The False Self by Adyashanti

The False Self

“The false self grows out of unconscious being. It is a fragmented amalgam of many selves tenuously bound together by a façade of normalcy. It is a divided house built upon an imaginary foundation, a broken-winged bird that cannot fly.

The false self is the greatest barrier (all barriers are imagined, of course) to the realization of our true identity of universal being. The false self is essentially a psychological process occurring in the mind that organizes, translates, and makes sense (or in many cases nonsense) of all incoming data from the senses. When this psychological process mixes together with the self-reflexive movement of consciousness, it produces a sense of self. This sense of self then pervades consciousness as a sort of perfume that causes the mind to mistake what is actually a psychological process for being an actual separate entity called one’s self. This mistaken conclusion, that you are a distinct separate self, happens very early in life in a more or less automatic and unconscious way.

By identifying with a particular name that belongs to a particular body and mind, the self begins the process of creating a separate identity. Add in a complex jumble of ideas, beliefs, and opinions, along with some selective and often painful memories with which to create a past to identify with, as well as the raw emotional energy to hold it all together, and before you know it, you’ve got a very convincing—though divided—self.

This is not to say that in the development of a human being the false self has no purpose or use; it is simply to say that it has no existence whatsoever outside of the mind. The self develops in order that you may gain a healthy sense of individuation and autonomy that helps you navigate life in a way conducive to your survival and well-being. The problem is that few people ever develop true psychological autonomy, and even those who do are often so entranced by the false self that they never imagine its illusory nature or what lies beyond it. But once true autonomy is developed, the self is no longer needed, in the same way that infancy is no longer needed when you grow into adulthood. It may, however, be more accurate to say that it is the autonomy that is truly important, and that the false self is essentially an imaginary by-product of the self-reflexive mechanism of consciousness identifying itself with the endless movement of conditioned thinking.

The problem is that the self that you became convinced was the real you is a phantom that exists only as an abstraction in your mind—animated by the conflicted emotional energy of separation. It’s about as real as last night’s dream. And when you stop thinking it into existence, it has no existence at all. That’s why it is false—which begs the question, who or what is the real you?

At the core of the false self is a void of deficiency derived from an essential turning away from one’s own divinity, either out of natural development, despair, or simply by succumbing to the trance of the world with all its masks of deception and harsh obligation to conform to its insanity. The false self orbits around this vacuous abyss at its core, in silent terror of its nameless, faceless threat of oblivion.

The false self is both an obstacle and a doorway through which you must pass on your way to awakening to the dimension of being. As you pass through the void of self, the identification with self dies, either temporarily or permanently, and you are revealed (reborn) to be a presence. Presence is not a self in any conventional sense. It has no shape or form, no age or gender. It is an expression of universal being, the formless substance of existence. Presence is not subject to birth or death; it is not of the world of “things.” It is the light and radiance of consciousness in which entire worlds arise and pass away.

Just as presence is an expression of being, so too is being an expression of the Infinite. The Infinite is ultimate Reality, and is beyond all conceptualizations and experiences. It is the ultimate ground of all being, all existence, all dimensions, and all perceptions. It is transcendent of all categories, all descriptions, all imaginings. It is beyond ego, self, presence, being (and non- being), and oneness, but it is not other than these either. Neither conceivable nor experience-able, the Infinite knows itself through a simple intuitive regard it has for itself in every aspect of itself. Thus the only thing that realizes the Infinite is the Infinite. And only such realization brings an end to the mind’s restless search for God, Truth, and meaning.”

– Adyashanti (The Way of Liberation)


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