What Is the Self?

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Q: When I read Paramahansa Yogananda, he refers to Self Realization, which he describes as conscious God Realization. When I think of my human Self, it doesn’t seem very god-like. What is this Self of which Yogananda speaks? How is it different than my human Self?

A: The Self, as we describe it, is the core of personal identity: the integrating center of the entire personality that operates through the Metaconscious, Subconscious, and Conscious mind. There are, however, a variety of conceptions of what the Self might be:

  1. The “Self Object” – In Object Relations theory, you purportedly incorporate a summary idea that ties together the many different roles you play in life. This image changes as you have new experiences and add new roles in your life. For example, this “Self Object” changes when you graduate from school, when you become employed, when you get married, and when you become a parent. This concept of the Self appears to point to what we call the ego in its developmental aspect, the way your idea of who you are changes throughout your life—as you gain new skills, complete academic and vocational degrees and certificates, accrue more work experience, or achieve personal milestones.
  2. The Conscious Self – In the Upanishads, they speak of a mysterious essence: “The self is seated behind the two eyes… the size of a thumb… it is self-effulgent light… it is consciousness itself… and thou art that consciousness.” In this context, it appears that this scripture is describing what we call the attentional principle, which dwells at the pituitary center of the system of chakras of the Subconscious mind. This essence plays a key role in spiritual development and ministry—we train you how to unite with this essence in the Raja Yoga portion of our intermediate meditation courses.
  3. The Human Self – this is the core of the personality, which directs the entire personality through volition. Dr. Roberto Assagioli referred to this essence as “the Centered Self.” In Theosophy, it is referred to as “the Human Soul.” In Humanistic Psychology, they call it the “essential person.” [This is the way that we use the term, Self, in the Mudrashram® teachings.]
  4. The Glorified Self – When the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in the inner altar of the Moon Soul or Christ Child, you may be temporarily caught up into union with this nucleus of identity, and you experience this holy and loving essence as your genuine Self—your ego and Human Self, in this perspective, appear to be split off from God’s Purpose and Plan, and remain in the outer darkness of sin.
  5. The Integral Self – In Carl Jung’s later writings, he referred to the Self, which integrates the four quadrants of the mind. In this viewpoint, he appears to describe the Self in a way that describes the Soul and its four poles—which integrates the faculties of intuition, thinking, emotions, and sensations in a central figure in the mind. This central figure resembles the core of a mandala.
  6. The Divinized Self (Avatar) – In this conception, the human Self becomes fused with the Divine, and the individual in whom this occurs incarnates the Divine in their human life. Bhagavan Krishna, Lord Jesus Christ, and Avatar Meher Baba have been cited as examples of this supernal fusion in which God dwells among humanity.
  7. The Supreme Self – In many Yogi Preceptor traditions, particularly the Advaita and Vedanta schools of Jnana Yoga, they regard the union of cosmic consciousness and Brahman—in the seventh chakra of the Cosmic Man or Cosmic Woman—as bringing about Realization of the only real Self. Brahman in this view is the only Reality, the only True Self, and the entire Creation is an Illusion (Maya)—to the “realized Yogi,” only God is real. This is the standpoint that Yogananda takes, when he speaks of “Self Realization.”

When people use the word, “Self,” it is important for you to discern in what context they are using this term. Otherwise, it is easy to conflate one view with another.

We teach you how to navigate and explore each of the major vehicles of consciousness of the Conscious, Subconscious, and Metaconscious mind up to the Self at the core of your personality in our introductory course, the Introduction to Meditation program. In our intermediate courses, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program, we teach eight “centering techniques” that enable you to unite your attention with the Human Self.

Identification on the Four Poles of Being

By George A. Boyd © 2019

Different spiritual groups focus attention on one of the four poles of being. These poles of being are:

  1. Ensouling entity
  2. Your spirit
  3. Your vehicles of consciousness in the Superconscious mind and their integrating centers (nuclei of identity)
  4. Your attentional principle (consciousness aspect of the fourth pole) and Self and ego (life aspect of the fourth pole)

Through focusing your attention on one of these poles of being, you come to identify with that essence.

  • Spiritual work on the first pole has you contemplate your Soul [or higher octave ensouling entity] and identify with it.
  • Spiritual techniques that operate on the second pole have you focus on your spirit in one of the twelve domains and identify with it. This style of spiritual development is typical for spiritual Paths of the Transcendental Sphere.
  • Spiritual practices that access the third pole typically focus your attention on a nucleus of identity and have you identify with it. Christians and Jews typically have you identify with the Moon Soul nucleus of identity. I AM Movement groups have you identify with the Mighty I AM Presence. Yogi Preceptor led groups have you identify with Cosmic Consciousness. Groups of the Supracosmic Sphere have you identify with the Supracosmic seed atom of their Path.
  • Spiritual methods that access the consciousness aspect of the fourth pole have you identify with your attentional principle. Psychological modalities that access the ego and the Self have you identify with one of these personal integration centers, and operate from that platform.

Attention is the channel selector of the mind, so depending on where you focus your attention, you will activate one of these aspects of the mind—and with sustained contemplation—you will identify with it.

Since most groups only contemplate the essences on one of these poles, they form a cosmology based on where that essence is on the Continuum. So groups that identify with the Moon Soul nucleus of identity will look to the content of the First Planetary Initiation. Groups that identify with Cosmic Consciousness interface with the content of the First Cosmic Initiation. Groups that identify with a Supracosmic Seed Atom engage with the content on that Supracosmic Path.

Abilities of the Essences on the Four Poles

Focusing attention on these four poles gives you certain abilities. For a lot of our spiritual work in Mudrashram®, we focus on the attentional principle—on the consciousness aspect of the fourth pole.

Abilities you gain focusing on an ensouling entity include:

  1. Gnosis – the experience of your Oneness with God
  2. Unity consciousness – Oceanic Consciousness of Being
  3. A symbol of oneness and mystic union – an archetype imbued with the Jet of Spirit in which you encounter the presence of the Soul
  4. The Way – The intuitive knowledge of the Path your Soul has opened to its current nodal point
  5. Kundalini track – the channel of the Kundalini Shakti through the inner vehicles, opening to the point where it unites with the Soul
  6. The Aureole – the sphere of the Soul’s consciousness and illumination
  7. The Atmic vortex – The resonance in which the Soul’s vehicles of consciousness are anchored
  8. The Light and the Word – the sacred inner altar where the spirit gains union with the heart center of the Soul’s essential vehicle

Abilities you gain focusing on the spirit include:

  1. Brain center – The consciousness of the spirit
  2. Point between the eyebrows – The spiritual senses of the spirit
  3. Medulla – the spirit’s octave of conation, the wish
  4. Throat – the spirit’s voice, the ability to give inspired discourse (satsang)
  5. Heart – The spirit’s love and devotion
  6. Solar plexus – The spirit’s virtue
  7. Navel – The remembrance of the spirit’s own nature, the spiritual Master, and the Divine
  8. Feet – The experience of moving in the channels of the Nada

Abilities you gain focusing on a nucleus of identity include:

  1. Brain – Identification with the state of consciousness of a nucleus of identity
  2. Point between the eyebrows – Expression of the unconditional love, intuitive wisdom, and the aspect of volition—and the abilities this confers—anchored in the nucleus of identity
  3. Medulla – The mental capsule, the container of knowledge of the nucleus of identity
  4. Throat – This is the speech principle of the nucleus of identity
  5. Heart – the karmic capsule, which is the nexus of karma that is processed through this center
  6. Solar plexus – The astral/emotional capsule, which embodies the virtues imprinted in the personality (character); the non-integrated material of the unconscious mind interfaces with this center as fantasy
  7. Navel – Etheric capsule, the mental nadis and somatic meridians associated with this nucleus of identity
  8. Base of the spine – The symbol representing the Law, or Dharma of this nucleus of identity
  9. Feet – The expression of this nucleus of identity through the personality as spiritual ministry or the arising from Soul’s Expressed Purpose

Abilities you gain focusing on the attentional principle include:

  1. Brain – The wave of consciousness (chetan)
  2. Point between the eyebrows – intention
  3. Throat – Reception of telepathic impressions, communications through thought
  4. Heart – Contemplation, the ability to extract meaning from seed thoughts, symbols, or archetypes
  5. Solar plexus – Suggestion, the ability to interface with inner vehicles of consciousness
  6. Navel – The ability to empathize with the conscious experience of others
  7. Base of spine – Creation, the ability to combine intention, suggestion, and affirmation to activate the Superconscious mind to manifest a desired outcome
  8. Feet – The stream of light upon which the attentional principle travels that is the focal point for attention

Abilities you gain focusing on the Self include:

  1. Brain – Identification with Self, Self-Knowledge
  2. Point between the eyebrows – Personal volition, free choice
  3. Medulla – Personal intuition, your ability to check in with each aspect of your Conscious, Subconscious, and Metaconscious mind
  4. Right hand – The intellect, you ability to use intelligence to solve problems
  5. Left hand – The concrete mind, you ability to set goals, to plan, and schedule
  6. Throat – The conscience, the ability to tap into your values and standards
  7. Heart – The persona, the ability to express your social skills and humor, and to disclose your genuine Self
  8. Solar Plexus – Your desire body or body of commitment, your ability to give your word and keep it
  9. Navel – Your etheric body, your connection with the Subconscious mind

Working with the attentional principle allows you to unfold the Soul with a transformational method, transforming pole one. It also allows you to shepherd the spirit, to guide it along its Path to liberation, activating pole two. It allows you to access the love, wisdom, and power aspects of your Superconscious mind that expresses through your nuclei of identity, awakening pole three. It natively [on the consciousness aspect of the fourth pole] is able to travel in full consciousness through each of the bands of the Continuum of Consciousness. It is able to lead attention to unite with the Self [on the life aspect of the fourth pole] at the nucleus of the human personality through centering methods.

Using the attentional principle focus is like the Swiss Army knife of meditation: it allows you to access each of the four poles and develop them in synchrony.

We teach you how to awaken and develop each of these poles of being in our intermediate classes, the in-person Mudrashram® Master Course in Meditation and the by-mail and online Accelerated Meditation Program. We invite you to learn these key techniques for personal and spiritual development through taking one of these classes.