Monday, August 29, 2011

Lower Self, Higher Self, No Self

Thirty spokes join at the hub;
their use for the cart
is where they are not.

When the potter's wheel makes a pot,
the use of the pot
is precisely where there is nothing.

When you open doors and windows for a room,
it is where there is nothing
that they are useful to the room..

Therefore being is for benefit,
Nonbeing is for usefulness.

-- Lao Tzu --
("The Essential Tao")
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"The image of the wheel that is not too tight on its axle and not too loose," says Allan Watts, "that is really with the axle, is the Zen principle of not being attached, not being sticky. It is very difficult for us to function in that way," he points out, "because we have been brought up to believe that there are two sides to ourselves. - one the animal side, and the other the human and civilized side."

"These are expressed," he observes, "in what Freud calls 'the pleasure principle' which he classifies with the animal side, the Id, and the other the 'reality principle' which he puts on the side of society and the Super-Ego. And man is so split, that he is in a constant fight between these two."

"Theosophists," Watts notes, "sometimes speak of our having two selves: the Higher Self which is spiritual, and the lower self which is merely psychic - the ego. And therefore the problem of life is to make one self, the higher one, take hold of the other like a rider takes charge of a horse."

"(However) in Zen," he points out,  "a duality between higher self and lower self is not made. Because if you believe in the higher self, this is a simple trick of the lower self. If you believe that there really is no lower self, that there is only the higher self but that somehow or other the higher self has to shine through, the very fact that you think it has to try to shine through still gives validity to the lower self."

On the other hand, he notes: "If you think you have a lower self or an ego to get rid of and then you fight against it, nothing strengthens the delusion that it exists more than that. So this tremendous schizophrenia amongst human beings of thinking that they are rider and horse, soul in command of body, or will in control of passions wrestling with them, all that kind of split thing simply aggravates the problem and we get more and more split."

"And so," he points out, "we have all sorts of people engaged in an interior conflict which they will never ever resolve. Because the true self, either you know it or you don't. If you do know it, than you  know that it is the only one, and the other so-called lower self just ceases to be a problem. It becomes something like a mirage, and you don't go around hitting them with a stick or putting reins on them, you just know that they are mirages and walk straight through them."

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