SOUL OF A NEW SELF: CHAPTER 4 EXCERPT
I am happy to present to you an excerpt from the fourth chapter of my forthcoming book, The Soul of a New Self:
Our minds function by taking in sensual information and then filtering and organizing that data in prescribed ways to produce a consistent experience of reality. Call it a paradigm, a worldview or a transcendental unity of apperception – it all means that what we experience as real is an interpretation of reality. Our minds don’t mirror reality to us: they shape it for us. During an episode of spiritual opening we are temporarily liberated from the shaping of the mind. During these peak moments, to some degree or another, we see reality uncensored. This can be an overwhelming experience that sometimes leads us to see through the illusion of separation and open into the Oneness of all that is. In these moments we realize that the separate being that we thought we were never existed independent of the All that we are.
If from this experience we conclude that we are home – that we have reached the ultimate truth – then we will rest. There is nothing left to do. If, on the other hand, we conclude that we are part of an evolutionary process then we will be inspired to participate in the re-creation of a new sense of self. This is the conclusion that I have come to and this book is about the new self that we have the opportunity to become together.
The process through which the mind shapes our experience is called conditioning. We are conditioned to seeing things this way and not that way. This conditioning is both personal and cultural. By personal we mean the shaping that has resulted from the experiences of this lifetime. The methods of traditional psychology have been developed to help us see through the negative aspects of our personal conditioning. We experienced certain traumas in our childhood and those experiences shape how we see the world and other people now. At the level of personal experience we are all so different. Things that I am afraid of you enjoy. I see things that you don’t even notice. That person over there finds something easy to accomplish that you and I can’ t even imagine succeeding in.
The conditioning we inherited from culture is more deeply embedded in us than our personal conditioning. Family is a sphere of conditioning. My grandparents were born in Portugal and settled in America in a coastal city on the Eastern seaboard. I have conditioning that comes from my family and I see things and value things in ways that are similar to other second generation Portuguese Americans. My family was also a particular family of unique individuals and I share attitudes with my other family members that I do not share with other people, even other Portuguese Americans.
When I travel to Europe the feeling of being American rises to the surface of awareness. When interacting with Europeans I become so aware of my American-ness. I talk too loudly and directly. My perspective and opinions can be crass and cavalier. The value I hold for independence and freedom is also characteristic of Americans. It isn’t only Americans have these characteristics, but in a very general way my travels abroad have brought me to become aware that there is an American flavor and I have it. I am it.
If we embark on a journey beyond all conditioning we find layer after layer of ideas and assumptions about what reality is and how everything works that are shaping all of our experience. At the bottom of this mountain of conditioning we find a fundamental experience of being human upon which everything else rests. This is the foundational assumption that all other assumptions assume. It is a set of ideas about what a human being is that all of our other experience is filtered through.
What we discover is that we live inside of a model of being human that shapes all of our perceptions and is the primary arbiter of what we see as real, and what we determine is and is not possible for us. This model of what a human being is the most foundational source of our sense of self. From this starting point layer upon layer of identity is built until at the top of it all I experience myself to be Jeff, a Portuguese American with a unique personal history living out an individual life.
I believe that it is possible for us to experience beyond the foundational filter of being human and gain the freedom to re-create what it means to be human in the most profound way.
Our species is now a global force that shapes the environment of the planet and affects every living creature. We are limited by our sense of self and our current sense of self seems to be reaching the end of its ability to successfully respond to the complexity of the world. We are seeing in many different ways our powerlessness to navigate effectively through the immense complexity of the world. Trying harder as we are will not be the solution. My firm conviction, and the contention of this book, is that the birth of a new self-sense is the key to our future.
Our planet and our future need us to come together in the most magnificent act of creation ever attempted – the conscious birth of a new self. The human self as it currently exists must give way, it must yield to a higher form of self. This birthing process must happen consciously. Another sense of self isn’t going to be born and overpower us. We must participate in that birth. We must let go of the limits of separation so that a new form of self-conscious awareness can emerge between us. This book is my attempt to share everything I have experienced about how that miraculous act of creation can happen.
In this book you will find my attempt to articulate a completely different model for human being. When we use the phrase ‘human being’ we most commonly mean a particular kind of entity. We think of a human being as a very special kind of organism. Special in large part because we have brains that seem to be able to think and feel in unique ways.
We all imagine that we are things that think. We see ourselves as having a body with a brain in it. There are five different senses that take in information about the world and feed it to the brain. The brain collects all of this incoming sense data and constructs our experience of reality that is a more or less accurate reflection of the world outside.
This is what I call the thinking-thing self and it is the most fundamental picture that each of us holds about who we are. At this point in human history the thinking-thing self is pretty much the only option available to us for how to experience being human. We don’t have another choice. You can’t go to a psychologist and get a new experience of being human. You can get a better version of thinking-thing, but you can’t get something that is not a thinking-thing.
For as long as we can remember we have lived inside this sense of self – this particular experience of being human. This sense of self is not the limit of who we are. It may be part of who we are – and even this is debatable – but it is definitely not the whole of who we are. The sense of self that you are living with has been constructed and refined for hundreds of years. You absorbed it wholesale from the culture you were born into without anyone even knowing that they were giving it to you. It is, in fact, only one possible way to experience being human. It is the source of everything that we currently know as the human world, but it is not the limit of what is possible. All of the tremendous wonders and achievements of human beings and all of our atrocities came from the gifts and the shortcomings of the thinking-thing self. Beyond this sense of self a whole new world is waiting to be born.