By J Finnis
In the beginning, before the universe came about, there was pure Spirit. Spirit, ever-hungry for experience, began to separate itself into distinct entities which could interact with each other in infinite different ways. The physical universe was formed to provide a theater in which these interactions could take place. The journey from conception (big bang) to the cosmos as we know it has taken billions of earth years, but for Spirit time has no meaning.
Individuated souls elect to be born into flesh, each agreeing a life path before beginning the adventure of life. But upon incarnation two things happen:
1) In order to be able to play their role effectively the knowledge of their Spiritual reality is (almost) hidden from their conscious mind. Earthly matters take on an importance as though they are the totality of existence. However, buried deep within, the knowledge of what we truly are is ever-present waiting to be re-discovered by the lucky few.
2) We are blessed with free will. This is necessary for us to gain the experience of making different choices, but also means some may choose to stray from their pre-selected mission.
Upon earth we undertake many roles. We are each of us multiple people sharing a single body. We might, for example, be father, son, spouse, friend, neighbor, co-worker, employee, manager, saint, sinner... But at heart we are all Spirit.
The self also has various levels, but let's focus on just two. The lower self, which for want of a better word we'll call the ego, and the higher self, higer consciousness or Spiritual consciousness.
The ego is our individuality. It's the selfish, Darwinian, part that's always looking out for me, me, me. The ego might not sound very nice, but it's necessary for our survival. The physical world offers finite resources, and in order to survive and thrive we must compete for those resources against our fellow beings (even though we're really all part of the same whole).
The higher self is the Spiritual bit, the part that understands our purpose and tries to fulfill it, even when that goes against the short-term gratification sought by the ego.
The ego is the part of us that's closest to the earth, while the higher self is closest to Spirit.
Our consciousness is a snapshot in time, the single frame of the movie that's appearing at each instant. To the consciousness it can feel like battle is being fought out between higher self and ego. This forms the basis of much indecision.
The goal of Spiritual development isn't to suppress the ego, for it's an essential part of our incarnation, though many of us do need to quieten it a little to enable us to better hear our heigher self. Our goal should be to differentiate the voice of our ego from that of our higher self. To recognize which part of us is driving us in which direction. With this knowledge we are better equipped to make decisions that best support our chosen path. In essence, the higher self should dictate the big picture, while the ego's main role is in negotiating the nitty-gritty.