Integration of Personality into Being:
An Object-Relations Approach
Het werk dat u hier in handen heeft is bijzonder in de wijze waarop het de veelomvattende theorie ontvouwt van de persoonlijkheid die gegrond is in een dimensie van zijn. Een dimensie die veelal boven normale begrip van het ego en de identiteit uitstijgen.
Binnen een context van moderne psychologische proces beschrijvingen wordt een spirituele ontwikkelingsweg duidelijk die omschreven kan worden als een psychologische gefundeerde spiritualiteit.
De kennis vanuit het diamantbewustzijn is een veelzijdig inzicht in het wezen van de mens, zijn bewustzijn of psyche en zijn vermogen tot het vergroten van zijn mogelijkheden qua ervaring en innerlijke ontwikkeling.
Het diepe spirituele en psychologische inzicht dat Almaas in dit werk geeft, plaatst hem in de voorhoede van een nieuwe beweging in de psychologie, die put uit de praktijk en het inzicht van de oude en nieuwe oosterse tradities evenals het beste van de serieuze psychologiestudent is veel te leren van dit werk.
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The Man of Spirit and the Man of the World
At a certain age, very early on in life, each one of us becomes aware of himself or herself as a walking, talking, thinking, feeling being—in short, as a living person. It is such a luminous discovery, but it quickly becomes dull with familiarity. Then we live our lives as if we now know what it is to be human, as if maturing were only a matter of becoming more of what we think we are already. The mystery is gone, and life becomes tedious and repetitive.
In this book we want to lift off the veil of familiarity. We want to inquire into the mystery of being a human being, a person. We want to explore the potential of being human. What is the extent of this potential? What is a truly mature and complete human being like? How will he and she experience themselves and the world, and what kind of lives will they lead?
We begin our enquiry by contrasting two poles of human experience. At one end of the spectrum is the experience of what we will call "the man of the world," the individual who is busy living a personal life, trying to find personal fulfillment, working on strengthening and expanding himself. It is an accepted and approved concern for a human being, in most societies, to seek personal happiness, fulfillment and autonomy, in the process of building a personal life, as long as it is not at the expense of others. This has become the dominant view of man in modern societies. The personal life is the core of most human activities; what is called a public life is still a personal life, related to the person, and lived for persons. In our exploration we will examine in a new light the conviction that living a personal life centered around the person is its own value and end.Contrasted to the perspective of the man of the world is the view of what we will call "the man of spirit," which considers a higher spiritual reality to be the true and proper center of real human life. The most profound teachings regarding human nature, those of the most accomplished and liberated of human beings, of the founders of the major religions, spiritual movements and philosophical systems point clearly, unequivocally and exclusively towards the life of selflessness, egolessness and surrender to a higher reality. One teacher after another, one great religion after another, one moral philosophy after another, extol the life of spirit—in which personal life is subordinated to a higher spiritual reality—as the highest and most refined, most fulfilled and only true life for man. Humanity is exhorted to move towards making the personal life be governed by spiritual values, and towards embracing the universal and impersonal truths, which are beyond self and personality.
Thus, the main difference between the perspective of the man of the world and that of the man of spirit is that the first considers the separate personal self to be the center of life, and personal life to be its own value and end, while the latter makes a higher reality to be the center of life, and believes that the personal life must be subordinated in relationship to such a higher reality. In Luke 9:23 Christ states:
"If any man would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it; and whoever loses his life for my sake, he will save it."
In Islam, the Koran asserts a similar stance. For example, in the following passage, the statement is that dying for God is the right course, implying that the personal life in this world is not as important:
“And do not speak of those who are slain in Allah's way as dead; nay (they are) alive, but you do not perceive.
Who, when a misfortune befalls them, say: Surely we are Allah's, and to him we shall surely return.
Those are they on whom are blessings and mercy from their Lord, and those are the followers of the right course.”
The Far Eastern spiritual traditions go even farther than the prophetic tradition in denying the importance of the personal life. In the Dhammapada, a major Buddhist canon, the Buddha states:
“No one is higher than him,
who will not be deceived, who knows the essence,
who has abandoned desire, renounced the world,
and lives untouched by the flow of time.”
[Translated by P. Lal, The Dhammapada, p. 72]
Nevertheless, the life of the man of the world consists largely of the fulfillment of personal desires. The personal self is the sense of being a separate entity. It is not only valued; its real existence as an entity is taken for granted by virtually everyone. This personal self has been the focus of study of Western depth psychology, ego psychology, object relations theory, developmental psychology, self psychology, etc. An eminent psychologist says in a book devoted to its study:
“While no one can agree on exactly what the self is, as adults we still have a very real sense of self that permeates daily social experience. It arises in many forms. There is the sense of self that is a single, distinct, integrated body; there is the agent of actions, the experiencer of feelings, the maker of intentions, the architect of plans, the transposer of experience into language, the communicator and sharer of personal knowledge.” [Daniel N. Stern, The Interpersonal World of the Infant, p. 5]
Western psychology shares the common cultural perspective that the self is and must be the central axis of life. Its view regarding the personal self can be seen as the expression and crystallization of the view of the man of the world cast in scientific language. It considers mental health the expression of a strong, cohesive personal self with a separate sense of identity. The founder of self psychology puts it this way:
“Mental health is often defined by analysts, in harmony with the remark ascribed to Freud (Erickson, 1950, p. 229), rather loosely and extrascientifically as a person's ability to work and to love. Within the framework of the psychology of the self, we define mental health not only as freedom from the neurotic symptons and inhibitions that interfere with the functions of a "mental apparatus" involved in loving and working, but also as the capacity for a firm self to avail itself of the talents and skills at an individual's disposal, enabling him to love and work successfully.” [Heinz Kohut, The Restoration of the Self, pp. 283-284]
The importance of the self for object relations theory in terms of understanding psychopathology can be seen in the words of James Masterson:
“However, this additional dimension of a focus on the self (defined as an intrapsychic entity), when kept in concert with the other perspectives of developmental object relations theory, can lead to a broader, more inclusive and comprehensive concept of the borderline and narcissistic disorders as disorders of the self.” [James F. Masterson, The Real Self, p. 19]
An important part of our exploration in this book will be to study in detail and in depth the findings of depth psychology, especially those of object relations theory, and relate them to the spiritual perspective of the man of spirit. In fact, such findings will aid us tremendously in understanding the various levels of the spiritual view of man, as we will see in subsequent chapters. In this chapter we are describing in some detail the perspective of the man of spirit because it is less known or understood. In Chapter Two, we will focus in more detail on the perspective of the man of the world and its center, the personal self, by discussing how it is understood by object relations theory.
The man of spirit not only subordinates the self to a higher reality, but sometimes goes further to deny its fundamental existence. The highest realization in Buddhism, for instance, is that ultimately there are no separate, independent and intrinsically existing persons. The Buddha repeatedly stated this as in the following passage from the Diamond Sutra: "It is because no Bodhisattva who is a real Bodhisattva cherishes the idea of an ego-entity, a personality, a being or a separated individuality." [Translated by A. F. Price and Wong Mou-Lam, The Diamond Sutra and The Sutra of Hui Neng, p. 26]
Lao Tzu, the legendary founder of Taoism in China, the reputed author of the Tao Teh Ching, equates trouble with the belief in the individual self; in one of the stanzas in the book, he observes:
“People are beset with great trouble because
they assert that there is an individual self.
If they take nothing personally, then
what can they call trouble?”
[Translated by Ni Hua-Ching, Complete Works of Lao Tzu, p.9]
These two approaches to human life are diametrically opposed to each other. The most well-known profound teachings about human nature point one way, and humankind in general is going another way, or at least so it seems.
The contradiction between the two perspectives is not only an appearance; it is quite real and has far-reaching consequences for human life and for the course of human evolution. They are divergent paths, each with its own values, aims and consequences.
One might be tempted to believe that the spiritual teachings are simply the opinions or beliefs of certain individuals or religious systems, which are not meant to apply to all people. But this is far from the truth. All major spiritual teachings stress impersonality, universality, selflessness, egolessness and the denigration of the personal. It is true that the various traditions differ in their emphasis and outlook; but they all extol selflessness, egolessness and the surrender of personal life to higher reality. The Far Eastern traditions generally see the ultimate human nature as impersonal and universal. Enlightenment, and hence, liberation and fulfillment are seen to be the consequence of realizing that the individual is a
mistaken idea and that his true nature is the ultimate truth, whether that is seen as God (Hinduism), Tao (Taoism) or the Void (Buddhism).
The prophetic religious traditions (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) consider the human being an individual soul who needs to live a life of surrender to God's will, egolessness, selflessness and virtue. Reward is understood to come in the afterlife. Jesus Christ, in his Sermon on the Mount, makes this clear:
“Happy are you when men insult you and mistreat you and tell all kinds of evil lies against you because you are my followers. Rejoice and be glad, because a great reward is kept for you in heaven.” [The American Bible Society, The New Testament, p. 9]
However, the mystical side of the prophetic tradition tends to be closer to the Far Eastern view of the ultimate nonexistence of the person. Mystical Christianity conceives of God as the ultimate ground and being of the individual, as the following text clearly indicates:
“He is your being and in him, you are what you are, not only because he is the cause and being of all that exists, but because he is your cause and the deep center of your being...
And thus, also, he is one in all things and all things are one in him. For I repeat: all things exist in him; he is the being of all.” [Edited by William Johnston, The Cloud of Unknowing, p. 150]
This view of the oneness of all existence in God indicates that the existence of a personal self is not ultimate, and that salvation is the realization of this oneness. The great Sufi author, Ibn ‘Arabi, goes even farther and asserts that there is nothing but God:
“And for this the Prophet (upon whom be peace) said: "Whoso knoweth himself knoweth his Lord." And he said (upon him be peace): "I know my Lord by my Lord." The Prophet (upon whom be peace) points out by that, that thou art not thou: thou art He, without thou; not He entering into thee, nor thou entering into Him, nor He proceeding forth from thee, nor thou proceeding forth from Him. And it is not meant by that, that thou art aught that exists or thine attributes aught that exists, but it is meant by it that thou never wast nor wilt be, whether by thyself or through Him or in Him or along with Him. Thou art neither ceasing to be nor still existing. Thou art He, without one of these limitations. Then if thou know thine existence thus, then thou knowest God; and if not, then not.” [Ibn ‘Arabi, "Whoso Knoweth Himself...", pp. 4-5]
As we see, these teachings are unanimous in their evaluation of personal life as less important than some "higher" realm. What does this mean? Does it mean that the majority of humankind are completely astray, are so wrong and ignorant and completely out of touch with their nature that they go in the exact opposite direction from where they should be heading?
Many people, of course, believe just that: that the life of the world is antithetical to the life of spirit and truth. In fact, most of the great teachers have stressed that the life of the world is not the religious or the true life. But let us not hasten to conclusions.
It is possible, of course, that the majority of humankind are astray, are on the wrong path to human fulfillment. However, this does not explain why they are all on the same path! Why is it that all humans are pursuing personal happiness, wanting to lead a personal life where self and individuality are valued and cherished? In other words, if the ultimate goal of the human being is the universal impersonal truths of Spirit, why is it that all humans end up with an ego, with a self and a personality? Can it be just a mistake, a colossal mistake? And if it is, then why is it made so universally?
In this book, our interest is to understand the nature of the human being in a comprehensive way, a way that makes sense of the normal experience of most individuals while retaining the deepest insights into human nature, as seen in the most profound spiritual discoveries of mankind. We will introduce an understanding about human nature by contrasting the view of the man of the world, the usual perspective of most people who take the person and the personal life to be the center of human nature and concern, with the view of the man of spirit, the spiritual perspective of most religions that man's nature is ultimately spiritual, and human life must be governed by selflessness and egolessness. The most extreme position of this latter perspective is that self and individuality do not have an ultimate or real existence. This extreme position, although not shared by many spiritual groups, nevertheless remains a common and central contention for the most advanced teachings of most spiritual traditions, especially the mystical ones. More specifically, we will contrast the experience of most people that they are separate individuals, entities in their own right, with the contention of many spiritual traditions that the ultimate reality is a state of oneness of being and unity of existence, and explore the relationship between the two.