Understanding the Importance of Human Identity
The Second Great Question Concerning the Nature of Reality
TABLE OF CONTENTS
- Chapter 1 – Simple Reality: The Essence
- Chapter 2 – The True Self and the False Self
- Chapter 3 – Archetypes and Identity
- Chapter 4 – Typology and Identity
- Chapter 5 – The Shadow and Identity
- Chapter 6 – Mythology and Identity
- Chapter 7 – Insights
You can always count on Americans to do the
right thing—after they’ve tried everything else!
Whether we call them essays or 21st century parables, the contents of the three books in the trilogy each contain a map. They tell us where we are, where we might go and how to get there. They are designed to prepare us to enter a world radically different from the one we were born into. We can choose as individuals to move in a direction away from unnecessary suffering and as a human community to discover the wisdom necessary to create a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.
Once we have located where we are on the map, we experience a gradual shifting of identity, a new Self begins to emerge. Contrasting the old with the new Self, this book helps us solidify our new identity while being comfortable as the old self fades away. We have located where we are on the map of Simple Reality in reading the first volume Where Am I? and we can now set off with confidence in our ability to travel to our ultimate destination.
The true nature of anything is the highest it can become.
Identity is the experience of oneself in relation to the world. Our identity is our destiny because it determines our behavior. The process of building a survival strategy, the fruitless pursuit of security, sensation, and power, results from “who” we “think” that we are, not the result of who we really are, as we shall see. As Sakyong Rinpoche states so clearly: “Running around trying to alleviate our suffering obscures our true nature—basic goodness—which is clear and unchanging … The wisdom and love beneath the clutter of negativity are natural and permanent.”
How does Paradigm B (P-B) in general dictate one’s identity? The self tries to align the forms of the outside world with the self-image. Starting with the parents, then other family and community members, peers and on out to the surrounding culture in general, one seeks to align their identity with the exterior “reality.” A great deal of energy will be expended to accomplish this and failure to do so can lead to maladjustment and despair.
Many of us will experience the illusion that we have created a satisfactory adjustment to life in P-B but it will over time ultimately be unsustainable and unsatisfactory. Jungian Analyst, Dr. Edward Edinger, sheds light on this interesting relationship between illusory satisfaction in P-B and a more profound identity. “It is possible to be related, indeed lovingly related, to a particular religion, church or religious community without being contained in it. Containment is an unconscious phenomenon of psychic identification. One can be contained in a religion just as one can be contained in a family or other collective group. One then has no individual, living relation to the numinous archetypes. Relatedness to a religion, however, means connecting with it out of one’s individual numinous experience. In the latter case we have not a community of believers, but rather a community of knowers, or better, a community of individuals, each of whom is a carrier of the living experience of the Self.” An experience of the Self is the “feeling” experienced in the present moment. Therefore, a conventional P-B identity must be transcended to “attain the highest that we can become.
Once again let’s look at the self-destructive nature of materialism or identifying with “things” [security] or status in the community [power]. Robert Powell understood this when he wrote: “Thus, the discovery of what one is must mean the very opposite of fostering one’s sense of belonging, because it is a return to a state of total aloneness or Nothingness and thereby the destruction of all security.” The only true freedom and the related self-reliance comes from ceasing to identify with the false-self energy centers and putting out the fire of our old conditioning (the craving of security, sensation, and power) by refusing to feed it any longer.
Attaining a profound identity is less a process of attaining something as it is getting rid of something—dis-identification. During the process of Vipassanna or Insight meditation one is taught to dis-identify with emotions, thoughts and the body (body sensations). As challenging as that is, one still has to further dis-identify with the ego (no “I”), all form (everything is impermanent), and ultimately with suffering. Suffering of course exists but one must accept life as it is and in doing so transcend the ever-present “unsatisfactoriness” of life. In a profound meditation practice one will become the observer of all reaction and thus attain freedom from all craving and aversion.
Here is what often happens during meditation and what makes this practice so difficult for a beginner. When we identify with our body we create the suffering associated with aches, pains, itches and all other physical sensations, “pleasant” or “unpleasant.” All sensations are suffering because they become the occasion for craving and aversion. When we identify with the mind we subject ourselves to the suffering of the compulsive, neurotic and endless storyline of the fear-driven false self. When we identify with our emotions we are in an almost constant reactive state characterized by fear, anger, jealousy, paranoia, and on and on ad infinitum. It requires a strong commitment to sit through these experiences but the payoff is worth it.
A shift in identity is possible during meditation as one becomes the “observer” of one’s experience and stops identifying with the body, mind and emotions. This is an example of response instead of reaction. This creation of consciousness leads to enhanced power and freedom. This higher level of awareness has many practical benefits such as dealing with phobias as described by Edward Edinger “The ability to turn an unconscious complex which has one by the throat into an object of knowledge is an extremely important aspect for increasing consciousness … it is as though one who was fighting for his life in the arena were magically transported to the position of spectator—desperate reality becomes an image for contemplation, and the subject as ‘knower’ is removed beyond harm.” This is the incredible power of a profound meditation practice and should be the ultimate goal of any meditation, or prayer practice for that matter, regardless of what intermediate benefits are realized. To stop a practice before the “shift” to an observer consciousness is attained, before a new identity is realized, is to abort one’s journey before the destination is reached.
The teachings of all sages emphasize the importance of shifting identities and seeing reality from that new perspective. Jesus said to his disciples in Chapter 95 in the Acts of John: “A mirror am I to thee that perceivest me.” Edward Edinger explains that “In this text, Jesus is instructing the disciples how to separate subject from object, how to perceive experience as a mirror that provides an image of meaning rather than as chaotic anguish. This corresponds to active imagination or meditative reflection [response] which can turn an oppressive mood [reaction] into an object of knowledge by discovering the meaningful image imbedded in the mood.” What Edinger is describing here is in fact the Point of Power Practice.
The game is not about becoming somebody, it’s about becoming nobody.
Baba Ram Dass
This is perhaps the most challenging of the profound teachings of the mystics regarding identity. There is no “me” no “I” no separate identity that we commonly think of as the human personality. There is not even an “ego” around which the human personality is constellated in P-B because there is no P-B. All of this is part of the ultimate illusion of the deluded human mind which as we have learned has no substantial reality. Intuiting the principle of no “I” Marcus Aurelius understood that “… in a little time thou wilt be nobody and nowhere.” Jesus speaking in A Course in Miracles says that after death “… no trace remains of dreams of spite in which you dance to death’s thin melody … And then the Voice is gone, no longer to take form but to return to the eternal Formlessness of God.” True freedom can only be possible when we internalize the truth that we are not an ephemeral human body, mind or emotion-driven animal but we are pure energy, indestructible and existing in the eternal Now beyond the confines of time and space, beyond suffering and anxiety. That is our true identity.
To know men is to be wise;
to know oneself is to be illumined.
References available in Who Am I? Identity – The Second Great Question