The spiritual ego (or magnified ego) develops when one gets excited by powerful spiritual experiences and begins to take pride in one’s success at Yoga. Here are some excerpts from Sri Aurobindo & The Mother on this matter:
The Mother (Mira Alfassa) talks with children on the dangers of the spiritual ego:
“To get over our ego is not an easy task.
“Even after overcoming it in the material consciousness, we meet it once more – magnified – in the spiritual.”
How can one meet one’s ego in the spiritual consciousness?
There is a spiritual ego even as there is a physical, vital and mental ego. There are people who have made a great effort to overcome all their egoism and all their limitations, and attained a spiritual consciousness; and there, they have all the vanity and the sense of their importance and contempt for those who are not in the same condition as they. Indeed, all that is ridiculous and bad in the ego, they find there once again. There are many, many like that. They have overcome what was there in the physical or vital consciousness but the very effort they have made to master themselves and this victory they have gained give them the sense of their extreme importance. So they become puffed up and assert their authority.
This happens so frequently that it is not even noticed.
The Mother, Questions and Answers (1953): 9 December 1953
Still, the spiritual ego is better than the ordinary ego, isn’t it?
It is much more dangerous than the ordinary one! For one is not aware that it is the ego. Outwardly, when one is egoistic, not only does one know it oneself but others make you realise it still more, and circumstances prove it to you every moment. But there, as unfortunately you meet people who respect you highly, you are not even aware that you are terribly egoistic.
Very dangerous. Spiritual vanity is much more serious than physical vanity.
Then, Sweet Mother, with the ego can one realise the Divine?
Not at the moment one unites with Him. It is evident that at that moment the ego disappears. But that state does not last. Or in any case we can put it in another way: those who have brought along their ego with them cannot keep the consciousness for long. They become aware of themselves again whilst having the experience. It is that which is most terrible. They look at themselves having the experience and admire themselves. And they feel they are exceptional beings, much higher than others, and then that becomes deplorable.
The Mother, Questions and Answers (1953): 9 December 1953
Sri Aurobindo discusses the spiritual ego in letters exchanged with various disciples
Although there is no ego in the spiritual planes, yet by the spiritual experience the ego on the lower planes may get aggrandised through the pride and wrong reception of the experience. Also one may by entering into the larger mental and vital planes aggrandise the ego. These things are always possible so long as the higher consciousness and the lower are not harmonised in the being and the lower transformed into the nature of the higher.
Ego is not so easy to get rid of. It remains not only in spite of work but in spite of knowledge or bhakti. The disappearance of ego means complete Mukti. Even the yogi who feels his separate being swallowed up in cosmic consciousness or some kind of Transcendent consciousness, yet when he comes to outward action and reaction finds the superficial ego still there. That is why the ascetic has a horror of action and says that without ego it can’t be done. It can, but it is fully done only when these outermost things are fully taken up by the higher consciousness in their entirety.
The sense of ego can disappear into that of the Self or the Purusha but that of itself does not bring about the disappearance of the old ego-reactions in the Prakriti. The Purusha has to get rid of these by a process of constant rejection and remoulding. The remoulding consists in throwing everything into a consecration to the Mother and doing all for her without regard to oneself, one’s desires, opinions, vital reactions as if they were the things to be fulfilled. This is most easily done if the psychic being becomes quite awake.
Without persistent rejection it [liberation from the ego] cannot be done. Going up into the Self liberates the higher parts, but the ego remains in the lower parts. The most effective force for this liberation is the psychic control along with steady rejection.
A true spiritual experience must be free from the claim of the ego. What the ego can do, however, is to get proud of having the experience and think: “What a great one am I?” Or it may think, “I am the Self, the Divine. So let me go and do what I will, for it is the Divine who wills in me.” It is only if the experience of Self imposes silence on the other parts and frees the psychic that the ego disappears. Even if not ego itself, numerous fragments and survivals of ego-habit can remain and have to be eliminated.
The egoism of the instrument can be as dangerous or more dangerous to spiritual progress than the egoism of the doer. The ego-sense is contrary to spiritual realisation, so how can any kind of ego be a thing to be encouraged? As for the magnified ego, it is one of the most perilous obstacles to release and perfection. There should be no big I, not even a small one.
What is meant by the magnified ego is that when the limits of the ordinary mind and vital are broken, one feels a far vaster and more powerful consciousness and unlimited possibilities, but if one ties all that to the tail of one’s own ego, then one becomes a thousand times more egoistic than the ordinary man. The greatness of the Divine becomes an excuse and a support for one’s own greatness and the big I swells itself to fill not only the earth but the heavens. That magnification of the ego is a thing to be guarded against with a watchful care.
Sri Aurobindo, Letters on Yoga – III: Transformation of the Vital – IX
Spiritual Ego in Sri Aurobindo’s Savitri
But not by showering heaven’s golden rain
Upon the intellect’s hard and rocky soil
Can the tree of Paradise flower on earthly ground
And the Bird of Paradise sit upon life’s boughs
And the winds of Paradise visit mortal air.
Even if thou rain down intuition’s rays,
The mind of man will think it earth’s own gleam,
His spirit by spiritual ego sink,
Or his soul dream shut in sainthood’s brilliant cell
Where only a bright shadow of God can come:
Sri Aurobindo, Savitri – II: The Triple Soul-Forces