No one would, perforce, know the true dimension, or character, of the self as long as one is ‘living it.’ What comes close is something that can be perceived only when it ‘falls away’ and is apparent, in hindsight, by its lack of presence, or what it once was. According to philosophy, the self is, for the most part, an unconscious experience and is only relative to it as a conscious experience. This explains why the terms ‘self’ and ‘consciousness’ articulate the same experiences — and, also because nothing can be said of one that cannot be said of the other, the terms are interchangeably used. They affirm too that the true ‘personality’ of the self is consciousness. The study of self, as a result, is also the study of consciousness.
In simple terms, the self that we know is the conscious-self and the self we do not know is the unconscious-self. This constitutes our entire human dimension of knowing, feeling and experiencing life and things. In other words, the self is what it means to be human; a passage through our existence. When the self ‘falls away,’ as it were, it is likely that one would perceive the whole idea of one’s life’s passage and its key signposts.
Most of us regard the self, our deepest hub, as also subtle. Just think of this. Without our body, tongue, and ear, you would not have spoken, or heard another’s voice. You’d also not have verbalised anything, reflected or sensed them — because, there would be no contact, or ‘bumping into’ acquaintances — thanks to our woeful lack of sensory experience. Put simply, you and I would have felt there’s nothing to know, or question, too. To contemplate such a state would be awfully frightening — because, we are so used to talking, listening and mulling over the most trivial of happenings.
The living body is the foundation of contact — not just with others, your loved ones, friends, ‘idols,’ colleagues, bosses etc., but also with oneself. It’s this attribute that gives us the podium for reflection, thought, understanding things, and also knowledge. When you recognise, at your core, the most apparent, or the most abstract of thoughts, you tap into the heart of your conscious life — your body and also your mind. Not otherwise.
Most of us take the body we see, feel and touch, for granted — our body envelops the balanced breathing power that resides within us and initiates all our observations, feelings, dreams, and passions. It is our living body that waltzes with the camera phone and captures a beautiful selfie. It is our body that holds the violin and sculpts lilting, melodious music. It’s our body that twirls the scalpel with refined agility to perform surgery. This isn’t all — our body has the ability to laugh, cry, argue, fidget, yell, understand, appreciate and accept, too.
Our body is not just a body — it’s something you and I experience as we live within its attire. It is artistic; it changes shape and size. It’s not what it was when we were kids; it is not what it was in our middle age when we grow old. While it is agreed that our body is finite, it is, in plain terms, the ‘medium’ that connects us to life and builds relationships. It celebrates our existence, our being. It also sets us apart from all other forms of life, such as plants and animals.
This is simply because we possess the ‘rational soul’ and intelligence — the two indispensable elements that provide us the wherewithal and the affinity for our earthly contexts and the divine element.
The writer is a physician, independent researcher and author
Rajgopal Nidamboor