The ego-sense is generally considered to arise with the development of the self-awareness of the mind of its own existence. It is actually a tool to aid in the differentiation process that creates the play of the manifested world of forms, and for certain stages it is a necessary stage. For the seeker, however, the ego-sense becomes an obstacle that must be overcome in order to shift the standpoint to the higher conscious awareness of the divine standpoint.
If we observe various animals we can see that they actually exhibit a level of self-awareness and the sense of “other” that accompanies this consciousness. Sri Aurobindo observes that the ego-sense actually is not a mental development, but is there in both material and vital forms, even if we cannot easily identify it nor see its method of self-expression. “…but in reality the conscious mind only reflects an ego already created in the subconscious mind in things, the dumb soul in the stone and the plant which is present in all body and life and only finally delivered into voicefulness and wakefulness but not originally created by the conscious mind.”
This insight is essential if the seeker is to actually find a way to untie the knot of the ego. Sri Aurobindo goes on to indicate: “And in this upward progression it is the life-energy which has become the obstinate knot of the ego, it is the desire-mind which refuses to relax the knot even when the intellect and the heart have discovered the cause of their ills and would be glad enough ro remove it; for the Prana in them is the Animal who revolts and who obscures and deceives in their knowledge and coerces their will by his refusal.”
This is an issue that every seeker eventually meets in the upward path. There is an intellectual conviction about what is to be done, a will in the mind to do it, the support of the heart to accomplish it, and yet, time and again, the effort is sidetracked or sabotaged by the vital force of desire, self-will, self-aggrandizement, vital vanity or some type of self-dealing force, all of which originates in the vital being and its unreformed nature. This vital force has the capacity to mislead or misinform the mind of the seeker, and thus, constantly creates the opportunity for self-deception during the process. Once the seeker has acquired a clear understanding of this interaction, it becomes possible to begin to address the knot of the ego-sense.
Sri Aurobindo, The Synthesis of Yoga, Part Two: The Yoga of Integral Knowledge, Chapter 8, The Release from the Heart and the Mind, pg. 337