In each, in all, always
The spiritual self, the Overself, has never been lost. What has happened is that its being has not been recognized, covered over as it is with a multitude of thoughts, desires, and egocentricities.
The day will inexorably come when this pen shall move no more and I wish therefore to leave on record, for the benefit of those who shall come after, a sacred and solemn testimony that I know--as surely as I know that I am not this pen which scribes these lines--that a being, benign, wise, protective, and divine, whom men call the Soul, whom I call the Overself, truly exists in the hearts of all; therefore all may discover it.
A day will break surely when every man will have to bend the knee to that unknown self and abandon every cell of his brain, every flowing molecule of his heart, his blood, into its waiting hands. Though he will fear to do so, though he will fear to give up those ancient idols who had held him in bond so long and have given him so little in return, though he will tremble to loose his moorings and let his soul drift slowly from them with sails set for that mysterious region whose longitude few men know and whose shores most men shun, yet he will do so all the same. For the presence of man's own innermost divinity is the guarantee that he must inescapably seek and find it.
Whoever has been led into the cave of timeless life will poise his pen in a futile attempt to find words which will accurately measure this sublime experience. He rises renewed from the exquisite embrace of such a contemplation. He learns in those shining hours. That which he has been seeking so ardently has been within himself all the time. For there at the core of his being, hidden away underneath all the weakness, passion, pettiness, fear, and ignorance, dwells light, love, peace, and truth. The windows of his heart open on eternity, only he has kept them closed! He is as near the sacred spirit of God as he ever shall be, but he must open his eyes to see it. Man's divine estate is there deep within himself. But he must claim it.
The other part of the answer is that the Overself is always here as man's innermost truest self. It is beginningless and endless in time. Its consciousness does not have to be developed as something new. But the person's awareness of it begins in time and has to be developed as a new attainment. The ever-presence of Overself means that anyone may attain it here and now. There is no inner necessity to travel anywhere or to anyone in space or to wait years in time for this to happen. Anyone, for instance, who attends carefully and earnestly to the present exposition may perhaps suddenly and easily get the first stage of insight, the lightning-flash which affords a glimpse of reality, at any moment. By that glimpse he will have been uplifted to a new dimension of being. The difficulty will consist in retaining the new perception. For ancient habits of erroneous thinking will quickly reassert themselves and overwhelm him enough to push it into the background. This is why repeated introspection, reflective study, and mystical meditation are needed to weaken those habits and generate the inner strength which can firmly hold the higher outlook against these aggressive intruders from his own past.
Those who are unable to grasp this explanation the first time may do so at a later attempt, while those who will not grasp it and refuse to consider it further thereby indicate that they are not subtle enough to receive its truth. They will continue to seek reality among the cozening deceivers of superficial experience, but it will ever elude them there.
Although It is at the very heart of human beings, the Overself is very far from their present level of consciousness. Nothing could be closer yet this is the supreme paradox of our existence and the strangest enigma confronting our thought.
The Overself is implicit in all humanity but explicit only in a few solitary figures.
Its golden note of harmony falls dead upon our muted ears.
The Overself is not a goal to be attained but a realization of what already is. It is the inalienable possession of all conscious beings and not of a mere few. No effort is needed to get hold of the Overself, but every effort is needed to get rid of the many impediments to its recognition. We cannot take hold of it; it takes hold of us. Therefore the last stage of this quest is an effortless one. We are led, as children by the hand, into the resplendent presence. Our weary strivings come to an abrupt end. Our lips are made shut and wordless.
No situation in human life lasts totally unchanged forever, just as no condition on the very planet which harbours that life lasts forever. It is folly to demand changelessness. And yet we do. Why? Because beneath this conscious desire for fresh experiences there is the unconscious longing for That which is the permanent core of selfhood. The stilled, one-pointed, and reverent mind may know it, the self may dissolve in it.
We carry the divine presence with us everywhere we travel. We do not directly profit by it simply because we are not directly conscious of it. The effort to arouse such awareness is a worthwhile one, bringing rich reward in its train.
The soul is always with us but our sense of its presence is not.
There is a spiritual element in every man. It is his essence.
Although we are divided in awareness from the higher power, we are not divided in fact from it. The divine being is immanent in each one of us. This is why there is always some good in the worst of us.
Goethe: "You give me space to belong to myself yet without separating me from your own life."
The Overself is always present but man's attention seldom is.
Because the soul is present deep down in each human heart, none is so depraved that he will not one day find the inward experience of it.
There is a zone of utter calm within man. It is not only there but always there. Those who suffer, fret, or are confused may doubt or deny this--understandably and pardonably.
It is always possible for a man to gain enlightenment anytime anywhere even though it may not be probable, for he has within himself the Light itself as an ever-present Reality. What does happen and what is probable is that some moment during the course of a lifetime a glimpse may happen, and the glimpse itself is nothing less than a testimony to that ever-presence, a witness telling him that it is true and real.
Just then, as thoughts themselves stop coming into his mind, he stops living in time and begins living in the eternal. He knows and feels his timelessness. And since all his sufferings belong to the world of passing time, of personal ego, he leaves them far behind as though they had never been. He finds himself in the heaven of a serene, infinite bliss. He learns that he could always have entered it; only his insistence on holding to the little egoistic values, his lack of thought-control, and his disobedience to the age-old advice of the Great Teachers prevented him from doing so.
These rare moments of spontaneous spiritual exaltation, which cast all other moments in the shade and which are remembered ever after, could not have been born if that divine element into which they exalted us did not already exist within us. Its very presence in our hearts makes always possible and sometimes actual the precious feeling of a non-material sublimely happy order of being.
It is not really a goal to be reached, nor a state to be attained, nor something new to be added to what he now has or is. But if he insists on thinking that it is any of these things, there is no other course open than to take the appropriate action, make the necessary effort, for such achievement. His labours are really self-imposed, a consequence of incorrect thought about himself.
Is this benign state a past from which we have lapsed or a future to which we are coming? The true answer is that it is neither. This state has always been existent within us, is so now, and always will be. It is forever with us simply because it is what we really are.
It is not as if he has to find something foreign, making communication too distant and too difficult, for this is his very native being, giving him meaning and awareness.
If the real Self must have been present and been witness to our peaceful enjoyment of deep slumber--otherwise we would not have known that we had had such enjoyment--so must it likewise have been present and been witness to our rambling imaginations in dream-filled sleep and to our physical activities in waking. This leads to a tremendous but inescapable conclusion. We are as near to, or as much in, the real Self, the Overself, at every moment of every day as we ever shall be. All we need is awareness of it.
A man's refusal to allow spiritually intuitive feelings to awaken in him cannot obliterate the presence of the source of those feelings. He bears that presence ever within him and one day must reconcile himself willingly, knowingly, even yearningly, with it.
The Overself is always within call, for its hiding place is no farther than a man's heart. But if the call does not go forth, or goes forth without faith, or is not sustained with patience, the response will not come.
God is ever present with us but we are ever turning away from him. No one is forsaken except those who look only to, and into, the ego, and even then only for a time.
In one sense that world of the Overself remains always inaccessible and inexpressible, but in another sense it is as close as breathing and as palpable in the highest art forms or in the illuminated man's presence as a fragrant perfume.
By his ignoring of the Overself's presence, man commits his greatest sin and shows his worst stupidity.
If God did not exist then we humans would not exist. A divine ray, atom, soul, call it what you wish, is present in each of us. Some are aware of this, others must one day come to this knowledge.
The Overself is always present in man's heart. If he does not receive awareness of this fact in his mind, that is because he makes no proper and sustained effort to do so.
You may be an insignificant creature in the vastness of the cosmos, but the divine life--of which that cosmos is but a channel--is in you, too. Have enough faith in your divine heritage, take it into your common everyday life and thought, and in some way, to some people, you will become very significant and important.
We live all the time in unfailing, if unconscious, union with the Overself.
Perhaps the most wonderful thing which the illuminate discovers is that his independence from the infinite life power never really existed and was only illusory, that his separation from the Overself was only an idea of the imagination and not a fact of being. Even the desire to unite with the Overself was only a dream, and consequently all lesser desires of the ego were merely dreams within a dream.
I began to enter consciously into the real "I" and to comprehend by realization that it was always there, that nothing new had been found, and that this was eternal life.
The truth is this second self--or rather the feeling of its presence--has been shut up so long, that we have come to look upon it as non-existent and to regard the rumours of its actual experience as hallucinations. This is why religion, mysticism, and philosophy have so hard a battle to fight in these times, a battle against man's inevitable incredulity.
For centuries theologians have argued about the meaning of Jesus' declaration that the kingdom of heaven was at hand. Most of them have given it a historical interpretation. Only those who could approach the mind of Jesus have given it a mystical interpretation. For only they can see that he meant that the kingdom of the Overself is really as close to us as is our own hand. All such argument is useless when it starts from different planes of knowledge and the arguers never really meet each other.
Everywhere we see people in bondage to their egos. Everywhere, too, the sage sees the Overself waiting, always present, for them to turn from themselves to It.
The overlooked part is his consciousness; the forgotten self is his knowing power. These exist uninterruptedly, even in apparently subconscious forms like deep sleep and swoon. Yet he denies this share of his in the Real Being, identifies with the body instead of making it merely an object of awareness.
The Overself is in the heart of every man but few care to seek it out until pressure of its grace from within, or fatigue with the world-life without, drives them to do so.
The Overself exists in all of us--the bad as well as the good, the stupid as well as the clever.
When the divinity in his own self is found at last, he will afterwards find its light reflected upon every other man and woman he encounters.
Every man is sacred did he but know it.
If we say that the Overself resides in each man we say something that is not quite true nor quite false. It would be better to say that each man first feels the Overself--when he does have the good fortune to feel it--as residing within his heart, but the result of further development is to show him that the contrary, although a paradox, is also correct, which is that he resides in the Overself!
The godlike abides in each of us but only the master knows and feels its glory.
The mind keeps on moving about until sleep overcomes it . . . and because it never stopped to collect itself, it still does not know the higher and better part of itself--the Overself.
The divine presence is constant, it does not go away: but man himself is too often absent, heedless, interested elsewhere. But each return gives him a glimpse which he calls a grace.
The soul is present and active in every man. This is why it is quite possible for every man to have a direct glimpse of the truth about his own inward non-materiality.
Nothing can ever exist outside God. Therefore, no man is bereft of the divine presence within himself. All men have the possibility of discovering this fact. And with it they will discover their real selfhood, their true individuality.
This is the truth that must be proclaimed to our generation, that the Soul is with us here and now--not in some remote world or distant time, not when the body expires--and that it is our joy and strength to find it.
There is no pint of seawater in which salt is not present in solution. There is no human entity in whom a divine soul is not present in secret.
Not even a solitary Crusoe passes through life alone. Everyone passes through it in fellowship with his higher self. That such fellowship is, in most cases, an unconscious one, is not enough to nullify it. That men may deny in faith or conduct even the very existence of their soul is likewise not enough to nullify it.
This, the real I, is always accessible to him in meditation and always is the half-known background of his conscious self at other times.
So long as the Overself is sought elsewhere than where It is, as apart from the seeker himself, so long will the quest for it end in failure.
The divine being is present in all people, from the crudest to the most cultured.
It is present in every person but only dim echoes may succeed in emerging from the hinterland of consciousness.
The absence of the ego is the presence of the Overself. But this is only a surface impression in the person's thought, for the Overself is always present.
We may have the intuitive assurance that this higher power does exist even when we have no personal experience of it and no direct knowledge of its nature.
Amid all the perplexities and oscillations of life, the witnessing and understanding Overself waits with infinite patience. No one is ever left out. This is the only God we can hope to know, the true Teacher for all. Those who yearn to unite with it should plead persistently for its Grace.
The Overself's power to alter circumstances, create opportunities, and uphold persons is available to anyone who fulfils the requisite conditions. These include some amount of mental preparation and moral purification, some clear perception of the fact that the Overself is present here and now, an instant and constant remembrance of this fact, and finally a willingness to trust completely to its providential help, supply, and support no matter how undesirable or intolerable a situation seems to be.
In every grade of life's manifestation, from every quality of human character, the divine is always present and never absent.
There are resources within man's grasp that could redeem his character and transform his life, yet they lie untouched and undeveloped.
The silent secret part of the self is forever there, forever asking a little surrender of attention. But few give it.
All the time it is silently asking: "Will you not turn toward Me, accept Me, for I am your other self?"
In one sense, we have never left the divine Source, never lost our divine identity.
The Presence is inseparable from human existence, even though so many human beings may find the statement incredible, imaginative, or merely tied to a religious faith. If it would only announce itself more loudly! But mankind has to accept its ways on its own terms. Those who wish may learn what they are.
There is something godlike in every person. By finding it in ourselves, we rise above the common human life as that in turn rises above the animal.
And you will perceive that the Overself is always there, albeit you will have repeatedly to raise your eyes from earth and your mind from ego to come into realization of this truth.
Because we draw our very life from the spiritual principle within us, we can only ignore the truth that this principle exists but can never lose its reality.
Retreat into his mystical home is ever open to him, withdrawal into the blissful privacy of the Overself is his blessed right.
God is both outside and inside us, is everywhere around and deep within. It is there but waits to be recovered by the individual consciousness.
Where can he find this peace or practise this presence except in himself? This done, he can go about his daily business anywhere and everywhere.
Jesus spoke in simple crisp sentences about this great fact that heaven--the state of real happiness--is within man even here and now.
Deep within man there is Something which waits for his discovery, something which reveals itself when he has penetrated far enough or when grace grants it or karma favours it.
This divine soul never withdraws from man's life, is never absent from man's fate. For the very purpose of these last two is to draw him to seek and find the soul.
The truth is that never for a moment are we really separate from our inner self.
It is simply asking man to accept himself for what he is.
A single train would still be too large to carry all the men in America who are living in the awareness of the Overself.
There is a centre in every one's Self which is divine and radiant.
The same Overself is behind us all, contains us all.
This is the divine element whose continuing presence in man confers a guarantee of eventual salvation.
In all of us there is this resplendent being dwelling in the deepest concealment, linking us with the Supreme Being.
In its own perfect silence and with its own perfect patience, the Overself awaits us.
Look where you will, go where you will, the higher power is there, whether in silence or in action.
The Sufi-Muhammedan sage-poet, Ibn al-Arabi:
O Pearl Divine! While pearl that in a shell
Of dark mortality is made to dwell,
Alas, while common gems we prize and hoard
Thy inestimable worth is still ignored!
The Overself can become very real to him when feeling its ever-presence in all his experience, when awake to its now-ness.
The revelation of truth may come directly from within himself because of the presence of the divine spark within himself.
Since the higher individuality is a stable thing, it is not to be achieved by any efforts but is to be discovered as present.
The doorway to truth stands wide open throughout the day.
If men would, or could, believe that with every breath they are acting in concert with the cosmic rhythm, that in clinging to the self they are actually sharing the divine presence!
It is a presence which can be felt directly in daily active life, although not so vividly as when removed from the world and concentrated upon in solitary meditation.
The Overself appears to all alike, regardless of colour or race, when they have made themselves ready for It. Anybody who has so misunderstood the message in my books as to believe differently, is mistaken.
Value, effects of its presence
To be satisfied with anything less than this egoless Self is to worship at the shrine of an idol.
The Overself is neither a cold metaphysical concept nor a passing wave of emotion. It is a Presence--sublime, sacred, and beneficent--which grips your heart, thought, and body by its own mysterious power, making you regard life from a nobler standpoint.
The divine soul is the real essence of each person. If we do not come into the full experience of its existence, all our religion is a mere surface emotionalism, all our metaphysics a mocking intellectualism.
Once you are clearly aware of the presence of the Overself, you will find that it will spontaneously provide you with a rule of conduct and a standard of ethics at all times and under all circumstances. Consequently you will never be at a loss to know what to do in difficult moral situations, nor how to behave in challenging ones. And with this knowledge will also come the power to implement it.
When this contact with the Overself is established, its power will work for you: you will no longer go through the struggles of life alone.
This is not to say that the spiritual contact will remove all difficulties and perplexities from your inner life, but that it will give you added power to deal with them.
From this seeming nothingness deep within he draws a peace of mind, an emotional freedom, a sense of God's living presence that the world's harshness cannot dislodge.
The appearance of the sacred presence automatically extinguishes the lower desires. The holding on to that presence wherever he goes and whatever he does as if it were his real identity, will help to establish that release as a lasting fact.
As he becomes more sensitive to the Overself's presence, he knows that he has only to turn to it to receive divine strength and nourishment.
When all other sources of help have been tried, there is no other source left to man than the divine Overself, by whatever name he calls it or under whatever symbol he pictures it.
Once the Overself is felt in the heart as a living presence, it raises the consciousness out of the grip of the egoistic-desire parts of our being, frees it from the ups and downs of mood and emotion which they involve. It provides a sense of inner satisfaction that is complete in itself and irrespective of outside circumstances.
The extraordinary thing is not that he will feel the divine self is with him but that it has always been with him.
"How quiet it is!" exclaimed Lao Tzu, in describing the Overself. "Yet it can transform all things."
The stillness has magical powers. It soothes, restores, heals, instructs, guides, and replaces chaos and tumult by orderliness and harmony.
There is much confusion of understanding about what happens to the ego when it attains the ultimate goal. Some believe that a cosmic consciousness develops, with an all-knowing intelligence and an "all-overish" feeling. They regard it as unity with the whole universe. Others assert that there is a complete loss of the ego, an utter destruction of the personal self. No--these are confused notions of what actually occurs. The Overself is not a collective entity as though it were composed of a number of particles. One's embrace of other human beings through it is not in union with them but only in sympathy, not in psychic identification with them but in psychic harmony. He has enlarged the area of his vision and sees himself as a part of mankind. But this does not mean that he has become conscious of all mankind as though they were himself. The true unity is with one's own higher indestructible self. It is still with a higher individuality, not a cosmic one, and it is still with one's own self, not with the rest of mankind. Unity with them is neither mystically nor practically possible. What we discover is discovered by a deepening of consciousness, not by a widening of it. Hence it is not so much a wider as a deeper self that he has first to find.
With the rectification of this error, we may find the correct answer to the question: "What is the practical meaning of the injunction laid by all the great spiritual teachers upon their followers, to give up the ego, to renounce the self?" It does not ask for a foolish sentimentality, in the sense that we are to be as putty in the hands of all other men. It does not ask for an utter impossibility, in the sense that we are never to attend to our own affairs at all. It does not ask for a useless absurdity, in the sense that we are to become oblivious of our very existence. On the contrary, it asks for what is wise, practicable, and worthwhile--that we give up our lower personality to our higher individuality.
Thus it is not that the aspirant is asked to abandon all thought of his particular self (as if he could) or to lose consciousness of it, but that he is asked to perceive its imperfection, its unsatisfactoriness, its faultiness, its baseness and its sinfulness and, in consequence of this perception, to give it up in favour of his higher self, with its perfection, blessedness, goodness, nobility, and wisdom. For in the lower ego he will never know peace whereas in the diviner one he will always know it.
What this harmony means is that the hidden centre of consciousness within the other person will be alike to the centre within himself.
Through his higher self, a man can attain the highest good.
The concept of the Overself is foundational. It provides meaning for life.
That man is verily ignorant who does not know that what the Overself can give him is immeasurably greater than what he can gain from any other source. For on the one side there is infinite power, on the other only limited capacity.
Lots of words are not needed to communicate what the Overself has to say. From its presence the truth, the power, and the virtue can make themselves felt.
In that benign atmosphere, negative thoughts cannot exist.
He who has discovered how to live with his higher self has discovered a serenity which defies circumstance and environment, a goodness which is too deep for the world's understanding, a wisdom which transcends thought.
Even in the midst of worldly distresses, he will feel the Overself's support to such an extent and in such a way that they will seem to be someone else's, with himself as a merely continuous spectator of them.
He lives in the gratifying consciousness that he is supported by the divine will, the divine power.
To find the Overself is to eliminate fear, establish harmony, and inspire living.
The power of the Overself to enlighten, protect, and exalt man is as actual a fact as the power of electricity to illumine his home--or it is nothing.
It is quite possible to open doors of inner being without the aid of a teacher. One's own higher self will give him all the guidance he needs, provided he has sufficient faith in its existence and its assistance.
Alone and depending on his little, personal ego, a man can do the merest fraction of what he can do when he becomes an instrument of the Infinite Power.
When the star of a man's Overself rises into ascendancy, he will no more feel lonely even if he be often alone. A sense of the universe's friendliness will surround him, enfold him.
He always turns for his first defense against the perils and troubles of this world to brief meditation upon the all-wise, all-powerful Overself, and only after that for his secondary defenses to the ego's human resources.
From the outside, by means of events, persons, or books; from the inside, by means of intuitions, thoughts, feelings, and urges--this is how the way is shown him by the Overself.
Out of this deep mysterious centre within himself, he will draw the strength to endure distresses with fortitude, the wisdom to manage situations without after-regrets, the insight to keep the great and little values of everyday living in proper perspective.
The correct understanding of what man really is is both self-humbling and self-glorifying.
If the consciousness of God in him makes him very strong, the consciousness of his dependence on it keeps him very humble.
Its wisdom is a perfect solvent of human perplexities, its tranquillity a perfect balm for human bruises.
Because he has access to this inward source, he may live the loneliest of lives but it will not be loveless. The joy and warmth of its ever-presence will abide with him.
In very truth the Overself becomes his beloved companion, bringing an intense satisfaction and profound love which no external friendship could ever bring.
The ever-presence of the Overself is to him life's greatest fact. There is nothing to compare with it; he takes his stand upon it. He rejoices in it. When the outside world does him injustice or slanders him or hurts him or defrauds him, he turns inward, deeper and deeper inward, until he stands in the presence of the Overself. Then he finds absolute serenity, absolute love. Every lesser thing must dissolve away in its divine atmosphere, and when he returns to mundane thought he feels no resentment against the wrong-doers; if anything, he feels pity for them. He has lost nothing, for good name and property are but the accidents of existence, whereas the presence of the Overself is a basic essential, and he has not lost that reality. So long as It loves him and so long as he loves It there can be no real loss.
We do not live self-sufficient and self-sustained lives but depend wholly on the Overself in every way and at every moment.
Under great strain and amid grave dangers, the aspirant will find courage and endurance in the talismanic power of remembering the Higher Self. It is always there.
It is from this source that he will draw both strength to rise above his own temptations and love to rise above other men's hatred.
It is a state where inner resistances are no more, inner conflicts are not known.
The Overself is present as the supreme Fact in his, and all, existence even as it is present as an emotional necessity in the religious man's existence.
All nerve tensions are lost in this holy quietude. An exquisite mood of well-being takes their place.
He who perpetually feels the presence of the divine soul within himself, thereby obtains an effortless control of himself.
The doubts and fears, the hesitations and suspicions, the jealousies and bitternesses, the enmities and hatreds of common life can never enter here.
Jallaluddin Rumi gave a beautiful and fitting name to the Higher Self in many of his poems. He called it "the Friend."
There is a sense of perfect safety, a sense which particularly and strongly reveals itself at times of danger, crisis, or distress.
It is a fact more real than we usually grant that the continuous presence of the Overself makes men's satisfaction with wholly material living both impermanent and impossible.
The extent of the peace and strength, the confidence and beneficence which lie stretched out beneath the little ego's troubled life is like unto the oceans: no other simile will suit.
Mysterious pools of wisdom and goodness are underneath the personality, if only we could find our way to them or else bring gushes from them to the surface.
In this higher part of his being he feels completed within himself, at-oned with Nature and as self-sufficient as Nature.
It is the presence of the Overself in us that creates the germ of our aspirations for a higher life. It is the warm sunshine and cold rain of experience that nurtures the germ. It is the influence of spiritual individuals that brings the growth through its varying stages.
All his finest emotions, his deepest wisdom, his creative faculties, his truth-discriminating intuitions come into being because of the Overself's central if hidden presence.
Many will dispute this possibility, but it is certainly possible for your higher self to guide and instruct you directly--through and within yourself. It is not an existence far apart from yourself.
If in your divinest being you are the Overself and if the rest of you is both path and goal, the way and the truth, what do you need a guru for, why step outside yourself? But people do not care for such questions. They look for teachers locally or in India and thus look always outside themselves, outside the Overself.
In it, in this gentle divine atmosphere, he lives and moves and has his being, and this is one reason he has to follow Shakespeare's counsel and be true to himself.
This is the really Real, its moral directions the rightest of the Right.
The joy that emanates from the Overself has a healing quality. It dissipates anxieties and eradicates neuroses.
Its power can carry him through a grave crisis with unfaltering steadiness.
Do not think so much of looking for outside help. Your Higher Self is with you. If you could have enough faith in its presence, you could look inwards. With persistence and patience, it would guide you.
Without this awareness he is not a whole man, for he is not functioning in all his being.
It is a truth by whose light a man lives nobly and in whose comfort he may die serenely.
Where the ego fails or falters, the Overself proves equal to every occasion.
Enfolded by that inner strength, one ceases to fear, to be anxious, or to dread the future.
For him the most worthy achievement is to live in this state of being and to love it.
It is always there, always present in him although not always easily reachable. It is the secret centre of his being. This conscious contact with it gives a feeling of marvellous security, of mountain-like strength.
He feels as sheltered by its presence inside him as the seed by the earth outside it.
In its warm glow, men find a holy therapy for their suffering, a healing remedy for their disordered and dismembered selves.
In its sacred presence fear and suffering must take their inevitable departure.
He can assert this protective truth against whatever evils and dangers may appear from time to time.
The Overself is there and in its presence he becomes indifferent to the praise of friends or the venom of enemies.
He dwells in some inner fortress--safe, protected, and sure of himself. He is hardly touched by the turmoil of passing events.
He will gain with time the sense of a Presence which walks with him and dwells in him. It is a guide with practical value, too, for it warns him what not to do if he would live ethically and avoid additional suffering. Even if he does not advance so far as perfect realization, he will advance.
The early Christian Fathers believed that only a few privileged souls ever received this Grace of direct divine illumination.
In this healing presence the past is washed away and old sins with it.
It is the part of his being which, being worth most to him, deserves most from him.
Quite a number get a mysterious support and consolation from simply knowing at second hand that the Overself is there, even though they themselves cannot make any contact with it.
It is real, it is present and active in our very midst, its power and its guidance can be felt and recognized.
Why look to any man who is outside you--when IT is inside you? And why forget that all men are imperfect whereas IT alone is perfect?
In our present plight we cannot give ourselves too many supports, and there is none better than that which is to be found in the Overself.
Toward `defining' the Overself
There is some life-power from which we derive our capacities and our intelligence. It is hidden and intangible. No one has seen it but everyone who thinks deeply enough can sense that it is there, always present and always supporting us. It is the Overself.
This is the ultimate beauty behind life, which all people seek blindly and unknowingly in such varied external forms that merely and momentarily hint, suggest, or herald its existence.
Ernest Wood's Yoga Dictionary defines "Overself" as follows: "A term designed by Dr. P. Brunton to indicate that the holy fount of our being and root of our consciousness is still ourselves, is indeed our true self. The Sanskrit equivalent is adhyatma as in Bhagavad Gita, Chapter VII and VIII." To Dr. Wood's learned definition I would like to add Kutastma, what stands above or beyond illusion, and also the Gita's picture of the higher element in man controlling the lesser self. Further I would not leave out Buddha's transcendent atmosphere of goodwill to all beings.
It is this grandeur of self that is the magnetic pole drawing us to the Good, the Beautiful, the Just, the True, and the Noble. Yet itself is above all these attributes for it is the Attributeless, the Ineffable, and Infinite that human thought cannot grasp.
Both the inward and outward lives of every man are controlled by a concealed entity--the Overself. Could he but see aright, he would see that everything witnesses to its presence and activity.
He will feel that this nobler self actually overshadows him at times. This is literally true. Hence we have named it the Overself.
When man shall discover the hidden power within himself which enables him to be conscious and to think, he will discover the holy spirit, the ray of Infinite Mind lighting his little finite mind.
If we could penetrate to the deeper regions of personality, the deeper layer of consciousness, we would find at the core a state that is utterly paradoxical. For it combines, at one and the same time, the highest degree of dynamic being and the extreme degree of static being.
This is the abiding essence of a man, his true self as against his ephemeral person. Whoever enters into its consciousness enters into timelessness, a wonderful experience where the flux of pleasures and pains comes to an end in utter serenity, where regrets for the past, impatience at the present, and fears of the future are unknown.
Nothing could be nearer to a man than the Overself for it is the source of his life, mind, and feeling. Nothing could be farther from him, nevertheless, for it eludes all his familiar instruments of experience and awareness.
Without the Overself no human creature could be what it is--conscious, living, and intelligent.
Although awareness is the first way in which we can regard the soul or Overself, the latter is also that which makes awareness possible and hence a sub- or super-conscious thing. This explains why it is that we do not know our souls, but only our thoughts, our feelings, and our bodies. It is because we are the soul and hence we are the knower as well as the act of knowing. The eyes see everything outside yet do not see themselves.
The Overself is certainly the Way (within man), the Truth (knowing the Real Being), and the Life (applying this knowledge and practising this way in the midst of ordinary everyday activity).
We cannot accurately and strictly define the Overself. It is really indescribable, but its effects are not. The feeling of the Overself's presence and the way to awaken it may both be described for the benefit of those who have neither experienced the one nor learned the other.
If the Overself could be expressed in words there would be no need for Its silence.
Everything else can be known, as things and ideas are known, as something apart or possessed, but the Overself cannot be truly known in this way. Only by identifying oneself with It can this happen.
We can know the Overself only by being it, not by thinking it. It is beyond thoughts for it is Thought, Pure Mind, itself.
From the ordinary human point of view the Overself is the Ever-Still: yet that is our own conceptualization of it, for the fact is that all the universe's tremendous activity is induced by its presence.
That out of which we draw our life and intelligence is unique and indestructible, beginningless and infinite.
Each of us feels that there is something which directs his will, controls his movements, and constitutes the essence of his awareness. This something expresses itself to us as the "I."
It is not only the hidden and mysterious source of their own little self but also the unrecognized source of the only moments of real happiness that they ever have.
At some time, to some degree, and in some way, everything else in human experience can be directly examined and analysed. But this is the one thing that can never be treated in this way. For it can never acknowledge itself without objectifying itself, thus making something other than itself, some simulacrum that is not its real self.
The Overself is a fountain of varied forces.
What does the coming of Overself consciousness mean to man? It means, first of all, an undivided mind.
Listen to the Roman Stoics' definition of the Overself: "the divinity which is planted in his breast" of Marcus Aurelius; "your guardian spirit" of Epictetus.
This is the "UNDIVIDED MIND" where experience as subject and object, as ego and the world, or as higher self and lower self, does not break consciousness.
At the centre of every man's being there is his imperishable soul, his guardian angel.
The Overself is not merely a mental concept for all men but also a driving force for some men, not merely a pious pleasant feeling for those who believe in it but also a continuing vital experience for those who have lifted the ego's heavy door-bar.
No one can explain what the Overself is, for it is the origin, the mysterious source, of the explaining mind, and beyond all its capacities. But what can be explained are the effects of standing consciously in its presence, the conditions under which it manifests, the ways in which it appears in human life and experience, the paths which lead to its realization.
It is a state of pure intelligence but without the working of the intellectual and ideational process. Its product may be named intuition. There are no automatically conceived ideas present in it, no habitually followed ways of thinking. It is pure, clear, stillness.
The very essence of that Stillness is the Divine Being. Yet from it come forth the energies which make and break universes, which are perpetually active, creative, inventive, and mobile.
Let no one imagine that contact with the Overself is a kind of dreamy reverie or pleasant, fanciful state. It is a vital relationship with a current of peace, power, and goodwill flowing endlessly from the invisible centre to the visible self.
Although it is true that the Overself is the real guardian angel of every human being, we should not be so foolish as to suppose its immediate intervention in every trivial affair. On the contrary, its care is general rather than particular, in the determination of long-term phases rather than day-by-day events. Its intervention, if that does occur, will be occasioned by or will precipitate a crisis.
There is a knowing element in man, the real knower which makes intellectual knowing possible and which is Consciousness-by-itself.
It is that part of man which is fundamental, real, undying, and truly knowing.
This is the element in the human being that is covered with mystery, which is why, to some extent, the ancient pagan religious secret or semi-secret organized institutional attempts to penetrate it were titled "The Mysteries."
What could be closer to a man than his own be-ing? What could be more inward than the core of his self-awareness?
Knowledge of law, language, or history can be collected and becomes a possession but knowledge of the Overself is not at all the same. It is something one must be: it owns us, we do not have it.
Stillness is both a sign that sense and thought, body and intellect, have been transcended and a symbol of the consciousness of the presence of the Overself.
Whatever is said or written about that august truth, reality, consciousness, and perception of the Overself, and no matter how eloquently, it will still be only a pathetic belittlement of its subject. That is why seers like Lao Tzu in China and Ramana Maharshi in India declared it was better to be silent and utter nothing at all.
To call this Overself "He" merely because the multitude ignorantly call God so, is to ascribe sex to what is formless and to give ego to what is impersonal, is to commit the disgusting blasphemy of anthropomorphism.
Just as the eye cannot see itself as a second thing apart, so the Overself (which you are) cannot objectify itself, cannot become an object to be looked at or thought about. For in that case you would be dealing with a pretender, while all your thinking could in the end only deliver another thought, not the reality itself.
The Holy Ghost was called by Origen "the active force of God."
This is its mystery, that seeing all, it is itself seen by none.
Whatever men may say about it will not be enough to describe it properly, justly, accurately. All such efforts will be clumsy but they will not be useless. They will be suggestive, offer clues perhaps, each in its own way.
What is its consciousness like? If we use our ordinary faculties only, we may ponder this problem for a lifetime without discerning its solution for it is evident that we enter a realm where the very questioner himself must disappear as soon as he crosses the frontier. The personal "I" must be like a mere wave in such an ocean, a finite centre in incomprehensible infinitude. It would be impossible to realize what mind-in-itself is so long as we narrow down the focus of attention to the personal "I^^-thought. For it would be like a wave vainly trying to collect and cram the whole ocean within itself, while refusing to expand its attention beyond its own finite form.
All that he knows and experiences are things in this world of the five senses. The Overself is not within their sphere of operation and therefore not to be known and experienced in the same way. This is why the first real entry into it must necessarily be an entry into no-thing-ness. The mystical phenomena and mystical raptures happen merely on the journey to this Void.
It is a consciousness where the "here" is universal and the "now" is everlasting.
There is a sense of the total absence of time, a feeling of the unending character of one's inner being.
The being which he finds at the end of this inner search is an anonymous one. He may ask for a name but he will not get one. He must be satisfied with the obscure response: "I Am That I Am!"
The Overself is there, but it is hidden within our conscious being. Only there, in this deep atmosphere, do we come upon the mirage-free Truth, the illusion-free Reality.
There are deep places in men's hearts and minds into which they rarely venture. And yet treasures are hidden there--flashes of intuition, important revelations, extra strengths, and above all a peace out of this world.
It is Conscious Silence.
The Knowing or Self-awareness of the Overself is never absent; it is always seeing.
Yes, your guardian angel is always present and always the secret witness and recorder of your thoughts and deeds. Whether you go down into the black depths of hell or ascend to the radiant heights of heaven, you do not walk alone.
Wherever they happen to be, in wide-scattered countries, widely different climates, and far-apart centuries, men have experienced this divine presence. What does this show? That it is not dependent on place and hour, not subject to the laws of space-time.
Deep down in the mind and feeling of man is the mysterious godlike Essence seemingly too deep--alas!--for the ordinary man, who therefore lets himself be content with hearing from others about it and thus only at second hand.
If we believe in or know of the reality of the Overself, we must also believe or know that our everyday, transient life is actively rooted in its timeless being.
It is the life-giving, body-healing, or occult-power-bestowing force in man. It is not a theoretical conception but a quickening, transforming power.
The problem of our relation to the Overself is difficult to clear up satisfactorily in words. Hence the statements about it in my book must not be taken too literally and too precisely. Words pertain to a lower order of being. The Overself is not a discriminating observing entity in our human and ordinary sense. But its power and intelligence are such that the activities of discrimination and observation would appear to be at work merely through its presence. Everything in our lives happens as if the Overself took a direct interest and arranged its manifestation, and that is the wonder and mystery of the human situation. Only by comparing this situation with that of the dreaming man and his various dream egos can we even get a hint of what its reality is.
There is a godlike thing within us which theology calls the spirit and which, because it is also a portion of the higher power within the universe, I call the Overself. He is wise indeed who takes it as his truest guide and makes it his protective guardian.
In the end, after many a life on earth, he will find that much of what he looks for in others will have to be found in himself. But it will not be found in the surface self. It lies deeply submerged, in a region where the purest forms exist.
Those who want to prolong their ego's little existence into the Overself's life naturally draw back with shock or horror when it is explained that there all is anonymous and impersonal.
It is nothing frigid, austere, or inhuman but a warm serenity, a deep glowing peace.
The Overself is not only the best part of himself but also the unalterable part.
I am well aware that I have used the term Overself inconsistently and indifferently and that now a fresh definition is imposed upon the work in my new book. Does the cancellation of the earlier definitions render them false? By no means! They are perfectly correct when read in their proper places; their defect is that they are incomplete; they are not representative of the highest truth; they are true in the world of religion, or of mysticism, as the case may be, but not in the world of philosophy.
Although this does not think, its presence makes thinking possible, and although it does not register on our five senses, it makes all sense-impressions possible.
We cannot see, hear, or touch without the mind. But the mind, in its turn, cannot function or even exist without the Overself.
It is from the Overself that every true prophet receives his power. "I of myself am nothing," confessed Jesus.
The point in consciousness where the mind projects its thoughts has been called by the ancients "the cave" or "the cave of the heart." This is because to the outside observer there is nothing but darkness in it and therefore the cave hides whatever it may contain. When, by an inward re-orientation of attention, we trace thoughts, whether of external things or internal fancies, to their hidden origin and penetrate the dark shroud around it, we penetrate into Mind, the divine Overself. We cannot help remembering Gray's apposite lines: "Full many a gem of purest ray serene, The dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear."
The Overself does not evolve and does not progress. These are activities which belong to time and space. It is nowhere in time and nowhere in space. It is Here, in this deep beautiful and all-pervading calm, that a man finds his real identity.
Everything that exists in time must also exist in change. The Overself does not exist in time and is not subject to change.
Do not insult the Higher Power by calling it unconscious; it is not only fully conscious but also fully intelligent. Your real Self, which is this power, needs neither commands nor instructions from the physical brain.
The Overself is not anyone's private property.
Why did Jesus give the opening of the Lord's Prayer as "Our Father" and not as "My Father?" Was he not trying to get his disciples away from the self-centered attitude to the cosmic one? Was he not widening their outlook to make them think of mankind's welfare?
The Overself surrounds the borderline of the ego, its perfection stretching into infinity.
There is no way of showing the Overself for anyone's examination. Since the ego comes out of the Overself, the only way it can see it again is to go back into it.
Miguel de Molinos: "The Soul is a pure Spirit and does not feel herself. Its acts are not perceptible."
This beneficent, freedom-bestowing, character-transforming, soul-awakening, gentle Presence is Overself.
The interpretation of "Overself" which I have given in my book The Wisdom of the Overself is confirmed by the teaching of a former Sri Shankaracharya of Kolhapur (1912) as told by one of his disciples. He taught Atman--that part of the Absolute which is Man. He interpreted it as "higher self."
Whether out in this world of ugly happenings or deep within the mind in a heaven of beauty and peace, the observer is the same; but in the first case he is the little limited ego and in the second case, he is THAT from which the ego draws its sustenance--the Overself.
If there is not to be an endless series of observers, which would be unthinkable, there must be an ultimate one, itself unobserved and self-illuminated.
Somewhere at the hidden core of man's being there is light, goodness, power, and tranquillity.
The infinite divine life dwells within all embodied creatures, therefore in all mankind. It is the final source of his feelings and his consciousness, however limited they are here in the body itself.
There is nothing else like it; nothing with which the Overself could be compared.
It has no form to be pictured and weighed, measured and numbered; it makes no movement to be timed and no sound to be registered on the ear drum.
It could be said that the innermost essence of a man, be it his heart or his mind, is the Overself.
No person can hope to discover what God is like since human beings do not possess the proper faculties for such an undertaking. The best one can do is to create for himself an idea or interpretation of God that will suit his understanding and help him. Some people call it by different names; in fact, in my writings, I have referred to it as the Soul, the Overself, the Higher Self, the True Self, and so on--all of which are quite correct.
The word Overmind should never have been introduced but now that it is here it must be explained. There is only one Reality. The nearest notion we can form of it is that it is something mental. If we think of it as being the sum total of all individual minds, then it is Overmind; if we can rise higher and know that it cannot be totalized, it is Overself. The first explanation was originally introduced to explain why abnormal phenomena can happen but not as a final explanation of what Mind and Reality are. People have confused the two aims. Actually there is only One thing, whatever you call it, but it can be studied from different standpoints and thus we get different results. That thing is Mind--unindividuated, infinite.
The planetary overmind is the active aspect of the Overself but still only an aspect. It works with space and time although the latter assumes dimensions far beyond that with which waking human capacity can cope. The Overself in its passive purity is timeless and spaceless.
The Overself has not expressed itself in matter simply because there is no matter! It has not improved itself by evolution, but finite, individual minds have done so. The universal gods are the Overminds, the sum totals of each system--that is, concepts of the human mind which are dropped by the adept when they have served their purpose in bringing him to That which is unlimited. Seek the kingdom first, and all these occult powers will be added unto you.
The point in the heart is a focus for meditation and also an experience during meditation. When, however, one rises to the ultimate path he disregards the heart because the Overself has nothing to do with localities or geography of any kind; it cannot be measured.
It is often asked why we have so little contact with the Overself, why it is so hard to find the clues which shall lead us to it.
There is more within him of the good than a man suspects, even though experience may make him believe otherwise. But it lies in a deeper layer, hence it needs a longer time to bring it up.
It is not the Reality found by speculation or thinking alone, for intellect can err. It is the Reality found by the mystic intuition of mystic experience, by Reason (as opposed to intellect) of Philosophy, and verified by a realization more immediate and intimate than the ego of ordinary life, with its passions, emotions, and thoughts, and deeper than anything ever before experienced.
There is no single term satisfactory on all points for use when referring to THAT. The name "Overself" is no exception to this situation. But to those who object to this coinage of a new word, the answer is best given by the editor of the latest edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage, Sir Ernest Gowers: "I'm all in favour of new words. How else would a language live and flourish?"
It is the observer which is itself unobserved.
It is as difficult to trace the spiritual source of a man's life as it is to trace the mathematical source of pi, of 3.14159. . .
We may try to make this idea as clearly definable as we can, but nothing put into words can in the end be more than a hint, a clue, or merely suggestive.
Just as the pearl is well hidden within the oyster and not apparent until searched for, so the Overself is well hidden in man.
The Christ-self who was in Jesus is in us too.
It is like nothing that we know from experience or can picture from imagination. Space does not hold it. Time does not condition it.
There are some truths which are durable ones. Change cannot change them. This is one of them.
If most men fail to recognize the Overself, if they deny its presence in Nature or in themselves, can they be blamed? What else is so elusive?
It was, I believe, Matthew Arnold who first used this term "higher self," and it is certainly expressive enough for our present purpose.
Here is one thing which does not have to move with the times, although the communication of it and instruction in it, do.
Here is the concentrated ultimate essence of his being.
In this spiritual self we may find the origin of life.
That which is within us as the Overself, being godlike, is out of time and eternal.
There is something within him which is without personal existence, without a name, and without scrutable face. It is the Overself.
Here is the beginning, the middle, and the end of all wisdom.
All power and all intelligence reside within it.
It is "the sacred spirit dwelling within us, observer and guardian of all our evil and our good" of Seneca.
The Overself is shrouded in seemingly inaccessible and impenetrable mystery.
In the gravest depths of a man's being he will find, not fouling slime and evil, but cleansing divinity and goodness.
This is the irreducible essence of a man, where he is.
It is inaccessible to the intellect, unknowable by ordinary egoistic man. Yet there are some into whose consciousness It has entered.
It is a felt presence.
That from which the intellect's power recoils and the ego's pride suffers--that is the Overself!
He is not separate from his own experience, not an observer watching it. For there is only the inner silence, with which he is identified if he turns to examine the I, only the pure consciousness.
It is the presence of the Overself within us which makes more consciousness possible, whether it be the consciousness of the dream or the consciousness of waking.
There are two biblical quotations, one from the Song of Solomon and one from Saint Paul, that accurately refer to the Overself. This indeed is the real soul of man, whose finding here and now, during our life on earth, is the task silently set us by life itself.
That which finds itself and lives in him, works through him and is the God within: a holy Presence.
The real self is universal, in the sense that it does not belong to him or to his neighbour.
"The pristine nature of the Self is effortless, spontaneous Tapas. Incessant Tapas of that kind leads to the manifestation of all powers." --Sri Ramana Maharshi.
This mysterious entity which dwells on the other side of our earthly consciousness is not as unperceptive of us as we are of it.
The Overself is truly our guardian angel, ever with us and never deserting us. It is our invisible saviour. But we must realize that it seeks primarily to save us not from suffering but from the ignorance which is the cause of our suffering.
This particular function of the Overself was known also to the more percipient among men of the Middle Ages and of antiquity. Thus Epictetus: "Zeus hath placed by the side of each, a man's own Guardian Spirit, who is charged to watch over him."
Atma = higher self; Paramatma = Mind; Ishvara = World Mind. Overself--all three generalized (preferred by Hiriyanna). Jiva = individual . . . (Tony's Center) "souls . . . behind the physicomental complex commonly called the individual . . . the eternal consciousness (Atman) as limited by the organism . . . the sense-organ, the manas, and the antahkarana."
Overself and World-Mind
We found it necessary, in the interests of greater precision and better exposition, to restrict the term "Overself" to represent the ultimate reality of man, and to introduce the term "World-Mind" to represent the ultimate reality of the universe.
The Overself is the representative of God in man.
The Overself is a part of World-Mind. Whereas World-Mind is beyond human capacity to know, the Overself is within that capacity.
That point in man where the two worlds of being--infinite and finite--can be said to touch, is Overself.
The gap between man's mind and God's mind is uncrossable. But the gap between his everyday mind and the Overself--which is close to God--is not. Through it he may penetrate a little deeper into the mystery.
The Overself is so close to God, so akin to the World-Mind, that no man need look farther, or aspire higher.
The Overself is the highest point in the human being; it is there where he can find himself "made in the image of God."
It is true to say that the Overself possesses properties which belong also to God. But because one man is like another, we do not claim him to be identical with that other. The Overself is Godlike in nature but not in identity.
The Overself is our knowledge, experience, or sight of the World-Mind, of God, and is the only one we shall ever get while we are still in the flesh.
There is a point where the human meets the divine, where the conscious ego emerges from the all-encompassing Void. That point we call the Overself.
There is some point in each individual being where the human and the divine must join, where man's little consciousness bends low before, or blends subtly with, the Universal Mind which is his ultimate source. It is impossible to describe that intersection in any terms which shall adequately fit it, but it can be named. In philosophy it is the Overself.
The essence of man is his Overself, which is an emanation from Mind.
Here is the focal point of all spiritual searching, here man meets God.
The Overself is the point where the One Mind is received into consciousness. It is the "I" freed from narrowness, thoughts, flesh, passion, and emotion--that is, from the personal ego.
That point where man meets the Infinite is the Overself, where he, the finite, responds to what is absolute, ineffable and inexhaustible Being, where he reacts to That which transcends his own existence--this is the Personal God he experiences and comes into relation with. In this sense his belief in such a God is justifiable.
Overself is the inner or true self of man, reflecting the divine being and attributes. The Overself is an emanation from the ultimate reality but is neither a division nor a detached fragment of it. It is a ray shining forth but not the sun itself.
It is true that the nature of God is inscrutable and that the laws of God are inexorable. But it is also true that the God-linked soul of man is accessible and its intuitions available.
This divine self is the unkillable and unlosable soul, forever testifying to the source, whence it came.
Those who consider the hidden mind to be a mere storehouse of forgotten childhood memories or adolescent experiences and repressed adult wishes consider only a part of it, only a fraction. There is another and even still more hidden part which links man with the very sources of the universe--God.
That point of contact in consciousness where man first feels God and later vanishes into God, is the Overself.
The Overself is a part of the One Infinite Life-Power as the dewdrop is a part of the ocean.
That which connects the individual man to the Universal Spirit, I call the Overself. This connection can never be broken. Its existence is the chief guarantee that there is hope of salvation for all, not merely for those who think their group alone will be granted it.
With this grand consciousness, man reaches the APHELION of his orbit. He can go no higher and remain man.
Speaking metaphorically, we may say that the Overself is that fragment of God which dwells in man, a fragment which has all the quality and grandeur of God without all its amplitude and power.
The World-Mind's reflection in us is the Overself.
The thoughts and feelings which flow like a river through our consciousness make up the surface self. But underneath them there is a deeper self which, being an emanation from divine reality, constitutes our true self.
That which I call the Overself is intermediate between the ordinary human and the World-Mind. It includes man's higher nature but stretches into what is above him, the divine.
In the normally covered centre of a man's being, covered by his thoughts and feelings and passions as a person, a self, IT IS. It is here that he is connected with the larger Being behind the universe, the World-Mind. In this sense he is not really an isolated unit, not alone. God is with him. It was a simple shepherd on Mount Horeb who, during a glimpse, asked "Who art Thou?" Came the answer: "I am He Who IS!"
It is his own greater self, his Overself, that he thus experiences, although he may be so overwhelmed by its mysterious Power, so awed by its ethereality, that he usually believes--and names--it God. And in one mode of meaning, his belief is not without justification. For at the core of the experience, he, the atom within the World-Mind, receives the revelation that it is ever there and, more, ever supporting him.
It is this, the deepest part of his being, his final essential self, which is a man's Overself, and which links him with the World-Mind. It is this Presence within which evokes all his spiritual quality.
This is the essential being of a man, where his link with God lies.
Epictetus helps us to understand, and our intellect to define, the Overself. "Do you not know," he says, "that you carry a god within you? . . . You are a distinct portion of the essence of God and contain a part of Him within yourself."
Overself and ego
It is amazing paradox that the Overself completely transcends the body yet completely permeates it: both these descriptions are simultaneously true.
Although the Overself does not pass through the diverse experiences of its imperfect image, the ego, nevertheless it witnesses them. Although it is aware of the pain and pleasure experienced by the body which it is animating, it does not itself feel them; although detached from physical sensations, it is not ignorant of them. On the other hand, the personal consciousness does feel them because it regards them as states of its own self. Thus the Overself is conscious of our joys and sorrows without itself sharing them. It is aware of our sense-experience without itself being physically sentient. Those who wonder how this is possible should reflect that a man awakened from a nightmare is aware once again in the form of a revived memory of what he suffered and what he sensed but yet does not share again either the suffering or the sensations.
The Overself perceives and knows the individual self, but only as an imperturbable witness--in the same way that the sun witnesses the various objects upon the earth but does not enter into a particular relation with a particular object. So too the Overself is present in each individual self as the witness and as the unchanging consciousness which gives consciousness to the individual.
The "I" is immeasurably greater than the ego which it projects or than the intellect, which the ego uses.
The normal man thinks he is body plus mind, with emphasis on the body. But self-questioning and analysis show that, although he certainly has these two things and is certainly associated with them, the "I" is in fact neither of them. It is, by contrast, not changing and quite elusive. It is not in space, as the body is, nor in time, as the mind is. It is, in fact, a mystery. The attempt to find out what it is brings up the questions of existence, life, activity, and consciousness.
All that anyone basically possesses unlost through all his life is his "I." All that he really is, is this same "I." The physical body, although seemingly inseparable from it, is something lived in and used, as a house is lived in and a tool is used.
To look at a man and at his life from the outside is only to see half the man. To look at them from the inside is to see the other half. Put these two fragments together and there is the whole man. Or so it would seem. But what if behind his thoughts and feelings there were still another self of an utterly different kind and quality? And this exactly is his situation. He does not know all of himself, and he understands it even less. Those who have been privileged to look behind the veil can only urge him to recognize this incompleteness and teach him what steps to take to overcome it.
The divine soul in us is utterly above and unaffected by the sense impressions. If we become conscious of it, we also become conscious of a supersensual order of existence.
It is a higher self not only in a moral sense but also in a cosmic sense. For the lower one issued forth from it, but under limitations of consciousness, form, space, and time which are not in the parent Self.
When we come to see that it is the body alone that expresses the coming into life and the going into death, that in the true self there is neither a beginning nor an ending but rather LIFE itself, we shall see aright.
No men are without their sense of the Overself, but they miscomprehend and therefore misapply it. The result is that ego, the little part, is conceived to be the whole, the All.
Because the godlike is in each one of us, and because no two of us are alike, each has his or her separate gifts, capacities, or talents to express. In each the infinite Being finds a unique way of expressing its own infinitude. Even if we have no gifts we have our individual characteristics.
It is pure Being overlaid by many thoughts and much feeling.
Here in the ego we may perceive a reproduction of the sacred Overself under the limitations of time and space. Whoever grasps this great truth knows henceforth that this Overself is no more distant from him than his own heart and that what he calls "I" is inseparably united with what men call God.
We do not subscribe to the belief that the divine soul has somehow gone astray and got enslaved by the animal body.
His higher self is not polluted by his own pollutions any more than sunlight is affected by the foul places in which it often shines.
The higher self affects the ego but is not affected by it. Its existence goes on quite independently of the serialized earth appearances of the ego, and persists when the other ceases. The insensitive can never know it, and may roundly deny it, but the others sometimes receive unforgettable glimpses for which they give thanks to Allah for years afterwards.
Just as space is unaffected equally by the evil deeds or virtuous actions of men, so the Overself is unaffected by the character or conduct of the ego. It is neither made worse by the ego's wrong-doing nor better by its righteousness.
"I am the way, the Truth," announced Jesus. Who is this I? In the narrow and shallower sense it is the master. In the broader and deeper sense, it is the Christ-self within, the spiritual consciousness.
Why did Jesus say, "I and my Father are one," but yet a little later add, "The Father is greater than I"? The answer is that Jesus the man had attained complete harmony with his higher Self and felt himself one with it, but the universal Christ-principle will always be greater than the man himself; the Overself will always transcend the person.
Although it is still identified with him, since it is his own mind at its best level, it is immensely grander wiser and nobler than he.
It is an entity greater, nobler, wiser, and stronger than himself yet mysteriously and inseparably linked to himself; it is indeed his super-self.
Our bodies are born at some point of time and somewhere in space but their essence, the Overself, is birthless, timeless, and placeless.
This is a man's true individuality, not that mentally constructed "I" (which deludes him into acceptance as such).
It is never anything else than its own perfect self, never contrary to its own unique and infinite nature.
It is true that we are but poor and faulty, sadly limited, and miserably shrunken expressions of the divine spirit. Nevertheless, we are expressions of it.
The personal pronoun "I" really represents the Overself, the divine part of man. What people usually refer to as "I"--the body or the intellect or the emotions--is not the basic "I" at all.
You ask a question which (1) ought not to be asked and (2) is quite unanswerable. Nevertheless I shall try: "What good is a Consciousness of which we are unaware?" you argue. Answer: "No good!" But your question is in error. There is some awareness, although a limited one. This appears as your ego-consciousness, which is a reflection of the Consciousness you ask about. Because the Universal and Infinite cannot be packed into the personal and finite, your demand, natural though it be, is unreasonable. Erigena, the first British--I beg pardon, Irish--philosopher (ninth century) was much influenced by Dionysius the Areopagite (first century) and it was under such influence that he wrote: "God Himself knows not what He is, for He is not a `what.'^^ So why ask a mere man?
Just as there is a sun hidden behind the sun, the divinity which animates it, so in the human being there is a Mind within the mind--and that is his Overself.
The personality is always limited and chained, the higher individuality always infinite and free.
Each man is the expression of this infinite life-power.
His awareness of life in the five senses will rest upon another and inner awareness. A second and hidden self will thus seem to support his outer one.
The true I yields quite a different feeling, experience, and consciousness from the familiar physical ego.
There is a deeper level of every man's mind which is not subject to his passions, not moved by his desires, not affected by his senses.
It is not possible for the timeless, spaceless, formless Overself to be degraded into activity by its time-bound, space-tied, form-limited offspring the person.
The essence of man is not his earthly body. Nor is it the ghostly duplicate of that body, as many spiritists and some religionists think.
The Overself is the Higher mind in man, his divine soul as distinguished from his human-animal nature. It is the same as Plato's "nous."
The true unchanging self is apart from any historical era and is not dependent on outer changes of custom and form.
The aim of the mystic is to know what he is, apart from his physical body, his lower emotion, his personal ego; it is to know his inner-most self. When this aim is successfully realized, he knows then with perfect certitude that he is a ray of the divine sun.
How shall he know and understand that this very awareness, of which so small is the fragment that he experiences, is a limited and conditioned part of the Great Awareness itself, of God?
The inhabitant of this fleshly body, including its accompanying invisible "ghost," is a sacred one.
There, within and yet behind his personal consciousness, is this other sphere of his own being into which he must one day be re-born as a chick from an egg.
This is his best self; this is what he really is under all the defects.
Central and universal
The higher self is a paradox. It is both central and universal. The two are together.
The knowledge that no two human beings are alike refers to their bodies and minds. But this leaves out the part of their nature which is spiritual, which is found and experienced in deep meditation. In that, the deepest part of their conscious being, the personal self vanishes; only consciousness-in-itself, thought-free, world-free, remains. This is the source of the "I" feeling, and it is exactly alike in the experience of all other human beings. This is the part which never dies, "where God and man may mingle."
There is only one Overself for the whole race, but the point of contact with it is special and unique, and constitutes man's higher individuality.
Whereas every human personality is different in its characteristics from every other one, no human Overself is different in its characteristics from any other one. The seekers of all times and all places have always found one and the same divine being when they found the Overself.
This Overself is everywhere one and the same for all men. The experience of rising into awareness of it does not differ in actuality from one man to another, but the purity with which he absorbs it, interprets it, understands it, does. Hence, the varieties of expression used about it, the clash of revelations concerning it.
This is the paradox, that the Overself is at once universal and individual. It is the first because it overshadows all men as a single power. It is the second because it is found by each man within himself. It is both space and the point in space. It is infinite Spirit and yet it is also the holy presence in everyone's heart.
This other being is outside the "I" yet, paradoxically, and in another sense, it is inside the "I." It is not himself yet also it is himself. If these statements cannot be understood at first reading, do not therefore denounce them. If you are really in earnest, approach them prayerfully or, if your feelings cannot be made to run on that line, aspiringly at the precise moments when you approach the mysterious moment that transmutes your waking state into the sleep state. But do not expect to receive satisfaction with the first trial nor even a twentieth--although this is always possible. If you do not desert the enterprise through impatience, you will find one day that you are at last able to read, clearly and correctly, the meaning of these mystical words. Other people have done it, have emerged from the mind's obscurity into the intuition's clarity, although at varying pace. They have succeeded because the constitution of man, being double, makes it possible.
The mysterious character of the Overself inevitably puzzles the intellect. We may appreciate it better if we accept the paradoxical fact that it unites a duality and that therefore there are two ways of thinking of it, both correct. There is the divine being which is entirely above all temporal concerns, absolute and universal, and there is also the demi-divine being which is in historical relation with the human ego.
It is possible for the fully illumined mystic to experience two different states of identification with his Higher Self. In one, he becomes conscious of the latter on IT's own plane; in the other, which he experiences in deep trance only, even that is transcended and there is only the ONE/Being. Yet this is not annihilation. What it is, (infinite) is beyond human comprehension, and therefore beyond human description.
It is hard to tell in words about the wordless, hard to formulate in intellect-born phrases what is beyond the intellect. To say that the higher self is or is not individualized is to distort meaning and arouse miscomprehension. But a simile may help us here. The drop of water which, with the countless millions of other drops, makes up the ocean is distinct but not separable from them. It is both different from and yet the same as them. At the base of each man's being stretches the one infinite life alone, but within it his centre of existence rests.
At the end of all its adventures, the lower self may indeed have to go, but the indestructible higher self will not go. In this sense there is no utter annihilation of the individual, no complete mergence of it into an all-swallowing ocean of cosmic consciousness, as so many Western critics of Eastern wisdom believe to be the latter's last word.
Because of the paradoxically dual nature which the Overself possesses, it is very difficult to make clear the concept of the Overself. Human beings are rooted in the ultimate mind through the Overself, which therefore partakes on the one hand of a relationship with a vibratory world and on the other of an existence which is above all relations. A difficulty is probably due to the vagueness or confusion about which standpoint it is to be regarded from. If it is thought of as the human soul, then the vibratory movement is connected with it. If it is thought of as transcending the very notion of humanity, and therefore in its undifferentiated character, the vibratory movement must disappear.
If we are to think correctly, we cannot stop with thinking of the Overself as being only within us. After this idea has become firmly established for its metaphysical and devotional value, we must complete the concept by thinking of the Overself as being also without us. If in the first concept it occupies a point in space, in the second one it is beyond all considerations of place.
We may take comfort in the fact that the Overself never at any moment abandons or obliterates the human personality, however debased it becomes. Nor could it do so, whatever foolish cults say to the contrary, for through this medium it finds an expression in time-space.
When we say that the Overself is within the heart, it would be a great error to think that we mean it is limited to the heart. For the heart is also within it. This seeming paradox will yield to reflection and intuition. The mysterious relationship between the ego and the Overself has been expressed by Jesus in the following words: "The Father is in the Son, and the Son is in the Father."
The dictionary defines individuality as separate and distinct existence. Both the ego and the Overself have such an existence. But whereas the ego has this and nothing more, the Overself has this consciousness within the universal existence. That is why we have called it the higher individuality.
The fact that after awaking the mind picks up the thoughts of the day before, that the individuality connects with the old individuality of pre-sleep, proves the continuity of existence of a part of Self both during sleep as during waking.
Every situation in human life can be approached from two possible points of view. The first is the limited one and is that of the personal self. The second is the larger one and is that of Universal Self. The larger and longer view always justifies itself in the end.
Each Overself is like a circle whose centre is in some individual but whose circumference is not in any individual.
We must not imagine that the subordination of this sense of personal identity leads to any loss of consciousness--rather the reverse. Man becomes more, not less, for he emerges into the fullness and freedom of one universal life. He thinks of himself as: "I, A.B., am a point within the Overself," whereas before he only thought: "I am A.B."
The higher self keeps the same kind of individuality without being separate that each facet of a diamond keeps. The light which shines through it shines equally through all facets alike, remaining one and the same.
The individuality is beyond the personality--its level is higher. The one must prompt while the other must watch the pitiless destruction of its wishes and hopes, its values and desires, until only the pure being of individuality is left.
It is a kind of impersonal being but it is not utterly devoid of all individuality.
As a wave sinks back into the sea, so the consciousness which passes out of the personal self sinks back into its higher individuality.
This is the general mind behind our small personal minds, the one behind the many.
Responding to critics
There is no other way to settle doubts concerning the soul with incontestable certainty than the way of getting personal knowledge of it by a mystical glimpse.
Even when a man denies the Overself and thinks it out of his view of life, he is denying and thinking by means of the Overself's own power--attenuated and reflected though it be. He is able to reject the divine presence with his mind only because it is already in his mind.
Buddhism points out that although Nirvana is, there is no self to perceive it. As Buddhism denies a permanent self, the question of what Nirvana is experimentally does not arise. Nirvana is not a state of mind which is to be produced but is what is realized when the long-cherished notion of "I" is given up. Nirvana, in short, is the miracle of egoless being. The Buddha's doctrine of the soul was stated in negative terms because he was controverting current misconceptions. He explained this in Alagadupama Majjhima, 1, 135: "Even in this present life, my brethren, I say that the soul is indefinable. Though I say and teach thus, there are those who accuse me falsely of being a nihilist, of teaching the non-existence and annihilation of the soul. That is what I am not and do not teach."
There is a long line of testimony, to which I must add my own, that the Overself is no metaphysical abstraction or mystical hallucination but a living and inspiring, if uncommon, part of human experience. To know it is to know one's best self.
The Overself is not something imagined or supposed. Its presence is definitely felt.
If a man asks why he can find no trace of God's presence in himself, I answer that he is full of evidence, not merely traces. God is present in him as consciousness, the state of being aware; as thought, the capacity to think; as activity, the power to move; and as stillness, the condition of ego, emotion, intellect, and body which finally and clearly reveals what these other things simply point to. "Be still, and know that I am God" is a statement of being whose truth can be tested by experiment and whose value can be demonstrated by experience.
When we realize that the intellect can put forth as many arguments against this theme as for it, we realize that there is in the end only one perfect proof of the Overself's existence. The Overself must prove itself. This can come about faintly through the intuition or fully through the mystical experience.
Whoever needs proofs of the authenticity of this experience has not had it.
The difficulty of collecting and studying, sifting and describing the varieties of mystical experience which may be found today is a barrier to the expansion of scientific psychology. For those persons who are most eager to talk about their own experiences are the most dubious and unreliable source. Those who are the least eager, feeling the matter to be too private, personal, intimate, and sacred, are able to offer valuable evidence.
Testimony to the existence and reality of the glimpse will be found in the literatures of all peoples through all times. It is not a newly manufactured idea, nor a newly manufactured fancy. A man who denies it is foolish so to limit his own possibilities, but he may learn better with time.
These glimpses cannot rightly be dismissed by the scientist as merely self-suggested or wholly hallucinatory. Nor can they properly be regarded by the metaphysician as valueless for truth. As human beings we live by experience, and they are personal experiences which help to confirm the truth of the impersonal bases underneath them and which encourage us to continue on the same path.
The Overself is a living reality. Nobody would waste his years, his endeavours, and his energies in its quest if it were merely an intellectual concept or an emotional fancy.
The Overself is not only a necessary conception of logical thought. It is also a beautiful fact of personal experience.
There are three signs, among others, of the Soul's presence in a Soul-denying generation. They are: moral conscience, artistic imagination, and metaphysical speculation.
Criticism which knows only sensuous and intellectual experience can be little valid here if, indeed, it is not entirely irrelevant.
When a man confuses the nature of the mind with its own thoughts, when he is unable properly to analyse consciousness and memory, when he has never practised introspection and meditation successfully, he can know nothing of the soul and may well be sceptical of its existence.
To the man of insight there is something strange, ironic, and yet pathetic in the spectacle of those who turn the consciousness and the understanding derived from Overself against the acknowledgment of Its existence.
It is not a dim abstraction but a real presence. Not a vague theory but a vital fact.
That the Overself is not the product of an inflated imagination but has a real existence, is a truth which any man who has the required patience and submits to the indispensable training may verify himself.
Because he regards the theory and practice of his subject from the inside, the mystic can discuss it with a correctness and authority which most critics do not possess because they are outside it. They are largely in the dark about it--he is actually in the light.
Those who have never felt it in themselves nor seen it demonstrated in others cannot understand the blessedness of such a state.
Because they are unready for it, they cannot endure such an experience. The peace it imparts is too impersonal and would suffocate them. The detachment which it creates makes the worldly life seem less important and is too frightening.
The recognition that this experience does happen is increasing rapidly in Western countries but in the East it has never been doubted. The criticism that mystical experience is subjective and illusory is being dropped, as it ought to be.
Those who have never experienced this state yet venture to criticize it as illusory are dealing with mere words, not facts.
If the ordinary man seldom gets these subtler experiences it is because his nature is too coarse, his mind too physically based, his focus too personal to permit him to receive them.
Do these moods of utter tranquillity have to repeat themselves again and again to convince doubting man that there is indeed a state of consciousness beyond the everyday so-called normal one? Is not such personal experience the best offering of testimony from the Soul to its own existence?
That arrogance which denies heaven to the unorthodox does not trouble the mystic. He finds heaven here in this life, now before the transition of death.
At such times, unexpected and unsought though they are, he feels the nearness of God, the love of God, the reality of God. Whoever ventures to call them delusions is himself deluded.
Deep within his own heart, hidden within his own consciousness, every person carries all the evidence for the truth of these teachings that he or she is ever likely to need.
Not only philosophy, but the teaching of all seers like Krishna and Jesus, would have to be pronounced fraudulent if the Overself were not a fact.
In its oneness and sameness for participants the world over, the mystic experience proves its validity.
Men who pronounce judgements or write opinions upon mysticism without actual and personal experience of its mental states and phenomena, who interpret it only from the outside and only as observers, cannot be reliable authorities on the subject.
Those critics who are on the outside looking in, do not and cannot know as much about the truth of mysticism as those who are deep within its inside looking out.
There is only one way to settle his question of whether the Overself exists and that is the very way most moderns refuse to accept. Each must gain for himself the authentic mystical experience. Sugar can really be known only by its sweet taste, the Overself only by opening the doors of the mind to consciousness of its presence.
Those who have had this overwhelming experience require no arguments to make them believe in the soul. They know that they are the soul.
An experience which is so convincing, so real, that no intellectual argument to the contrary can stand against it, is final. Let others say what they will, he remains unswayed.