What is the "ego"?

iBrian

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The subject of the "ego" has come up in various threads across the boards, but there's a very danger that usage of it between different persons will be easily misconstrued - not least by myself. :)

aged hippy made the salient point of:
it is only apparent in humankind, as far as i know. Is there research that shows it to exist elsewhere? Other life-forms certainly have their own individual 'identity' but do not appear to have an ego, or, at least, not in as developed a form as in humankind.
For myself I am equating "ego" with sense of identity - I'm actually approaching the word primarily from a Freudian aspect (Freud was my initial bridge into psychology as a subject, though I do not necessarily ascribe to any or all of his ideas).

In this case, I am going beyond viewing the "ego" as merely the balancing power between the primal "id" and civilised "super-ego" - the bridge between the higher cognitive functions and more basic biological drives. Instead, my interpretation is that the ego is very much rooted in the sense of sense and personal identity - and that, where applicable, other creatures may also have an ego of their own - to some degree or other (I realise that I am probably going quite beyond Freud with that regard, and I'm afraid I only ever read a little Jung).

By that I mean that the sense of self is very much an expression of a lot of mammalian physiology and psychology - apes, cetaceans, dogs, elephants - are all animals and groups of animals that I believe show some degree of emotional expression. And emotions themselves I would argue are directly related with how the internal self relates to the external world.

That would mean - by logical extension of the argument - that humans are therefore distinct (perhaps, and perhaps only by degrees!) because of the presence of the super-ego.

My question is - does this make sense as an argument, or is it a deeply flawed misapplication of the term. And how does this perception relate to the use of the expression "ego" in general spiritual language?
 
What I understood from Jung (keeping this at a very basic level, which is appropriate to my limited knowledge of the subject), I understood that what he calls ego is "what we think we are" (and on that subject we could be partly wrong). This is to be contrasted with the persona which is "what we want others to think we are", the shadow "what we think we are not" (and this could be wrong, too), and the self "what we really are" (and the latter is unconscious). The process of individuation would be the bridging of the divide between the ego and the self.

Vivianne Crowley, in "Wicca, the Old Religion in the New Millenium" (Thorsons/HarperCollins, 1996), has drawn a very interesting parallel between the Wiccan initiation process and the individuation. For people interested in Wicca, I have found this one of the best depictions of what lies behind the initiation.

To come back to I, Brian's question, if you take Freud's definition of the ego, which does not seem so different from Jung's ("sense of identiy" to be compared with "what we think we are", sense=think and identity=are), and add to it the id and super-ego concepts, I would agree with him. I always felt that at least some animals, if not the majority of the "advanced" spiecies, gave me the impression of having some sense of identity.

But again, it is a question of definition.

Baud
 
Baud said:
What I understood from Jung (keeping this at a very basic level, which is appropriate to my limited knowledge of the subject), I understood that what he calls ego is "what we think we are" (and on that subject we could be partly wrong). This is to be contrasted with the persona which is "what we want others to think we are", the shadow "what we think we are not" (and this could be wrong, too), and the self "what we really are" (and the latter is unconscious). The process of individuation would be the bridging of the divide between the ego and the self.

Vivianne Crowley, in "Wicca, the Old Religion in the New Millenium" (Thorsons/HarperCollins, 1996), has drawn a very interesting parallel between the Wiccan initiation process and the individuation. For people interested in Wicca, I have found this one of the best depictions of what lies behind the initiation.

To come back to I, Brian's question, if you take Freud's definition of the ego, which does not seem so different from Jung's ("sense of identiy" to be compared with "what we think we are", sense=think and identity=are), and add to it the id and super-ego concepts, I would agree with him. I always felt that at least some animals, if not the majority of the "advanced" spiecies, gave me the impression of having some sense of identity.

But again, it is a question of definition.

Baud

interestingly enough... Jung got a lot (if not most) of his ideas about the subconscious and so forth from an eastern text called the Secret of the Golden Flower (of which i'm posting from the original chinese in another forum) that was translated by a fellow named Wilhelm. as it turns out, Wilhelm mistranslated the work. alot of it deals with very subtle aspects of Buddhist and Taoist thought, with which Wilhelm was not famaliar, as such, his conclusions were incorrect.

perhaps, in my ongoing thread on the Golden Flower i shall also point out where Wilhelm mistranslated a word or transliterated the meaning incorrectly....
 
who and what am I

In my own case, I choose not to be constricted by the terminology of Freud or Jung or another similar terminology oven.

What I do is to consider myself as a character.

Biology is what I do without any choice if I would remain healthy and reasonably functional.

Then there are all kinds of character above biology that I play depending on the stage where I find myself.

However, I believe that I do play the character that is customary in all honesty in my everyday and everwhere existence: the decent, civilized, educated character, at times non-conformist, but routinely conducting myself as not to cause any alarm to fellow humans in my presence.

In church I would conduct myself as the religious character, but I might have my mind thinking about many a thing of no connection whaever with the worship service, although appearing most worshipful. That makes me a hypocrite... But not any worse than your everyday variety.

When exposed to a situation of opportunity for gain or pleasure that can escape repriimand at least from society, I think I can easily succumb.

But by the mercy of God and His grace, I have not found myself so far in such situations of gain or pleasure where escape from social reprimand is guaranteed.

And as a character trained in decency and civilized behavior, it has become second nature to me to avoid automatically such situations as soon as I sense that the situation is evolving. That makes me a coward.

but the reality is that I don't relish a complicated existence of entanglements with relations that will not stand the scrutiny of fellowmen who also are playing characters of decency, education, and civilization.

Where is my Ego, and Id, and Super-ego?

Susma Rio Sep
 
ego

For myself I am equating "ego" with sense of identity - I'm actually approaching the word primarily from a Freudian aspect (Freud was my initial bridge into psychology as a subject, though I do not necessarily ascribe to any or all of his ideas).

From Louis...
I carefully read all the replies before commenting on this subject and I
agree with mostly everything they said. Although it's difficult to believe
that Jung got any of his ideas from Bhuddism - They seem to have very
different notions about ego than I do.
I also agree that many animals have a rudimentary form of ego but their
behaviour is still COMPULSIVE - they MUST obey their instincts.
( When in estrus, they MUST try to mate - when conditions are wrong
for raising young, a new mother MUST eat her offspring to conserve her
strength for the next season. )
We humans are AWARE if such compulsions but we can REFUSE to obey
them - animals can NOT.
Because our EGO is in control, we can CHOOSE what we do.
But, of course, there's a down side... we can also choose to DECEIVE.
WE can use that "persona" thing that someone mentioned - to fool others
into seeing the person we think we are or want to be - we can even fool
ourselves into seeing what we want to see.
( Maybe that's what "believing" really is ??? )
But... I DON'T think animals can do that. I'm sure a loving, devoted dog
is truly devoted - he can't just pretend in order to get food and shelter.
( I'm not so sure about cats...)
Personaly, I try my very best NEVER to fool myself or anyone else -
I truly hope I'm not wrong about that.
 
I said:
For myself I am equating "ego" with sense of identity - I'm actually approaching the word primarily from a Freudian aspect (Freud was my initial bridge into psychology as a subject, though I do not necessarily ascribe to any or all of his ideas).
QUOTE]

That's been my take on it. Who am I, what am I suppose to believe, how am I distinguished. Then you get the Manichean advice, cast off the ego, and one arrives at:

NOW... who am I, what am I... and so on. Even nothing is something.
 
Thought I'd just say this with just a brief look at this thread that EGO comes from the Greek word I use everyday "EGO" simply meaning "ME" or "Myself".

We say it like this eh-gho
 
I said:
The subject of the "ego" has come up in various threads across the boards, but there's a very danger that usage of it between different persons will be easily misconstrued - not least by myself. :)

aged hippy made the salient point of:
For myself I am equating "ego" with sense of identity - I'm actually approaching the word primarily from a Freudian aspect (Freud was my initial bridge into psychology as a subject, though I do not necessarily ascribe to any or all of his ideas).

In this case, I am going beyond viewing the "ego" as merely the balancing power between the primal "id" and civilised "super-ego" - the bridge between the higher cognitive functions and more basic biological drives. Instead, my interpretation is that the ego is very much rooted in the sense of sense and personal identity - and that, where applicable, other creatures may also have an ego of their own - to some degree or other (I realise that I am probably going quite beyond Freud with that regard, and I'm afraid I only ever read a little Jung).

By that I mean that the sense of self is very much an expression of a lot of mammalian physiology and psychology - apes, cetaceans, dogs, elephants - are all animals and groups of animals that I believe show some degree of emotional expression. And emotions themselves I would argue are directly related with how the internal self relates to the external world.

That would mean - by logical extension of the argument - that humans are therefore distinct (perhaps, and perhaps only by degrees!) because of the presence of the super-ego.

My question is - does this make sense as an argument, or is it a deeply flawed misapplication of the term. And how does this perception relate to the use of the expression "ego" in general spiritual language?


I think this is flawed argument and that it is a totally wrong and an dangerous view on human nature but at the same time I think you do have the right to have another opinion.
Which is why we should people have different and personal usages of "Ego".

Personally I hold the unconventional philosophy that humans are animals and that all our important needs and emotions are animistic.
At the same there is no super ego or conscience that separe ourselves from animals.
In addition I believe in an emotional intelligence that means that our intincts are not separated from rational thoughs.

People just blame their low intelligence and normal flaws on emotions
while it just easier to take notice of things when we are emotionaly upset and therefore manu doesn't think those flaws existed before.
In addition it is easier to think if you take time
and emotions/instints are all based on intelligent stimuli (perceiving a treat in the first place).

Morality and religion are just illusions and confused information
that more than anything shows that the person does not know whe he is or know himself.
Morality and religion are irrational and paradoxal collections of loose ideas
that are further modified my selfish wants and personal flaws.
So there is nothing that separates us from animals

We are just smarter, more and live longer.

Everything social and even curiosity, (intellenctual developement) drives us are instincts.
 
I agree. I think mankind is just another species or another form of animal. I dont see how we are different. We just come up with language and concepts like "society", and "civilization" and we build and create so we come to think that we are superior to animals, and I think we are pretty much taught that as well.
I think alot of people think we are superior because we think we are smarter, or more developed mentally. But we have no way to know what or how an animal thinks or anything like that. To be honest I think we are inferior to animals. We destroy our planets resources and pollute the earth while animals learn to live with nature and benefit it while we just tear it down.
Animals can survive with nothing but what they are born with, we have been softened and weaken by all of our modern devices and inventions designed to make life as easy and confortable as possible.
 
The part of our identity which (ideally) governs the area of our consciousness bounded by our sensory input.
"Egoism is the identification of the power that knows with the instruments of knowing." — Patanjali - Sutra 2.6
 
Kindest Regards, and welcome, to Satanist, Mindfreak and Seattlegal!

It’s nice to see an old thread brought back.

The subject of “ego” has been on my mind a bit lately, so here’s my take:

I think Baud most closely approached what I would initially have to say, in that:

if you take Freud's definition of the ego, which does not seem so different from Jung's ("sense of identiy" to be compared with "what we think we are", sense=think and identity=are), and add to it the id and super-ego concepts, I would agree with him. I always felt that at least some animals, if not the majority of the "advanced" spiecies, gave me the impression of having some sense of identity. But again, it is a question of definition.

Now, where Satanist and Mindfreak seem to imply that humans are no more than animals, I have mixed thoughts. On one level I can agree. On another, there is a component to humans that distinguishes us from typical animals: rational thought. With this in mind,

So there is nothing that separates us from animals. We are just smarter, more and live longer.

That that makes us “smarter” is what does separate us from animals. Conscious rational thought distinguishes us from other animals. Reasoning has led to important moments in human development like tool-making and the harnessing of fire. Congruent with this is “foresight,” which arguably connects with understanding of consequences of our actions in a given moment. In what studies I have looked at pertaining to human communication with gorillas, porpoises and parrots, these creatures do not have this ability to use foresight. They cannot use foresight towards comprehension of consequences of actions.

Now, I can qualify this by saying animals do comprehend experience. A close call with danger will instill a sense of caution the next time they are in a similar situation. This is called “hindsight.” Humans have this ability as well.

and emotions/instints are all based on intelligent stimuli (perceiving a treat in the first place).
So, I can see where one could say something like this regarding instinct, but it does not cover all of the bases. I am not seeing the connection between emotion and instinct. The emotion of fear could be said to stem from a primal drive to survive, of caution, to prevent one from being eaten. But what of the emotion of love? Is it instinctual? How? What survival purpose does it serve, and can it be shown to exist across all other animals? I can see the possibility of love (in the “motherly”or “parental” sense) existing among some mammals, but I do not see love exhibited among reptiles, fish or insects, whereas fear seems endemic among almost all of them. Could love only be endemic among brains with “higher” development? I do not see “Eros”, sex, as love in the emotional sense of the word.

As for perceiving threats, again I would say that is based on experience. Animals do not seem to have the capacity to convey experience directly to others. Instinct seems to me very related to Jung’s concept of collective consciousness, but instinct does not account for foresight. Collective consciousness seems to be applied collective experience at this level, resulting in instinct.

At the same there is no super ego or conscience that separe ourselves from animals. In addition I believe in an emotional intelligence that means that our intincts are not separated from rational thoughs.

Conscience is very closely connected to foresight. Understanding of consequences is what drives conscience. After the fact, experience, is hindsight. Hindsight can be applied forward into the “now” by animals, but without foresight animals cannot perceive consequences of actions they have not experienced previously. Humans, through conscience, can and do use foresight to understand consequences prior to action, even in actions they have not individually experienced before, in part because we can also learn from experiences of others without direct experience ourselves. Mom can teach a child to do or not to do something, as some animals might do. But as the child grows and learns s/he can also learn by watching and applying concepts beyond mere experience, and through conscience experience shame, remorse and guilt for improper actions, and through foresight know not to do certain actions, including those not previously experienced.

I see a strong connection between “Super-Ego” and conscience.

Which is why we should people have different and personal usages of "Ego".

Just as no two animals of a species are identical, so too no two humans are identical. Our experiences build a library from which we can help guide our judgements, and no two libraries are the same. Our sub-conscious “collective” experiences may be the same, and provide a foundation from which to draw our judgements, but we each as individual humans also apply our experiential libraries to our judgements and can arrive at different conclusions, even over-riding our collective conscience / experience. Much of our experiential library is religious in essence, therefor much of our morality is learned, and people “have different and personal usages of "Ego". There is a component of morality that is outside of experience, and it is this component I believe that is the initial drive towards religion in the personal sense. It is this “natural” morality that is displayed by herding and social animals such as apes, wolves and deer. As human brains developed consciousness and rational thought, there was a basic natural morality to build on, and foresight was applied toward understanding of the spiritual dimension of nature, leading to religion in the personal sense. From this, humans in time developed a more complex morality.

Institutional religion, as the term “religion” is commonly applied, did not come until much later in human psycho-social development.

Morality and religion are just illusions and confused information.

If morality and religion are illusions, then they are the grandest of grand illusions. So, after what I have written above, I do not think one would be surprised if I disagreed.

Morality is no illusion, a great deal of nature beyond humanity displays a natural form of morality. And depending what exactly one means with the term “religion,” it is no illusion either. The personal search for understanding and meaning within the universe by a rational and conscious mind endemic thoughout all societies at the earliest known stages of civil development leading into the modern era shows that religion is no illusion. Because religion is displayed in many different manners is not evidence of illusion, it is evidence of multiple perspectives. When one considers that the major world faiths seem to be attempting to reach what seems in essence to be the same thing, and each is drawing from its own experiential library to describe the indescribable, and this reach is endemic around the world (perhaps even “instinctual”!), religion in the personal sense, and in the purest form of the institutional sense, is no illusion at all. If it were, then why have effectively all societies participated in this reach for understanding?

I can agree on one level that institutional religion can, and has, become perverted in its quest for political power and social dominance. This is the hand of “man,” not spirit. Unless one cares to distinguish between “good” and “bad” spirit guiding “man”…which I think is a discussion better carried elsewhere.

That more than anything shows that the person does not know whe he is or know himself.

Religion in the personal sense is an attempt by an individual to understand “who ‘he’ is,” and his/her place in the universal scheme of things.

Morality and religion are irrational and paradoxal collections of loose ideas that are further modified my selfish wants and personal flaws.

If morality is irrational, then nature is irrational. I do not see this as being so.

By religion here, I presume you mean institutional religion. Paradox is inherent when attempting to understand something beyond understanding. Paradox is not irrational, it is reaching beyond simplistic explanation. A selfish human may use wants and desires to over-ride inherent morality, both natural and collective (conscience), but that does not mean morality or religion are irrational. It means the human is being irrational. Irrationality is a flaw of humans. One must have the capability of being rational in order to be irrational. Animals are not rational, and so cannot be irrational. Instinct leads animals to behave in certain ways. A dog does not act like a monkey.

In all, I see ego as the internal “self talk” that leads to the outward expression of personality. Without ego, we are without personality, or in essence “vegetative” in the medical sense of the term. To be “egoist,” or “egotistical,” to me seems to imply “selfish” in the negative sense of the term.
 
juantoo3 said:
Conscience is very closely connected to foresight. Understanding of consequences is what drives conscience. After the fact, experience, is hindsight. Hindsight can be applied forward into the “now” by animals, but without foresight animals cannot perceive consequences of actions they have not experienced previously. Humans, through conscience, can and do use foresight to understand consequences prior to action, even in actions they have not individually experienced before, in part because we can also learn from experiences of others without direct experience ourselves. Mom can teach a child to do or not to do something, as some animals might do. But as the child grows and learns s/he can also learn by watching and applying concepts beyond mere experience, and through conscience experience shame, remorse and guilt for improper actions, and through foresight know not to do certain actions, including those not previously experienced.

i found this interesting Juan. My neighbors dog was once hit by a car & she knew from that day forth & never ventured past the curb yet was still allowed to roam the yard free without wandering off. this is a very busy street i live on. i have also wondered about why some actually do observe the traffic & 'wait' so to speak, or run back when they see or hear the traffic coming.
i have observed several racoons this summer that have been crossing back & forth after midnight. i watch & this particular bunch stays very close together & does not cross until they see one of the others cross. often the first one will start to cross, hear the car coming or see the lights & run back to the curb & wait.

of course we are taught at a young age to look both ways & how critical that is. so i wonder if the animals have seen the others get hit & remember or had close calls themselves. Naturally humans are going to remember the incident or be much more aware, or so it seems. so mom can teach the other racoons to wait before crossing, but they may not have that immediate understanding as to why and still not sure they can reflect back on what the mother racoon was doing, or until until they see an accident happen. ( i dont know).
where humans/children will understand it now, then & in the future- or lets hope they do.
just some observations & i found your post very helpful.
 
OK so if an animal can remember things.... heres a good example:

A friend of a friend had a neighbor who had a dog. One day this dog comes into his yard and knocks the trash all in his yard. So the next day he waited for the dog and had a gun with bird shot in it. Well he pelted the dog in the behind with bird shot, and the dog never came back. But this is not all he had a mutualt friend of ours over one day and asked if he wanted to see something crazy. He told him to watch the corner of the house accross the street. Sure enough the dogs head poped out for a peek. The man with the gun Hollored Batooww, Batoow, Batoow, and the Dog went running off just like he did the day he was shot in the behind.

Does this mean the dog has self identity, or is just smart enough to know not to go their!
 
Curios Mike said:
Does this mean the dog has self identity, or is just smart enough to know not to go their!

are you sure the dog is mean? you know people knock trash all over & can be mean too.

i think both. they learn just like humans do, through repetition and error. they know there name, how to survive, where to go potty, & what it is to be sent away or accepted just like humans. we can't understand there spoken language but they understand a lot of ours. they know to protect there young & territory just like humans. the young know who there mom is & the mother knows there own. some dogs watch tv & learn athletics. birds, squirrels & racoons build many homes every summer. i cant say they know themselves in the mirror or understand why they are at a vets office for shots, but i think they have self identity & know when they are cared for.
i have often thought if some animals could speak our language & ask questions they would be just a smart, though they would not have the capability of building the same way, because they are physically structured different.
Like Mr Ed...a horse of course.:)
 
I said:
My question is - does this make sense as an argument, or is it a deeply flawed misapplication of the term. And how does this perception relate to the use of the expression "ego" in general spiritual language?

i cant get what you are fully trying to say. i am also thinking that different religions are going to perceive the spiritual part with ego different.
 
The ego was the very provision of God for the individual. It is the baby individual. There just comes a time when the ego matures. But it was the very provision for us to enter a kingdom of Dynamics. The ego is the provision for dynamics. At first it is aquainted with accusations, for example, my way is better than your way... Now, in its mature form this is still true, for example, where I belong and who or what I am in the whole sceme of things is better for me but this does not mean that it is better for someone else. Yet both are equally important. The ego was the provision for identity and individuality and personality. The mind is the wilderness or battle field for contrast to be matured. The baby ego says that contrast is contradiction until it matures and contrast is seen perfectly. It is a way of knowing who we are. Once the ego matures it no longer sees contradiction. It sees contrast.

No accusations, no matrix.

Peace !
 
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