Who Am I – Who Are You?

M. I’m going to start the discussion by introducing a general term of the self and what we mean, whether there is such a thing as self.

T. Are you talking about our sense of self, our ego, or are you talking about this mystical term like Jung does with a Capital S the Self?

M. I think its both of what that means to you, if you as a person see yourself in that very spiritual way and that is the way that you get your identity of knowing your self then it may obviously be an important meaning for you. Perhaps it is that both are totally connected.

T. I feel that if I look at myself carefully or look at what I see as my sense of self I see that I am an interface between two very big opposites, a very down to earth, every day self. This arises out of impressions and experiences that come from my senses or my ability to sense. If I didn’t have these senses, if I was totally blind and couldn’t feel as well, if I was totally cut of from the world, then my sense of self perhaps wouldn’t exist at all in the way that it does now. In fact I would be without consciousness and without that I would not be aware of my own being , the world other people – zero.

So that is one opposite and one that I identify with in waking life. On the other side of it, I have the impression that many people don’t see a certain aspect of themselves. When people sleep they actually have an experience of not existing. If I put that in another way, they have an experience of being ego-less. And although that’s a sort of a shadow land, in a way that people tend to say that “I just slept, nothing happened”. Yet the more I consider it the more I see it as full of experience and impressions, some of which filter into dreams. In my life I have been as much influenced by the things that occur in that shadow land as by things that occur in the exterior sensory world of experience. That is partly because at about 16 I was able to remain aware even in dreamless sleep. And also in later years through deeply exploring dreams I was able to see that the shadow land, the void as it is sometimes called is full of experience.

In 1953, when I was sixteen, and already deeply interested in the possibilities of the human mind, I took a course in deep relaxation. I practiced every day for three months, tensing my muscles, relaxing them, then passing my awareness over and over my body, dropping the feeling of tension. After three months I was quite proficient. One evening, after coming home from dining out with friends, I went to bed thinking I would not do my usual practice, but in the end decided to practice even though it was late. After going over my body several times I suddenly lost my right arm. I had no sensation of it other than space, hugeness. Then I lost my left arm, and – my whole body. It was like falling through a trap-door into the stars. I had no sense of having a body. Thoughts had ceased, except for a murmur apparently a thousand miles away. Yet in blackness, in immensity, in absence of thought I existed vitally as bodiless existence. We think that we are our body because we have no other experience of our existence. So we identify with our body and so are terrified of dying – which in a sense is what we do every time we go to sleep and leave our sense of a body behind.

I realise that what I describe must seem like a strange and even imaginary world to many people – except that it isn’t. But many people do not give three months of their life in everyday practice at the age of 16 to break through the barriers of our physical senses.

But there is a huge misunderstanding about what we are. Most people are certain they are their body full stop. But wait, you are only aware of having a body because of consciousness. Without consciousness you have no body; in fact the whole world and everything you have experienced in it has only been real because of your consciousness. Obviously people argue that consciousness exists because we have a body and brain and only existing in a three dimension world, but that does not explain my and others  experience of waking in a world of no body and immense awareness. See OBE

So in general I see the sense of myself as Tony as actually arising out of two sources, and continually arising, continually being, and producing this sense of self. Then I have a differentiation in that, because through language and thought we have this knowledge that we are going to die, through a speculation of what happens if the self that I know through my senses disappears, what is left?

I do have a sense of a core self. Lately I’ve tended to use slightly different words to describe this core. It is something that exists and is self existent. It doesn’t depend upon what occurs in a transitory way, for instance through senses and impressions. These are always changing. Every moment they are new. So the sense of the self-existent core that is unchanging and not influenced by the appearing and disappearing of sensory impressions and the psychic life of thoughts and emotions, and the ever changing flow of the senses and psychic life, produce various ways in which we experience ourselves. The core, the centre, doesn’t seem to have a sense of ego or self as I know it. The very best experiences of this suggest that I Am That. In other words I am not an individual at all. I am the very process that exists in all beings. I ‘Am that I am’. I am the process that exist in all the phenomena in the world.

Copyright © 1999-2010 Tony Crisp | All rights reserved