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..:: The Self ::..


Alan Schneider


             The often fascinating, occasionally frightening, and rarely boring images and symbols we experience during dreaming and other altered states of consciousness have been the object of much discourse and interpretation.  From spiritualists to therapists, almost all have had something to say about the supposed meaning of these mental forms.  Some, such as Perls, have even referred the matter back to the individual subjects, encouraging them to investigate and interpret their own psychic symbols.  Others, per Freud, have carefully cloistered their interpretations, occasionally not even informing the subject of anything to do with their content as they scribbled notations on their pads.   Yet others have written book after book on dreamwork and dream symbols, not all of them reliable or authoritative, for that matter.  Clearly, the meaning of alternative symbolic expression is a matter of extreme significance in popular culture, professional culture, and academic culture, as well.   This essay concerns this subject in general, and one symbol of particular importance in particular – The Self.   

            In the psychiatric context, where Freud identified and defined the type of alternative symbol formation we are evaluating here through the sexual lens of interpretation, his contemporary, Carl Jung, used the existential lens – preferring to classify what emerged in his patients dream states through their extended social and spiritual ramifications for their expanded personal existences.   He classified the bulk of dream symbols as being archetypal in nature, stemming from the collective unconscious region of the Psyche, and relegating the material of sexual expression to the personal unconscious.  Jung felt that he had identified a vast region of psychic expression that, like Freud’s, was driven by instinct, but had the additional feature of providing social, not solely sexual, significance for the individual, and called these contents archetypes.  Like the Freudian instincts, the archetypes are not subject to direct expression in consciousness, but emerge into secondary expression as symbols.  Along the course of his life, Jung defined many of such symbols in a multitude of cultural systems, supporting his contention that, like the Freudian material, they were additional inborn contents of the Psyche present in all human beings.  

            At the core of the Jungian model of the mind is the Self, the supposed driver of all mental manifestation including the archetypal symbols of the collective unconscious, the repressed sexual contents of the Freudian personal unconsciousness, and the conscious waking awareness of the (predominantly Freudian) ego – the “me” that I commonly recognize as “myself” observing and interacting with “the world” displayed in the physical senses.   I have had much to say in these essays about the basal nature of that world, its ultimate reality, and meaning for human observers, and will say more now, because it is the Self that creates our perception of everything internal and external to the organism.  Do the world and the whole universe exist? Yes, indeed they do – there is something “out there” in the observational field.  What, then, is there?  It is the same Self that lies within us!  

            Since the external environment (i.e. the physical continuum) can only be observed through the haze of sensory impression and interpretation that is subject to the continuous  interference of the ego, we must resort to the variety of alternative observational techniques mentioned so often in these essays to gain relatively unimpeded impressions of existence, and these also have been touched upon in some detail.  The reader may take as a given that my testimony here is derived from the evidence of personal meditation as my preferred method of observation and investigation, although I have also used several others along the way.   In particular, once such a structure as the Self is clearly identified in the Psyche, and brought into conscious awareness (in the therapeutic process that Jung referred to as realization) for further observation, much information of paramount importance for the observer and humanity at large can be discovered.  Please allow me to share some of this with you now.  

            To begin with, the Self appears to have an external aspect, and an internal aspect under observation in deep meditation.  In terms of what I have realized about this entity, it appears most often in my waking conscious awareness as it does in the depictions of the Jungian Psyche that I have used so often – a dense black sphere – in this case floating in my perception above and centrally located immediately beyond my physical head, and surrounded by the luminous (Jung used the term numinous to describe internally bright structures in the Psyche) forms of many other archetypal symbols that I have realized in my years of psycho-spiritual work.  The sphere of the Self appears quite large in my perception – perhaps occupying half of my collective awareness.   Although it seems to be dark from the perspective of outer observation, one has the impression that it contains an abundance of internal life of its own – this “life” emerges more or less continuously from the surface of the Self at numerous shifting locations in a stream of numinous, fiery undulating forms that bear an uncanny resemblance to the post-Babylonian Hebrew script characters.  These subsequently take a wide variety of eventual secondary symbolic expressions in the collective region surrounding the Self – all of archetypal significance, and there are literally so many of them present that I could not by my personal efforts realize them all in many, many lifetimes of effort. This is why Jung felt that consciousness became collective beyond the Freudian regions, and I agree with him – the Self is continually outputting far too much content for any one observer to deal with.  In my case, the collective region of the Psyche surrounding the Self is literally aglow with the numiousity of the all that it has released, and continues to release, into Psychic manifestation.  

            It is possible, although I do not have this practice as a routine, to place the observational locus right at the surface of the sphere of the Self where one of the founts of “letters” is emerging, and interpose this locus directly in the stream of “communication” (possibly manifestation would be a better word) flowing out there.   It is as if one is immediately blasted with light and form on an almost unbearably brilliant level – the only adequate analogy is that of experiencing the Word of God becoming manifest in real time.   Under the correct circumstances (as I experienced in Samadhi) one can enter the interior of the Self by following one of the streams of numinous letters (actually archetypal symbol chains), and the environment there is as I have previously described it – omnipresent white Light, omnipresent unconditional Love, and a merging with an ultimate Presence that is the Source of all subsequent observation and experience everywhere in the Psyche.  At this point, one becomes “Self Realized” (although there are no equivalent human terms for this condition) and attains the “knowledge” that the Self is always One with both the observer and any observation occurring anywhere 

            I realize that this seems to be an impossibility from the logical perspective of the ego awareness that is typical for human beings, and it is, but it remains the Truth of Consciousness at the level of the Self.   We must remember that the ego is very close to – in fact, resides within – the physical organism, which itself exists in three dimensional space and linear time subject to the constraints of that extensive external expression of the Self known as Karma.   Yes, my friends, the outer world is ultimately simply a different version of the inner world – one that typically vibrates (or, in more scientific terms, oscillates) at a much lower frequency accounting for the observed density of things on the Physical Plane, but is made of the same “stuff” – consciousness.  

            I conjecture that the Self appears dark from the exterior perspective as a convenience for observation, considering what it is evidently like on the interior.  One could not indefinitely withstand such an environment and continue to exist in the flesh (at least in the hyper-materialistic Western world), but it can be realized as a psychic structure within the mind, and worked with therefrom, although there remain prices to be paid for this level of access.   Such contact with the innermost core of human possibility tends to redefine all other experience – what might have once been important tends to pale by comparison, including such mundane experiences as external physical existence has to offer.  Even human sexual involvement, that glittering foundation of Freudian psychodynamics, tends to lose its luster after the Self is contacted and realized in this definitive manner.   In fact, the only thing that retains much importance at all is communication regarding this experience delivered to the other struggling sentient beings on, and contiguous to, the Physical Plane of Expression (as the reader has probably gathered, I have embraced this challenging process with great enthusiasm).           

            Thus, it appears from this most intimate perspective on observation that the entire universe, which once seemed to be a great (and chaotic) machine, is in fact a great and mysterious mind, continuously outpouring Creation as an expression of Love, which now is seen as the ultimate driver of all existence.  

            The Buddha, among many others, had apparently also attained Self Realization, and put our quandary here on Earth very succinctly – this life of Karma is one predominantly of suffering and difficulty,  due to many consequences of the limitations of our physical form, but also in great part to our psychology – predominantly desire for external objects of gratification. We are mentally constructed (in the absence of enlightened awareness) around desire action, and (amazingly) will tend to choose ongoing, lifelong frustration rather than release from this bondage to our animal nature.  This release from desire action and the animal nature was postulated as being attainable by following the Eight Fold Path of Enlightenment so well known in Buddhism, and often recounted in these essays (and thus not to be recounted again here).   Suffice it to say that what is called for is a minimalist life spent in moderation and reflection, one tending to yield a high degree of relative peace as its outcome.   This is the sensible life for humanity, and Self Realization is its culmination.  

            As the desire nature is brought under conscious control (instead of controlling us), the journey of consciousness can become our priority, and move forward as time and circumstances permit.   Although this customarily only becomes evident after many years spent in the practice of ego negation,  consciousness eventually emerges as the reigning process present in all things.   It is our privileged place in Creation to be capable through sentience and sentient observation to appreciate this quality of existence in all of its infinite aspects radiating forth from the Self.   We have been given this gift in Love – let us return it in kind!


                                          -                                        With Love, Alan -

                                                              (Copyright 2009, by Alan Schneider)


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