Ego (Pillars of New Church Beliefs)


Continuing a series presenting our beliefs in plain English. This time we will look at what people call Ego. In Greek, ‘ego’ means ‘I, me’.

I’m sure that like me you regularly hear people say that they have an ego, struggle with their ego, or refer to someone else’s ego and the trouble it causes… it’s familiar stuff. What people are talking about is the kind of situation that comes about when we become self-centred and dominant, controlling, wilful and inconsiderate of others.

In the New Church we partly go along with this, recognising that we have such tendencies by nature, and also recognising that evil spirits like filling us with ideas about ‘how important I am!’ (which is something they love to feel…). But we go further than just saying that ‘ego’ is bad.

We don’t actually use the word ‘ego’ but a peculiar word ‘the proprium’. Before you give up reading any more, try and see that proprium (which is a Latin word for ‘your own’)is close to the word ‘proper’ or the things that are proper to me – my life, my personality, my abilities, my place in life. This is what we mean by our proprium or our own individuality.

Note that this just is, and it is really neither bad nor good. It is the simple fact that I exist. And then we can begin to go either way with this fact – towards the things of God and heaven or towards the things of selfishness and hell. That’s our decision and choice.

So we can develop a rotten proprium (much like the ego people talk about) or a wonderful proprium in which everything I am is linked firmly with loving the Lord and living for the sake of other people.

As you keep hearing about peoples’ egos, bear this slightly different teaching in mind, remembering that while you are not perfect, you have been given your own life by God and you and only you can take that life and go with it either way, making mistakes at times of course, towards heaven or hell.