The Ego and the Dynamic Ground

A Transpersonal Theory of Human Development, Second Edition

By Michael Washburn

Subjects: Transpersonal Psychology, Psychoanalysis, Psychology Of Religion, Philosophy Of Mind
Paperback : 9780791422564, 288 pages, January 1995
Hardcover : 9780791422557, 288 pages, February 1995

Table of contents

Preface to First Edition

Preface to Second Edition


1. Transpersonal Theory: Two Basic Paradigms

The Dynamic-Dialectical Paradigm

The Structural-Hierarchical Paradigm

Choosing Between the Paradigms


2. The Body Ego

Original Embedment

The Emergence of the Ego from the Dynamic Ground and the Initial Appearance of the Great Mother

The Splitting of the Great Mother

Conflict with the Great Mother and Primal Repression

The Body Project, the Oedipus Complex, and Primal Repression


3. The Body Ego: Cognitive and Affective Development

The Presymbolic Stage

The Referential-Protosymbolic Stage

The Symbolic-Protoconceptual Stage


4. The Mental Ego

The Mental Ego's Crisis of Awakening in Adolescence

Earning Being and Value in Early Adulthood

The Mental Ego and Cognition

The Mental Ego's Difficulties at Midlife


5. The Unconscious

The Dynamic Ground

The Instinctual-Archetypal Unconscious

The Body Unconscious

Primal Repression

The Personal Unconscious


6. Meditation: The Royal Road to the Unconscious

A Definition of Meditation

Meditation and Prayer

Meditation and the Unconscious

Meditation Before and After Crossing the Threshold of Primal Repression

Beyond Meditation


7. Regression in the Service of Transcendence

Stage One: Withdrawal from the World

Stage Two: Encounter with the Prepersonal Unconscious


8. Regeneration in Spirit

General Features of the Regeneration Process

Specific Features of the Regeneration Process


9. Integration

Dualism Transcended: The Coincidentia Oppositorum

The Horizons of Integrated Life





This book maps the course of human development from the earliest stages of ego development to the highest stages of ego transcendence.


This new edition is a thorough revision of the first edition. Drawing on both psychoanalysis and analytical psychology and on both Eastern and Western spiritual sources, the book maps the course of human development from the earliest stages of ego development to the highest stages of ego transcendence. Washburn formulates an important paradigm for transpersonal psychology and clearly distinguishes it from the other major paradigm in the field, the structural-hierarchical paradigm of Ken Wilber.

In Washburn's view, human development is a spiral movement played out between the ego and its ultimate source: the Dynamic Ground. Ego development in the first half of life moves in a direction away from the Dynamic Ground; ego transcendence in the second half of life spirals back to the Ground on the way to a higher union with the Ground—whole-psyche integration.

Washburn's spiral paradigm helps explain why human development has the character of a journey of departure and higher return, of setting out into the world and then finding one's way "home. "

This new edition more effectively integrates key psychoanalytic and Jungian ideas by placing them within a developmental framework that resolves their contradictions. Washburn's paradigm stresses both the biological roots and the spiritual potentialities of the psyche and is sensitive to the ambivalences, dualisms, transvaluations, and higher syntheses of life.


"I find it a psychologically more pertinent synthesis of the claims, experiences, and insights in transpersonal development than Wilber's paradigm. It is neater, more parsimonious, and more powerful. " — James N. Mosel

"Washburn brings together many insights from psychotherapy and from meditation in an incomparably illuminating map of emotional-spiritual processes of transformation. " — Donald Evans