Self, Reality, Truth and Language – Part III: Psychological Development vs. Spiritual Transformation

Jeff Carreira Blog Posts, Evolving Self 16 Comments

Over my last couple of posts I have been writing some thoughts about our sense of self. One way to think about our sense of self is to see that it is formed by a self-border – a line that separates our psyche into the ‘me’ and the ‘not me.’ On the outside of the boarder are thoughts that we recognize to be just thoughts. On the inside of the border are thoughts that we experience as ‘my’ thoughts or ‘me thinking.’

Those thoughts that exist on the inside of the self boundary appear to tell us who we are, and therefore we tend to compulsively respond to them. They do not appear to us to be just thoughts; in fact they feel like us. We appear to ourselves as sentences in our heads.

One way to get a sense of this is to look at the sentences that you use in response to the question, “Who are you?” The most common answer will be, “I am (insert your name).” If you probe beyond just your name you will start to come up with a string of other sentences. Some of these sentences will describe you as nouns such as; “I am a man.” “I am a mother.” “I am a carpenter.” – etc. Other sentences will describe characteristics that belong to you such as; “I am industrious.” “I am lazy.” “I am intelligent.” “I am stupid.” – and on and on.  

Psychological Development

What psychologists have discovered is that our sense of self is made out of thoughts in our heads and they recognize that some of the thoughts that arise on the inside of the self-boundary are harmful to us and others. We may have developed habitual thought patterns that tell us that we are stupid, lazy, or worthless and these cause us to act in destructive or self-destructive ways.

The job of the psychologist is to help us break these habitual though patterns and replace them with healthy ones. It is much better for us to believe that we are “intelligent,” industrious” and “worthy” because then we will tend to act that way and be happier with who we are. Psychologists have helped millions of people live much better, more fully integrated and happier lives by pushing unhealthy sentences outside of the self boundary and attract healthier sentences into it.

Spiritual Transformation

Some spiritual masters will tell you that this psychological approach to development misses the more fundamental issue. In essence what they are saying is that although a healthy self sense is better than an unhealthy self sense, it still limits us to sentences in our heads. We are still left with a false sense of being a something that is the object of all the sentences that we hold about that something.

Let’s go back for a moment to the question who am I? When you ask me who I am and I answer “I am Jeff” what I mean is that I am the entity that the name Jeff points toward. Imagine meeting someone and asking them, who are you? They respond saying; I am the entity that my name indicates. How infuriating is that? If they go on to list all of the nouns and adjectives that describe them you may still feel that they are not getting to the essences of who they are. Saying “I am a carpenter.” is just a way of stating that I am an entity that has certain skills and performs a certain function in society – but what is the entity that has the skills and performs the function?

One way to understand what spiritual transformation is all about is to understand it as letting go of all of the sentences in our heads that describe us and coming to a direct realization that we were, are and always will be, the one that is aware of the sentences. There is no sentence that can capture who we are because we are not a sentence and we are not an object that can be described by a sentence. The great spiritual realization is that we are the subject. We are the source of all sentences and the knower of all sentences. Sentences in our heads can never capture us and hold us in place because we always exist behind all of the sentences in our heads.

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Karen Kasper
Karen Kasper
9 years ago

Jeff, I’m reading a book called “Ego, the fall of the twin towers and the rise of an enlightened humanity”, by Peter Baumann and Michael W. Taft. They use the people involved in 911, both terrorists and victims to show just what you’ve been talking about in you posts here. They also very interestingly describe how the concept of the personal self evolved and that humanity (on the edge) is moving towards a “post-personal” awareness. I think the authors may be materialists and perhaps discount “spirit” (not sure about this). Would be interested in your take on this book. Thanks,… Read more »

Anonymous
Anonymous
9 years ago

Hi Karen,
I have the book, but I haven’t read it yet. When I do I will be sure to let you know what I think.
Love
Jeff

Gina Hayden
9 years ago

Jeff, your posts just get better and better. I want to thank you for demystifying the seeing of the ego/self and enabling us to touch some sense of our source. You make it incredibly gettable.
With thanks and gratitude
Gina

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
9 years ago

Thank you so much Gina, Let’s talk sometime and compare notes. Jeff

portailevolutif
9 years ago

what a beautiful post ! it is almost irresistible not to answer this. This notion of spiritual transformation is very fascinating. On one side we have the Western Traditions of Enlightenment, which tell us just this : “get convinced of the falseness of all Borders, it is the ultimate Truth !” or like Ramana Maharshi was telling “ just Realize the Self !” On the other side we have the Western Traditions and the three great religions of the West which are much more careful and axe their insight more on Soul development. It is indeed not the same thing… Read more »

portailevolutif
9 years ago

sorry Jeff, the last post is from Catherine. I am creating this New blog and I am messing up with accounts… Love to you !

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
9 years ago

Catherine, Thank you for such a full and whole hearted response. I agree that enlightenment is one thing, but living it is another. Best, Jeff

Frank Luke
9 years ago

And I second Catherine’s true comment too. Jeff, I single out your statement noting that attempting to know oneself only intellectually is ineffectual. To know is half of the job but Being holistically with your entire self is the other half . From my own experience, my coming to knowing my Self was a holistic synthesis of heart and mind, my whole being. I believe a true spiritual Awakening is that kind of experience, undeniable and totally life-changing, bringing about a commitment to walk the walk of spiritual consiousness to the best of one’s development and for a lifetime, not… Read more »

portailevolutif
9 years ago

Namaste to both ! reading your beautiful posts… I feel Jeff agrees as well. I feel Life and Enlightenment shall not be disconnected. That’s why the Teachings of Evolutionary Enlightenment are so fantastic and so timely. What do we do with the Energy of Enlightenment with its Force and Beauty ? is it only to go out of the merry go round of life, as Andrew Cohen says beautifully, or is it that this energy has a much more intimate relationship with Life and Evolution. At the end of the day, Enlightenment and Life shall merge for humanity to Evolve.… Read more »

Frank Lukeftkl1234
Frank Lukeftkl1234
9 years ago

Hello, portailevolutif! Yes, a significant uptick of spiritual conciousness is needed that may take generations if not centuries to accomplish. I see a cliffhanger where higher conscisousness is needed to avert the kinds of threats to humanity and the planet to turn around the self-destructive behavior on so many levels. Will that unenlightened kind of behavior win out before humanity comes to reverse the despoiling of the planet and the kind of bellicose attitudes between nations that lead to wars? Or does humanity have the sense and ability to develop higher consciousness sufficient to avert apocalyse? It seems a stretch… Read more »

john
john
9 years ago

I would “think” we are not the object or the subject of the sentence but the verb………..the process………the experience.

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
9 years ago

Hello John, spoken like a true pragmatist…I would have to agree wiht you….more to come on that.

Clifford J. Warren
Clifford J. Warren
9 years ago

I am new to blogs and blogging, so my expertise in this area is limited by current abilities. I am asking for some leniency in this area. My question is: Does there have to be a “Vs” promotion of division into accessing areas of self that are very much intrinsic to and inclusive of the make-up of an individual’s personal growth? In my opinion, all things have a place in the web of life and the trick is to not get caught up in a static, hierarchical. stratified or divisive approach to knowing, understanding and living it. Inclusivity and ownership… Read more »

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Frank Luke
9 years ago

The Sufi teacher Pir Vilayat Khan related a teaching that I had to ponder for some time before I believe I achieved what I think is an understanding: A man is standing in them middle of the street directing traffic. When approached by a puzzled passerby who asked “Who are you? Are you a policeman? are you a —-? are you a that?”, responded in the affirmative. End of story. What I take away is that the responses are acknowledging that to answer “who are you”, the truly accurate answer is “Yes, I am all of that”, including even being… Read more »

Jeff Carreira
Jeff Carreira
9 years ago

Reblogged this on The Flow of Influence.