The Second Experience of Self: True Self
by Marc Gafni
One puzzle with no puzzle pieces.
The second experience of self is that of True Self, or what the Buddhists often refer to as No Self. True Self is the experience of being indivisible from the seamless fabric of the universe. True Self heals the alienation of the separate self as you locate your true identity as indivisible from the largest possible context: All That Is. In this experience you’re not a puzzle piece, you are the whole of the puzzle. You feel the entire puzzle arising as you. This indescribable realization changes everything, and has classically been referred to as enlightenment.
Yet within the fullness of True Self, you tend to feel an emerging impulse to individuate. You feel the lines separating you from other puzzle pieces. You’re then told by most spiritual teaching on the nature of enlightenment that those lines are merely illusions. You’re told that if you meditate long enough, you’ll realize there’s only a whole puzzle. You will round out your jagged edges into a smooth circle that flows. Your experience as individual, separate from the whole, is an illusion. Your yearning for individuation is dismissed as the grasping of the ego. This second experience of True Self is no less devastating than the experience of separate self because the natural expression of your uniqueness is denied.
One expression of True Self in political form was state fascism or state communism. The One, however, was not the actual indivisible unity of all that is, but a pseudo monism, meaning simply a pseudo expression of monolithic oneness — namely the State.
From this perspective it is possible to say that fascism is to democracy what the shadow of True Self is to healthy separate self. The State claims to be the One just as True Self is the One. The only true entity was the State. The State is the One. The individual is valuable inasmuch as he or she fulfilled their right function for the larger collective. The results of this system however were tragic. Communism killed more innocent people than perhaps any other force in human history, with the possible exception of Nazism. Clearly the communist alternative did not deliver the heaven on earth that it promised. Indeed heaven quickly becomes hell when the irreducible dignity of the individual is not upheld as an inviolable tenet of any system.
True Self also does not produce collective action because it rests in the perfection of being itself. True Self locates itself in the ground of being itself independent of the ravages of time and human frailty. True Self is thus on some level indifferent to suffering. We Space requires autonomous individuals coming together in communion. We cannot create an Evolutionary We Space capable of collective action as outrageous love if there is only the One and not the many. We Space is formed in the dance between one and many, autonomy and communion. If there is only ‘I am’ then there can ultimately be no ‘We’. Because the individual is effaced before the One of the state, there is no we and, thus, collective action as outrageous love becomes impossible.