WHICH SELF?
10/27/95
1506N
Copyright (c) 1995, J.M. Cox

The dual nature of man is a reality, regardless of what it is called. Every sane person knows full well that everything they say, do and think reflects this reality, because everything they say, do or think is self-referential. Difficult as this situation may be to digest initially, I suggest that you begin by rereading the above sentences and considering them anew.

 The existence of a duality is not imaginary, though any time you put a stable solid name on it you're letting yourself in for a certain amount of delusion, because all systems overlap. For purposes of this discussion, picture man as two distinct systems: at the upper end of the nervous system, the level of ordinary consciousness, exists the intellectual portion, the so-called psychological, spiritual, mental life of man; everything below constitutes the instinctive, biological aspect of man.

 What I want to tackle tonight is how this duality manifests itself and affects what seems to be the attempt to become more conscious. Remember what I've already told you: that all sane and ordinary people want to become more conscious, though the urge is usually called by other names. It's called improving yourself, getting ahead, trying to become educated, trying to save the environment, and so on and on. All of these activities are a reflection of man's urge to become more than he is now, to become other than he ordinarily is.

 This urge can be seen dramatically at the earliest and most active stages of a person's life, when Life runs the most potent sap through man. Children are the humans who most actively and enthusiastically dream. Of course, the urge is pretty rampant all the way through the teenage years of rebellion, when it can be seen in the raw attempt to better one's elders. That is Life pushing the last generation off the stage, giving rise to growth and movement from generation to generation. Collectively, the urge can also be seen in the advancement of technology, the progress in health care, the increase in physical well-being and the expected life span: all reflect the course of Life through man. That's what I'm calling the urge to become more conscious.

 On an individual level, every child's dream--whether it's to become a great ballerina, a scientist or an explorer or a football player--you know the dreams kids have--is the dream of becoming more conscious, because it's the dream of being something other than what the kid is now. Every child dreams of being not just bigger or older, but of an improved, enlarged existence. Though kids' dreams rarely last--at least in intensity and drama--past the teen years, the adult version would be, for instance, a man or woman taking up a new hobby or trying to master a new art form or sport. The unspoken ideal is, "If I could just get to where I could do such-and-such, I'd be a different (read "better, bigger, more complete, more powerful") person."

 People only dream about being what they are not. And if you're sane, you always dream of improvement. A normal person doesn't dream of regression: "Gee, I wish I could leave my comfy home and my family and hit the road and kill lots of people." These are not dreams, they're nightmares. All ordinary people dream of improvement, in whatever form. Of becoming more charitable, more spiritual, more positive--which translates into: something they're not. Again, such adult dreams represent not just being older, bigger or richer. They represent a more conscious existence, though it is expressed in quite simplistic, even materialistic and physical forms. A mother's plan to set aside enough money to send her kid to an ivy league school, or a father's dream of moving his family to a better neighborhood, reflects the desire for a more conscious existence.

 To put this in even more slipshod terminology: everyone is driven to want to be a mystic. Almost everyone recovers from this by the time they reach maturity. But if you're alive and you still have plans and daydreams of being better in some way, you've still got the urge.

 The historic method for those who actually set out to become more conscious--those who consider themselves to be real-live grown up mystics--has always been the study of one's self. All systems, from the religious and mystical to the psychological arts, accept a priori that a person must achieve some self-realization, some basic knowledge, in order to accomplish anything extraordinary. In other words, you can't wander around in a cloud of oblivion so thick that you constantly forget your own name, where you put your keys or your children. At any rate, the message has always been that to achieve any degree of understanding and insight, if not enlightenment, you first have to study yourself.

 May I bring to your attention the fact that the question has never been asked: Which self?

 I suggest you reflect on your own: Given the tradition of self study, and the methods commonly in use, which self do you think they're studying? (If it makes you feel any better, you've got a 50-50 chance of being right.)

 To begin the study of a creature of dual nature--namely man--look at the two areas to which man has access. There are several salient features that should jump out at you, the first being that there is only one area that can be told to study itself, that would ever think about studying itself, that has any potential to attempt such a study. So it should be pretty obvious which self is usually the subject.

 Notwithstanding the fact that all systems overlap, here's a creature--man again--of two distinct systems. And he's told that to accomplish anything in the way of increased consciousness, he must come by an enhanced degree of self-knowledge. Simple: he has to study himself. But only one of his two indigenous systems can understand that directive and undertake the study.

 Would it even be possible for you to turn to the instinctive portion of your being, to look down at the lower portions of your nervous system and say, "Ok, fellahs, here we go, we're going to study ourselves now." Do I have to mention that the most likely response would be a big blank? No matter how fine a machine you might have going for you on the purely physical level, there is no verbal way to approach and involve that silent, instinctive self in such a study. But imagine what would happen if you could make your biological functions understand the proposition. If the instinctive system could hear the challenge to study itself, what could it possibly make of such a thing?

 Go back and consider again which self is targeted by all the known methods, by all the rituals, such as meditation and prayer. They are all parts of the attempts to study one's self, but what do prayers consist of? What does meditation involve? Which self is most directly involved?

 One of the points I'm making here is the simple and obvious fact that throughout history, people have been directed to study themselves, but no one has ever tackled the question of which self is to be studied. It would seem that if self-knowledge is the desired product, this would be one of the first matters to be investigated, right?

 The fact that man is of a dual nature is not news, even to the most mundane and ordinary of intelligences. If there weren't two selves, there would be no study of anything. Consider again how everything you say, do and think is self-referential. Everyone acknowledges his dual nature by the simple act of self-reference, by just saying, "I." Notice that our single-natured animal friends, who never refer to themselves, never tell personal anecdotes, never say "I," are also spectacularly free and devoid of the urge to study themselves. You'll never get a beaver interested in searching for his true nature. There's nothing to study; there's one system, and that's it.

 So what is one to make of all this? Here is a possibility. The goal of all who pursue an enhanced consciousness, who wish to become more than they are, can be described as the realization of a unified nature. In fact, that's one of the historical descriptions of the mystical pursuit: the great union, whether it's called a union with a god, with one's own various conflicting parts, or with Life itself.

 Where there is duality, there is conflict. And where there's no conflict, where there exists a single, unified, system, there is nothing to study. So take your pick: you've apparently got the choice of either resembling a battlefield or a beaver. Unless there is a third, transcendent possibility. And if such a third possibility exists, what does that say about the method of studying oneself? If you can't study yourself unless you have a divided nature, then isn't it just possible that the study itself perpetuates and solidifies the divide? So perhaps Life simultaneously perpetuates the urge to overcome one's dual nature, and ensures the continuation of that nature, all in one swift, killing blow.

 What are you left with after that? You can resemble a battlefield, or a beaver. Or you might consider a transcendent, third possibility.

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