Thursday, April 24, 2008

Brigid Meditation 1: The Self

August 24, 2002

There are two entirely different definitions of the word “self”. In the more familiar sense, “self” has to do with the ego—as in “selfish” or “selfless”. It is essentially worldly, because it puts the wants of the individual before the needs of others. Philip Berg (The Essential Zohar) described addiction as a misplaced longing for God. Similarly, the materialistic goals of the ego are a substitute for the ultimate satisfaction of Union with God. But, as Paul Tillich noted (Dynamics of Faith), all concerns that are not the Ultimate Concern will ultimately lead to disillusionment. Addictive behaviors, such as drinking and smoking, are temporary fixes used to contend with disappointments of disillusionment. One might be disillusioned with the government, with one’s family, with one’s church, or with a lover. Whatever it may be, it was someone or something held as a high ideal by that person. And, like all “worldly attachments”, it will ultimately let us down.

Which brings me to the other definition of “self”. This is Self with a capital “s”, for it is the realized Self. If we follow what Tillich says, faith in worldly attachments and literalist interpretations of faith that are tied up with our egos and neuroses are idolatrous. Then, if true faith is Ultimate Concern, then it has to do with who we really are and why we are here. This is why self-realization is very important. It is required to understand these very things. Introspection has no relationship to selfishness; on the contrary, it is a tool for rising above the mundane, and seeing the Divine in oneself, and in everyone else. Carl Jung, the first psychoanalyst to introduce the idea of self-realization, did not really believe it was possible for humans to become totally self-realized or “individuated”. Indeed, there are few realized Selfs walking around on this Earth. But of those who are, you would notice a lack of “selfishness”. In fact, such people are often selfless, wishing to help others fulfill their purpose and put an end to suffering.

What are the “purposes of humanity”? The Ultimate goal, which can be seen in the mysticism of any religion, is Union with God (or whatever you prefer to call that ultimate consciousness/reality). This means dissolution of the Ego and the willingness of the soul to collapse into No-Thing, which is actually a Divine Bliss. In a Kabbalistic metaphor, the Tree of Life retracts upon itself. If I may attempt to use a metaphorical image: if we picture God as a Great Man of Light, then humans are the reflection of this Great Man. There is a Jewish term for this Great Man: Adam Kadmon. The Divine Reflection is made up of a sea of Divine fires, and these are individual souls. Because they are the Divine Reflection, they are really a part of “God”. However, there is a veil drawn between the manifested Divine Reflection (which could be called “God’s creation”) and the Divine Itself, so that we cannot in fact see that we are part of the Divine. The Kabbalistic term for this veil is the tzimtzum. The Kabbalistic tradition says that the Messiah will come and the world will end when Adam Kadmon becomes fully conscious of what he Is. This would require all souls to be aware of their Divine origin and connection.

However, the path to self-knowledge is difficult, and once a soul achieves something like self-realization, it faces many dangers. This is called the Lucifer aspect of Tiphareth. Tiphareth is the middle sephiroth of the Tree of Life, and is often represented as Moses standing on Mt. Sinai—you can look up and see the “face of God” and also look down and see the Kingdom from a broader perspective. ShTain (Satan) appears at this point to see if we can be drawn back to the worldly—our worthiness is tested (see Job AND Jesus’ temptation). People who practice Satanism are folks who often reach a point of self-realization, but they think of it as a self-contained phenomenon (self rather than Self, their individual selves rather that the Whole)—and so they see themselves as Divine and no one else. Because they are tied up in self and not Self, they are often hedonistic—interested in their own material pleasures and pursuits rather than moving beyond their realization to become one with the Whole. They believe they can control others because they “are” God. An O.T.O. Brother once noted with amusement that “Satanists shake their fist at an empty sky, and yet create their circles invoking the high Holy names of God.” This is highly illogical, as you could not be protected by something that isn’t supposed to exist. This inherent contradiction is evidence of the self/Self mix-up.

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