The false self has many names, as does the true self, which knowing about can help to broaden your understanding of what these two terms mean, and how the identification with one or the other influences your perception of reality, as well as your experience of it.
The False Self
The false self goes by many names and has many characteristics:
- The ego
- The persona/personality
- The mind-body
- The story of one’s past
- Any physical identity like gender, sexual orientation, or ethnicity
- Any social identity like job title, economic class, political beliefs, religious or philosophical doctrines, geographical identities etc.
The false self is limited, defined, illusory, and identified with lack and fear.
The True Self
The true self has many names too:
- The Higher Self
- The Soul
- Atman (Sanskrit term meaning Self)
- Superconscious mind
Your true Self has the characteristics of Peace, Love, Wisdom, Truth, Abundance, being Eternal, and being completely Fulfilled, Whole, and Perfect.
The False Self’s Reality
Our experience of reality is influenced by the conditioning of our mind. Our conditioning – the knowledge we’ve accumulated about reality – shapes our perception. And our perception influences not only how we see and relate to the world, but to a great extent is responsible for our experience of life itself. It is the reason why some suffer and some do not; why some feel blessed and others unlucky; why some people turn tragedy into triumph, and why others turn what would ordinarily be a beautiful day into a depressing one. This is why Buddha said you must master your mind to master your reality.
Because many of us do not have right knowledge of our true selves, we by default identify with our false selves – that is, we identify with our minds and bodies. This identification with our limited mind-bodies is the root cause for the manifestation of the vast spectrum of personal and collective problems we see in our lives and in our world today. When we identify with our false self – with our mind and body – we unconsciously and automatically identify with lack, limitation, and illusion. This identification is what spurs within us a sense that we are not enough – and so we spend our entire lives attempting to attain. This attainment is unfulfillable, and this sense of being unfulfilled (which is an illusion) is the cause of suffering.
Lack is a defining characteristic of the false self. It is always missing something – the truth of itself. Once the self realizes its Self, that is when Life makes sense and one becomes completely whole and fulfilled (so long as the self can continue living in alignment, reverence and service to the Self).
If one cannot realize the Self, and it remains trapped in its own illusion, it will always suffer. Its happiness is contingent upon circumstance. In order for it to be happy, or fulfilled, or experience some sense of positivity, reality must adhere to its ideal of perfection. Of course, as we know, life is not ideal. There is always some form outside of us that irritates us and grinds our gears. Because our perception of life is distorted through the conditioning of our mind, we will always experience life in a distorted way too. We will never realize the completeness of our Self, and the underlying unity of existence which cultivates an inner wisdom and a peace for all things. Because we do not realize our Self, and thus come to the realization of our own inherent wholeness and perfection, we will walk this earth attempting to fill the void within us – the chasm of death and fear – with superficial, material and false things.
Because we believe we lack, this lack corrupts us. It is the root cause of greed. It is the motivating force that drives us to exploit other human beings, as well as the very life of other beings and the planet. It is what causes us to do irrational and demeaning things in the name of money. It is why we waste the vitality of our lives running the rat race trying to get somewhere, acquire something, or be somebody. It is why we consume so much – movies, food, sex, drugs, clothes, cars, the bones of a dying earth as McKenna put it. It is why we can’t sit still; why we’re always on the move; why we’re so afraid to confront the silence and the darkness. It is why many of us die without having ever really lived.
The nature of your mind-body is limited by the content of your conditioning. Our conditioning is the extent of the knowledge we’ve accumulated about Self and reality. If we’re lucky, our conditioning is geared towards the Truth; maybe we were born with spiritually conscious parents that have been compelled to seek Truth, and by their parenting, we were influenced by their wisdom and knowledge. But many of us are not that lucky. Many of us do not have right knowledge of Self. Many of us grow up exposed to people and ideas from our society, culture, nation, and the various other ego-based identities and institutions we are immersed in, which we then adopt the mentalities of. Our environment heavily influences our state of mind, and our state of mind either limits us or liberates us. If you are serious about becoming powerful as an individual, you must limit your contact with other people, as well as guard the gates of your senses.
Because the mind by nature is limited, if you identify with your mind, you will live by the laws of your own self-imposed limitation. This is why so many people are afraid to walk their path of Truth. We all know in our heart of hearts what is true for us. We all know what we are capable of, what our destiny is, what we deserve, and what is right and wrong. But when we identify with our mind, and thus the realm of our psyche – which contains lies, deceptions, corruptions, delusions and limitations, we are led astray from the path and we lose our way. Even though we know we are capable of greatness, capable of wielding the power within us, capable of creating change in our lives – the limitations of our mind prevent us from ever doing so.
This limitation is an illusion, just as our belief of lack is. But the power of the mind is that it becomes what it believes. If you believe you lack, you will lack. If you believe you are limited, you will be limited.
When we identify with the mind-body and its conditioning, we are always identifying with some sort of distorted version of the Absolute Reality (of Truth). The nature of this distortion will determine the experience we have of reality. Our mind is the magnifying glass which focuses the life-force within us to live in a particular way. With right knowledge of Self and the practice of Self-Mastery, and by our own personal experimentation with the conscious intent of our will, we can actualize our inner potential. Without right knowledge (of Self, or otherwise), we do not act in right ways; we are not able to bend our wills to produce the result we desire to bring into fruition.
When we identify with illusion (a distorted view of reality), we suffer. In Sanskrit, the power of illusion of Brahman (Absolute Reality) is termed Maya. Illusion is like a mask that God and Its various forms wears. Illusion makes it possible for God to hide from Itself and find and rediscover Itself. This kind of suffering, of illusion, is a necessary experience. It motivates us to seek non-suffering, thus fueling our own personal evolution, if you will – our own discovery of Self, of Truth.
The True Self’s Reality
Before I get into the experience of reality when lived in alignment with your true self, I must first tell you about the nature of it.
Your true self, your soul, your higher self, your consciousness – all of these terms which point to the awareness within you that is watching this experience – that part of you is quite detached from what it is you are actually experiencing. It is detached, unaffected, uninfluenced, incorruptible, indestructible, untouchable; it cannot be harmed, it cannot die, and it cannot be diminished. It is beyond space and time. It cannot be touched by the sufferings of your mind and body, and it also is quite unattached to the “good” things that happen in your life too. It is equanimous. It is the watcher, the observer, here to add particular experiences to its cosmic and eternal portfolio. The mind-body and the material world is where it (currently) does its work.
Living from the internal place of your Being is something that you must experience for yourself. Trusting in yourself and living in alignment with yourself is both the mission and the reward. To know your own path you must have the courage to take it step by step, even if you are blind and groping in the darkness of the unknown and uncomfortable. To validate your own power you must exercise it. Only then will you know Truth for yourself.
Peace. Power. Will. Faith. Magic. Love. Wisdom. Transformation. These are but some of the fruits available for the labour of doing the Great Work (Self-Realization, Self-Mastery, Self-Actualization). The Great Work involves working upon yourself: to reach higher and higher states, to seek Truth, or more importantly, embody it – become it, live it, share it, express it, actualize it. The Great Work is a universal path, and walking the path of Truth – of living in alignment with your highest self – follows natural principles. These principles are that of the soul: wisdom, truth, peace, virtue, and traits of this higher nature. You will know when you are living in alignment with your higher self or when you are perpetuating the patterns of your lower self. You have an inner guidance system within you.
There is a faith and a flow that comes along with choosing to consciously embody your true self. You know in your heart of hearts your Truth – that that dream in your heart that you pray so dearly for every moment of your life – that is your destiny; you know you are going to get there eventually. This sense of knowing lies beyond the rational, intellectual mind. Which is a problem for your false self because the false self is so insecure. It is so unsure. It needs facts. But this is precisely the work that is to be done. To master the false self and to surrender to our higher self and walk the path of our Truth. It is quite a frightening concept for the false self. And on this journey it is not uncommon for the mind-body (the ego) to do everything in its power (unconscious, subconscious, conscious) to maintain control of the path. (This is where the importance of self-mastery comes into play. You are mastering your lower self to make way for your higher self.)
In every moment of our life we are confronted with a multitude of choices. In our heart of hearts we know which choice is the highest choice we can possibly make. It is most often the scariest choice. And it is only scary because we must walk it our own self. It is usually independent of others in the sense that it does not obey social or cultural customs. To truly walk The Way, you must abandon your Self and your accumulated customs. The spiritual path is learning how to walk The Way; to surrender fully in faith to The Way. It is the path of Truth. It is yours if you would like it to be.
By surrendering your fear to your Higher Self, your fear dissipates, and the magic of that surrender comes forth to prove to you that all is good – always has been and always will be. Think of living in alignment with your Higher Self like this: reminisce about your past and all the hardships, difficulties, and challenges you endured, survived and transcended. Look at them from the higher vantage point in this present moment. Living from the place of your Higher Self is like you in the present moment looking at your past. Because your Higher Self is beyond space-time, you are free from the limitations and situations of your mind-body and thus its suffering. By transcending the mind and body, you transcend its suffering. By transcending form, you become formless. By transcending limitation, you become limitless. By transcending your animal nature, you become divine.
Walking the path is not easy. You must conquer mind and body. You must master your lower self and make it a slave to your higher self. You must be vigilant and you must master your will. May Truth be your guide and show you what is real!