In a recent monthly seminar a statement was made regarding the ego and the Higher Self. What was said was, “It is the path all humanity will eventually go, the path from a self-centered life, focused on the lower and higher self – the ego in all its facets, towards a life centered on the Spirit, God.” From this one statement quite a debate can be made. Specifically it is the idea that “the lower and higher self” equate to ego. Exactly how the ego is defined will determine how one views that quote. Similarly, there’s a concern that the statement negates the path itself, in favor of the focus on the goal.
The Ego Defined
Modern definitions of ego, often based in psychology, tend to consider the ego as a person’s self-worth, or perhaps the mediation aspect between the conscious and unconscious states. These modern uses of the word neglect a spiritual significance, so a deeper understanding is necessary.
The Hindu, Paramhansa Yogananda, said that the ego was “the ‘self’ identified with the body.” This definition aligns with the idea of “I” being the central theme of ego, and yet one’s personal “I” is more than a body. In this way Yogananda emphasized a Greater “I” and a lower “I”. What Yogananda proposed is that the Greater “I” is the Divine Self, while the lower “I” was the ego.
Yogananda wasn’t alone in this view of Self. Much of the mystical paths of the West align with this central theme that there is a carnal or ego aspect and a non-carnal or Divine aspect. The path of the initiate is to find the way to direct awareness as the Divine Self.
Pleasure seeking spiritualists tend to elevate the ego, almost in a form of worship. Perhaps Aleister Crowley is an extreme example of this, seeped in pleasures of the world. Most mystery schools today will bend to the idea of the ego, and prefers living in the world as their focus (politics, power, duality all being part of their nature).
While the words of others can be good, they can also conform to personal bias. It is important to go beyond the words of others and directly experience truth for ourselves. My personal truth experienced the relationship of the Divine to ego driven humanity in the symbol of the sun itself.
Consider the crude, childlike depictions of the sun. It’s a sphere with lines extending from it. Now consider the possibility of each of us are one of those “Rays of Light.” Next, ponder the nature of light. In terms of a metaphor, all light is brightest nearest its Source and diminishes further from Source. A solitary lamp left in the room will shine brightest at the bulb, but in the furthest corner the light is all but given way to shadows.
Following this metaphor, if each of us is a Ray of the Divine Light, then each of us has a Divine aspect, and a lower aspect. The lower aspect is the material, nearly opposite in nature to the Divine. The “god” of the lower realm is the ego, which is fixated on empowerment to command and control the world around us. In this way, although the ego might mean well, as it fixates on the individual success over all others it leads to greed and conflict. Yet throughout the process, there is an element of us that is Divine and one that is the furthest from the Divine. Consider this zoom into a ray of this metaphor:
In the above figure, the ray of light is zoomed into. On the left is the darker, material world. On the right, the brightest aspect that joins the sphere of Divinity. The blue rectangle is our current state of consciousness. As we grow spiritually, the blue rectangle shifts along the ray, to the right. But the pull of the world can shift our conscious awareness to the left.
From the Golden Rosycross’ perspective, which I also agree with, as the spiritual path awakens the True Self is born. The way I integrate that feeling into my diagram would be akin to the conscious awareness of self becoming realized (shifting far to the right), the ego’s gravity is lost and the True Self is realized.
In other words, I interpret that as awareness being One with the True Self.
However, I can’t speak for the depth of the Golden Rosycross and their philosophy as a whole. I haven’t read everything they’ve presented, but the quote at the start shows some element of definition that is perhaps not in agreement with my own experience.
Contemplation of the Quote
The quote illustrates an idea that the lower and higher self are the ego. When I first read this I was not in harmony with the idea, as I see the Higher Self as a deeper True Self that extends towards the Divine Source. If that is ego, it would always pull one back to the material, limited sense of self.
But I do not see “ego” as “self” – because if so, then even the Divine Self is ego (as a “self” is still being identified with it).
In my view, the Higher Self is the separation point from the ego identification – the ego being the concept of “self” identified with material (the body, etc.). However, the Higher Self is the True Self that is being released through a process of going beyond the ego. As the Higher/True Self is released, the conscious awareness of that Self will gravitate into the field of Divine Oneness.
IN OTHER WORDS, gravity shifts from the ego as the source of gravity, to the Divine being the source of gravity. Consciousness when identified with the Higher Self, pulls into Divinity.
Calling the Higher Self the ego, is in my opinion, dangerous because the Higher / True Self is a requirement of moving through the process. If one tries to move from the carnal ego self to Divine Oneness, the process is so wide a gap it is like telling someone to move a mountain with a spoon.
When you are given an impossible solution, the ego can often remask itself AS the solution. Going from carnal to God, may simply be the ego remasking itself as “God”. Consider all the unholy wars for thousands of years, in the name of “God”. Horrible atrocities (such as slavery), done in the name of “God” – these acts, to me, are like the ego as “God.”
In order to reach the true Divine Source, one must first separate into the True/Higher/Expanded Self or else the ego will lead to delusion.