C.G.Jung / Catholic / General / Spiritual

The Death of the Ego as prerequisite to find God

Translation of my article “Gedanken zur Predigt in St. Ottilien 2012-11-18 The Death of the Ego as prerequisite to find God
By fallenAngel

This sunday sermon in St. Ottilien (2012-11-18-0915-konventamt.mp3) addressed an interesting line of thought: in order to experience God (via the Self), we need to kill the Ego in us. A very tough call indeed. “We have to kill our own will”, as Paul wrote, “so that God lives in us instead.” According to Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, a Swiss-born American psychiatrist and founder of the so called “mortality research”, there are five psychological stages of dying. Those can be applied also to the  “Death of the Ego”:

  1. Isolation
  2. Anger
  3. Negotiation (here with God for pagan believers who knows)
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance

I must confess, that the thought has deeply unsettled me. Just after I had brought my rather pantheistic experience of God, individuation and the personal christian God more or less in line (I refer to my post “The Self – God’s window between pantheistic Taoism and Catholic personal god”) –  I was somewhat surprised by this deeply Buddhist image of the dissolution of Ego and Self (which of course makes sense from a monastic perspective).

The Ego and the Self are terms which are often interchangeably used. Likewise often no distinction between personality and Self is made nor taken into account the subconscious.  The psychological term Ego is the center of consciousness and ensures the physical survival . Ego often has an extended meaning in the spiritual language and referrers in general terms to an obstacle for Self realization.

The total psyche: (Mantra – Jolande Jacobi “The psychology of C.G. Jung”

The model C.G. Jung does not have this limitation (see Mantra above from the book Jolande Jacobi, The Psychology of C.G. Jung). He distinguishes sharply between Ego and Self and differentiates the unconscious thoughts and feelings of both types of memories: the ones we can remember easily and those who are suppressed for some reason. In addition he introduced the collective unconscious, which belongs to the common humanity, as part of an individual psyche. This article wants to  investigate the “Death of the Ego” from that spiritual point of view and from a psychological perspective (in particular from  C.G. Jung’s individuation). I hope that the context of Jung’s model clarifies it (at least for me). As many, I  lived my life ignoring death, but since the death of my mother this attitude has changed.

1. The Ego

Ego is the correct  translation of the German “Ich (I)” used by C.G. Jung and Freud. The term Ego is also common in esoteric  writings often distinguishing the  Ego as a centre of the personality of a higher or true Self not unlike as in C.G. Jung’s psychoanalytic model. The term Ego is widely used In  translations of Buddhist texts for the “I” to overcome. In some languages it attends a negative meaning: to characterize, for example people with a selfish Ego. According to C.G. Jung the Ego can be equated with the conscious mind and includes all thoughts we think at that moment and also our current feelings. In the center of this consciousness we find that “I” or Ego. It guarantees the unity of (thinking, feeling, acting) is focused on physical survival and dealing with everyday demands. All religions (according to the Benedictine monk Anselm Gruen), demand more or less that we must become free from the Ego. This especially applies to our relationship with God. If we do not let go of our Ego we stay materialistic (at best).


Jesus has spoken this wisdom of all religions in words, which are hard to understand today: “who wants to be my disciple, let him deny himself, take up his cross any day and follow me.” (Lk 9.23). To deny yourself is to say no to be ruled by monopolizing tendencies of the Ego, but distance us from it, to be free from its enslaving power. The Ego wants to impress, wants be presented (inflated) before others. Is the Ego our biggest enemy or our best friend, one might ask?  My usual answer to this question is: who can’t love himself can’t  love others nor God. It is just analogue not digital. The concept of unconditional love may answers this question differently: ” It is never an enemy. It is the best of us, who may feel neglected but in terms of love is always a very good friend .The Ego just wants to be loved – always.”

But the trivial (or trivialized colloquial term) Ego wants also success, be better than others, wealth, recognition and so on.  In the end the effect is, it will not get love from others in this way. Why? Because it does not recognize that others are needed for this purpose. It calculates coldly cause and effect – feeling not loved (enough) in crises as profound illusion –  due to limited awareness. If we understand our commitment only from the inflated Ego,  my experience is, we may quite benefit in professional life but may get rather hurt in private relations. And: as the two Benedictine (and I think C.G. Jung) told us,  it prevents experiencing the religious dimension of our life.

For the philosopher Boulad, the death of the Ego is the birth of the Self: we have only a single vocation: to be ourselves. We have only an obligation: especially do – to be to realize ourselves, to develop ourselves. Psychologist Hawkins described the Ego as a negatively oriented structure that denies the existence of God and wants to live independently. The Ego itself is afraid its resolution. And this would indeed happen if God influenced consciousness and we achieved higher levels of consciousness. The death of the Ego is “the final door” Hawkins or “the final moment” so a subjective enlightenment represents (as in Buddhism).

  • Freud: The Ego mediates between the demands of IT, the super-ego, and the social environment and needs a reality-oriented self-image, called Self.
  • C.G.Jung: the Ego represents the differentiation of the individual as a personality evolves. At birth, the Ego separates from the Self. In its development, the individual is always forced to adapt to its social environment; This will be done at the expense of positive attributes which are not valued or tolerated by the outside world. To protect his development, those will be negatively “charged”, fended off and become the Shadow. Furthermore adjusting of  the shared ideal of gender creates another functional complex, Jung calls the soul: the Anima (lat. soul) in men and the animus in women. Outwardly, another functional complex, called persona essential for life in society will be developed.  This is our task in the first half of our lifespan (35-40 years of age) to mature. For many people the end of mental development reached with the realization of the Ego. The life takes place only in socially prescribed patterns, fulfilling our primary need for security (and sexuality according Freud or power according to Adler). Only a few people imagine how to proceed in the midlife or thereafter, usually shaken by a crisis or emergency. The anxious questions of individuation, of Self realization, and meaning of life are major concerns of Jung.
  • Orthodox Islam knows many stages of the “I” (Arabic nafs), and to dissolve it. “The” Ego”is contrary to the spirit of [ruh] the part of the heart of man who was placed under its own control, in developing his soul”. Goal of Islam is to overcome that to a common “Ego” “We”. All people, also husband and wife, were created from a single soul (cf. Holy Quran ‘ at 7: 189). Somewhat different is the Sufi view, the mystical form of Islam. But here  too,  the goalis  the death of the Ego.

2. The Self

For me, the Self is again non-uniformly used term within their psychological, sociological, philosophical and theological importance variants. While Freud and Adler considered very narrow psychological driving forces, C.G. Jung understood a central integral concept of the human psyche manifested in the Self. This Self is the wholeness of the human psyche and includes the conscious and unconscious parts of the personality and aims toward the harmonization of the psyche. Only the ego-consciousness with the equipment in use is deliberately sensory perception and thinking, feeling, and intuition. The unconscious part of the people, which splits in the personal unconscious and the collective unconscious, is much more extensive than the ego-consciousness. The Self is the center of the whole personality and therefore the central control instance.  The Ego is the conscious of Self, its eye, with whose help the Self can recognize itself (almost like Adam and Eve after eating the apple). But the Self is the God in us. Individuation is to be who one really is, and a differentiation process that fosters the development of all skills, systems and possibilities of the individual through gradual awareness and realization.


  •  C.G.Jung: The goal of life is to know the Self. The Self is a new Center, a better balanced position of our own psyche. Instead of the the trivialities of the persona and the education of the self I today little more worry on the self to all people, all life, the universe and God. The Self is an archetype, embodying the transcendence of all opposites so that each aspect of the personality is expressed correctly and fair. Then it is neither nor but both, male and female, conscious and unconscious, individual and the entirety of creation. The Self represents the mentally transcendent, and equates to a religious experience.
  •  Sociology: the sociological normal type of “community” is the “self”-benevolent introduced (during the normal type of ‘society’ “as “person”).
  •  Hinduism: self as inner, eternal, indestructible shape each being (Atman)
  • Buddhism: that denies “Even” the existence of a stable, unchanging identity in favour of the doctrine of the non-self
  • Orthodox Islam knows no self, the self” is roughly equivalent with the ‘Ego’, to resolve that it applies. “The” Ego “is contrary to the spirit of [ruh] the part of the heart of man who was placed under its own control, in developing his soul”. Goal of Islam is to overcome the “I” to a common “We”. All people, also husband and wife, were created from a single soul (cf. Holy Quran ‘ at 7: 189).
The Ego, the Self and God

The Ego, the Self and Jesus – Individuation and Transcendence

3. The soul

In today’s (secular) parlance, the totality of all emotions and mental processes in humans is meant and synonymous with the term psyche with soul often. Psyche (Greek ψυχή, breath) was in the classical antiquity a synonym for the word soul.

The discussion of the 20th century has discussed various concepts of the concept of a “soul” and a wide variety of points of view. Roughly broken down, one can distinguish the following positions:

3.1. A philosophical and theological definition,

which means a one’s own substance ‘Soul’, emanating from the thinking and feeling, and other spiritual acts. In Christian philosophy, but often decidedly anti-Platonic views are represented, which consider body and soul in the sense of a holistic anthropology as a unit.

 Psyche in the sense of the new, Hellenic language exists – to the contrary to the Old Testament “Nefesh” – regardless of the body and can not be killed.


  • Theological is the soul of the innermost core of a human person. And of course the question: what is the core? Belong to the soul also instincts, sexuality, hunger and thirst? These elemental feelings do not belong to the theological concept of the soul. Theologically, the soul is the spiritual, life-giving principle in man. The soul is the created by God spiritual and immortal beings form of man, which determines its distinctive individuality – according to the theologians today.
  • Unfortunately, there on the terms: soul ‘ and ‘Spirit’ false statements, you must come to the very right are different, between the biblical statements of AT and NT, Greek philosophy, and the Hindu and Buddhist understanding.  To clarify what the he Bible understands of the ‘soul’. It is necessary to learn how God created man. Moses 2.7: “Since God the Lord made man from clay (matter) from the field and blew the breath of life to him”. And so man became a “living soul”(living creature). Man consists of two components: 1. matter 2. breath giving life. Here it is important that the man get a breathed  a ‘soul’ but does not have one. Only the two components resulted in a “living soul.” The soul here stands for the people in his unity and wholeness. When we die not the soul, but the breath of life leaves us. The ‘immortal soul’ does not exist in the Bible.
  • The “psyché” of New Testament in Greek relates to the Hebrew “nephesch”. Especially in the Gospels, socialized people speak Yes Hebrew Aramaic of the soul. Nephesch means originally not soul, but throat, i.e. the perceptible movement of the throat if breathing, the essence of living. For the Bible, so has every breathing “soul”. “My soul” means something like “I” (Lk 1.46). The nephesch, of a person can take off power, “grieved be unto death”. In severe disease it fades. When dying, it (i.e. the breath of life) is returned God. Because God gave the people of his breath and so man became a living being. (Gen 2, 7B). The idea of the immortality of the soul comes from the Greek (Plato and Ptolemy) and was introduced over the Gnostics into Christianity. It has shaped the medieval Christianity (and Judaism!), but is not biblical. The notion of the soul, which independently could exist without the body comes not from the Bible, but has therefore its origin in the Greek philosophy. Unfortunately, many are believe that soul of Christian origin would be the immortals. This is important in this context. Note also what the Bible says about the death of the man. Moses 3.19: “; because you are clay (matter) and should be back to Earth”;
  • We have no immortal part within us, because sin and its consequences (Romans 6: 23) relates to the people as a whole and not only a part of it. To sinful man, could not immortal after the fall, it was blocked the way to the tree of life. Moses 3, 22: “now but that he now does not stretch forth his HAND and break even by the tree of life and you will find and live ETERNALLY.” The immortality of the people would be the UNADULTERATED communion with God and the access to the tree of life been subject to. He was subjected to death by man both had destroyed his relationship with God, and therefore had no access to the tree of life. He could not free himself from this hopeless situation, his mortality. Therefore, everything else what is in the Bible follows the gradual revelation of the redemption of man from sin and death. The rescue was made possible only by the sacrificial death of Christ, who died for us. Only through Christ alone, we can regain the lost immortality. People get this on the last day, when Jesus will come a second time. Then we regain immortality, which we have lost through Adam and Eve. Immortality we find the word, however, three times in the Scriptures.
    • In 1. Timothy 6.16 writes Paul, that God alone possesses immortality! Therefore, man has no immortal soul.
    • In 1. Corinthians 15: 51-55 Paul then finds: the devout man receives immortality only at the second coming of Jesus and the resurrection of the dead. She is so a gift of God to the end of the world and not an integral part of human nature. Not who makes the belief that gives immortal soul, the Christian faith so questionable, but who drops the hope of the resurrection of the dead at the return of  Jesus (1 Corinthians 15: 12-23).
    • The man has no immortality, thinking, feeling, wanting and acting (preacher 9,5.6.10) end at his death. The Bible compares his State with a sleep from which he will wake up at the end of the world (John 11.11; Daniel 12, 13).
  • In today’s religious and philosophical opinions, the soul is independent of the body and therefore immortal “Soul” an immaterial principle, a stable identity. The Greek term of ψυχή (psyche) occurs in the New Testament which is rendered with ‘Soul’ in older translations of the Bible. In the Gospels, where psyche is, to be alive, meant, specifically to the name of the property of a specific individual – human or animal – “Life” within the meaning of the Nefesh is at most. (MT 2.20), such as lack of food (Mt 6, 25) LK 12, 22f. ), or that she will be withdrawn (Luke 12.20) and is lost (MK 8.35-37). The psyche is the seat and starting point of thinking, feeling and volition. Other places, however, show that the New Testament relation of body and soul is complicated. The term psyche is ambiguous unclear, probably in some places, the transitions between its meanings are fluent.
  • In Plato’s philosophy has the soul (ψυχή, psych) as the intangible principle of life individually. Their existence is entirely independent of the body; She existed before his birth and persists after his destruction of intact (pre-and post existence). Plato and Aristotle differentiated between a senseless and a reasonable soul, psyche and nus.
  •  The Apostle Paul, however, rarely used the term psyche in his letters and avoids him for statements about life after death.
  • Augustine represented the Union of the soul against the Platonic doctrine of the soul parts, but made a promotion to the Aristotelian tradition within the soul: “just living” soul (vegetative), function, rational soul (soul function) with spirit (mens) and will and irrational soul function with motor, sensory perception and memory. Inbound Augustine sought proof of the Incorporeality, and the immateriality of the soul.
  • Particularly Thomas Aquinas conceived the ”nus poietikos” as the creating spirit, as the immortal part of our sou. But he is keen to avoid a rugged body-soul, which is why he, Aristotle then, the unity of the human stresses the unity of mind, body and soul dualism.
  • Orthodox Islamic scholars describe four stages of the soul in the Holy Qur’an ‘ (Sufi more), which correspond to human development. The commanding soul [al-nafs al-‘amara]: the State is the starting point. Like a wild horse, the soul tries to gain control of the “rider” and even “to throw off him”. He orders uncontrollable and harmful, and must be “tamed” are. Even the pure and healthy prophets know this state of mind, even if they have mastered it and point out, like for example Josef (a.) in the Holy Quran ‘ “…And I declare myself not even for the innocent. The soul commands evil emphatically yes, unless my Lord has mercy on himself. My Lord is forgiving, merciful.” (12: 52-53)
    • The plaintive soul [al-nafs al-lawwama]. In this stage, the soul has such self-knowledge that she see their own weaknesses and blames himself “I” to overcome the “self” or. This state of mind is so developed, swore at them: “no, I swear by the day of resurrection. No, I swear by the soul which they pronounce censure.” (75: 1-2)
    • The Inspiring soul [al-nafs al-mulhama]. At this level, the soul has the ability between the useful and harmful inspirations to distinguish and uses this ability to their own development: “…”and the soul and what way she shapes and gives her their Vice and their piety!” (91: 7-8). Freedom is the freedom of knowledge and the defense of the harmful through knowledge and the adoption of useful through knowledge for this soul.
    • The satisfied soul [al-nafs al mutma’innah ‘ inna]. The soul achieves the satisfaction of ALLAH in its perfection and is therefore also pleased about the grace of contentment: “O you satisfied soul, to your Lord satisfied and accompanied by his face return. Joins the ranks of my servants, and enter my paradise. (9: 27-29)

 3.2  Moderate positions,

such as psychological definitions, may reject a materialism but do not grant the notion of a soul in a traditional sense, in particular not  immortality. Soul is the term for the totality of all conscious and unconscious emotional processes and of all spiritual and intellectual functions.

  •   In his treatise “on the soul” (“de Anima”) defines Aristotle the soul as: “The soul is the first Entelechy of the natural organic body” (full on. II 1, 412 b 4-6). Aristotle not is so not materially the soul but as an intangible entity, which is why Aristotle comes a strict body-soul dualism in question. According to Aristotle the soul is that which the body (which only potentially is a living being) really makes the creatures, the Entelechy biologically today can be seen as a goal-oriented regulation of vital functions as the software for the hardware, which is essential for a living organism in terms of forms. Aristotle States in his treatise “on the soul”, that “the soul from the body is separable and or certain parts of it” .The soul passes so with the body, when the animal dies.


  • C.G. Jung defines soul in the sense “guarding complex” (Anima) in contrast to the notion of the mind as a “Whole” all conscious experience qualities as well as of all unconscious phenomena. The mental energy occupies a central place in Jung’s psychology. Animus soul, spirit (as opposed to the body), memory, courage, exuberance, confidence, despite, resentment, anger, disposition, mood, passion, desiring soul, desire, desire, decision, desire, inclination; Anima, however, translated with air as element or breath of air, wind, breath, soul, life, or secluded soul. C.G. Jung summed up under the term soul both terms. The soul is dynamic. In humans, this is called also personality.
  • Kant maintains the metaphysical side of the soul, that it treated but related issue of freedom within the framework of practical reason. The soul is called the regulatory term within the framework of morality.

 3.3. Materialism or Neurobiology,

rejects the existence of a soul, claiming that all talk of mental is reducible to the physical and/or neural States. Are the same soul and psyche and the soul is that which is the psychology and / or employed Neurology.

  •  Sigmund Freud, the founder of psychoanalysis, makes two assumptions for its model of the soul: a physical body (brain, central nervous system) as the place or “Scene” and awareness Act. “” We suppose that the soul-life is the function of an apparatus “, here it is clear that the doctor Freud attempts a neurological Foundation.” We have come to the knowledge of the psychic apparatus through the study of the individual development of the human being”.

  • The man has no soul — he has not even a substantial self, says one contemporary philosopher Thomas Metzinger. Phenomenal States, the experience itself, based on neural patterns, dynamically active nerve networks. The character of the subjective experience remains the same, regardless of whether you actually perceives something or just a hallucination. External factors in the environment, and society to decide whether this experience is considered as hallucination, a abnormal psychic disease wisdom or holiness. The totality of all emotions and feelings are not different for humans or animals. The soul is a portion of the spirit thus, if emotionless information processing in a human brain is excluded (what is hardly possible in reality). Animals have feelings too and therefore also a soul.. Thus overlaps the soul with our memory and learning, forgetting, perception, the totality of all inherited traits of an individual language, intelligence, motivation, will, emotion.

 3.4. Linguistic approach

  • German Seele, Psyche
  • English soul, psyche
  • Greek psyche
  • Hebrew nephesch, ruach
  •  Latin Anima
  • Arabic nafs (نفس) can mean “even” relevant mainly in the Sufi
  •  Chinese (traditional): (línghún) like spirit – or cloud completely invisible:
  • Finnish: sielu
  • French: âme
  • Indonesian: roh
  • Icelandic: sál
  • Italian: anima (female)
  •  Japanese: (kokoro)
  • Dutch: aim (female); spil
  •  Romansh: olma (female)
  • Romanian: restless
  • Russian: душа (duschá)
  • Spanish: alma (female)
  • Thai: วิญญาณ
  • Czech duše (female); Člen (male), obyvatel (male)
  • Turkish can; Ruh
  • Hungarian: lélek
  • Venetian: anema (female)

 4. Individuation versus death of the ego

I like to understand Individuation not as death or dissolution of the ego. I have witnessed two deaths, an easy one and one prolonged suffering in a cold – not even ill-meaning – care machine. Psychological experiences of Ego death are particularly critical and generate fear: this transformation process is most difficult, because it demands to let go one’s own identity, it may interpreted as abandonment,´resolution, disintegration or fragmentation. All spiritual development processes, however, lead us through meditation and complete resolution of our self-esteem. The individuation is a mismatch  between the beginnings of biological aging and the possibility of another psycho-spiritual development. “It represents those critical situation in which one has arrived at the height of the life and suddenly or gradually is confronted with the reality of the end of death”(Jacobi 1971, p. 31). Quite true in my case. The more one approaches the midlife (as late as this may be)  having succeeded consolidation of  the outer life, personal attitude and social situation, the more one firmly believes having discovered the correct course of life, the right ideals and principles of behavior. Therefore it  requires eternal validity and virtue to move on – otherwise one is stuck. A significant fact is,  that the adaptation and functioning in reality happens at the expense of the totality of the (Self) personality. While the first half of life stood under the aspect of identity a re-orientation must occur,  fulfilling new tasks gains importance, in essence all this is the preparation for death. This turning point is not on a specific point in time (as one of my many “midlife crisis”), but  may extend over a long period of time. First ivomes the confrontation with the shadow, than with the complexes of the collective unconscious, manifesting in  the “Anima” and later the “Old Wise Sage”, or the  woman in “Animus” and “Great Mother”.

The materialistic-oriented Freudian psychoanalysis has been increasingly questioned, while the spiritually inspired analytical psychology of C.G. Jung becomes lately more important again with religious quests and definitely important to me. Freud, who sees most conflicts as not properly processed (sexual) repression problems, is probably the psychologist of the first half of life. His psychology is retrospective. C.G. Jung’s psychology is more perspective. He has recognized that most of the problems of his patients over 35 were essentially religious in nature. He is the psychologist of the middle and the second half of life. Freud almost always looks back. C.G Jung looked forward. 

5. My conclusion

The death of the Ego is to me more of an integration with the Self. Individuation” has shown a way to the Self in the second half of my life, to the deepest innermost area of the personality and has opened the spiritual dimension. Hence it is not only a preparation for death but also a  preservation of body and soul for resurrection – the Self.

Jacobi, Jolande: Towards the individuation, Walter, Olten 1971 and see also my other standard bibliography.