Various aspects of the ego

Think of the ego as the whole complexity of our conscious self, or all that might be included in our conscious 'I am', or in what one would say is conscious me. Ego is also our self-identification, or how we think of our self, which includes our consciously thought-about self-image. So the meaning of ego is somewhat complex – because it is the whole integration of many functions.

Ego is our conscious 'I am', as well as having a conscious power to decide, direct our energies and get things intentionally accomplished. Yet, underneath our consciousness is a large and complex subconscious part of our whole self. So there is much more to oneself than our conscious ego – which is like the visible part of a whole iceberg – yet there is much more to our whole psyche (our whole self) than just what is conscious and 'in-control' at this moment.

The ego is both a self-identification (the ego-I) and a directive power (the ego-will), which combines to make an experience/action of I-will. The ego is most simply defined as this conscious I, as it is at present, which is who I think of myself as, right now. This includes my present power of will, plus my present self-image (my thinking of myself), plus any desires or goals that I am now involved in. An ego is a pattern or structure that includes all of those elements; but the easiest way to understand one's ego is both as the conscious I and as the conscious will. The ego and will can be distinguished: no ego is without having will as part of it, yet ego involves more. But they are so intrinsically entwined that both are combined as one aspect of the psyche.

Our ego is an important part of who we are, and it has practical function in our life. The ego is our sense of self, it is our I-ness, and it is the one who self-controls and makes choices. So the ego is fundamental in our experience and in practical life. When one is I-conscious, or conscious of I, or when thinking 'here I am', then this 'I' is our ego. Take a moment to reflect on being I, or I am. This is the ego. The ego is one's self-aware knowing – one's awareness of being I. Ego is the I and the I am in the knowing of our self.

This self-awareness could be purely an awareness of I, but usually one's self-knowing {of who I am} comes from thinking about who I am, or it could also come from the thoughts of others (or what others say I am). So the ego, as a self-knowing, derives from thoughts and self-image about oneself. The ego is also related to self-desires, as well as self-thinking, which is part of the ego's will to achieve these desires. The usual ego is mostly obsessed with two things: its own personality and its desires.

The ego also has a sense of 'I choose', I get, and I achieve. The ego is also the one who controls. Will and ego are basically the same; it's just that our will is the doing-function, while the ego is the sense of doing it. The ego is the I-ness of will.

Most often in common English usage, the word 'ego' means something about having a bloated sense of self-importance and pride. And thus it is more often it is used in a derogatory way, implying something negative about a person who has too much ego or who is caught up in his/her ego. What gives the ego this poor reputation is that quite often the ego is only caring about itself or just concerned about what can be gained for oneself. Too often, the ego self-centered, selfish, and desire-based.

Yet it is possible for the ego to become more aligned with and in tune with the soul and with God. So there is nothing inherently wrong or unspiritual about the self-ego, because it does not need to be self-centered, selfish, and desire-based. An ego could just as well be concerned for others and the world, and also be desiring of serving the world rather than just itself.

Five elements of an ego

Each ego is made from all of these five combined elements –

1. conscious desires and goals

2. an intelligent strategy - for fulfilling each desire/goal

3. rational justification – for the desire's importance

4. self-identification with its desire and goals

5. will and determination to achieve its desires and goals

In the five elements above, a particular integration will develop involving each of these elements, yet mainly centered around one of them. Thus a pattern is formed (or solidified). So, instead of just separate and loose desires, self-images, and strategies moving all about the psyche, each in a kind of individualized competition for attention and fulfillment; various allegiances and mutually symbiotic relations are formed. Various common or similar elements gradually combine together as a cooperatively functioning 'pattern' - like a complex functioning molecule.

Each of these even have some degree of 'self-autonomy' (their own power). What makes each of these 'complex' and 'self-sustaining' is that each is an integrated compound of the five basic elements. The integration creates its autonomy and preservation. So, to transform any of these, they need to be dis-integrated or de-structured (destructed). In a science of psychology, or of self-study, it is pragmatically important to name these with a term, but few have agreed on what term to use. We could call these by many names, such as a complex, a compound, a pattern, a structure, or an integrated-portion of the psyche.

Self-image and self-beliefs

The ego loves to think about itself, thinking about how smart one is or how good one is, or maybe even the reverse, of how dumb one is or how bad one is. In other words, there is thinking going on about oneself. Self-opinions are being made, self-images are being made, self-beliefs are being made. These are sometimes all classified self-images, but they really are also opinions and beliefs about oneself. These self-images and beliefs then tend to become fixed over time, by the habit of thinking them. They solidify or concretize, as it were. They become fixed self-identifications., which can then hold us back from being spiritually fluid in the learning of who we are.

So the ego develops these images or beliefs about oneself, which could be over-bloated beliefs of self-importance, but could reversely be over-exaggerated beliefs of inadequacy. Thus, some egos tend to have hugely exaggerated pride and self-importance; while other egos might have low self-esteem or even disgust about oneself. In fact, there are many, many possible ego images. One could have an image of oneself as highly social, while another ego might have a self-image of being anti-social.

What is similar, though, is how they each have become fixed beliefs, or accepted beliefs about oneself. This is the way one sees one's own personality. So fundamentally, this self-image making is the result of a power of the ego or self-reflect, to think about oneself, then finally to name traits about oneself.

Now of importance here, from a spiritual perspective, is to realize that these self-images and beliefs do not need to become fixed or concrete; instead, they ought to be flexible and always ready to be corrected. Also one should realize that the personality does not have to be this way or that. We can be any way. We can be any kind of person. So there is no need to hold onto certain beliefs about oneself, since who we can always be evolving, improving, and nothing should limit us at all. If we hold onto fixed images and beliefs about our self, then our possible self-development will get halted; for it is like making your own cage, then locking yourself in it.

Even worse is if our self beliefs are formed by others. Yet this is quite possible. It is called introjection. It is when we 'swallow' what others say about us, which is to simply accept their opinions or beliefs about who we are. Children are likely to do this, if they have not yet developed their abilities of reasoning and discernment; but adults can also simply accept what others say. One might simply swallow the beliefs and opinions from parents or from one's culture or religion – about 'who' we are. Or maybe our self-beliefs come from astrology, numerology, or other systems telling us who we are or what traits we have. Now of course, some of what we are told could be true; but the point is that one is simply accepting and swallowing these beliefs, rather discovering the truths of oneself by our own self-inquiry and self-awareness. For there is no guarantee that any other person, religion, astrology, or belief system can know who we truly are. And anyways, why simply believe what others say? Find out for yourself who you are.

When we simply acquire self-beliefs from our culture, society, parents or systems of belief; this creates a conditioned ego and inauthentic self-image. It is both conditioned and inauthentic.

Ego and will

The function of self-will, which is our capacity to decide what to do and direct energies towards a goal, is known in normal psychology as the ego. In some cases of ordinary discussions, the ego is sometimes considered in a bad light; for example, as in "being egotistical" or as in being too pushy or domineering. But right now, we are speaking of ego in its most general meaning, as a normal and useful human ability or self power. How a particular ego acts in the world, or how a particular ego uses its power, is another question; that is, we can judge the ethical rightness of an ego's behavior, but we should not simply think of the human ego as necessarily dire or non-spiritual. It is, essentially, an important human function. It is also who one is, for the most part, in terms of what part of our self we mostly identify with. It could also be said that the ego is you, because you are the one directing your life. You are the director, so to speak, at least potentially in your own life - in relation to your mind, emotions and body. Think about it; is this not so?

So, one of the main functions of the self-ego (as the conscious directing I) is the will. Will has two main aspects - the power of decision and the power to manage. Also, will can only be developed by a conscious ego. Once developed though, in relation to a pattern, this element of will can then become subconscious along with its other correlated elements. It is in this sense that a 'will' can be subconscious, or we could speak about the subconscious wills inside us. As can be seen, the whole general idea of self-ego is much more complex; indeed, the whole personality self can be quite complex.

Will is our ability to move energies and get things done. Sometimes our will is directed towards the outer world as we try to manipulate things in order to manifest a goal, and as part of this our will usually has some kind of plan. Then sometimes our will is directed towards our own self, directing and even perhaps forcing the energies and aspects of our self to cooperate with our goal at hand.

So the will is a directing agent; its function is to direct (or perhaps to command), to make things happen and get things done. And this will has a goal. More pointedly said, each 'will of the moment' has a goal; because different moments might well have different goals. Will also involves decision-making. Our will is a conscious decision-maker. So our will is very much related to decision. The will decides and directs.

Now it might be noticed that the description of 'conscious will' is fairly similar to the description of 'conscious ego'; not all the same, but pretty close. The distinction of will and ego can be understood as... will is the directive power of our ego, while ego is the self-consciousness of our will. So ego and will are inseparably related. But ego is larger than will, so to speak, whereas will is just one part of (or function of) ego – which is the whole self-experience of I feel, I think, I will, I do. To make the distinction clearer, will is the 'decisive and directive power' of our self, while ego is the whole integrated functioning of conscious thinking, deciding, planning, directing, as well as our self-identifications and self-images.

Nonetheless, the conscious will is fairly close in meaning to the conscious ego; so in practical everyday thinking, if ego is too strange of term for some people to use (in reference to their self), then will could be substituted for ego. For example, in everyday life it might be strange to think of myself as an 'ego' in action, or as 'I the ego'; yet much easier to think of myself as a 'will' in action, or 'I the will.' But in the lingo terminology of psychology, the ego is more than just our will; because ego also includes our self-image and identification, and it also includes our patterns of belief, thinking, and emotions.

Ego is the manager & director

The ego is the part of us that manages our attention, energies, desires, behavior, and activities. Desires have no intentional will; instead they are just forces of energy. But the ego has intentional will, decisive will, directive will. Ego makes decisions and directs the active will.

Living as an individual with other individuals, we develop a separative ego. The reason for this is to think for oneself and make autonomous decisions, rather than just simply follow what others say or to just think and be the same as everyone else. So having an ego is not bad, even though certain features of the ego need to be transmuted in order for one's spiritual soul to express more completely.

Our ego is the power of our personal will, the manager of our desires, and the director of our body. Ego has to do with all of these functions. When we have will to do something, or when we will ourselves to do something, this is a power of the ego, and the ego directs this will. The ego also has a power to get the body moving, which is related to will. Ego and will are so related though, that there isn't much difference.

Ego also directs and manages our desires, as well as the manager of our conscious behavior and actions. This is an important function of the ego, but there is no guarantee that the ego will be successful in this, because often our desires and habit patterns have a subconscious force, so the ego has to develop stronger, in order to manage such forces.

But the ego not simply against desires, nor always in conflict with desires. An ego pitted against all desires is dysfunctional, as much as an ego that is passive to all desires. The ego will want to achieve self' desires; but it will want to do this in a practical and intelligent way, which will require some amount of self-management or desire management, or desire regulation. This is because un-managed desires might tend to come forth at inappropriate or impractical times, or certain desires expressed at wrong times could be antisocial.

So the ego develops as an intelligent, practical-minded manager of our desire impulses (which are not intelligent on their own, but just forceful). The ego becomes, then, the regulator between the forces of self-desires and practical necessities, as it has to figure out how to best be successful in fulfilling these desires, which will often involve being cautious of social norms since it is not very smart to go head up against the rest of society. Therefore, the ego tends to mediate between its self-desires and the social norms of its world. It has to regulate its desires in consideration of how these desires will be met in society and how they can best succeed in this social world. The ego develops this kind of practical intelligence, which is for the very sake of its own desires.

So the ego is not simply against self-desires, nor is the ego necessarily following the given constraints of its social environment. Rather, the ego self-regulates and self-manages the desires, so that they can best be fulfilled in the social world with practical efficiency and intelligent management. At times, the ego might need to give in to the norms and rules of society, but this is only because of practical necessity– as a means towards one's ultimate desire fulfillments.

The practical intelligent ego will sometimes have to decide what is a more fulfilling desire, or what is a better desire; since there may be way too many competing desires in oneself. And again this is just a developed practical intelligence at work. For what is a self to do with so many different desires and wishes, all wanting fulfillment? The thinking ego soon realizes that all its desires are not going to be fulfilled at the very moment they emerge, and also realizes that all its many fantasies and wishes could never be met; furthermore, so many of these are competing. So the ego has to manage this potential mess of rampant desires; and it learns to make priorities about what desires are more important than others.

Problems from soul disconnection

The self-managing ego is meant to be guided by the inner soul. Then in more advanced stages of human development, the ego is infused with soul consciousness, intelligence, love, and purpose; whereby soul and ego virtually become as one, as the ego becomes soul.

But two possible problems can occur. First, the ego might be disconnected in communication with the soul, even though it actually gains its power from the soul. Second, the ego might get too wrapped up in the dramas, desires and reactions of the personality. This is how non-spiritual decisions and activity unfold in people and in the world.

Therefore, soul-disconnected egos are responsible for man-made evils and troubles in the world. It is not a soul which creates evil or suffering, but rather a lack of soul or lack of soul-connection and insight. All souls have some insight to redeem evil and suffering, and direct energy to spiritual ends, but not all egos have enough spiritual consciousness and will. So the ego and social conditions are responsible for unnecessary troubles in the world, rather than the soul, and rather than God.

The ego, when disconnected from the soul and dominated by imbalanced desires and selfish ideals, can be a disruptive force in this world. Usually the ego is limited in this disruptive possibility by moral social conditioning imposed on the early developing mental and emotional bodies, and it is also limited by other egos in the world. Yet it remains possible for some egos to direct the abilities of their bodies towards purely selfish ends, disregarding the good and harmony of other people and the planet. In this sense, we can say that 'evil' is possible.

We do not need elaborate explanations why evil is, or why some people intentionally harm others, but rather all we need to say is that such things are possible, due to the law of freedom and due to various mistaken paths embarked by ignorant persons and social groups. The traditional problem of explaining world evil arises from doctrines saying that all is God's Will or that all things are from the good intentions of the soul. Then one needs an explanation for how evil could arise from good or from God. Instead, realize there is freedom and no ultimate dominating power.

There is freedom and uncertainty in the universe, but these are not evil. Freedom allows for ignorance, and ignorance leads to possible harm. Yet ignorance is inherent in the universe, to varying degrees, for otherwise all of life would be of One Omniscient Mind, and if this were so then there would be no possibility of wonder and surprise. Thus, for wonder and surprise to exist, there must be degrees of freedom and ignorance.

As for evil, we can say that ignorance causes mistakes and harm, like crossing a busy road blindfolded. Ignorance may cause either unintentional or intentional harm. There are always possibilities in life, and no Plan is absolutely forced, so there are possibilities of harm and possibilities of joy. There is the possibility of an ego-power directing its energies against the better good of other people and the planet, and there is the possibility of an ego-power directing its energies for the better good of all. So the choice is here, the choice is yours, and this is basically the choice of the ego.

Soul consciousness underdeveloped

If everyone has a spiritual soul, and each spiritual soul is loving and good, then why do some people create harm or lack in expressing goodness?

It is because of an underdeveloped soul consciousness. In other words, soul consciousness has not yet awakened and developed in such people, so only their personality is at work, and the personality is more often conditioned by social factors and even by accidental circumstances. So people with underdeveloped soul consciousness might lack in a will-to-good, and their personalities will lack the virtues of soul.

The quality and expansiveness of any consciousness is the quality and expansiveness of that soul. Every soul has the potential to eventually expand to include all of the Universal Being and everyone in it, and each is somewhere along that journey. Each consciousness is limited as to how much of the Whole Being it includes. A fairly new consciousness, or soul, will be small in its inclusiveness, since it is new in the journey of expansiveness. A more developed soul will have a more expanded consciousness, which also means that its self-knowing and self-experience will include more of the Whole Being (of Reality). The greater is one's inclusiveness of consciousness, the greater wisdom of spiritual decision and action.

So an underdeveloped soul consciousness is a cause for errors and less virtuous action. But now let us examine this in more detail.

Each soul enters into incarnation from a past life incarnation. The soul incarnates through three interconnected, interpenetrating 'bodies' mental, emotional and physical - which we are calling the 'personality'. This personality has to go through developmental stages; that is, our physical, emotional and mental parts have to develop and mature. Babies cannot do what adults can do. The soul gives life essence to these bodies and to their development. It also gives instructions to the bodies, in order to organize and somewhat direct their process of development. Specifically, the soul produces and emits a subtle electromagnetic pattern that acts as a blueprint for the physical, emotional and mental development and also their health.

However, these personality bodies are also susceptible to energies, patterns and direct manipulations and assaults from the outer world, physically, emotionally and mentally. So the soul cannot ever be fully in charge, nor fully directing, because the inner soul cannot control the outer world and how the world affects the personality bodies. The outer world, including physical circumstances and social influences, can be quite helpful to the health and quality development of the personality bodies or, conversely, it can be quite cruel and harmful. One's outer social world can be quite repressive to one's inner soul direction and potential qualities.

The main idea here is that the physical and social world can be very powerful and influential in the development of our personality. The soul has influence, but it can be overpowered by a dominating outer world. The soul has goodness and wisdom in it, but this may not incarnate fully into the personality, due to outer influences. The outer can cause all sorts of problems in the personality, which is elaborated on by psychology. Yet the idea to understand here is that people developing are susceptible to outer influences - meaning that problems or sicknesses in a group, family or culture can be passed into the children and they linger on as influences on adults as well. This makes for a continuation of psychological problems through the medium of social influence. In fact, cultural imbalances and unhealthy patterns can be passed down generation upon generation, by way of the outer world and interactions between personalities.

While acting from within the person, a soul can be more influential in a particular personality, and it might even have a greater power than the outer forces. But this depends on the power of the particular soul. Younger souls have less power, as compared with outer social forces, while more evolved souls have greater power - so can more easily resist and overcome any contrary forces from the outer social world. This power of the soul is one of the soul's more important attributes. We will call this "spiritual power" or "soul power", which is the power to realize and express spiritual goodness, an to unfold the spiritual qualities inherent in it.

Evolved souls will have more of this power, and thus, they will more easily be able to infuse through the personality bodies so to bring more spiritual quality and spiritual intelligence into them. Soul's with greater power will be able to influence and develop the whole personality - which will become the soul's expression in this life. And soul's with greater power will be able to detach from and overcome the outer social forces. But if the power of a soul is still underdeveloped and weak, then the outer social forces dominate the personality development and expression.

This helps explain why people do either stupid or harmful bad actions. Essentially, younger souls do not yet have enough inner power to overcome social forces that are otherwise influencing and training the personality. The personality does not have any power on its own to resist or overcome social forces, since it is essentially reactive, though it can develop its own integral power with help from its inner soul. Yet, these younger souls and personalities can develop more spiritual power, if they have special help and influence from greater souls, spiritual teachers or guides. In some respect, everyone is susceptible to outer influences, to some degree, so it is hoped that one is lucky enough to receive higher spiritual influences rather than lower influences. Later on, at a more advances stage, one has developed the ability to actually discern higher from lower. More common, the average personality does not even have a clue; unless they are in contact with and receiving from their soul (for the soul does have spiritual discernment).