Sunday, 10 March 2013

Forget the Personal Self





 A question posed in a comment on the previous post ties in rather well with what I had intended as the subject of this one which was to be a consideration of the Master's statement to "forget the personal self and merge with the universal self". (Note: I put direct quotations from the Masters in bold so as to draw attention to them more easily). The question asked for clarification on the remark that the mind is part of the outer self, and I think it takes us right to the heart of the matter. What is our real self?

First though, let's define our terms. When I say mind in this instance I mean the thinking self, the part of us that we know as 'me' which is the part described in the statement above as the personal self. When we talk of my mind or your mind, that's what we mean. It's true that some teachings do use the word mind to mean consciousness in its most fundamental sense as in Universal Mind but thinking and consciousness per se are different things from a spiritual perspective which is why I am sticking here with the everyday definition of mind as thought.

But let's not quibble over words. The question is, if mind is part of our outer self, what is our real self? In this blog, as in the book, I am going to try to keep things simple and without undue references to esoteric philosophies, Eastern metaphysics or occult terminology. Not because I have anything against such things (on the contrary, I like them) nor because I think I can do better than them but because I don't want to lapse into theory. I want to be as practical as possible. The Masters always stressed the virtues of simplicity and warned against the human tendency (tendency of the mind?) to get caught up in highfalutin spiritual fancies. I want to avoid that here.

So who or, better put, what are we? Are we the body and nothing else? A materialist would say we are and contend that the mind is nothing more than the workings of the brain. It's hard to prove this wrong using the mind itself as the weapon of choice but it is utterly mistaken, and I would guess that most people reading a blog of this nature would go along with that. The brain is formed by the mind, not vice versa, and is simply the latter’s vessel on the physical plane. Indeed, the Masters implied as much when they said that “the body is a frame”. The immaterial precedes the material, which derives from it as its expression in the world of form, and this can, in fact, be easily verified but only through mystical experience and intuition, using that word to mean spiritual insight or direct perception  rather than in its more prosaic sense of a feeling or hunch. Mind cannot know truth. We cannot know ourselves by using a faculty that exists on a lower level than the level of our true existence.

If we are not just the body, are we then the mind? The mind is clearly an important part of the totality of our being but is it at the centre? Is it what we truly are? If not then it must be part of our outer self. Perhaps we are back to definitions again but one thing that is surely obvious about the mind is that it only functions in time. Thinking is a temporal pursuit. It is also an activity, mental not physical but an activity all the same, and right there we have the answer to our question. Thinking takes place in time and it involves doing not being. But being, essential being, must be beyond both time and activity for these belong to the world of becoming. What we call spirit, which is the reality behind mind, transcends the phenomenal world of time and change, and that is the world in which the mind operates.

So we can say that mind is a builder and interpreter of perception but it is not the perceiver. It is not the eternal Witness. We can further add that I need mind to write this essay and you need mind to read it, and even understand it, but mind cannot realise the truth of which it speaks except intellectually.

The Witness is the universal self. The Masters were adept at delivering an apparently simple statement which could bear repeated reflection. When they told me to "forget the personal self and merge with the universal self", they were encapsulating the essence of spirituality. Furthermore they were specifying what a human being actually is. We are not the personal self, although that is certainly what we experience ourselves to be most of the time. We are not the isolated, separate individuals we think we are. We are the universal self.  

This is not a denial of individuality. I remember going to a Buddhist meditation centre in my early days of spiritual enquiry and being told by a monk there that there was no such thing as the individual, that the sense of individuality was just an illusion we needed to see through. “What’s the point of treading the spiritual path then?” I wondered. But either I failed to understand or he failed to differentiate between the absolute and the relative. In absolute terms there are no separate selves and there is only pure consciousness. That is the truth which remains when all lesser truths have dropped away. But we are created beings and, as such, we do have individuality which is not an illusion even if it is not the ultimate truth either. God is love and it is God’s good pleasure to multiply Himself which He does through us. The Masters manifested the universal self in themselves but they manifested it individually. They had realised the universal self as their primary nature and the source of who and what they were, and when we are told to "forget the personal self and merge with the universal self" we are enjoined to do the same thing. So what stops us? It is our identification with the mind. The personal self as the limited, separate self exists only as a creation of the mind. When we cease to identify with the mind then it is gone. But our individual nature remains and must do or there would be nothing to merge with the universal self. This what is meant by Christ being both God and man.

How to merge with the universal self is something we must leave for another time.

17 comments:

Paul Hillman said...

Thanks, William. This clarifies things very nicely for me. Is our individual nature the soul and is the soul fully involved in each incarnation? Or is it partly merged in the universal self already?

William Wildblood said...

Thanks for your question, Paul. Yes, what I would call the soul is our individual self. This is a spiritual being, referred to by the Masters when they told me that "the greater part of you remains with us". That implies that the soul does not fully incarnate but sends "down" an aspect of itself into this world.
Partly merged is a good expression. I would say that the soul on its own plane is conscious of its oneness with life but has not attained full union with the transcendent source. The incarnationary experience is designed to bring about that union, or the possibility of it anyway.
Obviously there's lots more that could be said on this subject.

Paul Hillman said...

Thanks,again, William. I was also interested to see that in your book as well as the second of Swami Omananda 's books on The Boy and The Brothers , Towards The Infinite ( ?) , that it is stated that at death the body moves away from the soul not vice versa. That is quite difficult to grasp.

Paul Hillman said...

Sorry! The second book is called Towards the Mysteries

William Wildblood said...

Towards the Mysteries is the best spiritual book of the last century in my view. At any rate it's the one I've got the most from, and the reason for that is that it presents the Masters and their teachings in the purest form I know of. At some time I will do a post on it. Interestingly the Boy who was the medium for the Masters (he was called Bill Coote though that's not mentioned in the book) was very similar to Michael in his simplicity, complete lack of pretentiousness and utter dedication.
You tell me it's available on Scribd and I'm happy to pass that on here.
From a practical point of view I don't suppose it matters much what moves from what since the end result is the same but if we think of ourselves as the soul then death is a kind of sloughing off of our old skin.

Paul Hillman said...

Thanks, William , I always did tend to over complicate matters. The second book is exceptional, the first showing signs, perhaps, of having been written in haste. In the intervening time the Swami appears to have progressed in understanding . Poor old bill appears to have no surviving photos in the public domain whilst there are a few of Maude. I always find that it helps to have a visual connection, however slight .i look forward to your post on the book, at some future time.did the Masters

Paul Hillman said...

Ever speak of Tarot or Kaballah. Bota uses the tarot cards as a means of extending understanding through meditation on its rich symbolism, the best packs such as Paul Foster Case's, I am sorry this has spread over two posts - if I attempt to edit I lose what I have written.! And then my ipad refuses to let me post.

William Wildblood said...

Agreed about the visual connection. The face is an important guide to the person I think though obviously not in the superficial sense of attractiveness. There are some pictures of the Boy. I think he had a marvellous face.
I plan to do a post on Michael soon and I'll include a picture.
I know the Tarot and Kaballah only in the sense of having read books about them. I think the Tarot images definitely have an archetypal quality about them and the Kaballah is equally fascinating as a scheme of creation. However they are only maps or symbol systems. They're not actually real, and I find if I use such secondary things I block off my own connection. I do appreciate their power as a stimulus to the imagination and I'm sure they are genuine tools but, speaking for myself, I prefer symbols from nature.

Paul Hillman said...

For me they are an aid to , perhaps, one day making such a connection. The map is not the territory but they have served me as a guide. You are, it would seem, outside any tradition which I think is the ideal. I have needed such guides to bring me within range of a connection or realisation, which is really, I know, only the beginning. A tradition only develops when there is a genuine connection , and such a connection does not have to be through a tradition, as you prove, to my mind. The Kaballah and tarot seem to be features of an underground tradition in the western world, esoteric Christianity and hermetic thought., preserved in spite of the inquisition and other delights.

William Wildblood said...

Sorry, I've only just realised you asked if the Masters ever spoke of Tarot etc. No, they never spoke of anything like that. For them these would all be worldly things, things on the outside of pure truth, existing in thought not reality.
Please don't think I'm denigrating things that many people find helpful but from their perspective anything that is not reality is separate from reality.

William Wildblood said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
William Wildblood said...

If you will permit, Paul, I may steal your phrase ' the map is not the territory' for the subject of a post. It is very true and gives one a lot to ponder.

Paul Hillman said...

Unfortunately I cannot claim to be ita author. It is commonly used in N L P but not sure who originated its use.

Paul Hillman said...

"A map is not the territory it represents, but if correct, it has a similar structure to the territory, which accounts for its usefulness". This means is that our perception of reality is not reality itself but our own version of it, or our "mental map".

Paul Hillman said...

Full quote from Alfred Korbyzski, Father of General Semantics, apparently!

William Wildblood said...

Expressed myself badly. I didn't really mean the actual phrase but taking it as the theme for a post.

Paul Hillman said...

Oh, sorry yes , I see you meant that now. Still at least I found out who actually said it after first hearing it wenty odd years ago.