statystyki www

aborcja :
pornografia :
tapety : zip : pdf : radio : księgarnia

Spiritual direction; Ego id unconscious Freud soul Self psyche

Meditation Lucife Mortal sin Deadly sin Thomas Kempis Asceticism devil Jacob Boehme

Rama P. Coomaraswamy, MD


"The ego is like the clown in the circus who is always putting in his oar to make the audience think that whatever is happening is his doing." 1

The identity of the Ego and the "I" or "self," is assumed by both psychologists and spiritual writers. Yet they clearly envision the role of the ego in diametrically opposite ways. Those brought up within the Freudian tradition see the ego as the core of the human person and are desirous of fostering "ego strength," while spiritual writers of all the major traditions see the ego as an inconstant and illusive entity, which along with the psyche is the seat of pride and the other passions, and advocate its subjection to the indwelling Spirit of Truth.

These contrasting attitudes are grounded in philosophical differences. Those imbued with modern psychological theories see the ego as "the superficial portion of the id, or as the primitive infantile mind which develops out of the id in response to stimulation from the infant's physical and social environment. It follows then that the ego is seen as equivalent to the self and as such the individual's conception of himself. The chief functions of the ego are 1) reality testing, or learning to distinguish between self and environment; and 2) mediating between the demands of the id and the superego which embodies the critical and moral aspects of the self." Not all psychologists place the "I" or "self" exclusively in the ego. The American Psychoanalytic Association holds that the I or self is better defined as "the total person of an individual in reality, including one's body and psychic organization; one's 'own person' as contrasted with 'other persons' or objects outside one's self.".Yet another source describes the self as "a depth psychological concept referring to the nuclear core of the personality... the center of initiative, the recipient of impressions, and the depository of the individual's constellation of nuclear ambitions, ideals, talents and skills..." When however one searches the psychiatric literature for clearer definitions one finds great confusion and such is not surprising as the ego is a constantly vacillating entity. Yet, in so far as one cannot directly explore either the id or superego, psychiatrists are forced to deal with and work through the ego if they are to assist their patients.

Modern psychiatry is limited by its conscious or unconscious adherence to Descartian dualism, which understands the total human person as consisting of body (res extensa) and thinking (res cogitans). It follows that their views of the ego and psyche are forced to fit within this framework. The traditional view of man which prevailed throughout the ages and even today is accepted by the majority of cultures, reject this duality and sees man's nature as tripartite, consisting of Body, Psyche (which includes the res cogitans), and Spirit, though often Body and Psyche are considered as one psycho-physical entity.2In this view there is a hierarchy in man which requires that body and psyche (which includes our thinking and feeling faculties - our egos)3be subordinate to the Spirit of Truth (also called "the Image of God") which dwells within every individual.4Those who deny the reality of this higher Spirit must explain or explain away that inner sense which speaks to us of what is right and wrong, true and false, real and unreal - the sense we all have within us that it is wrong to wantonly kill or steal our neighbor's goods. Both evolutionary theories and hypotheses about the origins of the superego attempt to do this.


This psycho-physical entity, which is by its very nature in constant flux - our thoughts and feelings change from moment to moment, as does indeed our physical bodies - is also referred to by traditional writers as the "ego" or the lesser "self," as distinct from our true and stable greater "Self." This ego, as Philo says, is the seat of grievous and well-night incurable diseases, inflicted by pleasures and desires and griefs and fears, by acts of covetousness, folly and injustice and the countless host of other passions and vices." (The Contemplative Life). This lesser "self" or ego, with its desires and passions, constantly seeks to function autonomously, and to rebel against any superior controlling Spirit. This results in inner conflicts which not infrequently lead people to the psychiatrist's couch. Thus it is that St. Thomas Aquinas, teaches that "duo sunt in homine," that there are two forces in man which two are frequently in conflict. As St. Paul said: "I do not do the good that I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin dwells within me. So I find it to be a law that when I want do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God in my inmost Self, but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind and making me a captive to the law of sin." (Romans 7:20-24). In similar manner the Qur'an states that there are two in man - "one is a disbeliever and one a believer, and Allah is Seer of what ye do." Again, the Katha Upanishad speaks of these two, stating that "it is well for him to takes the better," and that "he fails of his purpose who chooses the more pleasant."

If there are three components to every human being, we are as it were forced to choose in which of the two - or three - areas we wish to center our lives. Some choose the body in the sense that any physical impulse is followed regardless of consequences. Most of us choose to center our lives in the psyche where feelings, emotions and thoughts take priority.5Few have the strength or desire to center their lives in the Spirit, for to do so is to accept a life of constant warfare- the struggle to live by Truth rather than by feelings and personal opinions. Such a view is of course incomprehensible to those who believe there is nothing higher in man than reason. It should be remembered that while the Truth is always reasonable, reason alone cannot lead us to the Truth.6

Adam and Eve had no psychological problems when in the Garden of Paradise. Made in the Image and likeness of God, they were at peace with themselves. The faculties of their souls were well ordered, which is to say that the Spirit of God directed the psyche which in turn directed the body. With the Fall, they lost the likeness but retained the Image; they were no longer centered in Truth, but in their feelings and desires. Their "self will" led them to disobey the Divine prohibition. We who have centered our lives in our egos are like fallen Adam. We have lost the "likeness" and no longer conform ourselves to the interior Image. If we would enter paradise - if we seek to find true happiness and peace, we must engage in a Spiritual warfare aimed at getting this "likeness" back.

It is in the light of what has been said above that one can understand the different attitudes which psychiatrists and spiritual directors have with regard to the ego. The Psychiatrists seek to penetrate, and to help his patient understand the forces at play in the ego. Given his philosophical premises, he sees these as biologically rooted and "normal, " which can lead the patient to accept them and hence to damn his soul with serenity.

The spiritual director, while recognizing these forces and the value of understanding them, at the same time aims to lead his patient away from the psyche to the Spirit. Or more specifically, he aims at centering his patient's life in the Spirit rather than in his ego. It is within this framework that he would also have the other faculties of the soul such as the memory and the will, be subject to the Spirit rather than to the whims and desires of the ego. With regard to the past he admits its importance, for as both Freud and St. Thomas held, nothing happens by chance. However, with regard to the past, his advise like Christ's is to "let the dead bury the dead."

The ego, being subject to feelings, desires and random thoughts is a very inconsistent entity. It, like our bodies, is never the same today as it was yesterday Thus it follows that one must not only understand that these "passions" afflict all of us, but even more, that we must bring these them under control. In colloquial terms, we "must get hold of ourself." But under control of what? Clearly under control of the Spirit which is our true "Self," and the only part of us that truly warrants to be called "I." This can be described as transforming the ego, but also as destroying the ego. Thus it is that in genuine meditation - not meditation undertaken for the sake of feeling good - one must give up the independence of the ego - the false idea that the ego is my real self. Avram Davis' commentary on Jewish meditative techniques is pertinent. "People often equate meditation with a transelike state or with simple relaxation. Trance and relaxation are splendid conditions, but generally speaking, Jewish meditation is no so interested in inducing these alone. Meditation will indeed often produce a relaxed state or lowered blood pressure, but these are not the central reasons for meditation, since meditation is neither a drug nor hypnosis. Instead, meditation is meant to transform us from a state of ignorance to a state of wisdom, from a state of bondage (be it psychological or personal) to a state of being free." Teachers of true meditation "present strategies to annihilate ego. This is an ultimate desire of the meditative path, for herein lies the infinite bliss of God," for, as Issachar Baer (an 18th century Hassidic teacher) said, "the essence of serving God is to understand are simply a channel for the divine attributes... and that you have no independent self."7

We must then be at war with this ego which claims for itself an independent reality. The ego's claim to independence results in everyone deciding for themselves just what is true. It destroys the possibility of absolute truth or any fixed code of morality. As one of the Jewish Fathers said, to think that one's ego is the source of truth or reality is the worst kind of idolatry. In so far as we center our lives in the ego, we are all in varying degrees egomaniacs. It is good to remember that an egomania occasioned the fall of Lucifer who would be "like the most High" (Isa. 14:14), or as Thomas Aquinas says, "by the virtue of his own nature." (Summa 1.63.3c)

Similarly the Muslim Tabari described Lucifer as crying out: "Who is like me in Heaven or Earth." In so far as we persist in being egomaniacs, we become the followers of Satan. The ego complex then is "Original sin," or as the Vedantist says, the cause of "ignorance.". Satan's claim to equality with God, is equivalent to his assertion of the independence and self-subsistence of the Ego. It is ultimately a Mortal or Deadly sin. The eating of the forbidden fruit is an assimilation to and a self-identification with things as they are in themselves, not as they are in God, therefore, a venom that is deadly from the standpoint of eternal life, and one that closes to us the Gates of paradise.

The ego then is seen as an enemy either to be overcome or tamed, and thus either an enemy or when tamed, a friend. As Thomas Kempis said "there is no worse, and no more grievous enemy to thy soul than thyself, if thine flesh be not well agreeing to the will of the spirit."(Imitation of Christ) All spiritual practice aims at overcoming the ego's independent influence in our lives.

Asceticism or mortification, far from being as sort of psychological escapism, is in fact hard work - perhaps the hardest work anyone can undertake, for it involves curbing and killing love of self in all its manifestations. Again, as St. Vincent de Paul said: "A man's value is his prayers and the value of his prayers is that of his self-denial."

Those who are excessively attached to their egocentric self have no room for others to enter in. They cannot sacrifice or love even on the purely human level, and indeed, in divorce, it is this same self love often disguised as defense of one's ego, which usually plays a major role.. Those who feel called to the spiritual life must even go beyond this and give up any attachment to their ego and any desire to live in their lesser "selves." Their goal must be to regain the Adamic state, to regain that likeness which Adam lost by conforming themselves to the Image of God which they bear within themselves, and thus to enter once again into Paradise.

"It is indeed a stern warfare in which two principles struggle for the mastery. It is no rest: there must be determination to fight for the knightly garland, and no man attains to it unless he be victorious. He must break the power of the earthly will which, however, he is unable to do of his own might. But, if he sink himself out of the earthly reason with his inner will into Christ's death, he will sink through Christ's death, through God's wrath, into the paradise world, into the life of Christ, in spite of all opposition of the devil. He must make his will as it were dead; thus he will live to God and sink into Gods love, while yet he lives in the outer kingdom."

Jacob Boehme, On the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

1 Freud, quoted in The Drive for Self by Ed. Hoffman, Addison, Welsley, 1995

2 I have avoided the word "soul" as the term is ambiguous and may or may not include within its aegis the spirit. Hence there is a soul which is to be saved, and another soul which is to be utterly rejected.

3 Those who adhere to what can be called the tradition view of man reject the idea that our thoughts and our reason are at the apex of our human nature. As Boethius said many years ago, the man who sees himself as only a reasoning animal, has forgotten who [or what] he is.

4 It is unfortunate that Descartes used the term spiritual with regard to the res cogitans which goes to further confuse the issue.

5 "Our mind, preferring its own opinion to the common and universal Logos, desires to use all for its own purposes and enjoyment. A sort of mental fornication takes place, in which the mind debauches and loses itself among a welter of. concepts and images which it divides, multiplies, contracts, enlarges, orders, disarranges ad infinitum... a decline into unreality and meaninglessness is inescapable...." Philip Sherrard, Quoted by Alvin Moore in his review of Philip Sherrard's book Christianity

6 Reason is dependent upon premises and these are in many cases subject to feelings and prejudices.

7 Meditation from the Heart of Judaism, ed. Avram Davis, Jewish Lights Publ., 1999 "the aim of meditation is to break through the masks that deceive us, the lies that hinder us, the ephemeral that depresses actually experience the divine."

Spiritual direction - Meditation - Lucifer - Mortal sin - unconscious - Freud - soul - Self - psyche