Inner  Frontier
Fourth Way Spiritual Practice


Inner Work

For the week of July 31, 2017

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The Fog of self


Our nebulous understanding of who and what we are acts like a fog that surrounds us. If we look for ourselves, what we see, at best, are vague outlines. If we try to grasp ourselves, we come away empty-handed. Nevertheless, this fog seems really to be our self. And like a fog, it prevents us from seeing beyond ourselves, from opening to our true, spiritual nature and to the greater spirit in which we are embedded.

In particular, we cannot enter oneness as long as we remain convinced that this fog of self proves that what is inside the fog is us and what is outside it is not us. To come to oneness, we need to see through the fog, we need to pierce the veil of self that separates us from everyone and everything else. If we can just be, without being lost in our separate self, we can be all.

One way toward transcending our self consists of looking carefully at our self to see what is actually there. We can ask: What am I? Who am I? Am I my thoughts? Am I my feelings? Am I my name?

Psychologists and cognitive neuroscientists have, for many years, explored how people experience self. One of the lessons to emerge from that research is that self is not one thing, but rather an inferred model, built from a pseudo-integrated network of modes of self-related experience. As summarized by Anil K. Seth [1] , these modes fall into five types: the bodily self, the self of my perspective, the volitional self, the narrative self, and the social self. To these we add a sixth, self-image, and a seventh, the conscious self, which bind the other five into a virtual and superficially seamless self.

In the coming weeks, we will explore these factors that shape our view of who and what we are. We will engage in the different types of inner work most appropriate to each of the modes of self-experience. In doing so, we can hope to gain a deeper understanding of ourselves, of what our self is and is not, of how our self is generated, and perhaps even of whether we could dispense with the constructed notion of self altogether, and how it might be to live with less or even no self.

Toward that, we look carefully at the various claims, presentations, and assumptions of self that arise within us. By examining our self, piece by piece, by seeing what we believed we were but are not, by seeing through our ingrained distinctions between self and not self, we approach who we truly are.

Am "I" just a network of parts, aspects, and modes of experience? Do my parts collude to create the illusion of my self, to create the fog of self?

The Fog of self Series

    1. Bodily Self
    2. My Perspective
    3. Volitional Self
    4. Narrative Self
    5. Social Self
    6. Self-Image
    7. Conscious Self

[1] See Also: A. K. Seth, The Science of Selfhood


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