Past Stray Thoughts

The title above is a quote from Alan Watts. One might feel this seems intended to cajole inexperienced seekers to question their assumptions about identity but not be of much use or helpful to the vast majority that are convinced of their personhood.
But, I don't consider this cajoling, nor consider it aimed at only inexperienced seekers. Alan Watts means it just as it is stated to whomever it applies -- almost everyone. It's a great act of loving-kindness for those that have ears to hear it.

I went through a long period, years, after initially seeing what life is like without being under the sway of identification, when the self would, as if, try to reassert itself. I say "as if" because in truth there is no such entity. It is a phantom but not even as real as a phantom. It is phantom-like. Once we see this, it cannot be unseen. Ilona Ciunaite uses the perfect analogy of Santa. We may have once firmly believed in Santa. All evidence proved he exists. Our most trusted authorities, our parents, told us he exists. And just as they predicted, toys appear under the tree. He even ate the cookies left for him. But, once we see that Santa did not eat the cookies, it can never be unseen. And all other fantastic entities vanish in an instant, the Easter Bunny, the tooth fairy, even the monster under the bed that your older brother may have convinced you was there. All vanish in an instant.
When the illusory person we mistook ourselves to be reappears, its like seeing Santa at Macy's. Yes, ego arises, the sense of self arises out of habit energy, but it no longer has anymore feeling of reality than the tooth fairy.
One of the initial downsides of this is that not only do you see the phantom-like self sense arise in you occasionally, you see it in everybody.
I went through a long period, years, of seeing the phantom-like self sense hold sway over almost everyone around me. It's like being dropped into a world where everyone believes in Santa and you are the only person that knows that Santa doesn't exist, only it is not nearly so innocuous or benign as the belief in Santa. It is more like being dropped into a country like China during the height of the Cultural Revolution when Mao Tse Dong was revered as a god. Everyone is swept up in the mass hypnosis of unreality. Its like being the only sane person in the state hospital for the insane, only even the staff are insane. Or, its like life today in the US under the leadership of Donald Trump. Mass delusion. Although separateness with the environment has disappeared and you feel one with the natural world, you find other human beings caught up in a dream very hard to relate to, though you clearly understand why they are the way they are.
As time went on, things evened out for me. The feeling of oneness, the identification with the natural world subsided. There is a complete lack of separation but no sense of identity. And I can still see ego arising in others but I also see through utter unreality of it to the life that is there shining through all beings, even those under the sway of Pol Pot-like egos. It's a deeper seeing that took me a long time to see more than intermittently. It is very liberating once it is clarified to the point that not only what you see directly in yourself, that the separate self never had a trace of reality, but also in others, it is like looking at others and seeing only Buddha Nature, only the face of Christ. It is freeing beyond words. This took years to stabilize after the initial seeing of no self. It doesn't have to take that long if you have a good friend or guide that knows the terrain that has been through all that and can help guide you. Unfortunately, I had no such guide and had to work through it on my own for the most part.
So, what Alan is saying is a great act of kindness of the highest order and is meant for all to hear. It may be jarring for some, abrasive to others. Yet for others that are close to seeing this for themselves, it is just what was needed to tip the self sense over the precipice and let it vanish forever. Thankfully, we have people even now among us that can directly point out what we all were missing but so desperately need to see.