"Recently, you spoke of the chain of cause and effect which can be traced back to the choice for separation. This chain started at separation, then to sin, guilt, fear and on. It has always seemed helpful and meaningful to me to see this initiation of cause and effect to simply be “ego-identification”. I see this at the same level as “one problem” and “one solution”. Only here the one solution to “ego-identification” would be “spirit-identification”. Is there something useful to everyone that could be said about this?"
All parts of the separation, including all the illusory steps of levels and causes and effects, are all really just part of a single idea and a single dream. Or as you say, the one problem of separation. The answer to it is the one Answer. So essentially we do only have this one choice, whether to be identified with the entire dream of death and separation, or identified with God's Son.
Jesus also says that the idea of "death" was the last illusion to go, being that the entire dream of separation was a dream of death. It was the idea of the opposite to Eternal Life, and as such as soon as we seemed to enter into it we were entering into death's doorway right off the bat, even if it was then followed by various apparent "stages" in separation. The whole entire thing is an idea of death, and it then takes on many forms and has many illusory shifts in cause and effect.
Essentially, we have a problem of identity. So what is identity anyway?
What you are is the same as who you are. God created you whole and sharing everything with Him. You as the Son of God are the single extension of God's love. If your awareness of that fact is not blocked, you would be aware of all of yourself and therefore recognize who you are in fullness and in truth.
When blocks to awareness are introduced, you no longer can see all of yourself. Your awareness becomes confined to what you have "kept" in awareness, and the things you've blocked or denied have seemingly gone beyond awareness into the idea of an unconscious mind. That means part of what you are is outside of your conscious awareness, and you do not see all of your real self.
The problem with this is that you believe that your limited view of yourself is still a whole view of yourself. You do not see, or are not aware of, the parts of you which your blocks prevent you from seeing. So it creates the ILLUSION that there are parts to you which actually are not there, which are hidden from view. What is swept under the carpet presents the illusion that it no longer exists. It really does, but the illusion of separation (blocks) SEEMS to make it seem like they don't.
So then with a limited viewpoint, and a limited awareness, you're not aware of what is hidden. Whatever your awareness IS aware of, that also equates to what you have accepted, what you believe is the truth, and what you equate with your Self. Being unaware of your whole self, you therefore naturally perceive and thus conclude that you "are" that which you are still aware of. It's just that, now you're not aware of everything there is to you. So this now seems to create the illusion of an identity which is not all of yourself. It's a limited view so you see yourself as a limited self.
Since you essentially are one with everything, and if you were aware of this you'd see your "Self" everywhere - i.e. what you are, the extension of everythingness, literally the more that you uncover your awareness and bring more of your self back into awareness, you become more and more aware of the fact that you are bigger and more expansive and whole than you previously thought. This goes all the way to a full awareness of EVERYTHING, i.e. God, which reveals to you that you are also everything.
When all of yourself is VISIBLE to you, i.e. you can see it, because you are aware of it, then you would realize that there basically is no limit to your real identity. Who and what you are is completely unlimited. This is why the Course says "there is nothing my holiness cannot do" - because literally your Real Self knows NO limits of any kind.
While you have blocks to awareness, you will have blocks to being aware that you are One with God. You will see and experience "what you are aware of" as something limited. Not seeing all of yourself, yet still believing that you ARE seeing all of yourself, this will create an identity or a sense of "what you are" which is limited. This limited view of yourself is basically what the Course is referring to as the ego.
To put that a little simpler, basically, the extent of your awareness is also the extent of your sense of Self. If your awareness expands far enough beyond your limited scope, beyond the body and beyond separations of forms, you'll have an experience of being a much larger Self. You'll experience a oneness, first as though the entire world and universe is yourself, then even beyond that.
There is basically no limit to what you ARE, because you are the infinite Son of God, so the more blocks to awareness you undo the more you will see more of what you are, and therefore equate that with your sense of identity. "Who am I" is the same thing as "How much of my full self am I aware of." And since most people are NOT fully aware of all of themselves, they believe they are a limited self in an isolated body having a separate will, cut off from others because they do not see how they AND others are ONE SHARED IDENTITY. "Collective consciousness".
By believing the illusion that you are limited in your awareness, that your blocks are real and that darkness has the power to hide parts of yourself, and that therefore you have an unconscious mind and a small part of yourself which remains conscious, you believe that your identity has become "little". Littleness is the ego's attempt to become much less than whole (big) by sectioning off most of your Self and relegating it outside of awareness (to create the unconscious mind).
What you are then left with is this little speck of a Self, stuck in a limiting body. The body then implements all of these additional layers of denial and blockage, preventing your awareness from being aware of all of what you are. Your awareness becomes so limited and little that your little "conscious self" believes it is nothing MORE than a body. This was the purpose of the body, to limit your identity and equate your identity with that which can die.
The way I'm presenting this so far, you could say that real identity is what you are fully aware of, and partial identity is when you are only partially aware of that. There is still at all times identification with "what is", because really death would have to happen in order to completely obliterate all awareness. Death is the ultimate "block to awareness". So while in a body you have at least some awareness and therefore are partly aware of your identity as God's Son. But it's a dim light, and covered with so many illusions of littleness and body-identification.
By lifting blocks to awareness your identity will "increase" back to where it should be. There isn't in that really any change in real identity, but there is an apparent change in the illusion of what your identity is, moving aside to reveal your truer self.
So another way to describe this, is more along the lines of what you suggested whereby you "either" identify with Spirit or you identify with ego. Now, this falls a bit more in line with the way of presenting this where the ego is considered a separate state or thing in its own right. It's the perspective as though you can be ego or truth but not both. However, in truth, you are truth and yet there appears to be a simultaneous illusion that the ego exists.
From the ego's perspective, its sense of truth would have to mean that the real truth does not exist at all. That's the illusion it tries to pull off. When there are blocks to awareness, if you still had full awareness you'd know that what has been blocked is "still there". It is just hidden or covered up. Like the sun is always there behind the clouds.
But the illusion that the ego weaves SUGGESTS that, in fact, when that which is hidden has become hidden, it literally STOPS existing and has therefore been REPLACED by the illusion of something else. That would be to say that when its a cloudy day, the sun ceases to exist. This correlates to the ego's idea that "darkness can hide", i.e. that darkness can cause light to disappear. This is obviously completely false because as soon as light shows up darkness is dispelled - that's the truth. But the LIE is that darkness can hide the light or even destroy the light.
The entire ego thought system is based on this lie, this simple little idea that by YOU burying your head in the sand and not being aware of God or your True Identity, those things STOP existing and therefore have been removed from existence. This is the idea of sin, basically, that you have successfully attacked God/Self and have caused them to stop existing and now they no longer exist and you are separate and alone. It's entirely a fictional illusion but we have tried to believe it is true, in our insanity.
So like, when someone does something wrong, and they think of it as having sinned, like they hurt someone and caused them physical harm, they might then feel guilty. The guilt will tell them they deserve punishment and not forgiveness, and so they will believe they are unworthy of being loved. In this unworthiness, they actually now see themselves as though it's impossible to become worthy again, because their "worthy self" has been REPLACED with an unworthy self, and their "worthy self" no longer exists at all. This is the idea of irreversible sin.
Basically, if sin really has happened in reality, then it really has changed your identity and has really made you unworthy and therefore you really cannot undo it. The sin is now really in the past, out of the way of you changing it, you cannot undo it, and all of the consequences that came from it are justified and true. Therefore who you "were" (innocent) has been literally actually replaced with or changed into who you now are (guilty), and you really believe that is your identity now. That you are made of sin and guilt because they are true of you.
So the person, with blocks to awareness, will continue to believe they are truthfully unworthy and they don't deserve love and there is no way they can become worthy again. Because they really did sin which has destroyed their innocence. Their sense of identity shifts from an awareness that they are purely innocent and lovable, to that they are very limited in their lovability because their awareness of love is limited. This seems to form a new "identity" or a sense of what they are, what is included in themselves, or what they are made of.
Believing that illusion, which is a complete lie and is false, they are actually believing that their worthy self really did sin, their worthy self stopped being innocent as a result, their worthy self became or turned into an unworthy self, and now their identity is an unworthy self. This then seems despairing and produces a lot of suffering, because the person believes that they are no longer eligible or capable of being worthy ever again, and that their worthy self has been completely destroyed. However, their worthy Real Self is still there, just HIDDEN.
The illusion of hiddenness is what the ego's thought system is all about. It's the idea that we can hide God from ourselves, and therefore because our separation from light allows us to be in darkness, our darkness has power over the light (the authority problem) and has succeeded in actually undoing light. It's a belief that we have actually harmed God, have actually destroyed Heaven, have actually damaged the Son of God, and all that we are now "left with" is this measly little scrap of an unworthy, very severely limited sense of Self, which is barely capable of anything.
So what's happened here is, we have become "identified with ego" by placing blocks in our awareness to shut out our full identity, have bought into the illusion that this illusion of a block is REAL, and now believe that our sense of Self has changed from truth to lies - that we have literally transformed into an ego self - an evil self.
For this ego self, the physical body is a SYMBOL (not an end in and of itself), it is a symbol representing the idea of separation taken to its extreme. It is a form which the whole Son of God implemented to break Himself up into trillions of fragments and to separate them all out from each other, creating the ILLUSION that there are many little conscious selves who are all disconnected from each other, and who therefore SEEM to have their own identities.
As the ego thought system continues being applied, and more blocks are introduced, one of those blocks is the "defense against the truth" which produces sickness. The body is attacked and made to be sick and damaged. The purpose of that is to try to further shift awareness away from light and truth and wholeness, and make it FOCUS really intently on that which is limited and little. The more that the mind can be caused to make the physicality real, the more it shuts out the mind and makes the person go even more unconscious.
What's happening is we're trying to combine or bind or join or implement a oneness between the Son of God and the body, so that we can TURN HIM INTO a body, or IDENTIFY HIM AS a body. If there is little awareness left in the mind of being more than a body, and the body becomes the central focus of all attention, then the Son of God is further more tightly bound to it.
As an analogy, it's like strapping some bricks and heavy objects to the Son of God to try to weigh him down so that when He is finally murdered, He will go down with the body. The body will act like an "anchor" in consciousness, which is basically what it is. It's like a magnetic attractor or black hole sucking us in and trying to feed off us. It tries to take us down with it. Or rather, our ego uses it to try to claim that the Son of God is NOT free and IS a body and therefore, because bodies are vulnerable to attack, that the Son of God can be attacked and destroyed.
So each time someone IMPLEMENTS sickness, as a defense against the truth, they are attempting to make the body louder, to make it scream, to make it create signals and proof and evidence that it is real and is happening to you. So then we implement pain and diseases and make parts of it stop working properly, so that we essentially can obsess over it and fixate on it and make it very real to us.
To the mind, this creates the illusion that the body is doing something to us that we don't want, against our will, and which we (so sadly) can do nothing to correct. Truth is we do not WANT it corrected because it is actually a DEFENSE protecting us from the perceived threat of the truth. The ego finds the truth to be very threatening. Or to put that another way, when your sense of identity is limited and an awareness of being MORE than you thought comes along to throw out your sense of who you thought you were, it seems temporarily to threaten your sense of identity, as though the truth of who you really are threatens your existence, and thus you put up defenses to stop it, which produces sickness.
Sickness in that form (sickness is really any belief in separation from God, not just bodily sickness), but bodily sickness is an attempt to escape from and withdraw INTO the body and hide in it and make yourself even smaller and weaker and more vulnerable, so that you can put as much distance between you and the truth as possible. We cower in it, withdraw into it, attach ourselves to it, and try to make it be all of ourselves, in order to hide from God and escape his wrath.
The ultimate aim of this "body identification", which is part of ego identification, is to make yourself so associated with the body that you BELIEVE that you cannot live forever, that you are not immortal, and that you must die. It's a way of implementing death, and usually it results in the illusion of death taking place.
And in that illusion, it is CLAIMED that the Son of God has been finally completely finished off. But it really is just an illusion because there is always a difference between the Self that you really are, and the illusion of a self which can die. The truth is your real self cannot ever die so it doesn't actually die when the body dies.
Now, another way to look at this is in terms of the ego being a device for separation, which is completely non-functional and has no mind of its own and does not have its own will and does nothing. i.e. the ego is an idea of death. It is nothingness. You could think of it like a pair of sunglasses which are just sitting there on the table doing nothing. But if you pick up those sunglasses and put them over your SIGHT, they may SEEM to create the illusion that your SEEING has been affected - your awareness has been blocked. And now you see differently.
The ego's perspective is completely the opposite of the perspective of God. It is a perspective which is 180-degrees flipped around. If it could have its own belief, it would believe that God is death and is evil, that the Holy Spirit is your worst enemy, that death is life, that sacrifice is salvation, that love is hate, that fear is helping you, that suffering is atonement, that God is a God of revenge and wrath, that you are separate and separation is real, that it is God's will that you die, that you are unworthy of love and you don't want love anyway, and that death is your doorway to freedom and peace.
The ego's perspective, as an inert lifeless "device", is of looking at God from completely the opposite direction, and so if you "pick up" the ego and you limit your awareness with it - if you USE it - i.e. see WITH it, you will now see what IT would see if it had its own mind. The ego DOES NOT HAVE A MIND. The ego is not real. It has no awareness and no will. It's just a CONCEPT. It's the illusion of darkness hiding light, or the illusion of separation being real and irreversible.
But when you pick it up and use it and look out through it, it limits your awareness and implements blocks and distortions and twists in your perception. It introduces all kinds of perceptual "errors", ways of looking which are false. It shows you things which are not there. It hallucinates. It projects ideas and filtered visions of God as a horrible monster. It distorts reality and turns it upside down. It manipulates meaning and truth and changes everything into an alternative. It replaces love with hate and life with death.
So as a device, it's quite a strange instrument, in that it shows you a completely flipped reality. When you take the device OFF, i.e. remove the blocks to awareness by taking the ego sunglasses off, you would instantly SEE again the truth as it is, rather than the ego's filtered version. And this would show you the truth about who and what you are, i.e. what really exists in your awareness, and you wouldn't have to do anything else to determine your identity. It would be obvious.
Then as soon as you put the ego sunglasses back on again, hey presto, instantaneous perceptual distortions and very convincing seeming ILLUSIONS that separation is real and oneness is not real and that everything has gone wrong. When you pick up and put on the ego glasses, you are IDENTIFYING WITH the ego. You wear it, you use it, you try to attach yourself to it, you try to make it yourself. You are really trying to become ONE with it.
You're trying to give it a sense of reality, a sense of truth. You're trying to "make it real". You're trying to bring TO it your life and your power and your awareness, to try to give IT life and power and awareness. And this creates the illusion that you are bringing it to life and giving it a will and a mind and a power of its own, and that is what results in a whole bunch of illusions that you are a victim.
You can't make be alive what has no inherent life. If God did not Create or extend it, then it can never live. But we're trying to make the ego live, like a puppet, which we animate and PRETEND is living its own life and doing its own thing with its own will and decision making and opinion, but really it has none of its own. It only can do what we make it do, and it can only appear to be what we decide it is.
However, we DO use it in such a fashion as to believe in the distorted perceptions that we see WHEN we use it, and our sense of "who I am" gets somewhat confused with what IT appears to be or how it perceives. The closer we try to unite with it, the more we become possessed by it, the more we bind ourselves to its idea (i.e. the body), the more we will perceive and therefore believe that IT is our Self. Our sense of who we are gets all confused and wrapped up in it and there come to be so many blocks to awareness that we may not even suspect that there is more to us than this.
Awareness HAS to be blocked from the mind in order to even have any chance whatsoever of believing that an illusion is true or real. We cannot keep awareness of the truth and believe an illusion. If we had awareness of the truth, it would make it IMPOSSIBLE for us to look at the illusion and believe it is ALSO the truth. It would be recognized as merely ridiculous and false. In contrast to the truth, that which is false is seen to BE false and there's nothing more you need to do to discern that and therefore that illusion will be let go and it will disappear.
So while you are aware of God, it's not possible for you to buy into your illusions of separation and ego. So you have to BLOCK awareness of God and of your True Self, so that you can potentially buy into the illusion and believe it's real, and that it has the power to redefine the meaning and identity of what you are. i.e. the sum total of "what is present."
Having blocked that awareness, it now becomes easier or more plausible and potentially believable, that the ego's viewpoint - when you use it - COULD be possibly showing you the truth. You are just limited in your awareness of what the truth is, you do not REMEMBER and cannot ACCESS what the truth really is, and so you ACCEPT that whatever is still IN your mind is the whole of what is and is therefore the whole of what you are.
Now, something pretty interesting happens when you associate your sense of Self with the ego, i.e. when you block enough of who you are that it SEEMS as though you must be this limited little self. Whatever you are aware of, that is the TRUTH to you - its what you have accepted. You cannot accept a truth that you are not able to be aware of, and what you are aware of is what you are EXPERIENCING. So if you can't experience it by direct awareness, it is not true for you.
This means that as your mind becomes blocked, it will shut down awareness and experience of God's truth, and its sense of truth will become limited and incomplete. However, you have this built in desire to protect and defend and maintain and keep alive whatever it is that you believe is the truth about you. You want to preserve your identity - your very SELF, at the core.
Regardless of whether you are aware of your whole self or just a little part, thinking it is all there is, you will defend "that". Whatever is the scope of your awareness, you will believe that's the whole of your self and will protect it and want it to continue. The strange thing is, that the ego's perceptual content is so distorting and so filled with untruth, that it changes your sense of what the truth about you is. You will then proceed to try to protect and defend this truth, but not realizing that you are actually trying to protect and defend an idea of death.
If limitation is separation, and blocks to awareness produce a limited idea of truth which is actually quite false and filled with errors, and if your sense of identity and Self has become confused and entangled with that erroneous belief system, and you continue to want to uphold that truth and defend it and keep your "true self" (false self) going, then you will protect it and fight to keep it. But you're fighting to keep a lie, fighting to keep a block to awareness, fighting to keep the separation in place, and are essentially fighting to implement the complete eradication of the awareness of yourself, which is death.
So what people do is, having believed the illusion is true, they defend the illusion "to the death", under the belief that they are saving their life and are preserving their true self. But since that illusion is false, they are actually continuing that which is false, and that will LEAD them to inadvertently CHOOSE TO DIE.
These ego illusions can become so distorting that you can actually come to believe and be quite deeply convinced, that it is true that you should die, true that you do not deserve to live, true that you are actually defending and upholding the truth by dying, true that by dying you will access freedom and power and peace and independence from God, and true that death is welcoming and supportive and your salvation. So distorted will perception become, unchecked, that it can literally look as though death is God and God is death and that therefore you WANT death.
Unfortunately, this is precicely how billions of people are choosing to die today, and throughout history, and will continue to in the future. They simply do not have enough awareness. They are not aware enough of who and what they really are, or all of what exists (God), to be able to SEE what the truth really is, to provide a reference point or contrast to be able to compare their ego truth to, to be able to RECOGNIZE that the ego's viewpoint is completely false and therefore dismiss it. Death is unconsciousness.
Not only will people defend their "extent of truth" - their limited awareness of truth which must be in error - but they'll do so really only because their sense of SELF is tied up in it. As explained earlier, identity equates with awareness and so does truth. When awareness is limited, the illusion of those limitations seems to produce an identity which is limited as well, but it's still your sense of who and what you are - your Self. Your "Self" becomes associated with and merged with "the ego self", but it's your sense of "me" that you try to keep, and in the ego's system that means keeping the independent individual separate self.
People are not really, in truth, actually invested in or loyal to the ego. It is nothing. No-one can really do anything other than USE it like a lifeless tool. It serves a purpose and has a function, and that function produces a false perception, but that's all.
People do not really defend the ego. It's just that, they want to preserve their sense of who they "really are", and because they are deluded with ego-influenced perceptual errors, they end up defending something which is false and actually harms them. They would drop the ego in an instant if they no longer had a use for it or a belief in it and had enough awareness to see that, in truth, it does not exist at all.
But when you're confused with who you are, thinking the "ego's truth" is your truth and your identity, you will want to protect your self. This plays out in a similar way when ever you then attempt to become more spiritual. Your attempt at becoming "more true" is going to go one of two ways.
Either you're going to take on a truth which is actually inherently false but which SEEMS true - an illusion of truth. Or you're going to attempt to transform your limited self into an illusion of a "more spiritual" self, without actually taking off the ego glasses or letting go of the ego at all. In both, there is a kind of exchange of one set of illusions for another.
It is therefore possible, besides the "accidental" (yet really deliberate) choice to die, to make it seem as though you are going on a spiritual path to "gain more truth" or to become the spiritual self that you apparently are not yet, and the ego has an entire set of ways of making it SEEM as though you are doing that. Basically, if you are actually holding onto the ego and are identified with it, and you attempt to change your identity, without letting the ego go, you are attempting to change the EGO, and it cannot be changed.
The ego has a completely fixed way of looking at things. It is the opposite of love. It cannot see any other way. It never will. Like a tool or a device, it performs its one function. The function it was designed to perform. A hammer can only be used to hammer in nails or other such tasks. A hammer cannot become a pair of scissors. A doughnut may temporarily alleviate your hunger, but you can't use it to repair your car's engine. Everything of the ego is fixed in its form and in its function.
The ego device, the sunglasses, never will be and cannot be anything else. It has the sole purpose and function of perceiving that separation from God is the truth, that it has been accomplished, that something has seriously gone wrong, that there is real sin and guilt and fear and punishment and suffering, and that death is the truth. That's it sole function and it will never waver from that.
But what happens is, someone who is identified with the ego, who believes they ARE the ego self because their awareness is limited, and may not even REALIZE that they believe they are a limited ego self because of the lack of awareness, they go about trying to "become more spiritual" but without having let go of that ego. So if you are still wearing the ego sunglasses and are still identifying your Self with it, and then you try to change yourself, you will attempt to do so WITHIN the scope of the ego. And that can only mean you will create ILLUSIONS of spirituality.
The ego is quite capable of creating illusions of spirituality, in the form of certain changes in behavior, acting "good", wearing the right clothes or eating the right foods or doing the right acts. This can become actually quite sophisticated and extensive. You can even get a sense that you are becoming so pure and holy that you are waking up. But it's an illusion of waking up because you're really just sectioning off this tiny little corner of the illusory world and "painting a picture" of spirituality, to make it look like you have changed into a spiritual person.
There are therefore many people who seem spiritual, who are not. They are working in the realm of illusions of spirituality, illusions of peace, illusions of caring more, illusions of being holier. It is a trap. But it is very, very commonplace because you have to start somewhere. If you're very closely bound to the ego's way of perceiving, and thus believe that your identity is "not loving enough", then as you take your first steps to try to find a more loving way to be, you'll be carrying this huge weight of ego baggage which you will bring with you.
This also happens whenever anyone starts studying A Course in Miracles. They will bring a huge set of ego functions with them. They will misinterpret its meaning. They will read things into it. They will judge it. They will use it as a weapon. They will scapegoat based on it. They will use it to try to get rid of parts of the world that they do not want - which is really the ego persona trying to create an illusion of being more spiritual by hiding that which it judges as unspiritual. They will spiritualize the dream. They will spiritualize the world. And they will spiritualized the body.
This is an attempt to introduce spirituality and meaning and sacredness INTO an illusion which is fundamentally not of spirit. It's an attempt to make the illusion real, or keep it real, but to change its form, so that it appears to be "not so ego". This is just another way that the ego keeps going, by attacking itself and saying "that over there is the ego, get rid of it", while being the very ego which says that.
This leads to all kinds of level confusion, all kinds of ways that people think they have to stop doing stuff and sacrifice because it is "too ego" or "not of God" or "evil" or "because this part of the Course says this and that." It's an attempt to apply and implement and believe in a greater truth while still holding onto an ego which is incapable of doing so.
So we make these efforts to open up to truth, and to let light in, and to accept more truth, but this has a pretty big side-effect. If you are bound to the ego still, "you" will attempt to take yourself closer to the light, which means that you will drag the ego along with you. And it cannot go there. It will recoil and rebound like elastic. It will also see any attempt to make it wake up as an attack on what it is. It isn't retaliating so much out of inherent evil but just because you are trying to force its nature, its function, to be something that it cannot be.
The truth is alien to the ego. It is separate. It does not understand it. It sees it as a threat to the ego's entire existence. The truth implies the ego is completely false and does not exist. So if YOU are identified with the ego, you are going to conclude that the truth you just exposed yourself to implies that YOU do not exist. It is completely natural and understandable that this will produce various reactions.
If someone had said to you that you do not exist, you mean nothing, your identity is false, you are unreal, etc... and yet if you were still believing your self is real and true, you will take that to be very offensive, hurtful, an attack on who and what you are. The part of your mind which is still tied to and confused with the ego's perceptual system, will perceive that you are attacked by the truth every time you attempt to approach it. And there will therefore be some part of you which didn't come into the light which has "experienced" your attempt as an attempt to destroy yourself.
That part of you will then feel angry, hurt, offended, scared, remorseful, guilty, threatened, and basically acting like a wounded animal. It will retaliate, quite understandably, based on what it perceives is true. It will even seem to be a retaliation towards YOU from "it" which is part of yourself, as a self-attack, and so these ego rebounds are experienced as "viciousness" turning against yourself from within. It's you rebounding from your "self attack" with "self retaliation".
It will believe it is justified in being this way, and therefore you will have these "ego rebounds" where part of you tried to wake up but a part of you which is still identified with ego does not want it.
You have to therefore in some way realize, that you cannot wake up by waking the ego up, and that means if your sense of self is tied to egoic beliefs, "that" self cannot come to Heaven with you. That self has to be let go and dis-identified with. You have to drop it. You have to see the truth and accept it without fear, as-is, and realize and recognize that what you believed previously was NOT true. It was false. It was an error produced by the ego sunglasses.
You can create an illusion that "you" have woken up inside of the dream, whereby you make unconscious so much of yourself that you have judged as imperfect, that it seems that all that is left is this perfect little tiny fragment of identity - but at least it is perfect. You can surround it with illusions and pictures of holiness, but it won't be authentic, and it will be very susceptible to attack and easily affected. It will be hard to maintain and take an exhausting effort. Plus it will practically destroy you because it's really an attempt to get rid of who you are.
This is often what happens when people become too intellectual about the truth and try to take on a truth which they cannot or are unwilling to actually experience, based on being too anchored in their blocks to awareness. Being unable to "leave home" they will instead go into conceptualization. It's all they can do - they can't directly experience the truth because they are not directly aware of it, so they can only IMAGINE what it is like.
This can lead to an extraordinarily complicated and yet inventive and genius-seeming path into the intellect, into concepts, into illusions, and into the belief that if you can just figure out the truth mentally, that will lead you to be able to experience the truth. The trouble is, it does not work at all. It's a profound bypass and inauthentic PRETENSE that you are actually more than or beyond where you ACTUALLY are. i.e. your direct experience is your "actual" truth and all of your conceptual experiences are make-believe about what you think you are. Truth is not a concept, it is a direct experience in awareness.
All of that has to be recognized as not being able to PRODUCE love. You can "get" the Course very deeply and extensively and know what it says and means, on an intellectual quotable level, but that doesn't mean you will experience love at the end of it. In fact your heart might be quite cold as a result. It means you are trying to take on board "truth" which is too far ahead of where you actually are, experientially, in terms of what you are aware of, and it's just too lofty for you to actually live and apply right now. But many Course students do this and can't help it, it's part of the process of sorting out real truth from illusions of truth.
This is why you need to more practically work with applying forgiveness, i.e. undoing illusions, correcting errors, seeking out where you believe something that is false and learning to recognize it as false and having a willingness to let it go. You won't let go of something if you believe it is true or valuable. Only when its true meaning has been revealed by a "greater truth" - increased awareness, will you be able to see it is false and unimportant and not valuable, and then will naturally let it go.
So to REALLY wake up and experience God, you actually get to take the ego sunglasses off, i.e. stop USING the ego, stop PERCEIVING with the ego, and stop BELIEVING what the ego suggests. That also means no longer listening to the ego, and learning to discern what is really true and what is false. i.e. what is true outside of the ego versus what is true inside of it.
You need to LET GO OF the ego, not transform it into something more true. It cannot learn to be true truth. It is nothing and does not even really exist. It is nothing more than an illusion that the truth does not exist, or that it has been replaced by a new truth.
Letting the ego GO, means basically SURRENDERING it. Giving it up. Stopping using it. Stopping fighting against God, reality and your real Self. It means having a willingness to accept that something else is true, and that what you believed is false. You can only take those steps by having a "little willingness" to admit that your current ego limited perception may be in error (because it is limited), that you may not know the truth, and that therefore you are open to correction. Correction is the UN-DOING of the ego, by the introduction of something more true.
So as you do this, the part of you which is still identified with ego is not going to like it. It may be experienced as though you are falling apart, losing track of who you are, becoming very confused or disoriented about what is true and what isn't. You may become afraid that you're going to stop existing. You will come to all kinds of incorrect conclusions, just because you don't have enough awareness, and thus conclude that the truth implies something about YOU, because you are identified with the ego, and therefore think that the ego's distorted interpretation of the truth means something you do not want.
There will be this tug of war of wanting to get closer to God and recoiling and reacting, because the ego is always against God and so long as you use it a part of you will be against God. You, aligned with ego, do not want to wake up. But, there is a part of you that wants to. It pulls itself into the light just enough to glimpse a greater truth, then the rest of you recoils in horror.
But gradually as more light enters the mind, the mind become more able to see a larger truth, and therefore opens up to more genuine awareness. That shines a light to SEE, and to be able to RECOGNIZE not only illusions for what they are - false - but to also recognize your SELF for what you really are.
This entering into the truth will shine a light on you and what's in you, and will reveal (if you're willing) the hidden hates and secret sins which you were keeping hidden in the darkness. It will also bring to light things which you have repressed, feelings which you denied, pain and hurt which you did not want to let go of etc. It will come up and out in a great catharsis which can be very difficult to go through, and can last many years.
Gradually though, you sort of take two steps forward and one step back, and eventually clear out a lot of old repressed junk. You bring things which were unconscious back into awareness, and your awareness thus increases. You "wake up" gradually. You become slowly more aware of parts of yourself which you were not aware of, your sense of Self therefore changes. It's not the ego that's changing. It's you letting go of the ego and becoming less blocked in your awareness.
A Course in Miracles says at the start:
"The course does not aim at teaching the meaning of love, for that is beyond what can be taught. It does aim, however, at removing the blocks to the awareness of love’s presence, which is your natural inheritance."
So basically we need to seek out the blocks and recognize how we're using them to block the truth, and learn that they are false, and then drop them - undo them, remove them from our mind. Then we will become more aware of a love which is already present but was hidden. The truth will dawn on the mind as a "remembering" of what already its true and which never stopped being true.
With that awareness, you will remember who you really are. Your identity will equate with your awareness and you will see yourself, recognizing yourself as Christ, and as Oneness. As the Son of God.
So like you said at the very beginning, it really does basically boil down to a single simple identity crisis. It's a simple matter of whether you are aware of who you really are, or whether your awareness is limited with some illusory "ego" deception which makes you believe you are some other sense of self. You are either ego-identified - i.e. identifying your self as being within the scope of a dream - or you are Christ identified.
So you could say, if you JUST do this one thing and stop identifying yourself with "ego" (the entire separation) and become more aware of your real identity as Christ, then that's all you need to do. I'm not sure if you can get your mind around that on the colossal scale that it represents, but it essentially is the "key" difference between being ego or not.
This actually is often reflected in the Course's various "forms" of undoing, where Jesus contrasts the level of truth with the level of illusions. For example:
"I am not weak, but strong.
I am not helpless, but all powerful.
I am not limited, but unlimited.
I am not doubtful, but certain.
I am not an illusion, but a reality.
I cannot see in darkness, but in light."
Here He is basically having us dis-identify from egoic beliefs and illusions, affirm the truth of what the truth really is in greater awareness, and thus "shift" us a little bit from lies to truth. Jesus would also say I think that the separation is a black-and-white idea, because in many places he talks of the all-or-nothing nature of it.
For example, even a little hint of a belief in attack is murder, or that if you accept one piece of the ego's thought system you accept the entire thought system, or even a slightly small grievance is just as much a murderous attack as a huge one. It either takes you vertically closer to the whole truth or it plummets you deeper down into a nightmarish hell.
It ultimately does boil down to a simple black-and-white choice - God or illusion, God or ego, Life or death, heaven (truth) or hell (lies). Jesus when He finally undid the body and made it disappear, said that death was the last illusion to go. The entire separation was an idea of "not life", i.e. death, and He saw the whole thing as one thing - the one problem, the one idea, saw through it and finally undid it all.
Coming to recognize the entire ego thought system as ONE THING is a very, extremely advanced position. We can perform little symbolic steps or slices of this perceptual state, as in the example above, which can gradually erode our belief in separation. But to finally be able to SEE it as an all-or-nothing black-and-white distinction between truth and lies, will only fully happen at the point where we are finally waking up to Reality.
At that point, it is going to be a matter of "who am I", this entire illusory thought system/world/universe, or God's holy Son? And having recognized that the entire ego thought system is completely 100% false, it will be obvious that it CAN'T be who you are, is NOT your identity, and thus you will remember that you are the Holy Son of God.