Tag Archives: Self

Inquiry into Consciousness Part III – The Self

There is the experience of consciousness. On the surface, it carries with it the assumption of individual agency. This assumption assumes that there is a self which experiences consciousness and that this self has some degree of agency or free-will.

In my last post I examined the “internal” experience of consciousness which consists of various kinds of thoughts, emotions and bodily sensations. This examination revealed to me that although the assumptions of self and agency seem obvious they tend to break down under scrutiny.

Say I have a creative idea and act on it (e.g., I write a novel, song or paint a picture). I implicitly want to take credit for this idea even though I do not know the process by which that idea came into being. Nor do I know that I am responsible for this process even on a subconscious level. The implicitness of this desire to take credit stems from the fact that the idea seemed to originate inside my head. My head is a part of my body and seemingly encasing the physical space where consciousness exists (i.e., behind the eyes and between the ears). Concurrent with this assumption of credit is the assumption that there is a “me” who is capable of taking credit. The implicitness of this assumption seems to primarily stem from the fact that I have a body which occupies physical space and that I have memories which form a continuous timeline of my experience. So there is a conflict that exists between my inability to control my internal experience and the assumption that I should nevertheless take credit for it.

I have been exposed to the idea of “no self” for some time but I cannot say that I totally understand it or feel it. The fact that thoughts occur and I want to take credit for them without understanding the process of their creation begins to shed light on this illusive concept. Not only do I not understand the process of thought creation but I cannot predict or control my thought creation. If I don’t understand the process by which something is created, nor can I predict or control that thing, can I really take credit for it? The self is intimately connected to my thoughts and internal experience, none of which I control. As such, can I really claim there is a self?

But still, the feeling of a self seems very strong and real most of the time especially when I do not directly place my attention on it. Perhaps I could say that there is a self but that this self does not control it’s thoughts and internal experience. In this respect, the self is more of a vessel for this experience. But the self I feel myself to be is not the vessel it is the internal experience. And much like my internal experience, I don’t control most of the functions of my body. I can control my breathing to an extent, but I don’t consciously control my pancreas (for example). If there is a self, I cannot define it as that which I control. It is really what I experience. But saying my self is my experience is different than thinking of my self as an autonomous, sovereign being.

Alan Watts talks about the self being an illusion and that there are only experiences without the need for a self to be the the one who experiences the experiences. This is a difficult idea to understand because as I said it feels like I exist and act autonomously. I have memories that connect my experiences into a life. I have a body etc. etc. I guess the best I can do is say that my self is my experience. This includes both internal and external experience (i.e., the world). Alan Watts says as much. If I am my heart beating then I am also the sun shining.

I recently listened to the audio book version of “Free Will” by Sam Harris. His basic premise is that human beings generally exist with the assumption that they have free will. That is, they believe they are to some degree consciously choosing the actions they take in life. Harris argues this assumption is incoherent in that thoughts appear in the human conscience out of nowhere and therefore the humans experiencing these thoughts cannot take credit for them. Moreover, human experience is shaped by external forces that are out of one’s control. For example, humans have no control over the family, social class and geographic location they are born into. To a large degree, the events in life are also out of one’s control and all of these external forces shape the decisions we make as humans. Curiously, Harris is a staunch atheist. But the idea of no self and no free will tends to tilt me more in the theist camp. After all, something is going on. The experience exists even though my self does not. Something has to be the beneficiary of this experience of consciousness.

The idea of no self can be disappointing because it goes against the implicit assumptions regarding the experience of consciousness. But if there is no me, then who is getting disappointed by the fact that there is no me? This is indeed difficult to wrap one’s head around. Perhaps the idea of the self is the wrong way to go about it. I do not claim to know the right way to go about it. Let us say for now, (1) there is consciousness, both internal and external, (2) there is experience of consciousness and (3) there is existence. Perhaps this is the implication of the statement “I am that I am” (Exodus 3:14). There is simply pure “am-ness” and maybe it is only God that has a self and can create thought. I will explore this in the next blog post.


Filed under Psychology, Religion

Exploring Why a Genuine White Supremacist Doesn’t Like New Years Resolutions

KKKApparently “Genuine White Supremacists” take issue with people making New Years resolutions. Last week I wrote a piece on New Years resolutions and true to form, my self-described “Genuine White Supremacist” neighbor launched into an accusatory tirade in the comment section. I strive to write at least one blog post a week and last week was inspired to write this particular post because I noticed that a previous post on the subject was getting a few hits. The idea of comparing my current mindset to my previous mindset struck me as interesting and off I went.

We have a little history, my Genuine White Supremacist neighbor and I. He has been somewhat obsessively posting in the comment section of my blog for some time now. For the most part I enjoy the back and forth we have. The fact that we are pretty much diametrically opposed on a number of subjects makes for a lively debate. Our interactions have given me a wealth of material to write about and the traffic to my blog has vastly increased ever since he started contributing. For all those reasons I am grateful. However, there is a certain hostile negativity to his posts which can take our interactions down dark paths from time to time. Fortunately, this is my blog and I am in control of the content so I can easily keep him in line if need be.

One thing I enjoy about him is that his hostility always takes me by surprise. His reaction to my post on New Years resolutions is an excellent example of this:

If you desire to control others then you are constantly attempting to break their “continuum.” The “New Year’s Resolution” is some such mechanism invoked on a mass scale to break the “continuum” of the people’s [mind frame]. There is on January 1st a sort of mass reboot infused with the idea of mandated recalibration and foundational inspection.

Making New Years resolutions is something I would imagine a great many people do. Because many people do this there is naturally a lot of chatter about it in the media. His reaction seems to view this chatter as some sort of top down, mechanism designed by the “media-entertainment complex” (his words) to control people by breaking their “continuum” for some unknown purpose. I suppose this breaking of continuum affected by encouraging people to make New Years resolutions in his thinking prevents them from achieving the clarity of mind he claims to possess by ignoring the custom.

My neighbor continued:

Those most susceptible [sic] to a Self/ego split antagonism will find much meaning in this break in the “continuum” as it essentially validates a perpetually gnawing personal experience AND helps to disperse a personal burden amongst the masses. In other words, your continuous breaks in your personal continuum is eleviated [sic] by the idea of a mass break in the people’s continuum. You find a “heartening” personal to collective relationship in the “New Year’s Resolution” based upon a shared brokenness in one’s Self/ego continuum.

If I read him correctly (and that is always a challenge) I think he is asserting that people who like the idea of a New Years resolution suffer collectively from a condition he refers to here as a “self/ego spit.” By this term I assume he refers to experience of an internal, self-critical voice (i.e., the voice of the ego). He seems to be passing judgment on these people and making the claim that he does not experience this voice, himself. I find this very hard to believe mostly because it has been my experience that people who are a judgmental of other people as he is are equally as judgmental of themselves thus giving rise to the self / ego split and the internal self-critical voice.

Also included is his judgment of the population contending with a self / ego split is the idea that the individuals within this population draw comfort from their neighbors suffering from the same issue. He contends that this is the reason or motivation behind the cultural phenomenon of making New Years resolutions on January 1st. I get the sense that he is also trying to imply that people drawing comfort from neighbors in this way indicates ignorance and weakness on their part which he sees as additional fodder to shame them.

He continues:

I take it as a given that the masses are being controlled from on high… Part of this control is the understanding that most possess a broken “continuum” (conflicting self/ego) and that it is in the validation of the broken “continuum” suffered by the masses as epitomized by the “News Year’s Resolution” that this control is refined and normalized. The broken “continuum” signified by the reboot of a new year’s “resolution” is the attempt to normalize the abnormal… The attempt to legitimate an annual massive reboot and foundational reinspection… The attempt to make regular the idea of a broken continuum in one’s existence.

In the paragraph quoted above he describes the making of New Years resolutions as the “attempt to make regular the idea of a broken continuum…” In other words a non broken continuum is mankind’s real state of affairs only it has been disrupted through cultural traditions like making New Years resolutions.

But what is the making of a New Years resolution? I see it as simply the acknowledgement that I could be better than I am and that I am making a renewed effort to strive towards perfection. Seen through the lens of Christianity (a tradition he claims to adhere to) we are all sinners and we should all strive to be without sin. Apparently he sees himself without sin which I assume is the reason why he sees himself to be entitled to throw the first stone.

He then chose to make things a little more personal:

Your fundamental stance is of a Self/ego conflict that is seemingly unresolvable? But, there seems to be no awareness on your part that you are not, in fact, trying to solve the conflict BECAUSE it is in this very conflict that you maximize your autonomy in relation to others in your proximity.

Remember, I am a GENUINE white Supremacist.

This rather cryptic section requires a little unpacking. Do I believe that the “Self / Ego split” is unresolvable? The answer to this question depends very much on the definition of “resolvable.” If “resolvable” means that I no longer hear that critical voice in the back of my head then no, I do not believe for most people the self/ego split is resolvable. However, if “resolvable” means that I recognize the self critical voice for what it is and am no longer governed by it to the extent that I was, then yes, I do believe it is resolvable. I believe this because I have experienced this resolution first hand.

I suspect my Genuine white Supremacist neighbor on the other hand has not really resolved this split the way he claims. At least he has not resolved it in the manner I just described. Put another way, his resolution of the self / ego split was to side entirely with his ego. In a sense he annihilated his self in favor of his ego. Interestingly, like all egocentrics, he defines himself in comparison to others. He is a “Genuine white Supremacist” afterall. In a sense he merely took his “self / ego split” and externalized it into a “self / other split.” From this lofty perch he can look down upon the masses who are unknowingly manipulated by the media-entertainment complex into making New Years resolutions for the purpose of breaking their continuum.


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Monolog of a [W]hite Supremacist Part V

HitlerHe has a schizophrenic take on the ego. In the past he defended the ego as a vital force for survival. But sometimes he dismisses the ego as an antiquated concept. True to form, however, he does so in a vague and inscrutable manner.

Again, the “ego” is yesterday’s psychological wedge.

By “psychological wedge” does he mean the ego is literally splitting the psyche in two or does he mean the ego is a wedge issue that separates one group of like minded people from another?

Now the “ego” battles multiple Selves and is left susceptible to the Law of Diminishing Return. The “ego,” quite linearly, did not manifest with the intent of “combatting” multiple Selves. The “ego” must now choose which Self to speak to where “it” was once the dominate “voice” in one’s head.

I think what he is getting at here is that the ego is conceptually a different “self” living within the psyche of a person. Clearly people are aware that they have different and sometimes conflicting motivations from time to time. This is evidence of multiple selves. Then there is the part of the self that is self critical. This is further evidence.

I tend to lump this self critical aspect together with the part of the self that is self destructive, jealous, vain, racist etc. and I refer to it all as the ego. It might not be technically correct but that is how I look at it. As I said earlier, in the past he has defended the ego (or the qualities of the ego) as a positive force for survival. It is interesting to think of his preoccupation with race in this context. Really, race to him is merely an extension of his ego through time and space. In this sense his philosophy remains consistent.

But what is an “ego” to “say” to one with antithetical Selves self-created for the very purpose of submitting the “ego” to an internal silence?

From my perspective the ego is the cause of a great deal of suffering in life. It was a watershed moment in my life when I learned to separate myself from my ego and observe it. Through this process I ceased being governed by my ego to a large extent and I also gained insight into how my ego functions and the role it plays within my greater self. This liberated me from a great deal of depression and anxiety which had dominated my existence before hand. If ever I acted in accordance with what he calls “God-ordained free will” in my life this is the greatest example. However, if I take the pro-ego perspective, what I have just described appears as a subjugation of the ego. This is the idea I think he is attempting to convey in the passage quoted above.

Again, at one time the conception of a “man with a ego” was a man very Self-aware and thus very aware of outside his Self [sic.]. His “ego” was that first self-creation that functioned as an “outside observer and advisor” to the dominant Self. Over time, the “ego” was liberated and became only a reflection of the bad Self. Now the “man with the ego” is a stunted man, isolated in his own mind, privy only to a “reality” of his own desires and impenetrable to competing realities. This “ego” is a fundamentally transgressive ego where it was once a self-created feed back loop utilized to obtaining a fuller grasp of the total reality.

I am in full agreement that the ego is a natural process originally designed for survival. To the extent it aids man in his survival it is beneficial. Where the ego tends to run afoul is when it perceives threats that are not real and acts inappropriately to defend itself from these “threats.” The origin of the ego run afoul is typically bad parenting or some other form of abuse. If ego separation is not achieved then it is passed on to the next generation. I suspect this is the motivating force behind his white Supremacy. In a sense it is his ego that is the white Supremacist and he has ceded control of his greater self to his ego.

So now these two extremely antithetical conceptions of the “man with the ego” provoked a reaction from the dominant Self. Which of these “egos” is the one to trust, the one to distrust or how can I, the dominant Self, exploit the trusted ego and the distrusted ego? How can I, the dominant Self, silence the transgressive ego and hear more clearly the trusted ego? Such questions require the application of multiple selves manifested concretely from the dominant Self to test the “ego” in all ways possible. A loyal ego is a silent ego. A disloyal ego is a noisy ego.

There is a choice that must be made. Do you choose the light or do you choose the dark? The ego is tricky and can be very convincing at times. I can now clearly see my ego sits on the dark side of the spectrum and I have made my choice not to ally myself with it. He seems to have made a different choice and has constructed an elaborate philosophical and spiritual system to hold it all together. To the extent he can live a peaceful, happy life and not interfere with anyone else’s life I wish him well.


Tomorrow is the first Sunday of Advent and I would like to shift gears a little. This white Supremacist series, although interesting, has introduced a certain negative energy into my life that I do not want to have present during Advent. As such, I will be taking a break on this subject for a while (perhaps permanently). In keeping with the theme of ego I would be remiss if I did not point out that this series has been ego gratifying for me. If I am being honest I have to admit that part of me (my ego) enjoys the arguments in the comments section. And the times when I felt I got the better of him gave me a short term rush of adrenaline. But this is all ego and vanity. It ultimately does not lead to happiness. In fact, it leads in the opposite direction despite its entertainment value.


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