It may seem somewhat paradoxical to some people that the Self should be composed of multiple selves. After all, how can you dissect the phenomenon of what seems to be a coherent unified experience into the sum of these underlying forces of the psyche? Quite bluntly, I don’t think you can, and such an approach kind of misses the point: similarly to how the body is composed of cells which are in turn composed of atoms etc., our usual sense of Self (of individuation, a.k.a. the Ego) is connected at all times in our mental architecture to all of the various aspects of ourselves. Since our sense of Self is tied to our sense of identity, the way that we choose to see ourselves as existential phenomena can have profound implications for the individual’s subjective state-of-mind which carry through to the group’s cultural or social state of mind. So when we open our minds eye and the true self begins to awaken, we start to see more of life’s spectrum: We learn to free our minds and we increase the bandwidth of consciousness on which we operate, paving the way for the evolution of the collective consciousness. As for the paradox of the singular and non-singular self, current research in cognitive and computer science may hold the key.
I’ve done some very light reading lately on quantum computing, and though that topic is a whole can of worms I will probably want to pick over at some point, for the moment I just want to make an analogy depicting the mind as a quantum computer. If you know anything about quantum physics you know that the world as we know it falls apart at the microscopic level. This quantum world follows its own sets of bizarre rules that defy our experience of the everyday, yet somehow underlie it. For example, a sub-atomic particle may exist in a quantum state where it is simultaneously both moving and stationary (this is called “superposition”). Wait, What?!… I know, but the trick is to see that on a macro scale the particle acts as a point mass, while on the micro scale it acts like a wave. If that’s a little confusing don’t worry about it for now. The point is that the paradoxical nature of the Self can also be intellectually reconciled with reality if you imagine the mind as a quantum system in which the various forces (variables) of the psyche become realized on the macro level as a unified conscious experience. There is no center of consciousness in our brains, which means that my sense of “self” is tied to the electro-magnetic field encompassing the circuitry of my mind. The Ego (the individual, the traditional “I”) is a partial awareness of this system which leads to the illusion of a singular self, but when “I” can step back and see the Self in its entire spectrum, “I” broaden my sense of identity allowing “Me” (the entire existential phenomenon) to transcend “duality” as the separation of “Self” and other. The take home message of this quantum analogy is that our identities as tied to a state of consciousness are quite flexible.
When we start to recognize the Self for its highly complex nature, it becomes clear that the primitive labels and boxes we slap on each other and put each other in fail disastrously to acknowledge people for what they really are. Every individual is a unique phenomenon that ultimately cannot be reduced to a set of pre-defined categories. Of course people generally have things in common and it is important to recognize patterns in personality, so we have devised various classification systems such as The Archetypes to aid our understanding and which sort of describe who we are in relation to each other as it fits into a human narrative. To see and recognize the part of someone that is “The Philosopher”, “The Parent”, etc. allows us to make judgments regarding someone’s character without a “Self” vs. “Other” schema. The positive thing about these systems (such as the Archetypes) is the fact that the identity of the person in question is not absolute, but rather relative to a larger group of characters and can only be truly understood in light of the rest of the group identity. Though far from perfect, I believe this is a good example of broadening our sense of identity in a way that can be understood and articulated to each other. What I think lies at the heart of this and the previous post is that this is the practice of widening one’s sense of self to include an identity partially outside of one’s physical boundaries. In this epoch in history, I think it is critical that the members of the human race extend themselves to incorporate a global identity into their personage if we hope to overcome the planetary size challenges facing today’s generations. It is important now more than ever to be able to see eye-to-eye with each other so that we can learn how to work together in constructing and administering solutions to the modern woes of society, how to get over “ourselves” as selfish individuals in the classical sense, and how to live not as a part within the whole, but as a whole within a greater whole.