ECKHART: Yes. By living through mental definitions of who you are, you desensitize yourself to the deeper aliveness of who you truly are beyond your thoughts. What arises then is a conceptual identity: I'm this or that. Once you're trapped in your own conceptual identity, which is based on thinking and image-making by the mind, then you do the same to others. This is the beginning of pronouncing judgments on others, and then you believe that judgment to be the truth. It's the beginning of desensitizing yourself to who that human being truly is.
OPRAH: You also wrote that we identify with labels in A New Earth, and that the more exclusive the label is, the more we identify with it.
ECKHART: Every ego wants to be special. If it can't be special by being superior to others, it's also quite happy with being especially miserable. Someone will say, "I have a headache," and another says, "I've had a headache for weeks." People actually compete to see who is more miserable! The ego doing that is just as big as the one that thinks it's superior to someone else. If you see in yourself that unconscious need to be special, then you are already free, because when you recognize all the patterns of the ego-
OPRAH: What are the other patterns?
ECKHART: The ego wants to be right all the time. And it loves conflict with others. It needs enemies, because it defines itself through emphasizing others as different. Nations do it, religions do it. If you identify with one particular religion, you need the nonbeliever-the other-to feel your own sense of identity more strongly.
OPRAH: You've explained this by saying that it starts when a baby first reaches for a toy, and if the toy is taken away or not given to them, they say, "No, that's mine."
ECKHART: That's the beginning of identification with things.
OPRAH: And what happens is, we all grow up and just get bigger toys.
ECKHART: Yes. Ego is always identification with one form or another, which could be a possession-my house, my car, and so on. Your sense of who you are is in that thing. If that thing is then criticized by somebody else, you become extremely defensive or aggressive because your sense of self is being threatened. There are other forms of identification; opinions are mind forms. "I am right" implies, of course, that somebody else has to be wrong.
OPRAH: But tell me this: As long as we are in this human form, we must need the ego; otherwise we would have evolved out of it.
ECKHART: We're evolving out of it now. The ego has been here for thousands of years, and that means it has its place in the evolution of humanity. But our ability to think more and more, so that gradually we became identified with thinking, was how we lost a deeper connectedness with life-with Paradise. I believe we are now at an evolutionary transition where far more human beings than ever before are able to go beyond ego into a new state of consciousness.