This paper points out the fallacy of believing that we have selves separated from the universe. It says that this belief in separated selves is the origin and nature of mental disorders. It says that to regain mental health that we must individually jettison our sense of separated selves and accept that we are all parts of one shared life; in human terms, one self; in metaphysical terms, the unified self and its unified mind.
The Psychology Of Not Identifying With A Separated Self
Ozodi Thomas Osuji
Western psychology and psychiatry has done an excellent work describing the various mental illnesses. Anyone who takes a look at the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of the American Psychiatric Association and other psychiatric nosological manuals will agree that the various mental disorders have been accurately described.
On the other hand, Western psychiatry has not yet figured out a way to heal the mentally ill. In the past the mentally ill were subject to psychoanalysis and that did not heal them, then they were subjected to behavioral treatment and that made no difference; now, they are given psychotropic medications and those do not heal them, either. Medications appear to mask the symptoms of mental disorders but do not heal them.
The question then is: can mental disorders be healed? In thinking about this question it dawned on me that the West has not really grasped the origin of mental disorders hence cannot heal them. The East appears to have a more correct understanding of man and his problems and if its conclusions are properly applied could provide better therapy for the mentally ill. How so?
The problem of human beings is that they believe that they have selves (separated selves) when in fact they do not have selves. The idea that we have selves is an illusion, in fact, a delusion. The individual does not have a self although he believes that he has a self.
When the individual’s illusion of having a self is, more or less, congruent with other peoples such illusions he is normal; when his sense of self is a bit too much he is neurotic and when he is full of his self he is psychotic.
There is no such thing as self and to believe that one has a self is to tell one’s self a lie. I do not have a self; you do not have a self; the idea that we have selves is delusional.
The world exists to give us the impression that we have selves when, in fact, we do not have selves. The human body is a device for giving each of us a feeling that he has a self when in fact he has no self. The human body affects the individual’s self-concept construction (society also does); there is no way an individual can be understood without understanding his body. In fact, the moment a child is conceived in a certain body his self-concept is shaped.
Body determines the self-concept (this gives the impression that genes determine self; this is correct if genes is understood as that which shapes body hence shapes the individual’s thinking but does not determine it). The human body influences the manner the individual conceptualizes himself, his self-concept and personality.
Ultimately, the individual does not have a self but he believes that he has one and it is this belief that makes him insane.
Insanity is the belief in what is not true as true. We do not have selves and we believe that we have selves hence we are insane!
For the individual to become sane he must totally let go of his belief that he has a self. He must jettison the idea of a personal self. One must accept that one has no separated self for one to be sane.
What is true is that the universe thinks through each of us. The universe thinks through me and you. We do not understand how the universe thinks through us but because we seem to have individuality as shown by our bodies we come to believe that we are the one doing the thinking.
Superficially I find myself engaging in thinking, such as writing this paper, and convince myself that I have independent thinking and independent self. I do not have independent thinking; I do not have independent self. The thinking that comes through me is not mine; it is the universe that thinks through me. The universe thinks through me, through you and through all people; none of us has ownership of his thinking.
It is delusional to believe that we have ownership of our thoughts. We must not take ownership and credit for our thoughts for they are not ours personally but belong to the universe that thinks through us.
I do not take credit for my thinking; I do not take blame for my thinking, either; the universe thinks through me and is responsible for my thinking and action. I deny responsibility for my thinking and action.
This position is in contradiction to extant society telling me that I am responsible for my thinking and action. Be that as it may, I am not responsible for my thinking and action, the universe is. I do not do anything; the universe does everything through the figment that I call me.
There is no such thing as me. The fact that I believe I have a self means that I am deluded. Human beings are deluded creatures because they believe that they have selves when in fact they do not have selves.
The above statements are assertions; this paper will try to provide supporting evidence for them.
ORIENTAL RELIGIONS AND THE SELF CONCEPT
Let us look at these Oriental religions and see how they are congruent with the idea that we do not have selves.
In Buddhist meditation the individual is told that he must empty his mind of his self; that he must have no self; that he must be a void. The idea is that to think that he has a self is to be self-deceived. He does not have a self and should not believe that he has a self; he must be emptied of all sense of self.
If you recall, Gautama Buddha was a young Indian who was said to have been prevented from being part of the world until late in his twenties when he was said to have sneaked out of his father’s rich mansion and for the first time saw people in different stages of suffering, saw poverty, disease, dying and dead people. Apparently, he was shocked by the suffering he saw and set out to go find out why human beings suffer.
After studying the various Hindu religious orders he decided that none of them gave him the answer he was looking for. He was said to have sat under the famous Bo tree and decided not to get up until he found the answer to suffering. He went for broke. He sat there and went into (raja yoga) meditation.
He was tempted by Mara, the evil one (his ego); he was told to give up his search for answers and return to the world and that the world would be given to him; that all political power, wealth and beautiful women would be his for the asking if he gave up the foolishness of trying to find answers to the mystery of being. He refused and did not budge.
Eventually, Gautama attained inner silence; he gave up all thinking and cognition and had an empty mind, a mind not clogged by ones preconceptions and presuppositions as to what reality is, a mind that accepts that it does not know what is real and what is not real and ask the universe to tell it.
He had relinquished his ego self and had no self. In the mind emptied of self-conception, conception of other selves and conception of anything and everything, in a mind freed from concepts, the reality of who we are dawned on it. He experienced nirvana.
That is, he realized that he has no separated ego self-housed in body, and that other people do not have separated ego selves housed in bodies; he recognized that the phenomenal world of things are not what we see them as; things are not what we conceive them to be. We do not know what anything is or means.
Things are different; in their reality all things are one thing; all things are joined as one thing; we are all part of that one joined thing, a thing that is not matter, space and time; a thing that is not in body; a thing that is everywhere and is everything; a thing that has no beginning and no end; a situation where one thing ends and another begins is nowhere.
Simply put, there is only one thing, one thing that is everything. We are that thing and it is us; we are in it and it is in us; we are in it and yet it is outside us.
The idea of having a separated self does not apply in that state of unity. There is only one life and that life is all of us; where one life ends and another begins is nowhere.
In human terms there is only one self and that self is simultaneously itself and each of us; it does not have individuality but in our world it gives the illusion that it has individuality, that it is each of us. The trick is for each of us to realize that we are that thing and that our sense of individuality is a delusion.
When Buddha had experienced Nirvana he got up from his meditation now an enlightened man. He began teaching what he learned and disciples gathered around him. He taught them the four noble truths: that life is suffering; that we suffer because we have desires (including the desire to live as separated selves housed in bodies) and that there is only one way to overcome suffering, to desist from desiring the self and the things of this world; but to live in this world it is impossible not to have desire since to live at all in the world one must desire it, if one did not desire to live in body one would not do what it takes to provide for one’s body: food, medications, clothes and shelter. Since we cannot completely do away with desire we can go ahead and desire but do so with detachment. Do not be attached to the fruits of what you desired so that if you do not get them you do not feel disappointed and frustrated. Work for what you want in the world but if you do not get it remind yourself that you can live without that thing. A detached mind is a tranquil mind.
Buddha also taught the eight paths to the four noble truths; those are moral teachings, such as love your neighbors, have compassion for mankind that gives itself pain by desiring to live in separated selves, do not speak ill of people and so on.
Buddha established monasteries where his displaces meditated and tried to get rid of their sense of separated selves and attain no self, hence peace and joy, bliss (aka Nirvana).
The above description of the goal of Buddhist meditation is also the goal of Hindu meditation. In Raja yoga meditation (Hinduism has five yoga: Jnana…the path of understanding God through thinking; Bhakta…the path of reaching God through worshipping him; Raja…the path of reaching God through meditation, the royal yoga; Karma…the path of reaching God through doing good deeds to people; and Tantra…the path of reaching God through love; there are other peripheral yoga, such as the exercise yoga called hatha yoga and the Indian traditional medicine called Ayurveda yoga) the individual is encouraged to sit quietly and tell himself that he has no self, that all the thoughts that he is conscious of are false. He is told that all concepts and ideas in his head are false. Whatever one can think of is not true. NetI, NetI, one of the Upanishads said; reality is not this, not that; ultimate reality is not anything that we can conceptualize.
One is not one’s self-concept and personality; one does not know who one is or who other people are; things are not the things we see; what things are, who we are we do not know.
If we do not know who we are then who are we? One is supposed to just empty one’s mind of all concepts and sits in silence and let things reveal their nature to one.
If one meets its condition one breaks through moksha and enters the state of Samadhi where one knows that one is one with all things; one is Brahman and Brahman is one (Brahman, the whole, is one with Atman, the part).
One self, Brahman, seems to have divided itself into parts, Atman’s, and those parts seem to dream and see themselves as separated ego selves (ahankara).
One self-dreams this world but is not its dream, not this world, for the world is a mere dream, illusion, fantasy. When one awakens from the dream of separation and multiplicity one knows that one is that self, the dreamer. That one self is eternal, permanent and changeless; it is all knowing, peaceful and happy.
If one attains this state one is said to have awakened from the dream of Maya and is now an enlightened self, an illuminated self; one is now self-realized.
A self-realized person knows that he is all selves and loves all selves to love his oneself; he teaches all selves that they are one self.
The goal of Zen and Taoism is similar: that is, to give up identification with the phenomenal self and accept no separated self and attain the awareness of a different self that is beyond the categories of this world.
The goal of the East is to transcend the phenomenal self and have no self as we understand self to be. This goal is based on the realization that to have a separated self is our main problem. We think that we have selves-housed in bodies and defend those selves with food, medications, clothes shelter etc. when, in fact, we do not have selves. The idea of having a separated self is an illusion, the illusion that maintains this world and keeps us going.
Helen Schuman, in her book, A course in miracles, articulated the eternal verities of Oriental religions in Christological language; she made it crystal clear that we do not have separated selves; that we are all part of one unified spirit self that she called Christ. She reinterpreted traditional Christian concepts and said that God is one and that he extended his oneself to his one son and the son then went to sleep and dream this world (in Oriental terms there is one Brahman, Brahman has parts called Atman; Atman went to sleep and dream this world of separation; in their dreams they see themselves as separated selves, ahankara, which Schucman called egos).
In his dream the one son of God now sees himself as the many of us. Each of us sees himself as separated from other selves and from God (in Hindu terms we cast Maya, magic, illusion, on ourselves and now see the jivatman as ahankara, the individualized God as separated from God and other individualizations of God).
Bodies (matter), space and time were designed by us to give us the impression that we are separated selves. We house each of us in a body and that self now believes that he begins and ends in the body he sees himself in; he sees his body as giving him boundary from other bodies; that is, he now believes that he is separated from other selves and from God.
We defend our seeming separated selves housed in bodies. Schucman said that we deliberately made our bodies vulnerable, made them capable of being hurt and pained; when we get hurt we see the source of the hurt as external to us hence as separated from us; we defend ourselves against the source of hurt (and in so doing maintain separation from that source, person).
Schucman wants us to stop defending our separated selves, to die to the ego self and its body so as to awaken to the awareness of unified spirit self, aka Christ self (in Hindu categories, the Atman).
A CREATION MYTH
As Schucman sees it, there is one self, God. That God extended his oneself to his son, Christ; the extender and the extended are one. God is in his son and his son is in him. Where God ends and his son begins are nowhere; God and his son share one literal self. (This is a non-dual monistic idealistic philosophy.)
God gave his son hos power of creation. Therefore the son of God creates like God created him. He creates his own sons, all of whom are part of him and God. In eternity, aka heaven, God and his sons are eternally creating, increasing the kingdom. Creation has no beginning and no end. Creation has always existed.
While in eternity and increasing the Kingdom of God with his creation, the son of God entertained the insane idea that since the only difference between him and God is that God created him that he ought to create God, create himself, as well as create his own creations without the power of God. This wish for self creation is impossible of attainment for God has already created the son of God.
So, what should the son of God do to gratify his wish for self creation? He went to sleep and in his sleep dream that he has separated from God and his real self and now created the phenomenal world, himself and everything in existence. The phenomenal world is the dream of the son of God, Schucman tells us. (What she did is transpose the Hindu idea that God’s parts, Atman, cast Maya on themselves and dream this world.)
THE CREATION OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
When the son of God seemed to have separated from him God created the Holy Spirit and as him entered the mind of his separated son, entered the temporal universe. The mission of the Holy Spirit is to awaken the sleeping son of God to his real self, unified spirit self. In the world, God the Holy Spirit leads his son to the awareness of his partship in God.
Resurrection is the waking up from death (the belief in separated self is metaphorical death; regaining awareness of union with God and all creation is redemption from death; other terms for this awareness is deliverance, healing, atonement and salvation).
Schucman reinterpreted the Christian concept of three selves in one God, Holy Trinity to mean that God the father created God the son and that God the son is the dreamer of the phenomenal world and that God created a third God, God the Holy Spirit, and as him entered the phenomenal world to awaken his son.
The same God is God the father, God the son and God the Holy Spirit. God the father remains in eternity (heaven), is the transcendental God; God the son is in this world as us but now seeing itself as separated from God hence is the ego; and God the Holy Spirit is in our minds trying to remind us of our true reality as the son of God.
Thus, in each of our minds are three parts: God the father, God the son, aka Christ (our true self) and God the Holy Spirit (reminding the sleeping self, the ego that it is false and that its reality is Christ, the son of God).
God the Holy Spirit is in our right mind as our Christ mind; the ego is in our wrong or left minds.
In eternity we have unified self and unified mind; unified mind is the mind that God and his sons share; none of us in time is aware of the unified mind (except in moments that Schucman calls Holy Instant…Hindu Samadhi… when we let go of our identification with the ego and momentarily experience eternity, heaven; she said that we attain that awareness when we forgive other people and the world the wrongs they did to us).
Schucman is teaching a non-dualistic, monistic idealistic philosophy that says that one self, God, is his son, is the Holy Spirit and is the dream self, the ego (except that the dream self, the ego is not real…the Hindu philosopher, Shankara wrote all these in the eight century of our common era; one often wonders if Schucman plagiarized Shankara but one will give her the benefit of doubt and conclude that the universe can similarly think through different authors; Schucmn claimed that her ideas came from Jesus Christ, and that she is a mere scribe for Jesus Christ; may be so; her Jesus Christ obviously thinks like the Hindu philosopher, Shankara).
There is only one self, God; that God operates in different phases: as the son of God, as the Holy Spirit and as the ego separated self.
Schuman employed Christian categories and gave them Gnostic and Hindu interpretations. Her thesis is that we do not have separated selves housed in bodies and should not defend those and that if we are defenseless we regain the awareness of unified spirit self (in Hindu categories, we experience Samadhi, the awareness that one, Jivatman, is one with Brahman).
A course in miracles teaches selflessness. It says that salvation entails giving up the self-concept that one made to replace the unified self that God created one as. However, to be on earth, a place of separation, one must have a self-concept, ego. What one can do, it says, is to gradually replace the ego separated self-concept with the Holy Spirit; that is, one should allow one’s self to be guided by the Holy Spirit and not guide one’s behaviors by the ego one made. It defines the Holy Spirit as the representative of God and his son, Christ, in the temporal universe; it says that since God is love, the Holy Spirit loves. The Holy Spirit is the agent of love in our minds.
Love is union with God and all his creation. To love means to forgive those who wronged one (and want one to counter wrong them hence push them away from one and in so doing retain separation from them). The Holy Spirit asks one to forgive wrong doers at all times and in forgiveness experience the love that one is always in while thinking that one is not loved.
We live in the presence of love, union, God while thinking that we are outside love, union, God. Forgiveness brings us to attenuated love; that is, love within the framework of separated self, love while one is still in body form. Forgiveness brings one to the gate of heaven but does not take one into heaven for heaven is a place of perfect union, joining where there is no separation hence no forms allowed.
To be in heaven one must completely let go of identification with body and separation and vanish into the formless self-called God. In heaven the son of God disappears into his father and his father disappears into him as both continue their unified existence.
That is to say that the ultimate mission of the course in miracles is to end ones identification with the ego separated self-concept and return one to the awareness of unified spirit self.
The course wants one to stop seeing one’s self as body and know one’s self as spirit and in so doing end the journey without a distance, a journey to nowhere for everywhere one goes is God. Thus, both the course and Oriental religions teach the same message of selflessness as salvation.
The course’s goal seems true except that it is difficult to let go of all sense of self and still be in this world; if one completely let go of one’s separated self-one would die and leave this world. That is actually what the course is aimed at; the course wants folks to exit this world.
A course in miracles aims at getting the individual to give up his ego self, his human personality. If the individual has no ego self he would exit the world of egos which is the world of perception. He would be dead to the world of separation, multiplicity, the world of you and I, seer and seen, subject and object, self and others and the world of perception; he would, as the course says, enter the world of knowledge, the world of God.
Honestly speaking, I do not know that the world of God exists or does not exist (I would have to take its existence on Schucman’s word; her word is not exactly much to go by since despite laboring for Jesus, as she said, her Jesus did not heal her cancer and she died from it).
Some of us are not in a hurry to exit from the world of separation, multiplicity and perception; we first want to improve it and make the most of it; it would probably keep us busy for the next millions of years understanding the science of how the world is put together so exiting the world is premature.
Those who want to be in body and its world of separation, study science and technology and use those to improve the world of space, time and matter do not find the course’s gospel of immediate leaving of this world appealing.