(NOTE: Please do not plagiarize, if you want to use some of this content, please apply proper references practices)
Professor Dupen, PHIL 525: January 25th to May 20th, 2013
On the Ego
Habitual Center of Energy, Personalities, and Ego
We are always living in our past identity of our multiple identities. It is tragic to be stuck and defined in our fixed modes of living, we wish to think we are always the same one person we think we are, however, we are not. Our identity states come into existence base on needs to conform and adapt to a demand or context. This occurs subconsciously for most of our lives because it helps us adjust to the situation we find ourselves in and allows us to reduce awkwardness, hence, protecting our comfort. What James argues that happens at one’s conversion is the unification of these personalities to hone into one governing personality of the next belief one invests in. However, when one creates a habitual center of energy, or another personality, it is nevertheless, a fail attempt or contradiction because it is another created personality that one wills into existence. Although the individual believes they are creating a separately different state when one adopts a new way of thinking, thus creating a new identity state, they fail to realize that the identity states are not independent of each other, they are like the tips of a mountain; they are seemly separate, but all part of a connected chain of mountains. Once one dives underneath the superficial, one realizes that all the conscious identity states are part of a bigger subconsciousness that underlies all consciousness. Therefore, the problem of unifying the personality doesn’t get solved at a superficial level where the personalities dwell, but the source or root of these personalities underneath, which is the subconscious.
The Prerequisite To Conversion
The personality, or the collective totality of personality states, generates a persona, also called the ego, is part of the encompassing subconscious that lurks beneath all. The ego is the the collectiveness of the conscious aspects of our whole self. As our collective personality states grows as we age, we become complex, that is to say, we are no longer simple. This is a direct effect of the construction of our many personas, from our past up to our present, that enables us to cope with living.
Unification with oneself involves embracing one’s “shadow” self, which is one’s subconscious and suppressed self. Projections are the features of one’s shadow that we cast or imprint upon our external surrounding, usually people. The external conflicts we have in life and with people reflect the internal struggles inside an individual. The classification for individuals who live by their shadows are called the discorded type. They live in a multitude of personalities, however, they are conflicted within themselves because these personalities clash with each other, since a particular personality believes that it is the true self. However, Humians and Buddhists say that we do not have a central self or true self, they accuse that we are living a delusion if we believe in a personal soul, that is to say, an unchanging self, the personal self, or simply “me”. They would encourage the thought that the construction of personalities is pointless and self-defeating, since individuals use these new personalities state in order to manage the other personality states, however, ultimately, it will fail because it, itself, is a construction. This will leave an individual in hopelessness since one realizes that one is trapped in an everlasting cycle of defeat. If one wanted to truly experience something outside of one’s self, specifically the realm of the otherness or divine, one has accept that the personality cannot grasps what reality truly is at hand, it is clogged and mudded within itself, thus, it can never of itself, pierce into the realm of greater reality or context.
When one accepts metanoia, which in this sense, is facing one’s whole self, conscious and subconscious, and accepting it as a whole. This step allows an individual to step closer to penetrating the unseen. However, this is usually blocked by the convergent, which is the failsafe mechanism that keeps the psyche in-tact. Convergent, meaning that one particular perception, sense of reality, dominates over the other identity states; so strong, that it would require a significant action, happening, or revelation, to prompt a reaction that can deprogram or de-crystalize a fixed identity state or mode that cannot be removed gently. The remedy it seems, is to use one’s volition and do the unthinkable and give up one’s self effort to fix oneself, in order to produce a congruent person who is not a hypocrite. Within this dilemma, one has to experience true metanoia– a true transformation, which involves giving up. The surrender of self must be the product of most utter despair as a result of failed attempts of living and understanding one’s self, thus entering into a state of morbid acceptance because one cannot overcome either the requirements for living or the conflicts within one’s being. After one comes to this realization, self-judgement begins to cease because it is a pointless position to take upon one’s self. Then one comes to the point of the center of indifference, which involves: letting go of one’s self, renouncing, and becoming indifferent to one’s heterogeneousness. Self-acceptance occurs when one burns theirselves out, or to be reduced to complete ashes, burnt to the ground. Once we arrived at a place when we realize the failure of attempting to redeem or fix ourselves and our multiple personalities, and arrive at this conclusion sincerely; the “otherness” or the greater and actual reality permeates into our being, once this occurs, the trueness of ourselves begins to emerge and can be experienced and have relationship with. James suggest that this entire process is a prerequisite to truly experience the divine. Only when one has finally true died to oneself and truly given up, can they be receptive to the divine. Since the otherness or divine can only be discovered when one realizes that the spiritual realm is in the reversal to normal impulse or the natural realm, which the personality is resistant towards, whereas, the natural realm, as we usually associated as real, is really, unnatural. One arrives at this conclusion when one is utterly defeated by one’s self.
James’ prerequisite to discovering and breaking into the otherness or the divine, through a transformative process, is philosophically reasonable in the respect that it provides a pragmatic method that makes penetrating the divine or otherness attainable. From a theistic perspective, an individual who comes into relationship with this otherness, the divine, or God, begins to truly live in a truth or reality that transcends the boundaries of this world with it’s pains, hardship, and evil. Therefore, this transformative process that James proposes, although painful and frustrating as it is, is absolutely necessary and extremely morally helpful to a person who is truly seeking for a new home, new country, and a new world that they will rightfully belong in; since they are tired of the rules and boundaries of the present world, they are more than willing to sacrifice what they have of themselves on the world of their birth and dream for a greater one. Such a conversion cannot be bounded by pure logical and scientific understanding and approach, specifically, it is beyond the realm of psychology since psychology itself is a human construct, the remedy for the the human predicament must be transcendent and divine. To borrow from Christian vernacular, God revealed himself to man through Christ, and Christ reconciled humanity to God, the Divine. In this Christian model, Christ caused a metanoia deep in the human ego, transformed it, therefore, the man who has received Christ is a new creature, the old has gone and the new has come. After this takes effect, the personalities that are rooted in the subconscious, have to change in order to fit the new self. James’ model of transformation fits well with the model Christ presents us with, in snug fashion. Man cannot save himself, from, ultimately, himself. Therefore, a type of divine intervention had to take place in order for a unique transformation to occur. God’s will imposes that an individual is unconditionally loved, this is beyond an individuals control or freedom to withstand; the only reasonable and inescapable response is to accept and surrender, in order for an individual to be transformed and breach the unseen. However, few individuals take this route, which is the path of surrender, but also, the path to real living.
Value of Saintliness
Psychological Approach to Saintliness
James’ psychological model, concerning the process of change involved within a saint during their transformation, proposes that when an individual truly breached a point in their life in which they truly given up their fight against themselves and their shortcomings; only then will the individual be able to transpire over into a different perspective and new way of living. Once they realized the neediness within themselves, their sins, failures, inadequacies, and overall, their imperfection; the instinct of self-protection through the means of creating multiple personalities, which is the ego–ultimately dies. When the ego of man dies, the inner design of man, which was hidden and buried away in the subconscious, can truly be reborn. This original design of man makes enmity irrelevant and incongruent with the nature of the true man, which is thought to be intrinsically good. This inner man realizes that other individuals are like himself, imperfect, and has compassion upon them. When an individual comes out of this process, they are accepting of themselves and of others and adopt a type of agape love, which is divine love; a type of love that is not conditional.
From the Subconscious to Saintliness
When one is free from the slavery of their ego, a sudden burst of courage emerges to aid the world for the better, this is the emergence of saintliness within an individual, that is from their subconscious. However, the surfacing of saintliness, may or may not be entirely great. One can become intoxicated with this new way of living and become enslaved to devoutness. This occurs when one becomes extremely devout to the principle of one’s belief, world-view, or religion, that one becomes lost in it to one’s demise. The same danger lies other traits of saintliness, such as purity, specifically extreme purity. Although some would consider purity a quality to strive for, however, in it’s extremes it is nothing more than a masked vigilante of cowardliness. In the attempt to attain mastery of purity or saintliness, one would withdraw from the world in the most profound method, and thus, becoming weak in reality in all its relational qualities, but becoming strong internally within one’s self; however, one can argue that this method of saintliness is weak since one is strong in isolation, but weak when faced with the world. Likewise, tenderness and charity, in the extreme, causes one to become consumed with adopting a compassionate and empathetic spirit in excess, which causes one to destroy themselves in their destructive mass of charity and tenderness without healthy constraints. Finally, asceticism, which is the desire or impulse to withdraw from the chaos of the world or reality, is much like purity, except it fully embraces cowardliness from the start. Clearly, in the extreme, saintliness can be humanity at it’s worse, since too much of a good thing can be a bad thing. The goal, then, is not to succumb to either spectrums in excess, however, much like a string of a musical instrument, being finely tuned to express a satisfying sound that has a balanced tone. Saintliness is only of value, when it is appropriated and balanced.
The Value of Saintliness
James’ explanation of why saintliness cannot truly be measured, specifically, using the tools of man, which used by James in this case, psychology; is that our natural means of interpreting and analyzing saintliness merely using the will of man and their tools, will ultimately fail, specifically since success will be determined base on subjectivity and the point of view adopted. “There are no successes to be guaranteed and no set order to be given to individuals, so long as we follow the methods of empirical philosophy” (James, 377) James’ conclusion to the problem of getting too caught up in empiricism, however is a rather simple one, which is to accept saintliness for what it is, specifically, the moral helpfulness it provides for an individual. James goes on to say, “Let us be saints, then, if we can, whether or not we succeed visibly and temporally.” (James, 377) Trying to dissect it and analyzes the properties of saintliness is undoable and irrelevant since James tends to also approach matters in a pragmatic way. How one becomes saintly, ultimately, doesn’t matter; the process aren’t as important as the end result. Specifically, if James’ psychological model helped aid an individual to arrive at saintliness, that individual does not need to be burdened with the philosophy behind how it happened, but enjoy its fruits or it’s moral helpfulness, which is obtaining magnanimity and agape love. Therefore, arriving at a place when one adopts saintliness and one of its fruits, which is brotherly love, is plausible, although, the process may be difficult; it is not unattainable if one accepts it without being constrained by intellectual boundaries.
Saintliness, is of value, in respect to, that it is much better than the alternative, which is the ego that is born from the moment of conception; all individuals are prone to this and are categorized as the once-borns, using James terminologies. Saintliness, it may seem, is for those who are twice-born. However, if saintliness is arrived by using human efforts, it will ultimately fail since it was created as an extra personality to govern the other personalities. It’s value is appreciated and realized, and only if, utilized by a higher power, the Other, or God. When and only if saintliness is used as an instrument or mechanism for man to use, given by a transcendent origin, in this example, God; would the problem of the ego, truly be dissolved and remedied. In this model, saintliness, which I would argue is part of the human ego, and can be used by the God to aid humanity to perform godlike characteristics found in saintliness, such as agape love.
Only when one is given into slavery, not to the ego, nor to saintliness, but to God, can one become an individual of magnanimous qualities, specifically, being an individual of agape love. As Jesus said, those who abide in him, will bear fruit, and without him; they cannot bear fruit. Without including God in the equation, one’s attempt to achieve anything good or saintly, is all empty works; an expression of the ego, which at the end, frustrates and defeats itself. However, when God is in the equation, he, himself, is the external force that has the ability to use saintliness for man to truly achieve real fruit. In this model or perspective, an individual can truly be born into another kingdom of being (James, 260); under the kingdom of God or the Other. In this realm, the concept of brother love or agape love, can truly be discovered, and better yet, be actualized in and worn by an individual. But this state of being, that is “instinct-breaching”, can only be arrived at by the means of acceptance of the help of the divine and letting go of our intellectual fears, and the fear of the unknown; if one has not God, all other approaches are, after all, are based on the instincts of the ego.
The Ideal State of Being
The Diamond Body, which is a Taoism concept, uses a diamond, which is a incorruptible thing, pure, that contributes no properties, as an analogy to describe an ideal state of being. As a prism, it reflects or refracts light, and like a pure diamond, it contributes nothing when light passes through it. An individual normally is like a defective diamond that adds or emulates something, distorting the light thats passes through. The analogy instructs an individual to strive to be like a pure diamond body, and contribute or reflect nothing; to still the emulation within themselves; to not add anymore to what already is; therefore when the light, which is the current of the Other or the Greater Reality, attempts to pass through an individual, it would be received without augmentation. An individual who embodies this analogy is emptied of their personality, which allows them to become sensitive to the world since it is free of the ego (personalities), that is to say, when one is clear as a crystal or a diamond, the individual will have the freedom to respond to living with clarity, they are able to be sensitive to living instead of being attached to the personality, which clouds living. Moreover, this analogy is also like Indra’s web or the net of Jewels, from the Buddhist train of thought, which speaks of a state of living when all beings within the web are like gems and naturally reflect light without contributing or adding to the light, but simply letting it shine through and from them.
The Problem With Philosophy
James retorts that we need to recall back into philosophy to aid us, however, to be used with caution and on a short leash, lest it over complicates the purpose from which one originally intended it for; to obtain the understanding of the Other or Greater Reality. One perspective he mentioned was transcendentalism, which emphasizes that the world is a unitive whole, and there is an “over-soul”, also a over-lining current, that represents the true way of living, and encourages individuals to abide in this overtone. James’ critic of the Transcendentalism perspective is the lack of persuasion it produces. Moreover, he asserts that philosophy or philosophies alone, is not adequate enough to represent religion and do it justice, mainly because religious experiences cannot be quantified by mere facts and knowledge; therefore, philosophy’s role is to direct or point into a general direction of a religious experience, but it cannot fully control or understand it.
Usually, philosophy disguises itself, as being objectively critical of beliefs in a non-bias manner, but nevertheless, more often than not, fails and resorts to subjectivity. James’ method or criterion to overcome this bias is to collect a large amount of subjective feedback and try to induce an objective approach based on that. Therefore, the role of philosophy, is to be used a hinderance, to restrain religion so that it does not cross over to extremism; like how added flavoring can either destroy or make a meal, philosophy aids in discerning coherence and reasonableness among religious experiences by using specific train of thoughts to draw out the right flavor of religion. More often than not, philosophy’s downfall lies in it’s vast, fancy, well-crafted, double-stuffed, usage of complicated, and often, hard to pronounce words; words tend to become a stumbling-block for an individual whose desire is to simply experience, and simple words and theories philosophy provides is a unsatisfying substitute for a real hunger for real revelation of the divine.
Bigger Problem of Subjectivity
The problem that is presented to an individual who earnestly seeks to know the Greater Reality or the Other, ultimately is, themselves. Reality, as we know it, is a construction of our own choosing, therefore, we are blind to the reality that is actual, and truly real. Subjectivity is inescapable, one can use no other agents other than oneself to observe one’s self, other people, and ultimately, our reality. The goal, prescribed by James, is to learn this concept of the conscious field, which is the awareness of one’s own subjectivity. Within this conscious field theory, there is an object that is felt or thought, and an attitude towards the object that one is thinking of and the sense of self to which the thought belongs to, and the goal is to become self-aware of one’s bias towards one’s thinking habits and one’s intentionality. We are cut off from the world because of our subjectivity, since we are confined by our subjectivity, or in a sense, enslaved to it; whatever action we commit to, no matter how honest we are to objectivity, is ultimately, a subjective clause. When one disciplines oneself in observing one’s subjectivity, specifically, how pointless and futile one is within oneself, then one can start to understand the objective reality that is external from oneself. James argues that objectivity can be discovered through the understanding of our own subjectivity. When one understands our subjectivity, like a person who understands how to fix a lens out of focus, one can calibrate and construct a means to refocus the lens, and therefore after doing so, truly be able to see clearly.
Furthermore, subjectivity, James argues, is the source of true discovery, which makes philosophy and science cringe and detest. However, at the ground level, all experiences is based on subjectivity, since all contact with the objective world, involves utilizing our subjective means to interpreting the external world. What an individual is has been a constructive of the choices their subjectivity chose. To overcome the endless cycle of self-defeat in one’s life, one has to overcome one’s subjectivity by accepting it and becoming self-aware of it and its vices. Once this level of awareness is achieved, of one’s subjectivity; only then can an individual accommodate with their subjectivity and distinguish the objective world through one’s subjectivity that has been matured, trimmed, and focused, ready to be use at one’s volition.
Therefore, the key to overcoming one’s subjectivity, is to become self-aware of it; to have watchfulness, the conscious attention to one’s subjectivity. To be aware of one’s inclination to condemn and judge oneself at one’s failure, and one judges oneself over and over again, and other harsh self-condemnation one employs on oneself, and accepts the endless struggle with the painful consciousness of one’s subjectivity; one achieves the requirement to penetrating the greater context; which results in, one transcending subjectivity by being able to discern it, master it, and in doing so, discovering the objectivity outside of one’s subjectivity.
However, the conflict in this method or concept that James prescribes is this: “Is our final conclusion truly objective or our subjectivity creating it’s own reality of what is objective?” James’ responds to this troubling question, is to have an objective relationship with one’s own subjectivity, in order to achieve an objectivity within oneself, or to achieve a complete vision of one’s self. If one achieves this state of being, one’s relationship with living, would be dramatically different since they are more in-tuned with themselves, they are able to harmonize with the external world. When an individual is in tune with themselves, then they are able to participate in the harmony of creation and ultimately the Greater Reality or the Other. Religious experiences cannot be understood but experienced by the individual, and James’ complete vision theory, enables an individual to do just that. James argues that this is the only way one can obtain anything objective, however, this conclusion James ends upon, is on a razor’s edge of a cliff hanger, since this conclusion itself cannot ever be empirically supported (as anything can ever be), therefore, this is James’ attempt of a pragmatic explanation that gives us a prescription to obtain freedom from our subjectivity. However as James said himself, “Knowledge about life is one thing; effective occupation of a place in life, with its dynamic currents passing through your being, is another.” (447) James’ theory in itself, is mere philosophy, therefore, the religious experience one desires, is outside the confides of the reason and logic of philosophy; it just is.
I agree with James’ position that everything is subjective, and I want to push it forward even more by saying that James’ theory to generate something objective out of one’s subjectivity, is at the root, the cry for the strongest subjectivity. This theory seems to be a paradox, since what is objective is based on something subjective, however, it makes sense. People normally quantify or theorize truth as a concept, idealism, or an abstract construction, however, I would theorize it as a person; truth is a personification of a mind, who is free to execute their will with demonstrations of great power. To elevate this thinking even more, what we normally think as objective is based on someone else’s subjectivity; this is why no one believes in anything objective, because an individual usually objects against objectivity because they see truths as social constructions, therefore subjective. Their skepticism is correct. However, it doesn’t defeat this idea of the strongest subjectivity, which addresses that subjectivity is at the root of anything we call objective. Therefore, the question that needs to be asked is not “Does objectivity exist?”, but what is the strongest subjectivity that exists. A theist, like myself, would appoint God for this position, since he fits the qualifications that is ascribed in this theory: God is a personal and powerful will. Because God is a mind, he also has a subjective will of his own, and since God is omnipotent, then, God’s subjectivity is the strongest, which means, whatever God declares as objective, is objective and true, since God has “the biggest stick”. Therefore, James’ model of extracting something objective from our subjectivity, is to have one ruling and providential subjectivity, that is the strongest of the rest, to govern. However, this is plagued with faults, because human subjectivity cannot be the strongest subjectivity, since human beings are not all powerful like God, therefore, objectivity cannot be achieved, because of our lack of omnipotence. However, a method around this problem would be to surrender one’s subjectivity to God. When one accepts faith or belief in God, they are surrendering their subjectivity to God’s all powerful subjectivity, in this act, an individual’s objective meaning derives from God, who has became their truth. In this respect, an individual has reached objectivity by surrendering to the person who has the greatest subjectivity, which is God.
James, William. (1902). The Varieties of Religious Experience: A Study in Human Nature. Published by Forgotten Books.
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