What is the difference between the ego and the ‘I’?


There is some confusion about what is ego and what is ‘I’. Freud spoke of the ego as part of the personality that mediates between the various levels of awareness. Jung speaks about the ego as a self-conscious faculty with four functions: sensation, feeling, thinking and intuition.

This leads us to ask if there a difference between the ego and ‘I’. This is a crucial question because unless we understand that there is a difference, and what this difference is, we will never make sense of the human being in body, soul and spirit. We are at risk of existing as beings of body and soul, or even worse, physical beings without a soul or spirit.

To put it very simply, what Freud describes is mostly the animal component of the human being, we can call it the astral component. What Jung describes is the range of experiences we have between the lower astral and its highest expression in the upper regions of our soul.

To be clear, the astral and the soul are all part of the same thing. At the lowest astral level we act instinctively and often unconsciously and in this sense express our animal-like nature. At the highest level of our soul, we have a heightened conscious awareness. To be a healthy, fully functioning human being on this earth we have to function through all these levels.

Where do we place the ‘I’ in all of this? Good question! The ‘I’ is that which says “I” to itself. Think about that. Speak the word “I” out aloud. This ‘I’ in simple terms is our spirit as distinct from our soul and body. It is that element within us which acts through sensation, feeling, thinking and intuition and which can have a high level of awareness if we let it. If our ‘I’ is connected to our soul it raises up all our experiences to a higher level. Our feeling, thinking, and will (which can be termed intuition on some level) become more conscious and increasingly under our direction.

Image: Mysterious Boat by Odilon Redon

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