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Self Reflection

Glossary of Spiritual Wisdom

Excerpts about Self Reflection

All the Boundless Dimensions are Inherently Aware of Themselves Without Having to Self-Reflect

In the dimension of pure awareness, you can be aware of all phenomena or you can be aware of yourself. All the boundless dimensions are inherently aware of themselves without having to self-reflect, although the capacity for self-reflection is also possible. When pure awareness looks at itself, it sees an empty, infinite vastness. I remember I experienced it once as the whole universe being an infinite crystal—true, transparent, perfect—and all forms as the facets of that crystal. The experience of this dimension is a kind of intoxicating awakeness—a fresh, sparkling, clear, bright awareness everywhere. Consciousness has awakened to itself; reality has awakened to itself. But when the absolute looks at itself, it doesn’t see anything. There is nothing to perceive. If you look at the absolute, experience altogether disappears and the next thing you know you are back looking at phenomena. If you sense into it, there is nothing to sense. The absolute is not only nonconceptual, but also it is the source of nonconceptual awareness. And it is subtler than pure, primordial awareness because there is no perception of sensation and no capacity for self-reflection. The capacity for self-reflection disappears here. In pure awareness, you can self-reflect even though you don’t have to. Here, if you self-reflect, nothing happens—experience stops; it is a non-event. It’s like what you see when you look into nonbeing. This dimension of absolute reality brings in the mysterious darkness, the luminous
night.

Automatic Patterns are a Kind of False Spontaneity

Automatic patterns are a kind of false spontaneity. They are not really spontaneous. The person is still reflecting on herself, is behaving still in a way to be good, or to do this or that. This is still a judgment and a discrimination of oneself, and the person might not be aware of it. But they are doing it anyway, maybe preconsciously and not consciously. When I say spontaneously, I mean you are really not aware of it at all. You just do it with absolutely no self-reflection, absolutely, just like when you are falling asleep. Usually when you are falling asleep, you are not aware of it. You are just falling asleep. You know you are lying there thinking about something, and then suddenly you wake up in the morning. What happened? That’s how it happens usually, that is, very spontaneous. If falling asleep is not spontaneous, you can’t fall asleep. Try to fall sleep, you’ll never make it. Anyone who tries to go to sleep, can’t go to sleep. Only when you forget about yourself do you fall asleep. That is similar to the true flow of love. So when you live your life like that it’s just like falling asleep. That is when you are free.

Essence is Incapable of Self-Reflective Awareness or Knowledge

Essence is also incapable of self-reflective awareness or knowledge. It knows itself only in the mode of basic knowledge, specifically in the mode of identity. It can only know itself by being itself. However, this is also the freedom of essence. Because it is incapable of self-reflection it cannot be dual. It is always free from intermediacy, and hence from contamination by alienated constructs. It is the promise of freedom for the soul, because when the soul realizes essence as her ground she attains a center incapable of being contaminated. The conscious ground of the soul is then eternally immaculate and free. The soul, on the other hand, is capable of basic knowledge in all possible permutations. She can experience any form within basic knowledge, including any and all of the aspects of essence. She is capable of reflection and self-reflection. Her knowledge is always changing and developing. She can change, and as we have seen it is inherent in her nature that she is in continual change.

Presence Knows Itself Directly, Without Reflecting on Itself

As noted above, the soul is not simply a field of homogeneous presence. Its ground and fabric is the presence of consciousness, but it includes many levels and facets of this consciousness. Presence knows itself directly, without reflecting on itself, and without a self-object dichotomy. It does not look at itself; it knows itself by being itself. It knows itself by being naturally self-collected in such a way that it is spontaneously self-abiding. By abiding in itself it knows itself as presence. The soul has the capacity to know herself in this way, by collecting herself and abiding in her own presence. But she also has the capacity for self-reflection, so she can know herself self-reflectively, a mode of knowing that can—and usually does, in egoic experience—develop into dualistic knowing, knowing through the self-object dichotomy. The soul can differentiate into many dimensions, many facets, which can operate in an organized way to fulfill specific functions. The consciousness of the soul differentiates into what we know normally as mind, heart, and will, with their respective capacities and functions.

Self-Reflection Always Identifies You as a Self Which is a Separate Entity

That’s true, but sometimes you are being spontaneous and present at the same time; even while thinking, you are thinking spontaneously. However, there is always the activity of self-reflection, which is mostly preconscious. It’s not exactly unconscious or repressed, but it is not explicit in your awareness. This self-reflection always identifies you as the self which is a separate entity. This makes it impossible to be completely spontaneous. The only problem happens when you reflect back on what you are doing. If you don’t reflect on it, then everything is happening spontaneously; you just do it. If you never think about it, no problem, you just do what you do and that’s it. It’s only when you start thinking about yourself: Should I do this? Should I control myself? Should I do that? Is this going to be right? Is this going to be wrong? Then conflict or dichotomy arises. If you don’t think about it, you just do it, then spontaneous activity is a natural thing.

Self-Reflection Tends to Dissociate the Soul from Her Ground

Self-reflection is necessary for the development of ego structures, and becomes a factor in the soul’s self-conscious awkwardness and neurotic self-criticism. It also tends to dissociate the soul from her ground, for by reflecting back on herself, the soul takes the position of a subject that observes an object. Thus self-reflection develops into the dualistic mode of experiencing oneself. Yet it is necessary as a stage in the development and maturation of the soul toward self-realization. In the total self-realization of true nature, the soul is not self-reflective, for true nature does not look at itself. It recognizes itself by being itself. This capacity for discrimination is not present in early infancy. (See The Point of Existence, chapter 35, for a discussion of essential self seeing and self-recognition.) The soul does not lose her capacity for self-reflection when she realizes her true nature. She retains it as a capacity, rather than as the only way of knowing herself.

The Capacity for Self-Reflection is Important for the Soul’s Eventual Self-Recognition of Her True Nature

Self-reflection is important for self-perception and knowledge. In fact, many people believe that self-reflection is what differentiates human beings from other life-forms; they believe that it is unique to human consciousness. It is a potential of the human soul that arises as part of normal development. Without it a human being would be ignorant of his inner motivations, impulses, conflicts, and so on. It is necessary for self-examination, which includes the appraisal of one’s beliefs, assumptions about reality, and so on. This is obviously important for the development of human understanding, and human knowledge in general. This capacity is thus important for the soul’s eventual self-recognition of her true nature. Through self-reflection we can find out that we do not know ourselves; without it we cannot explore what we know of ourselves, what we believe we are, which is a necessary requirement for undergoing the spiritual journey. The journey is to a large extent a form of introspection that is a development of the capacity for self-reflection.

The Self Can be Known in Its Essence

It is central to our view that the self can be known in its essence. Further, this insight into the essence of the soul can reveal the deepest roots of narcissism, making it possible to actually resolve narcissistic issues. In fact, in the experience of spiritual realization, we discover that the pure presence of the essence of the soul can be known more directly, more intimately, and more precisely, than can the more external manifestations of the self. This is because the latter are usually experienced through self-reflection and thus indirectly. Self-perception is further obscured by the various contents of the psyche, whereas the essential presence of the self is cognized by being it, without the intermediary of extraneous mental content.

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