The Nature of Ego, the Function of the Moon

by Adam Gainsburg

Ego as a structure within the psyche has a primary function: to identify and evaluate subjective experience. In order to perform its identifying and evaluative functions, it requires a database of information with which to compare, identify, order and then process its current experience. The only resource the ego has to do this is what we call the Past. The ego, in its nature, is inexorably rooted in the past because the past is identifiable and is therefore dependable as a resource for performing its function.

The ego requires full access to all past experiences, which it uses to contextualize new experiences. It is a ‘managing’ engine in the fullest sense – never tiring, always on the lookout for new experiences to identify, associate, categorize and store. The ego is that essential human function which keeps alive the entire frame of experiential reference we call Past.

Therefore, to push our awareness past the limitations of the known – the egoic realm – requires a significant amount of energy (momentum) and strong, persistent intent. If the barrier can be surpassed, a previously undiscovered world is breached, a world of danger and depth, of profanity and reverence, death and life – indeed a legendary world filled with great risk– a world in all ways contrary to that which the ego is responsible for and invested in maintaining.

Ego now can be undressed to its deeper function: to create adequate barriers to the cellular discovery of this legendary world until such time as the Soul is sufficiently crystallized/integrated/blended into the egoic frame or structure of the Self-Identity. This framework is comprised not only of ego, but also persona, body, body-mind or psyche and karmic reality.

Until such a time as the legendary world is accessed, the stubbornness of the ego in a given individual will reveal:

The strength of the need to define and order reality based on known quantities or successful strategies from the past; and
A personal reality structure that refuses the existence of such a (legendary) world due to the perceived costs (to the ego) of impending chaos and ultimately annihilation.
However, an ego’s degree of fixity also directly speaks to the magnitude of potential power laying in the dark currents of the personal unconscious waiting to be tapped. To use imagery, we can picture the ego as a large boulder in the middle of a small brook (the Soul consciousness at the beginning of a Soul’s journey through incarnations). The brook grows into a creek, digging deeper into the ground around the boulder and widening its shores. The creek becomes a small river eroding the boulder over time and increasing its capacity to channel greater amounts of water by further extending its borders and changing its overall shape. The small river turns into a large river that regularly tumbles the once-immovable boulder with each faster current. It is through change that evolution occurs, that life grows, not through desperate gripping onto boulders of identity.


In astrological interpretation, the ego is correlated with the Moon, 4 th House, and Cancer. As the Moon is a physical body in space, it indeed symbolizes the current-life egoic identity structure, just as all other physical bodies (planets) reflect an aspect of the current-life psyche. The natal Moon in astrology is not an a priori reference to our past. This error results from interpreting the Moon at the level of its qualitative expression, rather than its essential function within the psyche. The nature of our natal Moon energy, just like the nature of ego in general, is to be a bridge between the known and the hidden, the safe and the unsafe, and between my experience of ‘me’ from ‘you’. It is the self which has the experiences and that moves through life with relative self-acknowledgement. It does not correlate with our genetic or karmic past as its primary function.

Because the Moon’s domain is in fact this intermediary threshold, it connects to both the subconscious or past and the conscious or present. The Moon-as-past needs to be first understood as an oblique relationship. The nature of the subconscious is to be literally ‘beneath consciousness’, or under the surface of our self-awareness. As such, the Moon potently symbolizes ways in which we act subconsciously, or ‘below ourselves’ in our subconsciously-motivated thoughts, actions and words. We almost always remain unaware of where these motivations are sourced from. But this should not be seen as any kind of indicator of our karmic, genetic history. It is actually the current-life indicator of our self-structuring requirements – our ego.

The Moon’s authority as our current ego is just as important to work with as its subconscious symbolism. As the present-life Self-Identity, the Moon reveals a fantastic opportunity to rediscover self. When an individual has treaded the path of courageously, authentically coming to terms with past obsessions, aggressions, patterns of inward- or outward-violence, or stubborn insistence on remaining in familiar territory, there is new space opened within the psyche. This new space is filled – indeed can only be filled – by the freed-up Self-Identity, now unbound by the subconscious need to maintain familiar security at all costs. The experience is one of re-discovering oneself, as if for the first time, which in a manner of speaking, it is.

With the Moon symbolizing an Identity-level bridging function, any interpretation of the Moon which is not rooted in both domains of its symbolisms is only half the picture. The exclusive association of the Moon with the subconscious/past results from seeing only the manifestation and not the essence of the Moon’s function. In other words, how we express our Moon energy, rather than what the Moon actually is within our psyche. Again, this is in error. If we remain only in the former, we keep our blinders on snug and tight. If only in the latter, we idealize a person to the point of unrealistic goals. To describe a natal Moon (sign, house and aspects) solely as indicator of the karmic past and that which is needed to release or move beyond is to mislead and aberrate the understanding of the healthy ego-development intent in the current life. It is only in the accurate and balanced comprehension of the actual nature and function of the Moon that its gifts of self-insight and growth are revealed.

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