No matter what you do, you are stuck with yourself. You can pack it down, put a mask on it, cast a glamour over it, or lie your face off about it. But at the end of the day, when you climb into your bed, there you are. The farther away from yourself you are, the more wholly miserable your life will be, no matter what else you have. The more you ignore yourself, the less you will understand about yourself. The less you understand about yourself, the less possible it will be for you to understand your motives, control your actions, or to grow as a person.
Despite this, too many spiritual paths teach that destruction or nullification of our sense of self is a good thing. Somehow, being self-effacing and not having our own goals, aims and desires is praiseworthy. Not having opinions, not taking sides, not making any kind of judgements about anything is somehow a more evolved state than the alternative. And I will tell you why.
A Person With No Sense of Self Is Easily Controlled
A person with no sense of self, no opinions, no alignments, no convictions is a person who its easy to control. They have a self, I assure you, buried five layers deep. They have lost touch with their internal compass. They have no plans. All they do is react. They are reluctant to speak out against injustice, because their non-judgment dogma has warped them into thinking that the oppressor’s viewpoint is just as valid as that of the oppressed.
Losing touch with your sense of self means losing touch with empathy. It means losing touch with moral indignation. It means losing touch with everything inside of you with power to plan, to resist, to fight, to succeed.
Without A Sense of Self, Self Becomes A Stranger
When, at last, your long-neglected soul emerges from obscurity, you will not like what you see. To paraphrase Engewook from the Neverending Story: kind people discover that they are really cruel. Brave ones discover that they are really cowards. Confronted with their true selves, most people run away screaming at their image.
At the end of the day, you are the only person capable of growing and developing you. If you can’t see you, you can’t assess what you need in order to grow. No one can do your inner work for you.
A deity can’t change you into something or someone else. You might want them to, because you don’t want to be who you are. They can’t. It doesn’t work that way. There are hundreds of people who tried to “pray the gay away.” No dice. The fact that it doesn’t work has been clinically proven. The damage it does is statistically measurable.
Initiation can’t change you into someone else. No, not even alchemical initiation. That’s not how it works. You don’t do Plant Alchemy to turn bay leaves into a zebra. The Alchemical Process makes bay leaf into the purest distillation of the essence of Bay Leaf.
Apotheosis doesn’t change who you are, either. It just makes you more of what you are already.
Without A Sense of Self, You Cannot Know Your Purpose
The essence of you is not incorrect, or wrong, or in need or erasure, regardless of what the various clergy people, or your family, or your teachers in school led you to believe. Your life’s journey isn’t to become someone else. It’s to become the best version of the person you already are.
You are here for something. You are here to do something that, I believe anyway, you chose. The self that you have is right for that purpose. The hard part is actually just figuring out what the purpose is. You’ll know it when you find it, because your heart will sing, you will feel complete, and no source in Heaven or Earth or Hell could ever separate you from it.
You took with you into this life only what you needed. Who you are and what you can do is tailored to that specific purpose. If you try to ignore your sense of self, you cannot possibly know what you came here for.
Your purpose is not a deity, though sometimes a deity can represent your purpose to you (if their purpose and yours are similar). It is not another person. It is not some particular religion. It is not a job or a career. These are things we tell ourselves because they are easy to latch onto. I’m not saying that they are unimportant. They’re plenty important. They can each, in their own way, be an expression of your purpose. But if your deity up and leaves you forever, or you get divorced, or your children grow up and leave the house, or you lose your job, your life isn’t actually ruined. It’s not time to give up and die.
It’s better to absorb this truth early. If you don’t, you will almost certainly lose each of these things in turn along your spiritual path. And people do. And they call it “resistance” or “karmic acceleration” or “ordeal work.” They falsely believe that it is the suffering that’s important, and teaches the lesson. Au Contraire. What is important is re-connecting with the self, and sometimes, the only thing that our powers can do for us is to take things away until we have nothing left but self, in the hopes that with fewer things to confuse us, we’ll finally take a look in the mirror.
Sometimes, you need to find yourself to find your purpose. Sometimes in finding your purpose, you find yourself. The whole Big Fucking Deal about Knowledge and Conversation with your Holy Guardian Angel is just that. It’s about finding your purpose and yourself.
Without A Sense of Self, We Are Shitty Mediums
I promise you this: you will never achieve true knowledge of what is other until you know what is self. In order to discern what is a deity or spirit talking, you need to be intimately acquainted with your own inner voices, so that when you hear them, you will know that it is not deity, no matter how closely that aspect of yourself may resemble a particular deity.
No, you cannot just erase yourself. Not even temporarily. Certainly not permanently. No, your soul never goes to sleep. No matter how deeply you are in trance, you can never silence your true spiritual essence. You can only perceive what is self, and what is other, and emphasize the expression of self, or other, as needs dictate.
Recall the days of your youth. When you were coming to terms with potty training, you fixed and joked about all things excretia. In adolescence, the changing of your body and sexuality, these things were the “big thing” that you focused on, talked about and processed. Self-absorption is completely inevitable until we fully self-actualize, and come to terms with having a unique and independent self.
Until the understanding of self is achieved, we cannot do anything other than create gods in our own image, since the struggle to self actualize occludes any ability to understand other. The true face of divinity can only be perceived after finding the true face of the self.
And if you hate yourself, if you are trying to get rid off yourself, you have already lost that struggle.
So make peace with yourself. Resolve to accept that you love what you love, care about what you care about, value what you value. Be delighted by what delights you unapologetically. Cling to your ideals with the full force of your being. Pursue those virtues you honestly hold in high esteem with all the zeal and vigor you can muster. Love the heart, mind, and body you have. Don’t let anyone ever tell you that you are deficient because you aren’t someone else. You do not owe it to anyone to be someone you are not.
My shorthand way of doing some of what you mention above: if a “spiritual person” (leader, teacher, priest, etc.) in some tradition tells me that I either need to “give up my ego,” or–worse!–to “get out of my head” in order to really get what they or their tradition are teaching/doing/pushing at that moment (often with a hefty price tag attached!), I know it’s not right for me. Any religion or spiritual practice/tradition that first wants me to give up my “critical and intellectual capacities” before they make me swallow their Kool-Aid is one that is not going to be good for me. Either a tradition takes account of my intellectual abilities (which can be over-exercised in certain instances to the point of being non-useful…but that doesn’t happen too often!) and sees they are a part of my composition and have been since I was a very young child (3 or so), or they don’t, they demean these things, and I avoid them. Same with what they call “the ego,” but which when I have expressed it is often things like “I have neuropathy, so I’m not going to run in the grass barefoot with you when I can see there’s rocks and other junk in some parts of it,” or “I know my physical limits, and this will interfere with my functioning.” If it’s especially bad, being asked to ignore or “give up” certain other aspects of one’s identity for the “privilege” of doing whatever-they’re-pushing is in the same category, too.
In any case, good stuff! 😉
“Any religion or spiritual practice/tradition that first wants me to give up my “critical and intellectual capacities” before they make me swallow their Kool-Aid is one that is not going to be good for me.” — BOOM. Yes, that exactly.
Thank you for posting this. I’ve been in kind of dark place lately and I think this really helped. Just wanted to send you my appreciation.