What Is The Self ? – Part 2
What Is The Self?: Part Two:
In the earlier stages of the development of 1875 Theosophy, it was sometimes called Esoteric Buddhism; partly to distinguish it from the nihilistic forms of Buddhism which deny the existence of the real Self. For Theosophy and Mahayana Buddhism there is a real reincarnating Self that is not reducible to mere skandhas or karmic conditions.
Theosophy understands that when awareness is limited to the fourth principle and its three lower vehicles; the ‘lower’ self can arrive at the conclusion that the self is a mirage or epiphenomenon produced by purely cultural, biological and neurological forms and experiences. It is this mistake about self identity that empowers nihilistic Buddhism and indeed nihilism in general.
For theosophy the answer to the apparent enigma of the Self is not less conscious awareness but more, and heightened awareness. While nihilistic Buddhism and crass materialism, continues to lead those of a reductive persuasion astray; nihilism has also begun to gain the semblance of scientific respectability in the theories of Eliminative Materialism, which is also called eliminativism.
For eliminativism the Self is nothing more than an illusion produced by the clusters of neurological reactions and responses taking place in the brain. The entire history of the Self spanning over two and a half thousand years in the west is a universal illusion on par with the illusion that the Sun once revolved around the Earth which was thought to be flat. There is no Self only neurological events which we mistake for a Self.
The complexity of the brain and neurological system is rapidly being mapped and the various specific areas responsible for the complex range of perceptions and responses inherent in human neurological and sensory experience are being identified and understood within the paradigm of materialism. However the one thing that remains elusive, naturally enough is the Self.
Human subjectivity whether we define it as merely psychological or are capable of apprehending spiritual subjectivity is nowhere to be found in the brain or in the neurological system. Subjectivity is unique and ultimately immeasurable in each and every human individual. Eliminative materialists, unable to account for the Self have decided to deny its existence all together. This is dogma and not science. Those scientists who remain true to pure science would never make nonscientific statements based on flimsy evidence and reductive inferences:
“The sensation of colour cannot be accounted for by the physicist’s objective picture of light-waves. Could the physiologist account for it, if he had fuller knowledge than he has of the processes in the retina and the nervous processes set up by them in the optical nerve bundles and in the brain? I do not think so.” ~ Erwin Shrodinger.
The very notion of ‘materialism’ is problematic for theosophy because theosophy denies the very existence of dead or totally unconscious matter. For theosophy all matter, energy and space is both spiritual and material; having arisen out of an eternal spiritual source. Science functioning in the areas of consciousness where the ‘lower’ and ‘higher’ minds meet is not subject to error if it remains true to the scientific method. Science is however limited by the level of consciousness or manas, at which it is currently functioning.
The Self in every individual is an undeniable subjective event which is simply unreachable by current science. The human being is both mortal and immortal. The Fourth principle is subject to the mortality of the “three bodies” but the inner centre of the Fourth is immortal to the extent to which it has assimilated and integrated into itself the influences of the higher Self.
The 4th Principle or Personal Self is a real level of the immortal higher Self, it has agency and free will. It is not powerless in the face of any psycho-spiritual condition, even though it may be unable to alter purely biological conditions such as allergies or other chronic physical illnesses or conditions. The more attuned the personal Self becomes to its higher Self the more free and decisive it becomes.
The Fourth principle lacking a conscious magnetic connection to its higher Self is a natural nihilist, psychologically vulnerable to reductive notions about the meaninglessness of existence. In a world where Atheism is everywhere promoted as the intelligent persons response to traditional religion nihilism in its various stages spreads.
Theosophy doesn’t support the exoteric and shallow dogmas of any of the religions, but does however affirm that the human being is a complex spiritual being; found currently on earth at the mid stages of its development. At this mid stage of human spiritual development where original living thought is still beyond the reach of the majority of people, and where the content of the human mind is still at the ‘received information’ stage, the human being is highly vulnerable to misinformation and propaganda of all kinds.
The fact however remains that the human being is a Self a spiritual Self. In part three of this writing we will look directly into what theosophy calls the “Higher Self”.
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