Reflections on the Ego

What Is the Ego?

By George A. Boyd ©2019

Excerpted from A Compendium of Articles on the Ego

We can consider the ego in seven different contexts:

  1. Function – the ego’s activity as the integration center of the Conscious mind
  2. Motivation – the ego’s nexus of desires arranged in 12 areas
  3. Life story – the history of your significant life events and achievements
  4. Psychological armoring – the layer of defenses that protect you from experiencing painful or shameful memories
  5. Core psychic wounds – these are the painful and shameful unresolved issues that make up your shadow
  6. Wonder child – the aspect of your ego that is in touch with the Soul, and expresses wonder and delight
  7. Spiritualized ego – this aspect of your ego identifies with a spiritual essence, and then compares you to others’ development in this area—this aspect of the ego may generate feelings of superiority or inferiority to others through comparison of spiritual attainment, acquisition of spiritual powers

These layers of the ego are described in greater depth in our article, “Reflections on Eckhart Tolle.”

“When Tolle speaks of the ego, he paints a picture of this essence as malevolent, devious, manipulative, and the source of all human ignorance, misery, and pain. This is an accurate portrayal of the ego as many people experience it in one of its postures, the Shadow, but does not capture the other six postures of the ego—which are not entirely evil as Tolle depicts.”

“These seven postures of the ego are described below.”

  1. The Embodied Ego – This is the structure or chakra system of the ego in expression. These chakras include the waking state of awareness (feet), movement awareness (base of spine), sensory awareness (navel), deep body awareness (solar plexus), emotional awareness (heart), rational mind awareness (throat), “egoic will” (point between the eyebrows), and the sense of identity surrounded by the 12 areas of human life (brain). The egoic will in this context is the ability to initiate individual units of behavior—for example, tie your shoes, stand up straight, walk over to the counter and pour a glass of water. The 12 areas of human life comprise the zone of the Operational Ego, which is the second posture of the ego. At the level of the Embodied Ego, you intuitively experience the present time at each of these centers.
  2. The Operational Ego – This is the constellation of identity that captures the roles the ego plays in your life. These are mapped into 12 different areas—while each individual may label these categories and organize their contents differently, the general structure of 12 areas appears to be a stable component of the Operational Ego.
    1. Physical body
    2. Vitality and health
    3. Emotions and relationships
    4. Home and family
    5. Education and mental development
    6. Career and avocation
    7. Finances
    8. Social life (recreation and social activities with friends and family)
    9. Civic engagement and community involvement
    10. Cultural experiences and travel
    11. Ethical foundation and values
    12. Spiritual, religious, or philosophical life

In the Operational Ego, you experience the ambition to improve yourself and to attain what you desire, and to strive for what you want.

  1. The Developmental Ego – this is the state of identity that develops over time, and progressively integrates and identifies with a broader range of capabilities and abilities. These range from the highly dependent infant, to the capable, independent adult, to the caring parent, to the individual who can look out for the welfare and issues of the entire world. This is the experience of where you are in your life right now, and the capabilities you have developed. You draw upon this level when you summarize your educational and work experiences on a curriculum vita or résumé.
  2. The Defensive Ego – At this level, you attempt to maintain a positive image of yourself. This might be construed as keeping up a positive self-concept, to preserve your reputation and honor, or to adhere to an ideal image of your self (ego ideal). When you are criticized, attacked, or belittled, this defensive ego generates excuses, rationalizations, arguments, and a series of defenses to protect your self-concept. This defensive armor can be stirred to protect any area in which you feel weak or vulnerable, and may be extended to defend not only your reputation, but also to your possessions, your family, your job, your membership in different groups, and your values and faith.
  3. The Shadow – this is the unconscious level of the ego, and comprises the unconscious defenses that keep these painful and shameful aspects of the mind out of awareness. These unconscious mental patterns drive human obsession, craving, and suffering, and may appear to act autonomously, outside the control of your volition and intention. Many spiritual teachers, Tolle included, target this aspect of the ego and promote spiritual practices, such as mindfulness, “being present,” and remaining in “the present time” to overcome this suffering. When you tap this level, you experience identification with your suffering, fear, shame, anxiety, or depression.
  4. Egoic Seed Atom – This aspect of the human mind is tuned up as the Soul evolves. It is a state of wonder, of delight, of a joyful inner child that sees the beauty of everything around you. Perhaps Jesus was referring to this state when he said, “the Kingdom of Heaven is within you,” and “you must become as a little child to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.” You experience a heavenly world of magic and wonder when you are in this state of awareness.
  5. Subtle Egoic Identification – This aspect of the ego enables you to identify with a spiritual essence, and then to form certain beliefs, attitudes, and judgments about self and others when you are in this state of identification. For some, it gives then a sense of superiority, of specialness, of being a member of an elite group. For others, this takes the form of comparing their progress with others, and being dissatisfied with the rate and quality of their spiritual progress. For others, it is a belief that they are flawed; that they are demented and blind worms that can never gain enlightenment or receive the blessings of God. For others, it can become a sense of narcissism and grandiosity—that they are a Divine Being incarnate, and they are entitled to special treatment, and the worship and obedience of others.

“The belief that one has been born again and has adopted a new state of identity carries along with it this subtle egoic identification. When people say, for example, they are Christians, Yogis, Muslims, Hindus, or Buddhists; they are activating this subtle form of identification.”

“This new state of identification can become a pseudo-personality, as UCLA researcher Dr. Jolyon West called it, and take on a life of its own—divorced from the genuine feelings and issues of human life.

“When people dwell in pseudo-personality, they live a spiritual agenda instead of their authentic lives. They adhere to a sense of purpose that a spiritual teacher defines; or a lifestyle that a Divinely inspired scripture commands, or that is revealed through inner communion with an advanced spiritual being through inner visions, revelations, and channeled or prophetic messages. When they are so “inspired and guided,” they no longer inhabit their own lives; they are committed instead to follow a spiritual path, whose precepts inculcate what they should choose, think, and believe, and how they should act.”

Methods to Transcend the Ego

“There are a variety of inner centers on which you can focus your attention that allow you to transcend your ego. Here is a partial list:”

  • The atom of eternity (vehicular seed atom)
  • The attentional principle
  • The Self (personal integration center)
  • The spirit
  • The wave of the present time on the Akashic Ether
  • The Star Seed in the Psychic Realm (vehicular seed atom)
  • The Moon Soul or Christ Child (nucleus of identity)
  • The Solar Angel (nucleus of identity)
  • The Soul Spark or Soul (ensouling entity)
  • Cosmic consciousness (nucleus of identity)
  • Cosmic soul awareness (nucleus of identity)
  • Astral Soul (ensouling entity)
  • Supracosmic seed atom (nucleus of identity)
  • Supracosmic Soul (ensouling entity)
  • The spirit on one of the Transcendental Paths
  • The ensouling entity on one of the Transcendental Paths

“Transcending the ego allows you to view it from a detached viewpoint, and to dis-identify with it. This shift is from being the actor in your life to a passive spectator of your life.”

“Like a trance state in hypnosis, when you enter these internal focal points, you passively view the content of the mind that makes up the ego, but you don’t interact with it. You retain the ability to objectively observe your ego from this detached standpoint, as long as you remain in this altered state of awareness. When you return your attention to its ground state in the waking state of awareness, your experience of the ego returns…”

The Four Quadrants of Volition

By George A. Boyd ©2013

There are four quadrants of human activity:

  1. The zone of voluntary personal action – This zone encompasses the operation of the first three octaves of volition: personal will, habit, and the desire driven will of the ego. This quadrant aims to fulfill goals and desires. The individual senses that this zone is fully within his or her control, and can determine the outcomes. This is sometimes called the zone of free will. Coaching and counseling address this level.
  2. The zone of involuntary action – This zone comprises the operation of the unconscious mind, which is out of awareness and functions autonomously to the control of the will. Compulsive or impulsive behavior, as well as self-sabotaging behavior, arises from this zone. Hypnosis and psychotherapy tap this zone.
  3. The zone of transpersonal volition – This zone comprises the activity of the higher octaves of volition in the Superconscious mind, up to the level of transpersonal will, which is anchored in the Soul. It also includes the activity of intention of the attentional principle, and the wish of the spirit. This operates outside and beyond the control of the personal will; it is the higher order of will that permits the Soul to express its gifts, its wisdom, and its love and compassion. Meditation enables access to this zone.
  4. The zone of Divine aegis – Those Initiates and accepted disciples, who have entered the presence of the Divine, know this zone—and they have been empowered to teach, to guide, and to minister to others. This brings them the knowledge of the Divine Will directly—these Initiates communicate this Divine Wish to their disciples, aligning them with their purpose and the Great Plan for their spiritual development, and leading them progressively to Mastery and Liberation. Masters reveal this Supreme Direction to their disciples.

It is important to recognize what can be done voluntarily, and what operates outside of that zone. Personal volition can shape human life and situational behavior; it can express those talents that have been learned through education and training; and it can learn new knowledge and skills. If skillfully used, it can lead individuals to personal fulfillment.

It does not control the octaves of the transpersonal and Divine Will; however, these octaves of the will can come to overshadow the personality to express the Soul’s gifts and genius, and to reveal the Soul’s purpose. It may only partially control those elements of the unconscious mind, which operate autonomously.

At certain levels of the Great Continuum of Consciousness, it appears that all consciousness is a product of the brain, and that volition and the sense of self are nothing more than products of the firing of neurons, and the construction of language. Those who meditate, however, find they readily transcend this “brain consciousness,” and encounter the will as a dynamic force that expresses through the brain and activates the vehicles of consciousness beyond it; and discover the Self, attentional principle, spirit, and Soul far beyond the confines of the skull. They directly gain union with these essences beyond the webs of language: they experience these essences wordlessly and immediately.

Aspirants and disciples should meditate on these four quadrants, with an aim to discern what aspects of their lives fall within each zone, and whether or not the Will Divine has been intimated to them. They should aim to expand the zone of voluntary personal volition, learn ways to cope with and resolve those issues that arise from the unconscious, and cooperate with the transpersonal will so that the Soul’s gifts can be shared with others.

Confrontation with Dharma

By George A. Boyd © 2006

Excerpted from Question and Answers with Swami

Q: I’m in a lot of conflict right now. It seems my Soul requires one thing of me—and my parents, friends, and church require another. What do I do?

A: To become your own person, to individualize and realize your authentic self, it sometimes becomes necessary to deviate from established norms that are placed upon you from the outside, so that you may remain true to that norm which is inside (Dharma). To remain true to Dharma means that you are living in integrity, you are in harmony with the law within your own heart. These types of violation of societal norms include:

  • Deviation from cultural (ethnic group) norms – Going against custom, following a life path other than that which is expected
  • Deviation from societal (legal) norms – Breaking the law, performing behavior that violates codifies statutes enacted by legislative bodies
  • Deviation from ancestral (parental) norms – Going against requests of your parents, going against parental expectations of model behavior and lifestyle
  • Deviation from peer (friendship) norms – Performing actions that violate the conscience of friends, going against peer expectations of model behavior and lifestyle
  • Deviation from corporate (workplace) norms – Performing actions that violate company rules or policies, not performing work to required standards of excellence, efficiency, precision accuracy or professionalism
  • Deviation from political (political party) norms – Voting or expressing political opinions that do not agree with the approved ideology of your political party
  • Deviation from religious (religious group) norms – Performing actions that violate behavioral and belief standards established by the church (or other religious body) which the church believes are authorized by scripture and sanctioned by the Divine or the representative (Master, Savior, Prophet) of the Divine
  • Deviation from personal conscience (Dharmic) norms – Violating an internalized standard or value believed to be true, right or good. Not living in integrity with one’s inner sense of truth (Dharma)

Even if you rebel from these outer norms, if you remain true to your inner sense of truth, you will have inner peace. But if you deviate from your Dharma to live up to the outer norms, to fulfill the expectations of your culture, your nation, your parents, your friends, your employer or your religion before your own inner sense of truth, then you will live in conflict. This conflict is a felt-sense that something is missing—a vague uneasiness or unidentified anxiety, a feeling that your own self is angry with you, is condemning you for your folly or a sense of emptiness or desolation within.

Dharma appears in different forms according to the Ray type of the individual:

First Ray – The Will of God, the Fiery Triangle

Second Ray – The Wheel of the Law, the Eightfold Path of Noble Truth

Third Ray – The Law of God, the Ten Commandments, the Divine Order behind the laws of the Physical and Astral Planes, the laws underlying the Creation of Heaven and Earth

Fourth Ray – The Law of Nature and Consciousness, the Way, the Tao

Fifth Ray – The Law of Truth, the Razor’s Edge, Perfection, Perfect Mastery

Sixth Ray – The Law of Love and Grace, living according to the Master or Savior’s commandments

Seventh Ray – The Tree of Life (Kabala) – the Laws of Karma, Manifestation, Wisdom and Spiritual Essence

On whatever Ray it manifests to you, this image, voice, or felt-sense of Dharma will become very clear to you at certain crucial points in your life.

  • Sometimes your Dharma will require of you things that go against your desires, your plans, or what seems reasonable to you.
  • Sometimes, when you have already started on a course of action, it will pull you back and start you down another path.
  • Sometimes it will unexpectedly intervene when you wish to marry someone and indicate that this person is not right for you.
  • Sometimes it will bid you to leave the security of your job and strike out on your own.

However Dharma manifests to you, when it confronts you, you have a choice. Do you follow this inner requirement of your Soul or do you follow the dictates of your desire, your preferences or your reason?

If you follow Dharma, it will sometimes create disruption in your life.
You may have to:

  • Cancel plans
  • Make awkward explanations to friends and family about your sudden “irrational” decision
  • Go through unforeseen personal sacrifice and hardships
  • Do things that feel terrifying or illogical to you
  • Re-think where your life is going and what you will do with the rest of your life
  • Experience antipathy and continual criticism from those who were your friends and colleagues
  • Receive threats of violence or promises of revenge from those whose values and beliefs you have acted against through courageously acting upon your integrity

If you reflect upon it from the standpoint of your ego, the part of you that only wants to fulfill its own desires, live its dreams and be happy—it is madness; it is utter lunacy.

But from the standpoint of the Soul, it is an absolute requirement: it is necessary to fulfill the Divine requirement.

Because of this, you will run into a conflict between the free will agency of the personality, which wants to have its own way and create the future it desires, versus the impulse of Destiny, the pressure of the spiritual life upon the human life, which is a Dharmic imperative.

If you run away from your Dharma, your decision haunts you. You have your freedom, but it is a hollow, tormented freedom. Things go wrong, you sabotage yourself, your plans fall through—it seems to you sometimes that the world is against you.

It passes through your mind that you are cursed or that you have sinned against some higher principle. You feel a sense of desperation. You may achieve your goals and find that they have no enjoyment for you, they seem empty and meaningless.

Outside the door, the Soul waits, until the karma that you have created by your own free will plays itself out. This may last from a number of days to several lifetimes. Then your Soul will appear before you, its Voice will whisper to you, you will feel its presence once again. Again you will be given the opportunity to follow, to fulfill your Dharma. What will you choose this time? Will you again choose your egoic freedom and abandon your Soul?

This process of choosing or abandoning your Soul is placed before you. Sometimes it can occur from moment to moment at certain periods. Sometimes it will appear only one time in your lifetime. It is put before you to live according to the requirements of your Dharma—or abandon it and reap the karmic consequences. This requirement is very definite: there are no gray areas here—it is yea or nay, and there is no middle ground.

Forced choice is used in ethnic groups, in society, by parents, friends, and employers, in political parties, and in religious conversion and preaching to require you to make a decision. It is very clear to you what the consequences will be if you do not choose what they want you to do.

On the other side is your Soul, which also places before you the forced choice of embracing or abandoning your Dharma. From the outside, these social forces that make powerful demands of you are pulling you one way. From the inside, your Soul is pulling you another.

Sometimes it must feel to you that you are being ripped apart. People sometimes do go insane and have nervous breakdowns because the pressure is too great. It stretches them beyond their limits and their capacity to endure. It breaks them apart, because they cannot have both what the world desires and what the Soul requires.

People who become mystics, saints, and sages tell us that they have not regretted choosing Dharma, but that it was a very difficult, arduous path they traveled as a result of the choice.

People who have embraced the dictates of their ego, who have followed the path of desires, obeyed the cultural requirements of their group, their society, their parents, peers, and employers and have faithfully followed their religion tell us that they have lived good, reasonable happy lives. They tell us that they have had no major confrontations with their conscience and they believe that their Soul is safe in the hands of their Savior, Master, or Prophet.

This is a very difficult choice that you must make, a life-wrenching choice. It seems cruel that Life has required this of you, and has spared others to be at peace with themselves and with the world.
Your Soul is calling you, making requirements of you that don’t make sense. You feel frightened and confused, and don’t know whom to trust. If you tell your friends and family, they will think that you have gone mad. If you go to a psychiatrist, he or she will certify that you are insane and give you medication to shut down your whirling thoughts and churning emotions.

If you go to your priest or minister, he or she will tell you that it is the Devil talking to you and to follow the teachings of the church. Where do you turn at a time like this?

It helps to pray and ask the Divine for guidance, to show you the outcome of both choices, to bless you to make the best decision for you. Then you must decide, you must choose a path. It may be the right way, it may be the wrong way, but you must choose and take the consequences.

When you realize that your choices do have consequences, you start to gain wisdom, you begin to be able to take responsibility for your life. This is a major challenge for every human being. This is an important step of growth for you.

It is not easy when you have to confront your Dharma, but it can be a great blessing to you if you can successfully navigate these troubled waters. We encourage you to be courageous, to rouse yourself, and rise to this challenge. Face it like a warrior. Be ready to make a firm and resolute decision. Be willing to cast your holy yea or nay. Be willing to have those who are not your true friends fall away, because those that truly love you will love you still, even if you follow a path that they do not approve of or understand.

Confrontation with Dharma can be a shattering, life-changing, revolutionary experience. But sometimes it is the greatest opportunity you will ever be presented.

Concerning the Construction of Human Problems

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Q: Some philosophers say that problems only exist because we regard something as a problem. They argue that if we accept the condition or issue, it no longer constitutes a problem. What is your take on this?

A: There needs to be some objective criteria to decide whether something is a problem that must be addressed, or whether it is simply something we are inflating far beyond its true significance through worry. Here are some criteria that can be applied in your assessment of whether it genuinely is a problem:

  1. It is an event or condition that creates a stasis, where you cannot make progress, or it actually changes things for the worse.
  2. It is necessary for you to use your problem solving skills to understand the nature of the problem and to attempt to resolve it.
  3. It is an event or condition that evokes emotional distress of anxiety that motivates you to attempt to lower your distress or anxiety. It is not contingent upon what you worry might happen in your most catastrophic scenarios, but is something that needs to be addressed as a realistic concern.
  4. It is an event or condition for which you do not have the coping skills or resources to immediately resolve it, so this may require you to learn new things or reach out to others to assist you to resolve it.
  5. The event or condition is not merely a result of your perception or mindset, but it is objectively and consensually recognized as a problem.
  6. The event or condition, if you experience it is severe enough and you cannot find assistance from other people, may lead you to invoke Divine assistance through prayer and affirmation.
  7. The event or condition turns on an ongoing process to resolve the issues. This process engages your attention, stimulates your concern, and challenges your intelligence to work on the problem until you solve it.

The issue should rank highly on a scale of problem severity from zero to ten—seven or greater—where it is clearly absorbs your concentration and problem solving efforts until you find a way to cope with it, and continue to work on it until you have resolved it.

Your philosopher’s objections appear to arise from the observation that certain so-called problems exist only in the mind, as erroneous perceptions, entrenched unexamined mindsets, or as the fearful figments of worry. We suggest that not all problems are subsumed under these parameters, but there are some genuine problems that do require human effort and ingenuity to resolve.

Life Plans that Govern Humanity

By George A. Boyd ©2013

Q: What are key passions that motivate people? What is it that drives them? What is it that gives them a sense of meaning and purpose—a reason why they are living?

A: These dominant passions come to dictate what we call their life plan. A life plan is the overarching schema that defines what is the key objective for their lives, and what guides or directs them.

Much of humanity—we estimate perhaps 97% of humanity—follow one or more of the following life plans during their lives. These life plans provide a sense of motivation and direction, and give them a reason to be alive.

  1. They follow the guidelines of their families or their cultures, and do not deviate from these directives.
  2. They follow the guidelines of religion, and do not deviate from these rules for living, and the moral codes inculcated in this religion.
  3. They seek pleasure, adventure, and entertainment.
  4. They seek to become wealthy, though legal or illegal means.
  5. They seek worldly power, and may go into positions of leadership in business, the military, or the political arena.
  6. They seek popularity, celebrity, and fame.
  7. They seek self-transcendence and spirituality, which they may pursue through the shamanic path of using drugs; through the religious path of prayer, worship, and invocation; or through the mystic path of meditation.

Another small group of humanity is inwardly inspired, and brings their Soul’s gifts into expression. Perhaps only slightly less than 3% of humanity is guided by their Soul in this manner. Unlike the life plans of the great masses of humanity, they are inwardly directed to bring forward the Soul’s visions and creations. These people are the visionaries, the intellectual luminaries, the inspired artists and writers, and the thought leaders of the rest of humanity.

Those that adopt this life plan must surrender, postpone, or sacrifice some of their personal dreams to allow their Soul the time to develop their gifts, and channel their inspirations, creations, and visions. Much dedication is required to enact this Soul-guided life plan; in some cases, the requirements of this life plan become too much, so that they individual retreats into addiction or madness.

The rarest group is those who are guided by the Divine Plan and Purpose. Perhaps less than one in ten million individuals enacts these Divinely inspired life plans—those that do, often become spiritual Masters or Avatars, Prophets, founders of new religions, spiritual recluses, or provide the impetus for world movements.

These individuals sense that they are fulfilling a spiritual destiny that they enact in their personal lives. It is not driven from the desires of the their personality or their spiritual longing; rather, it is sensed as an inner command (Agya) that the Soul directs the personality to carry out.

This life plan requires the highest surrender and sacrifice of personal dreams and desires, and complete obedience to the inner command. They sense the Will of God overshadows them, and directs what they are to do, what they are not to do, and when they are to defer action on something they have been directed to do.

As they enact the segments of this inner-directed plan, they sense that it is unfolding a track through the Superconscious mind. The personality does not dictate what it shall pursue here; rather, it is the Soul that commands, and guides the personality to enact this plan, which is written in the spiritual Plenum.

We encourage aspirants and disciples to meditate on these nine different life plans to determine which of them might be playing a current role in their motivation and sense of direction for their lives, and which might have formerly guided them in other phases of their life. Discovering these guiding passions will give you a clearer sense of what ultimately drives your life, and what gives structure to your desires and aspirations.