"Fearlessness is the first requirement of spirituality. Cowards can never be moral." -- Mahatma Gandhi

Monday, February 28, 2011

"Self" vs. "self"

"Self" vs. "self"
Paul Brunton called our higher consciousness the "Overself," Jesus called it "the Kingdom of Heaven" (see Luke 17:21), members of the 12 Step movement call it "a Power greater than ourselves," Vedantists call it the Atman and,  in perhaps the most poetic language, Marcus Aurelius (Roman emperor and neo-Platonic philosopher) called it "the helmsman of the Soul." But, in many - perhaps most - instances, wisdom schools and teachers refer to it simply as the "Self," as opposed to the smaller "self" which is none other than the ordinary self-consciousness of the human "ego."

When asked why he used the term "Self" (in "I: Reality and Subjectivity" at pp. 128-129), David Hawkins, a powerful and enlightened spiritual teacher, medical doctor and philosopher explained his choice of terms in the following manner:
"The experience of the Presence is radically and profoundly subjective. It is commonly presumed that God is 'elsewhere', namely, above, beyond. transcendent, in heaven, or somewhere back in history or in the future. Traditionally, however, God is described as both transcendent and immanent. The term "Self" emphasizes that God is discovered as the ultimate reality that underlies one's actual experience in the 'here and now' (e.g., "Heaven is within you.").

The Buddha is said to have avoided using the term "God" because of the prevalence of misconceptions surrounding it. He wanted to avoid all the limitations that that conceptualization confounds. The Self as Awareness is often referred to in literature as Light. As recounted in Genesis, the Unmanifest became Manifest first as Light, which was the radiance of the energy of God that took form as the universe.

The term "Self" also overcomes the dualistic notion that one is separated from God. Historically, the picture that there is a sinner down here on Earth and there is a God up there somewhere in heaven is the viewpoint of the ego. Thus, to most people, the term "God" implies "otherness." However, there is no separation in the Allness of Creation, so it is impossible for the created to be separate from the Creator. Enlightenment is therefore the revelation of the Self when the illusioin of the reality of a separate self is removed."
"The Divine Nature . . . of the same or like nature with the spirit"
Hawkins then describes the problem that we all face, the problem that is the timeless challenge  humankind faces, in the words of Aldous Huxley, the challenge "for a man, if he so desires, to identify himself with the spirit and therefore with the Divine Ground, which is of the same or like nature with the spirit." Hawkins concludes:
"The constant awareness of one's existence as 'I' is the ever present expression of the innate divinity of the Self. This is a universal, constant experience that is purely subjective and of which no proof is possible or necessary. The 'I' of the Self is the expression of Divinity as Awareness which is therefore beyond time and form. The truth of this identity is obscured by the duality created by perception and disappears when all positionalities are relinquished."
 This constant awareness is, of course, our challenge. It is what Orthodox Christianity traditionally called "the Watch of the Heart," a process explained in this related video by the progressive and profound Protestant minister, Ted Nottingham.

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