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Angles on False Personality and the Lower Self
The human machine was designed at a higher level, and in the second state of consciousness it is impossible to comprehend the totality of its function in the moment. Consequently, all schools of awakening provide ways of understanding and experiencing aspects of its activity. By studying each of these under the guidance of a conscious teacher, the student is led to what lies above—or behind—all of these aspects. Although this unity must be experienced to be understood, it has been given many names, including consciousness, the fourth state, higher centers, Presence, the soul, nirvana, and the Self.
In my soul is a temple, a shrine, a mosque, a church where I kneel.
In effect, each of these—both the names given higher states and the descriptions of the machine—can be seen as metaphors or similes for that which cannot be understood in the second state. As a simile, consider a two-dimensional line drawing of a three-dimensional object. One can make many such drawings from different angles. The drawings will all be different, and may even seem quite contradictory in two dimensions, yet when one experiences the three-dimensional object to which they all refer, the differences and contradictions are resolved.
In the Fourth Way, the human machine can be viewed from many angles, including, among others, such ideas as features, body types, centers, and personality and essence. The idea of “false personality” starts from the angle that the machine is born with an essence which is relatively stable, and then develops a personality during life which covers essence much as clothing covers the body. Personality is then divided into true personality, which reflects essence, and false personality, which obscures essence. According to Ouspensky, false personality is one’s imaginary picture of oneself, and as such, is the source of negativity, inner considering, false ideas of oneself, and so on. Because work to awaken cannot be based on imagination, in order to be successful, that work must start from true personality.
False personality is utterly mechanical, so it is again the division into conscious and mechanical.
This mechanical part of us is chieﬂy based on imagination on wrong views of everything,
and above all on a wrong view of ourselves. We must realize how much we are in the power
of this false personality and invented things which have no real existence,
and we must separate what we can really depend on from what is not dependable in ourselves.
The Fourth Way, PD Ouspensky
The term “lower self” is more general, and emphasizes the idea of separating oneself into parts which are relatively higher and lower. In terms of personality, false personality is lower and true personally is higher. Later in one’s development, the separation is between personality and essence. Still later, it is between the second and third states. Ultimately, it is a separation of consciousness from mechanical functions, of higher centers from the four lower centers, and of the Self from all aspects and activity of the machine.
In the battlefield of the soul, there is a constant clash between
the soldiers of the devils and angels, until the angels gain the upper hand. .
From this angle–this point of view–the lower self can be seen as the enemy of higher states. This is because the lower self is mechanical, and by definition mechanical activity is not conscious activity. Moreover, being mechanical, the lower self reacts to the experiences which one has in higher states of consciousness. That is, for any conscious experience, there will be an unconscious, mechanical reaction; if one fails to recognize that reaction for what it is, one will lose the higher state. One can observe mechanicality while conscious, but one cannot be mechanical while conscious.
When one looks at this from a more emotional and less intellectual angle, the lower self can be seen as a demonic intelligence that constantly plots against Presence. Utterly mechanical or relentlessly plotting: both seem implacable obstacles. As such, both angles are equally valid—and, depending on the person using them and the needs of the moment, equally useful.
Although this relativity may be confusing for the “formatory” mind, it is essential to understanding, or using, any idea about awakening. All the ideas, like the descriptions and names, are merely angles—all of them. None are “real“—in the sense that neither they nor what they describe are themselves the experience—and yet none are “false.” They are all relatively true, just as each two-dimensional drawing is in some sense true but is still only one angle on the experience of the three-dimensional object. The point is not how the angles are different or how they are similar, both of which merely serve to keep one on the perimeter of understanding. The point is to see what each angle reveals, and then to use the one which works best in the moment. In time, one will come to perceive the place to which all the angles point—the place where they converge and all differences and contradictions are resolved and one is present to the whole.
I have seen the Deathless Triumphant,
and the Morning Star who walks divinely among them..
The Egyptian texts: Going Forth by Day