Much has been said about mechanicity and the need to improve the attention that ordinarily is weak in human beings which denies a conscious inner development and the perception of reality as it is. These are only a few aspects of the whole vision of a work on ourselves.
Another very important aspect that must be treated is the non- unity of human personality. Indeed, every human believes himself to possess a stable and permanent “I”, able to direct life events.
Reality is far different: indeed, in ordinary conditions of life, humans are “manifold”, fragmented in themselves because of the effects of a plurality of “I’s” that represent and compose their reality.
This is an affirmation that would seem abstract, hasty and exaggerated, and generally it will be denied until the end. Men and women generally tend to build an image of themselves that convince them that they have a structured personality, to be “one”.
This illusion is produced from many factors, and first of all is the fact that all possess a physical body, and everyone is deeply identified with it. Willy- nilly, this is a reality that can be verified in every moment of our life. Every time we see ourselves in a mirror, the reflected image we see gives us the certainty that we exist.
Secondly, our name. It’s a thing that few give importance to, but the fact of being called, from our early childhood with the same name, produces a perception of a distinct and stable (so not susceptible to changes) personality.
Mind is used to recognize itself in a name and a physical form, and every time we are recognized because of our appearance or called by name, we feel as though we exist as defined entities.
The third aspect that gives an illusion of unity is related to mechanicity, a topic that has been discussed many times on this blog. Indeed, the whole of habits that compose our being mechanical gives us a further impression of existence as structured and integral beings.
We recognize ourselves in our clothes, couches, drinks we prefer, cigarettes, cars, work and rest time, our job, office, what we prefer to eat, and in all our daily habits.
For the reason that we are mechanical, so repetitive, we reflect ourselves in a series of characteristics in which we identify ourselves, feeling and reflecting upon ourselves as entities distinct from the rest. My body, my name, my habits make me feel unified, “one”. The reality, as said above, is far different, because “I” am not one, I am a “multitude”, “legion”, and here we begin this thread.
Understand and realize that the plurality, the fragmentation of our nature is fundamental; it’s an extraordinary thing to grasp it in our daily existence.
We are composed from a huge number of little “I’s”, every one of which has been developed as a consequence of very different events and situations in our life. Such “I’s” remain separated and very often are in contrast with each other.
When we make a statement, for example, that we wish to follow a diet, we are convinced as speaking as a unique individual, namely as an individual unified in its decisions. But what happens is that at such a determined moment, a small individuality (a little “I”) that had been formed in a period when it had been realized that excessive body weight could be harmful for our health or for aesthetics, emerges above the others. But, after one or two days, we’ll say to someone: “With all the problems I have in my daily life, I have no time to take care of my weight” or something similar. At this precise moment, another fragment of individuality emerges that contains totally different needs and points of view.
Many people consider such changes of ideas as a lack of will, but the problem is far deeper: the fact is that we are unable to be a unique “I” for the necessary period of time to realize what we really wish to do.
We are not “one” but a multiplicity of hundreds of little “me’s” that had been structured in different situations and times, every one of which has totally different qualities, convictions, and needs. Mostly, these parts of our fragmented personality have been structured as a consequence of conditionings and mechanical reactions.
The legitimate question that could arise in the intelligent reader is the following: “Then, what am I? Who am I? The whole of these fragmented pieces? One or a specific group of those pieces?” The answer is none of these possibilities. Indeed, answering the question about who we are in reality – our real nature, is the primary object of inner development. This is the reason why realizing not only intellectually, but in first person, the fragmentation of our personality is capital for an individual whose wish is to develop himself.
Without an inner unity, we are unable to perform any kind of effective will, just because we are at the mercy of a legion of fragments, every one of which “considers” itself to be a unique “me”. We’ll constantly change ideas, needs, and points of view, so that we’ll be unable to achieve the aim we had determined.
Practically every thought, emotion, feeling, and sensation represents one of these fragments – a different “I” unconnected from the others. So, every time we affirm that we like or dislike something, that we prefer this or that, we are speaking the language of a determined “I” that expresses itself at that moment. The expression of these fragmented parts depends uniquely on external circumstances.
The reader that follows this blog or knows, at least in part, the dynamics of mechanicity will see the similarity with this thread: we think our life responses come from inside of us, but it’s the opposite. They are induced from the outside: simply, spurred from the outside, a fragment of what we call “our personality” reacts and wins the day over the other fragments.
Sometimes, it could happen that a fragment when expressing itself, keeps with it other fragments, forming a sort of grouping which increases our convictions, but it’s very rare that such a grouping happens in a specific and “organized” way. Even if it occurs, and it happens more than once, even during our days, these are “accidental” groupings formed through similitudes and casual similarities.
On one hand, this process is really fascinating, because an “I” arises and it’s convinced to be the only one, the whole, a direct and central “me”; and, the following fragment that takes the place of the first, has the same conviction, and this continues in a never-ending cycle.
The reader could ask, if that’s true, then what is so “fascinating” in all this? It is the fact that we don’t notice such alterations. Every time we identify ourselves with a single fragment, convinced to be the only one -the “I”, we attribute to ourselves a constant and stable identity that essentially doesn’t exist.
To have the possibility to evolve as individuals, we have to create a unity in this separation, putting order into this chaos and replacing the casualty and mechanicity with a will and the capacity to act instead of re-acting, as usually happens.
Obviously, the first step in achieving this aim is to realize in a practical way that we are not yet “one”. For as long as we remain slaves of this illusion, we’ll be unable to “feed” the desire, the concrete wish and urge to change this situation through creating a central, stable identity that could be defined as a central ego.
Indeed, many spiritual paths state that we have to release ourselves from an ego, and they treat this ego as something concrete, but there is nothing concrete in us. We can’t release ourselves from something we don’t possess.
A stable ego is a true self- conscious and determining identity that is not susceptible to reacting in a mechanical way to external events. Such an identity possesses a concrete awareness of itself and the external world. Once this stable ego arises, the other fragmented pieces that form our illusory personality lose their force and autonomy progressively and are absorbed by this stable ego or “I”.
When we pass from one “I” to another one, what happens is that we concretely lose the awareness of our identification in the previous “me” and this, in some way, makes us untrustworthy. Under the influence of one of these fragments, we can promise something with sincerity and conviction, but in a second moment, when we have to accomplish this task, we are unable to do it, because we are under the influence of another totally different “me”. So, acting as coherent individuals becomes very difficult, if not an impossible task.
In some way we could state that many oaths, feelings, ideals and thoughts, seen from a point of view of humanity, do not represent elements of absolute stability. On the contrary, developing a stable “I” allows this coherence, a continuity in the world of principles, emotions, and will.
- "Gurdjieff's Meditations"
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- Self Observation
- Suggested Readings
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- The Art of Listening
- The Book of Little things
- The power of Vibration
- The Walker on the Waters
- Uppaluri Gopala Krishnamurti
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