Monday, 8 July 2019

The problem of false selves

One of William Arkle's core insights is that - in normal, everyday life - people act from a multitude of false selves. The true self, which is of divine origin and potentially able to become a god, is what makes us what we are - but it may be completely buried beneath false selves; the true self may be utterly ineffectual.

These false selves are of many types. Some are the collections of traits - hereditary and socialised - that constitute our 'personality' as described and measured by psychology. Others are that mass of automatic, robotic skills and responses that we learn to deal with the problems of living; including skills like typing or driving, small-talk and routine social interaction.

You can see that false selves are the totality of what a person presents to the world; and usually also everything that a person is aware of in himself, insofar as he is aware of anything. So, our consciousness is not the same thing as our true self, because it may be unaware of the true self, may even deny the reality of any such thing as a true self.

False selves are therefore necessary but a problem, because whenever we make an effort to change ourselves in any way, the probability is that this will be a matter of one or more of the false selves trying to change us in a superficial and false direction.

This is why methods of meditation,. methods of self-improvement, will-power... all such endeavours are nearly always ineffective. It is just a matter of distorting ourselves by exaggerating one or more false selves.

And how can we consciously strive to discover and nurture our true self, when the striving is being done by a false self?

Or if we try to relax and let-go the true self; simply 'allowing' the true self to emerge from under the false ones; there is a likelihood that we will instead be releasing one or more of the false selves...

The problem is not insoluble, because it has been achieved by others (and perhaps even by our-selves, albeit infrequently and briefly); but Arkle makes clear that there is no method to it; and indeed part of solving the problem is to recognise why there is no method. We must 'quarry out' our real self from the false ones, by some kind of trial and error - discovering what works for us, here and now; but never able to make the process a standard one.

The answer can be summarised as 'intuition' - but that is just giving a name to the fact that there is no method. But the start of a solution is to define the problem - and after that to recognise when the true self is emerging and strengthening. And this can be done by learning to recognise the uniquely self-validating quality of the true self.

Once you know it is there, real and vital - we can feel the reality of the true self in an absolutely distinctive way - even though we cannot describe it.