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The Spiritual Self


Alan Schneider


           As I write this in January of 2023, the world continues to descend into chaos on all levels – cultural, social, civic, moral, spiritual, governmental, and environmental, among others. Wars and strife continue to proliferate even as the natural resources on which all life are dependent dwindle everywhere to dangerously low levels, and oligarchs seize ever larger portions of the global economy in what can only be characterized as ego-driven megalomania. The future, and the human condition, seem quite challenged, to say the least!

           Some observations can perhaps be made regarding the state of human evolution as it exists today at this critical juncture in history, particularly with regard to the evolution of human consciousness as it stands here, and now

          Most scholars would probably agree that that oldest human ancestor, based on carbon-dated fossilized remains, is the Australopithecus. These remains have been more or less accurately placed in the vicinity of four millions years old. So, we can postulate that human beings have been evolving for that span of time up to the present moment. Australopithecus was a short creature (four to perhaps five feet tall), only partially upright, had an ape-like skull and jaw structure, wore no clothing, had no culture, and probably existed by foraging for food – only proto-human, but had enough human-like traits to attain the position of earliest ancestor, although barely so. We have most certainly advanced far, far from that beginning to our current stage of post-industrial, hyper-digital, densely urban world culture. But, four million years is a micro-span in global history, and a micro-micro span in the history of the universe. We have just barely begun what will hopefully be a long evolutionary journey! The state of our consciousness and awareness bare this out only too well…let us examine this state in more detail now.

          The human brain is evolution’s arguably most spectacular achievement. I say arguably, because the dolphin brain appears to be both larger and more complex than that of humans, implying a profound level of intelligence, although what they do with that intelligence remains a mystery for human observers of that species - perhaps they have become so perfectly adapted to their environment that they no longer need intelligence. So, our brains are the defacto pinnacle of evolution, as far as we positively know. Yet, this brain still has many shortcomings when viewed from the extended theoretical perspective of what science tells us must exist in the observable universe.

          Human awareness is essentially instantaneous in nature. We appear to process information about the world on a momentary basis as a sequence of sensory impressions. Although there is not a consensus among authorities (to my knowledge) the neurological “sampling interval” of this process could certainly not be faster than 0.01 seconds. The brain then “cobbles” this linear impression of the five senses into a “description” of reality recorded in the synaptic memory of its billions of neural cells. We cannot directly perceive this process – our experience of the world is the experience of long and short term memory only. And we can only perceive what our senses show us – science tells us that much of the universe is only observable through the use of sophisticated instrumentation, if even then. Again, authorities differ in their opinions, but a consensus exists in mathematical science that at least seven additional dimensions exist composing “reality” beyond the three or four we appear to exist in…

          Another consequence of the very early character of human brain development, and related to the linear nature of perception, is the overall fragmentation of perception into modes of interpretation. If I observe my consciousness, it seems as though I have at least three distinctive world-views that exist more or less simultaneously – the physical, the mental, and the spiritual realms of interpretation – and they seem to be discontinuous and in substantial disagreement with each other regarding many basic features.

          Science has emerged as the Grand Determinant of the physical mode of interpretation, which is grounded in the sensory perception of the physical continuum, and very compelling for that reason – an organism which ignores sensory perception does not last long! Science has given us all the modern world of relative comfort and convenience. Yet, the meaning and implication of that world is still subject to further interpretation as mental phenomenon – without additional assessment, the physical world consists of neutral objects, only related to each other by random association.

          The Mind is the Grand Determinant of the mental mode of interpretation. It is in this realm that the long term implications of all events in the physical realm takes place. The Mind is the seat of extended meaning and (hopefully) higher porception in life. The Mind is the locus of personal identity – the “me” that “I” feel exists and interacts with the physical and (additionally) mental phenomena – “my” feelings, emotions, and ideas. Freud called this locus the Ego, and along with the subconscious Id, and super-conscious, acculturated Super Ego, postulated that these three regions of the Mind accounted for all human experience and behavior. I have no argument with psychoanalysis, however, if we do not evaluate the impact of at least one more mode of interpretation, a key and critical sequence of factors is lost. This is the Spiritual mode, and can (again arguably) be assigned to the Super Ego.

          The Super Ego is the result of acculturation and socialization in the Mind – we have to learn not only functional matters to exist within a culture (as virtually all human beings do today), but moral and spiritual models of knowing and acting as well. The Spiritual mode is perhaps best examined through the lens of another great thinker in history – Carl Gustov Jung. Jung was one of Freud’s contemporaries, and even worked and studied with him for several years. He became dissatisfied with Freud’s contention that sexual repression was the root of mental dysfunction, and instead postulated that existential repression also played a role in such dysfunction – that an unhealthy attitude towards meaning in life was also potentially as crippling as an unhealthy attitude towards sexuality

          Certainly one of, if not the, most significant contributions of Jung to psychiatry was his Theory of the Archetypes of the Collective Unconscious (mind). Jung took Freud’s work a step further, claiming that the topography of the Mind extended far beyond the Freudian Id of animal drives and sexual repression into a vast region that he referred to as the Collective Unconscious, a region also populated by instinctual trends that he called Archetypes, These trends are not directly observable, but generate acculturated Archetypal Symbols that can be. He cataloged thousands of these symbols over the course of his life, along with their relationships to each other, and the total Mind.

          At the core of the Jungian mental model was a primary Archetypal structure that he referred to simply as the Self, which presupposes all other archetypes and archetypal symbols. This Self could, in theory, be contacted as a cultural form, but only through extreme measures that could “switch off” the Ego, the Id, and all other acculturated experience. In the case of most, or all, religious perception, some such technique(s) are indicated in the literature on the subject. I personally have used meditation as the vehicle, but there are many others.

          Science says that the laws of physics and chemistry define the world. The Mind says that personal perception defines the world. The Spirit says that God (i.e. the Self) defines the world, ld, and they are all correct! Our brains simply have not yet evolved far enough to experience a combined reality composed of all three modes in a unified state of perception, thus we have to fragment our being into three (or more) realms and endure the dissonance that results. I personally believe that the Jungian Self is the foundation of all being, but exists in a higher dimension of experience that can only be perceived in deep meditation, or using some other equally powerful observational technique. 

          The Jungian Self is 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 actual 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 Sphere of the Psyche diagram that I have used so often – as 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 (“square”) 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 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 manifestation flowing from 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” and attains the “knowledge” that the Self is always One with both the observer and every observation occurring anywhere.  bsp;

            I realize that this seems to be an impossibility from the logical perspective of the Ego awareness that is typical for human beings but nonetheless 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 Mode 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 bsp;Mind, continuously outpouring Creation as an expression of Love, which now is seen as the ultimate driver of all existence. 

          The universe can and should be thought of as an orderly, intelligent, and conscious state of being, an Awareness, of which each individual human awareness is a part. In this sense, the physical universe becomes a Universal Mind or Consciousness, engaged in what the Hindu religion calls the Cosmic Dance, an eternal manifestation of deep involvement occurring on every plane everywhere. The Universal Mind is the ultimate source of all knowing and all being, including our human knowing and being.  

          The Universal Consciousness demonstrates a significant element of collective manifestation. This manifestation is expressed on the level of archetypes and archetypal symbols. The well known Major Arcane of the Tarot system are also archetypal symbols of the various estates and stages of life, as are the Runic glyphs. That which is collective is shared among us at the deepest level of expression – we all participate in the process of Universal Consciousness!                                                        

           Because the totality of knowing includes free will, we can choose to see ourselves from this cosmic perspective, or from the simple material perspective, or any other, but the repeated practice of spirituality always tends to reveal the subtle and majestic order which underlies all superficial events. Universal Consciousness occurs as we move in the direction of the totality of existence, and become more and more aware of who and what we are in this infinite, eternal expression. The realization of this process is the ultimate reason why we are here in physical manifestation. 

- From Alan, With Love -

CR2023/Alan Schneider

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