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Transpersonal Psychology: Integral · Esoteric · Meditation

For the ego in psychology, especially Freud and Jung's concept of ego, see ego, super-ego, and id. For other meanings see Ego.

In spirituality, and especially nondual, mystical and eastern meditative traditions, the human being is often conceived as being in the illusion of individual existence, and separateness from other aspects of creation. This "sense of doership" or sense of individual existence is that part which believes it is the human being, and believes it must fight for itself in the world, is ultimately unaware and unconscious of its own true nature. The ego is often associated with mind and the sense of time, which compulsively thinks in order to be assured of its future existence, rather than simply knowing its own self and the present.

The spiritual goal of many traditions involves the dissolving of the ego, allowing self-knowledge of ones own true nature to become experienced and enacted in the world. This is variously known as Enlightenment, Nirvana, Presence, and the "Here and Now".

Eckhart Tolle comments that, to the extent that the ego is present in an individual, that individual is somewhat insane psychologically, in reference to the ego's nature as compulsively hyper-active and compulsively (and pathologically) self-centred. However, since this is the norm, it goes unrecognised as the source of much that could be classified as insane behavior in everyday life. In South Asian traditions, the state of being trapped in the illusory belief that one is the ego is known as maya or samsara.

Descriptions of the ego[]

Many writers from the Buddha onwards, have written about the ego from a spiritual viewpoint. Eckhart Tolle's book on the subject, A New Earth, looks at this too:

"Listen to people's stories and they could all be entitled 'Why I Cannot Be At Peace Now'. The ego doesn't know that your only opportunity for being at peace is now. Or maybe it does know and is afraid you may find this out. Peace, after all, is the end of the ego." [1]
"The extent of the ego's inability to recognize itself and see what it is doing is staggering and unbelievable. [...] To become free of the ego is not really a big job but a very small one. All you need to do is be aware of your thoughts and emotions - as they happen. This is not really a 'doing' but an alert 'seeing'. In that sense, it is true that there is nothing you can do to become free of the ego. When that shift happens, which is the shift from thinking to awareness, an intelligence far greater than the ego's cleverness begins to operate in your life. Emotions and even thoughts become depersonalized through awareness. Their impersonal nature is recognized. There is no longer a self in them. They are just human emotions, human thoughts. Your entire personal history, which is ultimately no more than a story, a bundle of thoughts and emotions, becomes of secondary importance and no longer occupies the forefront of your consciousness. It no longer forms the basis for your sense of identity. You are the light of Presence, the awareness that is prior to and deeper than any thoughts and emotions." [2]

The contemporary Gnostic Samael Aun Weor posits that the ego is not singular, but plural, and is constituted by many "I's":

"The Doctrine of the Many "I's" was taught in Oriental Tibet by the true clairvoyants, by the true enlightened ones...
Each of our defects is personified by one "I" or another. Since we have thousands and even millions of defects, it is obvious that many people live within our interior."[3]

As evidence for this he writes that "No person is the same in a continous manner. Indeed, one does not have to be a sage in order to fully realize the innumerable changes and contradictions of each individual..."

Unlike Eckhart Tolle, Samael Aun Weor states that it is not enough to simply 'see' the ego in order to become free of it:

"Comprehension and discernment are fundamental. Nonetheless, something more is necessary if indeed what we want is to disintegrate the "myself". The mind can give onto itself the luxury of labeling any defect, passing it from one department to the other, exhibiting it, hiding it, etc. However, the mind can never fundamentally alter the defect.
A special power superior to the mind is necessary, a fiery power that is capable of reducing any defect to ashes.

The Divine Mother, Shakti, is the feminine part of our Being which one must pray to in order for her to eliminate the ego.

Ego management[]

Meditative traditions often treat the ego as an obstacle on the path to enlightenment. This assessment may be useful in gaining awareness of the ego as the sense of doership and limited existence. However, it may also inadvertently strengthen the ego's firmly-held position. Because an individual literally cannot function in the world without the ego, it is essential to enlighten or purify the ego itself. Trying to suppress or get rid of the ego completely will be perceived as a threat, one which it must address with all its formidable power.

At the start, become aware of the ego's function in the individual's existence: it keeps the individual safe, and allows it to function in the world. Then work with the ego as an integral part of the quest for enlightenment. By doing so, its resistance is lessened, and its own sense of unity with a higher self increased. Try the following: in meditation, address the ego in kind and positive terms. Acknowledge its essential function in worldly matters. Invite it to become united with the higher self, joining the whole individual in its desire for enlightenment and liberation. Assure it that the individual will remain safe and functional in this newly-unified state.

In bio-energetic terms, the energy of the unenlightened ego resides in the third chakra, located at the solar plexus. To facilitate the ego's enlightenment and full integration, visualize energy from the higher chakras (in forms such as love, pure awareness, or white light) flowing into the third chakra. A surcharge of ego energy in the third chakra (experienced as anxiety or even physical pain) may be discharged by visualizing energy in the form of light flowing from the solar plexus into the core of the earth. Search the terms "higher self meditation" on the World Wide Web for a multitude of techniques.


  1. Tolle, A New Earth, p.115.
  2. Tolle, A New Earth, pp.117-118.
  3. Samael Aun Weor, Revolutionary Psychology, Thelema Press, 2005 (1974)

See also[]

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