the most commonly used mushroom species, Cubensis, which are of a medium strength.

Dosage will vary drastically for other types of mushrooms.

This dosage calculator from Shroomery.org is a very useful tool for determining your desired outcome: Dosage Calculator

Mushrooms are considered a relatively safe option to reach the state of death of the ego due to their low toxicity, and reasonably reliable potency. As always, beginners should proceed with caution and titrate their dosage slowly. 

LSD

Acid is a little more unpredictable, due to the illegality of the substance, determining the exact dosage of tabs is nigh on impossible. This means the chances for a negative or scary experience are potentially increased. A high dose of LSD, especially one higher than expected, can be compared to an unstoppable, sensory tsunami. 

It is said that you need to take a higher dose relative to shrooms to experience ego-death. However, it is difficult to generalize an exact amount, because everyone reacts to it very differently. Pay close attention to set & setting also, as they play an important role in directing the experience.

Ayahuasca

Ayahuasca is a hallucinogenic drink, the active ingredient of which is DMT. Originally it was consumed for spiritual ceremonies by the natives of South America and the Amazon region. The goal of the spiritual consumption of ayahuasca is in fact ego-death, which can be described in various indigenous rites and traditions as an encounter with a divinity, or the divine. Those who have taken this substance, and the accompanying ceremony describe experiencing their own death without fear. The quality of the brew and the ceremony surrounding its consumption will of course hugely affect the resulting experience.

Ketamine

Ketamine is not traditionally counted among the “classic psychedelics” and is used in medicine as a painkiller, an antidepressant or for the treatment of PTSD. In higher doses it can cause extremely powerful hallucinogenic effects. 

A typical experience which consumers describe, is the loss of contact with their environment. With sufficiently high doses a“K-Hole” can occur. The user feels a complete separation from the self. The K-Hole is in fact just an alternate description of ego death, likely with less of the spiritual undertones, due to the powerful sedative effects of the substance.

DMT 

DMT is one of the strongest psychedelics in existence, which can cause immediate, intense changes in consciousness. 

Ego death with DMT, is often described as the experience of a “breakthrough”. The sheer pace of this can be hard for some minds to endure. Those who make the journey, describe it as being shot through a tunnel into a new reality where “you” cease to exist.

Ego Death Through Meditation

The longest, but likely the safest, most comfortable way to reach the state of self-dissolution is through meditation. Buddhists call this experience “symbolic death” and “rebirth”. It is a profoundly important stage on the journey to enlightenment, which is an idea widespread in eastern culture. 

It can take a lot of time and self discipline, a lot more commitment is required than simply placing a tab on your tongue.

In my own experience of this practice it took several weeks of meditating at least once a day to notice any alteration of perception at all, and I still have yet to fully experience self-dissolution. There is no right or wrong approach and there are numerous descriptions of how to reach ego-death through meditation online without taking psychedelics.

Conclusion

There is no guarantee that ego-death experiences are going to happen regardless of the practice or substance you employ. But, I believe exploring the possibility and being prepared for it is wise. Psychedelic and spiritual/transcendent experiences are completely individual and other factors like set and setting play a crucial role in making them manageable.

Even taking into account the fact that there is a fairly high chance that the experience of ego-death can be difficult and uncomfortable, I am convinced that I want to attempt to reach it someday.

But I’m in no rush.

I don’t want to actively recommend it to anyone, especially with my lack of experience, but I think the world would be a better place, if more people let go of their ego and attempted to better understand themselves.

Remember: you will become “nothing” in this state of ego-death.

By its inherent nature, this is impossible to understand from the perspective of a conscious individual. Do not jump into this lightly. Maybe a wise initial move if, like me, you are excited by the potential for betterment that this experience promotes. Perhaps choose the slow and comfortable method of meditation practice. Once you have a feel for the state of mind (or lack thereof) begin experimenting with psychedelics.

Good luck on your journeys! I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments, along with any further ideas, or, methods you use to stay comfortable and safe throughout. 

Vanessa Stern | Community Blogger at Chemical Collective |

Vanessa is one of our community bloggers here at Chemical Collective. If you’re interested in joining our blogging team and getting paid to write about subjects you’re passionate about, please reach out to David via email at blog@chemical-collective.com

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Sirius
1 month ago

I agree.

enronal
2 months ago

Ego death can be very positive if you can experience the loss of the ego as a merging with everything else. On a smaller scale, think of it as perceiving everything other than yourself so sharply that your preoccupation with yourself and your own importance diminishes.

Last edited 2 months ago by enronal
Duckman
2 months ago

interesting

Monaxi
2 months ago

I love this time when ego melts. I can clearly see what Im or somebody is doing wrong and actually change my mindset which is impossible even if im aware of something bad. It helps me to change for better.

Amit
2 months ago

What I’ve read about ego death the most drastic visual is seeing yourself from outside like watching yourself from a 3rd person, thats some crazy visual.

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