Staying on the Inside – Unifying the Self with Reality

Jeff Carreira Philosophy 4 Comments

We live in fractured times. Our experience of reality and ourselves often seems to be dominated by a sense of isolation and separation. In the cannon of philosophy this sense of division is often spoken about as a product of The Western Enlightenment.The Enlightenment’s monumental leap forward in consciousness was in large part a movement of objectification.

The great Enlightenment thinkers made the heroic effort to dis-embed themselves from the life process,to carve out an intellectual space that was separate from nature, from life,and even from themselves. From this new vantage point they could look back and understand nature, life and themselves.

No longer were we simply tossed on the seas of reality with no outside reference point to navigate from. We had created a way to separate ourselves mentally from the world so that we could keep track of everything, identify the patterns through which reality was unfolding, and be in a better position to predict future events.

Imagine taking someone like Rene Descartes on a month long tour of modern Paris and you will get a sense of the advances that have been made through the miracle of objectification. I can only imagine Descartes falling to his knees in a modern hospital, or an airport, or even a movie theater, weeping to see the miracles that he helped make possible.

And yet this great leap forward also came with its unanticipated negative consequences. We had created a space within which we could separate and look back on the world – but had we lost our connection to the world?  Had we severed a cord that could not be rejoined? Had we permanently distanced ourselves from the world? Would we now always be separate?

Rectifying this sense of separation and isolation was part of what was driving the Romantic thinkers of the 18 and 19th centuries and the Existentialists of the twentieth century.  They were aware that something had been lost in the human spirit through the process of objectification. Some essential connection to who we really are had to be reclaimed.

To begin a personal exploration of this sense of isolation and separation the only thing we have to do is look at our experience right now. Can you find the part of your self that is separate from you and is watching you? We refer to this simply as being self-conscious or self-aware. When self-consciousness gets strong and negative we call it neurosis. When it gets strong and positive we call it vanity.

This self-consciousness when it is not extreme is a good thing. It allows us to be able to watch ourselves and make better decisions and faster corrections. But it has also left us with a deep sense of being a split personality. Most of us feel very divided at least at times.

If you think about it, you might find that there is a deep sense of separation and isolation at the core of your experience. You don’t really feel like you are a part of anything. In every circumstance you feel outside of everything looking in at it. Even your experience of being you is usually one that you view from an outside vantage point. Those rare moments when you find yourself inside of life, deeply absorbed in something so that you forget yourself, are moments of happiness, joy and even bliss.

The American Psychologist and Philosopher, William James, was very bothered by the sense of separation or division in the self. He himself suffered from a very neurotic and indecisive personality and he knew that there had to be a deeper unity of self underneath it all.

This post is the start of a series in which I will explore the sense of separation of self from reality in an effort to discover how to come in from the outside of reality and finding a way to stay on the inside of it.

About the Author

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira is a mystical philosopher and spiritual guide. He is the author of eleven books on meditation and philosophy. He teaches online programs and leads retreats throughout the world that teach people how to let go of their current perceptual habits so they are free to participate in the creation of a new paradigm. To put it simply, he supports people to live a spiritually inspired life, free from the constraints of fear, worry and self-doubt, and aligned with their own deepest sense of meaning and purpose.
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8 years ago

Reading your post I had to think about the difference between the right and left side of the brain. You’re describing the extreme objectification that can happen through identification with the left side of the brain (as we do). I think spirituality is at least connected to the right side of the brain. My example is always a drawing book where was explained that children loose most of their creativity at the age of 7/9 years old when they learn to make concepts of for example ‘how an eye looks or a face’ after that they don’t draw what they… Read more »

Frank Luke
8 years ago

It does appear many favor the left brain, esp. with scientific materialism having discredited spirituality and metaphysics that came to dominate intellectual thinking which has swept aside anything that could not be “proved”. There’s also that many have opted to become atheists dispensing with belief in God or religions. For myself, I do not subscribe in formalized religions or the concept of a God, at least for now. What I do admit however is that I do miss having that Something or Someone with whom to confide, thank or acknowledge as greater than any other personage in my reach. This… Read more »

8 years ago

I recognize that, I sometimes visit the Brama Kumaris,

Dmitri Freund
8 years ago

“15 Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16 From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.” (Ephesians 4:15-16) The scriptures has always had the answer to that problem. God created us in his image. He knows what we need. His commands are for our good. He also gave us free will. In Genesis 2 & 3 we have the account of Adam and Eve. We had… Read more »