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The Soul, Higher Self, and Ego-Self: Understanding the Differences

We’re trying to map out spirituality. I like to kind of place it within the realm of a person. 

 

How do I interface with spirit? Where’s my spirit? What was going on with me? 

 

There are a few terms that are helpful. Some I talked about in previous videos. 

The Higher Self and Ego Self: Part of the Psyche

There’s a higher self that’s more of a rational observer mind. The part that knows and seeks the good. 

 

And there is the ego-self which is kind of my everyday operation. The ego-self is very helpful, it protects me. When I get in a car and drive, I’m operating from the sort of habitual nature of the ego-self. A lot of my daily, more utilitarian interactions, are operated by the ego-self. 

 

But it’s only when I’m trying to figure out how to be a better husband, father, friend, human, soul, I’m thinking…

 

Okay, I got to find that higher self and work through this. 

 

So you have a higher self, you have the ego-self, I think that’s in the place of the psyche. 

What is the Soul?

Then there is an interesting term called, the soul. And you might think about the soul as also having many dimensions. And the soul is a little bit different than the higher self.  

 

The higher self is rational and logical, in some sense. The soul, to me, is the realm of poetry. It’s the realm of art. It involves the archetypes that I spoke about in a recent video. 

 

And it’s also sort of the seat of meaning. Meaning is not a rational concept. Meaning is the faculty. When something is meaningful, it has nothing to do with whether it’s irrational or not. Meaning is happening somewhere else. 

 

When I’m cognizing or thinking about something important or good? For me, that’s the higher self in action. 

 

But when I see something, have a great moment of watching my children and tears come to my eyes…It’s a meaningful moment. To me, that’s happening in the soul. 

 

So the soul is separate from that higher self. And the soul is sensitive. The soul is subtle. 

 

I have certain colors and textures I associate with the realm of the soul. The realm of the soul is universal. It’s not personal, it’s not particularly individualized. It would make a lot of sense to me if we all shared a species soul. If we all shared in a world soul, and I just experienced my bit of that in this incarnation of my existence. 

 

I think that’s what happens when you know somebody.

The Soul During Times of Trouble

I can use an example of somebody in addiction, but it could be anybody when they hit a bottom in their life. It’s like something in their soul can’t take it anymore. Something in that realm of meaning, in that more transcendent, deep space. 

 

But we don’t think about the soul as happening in the head. We think about it like somewhere between the heart and the gut–not because the soul has a physical place–but we feel it at the core. 

 

And that’s where that feeling of demoralization can happen. And that’s where you go, “Man, I need to change something.” 

 

So you have that experience–sometimes it’s very dark. But the meaningful experience of the soul that generates it motivates this different kind of experience. That turns into actionable choices and then starts operating from the higher self. 

 

And the soul is beyond our control, the soul is happening. I can bullshit my head all day long, but it is very difficult to bullshit my soul.

 

I think what we’re talking about spirituality–at its core–is the realm of the soul.

 

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Understanding the Higher Self

Whenever I talk about spirituality, it’s important not to confuse the map with the territory. 

 

So when we’re using language to talk about spirituality–spirituality is not going to be captured by the language. The language is a map that allows one to begin to sort of navigate or get a foothold in the reality of spirit. 

What is the Higher Self?

One term that’s used by my mentor, Rabbi Mordecai Finley, is he talks about the Higher Self. There are actually different levels to the Higher Self in his map–the schema he created. But, put simply, the Higher Self is the observer mind at one level. Observer mind is the rational part of the self that knows and seeks the Good. The Good is a philosophical term, it simply means that which is good.

 

There’s a part of me that knows and seeks the Good. I don’t always know exactly how to produce or behave well to get to the Good, but I know of the Good and I’m seeking it. We call that the Higher Self. 

 

If there wasn’t a Higher Self, nobody would ever transform for the better. The act of transforming for the better is the act of tuning into the Higher Self and all the work that it takes to do that. So that you can begin to have clarity, think, feel, and behave in a way that’s aligned with your Higher Self. 

 

Other religions and spiritual practices use a different nomenclature and language. They’ll talk about the part of you that’s living within God’s will, which to me, just talk about the Higher Self. 

 

They’re saying, “Live in God’s will.” The part of you that knows what God’s will is, in that moment, that’s the Higher Self, right? 

And Then…The Ego-Self

Then they’ll talk about your disease. 

 

Your disease is kind of your lower self or what Rabbi Finley calls it–and what I call it–the ego-self. The part of you that is living for short-term gratification. The part of you that has a difficult time navigating complex relationships. The part of you that is skeptical and doubts the Good. The part of you that rationalizes in the negative sense. The part of you that’s more narcissistic, selfish, etc.

 

To put it simply, behaviors that don’t help you grow, learn, and change. 

 

So in most traditions there is some schema that lays out something like the ego-self–the necessary part of the self for survival and to navigate every day–but is not good for the really important parts of life.

Coming to Terms with the Higher Self and Ego-Self

And when I’m calling the Higher Self, which is rational or at least meta-rational, more than rational and is connected to the good spirit, God, etc. That’s an important kind of schema. 

 

For Christianity, it’s just the devil and the angel. I think it’s a bit more complex than that. And so understanding that Higher Self, one that you are/have a Higher Self that you can attune to. And also, you have an ego-self. It can be pretty destructive–in your life and the lives of others. 

 

There are both darker and higher things in the schema that I think about when it comes to spirituality. But a good starting place is Higher Self and ego-self.

 

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