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Notes to Transformation - Chapter 20 - THE SELF


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The Self is an aspect of the divine. In the form we know them, neither soul nor ego can come any closer to God than the Self. It embodies everything that is conscious and unconscious. United with the Self we make decisions with full knowledge of how the outcome will affect every living creature. The Self is the source of beingness, spontaneity and authenticity. The Self brings us the fullness of who we are. It is the embodiment of "being in this world but not of it". The Self is our highest potential and the Pearl beyond Price.

The Self has nothing to do with any qualities, functions, capacities or skills. It has nothing to do with our status in the world and nothing to do with living this life in a body or not in a body. The Self unites all opposites within us: of light and dark, good and evil, masculine and feminine, conscious and unconscious, in the dialectic paradox expressed by Jung in "no tree can grow into heaven unless its roots also descend into hell". Where the ego feels happiness, the Self knows ecstasy. Where the ego reacts to experiences the Self just is. Where the ego would project and dump, and where the soul brings intuition and wisdom, the Self is all love.

Since the baby has no self-awareness, the Self at birth is only potential as the sum of all those elements that were capable of wholeness. It is visible in the baby’s natural authenticity. Being bombarded with the energetic nodes of the people to whom he was still merged and feeling increasingly hollow and alone, the power that gave him life in the first place was transformed into a guardian that tried to protect him from hurt. The authority of this innate Selfhood was redirected very early. From being the unquestioned core of the infant’s integrity it turned at bay to shield him against a threatening world and became what Freud called the super-ego and Hal Stone the inner critic.

One of Jung’s most beautiful gifts was his understanding that if we deal with the critic we are transforming the God energy itself and opening the doorway to the Self. He wrote: "so long as the Self is unconscious, it is a source of perpetual moral conflict. If, however, it is withdrawn from projection and is no longer identical with public opinion, then one is truly one’s own yea and nay. The Self then functions as a union of opposites and thus constitutes the most immediate experience of the divine which it is psychologically possible to imagine."

We can know the Self only through our soul. In the very act of reconnecting with our soul the process of opening to the Self begins. The critic will be transmuted by the heat of the soul’s longing that has been rekindled by our own longing. Our task as the competent servant is to support the soul with care: "If thou lovest Me not, My love can in no wise reach thee." From here on there really is nothing more we can do. We cannot force the Self, but only keep our house in order and wait patiently. I have had great support from these words of Bhagwan Rajneesh: "Forget all about God - to come or not to come is His business. Why should you be worried? Leave that to Him. You just prepare the way in emptiness, trust and gratitude." Why should we be worried, indeed.

To induct the Self it helps to bring four things into consciousness - the mature ego as competent servant, the once-unconscious material in the shadow, the soul’s longing and the great archetypes. Holding these four with all their opposites present will leave space for the Self to emerge. The emerging Self then supports the ego to gradually assimilate the full vastness of the collective unconscious without fear of being overpowered or identified with its content. The more this assimilation takes place the more the mature ego and the soul become like the Self. At the same time the servant does not merge with his master, but remains separate. If the ego or the soul get taken over by the Self we may, because it is pure spirit, become less human and find we are enjoying our lives less. We need to keep the space to be human. We are on the journey and we "continue to chop wood and carry water", as a Zen master said.

If, on the other hand, the ego identifies with the Self, the ego will become inflated and possessed. This is a psychic catastrophe. The ego is not the Self. The Self is separate and God-given and can be present in us only if we are ‘invisible’. When we stop resisting and end the ego’s game of self-importance there is room for the Self. The ego can never be the Self, it can only be like it.

It is important that the ego remain competent, strong and healthy without being attached to the outcome. By becoming the good servant we prevent the smugness that may come from believing otherwise. Humility is the key to avoiding inflation, a humility that "detaches us from that absorption in ourselves which makes us forget the reality of God. Humility gradually pulls down the edifice of illusory projects which we have erected between ourselves and reality. Humility finds and saves us in the midst of a hopeless conflict; saves us by a salutary ‘despair’ in which we renounce at last the futile struggle to make ourselves ‘God’. When we achieve this final renunciation we plunge through the centre of this humility to find at last the Living God." Thomas Merton


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