Ego is a word derived from the Greek Εγώ (Ego) meaning "I", often used in English to mean the "self", "identity" or other related concepts. In Theosophical teachings there are different levels of the sense of I-ness in us. The personal ego (lower manas) is the psychological "I" that is often selfish. The higher ego (higher manas), also called "reincarnating ego" is the impersonal sense of I-ness at the level of the soul. The spiritual ego (buddhi-manas) is an enlightened sense of I-ness present in those who recognize the one universal self.
H. P. Blavatsky defined it as follows:
Ego (Lat.). “Self”; the consciousness in man “I am I”—or the feeling of “I-am-ship”. Esoteric philosophy teaches the existence of two Egos in man, the mortal or personal, and the Higher, the Divine and the Impersonal, calling the former “personality” and the latter “Individuality".
The quality of Ego-ship is a feature of the fifth principle, manas. The meaning of the word "ego" in Theosophy is not restricted to the one modern psychology gives. It is used to refer to the sense of "I-ness", which can manifest in different ways to the plane in which it expresses. It can appear in a personal and selfish way through the lower manas (lower ego), in an impersonal form through the higher manas (higher ego), or as a divine self-consciousness through buddhi (spiritual ego). However, it is important to keep in mind that these three egos are just aspects of the one self:
Those who would feel inclined to see three Egos in one man will show themselves unable to perceive the metaphysical meaning. Man is a trinity composed of Body, Soul and Spirit; but man is nevertheless one and is surely not his body. It is the latter which is the property, the transitory clothing of the man. The three “Egos” are MAN in his three aspects on the astral, intellectual or psychic, and the Spiritual planes, or states.
The reincarnating Egos are said to be sons or rays of the Universal Mind:
The reincarnating Ego [is that] which old Aryan philosophers call Manasaputra, the “Sons of Mind” or of Mahat, the Universal Cosmic Mind.
Occult philosophy claims; our Ego is a ray of the Universal Mind, individualized for the space of a cosmic life-cycle, during which space of time it gets experience in almost numberless reincarnations or rebirths, after which it returns to its Parent-Source.
The human Ego is neither Ātma nor Buddhi, but the higher Manas: the intellectual fruition and the efflorescence of the intellectual self-conscious Egotism—in the higher spiritual sense.
This is the real Individuality, or the divine man. It is this Ego which—having originally incarnated in the senseless human form animated by, but unconscious (since it had no consciousness) of, the presence in itself of the dual monad—made of that human-like form a real man. It is that Ego, that "Causal Body," which overshadows every personality Karma forces it to incarnate into.
When the higher ego has to incarnate, it sends a "ray" to animate the body, giving origin to the lower ego:
Manas is, as it were, a globe of pure, Divine Light, a Ray from the World Soul, a unit from a higher sphere, in which is no differentiation. Descending to a plane of differentiation it emanates a Ray which is itself, which it can only manifest through the personality already differentiated. This Ray is the Lower Manas, while the globe of Divine Light, a Kumāra on its own plane, is the Higher Ego, or Higher Manas, Manas proper.
On its own plane, the higher ego must strive to assimilate the influence from buddhi.
In every incarnation, [the Ego] is under the direct ray of Buddhi, if he wants to assimilate [it]. If he does not want to, it is his look out; his personality will drop out. It is only in the case which assimilates Buddhi that it really lives throughout, and will belong to that string of personality which forms consciousness after the Manvantara is at an end—the direct, immortal ray.
When this is accomplishe and the self-consciousness is raised to the buddhic level, the passive spiritual soul becomes a self-conscious spiritual ego.
The lower ego is frequently referred to as "kama-manas" because it is the outcome of the union of these two principles:
During life the Lower Manas acts through this Kâma-Rûpa, and so comes into contact with the Sthûla-Úarîra; this is why the Lower Manas is said to be “enthroned in Kâma-Rûpa”
Manas and its vehicle—the Kama rupa, or body of passions and desires [are] the two elements of Ahamkara which evolve individualized consciousness—the personal ego.
The student must not confuse this Spiritual Ego with the "HIGHER SELF" which is Atma, the God within us, and inseparable from the Universal Spirit.
- Ego at Theosopedia
- Remembering the Experiences of the Ego by W. Q. Judge
- The Self, Science, and Religion by Anna F. Lemkow
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Theosophical Glossary (Krotona, CA: Theosophical Publishing House, 1973), 111.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. IX (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1974), 257, fn.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 411.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 414-415.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 79.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), 136.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 709.
- Michael Gomes (transcriber), The Secret Doctrine Commentaries (The Hague: I.S.I.S. foundation, 2010), 646.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Collected Writings vol. XII (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1980), 708.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, The Secret Doctrine vol. II, (Wheaton, IL: Theosophical Publishing House, 1993), 241.
- Helena Petrovna Blavatsky, Key to Theosophy, (London: Theosophical Publishing House, 1987), ??.