A year or so ago, in A wheel within a wheel, I wrote about how the Western, Freudian approach to selfhood, with its emphasis on the relationship between the conscious and the sub/unconscious can be unhelpful in its complication – a bit like this sentence!
It struck me recently that this mind-set is really deep-rooted in us. How naturally we talk about ‘my mind’, or ‘his energy’ or ‘her chakras’ or ‘your story’. It seems to me that when we refer to bits of ourselves and each other in this way and use language, inadequate as it is, to identify elements of ourselves, we objectify them, and in so doing make them distinct from ourselves. We talk about aspects of our soul in the same way as we refer to our coffee-maker or our car.
Freudian thought was embedded in the Western psyche via two routes: psychoanalysis and advertising. Freud’s nephew Edward Bernays lived in America in the early part of the 20th century and mined his uncle’s ideas to create a new type of consumer consciousness through marketing and advertising campaigns. His basic approach was to appeal not just to people’s common sense – “I need this product to fulfill this function” – but also, for the first time, to their sense of self – “I need this product to be the person I want to be”.
When we split off intangible parts of ourselves – our heart, our soul, our subconscious, our fears, our identity, our feelings – and maybe then desire things – objects or experiences – to satisfy the mysterious needs of those intangible parts, we are falling for this rubbish.
These intangible things are us. They don’t exist independently of us, like little sub-selves, partially invisible, possibly mischievous or in conflict with us or each other, making themselves felt through aspects of our character or behaviour that we don’t understand so well or wish weren’t there. If we see them as such we will always believe we are somewhat at their mercy and will want to get more stuff to assuage them.
Daily chanting of mantras and/or meditating increases inner cohesion through increased clarity of thought. The interpretation-free zone that is to be found through these two activities is the space to see what’s going on inside the self in a straightforward and non-judgemental way, making it easier to see how things link up and thereby understand things better. Chanting and meditating are also freely available to all. Result!
It can be disempowering, divisive and confusing to view oneself as a bagful of tricks. Your mind and thoughts, your heart and feelings, your body and its senses, all these things are you. They are not ‘in’ you, they are you – consciousness, body, one and all.
Om Tare Tuttare Ture Soha