In your experience, is there any connection between the qualities of the invented self, and those of the real self? Is the ego like a shadow or a distortion of the authentic being; or is there a total discontinuity? Looking back, do you see any traces in the one you are now of the man you once were?
The ego is not a shadow of the self, because in even being a shadow it will have a certain reality, a certain connection with the real self. It is not a distortion of the real self either, because the self cannot be distorted; there is no possibility of that.
The ego is simply false, a substitute created by society to give you a feeling that you have a center, that you have a self, that there is no need for any search – you have already got it. To prevent you from reaching the real self, this is the most cunning device. It is completely made up – from the very beginning, the child is being fed with things which will make its ego. They will appreciate you, they will say you are beautiful, you are good, you are nice – but only when you don’t assert your real self. You are obedient.
That word is very central in creating the ego. Obedience means that whatever your parents are saying you have to listen, to follow; you are not to listen to any voice that is coming from your own being. In the beginning that voice is there; till the ego is strong enough you continue listening to your inner voice.
Obedience is the method to kill your inner voice. Hence all the societies, all educational systems, all religions praise obedience.
The biblical story in this reference has to be remembered: Adam and Eve are not punished because they have eaten the fruit of a tree; they are punished because they have disobeyed. They did not listen to God, they listened to some other voice. This is their great sin, the only sin. And they are thrown back out of the garden of Eden for a simple thing – that they have disobeyed. It seems that people have not paid enough attention to how all the religions depend on obedience.
They may call it different names – belief, surrender, trust, faith – but look into all these words: they are simply saying one thing, that you have to follow the dictates which God has given. And they have the holy book and they have the messiah and they have the prophet; now you need not listen to any voice – particularly your inner voice. That will be again committing the same sin.
The story uses the serpent to persuade Eve, but that is just a metaphorical way of saying it. The reality is that because God has prohibited them from eating from the tree of knowledge, he has already created a great curiosity in Adam and Eve. He could have created it in any children – there was no need of any serpent.