Evolution of the ego has been necessary for life here on earth. People often get the idea that the ego is all bad. This is not hard to understand given the way spiritual teachers, psychologists, and others speak of it. The ego can be good or bad depending on whether we use it or it uses us.
For those of you who are troubled by the word evolution, don’t be. Evolution and creation are not mutually exclusive. Obviously, something created the world. Evolution is simply one of the cosmic forces of creation. Everything in the physical universe is a manifestation of the cosmic forces of creation emanating from one source. One truth. One reality that we call God.
Evolution of the ego has occurred right alongside evolution of intelligence. Our subconscious can certainly cause a lot of problems. In fact, the ego plays a role in nearly all of our problems. An imbalance in any area of our life creates a state leading to physical and mental disease. It also blocks spiritual growth. When you get right down to it, if we are to understand evolution of the ego, we need to look at the evolution of life itself.
Life has evolved to bring us to this point. Looking at the evolution of life, what do we see. Life finds a way. It evolves to higher and higher life forms. Life forms capable of higher and higher intelligence. Eventually to life forms capable of consciousness. At the top are homo sapiens. Humans are capable of consciousness.
Evolution of intelligence
Just looking around at the animal kingdom we clearly see life forms from very low intelligence to very high intelligence. At the low-end life forms operate exclusively on instinct. In the middle there are those beginning to develop intelligence. These animals are capable of very basic problem solving. Near the top are animals with higher levels of intelligence. They put together more complex ideas in a constructive manner. And then there are humans who are completely different. We contemplate life itself.
The evolution of ego has shadowed the evolution of intelligence. The subconscious is left over from the evolution of intelligence. Think of insects and reptiles. Total instinct. As amazing as they are, they blindly go about their business following instinctive programming. Suddenly there’s other movement. If they don’t respond quickly they may not survive. Going into stress response can be a life saver if that other movement is a predator. Many species would not exist if not for the stress response. They would have become prey, failed to reproduce and finally the species would have become extinct.
Evolution of the ego
The mechanism for triggering the stress response is the beginning of ego. So, the ego serves as a survival tool. The stress response is how we survive emergencies. Life threatening events. And the egos foundation is fear. But there has been an evolution of ego. It’s that voice in our head that never shuts up. Always warning us of danger. Keeping us in stress response. With evolution of the ego comes evolution of the warnings. Emotional evolution. Add to fear, anger, hatred, and revenge. I think you see where we are headed.
What started as territorial behaviors to protect the food supply turned into greed. Mating behavior begot jealousy. Identification with the ego gave rise to indifference and hatred of others. While thoughts and emotions can be irrational, they are in and of themselves not the problem. Our subconscious can produce many negative thoughts and emotions. They form low levels of consciousness. Identification with thoughts and emotions grounds us in lower consciousness. That is the problem. We are not our thoughts and emotions. They are something we have. Not who we are.
This has all been necessary because we need to have a point of reference. A viewpoint to operate from. Life as we know it would be impossible without ego. In the human condition we perceive things through time. Past, present, and future. Also, through space. Here and there. Additionally, through our senses such as touch, sight, and sound. We can function in time and space because we have an ego. For example, walking about, scheduling of events, catching a plane, or manipulation of matter like preparing a meal. Our verbal and visual communication are also made possible.
All good. Useful in the physical realm. But there is a catch. Our ego is a construct of our mind. Thoughts about reality are not reality. The problem occurs when we mistake our thoughts and emotions for reality. Worse still is when we confuse our identity with the ego and from this viewpoint with our subconscious. When we identify with the ego, we confuse the human mind-body with who and what we are.
The very same ego that gives us a point of view to operate from contributes to the illusion of separation. Too often we believe we are in a state of danger. This anxiety leads to ill health and disease. All physical disease is at least in part due to stress. All mental disease involves negative emotions. It is delusional thinking to believe our thoughts and emotions are who we are. The illusion of separation also leads to ideas such as me and you or us and them. Separation causes many problems. All of humanity suffers as a result.
The bottom line
The ego gives us a viewpoint to operate from while in the human condition. It is necessary if we are to move about and function in a four-dimensional reality of time and space. The problem occurs when we identify with the ego. This separates us from the truth, from each other, and from God. Separation causes both physical and mental disease. Separation is also responsible for the problems of humanity. We are capable of consciousness far beyond that of the reptiles. While there has been evolution of the ego and intelligence, there must also be evolution of consciousness. In conclusion, we can use the ego like a tool or we can be a tool of the ego.