In the last post I asked, Are we a Who or a What? and indicated that we must answer this question before we can hope to answer a very practical one for our everyday lives: “Why is it so difficult for us to accept total love and forgiveness?”
Satisfactorily answering the latter question, I believe, is the lynchpin in our quest for meaning and fulfillment.
The existential question of whether the Self is a What or a Who does not exist only within a philosophical discussion about the nature of reality. Rather, each person decides how they will answer this question for their own life.
Our choice sets a core foundational stage of the experience of a philosophical or spiritual inquiry and journey. The potential experience of life and metaphysical reality is quite different between the two approaches. Here I describe the premises of this philosophical dialogue.
Self as What
Generally we use “what” to refer to a thing. Things are not conscious, nor are things individuals. However “What” used in philosophical discussions varies from this dictionary definition.
I was reading an interview with a philosopher who asked, not uncharacteristically within discussions in the current spiritual marketplace, “What are we?”
In this usage “What” is conscious, therefore not a thing, but Being. Though the What-Self functions as an individual at the moment, after our human experience, the Self loses separate identity and becomes one with a larger consciousness, or the source of our consciousness. In short, the Self is pure consciousness or knowing.
As we become aware of our surroundings, nature, behaviors, thoughts, attitudes, and motives we receive hints about our Being”ness.” In other words, by attuning our awareness meter we come to understand what we are really doing and why.
With astute observation, relentless awareness, and critical thinking—in other words by exercising consciousness itself in profound awareness—we can separate mind and ego from Conscious Self. In doing that we arrive at our spiritual core.
Self as Who
In another philosophical perspective, consciousness is only one part of spirit’s inherent, variegated nature.
In the What-Self and Who-Self model, Spirit is creative, unchangeable, indestructible, timeless, pure joy, and expansive. Spirit’s expansive characteristic includes oneness (What-Self) and individuality (Who-Self).
The Who-Self is not the personality of the mind, but a personality from pure consciousness untainted by ego. The Who-Self is a spiritual individual with personality, desires, emotions, and unique characteristics.
Within this framework, we are spiritual beings, not just states of being. In the human experience and in the spiritual experience we are individuals. What is the nature of individuality? Since there is more than one individual we have relationships. And the inherent nature of relationships is emotions.
Our human experience, replete with relationships and emotions, is tailored to awaken us to our original Self. We have a body, personality, and emotions in our human experience so that by elevating current relationships and emotions to their highest, pure expression, we arrive at our existential reality. Think of this as shedding our mundane personality and ego of the mind by daily practice in our current situation, to reveal the personality of our true conscious Self.
In the Who-Self model, we bring all parts of our spiritual selves to our human experience: consciousness, as well as, individuality and emotions. We use our consciousness and heart.
In summary, in the What-Self approach we use conscious awareness, in the Who-Self approach we use all aspects of our current being.