Our physical, emotional and mental bodies can receive spiritual energies and qualities from our own inner soul. This means that our personality self (the three lower bodies, vehicles, functions) can be infused with soul. This spiritual infusion in our self is a gradual process. It also requires some amount of effort; for it will not necessarily happen on its own.
Yet an important step for the three-fold personality is to first achieve harmony and unity in all three aspects – physical, emotional, and mental; because most people do not have a unified personality, let alone a soul infused personality. A unified personality is one that is not divided, scattered or in conflict. But more often, persons are dis-unified - often scattered and confused in the mind, conflicted and oscillating in the heart, fragmented or indecisive in the will. So to become unified is itself is a great work, often called self-work or work within oneself.
To achieve harmony and unity between our mind, emotions, and personality expression means that all parts are in agreement and working well together. It means that there is no conflict or differences-in-direction between these parts of our self. This is an integrated personality. It is when our thinking and feeling and activity are all coordinated, harmonious and in unison. We feel as one, we think as one, and we act as one self-unified person.
But most people are scattered and fragmented in their self, with conflicts between their thinking, feelings, and actions. So to have a unified personality is quite an achievement, whereby all three vehicles are coordinated and responding to life in harmony.
A 'self' (a psyche) can range from being a very integrated and harmonious whole to being quite fragmented -- with very loosely related 'portions' of self that struggle against each other. Generally speaking, what we call our 'self' is not necessarily one unified self. Within the larger generalization of 'oneself,' there might be a loose confederate of different little egos, rather than actually one unified self. So to say that the average person is 'one self' is analogous to saying there is 'one world' or 'one humanity' – which is simply means the conglomerate sum of those lives. It doesn't necessarily imply that this 'one world' all unified or working as one. So in a discussion about the human ego, we have to first understand how there may be, and usually are, many egos at play within the one physical self which everyone calls 'me.'
When one thinks subjectively about oneself, in the very experience of being me, or I, then it seems that 'I am one' and without any apparent conflict at this moment, but this is because there is just one of the many patterns within our psyche that is now dominant in consciousness; while underneath this present self-consciousness is a vast underworld of multiple beliefs, emotions and desires. Some of this diversity is integrated into symbiotic patterns, while other parts of the psyche could be quite disconnected, poorly integrated, and perhaps even at odds or in some kind of inner struggle. Thus, underneath our present-moment self-consciousness is a vast sub-consciousness of our psyche; so our 'whole self' is much more than just what is in consciousness at any moment, and our 'whole self' may not be so 'whole'.
In normal discussion we talk about 'I' or 'I am', or 'me'; and this way of speaking (or this way of thinking) gives the impression that 'I' am one unified self. But this is often not the truth. In truth, if we consider this honestly, this 'I' is only the I of this moment - that is, this 'I' is only the portion of our self that is presently self-conscious. Each moment of speaking about 'I', or thinking about 'I', is not necessarily representing the whole self. So in any moment of 'I' ('I think that' or 'I feel..'), there is a kind of self-illusion that this is all of me, as if this particular moment of I, this particular experience of 'I think' or 'I feel', is representative of my whole self psyche. But in fact, this 'I of the moment' is just one possible I-experience; while at some other time there might be a very different kind of I in the forefront of self-consciousness, with a very different set of content – perhaps a different belief, perhaps a different desire.
But it might still be asked, Are all instances of 'I' the same 'I'?The very essence of this I-experience will be the same for every I. The fundamental essence of the I-experience is self-consciousness, combined with self-identification; so this is the same for all I-experiences. But the particular content in each I-experience could be very different.
This 'I' experience, this self-identifying experience of 'I', is what can be called the self-ego, or it's at least one aspect of the ego. The self-ego will feel and think, I am at work', or I need to get to work. This is the essential experience of ego, this I am or I need or I want or I will. This should not be regarded as a negative thing, because this is just what it is to be a human being.
So in our generalized discussion, the ego is thought to be one. And it makes sense to oneself that I am the one thinking, feeling, and deciding self. But really, this is just a generalization. Overall, I am one ego; but in looking more clearly at myself, I am actually many egos – it is just that only one of these is in power at a single time. If more than one is equally in power at similar times, then we experience a divided kind of self-conflict, and if this gets too out of control, as it were, our personality becomes quite fragmented and we probably need some counseling or therapy work.
But even in people considered normal and able to function well in society, they might have many divisions and conflicts within their psyche, but these remain conveniently in their subconscious rather than all erupting at the same time in the self-consciousness - which would certainly disrupt one's practical functioning life. This is why the ego is also believed to function as a kind of gate-keeper at the threshold of conscious self, keeping out any disruptive portions of the subconscious psyche, such as any beliefs or feelings that contradict or go against the present ego agenda.
The ego is like a government, yet it's a government of oneself-- which is comprised of many desires and many ideas, and many of these are competing. So the ego's function is to govern this complexity of self and create a functional unity.
But the ego can also act as a suppressive government. The conscious ego of the moment, as the governor of the moment, has an interest in vetting out any desires, opinions, or goals that would contradict or impede its present aims. From its perspective, these 'other' forces are suspiciously regarded as possible disruptions or as side-tracks to be avoided in the ego's current project. In other words, the ego takes the side of one desire, then has to suppress or dismiss the other desires, so that its current desire or goal gets achieved.
However, it is possible that instead of one side suppressing the other in order to win dominance and power, there could be a greater Aim of mutual cooperation and overall self-unity – based on self-integration rather than self-suppression.
So at each moment there is one particular will at the forefront of consciousness, which is part of a particular ego complex or pattern; yet many other wills are resting in our subconscious, awaiting their chance to be in the conscious spotlight. Some of these multiple wills will have a more cooperative relationship with the other ones, than will some other wills that are more fragmented. The higher goal, then, is to gradually develop more integrated unity and harmony; such that all of the many wills inside us form an integrated team working towards the same agreed up larger Aims. And eventually the very sense of 'different wills' disappears into a unity of complementing aspects of oneself.
In order to be an integrated and harmonious person, the ego needs to consolidate and bring itself together as one, first as one will, and then as one united harmonious person. We need to unite our self, to feel as one, and to be as one in mind and self-direction. And to reach this goal, we need a united will, a will without self-conflict. Then our self will be without inner conflict.
So to achieve this goal of self-unity, there needs to be a self-uniting will (o this can be understood as a self-uniting ego). This requires a development of will in our self. But this needs to be an integrating will, with the aim of unity and harmony in oneself, rather than an authoritarian kind of will which could cause more division in the personality self.
Self-unification is necessary before we can really serve a higher purpose. If there is a higher purpose to our life, or in order for our inner soul to express through our whole being; then there needs to be an integrated harmony in our self-vehicles (mind, emotion, and body). For if there is not harmony and unity, then there will be conflict and disagreement in oneself, and the soul and higher purpose will not be able to express as one, due to the scattering and conflicts of energy.
This understanding in itself can help, since a self unification will come about as the mind realizes a higher purpose and as the soul is revealed through the heart. Gradually then, one aligns to and serves a higher-greater purpose or work.
Self-responsibility is another important aspect in this. We are each responsible for how we are in life and what happens because of our decisions, reactions and thoughts. We need to responsibly decide the qualities and conditions of our three bodies, rather than let lower habits and reactions dictate our life. We need to reject negative patterns of emotion and mind, then also build our emotional and mental bodies with higher qualities and energies.
Our power of will is essentially important for the integration and harmonization of the whole three-fold personality. The most powerful aspect of will is decision. When one makes a firm decision, this is will. Decision governs and directs our energies – including all of our thought, emotional, and physical energies. Will and decision seems to be a mental function, but the power of will and decision actually comes from our soul.
Most of what we say are decisions are really automatic desires or habits. One feels that a free choice is being made, but really this choice is by habit or conditioning, either from the emotional level or the lower mental level. Whereas an actual decision comes from the true level of will, which is independent of mind, desire, reaction, and habit. True decision comes from our soul and involves soul intuition.
But we need extra-ordinary effort to become free of mere desire, reaction, and rationalization. For without extra effort, we tend to fall back down to a level of least resistance, which are our habits, conditionings, desires and reaction. Real decision involves freedom, which requires an extra effort and also a commitment to persevere all the way to success. Will-power is our power of commitment to fulfill our decision.
Worldly successes can be achieved by ordinary willpower. But if we are seeking spiritual victories, then spiritual willpower needs to enter in. we need to receive this spiritual will and assimilate it into our own being. Second, to manifest spiritual will depends on what we do with it. We need to decide on some spiritual aims to use the higher will that we've been given. These aims might include manifesting love and joy, wisdom and truth, harmony and beauty.
What is needed, from the soul point of view, is that the ego-will must collect and unify all of the personal abilities and energies, using its power of self-will or self-control, and then encourage receptivity in the emotional and mental bodies to soul-qualities and soul-insight. This receptivity is connected to the questions, "Who am I?" and "What are my deepest and true purposes?" – which are key themes in meditation practice.
The ego's purpose is mostly in this function of collection & unification of the personal energies, and also as being a helpful mediator between the lower energies of personality and the higher soul energies. The ego organically develops from the three bodies, becoming the unifier of the three bodies and also the self-identity of personality unity. This natural development of ego as the personality unifier does not actually need soul-connection. But without any soul connection, the developing ego will often lack in spiritual impulses. So because of this, the soul needs to enlighten the ego and gain its cooperation. Then at some point in the spiritual work, the ego and soul unite together as one will.
Without the ego, the three bodies would not have much unity. This is because the bodies are mostly conditioned by non-unified and fragmented influences. For example, the mind tends to collect an assortment of different beliefs and ideas, many of which contradict one another, some of which are rationalizations for certain habits and others are rationalizations for other habits. The mental body would be a collection of scattered and unconnected ideas, if not for the ego demanding some coherent logic. The emotional body is a collection of different reactions and desires, many of which contradict each other. If it were just left to mechanical conditionings, the emotional body would be a collection of fragmented desires and reactive patterns with little unity and harmony. The physical body itself, though much more naturally unified, becomes a collection of habits and these may not be harmonious with one's desires or ideals.
The most important understanding here is that our three lower bodies are often fragmented dis-unities, and each is often in some sort of conflict with the others. Therefore, the ego must come forth as a leader and unifier of these various internal conflicts, seeking to build unity and common direction.
For without some degree of unity in the three bodies, the soul could not actually build its contact and infuse the bodies. Since the three bodies mainly develop in disconnection from the soul-will, and also develop in fragments, the soul's enable-ness to guide the personal life is relatively small. Only with help and cooperation from the ego can the soul accomplish its purposes of incarnation. Thus, it is the ego which becomes the necessary unifier and connector of the bodies with the soul. The ego can achieve what the pure soul cannot, because the ego organically develops from the bodies, though its powers originally come from the soul. The ego-self is like a seed from the soul, developing in the soil of personal and earthly conditions.
The ego is meant to regulate and be the leader of mind, emotion, and body; yet most often it is tied into various desires and habits of thought. The ego may sense or think itself as independent of its desires and self-behavior, but it is usually intertwined with these influences, tied to dominant thought-forms, desires and physical instincts. So our ego is often intertwined with the very desires it is meant to regulate.
Yet the function of ego, from the soul's perspective, is to be the captain in charge of mind, emotions and body. Ego is meant to be the self captain, or leader, though hopefully inspired by soul purposes and qualities. Ego is meant to be a practical manager, like a store manager or manager of operations, though guided by higher purposes and principles. It is not meant to lead and make decisions just for its own whims, nor is it meant to allow the company and workforce to do whatever.
Within our apparent oneness of self are actually many little egos, each competing in our psyche for being most dominantly apparent and gaining hold of the steering wheel, or gaining the power of governance - well at least for enough time to fulfill its desire or goal. A human psyche will usually have many 'little egos', though in a more mature person there will be a kind of self-hierarchy of integrated and cooperating egos, with one overall directing ego at top. This top ego could also be a sort of captain in-service-to an even higher divine power and purpose.
There is a possible self-work, which is part of the spiritual path yet is also part of a healthy path of psychology and human-maturation, which is to build evermore unity in all of oneself by resolving inner self conflicts and contradictions. This could be described as developing a unifying ego. Every ego has a directing and controlling power, to some degree, which is a main function of ego. But what is needed in a healthy psyche is an overall unifying ego, which can stand above and in leadership to the 'little egos' of our self – to organize and help resolve their desire conflicts. For without a unifying-ego, or leader-ego, our many little egos (with their different desires and goals) will continually compete for temporary dominance. One of them will win for awhile, but then another will soon dominate when the previous one expends its power.
The directive leader-ego will have to sublimate certain impulses, in order to get practical results. That is, this ego has to take charge and not let mere impulses rule. It has to focus somewhat, and not simply allow awareness to drift here and there. Without this ego, our actions would be unfocused and ever-shifting by the forces of changing impulsive desires.
This directing power is motivated by a 'desire-for' and has its own intelligent strategy. What is being directed or controlled are one's mental, emotional and physical energies, trying to achieve some goal or desire. The experiential sense of the unifying leader-ego, or of any ego, is being in control and working towards achieving a goal. But what makes the unifying ego distinct from 'little-egos' is that its desire-for (or its goal) is unifying and its interests are trying to be holistic as much as possible, rather than be narrow-focused and unconcerned about the whole of self. The unifying ego interest is to be holistic and integrating, rather than narrow-focused as are the little-egos.
Therefore, transformation of these personality parts (or ego-desires) requires personality (ego) surrender and cooperation. There needs to be a surrender from those parts of our personality that are inharmonious with higher intentions and resistant to higher intentions. In other words, the resistance needs to surrender and give up to the higher intention (or higher self). The ego-desire (that is inharmonious with higher intentions) needs to voluntarily surrender and sacrifice itself.
This is, of course, a big step. It requires a sense of self-responsibility. This responsibility, this sacrifice and surrender, must come from I. Each ego-desire or each part of the personality is an 'I' unto itself. That is, at the moment when this ego habit or desire is dominant and resisting, it is the I of the moment. So the experience/act of surrender has to be 'I surrender.' I am the very subject in need of surrendering. I am the subject in need of transformation. It is not something else, not something other than me. For at this moment, I am the one who is resisting, so I am the one who must surrender. Nothing else will do. I must surrender and sacrifice myself.
Thus, transformation depends on me, on my own willingness to surrender myself, sacrifice myself, give up myself. It's a big step, the biggest step. I must allow the higher intention to work through me, cooperate with this, and finally to become the vehicle for higher intentions. This involves an attitude of piety and humility, in relation to something Greater than oneself, or in relation to a Higher Intention (or Higher Will).