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DOORS – Chapter Ten

January 17, 2018

portoniWhy did I get into talking about true self and false self? Because at a certain point everything changed and I began to question why. I was feeling more alive, more connected and with a stronger faith than ever and yet I was losing my religion.

Religious expressions, images and routines, such as certain rituals and prayers, became hollow and meaningless. Somehow, they no longer matched the reality that I was experiencing within.

I didn’t just want to go through the motions; it felt hypocritical and it came to the point in which I even preferred to be with honest non believers or agnostics, than with heavily committed religious people.

They reminded me too much of the way I used to be, the games I also played, the images I covered myself in, and the judgments I so quickly pronounced on others. It might have been only a part of my past, but I wanted nothing to do with it anymore.

I had changed, and my perspectives too. Most significantly, I could now access at will what I had always claimed to believe in, but rarely touched. Most shockingly, it wasn’t subject to any of the religious conditioning that I previously thought necessary.

God was more available and closer to everyday and everyone’s life than I had ever thought. While religion taught me to divide the world into holy and profane, saved and unsaved or who’s in and out, I was actually discovering that He was in it all and that everything was sacred.

He was life itself and I was learning to see Him everywhere, in all life and all things. As the apostle wrote, “Unto the pure all things are pure: but unto the defiled… nothing is pure… their mind and conscience are defiled” (Titus 1:15)

So it all came down to which mind or conscience I was looking from, which reminded me of how things appeared long ago, the moment I first woke up from my near death experience. For a little while everything looked bright and beautiful, as if made of pure light.

Even the scruffy little puppy that awoke me by licking my face, appeared as the whitest and purest thing I had ever seen. Even the dirt on the floor glowed with light. The dingy place that I was in, looked like heaven.

As much as I tried to hold on to that perspective, it quickly faded and I returned to my usual view of things. I then spent a good chunk of my life trying to figure out why that difference of perspectives and why the luminous one felt truer.

I finally came to the realization that there was nothing to understand. The luminous one was simply reality as seen from the true self, something akin to what the disciples experienced on the mount of transfiguration or Paul on the way to Damascus.

All the pride of knowledge is put to confusion by the fact that at the point where we feel reality most intimately we understand it least” – Alan Watts

Our mind is the veil that prevents us from seeing things as they truly are. It is a false self created by our memories, and because it is a trail of moments that are no more,  it never really is, but always was or hopes to become.

That is our problem and the reason why we are our own worst enemies, the creators of our own demons and torments. Thankfully this is only for a time, because the veil is bound to fall sooner or later.

In fact, it was symbolically torn in the temple at the hour of Christ death, which signified that in Christ it is removed. Sure, Christianity has also been transformed into a veil; nonetheless the sign posts are still there.

In any case, it is the veil of the false self that prevents us from truly knowing heart to heart, center to center and actively participate in the mystery of reality. While covered with it, we cannot know true intimacy or oneness, neither with God nor with others.

This is why Jesus said “I am the way, the door, the gate, the truth, the life” and “no man comes to the father except by me”, and He wasn’t speaking of the religion now called by his name. What He meant was the Life that He incarnated.

That’s the door through which we got here and from which we’ll get back, and the tearing of the veil symbolized our ability to cross over, even while still in this life. It meant accessing and discovering true being, and having life to the full, as He called it.

It meant the merging of both worlds and becoming fully human, as in the prayer He taught “thy kingdom come… on earth as it is in heaven”, meaning in this body and this world, as it is in reality beyond the veil.

Because the true self is a branch of Christ, who is part of God, it is then part of the whole and can freely move in and out. “I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture” (John 10:9).

And what is being saved, but this merging of heaven and earth, here and now? Isn’t it the true self living in our bodies, merging with our lives and making them fuller? “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10).

And isn’t that what He meant when He said “And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself” (John 12:32)? And how silly for us to think that this would depend on the work of a single religion. How sort sighted.

This happens regardless; religion or not. True Being has been lifted up, the veil is broken, and all men are already drawn towards it. Christ is not the god of just one religion, but a cosmic reality that once took a human form.

But He is also what takes all human forms and holds all matter together. He is much more than what the writings and symbols of a single religion can ever contain. He is life itself, and wherever there is life, He is there. As St. Bonaventure taught, If we do not see God in all things, then we cannot see Him anywhere.”

You’ve got to be a baby

Another thing that stayed with me from that first experience long ago was remembering and recognizing what I had always known, but had somehow forgotten. It felt like coming home to the real world, as if up to then my life had only been a dream.

It was as if I had always known the reality of being, but had gradually forgotten it when I became aware of my own thoughts and the world I was growing in; a process that starts when children and consolidates in the early school years.

That’s why Jesus said: “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 18:3), because that’s when we knew and how we can know again.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.” (Matthew 19:14)

As Jesus taught, it is in loosing ourselves that we find ourselves (Mark 8:35), and it is in losing the temporary self of our thoughts, that we discover the one without time and beyond thought.

For my thoughts are not your thoughts,
neither are your ways my ways,”
declares the
Lord.
As the heavens are higher than the earth,
so are my ways higher than your ways
and my thoughts than your thoughts. –
Isaiah 55:8,9

The return to a pre-thought way of being, to a consciousness that isn’t rationally definable, that simply is, just as that of a child, is what Jesus called “being born of the spirit”. The process can also be defined as faith, and was initially represented in the rite of baptism.

There, a person would remove all of its clothes, meaning what he tough about himself, his appearance, his social standing and all previously held concepts of self, and would figuratively die to it all by immersing himself in water. From there he would then emerge naked and unashamed into new life, as a newborn.

The water, of course, did nothing of it. It was merely a symbol and the real transformation did not depend on it. Baptism was only the rite of passage that inaugurated the person’s decision to undergo the process of transformation, to go from one life into another.

The religious false self

But the process is not a once and for all thing. It is actually a lifelong deal. Seen from the outside or before experiencing transformation, there is the tendency to view it as a moral endeavor, or what some would call a works’ religion.

When the false self becomes religious, it still thinks it is all the self there is, and that it must work hard to conform to religious morals and save itself. Then sin becomes its constant torment, because it foils its ability to succeed, or so it thinks.

From its perspective, sin is a moral mistake, something it keeps falling into. In reality sin is a mistake about who it really is, its supposing to be the thoughts and images it has formed. Thus, the religious false self can long remain unconscious and unaware of true being.

The True Self is consciousness itself. The false self lives in unconsciousness, and we do evil only when we are unconscious. Jesus naturally forgave those who were killing him, because they literally “do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). – Richard Rohr

Recognizing this confusion that the false self makes about sin and being, this is then how I now understand Paul’s words on it:

I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my false self; for I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For I do not do the good that I want to do. Instead, I keep on doing the evil I do not want to do. And if I do what I do not want, it is no longer my true self that does it, but it is the false self living in me that does it.” (Romans 7: 18-20)

This accurately describes the process and paradox that I lived through most of my life. I had tasted and glimpsed the true self at a young age, but my false self never disappeared after that.

There is actually no baptism or other moment in life when the false self actually dies for good, and that’s because we actually need it. I chose to call it false because it isn’t our true self, but it would be a mistake to think that we don’t need it.

As a self that develops in time, as we grow in this life, it serves us in all sorts of practical ways. It only becomes a problem when it pretends to be all that there is, and prevents us from becoming aware of our true being.

It begins to develop in our childhood, by comparison to others. It starts when we become aware of our “nakedness”, our being small, separate and insufficient; when the fear of embarrassment shows up and we begin to cover up, to make excuses for ourselves, to pretend.

Adam and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame. – then their eyes were opened, and they suddenly felt shame at their nakedness. So they sewed fig leaves together to cover themselves. (Genesis 2:25, 3:7)

Because the false self derives its sense of being from comparison to others, others are the mirror on which it sees itself. That’s why it always needs the “likes” and reaffirming of others to even feel acceptable and allay its fears.

It fears rejection, failure, aging and death because it knows that it is modeled on passing images and shadows; that because it has a beginning, it will also have an end, that the time that gave it birth will also give it death.

Eventually it will fade away, along with the physical and intellectual attributes it thought to be. The perceived strength, smartness, beauty and success that it drew from comparison to others, eventually become its own cross. As they fail, the false self also fails and the body becomes its cross.

That is the sin that is nailed, that burns away, and the true self is what rises from its ashes, and whether this transformation begins early or late in life, it is unavoidable. This is the mystery of life, death and resurrection that Christ illustrated.

The mystery is Christ within you (Colossians 1:27) You know him because he is with you and he is in you (John 14:17)

When defining the false self as sin, it’s because it is untrue, a separated illusion of being. When defining the true self as saintly, it’s because it is being itself, another name for God, the I am, the vine, the body, the Christ… of which we are offspring, branches, members, etc.

True religion points this out for us, but because we first engage it while deeply immersed in our false self, our first religious images are myths, metaphors and parables. They are human renditions of an experience which isn’t really ours yet, and which we can only see through such “filters”.

By probing through such images, we may gradually come to experience God, at which point the mystery unlocks. The images then take on new meaning and become less literal, almost fading out of sight for the wonder that is finally ours.

As reality beyond them takes root in our hearts, we gradually realize that these images were only signs pointing to the door, but in those initial and in-between stages, we naturally confuse the signs with the door and the room beyond it.

This confusing of symbols with god, is what causes many of us religious people to fall into pretense, into “having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof” (2Timothy 3:5). It is the false self dressing up in religious symbols and expressions, and presuming to have crossed the door.

It is then but a small step for the false self to also think that it is acting and speaking in God’s name. “whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God” (John 16:2), and we all have seen this sort of religious abuse and hypocrisy, though not always to such extremes.

That is why I don’t believe in forcing religion on anyone. God never does and only the false self thinks it must, but a person “converted” by such means will rarely experience true transformation.

Most likely, the process will even be delayed, because the persons either thinks it knows already or, having never known its true contents, has rejected religion altogether. This is the dilemma of our so called Christian West.

As Jesus said No one can come to me unless the Father draws them” (John 6:44) and unless a person is drawn from within, by Being itself, he will not recognize it. Merely inheriting Christianity by birth or by being forced into it through heavy persuasion, before such a call or tug of the spirit, will only produce pretense and hypocrisy.

The false self will merely use such “Christianity” as an added role, an alter image that it must conform to, which is why religious people are often accused of hypocrisy. It is a most common and almost unavoidable side effect of inherited or imposed religion.

As Jesus said to some religious folks:

Woe to you, teachers of the bible… you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as bad as you” (Matthew 23:15 with my adaptation).

As a matter of fact, the false self can neither preach the gospel, nor convert anyone to it, for it doesn’t even know it. It may know the story, but it does not participate in what it points to, so it can only pretend.

What it preaches and offers is instead what the apostle Paul called “another gospel”, meaning a moral gospel of pretended perfection, through a legalistic and literalistic interpretations of religious symbols and texts.

Those of us, who have been in religious work, have all done it. It’s unavoidable, at least initially. Then, none of us like to have our false self exposed, especially when it enjoys that nice religious cover that makes it feel “better than others”.

I dare say it is the hardest covering to let go of, because it gives the greatest sense of comfort and security. Without it we feel naked, but until we do let it go, we cannot really shift to true being, which needs no such comfort.

But don’t misunderstand this to mean that the day will come in which we no longer struggle with our false self. That will never happen. But the day can come in which we can transcend it enough to keep it where it belongs, not at the center, but where it’s needed.

That’s the day in which we begin to access and be conscious of God’s image in us, our divine DNA and center of our being, which is love, God, Christ or whatever name you give it. “…all who live in love live in God, and God lives in them” (1 John 4:16).

The proof of the pudding

So religion is not the criterion, but love is. Practical, real love is what does both, leads us to be in God, and proceeds from our being in God. It is both, the proof of the pudding as well as the pudding itself.

Love is then our true self, the manifestation of our being in God and of His being in us, even if the word god is never mentioned. In fact, we who have chosen a religious career, have no inherent advantage over others.

Our religious credentials give no guarantee that we know what we are talking about. For the most part, in fact, we have merely emulated what religion told us to be like, but missed the power of genuinely transformed consciousness.

All the while, we came across people of other religions or not religious at all, that seemed to have it more than us. Without all that we deemed necessary, they appeared to act and speak from genuine love and being. How could this be?

This is what often puzzled and even embarrassed me, like all those life after death testimonies where there seemed to be no discrimination along religious lines. They made me wonder what all the religious talk and education was for.

Well, even Jesus was met with these sort of questions and he answered them in a number of parables, like the one about the good Samaritan, the prodigal son, the publican and the Pharisee or the story of the king and his judgment.

In all of these, He reversed religious expectations, prejudices and exclusive claims, showing instead an inclusive, holistic approach to life and humanity:

…he will separate the people one from another… (He) will say to those on his right, ‘Come, …For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ “Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me… For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ “They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

While Jesus demonstrated what he taught and asked us to follow his sample, most of us turned him instead into another religion, like the one he had just exposed. Why? Because that’s all we know how to do, in our natural state, that is.

So we rightly recognized God in him, but failed to see him in others, in our shared being. And to think that he never asked us to worship him, but only to love one another, to follow the way he treated others, how he welcomed, included, embraced, forgave and loved to his own hurt, no matter who was before him.

Only from true being, however, can we recognize Christ in our common being, recognize God in others and be motivated to actual practical compassion. Religion alone cannot do that, because when it is lived from a false self, it is just a travesty and one more thing to argue about.

Even our “good deeds” can be motivated by fear and pride, by seeking an escape route, a personal and selfish evacuation plan from a doomed world. Because the false self is unreal and fearful, it cannot really love, and even when it does it is mostly self-love.

It only loves those who love it in return, who give it something back, thus actually using them. That’s how it even uses god, but a god made in its own image and just as false. I know because I have been there.

My life has been but a gradual growing out of it, for that’s how it always is. We begin with illusion and only gradually move towards truer being. Whether religious or not, life itself points us in that direction, until we are actually forced into it.

Good religion can certainly help us along, but until we actually experience true being, the false has center stage and will even use religion to boost itself. That is why Jesus was so hated by the religious, morally pretentious elites; because he was pulling away their props.

Which is why those who had none, the broken, humble, unpretentious sinners, the morally and religiously deficient folks, who had no self-image to rest on, were quicker to recognized and embraced what He was communicating. God’s way up is down.

The religious system and the powers in charge, however, are not the problem here. They may have power to persecute and even to kill, but they are themselves manifestations of the same problem we all have.

Our society and institutions reflect the shape of our collective being or lack of it. That’s why Jesus never encouraged a violent revolution, because it would solve nothing. The collective false self could never create a different reality, no matter who ruled.

“No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it” – Attributed to Albert Einstein.

“My kingdom is not of this world” (John 18:36).

The only viable answer is a shift in consciousness; individuals who recognize the false for what it is and desire the true, who hear its call and make room for it. It certainly can’t happen in a day, but if we refuse fear, let our false self fall and break against the stone of truth, then the true foundation and true self is bound to emerge (Matthew 21:44).

And that’s what all things are moving towards (See all things verses in NT). That’s the eschatological hope, but one that always happens here and now. “Before Abraham was I am”, so not in the past nor in a future pie in the sky, but always here and now, for that’s the door.

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