Is There a Real Self?
I was reading a newspaper article recently that referenced the many self-development courses and retreats that have blossomed in the last, say, fifty years. It used to be categorized as the human potential movement. Whether along the lines of psychology, spirituality or something more energetically athletic, they all promoted the notion that a better, creative and more self-aware being was hidden within our functioning personalities, waiting to be discovered and released. We became a culture obsessed with finding a more authentic self, a real self that would show that wounded inner child where to take its vague aspirations.
In the community I see myself as addressing, that branch of the new age movement that consciously explores the teachings of esoteric spirituality handed down to us from ancient Greece and Egypt through the miasma of those dark ages of institutionalized repression, where meditation, lucid dreaming, consciousness projection and past life regression are staples of our lives, this search for some real self takes on a much more subtle aspect than the assertions of mainstream psychology will allow.
Many of us already know that past life ‘selves’ can be as vibrant, passionate and playful as anything currently on display. Contemplation of and interaction with such previous iterations of the incarnational impulse show us a reality as undeniable as the one we are struggling with presently and help to shift our focus. Seeing our astral selves, those clownish, careless and fun loving beings only tangentially related to who we are on earth, can add to those revelations. And after some dizzying rides in and through the astral realms, if we can find the calm focus to climb that Jacob’s Ladder of vibration to our mental, causal, buddhic and beyond selves, where the illusion of form becomes ever more apparent until translucence is replaced with radiance and then invisibility as the intoxicating magic of form and landscape fades into the absence of everything but endless potential, the reality of what might be once desire is triggered becomes the new norm.
Here we can see, without doubt, that we are nothing but consciousness, waiting to manifest on some planet, some epoch, some species, some culture, some family. That same consciousness that is the building block of any sentient form, animal, vegetable or mineral. We see that all selves, regardless of relative simplicity or complexity, are temporary forms suitable for certain types of expression, only to be discarded when the time is right.
The self that we think we are, were or will be, is merely an expression of attachment, something we like to love when discontent is at a low ebb. The self is a bauble, a plaything, a vehicle that takes us places and plonks us down to play the game at the local level. The game of chess, the game of career, the game of family, the game of business, the game of power politics, the game of religion, the game of war. All activities, from self-preservation through self-expression to self-glorification and obsession are games with ground rules, short cuts and cunning ways of cheating, but we need to be players to play them. Initial observation from the calm safety of spirit can be tantalizing, bringing the challenge of incarnation ever closer, but only willing and enthusiastic participation can make the fruits of our efforts real in the way that counts as character building. The characters we have been, are and might become.
All searches for the authentic self, the one hiding behind roles and lives ends here: the arrival at the mirror which displays precisely nothing. You look for the saint, the sinner, the prophet’s perfect disciple, the graduating seeker, the resurrected human, the radiant angel, but see only an empty space that once held forms but now only potential. The idea that there is a real self to discover through effort has been discontinued. Discontinued as it is no longer required. At least for now.