Q’s Big Question

The question you asked was what is the personality or ego? In a book I have in my collection but is packed away somewhere, the author states the case of a girl child in America in recent years who was shut in with chickens and never spoken to, but simply fed. The child never became a persons. That and other cases given in Animal Children emphasis the need for language – “A tragic orphan brought up by a pack of wild wolves will never be able to live like a normal man, say doctors. The boy who REALLY danced with the wolves was aged about seven when he was found 29 years ago in the wastes of Southern Russia by a team of oil explorers. He howled like a wolf and savagely bit one of the oil men who christened him Djuma – the Wolf Boy.

Professor Rufat Kazirbayev said doctors had battled to re-educate him to act like a normal human being – but failed. They are now giving up the fight. Professor Kazirbayev said that, “His mind is with the wolves. He will howl at the moon for the rest of his life”. Djuma, now about 37, is still in hospital. He still crawls on all fours, eats raw meat and bites when frightened.”

Speech, language is a major factor in becoming a person, for when we are taught to speak we learn such words as I, Me, You and Us. These are concepts around which we can build the idea of personal existence. If they are not learnt in early years, as with Djuma, it is difficult to become a human with a personality. So we as a person do not simply exist because we were born, we were given a ‘soul’ a human personality by our parents or carers who taught us to speak – it was not God given.

Further information extends what was said.


One of the examples of this is told when the teacher asks the student to say what a house is. Gradually the student is led to see that it is a sum of parts, the bricks, the mortar, the wood, the nails, the windows, and so on. In breaking it down to its parts it disappears as a house. Similarly when human personality is looked at in the same way, it is not a stable reality, but a sum of parts. So the student is looking to see what lies behind the parts, until there is something indivisible. In fact some philosophy claims a self existent reality is discoverable as the noise of our thoughts and emotions are quietened. An example of this is described below, and excellently shows the sequence of such discovery.


Now an experience of touching the core self.

“I was sitting opposite someone during a meditation. We had been posing the question for days – ‘Who are you?’ Suddenly I realised that it was a silly question, because I was the answer. All thought stopped and I existed as the answer. My being had always been this. In this state there was an awareness of being connected with everything around me, in the beginning of creation, for I am a kin to all creatures in this wide garden which exist with me. This was the first day of creation because time didn’t have the same effect in this state. For in the state in which I had just left, time was simply the passing experiences, giving an sense if movement. Also I was aware of what I felt was a monkey running to keep up with what was the real me. It was what I had always thought of as the real me, and it was nothing but a monkey that wanted to be the real thing but couldn’t. The old me was a photocopy of everything we believe or think, not the reality. Our sense of what we see and the words we put to them are photocopies and yet we are so sure we know reality.’


Rudolf Steiner explains parts of this process very clearly. He points out that from conception through to death our physical body goes through a process of continuous change. There is never a moment when changes are not going on in the body. Also, part of this change is that physical impressions last for moments only. One impression gives way to another continuously through the day and the years. But as mentioned, something in our nature builds up a sense of self and meaning from these fleeting experiences. In fact, without these experiences through our senses we would not develop as a person. So in quite a real way our personality, or our soul as it used to be called, feeds on physical experience and develops a defined self from them. This is similar to the way the body builds up its defined shape through the continuous passage of food water and air — physical substance — through it. See: Rudolph Steiner’s Philosophy of Life and Death

So, in both cases, from ever-changing and transitory experiences, something more permanent is built. In the case of our physical self we build a body that has a certain level of constancy during change. With our personality or soul, we similarly build a sense of self from experiences we gained through our shifting physical senses. Again there is a level of constancy during continual change.

It is fairly easy to see that there is yet another level of this within our everyday experience. Our personality or sense of self that we build through our many and changing experiences, and that in itself is also changing, builds up concepts that are more lasting than the shifting sense impressions and ideas it experiences. As humans, in this way we have built up concepts about the physical nature of the world, gravity, music, astronomy and the many other things that can be passed from one person to another as ideas. Such ideas can survive not only during one’s lifetime, but pass from one person to another for immense periods of time. Here again we have constancy during change.

If we are lucky, during our lifetime we can observe that not only our physical experiences lead to the development of our personality; not only does our personality gather understanding from the many separate experiences we meet; but occasionally the concepts we arrive at are seen to gather into a higher synthesis again. At such times we glimpse or experience a universal understanding. We see how the everyday things that we experience, the concepts that arise from them, in some way connect with the universal principles in the cosmos and in life. With wonder we see that the ordinary everyday things and events around us are expressions of processes and human endeavours that flow through our lives from ancient times, perhaps even from the timeless.

This sense of the universal which in some cases is called enlightenment, or cosmic consciousness, is an experience of what has been called the spirit. In other words it is an experience of the constant underlying the ever shifting experiences of our body and our personality. And just as our personality gathers the shifting impressions of our senses into a realisation of its own continuing existence, so the spirit gathers experiences of the personality into its own continuity. This is like the tulip bulb hidden behind the short flowering of the tulip. The question to ask yourself is – What is it that in myself is the constant underlying the shifting experiences of my life?


A dream I experienced. I remembered a dream about a large house with the round turret on its roof. It was the house with large grounds and a pond, in which we had all bathed as children. There was also a section of the grounds that had been cultivated.

There were no direct associations I could make with the house or the pond in my dream, so I started allowing spontaneous material to enter into the dream, allowing my mind to roam freely and show me out of what images and feelings the dream had been fashioned.

I started with the pond and had the most unexpected set of fantasies and feelings bubble up from within. The garden I dreamt of when we were children referred to a condition of mind, which I now experienced, in which a group shared a common awareness, and felt at one with their environment. In other words, there was no separate identity. No one in the group knew themselves as an individual. I knew as I experienced this that it was about the early condition of human beings and was represented in the Bible as the Garden of Eden. It was about the history of our development as human beings. It showed me that in the early stages of evolution all human beings lived in a state of awareness in which they had no sense of separation from nature itself. They had no sense of individual existence either but lived in a sort of paradise where there was no idea of birth or death or right or wrong. They felt at one with each other in their small groups and with the forces of nature.

When I experienced this, I understood at last what the story of Genesis meant. It was about stages of psychological development, not physical or mythical history. Humans had come out of the pool though, out of the collective awareness, and at that point I experienced a mass of impressions and images I still cannot completely understand. The images suggested that at first, maybe one or two humans climbed out of that pool and experienced personal awareness and in doing so they left a mark. They climbed out of communal awareness and put one stone on top of another. The images developed further into suggesting that many ancient monuments were an expression of this enormous sense of the newly found identity – of personal existence.

I understood this to mean that one or two humans had achieved personal identity. In that state they realised something about themselves – they could say ‘I am’. They could ask ‘Who am I?’ That had never been possible before.

I need to say what arose in me were not those words or memory or vision of definite events, but a sense of touching or experiencing an overall memory, a vast overall process. So, I am trying to put into words what I sensed. It was such a wonderful thing, so full of experience, to see this that I want to try to describe it. At the same time, it was an immense process and difficult to capture.

What I felt was that the pool was a collective consciousness such as Jung speaks of, and that it still exists now in our unconscious. At the early stages of human development though, it was the everyday experience, but the individuals who attained self awareness began to build a new type of life. They left stone monuments, carvings, paintings in caves, stone circles, pyramids; each person, each group realising deep down that this new level of awareness was a thing to be developed and built upon. The Sphinx is an image of this half way state of human and animal; between the animal instinctive with no person awareness and yet with consciousness and human personal consciousness.

One way of understanding this might be in saying that just as your genetic material is the gathered experience of thousands of lives, so your personality is the gathered material, the essence of thousands and millions of experiences of this one life time; and your spirit is the gathered material of the finest realisations and concepts gathered by your personality. It is very likely that the cosmic processes that we experience as humans and see as universal in nature do not stop there but have yet a higher synthesis.


The essence of this is all in the New Testament where it says, “Everyone who hears these words of mine, and doesn’t do them will be like a foolish man, who built his house on the sand. The rain came down, the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat on that house; and it fell—and great was its fall.”

I believe most people do not really see the symbolic meaning in this parable, for our personality is an every shifting  and changing thing, given to great emotional pain; so building your trust upon it can lead to those things.


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