Aug 22, 1994 06:45 PM
by Gerald Schueler
Aki. <Does these "semi-selves" and "collection of others" have
similarities to Ouspensky's "false personalities"?>
I am not familiar with Ouspensky's "false personalities" but
Gurdjieff certainly taught about the Buddhist "collection of others."
Kathleen Riordan Speeth writes,
"According to Gurdjieff each adult has many selves,
each of which uses the word "I" to describe itself.
At one moment one "I" is present and at another
there is a different "I" who may or may not be in
sympathy with the previous "I." This "I" may not
even know the other "I" exists for between "I's"
there are often relatively impenetrable defenses
called 'buffers.' Clusters of "I's" make us
subpersonalities that are related by association."
(The Gurdjieff Work, p 32)
When these "buffers" are very strong, we have multiple
personalities. For most of us, however, the buffers are quite
weak. But they are there nonetheless. In this way, our
personalities are not really monadic (the monadic human "I" is a
mayavic illusion) but rather, in psychological terms, they take on
the nature of "complexes."
Richard. <Noticing the way I now capitalize "semi-Self" might be
helpful in understanding the concept and realizing its overarching
Yes, the capitalization clearly separates the lower human self, or
personality, from the higher reincarnating self, or individuality,
from the spiritual Self or inner god.
<Because Self has no qualities other than "I-ness," It must depend
upon Its"interaction" with the Prakriti or "Cosmological Stuff"
(including not only physical matter, but everything from prana up
through Spirit) for differentiation. >
Exactly. The I defines itself on every plane according to its
relationships with the Not-I. Thats why the occult technique of
asking yourself "Who am I?" is so important. KNOW THYSELF is not a
trivial exercise, if done properly.
<I must confess, Jerry, that my eyes used to glaze over when I
would see discussions of the topics involved here. Things changed,
I suppose, after many years of meditation when I started to see
them not as distant abstractions only, but rather--in their
"microcosmic application"--as just about the most "close to home"
and practical things theosophy has to offer. The moment-to-moment
ability to see what semi-Selves you are dealing with--in others and
in yourself--certainly must be a fundamental adept power, and its
importance probably cannot be over-estimated.>
Great! Theosophical teachings come to us first as abstractions or
theoretical ideas. Only after we learn to put them into our daily
life do they become "microcosmic applications." However, the
teaching about semi-Selves has yet to become mainstream in
theosophical arenas. I think that most theosophists still think in
terms of having a single monadic self that looks out at a
multifaceted world. An evoltutionary stage must be reached before
one realizes that the self is also multifaceted. And yes, I agree
that the Adept can see into the semi-Self of another person and
determine which I is currently operative and which I's lurk
undetected in the background.
<The Self is a terrible thing to waste completely in semi-Self. .
The Self wastes/expresses itself completedly in semi-Self for a
time, and then returns to itSelf pretty much unchanged (indeed, how
could the infinite and eternal be imagined to change for any
reason?). I personally consider the notion that the Self
progresses by means of its Self-expressions in semi-Selves to be
mayavic. Thus I reject the spiral and hold to the circle.
However, all those who prefer to spiral are free to do so.
< Perhaps, however, one might be well advised not to "study" the
subject in the usual manner; but rather, just familiarize oneself
with the general outline a little and "put it on the back burner"
until personal meditative practice suddenly and easily makes
perfect sense out of the "Divine Jumble.">
Exactly. I wholehearted agree with this. Actually, I first came
upon this interesting technique through James A. Long, past Leader
of the Pasadena TS. It works pretty well.
Here is an article that I wrote some time ago. I think it is on
PeaceNet (?), but many of you don't use PeaceNet, so I will repeat
THE INDIVIDUALITY PARADOX
Everyone has a self. Everyone is a unique individual,
separate and distinct from everyone else. Yet the personality or self
that we identify with on a daily basis is not a permanent thing. Its
reality is an illusion. The ability of the self to be both real and
unreal is the individuality paradox.
Buddhism teaches that the ego is an illusion (which has led
to some authorities calling it nihilism). Western Magic has never
claimed that the ego does not exist, nor does it emphasize the
concept of Maya, or cosmic illusion, to the degree Buddhism does.
Most of us in the West believe in doctrine of swabhava, of
individual uniqueness, while Buddhism denies it. Is there an ego or
personal self? Is there a soul? Does some part of us survive the
death of our physical body? Do we retain individuality after each
round of birth-death? First, lets take a look at how Mahayana
Buddhism views this physical world:
"The Blessed One replied: It is because the ignorant
cling to names, signs and ideas; as their minds move
along these channels they feed on multiplicities of
objects and fall into the notion of an ego-soul and
what belongs to it; they make discriminations of
good and bad among appearances and cling to the
agreeable. As they thus cling there is a reversion to
ignorance, and karma born of greed, anger and folly,
is accumulated. As the accumulation of karma goes
on they become imprisoned in a cocoon of
discrimination and are thenceforth unable to free
themselves from the round of birth and death."(1)
Here it is very clear that Buddhists view the ego-soul as a
"notion." The late Zen writer, Alan Watts, calls the ego a "social
fiction" because it has no reality at all, but society needs it, and so
society has created it and we all pretend that it is real. Lets take
another look at what Buddha said:
"A bodily form, a feeling, a perception, a mental
formation, a consciousness, that is permanent and
persistent, eternal and not subject to change, such a
thing the wise men in this world do not recognize;
and I also say, there is no such thing."(2)
Now we are seeing a little better description of what is
meant by ego - it is not something permanent but rather constantly
changing. Even consciousness per se, is changing and not
permanent. The rather popular idea that we have a permanent Ego
or Self somewhere behind our physical body (which is obviously
changing, and not permanent) is also not true according to this
view. In fact, everything in the entire manifested universe is unreal
as noted below:
"As stars, a fault of vision, as a lamp,
A mock show, dew drops, or a bubble,
A dream, a lightening flash, or cloud,
So should one view what is conditioned."(3)
The key word in the above quote is 'conditioned.' This has
to do with the Buddhist teaching of Suchness. Suchness is the
thing-in-itself rather than a collection of parts. For example, take a
car. A car has no Suchness, no car-ness. A car is a collection of
parts put together in a certain way. If we remove a door, do we
still have a car? Probably, but what if we keep removing parts?
After a while the car will turn into a heap of parts. There is
no 'car,' but only parts put together in a certain way, which we
name 'car' and think of as a 'car' and use as a 'car,' but the
truth is that there is no 'car' there at all. According to
Buddhism, the same is true with the physical body and human ego,
or personality. While we are all willing to agree with the
physical body, which we observe falling to pieces after death, we
are not so willing to agree with the ego - the I or 'me' that wants
so desperately to survive the death of the gross body. The notion
of a surviving soul is almost universal, and Buddhism is one of the
few religions that teach that the soul has no Suchness; no reality
to it at all. To the question, 'Does the ego survive death?' a
Buddhist will answer, 'Does the fist survive when you open your
Now let's take a look at the idea of swabhava. According to
the famous Zen teacher, D.T. Suzuki:
"The term "sabhava" (self-essence or noumenon) is
sometimes used by the Mahayanists in place of
atman, and they would say that all dharmas have no
self-essence ... which is to say, that all things in their
phenomenal aspect are devoid of individual selves,
that it is only due to our ignorance that we believe in
the thingness of things, whereas there is no such
thing as svabhava or atman or noumenon which
resides in them."(4)
The key phrase in the above quote is "thingness of things."
There is no thingness of things (which is to say, no Suchness),
except in our own ignorance. What does western occultism say
about this? According to the theosophist, G. de Purucker,
"What makes a rose bring forth a rose always and
not thistles, or daisies, or pansies? The answer is
very simple; very profound, however. It is because
of its Swabhava, the essential nature in and of the
seed ... Swabhava, in short, may be called the
essential Individuality of any monad ..."(5)
"The urge behind evolution is not external to, but
lies in germ or seed within, the evolving entity itself;
both the urge and the seed arising out of one thing,
and this is its swabhava, the selfhood or essential
characteristic of the Self ... As every swabhava has
its original source in the core of its constantly
evolving monad, so every individual monad has its
own swabhavic spiritual magnetism, its
Here the key word is 'monad.' Buddhism calls swabhava
(sometimes spelled sabhava, or svabhava) an illusion born from
ignorance. G de Purucker calls it the essential individuality of any
monad. Buddhism doesn't use the term monad, so it is difficult to
say how a Mahayana Buddhist would consider the idea of monads
and monadic essence. But now we have introduced a new concept;
the individuality. This concept was strengthened by H.P. Blavatsky
"If twelve people are smoking together, the smoke
of their cigarettes may mingle, but the molecules of
the smoke from each have an affinity with each
other, and they remain distinct, for ever and ever, no
matter how the whole mass may interblend. So a
drop of water, though it fall into the ocean retains its
individuality. It has become a drop with a life of its
own, like a man, and cannot be annihilated."(7)
One is likely to ask how a drop falling into the ocean can
possibly retain its individuality? Obviously the physical drop of
water is no longer an individual drop of water - nor is it possible to
ever put the atoms back into place exactly to regain the lost drop.
However, she does not speak of the physical smoke or the physical
water - but of its monadic essence. The theosophical concept of
individuality (which H.P.B. clearly made distinct from the ego or
personality) is closely tied to the doctrine of monads. To return to
the idea of the ego being an illusion, H.P.B. said,
"... without an "I" no seeing or feelings would be
This idea was also expressed by Carl Jung who wrote,
"I cannot imagine a conscious mental state that does
not refer to a subject, that is, to an ego. The ego
may be depotentiated - divested, for instance, of its
awareness of the body - but so long as there is
awareness of something, there must be somebody
who is aware ... The fact that the East can dispose
so easily of the ego seems to point to a mind that is
not to be identified with our 'mind.'"(9)
The ego cannot conceive of an egoless consciousness. The
human mind cannot conceive of a state of consciousness without a
subject to be aware of it. Consciousness is always subjective.
However, Yoga and other schools have clearly demonstrated that
the ego can in fact be transcended - that consciousness goes right
on after the human mind has stopped thinking, but on another
plane. Carl Jung was on the right track when he says that the East's
egoless 'mind' is probably not our everyday human mind. Behind
the ego lies the Ego, behind the personality lies the Individuality,
behind the soul lies the Soul, and behind the human lies the divine.
Western magic and occultism says that subjective
consciousness always has a corresponding objective environment -
the two being opposite poles of a duality, so that we can not have
one without the other. The individuality paradox, that is, that the
ego seems real and yet has no reality to it at all, is resolved by
postulating a series of seven or ten or twelve cosmic planes, on
which we express ourselves with both a subject and object that
correspond to each plane. On each plane we have a sense of
identity, and a vehicle for that sense of identity to function within.
On the physical plane, for example, we have a human ego which
functions in a physical body. On each plane, the subjective self is as
'real' as its vehicle. On the physical plane the ego is as real as the
physical body. Both are a collection of parts, and therefore have no
Suchness. The Buddhist's swabhava is that which causes the sense
of identity on each plane. Obviously it is closely associated with
Maya, the cosmic principle that creates the manifested worlds as if
they had independent existence - an illusion because such
independent existence does not exist; on each plane, each objective
world is wholly dependent on its subjective observers.
The Buddhist view of One Mind can also be inferred from
the western occult teaching of monads. According to this doctrine,
everything on each plane of the manifested universe is built up of
monads, indivisible consciousness centers.(10) At the highest point
of the manifested cosmic planes, lies a Ring-Pass-Not. Below this
Ring monads have an individuality. As they drop below the Ring
from divinity and enter time and space, they take on swabhava and
as they descend the planes through manifestation and expression,
their sense of personal identity becomes stronger, and their sense of
separation becomes more acute. On the other hand, after eons of
self-expression, these monads rise through the planes and cross the
Ring-Pass-Not to return to divinity. When they do so they leave
time and space. Lets consider two such monads, very different in
their expressions on the planes, but when they rise above the Ring,
their difference disappears. Their "monadic essence" is identical.
The inherent essence of any two monads is identical (this is one of
the basic assumptions of the monad doctrine). Below the Ring, it is
time and space which separate the two and give the illusion of
difference. One is 'here' while the other is 'there.' One is 'now'
while the other is 'then,' and so on. The continuum of spacetime
makes it impossible for two things to be at the same place at exactly
the same time (this is a law of the cosmic planes of manifestation
below the Ring). However, when the two monads rise above the
Ring, and thus leave spacetime, this law no longer holds. The two
monads, with identical essence, exist in the exact same space and at
the exact same time. Where then is the difference? It can not be
determined by an outside observer. The separate minds of the
monads thus join the One Mind. The Two become the One. It is
no longer possible to tell if individuality is intact or not, because
such a concept no longer applies.
The above is obviously a simplistic overview of a very
complex subject. However, it should be enough to hint at answers
to the individuality paradox. What does modern psychology have
to say? According to psychologists, the ego or personality has
specific levels of development. Lets briefly discuss one leveling
scheme, that developed by Jane Loevinger.(11)
Psychologists are in agreement that we are all born without
an ego - without a sense of self-identity distinguishable from
our environment. As we grow, our ego grows and develops.
Loevinger has developed a cognitive theory of ego/personality
development that includes seven stages:
1. Presocial. This is the infancy stage where the infant is
fully dependent on care-givers for their identity. The pre-
social is the ego prior to socialization.
2. Impulsive. Young children at this stage begin to assume a
separate identity. This stage is characterized by self-
gratification and by filling personal needs. Actions are judged
good or bad solely on whether they are rewarded or punished. A
child's view of life at this stage is egocentric and concrete.
The impulsive stage is characterized by self-centeredness and
impulsive behavior. Although an early stage in ego development,
Loevinger found children, adolescents, and even a few adults in
3. Self-protective. Also called the "delta" stage because of
its transitional nature. In this stage one has a fear of being
caught, and attempts are made to evade blame by blaming others.
The ego at this stage is ruled by self-interest, and one will do
almost anything to satisfy their selfish desires. Relationships
with others center around control, domination, deception, and
getting into trouble. Rules are usually obeyed only to avoid
punishment. Many young children are at this stage. Adolescents
and adults who are "stuck" in this stage are usually
opportunistic and manipulative.
4. Conformist. The fourth stage is reached by most people
either during childhood or early adolescence. The ego in this
stage judges itself by external things - by possessions, status,
reputation, and appearance. Feelings are shallow, and inner
emotions are usually unconscious. Rules are obeyed because they
are rules, and obeying the law is seen as "the right thing to
do." The ego at this stage tries to avoid disapproval and shame
is felt when censured.
5. Conscientious. This, and the following stages, require a
degree of reflective thinking. Here the ego has discovered that
"the right way" may be relative to the context. They begin to
judge themselves by inner rules, not necessarily the rules of
their peers or authority figures. The ego at this stage is
capable of self-criticism. This stage is usually reached during
adolescence and is characterized by the development of a
conscience with self-imposed standards.
6. Autonomous. To reach this sixth stage, one must be able to
tolerate paradoxical relationships. At the autonomous stage, we
have a greater awareness of the inner conflicts between our
personal needs and our ideals and between differing perceptions
of the same events. The ego can tolerate and respect other
people's viewpoints, solutions to life's problems, choices of
friends, decisions about work, and so on. Instead of condemning
others, the ego can now sit back and allow others to make their
own decisions. This stage is characterized by the ability to
cope with inner conflicts and to respect the autonomy of others.
7. Integrated. The integrated stage is only reached when the
ego is able to fully respect and reconcile conflicting demands
within itself and with/between others. Not only are differences
tolerated, but they are valued. This stage, the highest
documented by Loevinger, is characterized by the ability to
integrate understanding of self with understanding of others. It
is reached only during adulthood, and according to Loevinger,
only 1 percent of all adults will reach this stage.
In addition to the theory, Loevinger devised a series of
test questions that will measure a person's level of ego
development. Although Loevinger's work remains a theory, recent
studies have demonstrated its value. For example, researchers
have found that delinquents score in lower stages significantly
more often than nondelinquent adolescents.
The idea that the human ego is not inherent at birth, but is
socially developed over time as we grow, is not a new discovery.
It is another way of describing the "social fiction" of Alan Watts.
This is a Buddhist teaching. The ego is created by society, and is
not a thing-in-itself. The human personality is not a real object that
lives after death and is reborn because the spirit takes on a new
personality/ego with each reincarnation. Most psychologists are
leaning toward the Buddhist idea that the ego is a process rather
than a thing.
This idea would seem to resolve the personality paradox.
1. THE LANKAVATARA SUTRA in Dwight Goddard (Ed.), A
BUDDHIST BIBLE (Boston: Beacon, 1970) p 282.
2. From the Pali Samyutta-Nikata, in Dwight Goddard (Ed.), A
BUDDHIST BIBLE (Boston: Beacon, 1970) p 38.
3. The Diamond Sutra, trans by Edward Conze, in BUDDHIST
WISDOM BOOKS, (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1966)
4. D.T. Suzuki, OUTLINES OF MAHAYANA BUDDHISM,
(New York: Schocken, 1967) pp 170-171.
5. G. de Purucker, OCCULT GLOSSARY, (Pasadena:
Theosophical University Press, 1972) p 166.
6. G. de Purucker, FOUNTAIN-SOURCE OF OCCULTISM,
(Pasadena: Theosophical University Press, 1942) p 198.
7. H.P. Blavatsky, THE INNER GROUP TEACHINGS OF
H.P.BLAVATSKY, (San Diego: Point Loma Pub, 1985) pp 84-
8. Ibid., p 76.
9. Carl Jung's Psychological Commentary in W.Y. Evans-Wentz,
THE TIBETAN BOOK OF THE GREAT LIBERATION,
(London: Oxford University Press, 1968) p xxxix.
10. See Gerald Schueler, ENOCHIAN PHYSICS, (St. Paul:
Llewellyn, 1988) pp 47-52.
11. Jane Loevinger, Ego Development: Conceptions and Theories,
(San Francisco: Jossey-Bass, 1976).
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