On “True Self”
On “True Self”
By Reza Ganjavi
Reply to Naomi who wrote about meeting the true self.
Dear Naomi, what you wrote is beautiful.
In principle I agree with the message. There are some subtle points that are worth opening up further.
That baby you mentioned, in a parent's arms, feeling no insecurity or pain, embraced in love... S/he does not have a "sense of self", which we can call "ego" -- a psychological sense of self, me, I, mine, my problems, what do people think about me, how do I see myself, am I better than someone else, -- and the resulting complexities that that movement of "I" creates.
Many adults have that "ego" and it's a huge problem. It cuts them off from that other movement let's say, which is not of ego.
Ego's movement is in time, and its building blocks is thinking. Over-thinking, thinking about areas thought was not meant for as a tool.
Part of that sphere of the ego is also the whole realm of self-pity, psychological fear, and things that many people even call love -- like possessiveness, jealousy, etc., and psychological pain.
One pitfall of modern psychology, both academic and "pop psychology" as well as a lot of self-help movements, is that they're not revolutionary -- they're very traditional in the notion that they separate the seer from the seen.
This is where the subtlety lies.
Yes, our true nature is that universal love, which is not divisive, is whole -- it embraces everything and is the source of everything. Some scriptures even say it's God.
Yet, that sense of self, the ego, the me, is very tricky -- it does not want to end -- and one of the ways to give itself continuity is to identify with that love and say I am that. But it's not. Because the ego is a fictitious entity -- it's fabricated psychologically by a bunch of thoughts connected together -- a bunch of memories and experiences which are always limited. So the ego is limited. When it predicts the future, it usually can only project from the limited realm of the known, and totally miss the mystery of the unknown.
That's what happens in thought-dominated societies where love is so badly missing. Everything is predicted, formulated, planned, and perfectly executed, which is wonderful for the outer world, but the same mindset approaches life and the inner world, and it hits a wall because thought is the wrong tool for it. You don't brush your teeth with a hairbrush. That's why these rich countries have a high suicide rate especially among teens. That blissful baby you mentioned grows up and doesn't want to fit into that system, but is coerced, molded, by a brutal educational system, and tradition that wants it to be like them.
So it grows up and becomes part of the "system" -- and contributes to it -- and lives a dull, mechanical life, with the consequences of being deprived from that love, it's "true nature".
Of course, this does not happen to every person in every society. Even in poorer societies this happens, and in any society there are those who break away and live a "selfless" life, which doesn't necessarily mean doing charity work. One can do charity work and still be selfish.
The traditional approach of dividing the seer from the seen has failed. Look at the chaos in the world, and psychologically (e.g., how nature is mistreated, the high per-capita rate of psychotherapist, especially in rich societies, and the enormous use of psychiatric medications, anti-depressants, etc.)
If an alien comes from another galaxy and looks at all this, it could say, “Wow, what a chaos”. Why don't they have a fundamental revolution and live intelligently? Mind you, most outer revolutions fail unless they have strong inner roots and do not neglect that "we are the world" -- when one person changes the whole world changes, and if one doesn't fundamentally change and end conflict within oneself, for example, one contributes to war.
That universal love which is our nature, cannot be approached positively. It's already there. It shines when that, which is not love, is removed. At the core of the problem is the "ego", me. It must end because by definition it is not love. Love is new, fresh, unlimited. Ego go is based on the past, limited, old, dull, mechanical.
The death of the ego (psychological ending of "I") is scary to it. So it does strange things to give itself continuity -- like a child who doesn't want to go to bed. One of those things is to identify itself with love. Very subtle point. And very common. I hear it all the time -- the idea of "true self" which is true, but I wouldn't call it self or me anymore. It's universal, big, infinite, and has nothing to do with the "self" and its pettiness.
But the "self" sells, that's why it's a core aspect of many self-help and pop psychology systems, some of which are big money machines. Bliss is in the ending of the "self". Then that whole other realm, we could call love, comes into being -- instead of the self and its limited divisive ways that dominate most people's minds with incessant thoughts.