There is a continual search for the “true”, “authentic” or “pure” self in spiritual and neo-shamanic traditions; the idea that if we just move away the clutter and the pain that we would be one personality, one self, one integrated whole.
This is an important quest, by the way. Finding out who we are, the sort of quest of individuation and realization of who we are in relation to the world… what unique essence or capabilities we have that could be of benefit to the world… this is all important, and this quest is understandable and necessary.
In neo-shamanic and modern spiritual circles, this quest can perpetuate the sort of selfishness and entitlement that comes from not having an outer purpose. If we do not desire anything beyond our own egoic aims, such as the thought of “finding ourselves” really is (or can be), we tend to lack the capacity to see beyond ourselves and our own experiences of this world.
We may, in fact, move into a spiritual path with eyes willfully closed, creating our relationship with spirit, and the spiritual path, as one of righteous indignation and wounding, rather than greater expansion beyond who we currently are and what our wounds and restrictions are. In worst case scenarios, we can use a spiritual path to completely close ourselves off to anything beyond our own basic ideas of ourselves.
Awakening allows for the capacity to move and see beyond yourself (as a simplistic notion). It allows for the realization that what we think is important is often illusory and fleeting. It is a path of being able and willing to look at what restrictions we have, what beliefs that we have constructed and been given, and what sort of blind reactions that we have in this world. We can move through this world in a state of willful blindness and ignorance or one of being really willing to see… despite that seeing causing our concepts of ourselves that we have constructed with such care and out of such pain to release and dissolve.
It is a path that leads to gradually more and more realization of how selfish we are, and how in that selfishness we rarely consider one another, empathize with one another, or have the capacity or willingness to understand and see how we impact others and what we are bringing to this world.
Reconciling that innate selfishness that binds us to only consider ourselves is a part of the spiritual path. Being willing to see our own selfishness is a tall order, but being willing to see this allows for us to move beyond it and into oneness and further freedom (release of restrictions and that which creates pain in us).
We do not awaken by surrounding ourselves with people who all are the same as ourselves. We tend to put ourselves in a bubble, only interacting with people who are exactly the same as us, and with the same ideas. It takes a fair amount of willingness and effort to move beyond this bubble… and many choose not to.
I was having a talk with someone the other week about how some spiritual aspirants use their spiritual path to consolidate their own ideas and wounds; that instead of this expansion quality, the sort of lessening and easing of personally held beliefs and ideas, and the interaction with new ideas and movement beyond the Self, that people can become quite righteous, closing off themselves to anything that is outside of their own experience, and into a sort of bubble or cocoon of their own creation.
I sat with the realization for a long time that there were some folks who I chatted with who had been on a spiritual path for ten, twenty, or thirty years who totally and completely lacked any sort of consciousness. There had been no expansion, no movement beyond the self.
Many of these sorts were of a duller consciousness than those who were taking their first steps on the spiritual path– they had no capacity to understand their intuition, no openness to hearing about anything other than they had already thought of, and often with a stockpile of emotions and quite chaotic lives… which tends to happen to people who pursue spiritual activities and workshops without personally processing and integrating them.
Moving towards some greater purpose: looking for “truth”, or expansion beyond the self allows for one to not get caught in this egoic nature– of having the wounds and needs of the mind create a spiritual path for the person– this path (or tendency to bubble in a sort of solopsistic universe) is mentioned here because in order to move beyond the “true” self, we must first understand the true self, and where many may create diversions for themselves on the spiritual path.
And our true selves are way beyond the capacity of our own mental creations, which typically seek control, order, and are based off of what we already know (and need to be) “truth”. If our minds create our spiritual reality, we lose our tether towards any sort of expansion or truth, and despite authentically seeking– going to workshops, immersing ourselves in teachings, and so forth– we can restrict ourselves from ever really experiencing anything.
The question would be then how would we know? How would we know that we are on a correct spiritual path, and that we are, in fact expanding?
The simple answer to this is that if we are creating and following more rules, have more restrictions, and our spiritual path is only about ourselves, that we may be moving towards a selfish spiritual path.
But the real testament is that if life is chaotic, painful, and the spiritual path is not leading to wholeness and peace, there is something there to heal. Our lives are notoriously messy, and human, and the purpose would not be to have a life completely free from those elements, but there is great stillness and peace that emanates from those who have had spiritual attainment that they have properly integrated… despite what may be going on in their existence… and what they have attained is not only palpable but noticeable by even those who are not what we would refer to as “sensitive” in any capacity.
What this means is that even if there is chaos, difficulty, and all that life can throw at someone on the spiritual path… overall there should be more freedom and a basic movement away from the drama and chaos that we tend to perpetuate in an unhealed state. If our spiritual path is creating more and more imbalance, that may be a temporary necessity, but overall there should be more maturity, peace, and ability to understand and feel compassion for those different than you… as well as the ability to move beyond the sort of chains of basic self-interest that bind so many.
What a lot of people seemingly misunderstand is the sort of idea of thresholds or spiritual bases of knowledge; that we must pass through a specific initiation to move beyond it.
The true self is one of those gateways.
When we move closer and closer to this true self– releasing the wounds and baggage we carry, healing, understanding who we are at the deepest levels– we realize that the true self is one of those thresholds. It is not a final destination.
When we reach this destination we discover that the idea of a “true self” is just a stopping point, a doorway into understanding a greater truth.
This is like much knowledge– what we know and what we have embodied (processed and directly experienced… as in intellectualism on a spiritual path will only lead someone so far without direct experience) takes us until we reach a specific doorway/wall or initiation.
We then realize that our search is over in the sense that we move beyond that quest, as we realize such a quest is an illusion.
In this case, there is a discovery that we are not one, centralized Self, not one “true” self, but a variety of energies making us up. We may have a part of ourselves that wishes to go out on a ten mile run, and another that wants to watch Netflix in our sweatpants.
Those forces within us are not in opposition, they need not battle. They are simply different aspects of ourselves. We can be both shy and violent, both masculine and feminine, and have differing aspects of ourselves that have a different voice, different aims, and different thoughts on what we should be doing with ourselves.
We tend to believe that these parts of ourselves are in opposition; they are at war. They are not, and we need not castigate the parts of ourselves that are not socially appropriate for our conceptualization of ourselves.
If we are shy, that does not mean that we need not be also loud and defiant. If we are known as being an extrovert, that does not mean that we constantly need to be “on” because we are known for our extroversion.
By understanding our multiplicity, and that we have different forces within us, different personalities and sub-personalities, we can realize that we are, in fact, many things.
We do like the idea of ourselves as being one concrete whole, as if we look hard enough and for long enough we will come to believe ourselves to be this shiny, white, perfected light.
What happens when we find and peer into that light is that moving beyond the initiation of the “true self” will lead one to their complexity, their messiness, and working with the forces within.
Ideally these forces would be treated equally, and with compassion. There is a neglected voice within us that wants us to relax and eat chocolate. We often brutally shove down that voice because we are a culture of “doers”… or we engage in that activity constantly without really satiating it because we are thinking about how bad we are for relaxing, or doing something non-productive.
Obviously for this sentiment to be understood we need to be past the point of understanding logically that if a voice within us seeks to cause us harm, that we should not create harm to ourselves and others. So if anyone is not past that point yet, this realization is not yet something that should be considered, and other healing is necessary.
But if we consider that energetically we are many things– we are many forces coming together– from the personal to the archetypal, from the elemental to past lives to ancestors, from world and local energies coming together as you were being formed at a specific point in history– we can understand the forces that create us, the different aims within us, and move beyond the threshold of the “true self” to understand ourselves in multiplicity… and cease the battle.
We can be okay and truly offer ourselves what differing aspects of ourselves need, without feeling the regret and admonishing of other forces within us. We may wish to be a masculine warrior type one day, and a shy bookworm the next… you can be both a warrior and a bookworm simultaneously in fact… and they are both “you”, they are not in battle with one another, and you can feel compassion and allow for them to simply be a part of you, without seeking or centralizing a simplistic idea of Self, or of True Self, as a quest or guiding force in ones’ life.
So seek the True Self but realize that it is but a threshold, as much knowledge is… and if you are ready to move beyond that doorway, the “True Self” that has been learned and quested after will disappear… which is as it should be… to attain even deeper knowledge and understanding of Self.