Recentering the Self

A Defense of the Ego

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Reformulates the notion of the ego and provides a new perspective for understanding ego development and the role of the ego in spiritual life.


In Recentering the Self, Michael Washburn presents a new account of the ego, ego development, and the role of the ego in spiritual life. He starts by tracing the premodern antecedents of the notion of the ego in Greek philosophy and Christian theology and then explains the seventeenth-century emergence of the notion in Descartes's radically new account of the soul’s relation to the body. Reviewing subsequent criticisms of the notion, the author formulates a revised conception of the ego that highlights the ego's inherently two-sided nature, as a subject and agency that, although rooted within interior consciousness, lives originally and primarily in the material, social world. Washburn uses this revised conception of the ego to explain how the two sides of the ego develop in concert over major stages of the human lifespan and why the ego, despite widespread belief to the contrary, plays primarily a positive role in spiritual life. Recentering the Self makes important contributions to the history of philosophy, consciousness studies, phenomenology, developmental psychology, and spiritual or transpersonal psychology.

Michael Washburn is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Indiana University South Bend. He is the author of Embodied Spirituality in a Sacred World, The Ego and the Dynamic Ground: A Transpersonal Theory of Human Development, and Transpersonal Psychology in Psychoanalytic Perspective, all published by SUNY Press.


"Michael Washburn is considered one of the most authoritative theorists of transpersonal development, and Recentering the Self provides a much-needed supplement to his theory, offering a reexamination of the notion of the ego and its development, first within the general context of the human lifespan and then within the specific context of spiritual life." — Massimo Marraffa, Roma Tre University