Higher Self

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Higher self

From lecture 66, SHAME OF THE HIGHER SELF:

Tonight I should like to discuss another aspect of the human personality, the shame about the higher self, the best and noblest in the human heart. This may sound incredible — nevertheless it is so.

Strangely enough, people are just as ashamed of their faculties of love, humility, generosity — the very best they have to offer — as they are of the small, selfish and ungiving part of their nature. Let us consider what causes this inner tragedy, this senseless struggle. One main factor is responsible, which varies in extent, detail and manifestation with every individual.

When a child feels rejected — and you know that every child does — whether this feeling is justified or unjustified makes no difference — in most instances it feels more rejected by one of the parents than by the other. This need not be so in reality, because the very parent who appears to reject it may have more real love for the child than the other parent. But the way the child feels is what counts as the inner impressions accumulate to form the images — the petrified wrong conclusions — and establish the patterns of the person’s subsequent emotional life.

The child would like to be loved and approved of to a much greater extent than is possible, particularly by the parent who seems to reject it. When this exclusive tenderness and affection is not forthcoming, the child feels it as a rejection, and a confusion arises in the soul. In the child’s vaguely felt emotions, love and acceptance from this particular parent becomes the most desirable aim, all the more so because love and acceptance to the degree that the child would wish it seems unattainable. The desired aim — exclusive love and acceptance — is confused with the parent withholding it. In the confused, immature mind of the child, the rejecter now becomes desirable, taking the place of that which was originally desired: exclusive love, approval, and acceptance. A further result of this confusion is that the rejecter seems unloving. The mother or father is desirable also because that which is wanted from him or her is desirable. Therefore, to be unloving is a desirable state. The child’s psyche says: “If I am unloving, I will be desirable, my love will be sought. Just as I do not reject my rejecter, so will I no longer be rejected. Since the rejecter seems cold, aloof, and free of emotions, this behavior pattern — imagined or real — becomes desirable and something to be emulated.

The problem, in its simplest terms, is based on the following wrong conclusion: Love is weakness; withholding love and affection is strength. Since you do not wish to be weak and needy, you not only emulate the person who corresponds to your wrong concept of strength, but you also betray the one who seems weak to you. Once you find your emotions, reactions, and attitudes that correspond to this misconception, you can reconsider the concepts and form new ones according to truth. You will then see that many confusions and errors exist in you, causing you to commit acts of betrayal which have many further negative consequences in your inner and outer life. This realization and a discriminating attitude toward your inner motives will give you strength by enabling you to approach reality. It is of utmost importance that you begin to search in this direction. Find the part in your emotions where you ascribe weakness to acts of love and humility that are tendered in a healthy and real sense. Find in you the part which believes that strength is aloofness or coldness. When you find that, you will find your self-betrayal.

By finding the wrong concepts and then, little by little, adopting the right concepts, you will cease to fear that love is humiliating; that humility, generosity, affection, and a demonstration of your true self are signs of weakness. Your true self is very often hidden behind a wall of stone. This wall of stone is not wickedness, or even selfishness. Neither is it the fear of being hurt and disappointed. Yes, all these also contribute, but to a lesser degree. The main component of the wall behind which you hide the real you is the shame of imagined weakness, of being yourself with all the tenderness and understanding, with all the sympathy and vulnerability of your loving heart.

There are many people who may say, “This does not apply to me, because I am a very demonstrative person. I give my love fully and freely.” In such a case, it may be partly true that the real self comes out of hiding. But in the very rarest of instances — only in an entity very far advanced in purification — is this entirely so. Part of the real self manifests, but another part remains hidden. Yes, you may have the generous heart that wants to give the utmost and whose love may penetrate the many layers of error and misconception. Yet, you also withdraw behind your shell, or your wall. A part of what you display as love and as giving yourself may not come out of your real self, but may be “borrowed,” so to speak. Then it is not really your own. Again, this is a subtle thing. Only in your personal work can you feel whether or not this is so, and to what extent.

Why is it that you hold the best in you encased, while you “borrow” a similar behavior pattern and use it as a substitute for the real? The loving, giving, outgoing personality you may be at times might very well be only a part of your true self. Why? As I just explained, the shame of loving and giving causes you to hide your true self behind a wall. The inevitable effect must be the realization that you are condemned and left alone. This in no way leads you to reconsider the first impression that loving is shameful. In the first place, this conclusion is no longer conscious, therefore you cannot change it. You know very well that nothing can be changed as long as it is hidden from consciousness. In the second place, the first impression, causing the wrong conclusion, is much stronger, infinitely more powerful, than all subsequent impressions and experiences. Hence, you make a compromise by retaining the original wrong conclusion: “I must not love, I must not expose my real self,” and add to it the newer experience that remaining aloof brings censure and loneliness. The latter causes you to assume a veneer of outgoingness, expressing emotions and love that are not quite real. You still do not display your real self.

I do not mean that this substitute outgoing personality is an affectation, or what you may term “phony.” No, it is again much more subtle than that. It is a part of your being, but is not the real self. Some emotions of the real self are components of this superimposed layer, however. Many other currents, stemming from these conflicts, dilute the purity of the original and real personality. In a subtle way, you dramatize yourself and your love all the more because you do not dare to show that which is real. This happens in many facets of life. It is most easily found in the love relationship between the sexes.

You can see where this particular phase of the work will lead you. By finding and understanding how the betrayal applies to your own case, you will also find that you keep your real self hidden most of the time. With this realization you prepare the ground to allow your real self to evolve, to come out in the open. This work is not as easy as it may seem, nor is it as difficult as it may appear to some of you.

You may already sense at this point that the goal of purification is to free your true personality. That is the real meaning of freedom and the only possible way to live happily, to be strong in a healthy and real sense. The very fact of becoming aware of the universal conflict around the shame of the higher self, of beginning to feel how it exists in you personally, even long before you are able to open the prison door and let your real self out, will cause you to experience a wonderful new inner strength. The awareness that this exists in you and the constant observation of how it manifests in your daily emotional reactions will bring you nearer to the removal of your prison bars, so that you can liberate the real you.

The real you will rejoice. You will then see clearly and without a doubt that it was wrong to have thought that you have to hide the best in you, that it is something shameful. You will see what an unnecessary burden it was to keep your real self hidden. One person will hide it behind a mask of aloofness and pseudo-strength. Another will hide it behind a superimposed layer of something that resembles the real self in all its best aspects, but is not quite it. In both cases you have to remove the false layer and look where the real self is. Allow it to step out, even if at the beginning it does so only on rare occasions, ever so cautiously. But then the real you will see that you do not have to fear, you do not have to be ashamed. The fear comes mostly as a consequence of the shame of the exposure. By this process you will remove the phantom world you have created out of the false impressions of your childhood. You have no idea what a tremendous relief it is to exorcise this phantom world and live in reality. Only the real you can live in it, for the superimposed layers, created out of unreal concepts, cannot live in a world of reality. You will live in freedom; you will no longer find it necessary to betray the best in you, or betray another.


A few years ago I used the following terms to describe certain overall, fundamental levels of the human personality: the higher self, meaning the real potential in everyone, the universal life in every human core; the lower self, made up of all your deceits, your character defects, your illusions, pretenses and destructiveness. Then I discussed a third component which I first called the mask self and later the idealized self. It is based on a pretense of being what one wants to be, or what one feels one ought to be in order to be liked and approved of.

During our discussions we have come face to face with many aspects of this triad. Once I spoke of a frequent phenomenon, that you are often ashamed of your higher self — of the best in yourself. For many personality types it seems shameful to display one’s best, one’s most loving and generous impulses; it seems much easier and less embarrassing to show one’s worst.

Today I can speak a little more about this topic on a deeper and more subtle level. For this is a very important point, immediately connected with the fear of exposing the real self. Some of my earlier lectures merely described certain features of one kind of personality on a relatively superficial level. The specific personality I then discussed feels this shame primarily about good qualities, about giving and loving. Such people believe they give into society’s demands and they thereby lose the integrity of their individuality. They fear their submission to and dependency on the opinions of others and therefore feel ashamed of any genuine impulse to please others. They therefore feel more “themselves” when they are hostile, aggressive, cruel.

All human beings have a similar reaction to their real self. This does not apply only to their actual goodness and loving generosity, but also to all other real feelings and ways of being. This strange shame manifests as embarrassment and a sense of exposure about the way one really is. It makes one feel as though one were naked and exposed. This experience can be registered by everyone — and it is not the shame of one’s deceits and destructiveness, nor of one’s compliance. This shame is on an entirely different level, and of a different quality. The only way I can describe it is to say that what one really is feels shamefully naked — regardless of your good or bad thoughts, feelings, or behavior. This is extremely important to comprehend, for it explains how artificial levels are created. These artificial levels do not exclusively result from misconceptions in the usual sense. When the naked core of oneself, as one is now, is exposed, the personality is less frightened of annihilation or danger, but more ashamed. The element of danger comes in when the ego yields to the involuntary processes. The shame is felt most acutely when it comes to being what one is in the moment.

Because of this feeling, people pretend. This is a different kind of pretense than the one that covers up lack of integrity, destructiveness, and cruelty. This different kind of pretense is deeper, more subtle. You may pretend things you actually feel. You may really feel love, but to show this real love feels naked, so you create a false love. You may really feel anger, as you are now. But this real anger feels naked, so you create false anger. You may really feel sadness, but you feel mortified to acknowledge this sadness, even to yourself, so you create false sadness, which you can easily display to others. You may really experience pleasure, but this, too, is humiliating to expose, so you create false pleasure. This even applies to elements like confusion and puzzlement. You intensify and dramatize your emotions, as I explained in the last lecture, and so you falsify them.

Because the real feeling seems so naked and exposed, so you create a false one. This falsification functions like a protective garment which no one but one’s deepest, usually unconscious self knows of. This “protective garment” anesthetizes one to the vibrancy and buoyancy of life. All such imitations build a screen between you and your life center. This, too, separates you from reality, for it is the reality of your own being that you cannot stand and feel compelled to imitate, thereby counterfeiting your very existence. The moving stream of life seems dangerous, not only as far as your safety is concerned, but also as it affects your pride and dignity. But all this is stark and tragic illusion. As you can only find true safety when you unite with the source of all life within you, so you can find true dignity only when you overcome the shame of being real — whatever this may mean at the moment.

Sometimes annihilation seems a lesser evil than the strange sense of shame and the exposure of one’s real being. When you recognize this shame and do not push it away as inconsequential, you take a tremendous step, my friends. Feeling this shame is the key to finding a numbness that causes despair and frustration, because it leads to self-alienation and disconnectedness of a particular kind. It is not translatable into rational language because there is nothing you can possibly say in mere words that distinguishes the real from the false — only the flavor of experience and the quality of being are different. The imitation feelings are often subtle and so deeply ingrained that they have become second nature. Therefore it takes a deeply sensitive letting go, letting yourself be, and letting yourself feel, as well as wanting to be discerning about your discoveries. All this is necessary before you become acutely aware of the apparent exposure and nakedness the real feelings cause in you. The subtle imitation not only reproduces other, or opposite feelings from those you register, but also, and just as frequently, the identical ones. Their intensification then serves to make the false appear real.

You first come in contact with the center of the universal life that you are only when you are real — whatever this may mean now. But before this experience is possible, you need to encounter the phenomenon of shame and nakedness. When you meet this momentary real self, it is far from “perfect.” This is not a dramatic experience — yet it is crucial. For what you are now contains all the seeds you will ever need in order to live deeply and vibrantly.

You are already this universal life power. Every conceivable possibility is contained in it. What you are now is not shameful because of your faults; it is much more shameful, as it seems to you, because of its immediate, existential reality that seems so naked. When you have the courage to be your real self, a new approach to your own inner life can begin, after which all pretenses fall by the wayside.

This applies to the obvious and crude pretenses that can usually be seen by all but oneself, as well as to the subtle pretenses I just described. These stand between the ego and the universal self. They form a thin but firm screen that blocks out the life-giving force. They are responsible for your alienation from the universal life principle. They create the apparently dangerous and unbridgeable chasm between the ego and the universal power. They are responsible for your illusory fear and shame. This shame is just as basic as all the fears responsible for the misconceptions and the splitting of the individual. It originates from some fears and creates others, but it is not exactly the same as the fears themselves.

The shame of one’s own nakedness in showing one’s self, as it is in the now, is explained by the deep symbolism of the story of Adam and Eve. The nakedness of reality is paradise. For when that nakedness is no longer denied, a new blissful existence can begin — right here and now, not in another life in the beyond. But it takes some acclimatizing after one has become aware of the shame. It takes a path within the path to become more conscious of the ingrained but subtle habits with which one covers up one’s inner nakedness. How easy it is to revert back to the shame out of long-standing habit! But once you pay attention to it and elicit the powers available in you, again and again, so that you notice your shame and your hiding and learn to uncover yourself, you will finally step out of your protective shell and become more real. You will be the naked you, as you are now — not better than you are, not worse than you are, and also not different from the way you are. You will stop the imitation, the counterfeit feelings and ways of being, and venture out into the world the way you happen to be.

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To my teacher Marieke Mars who taught me self-honesty. To my courageous and loving pathwork helper Dottie Titus.

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