The Wisdom of the Overself
by Paul Brunton
The fourth PB e-teaching discusses the nature of the I. The following ideas are from “The Secret of the ‘I'” chapter in The Wisdom of the Overself. Ramana Maharishi frequently referenced the “I” and a deeper “I-I” in his talks, and the ‘I’ was often a subject in Anthony Damiani’s classes.
THE SECRET OF THE ‘I’
The first of our thoughts is ‘I’. All other thoughts follow its arising. It does not stand alone but instantly associates itself with the thought which next follows. And this is the body thought. Unfortunately it ends by limiting itself to the body too, which could never have come into existence at all but for its own prior existence. Thus this association has degenerated into a bondage of the “I’-thought to the body-thought. The only self man believes in today is his body. Consequently the original ‘I’ thought becomes converted into ‘I am the body.’
After this there arises the world-thought. The ‘I’ unconsciously provides the particular space-time characteristics through which the world must first pass before it can emerge into its consciousness. Thus the ‘I’ veritably holds as its own thought both the body and then the world outside the body. But because it began by deceiving itself about its own relation to the body, because it took the body for what it is not, it ends by deceiving itself about the things outside and around the body and takes them for what they are not too. Hence the arising of a triple error: the world, the body and the ‘I’ are all regarded as non-mental.
The ‘I’ every man knows is indeed his self but it is not his ultimate self. When he discovers that his own personal existence is no less a thought-structure than that of his physical surroundings, that everything including himself has an imagined existence, he comes close, very close, to the gate of initiation into a higher world of understanding… ..Jesus told his disciples that when they knew the Truth it would set them free. They were already physically free so the liberation to which he referred could only have been a mental one. Gautama was called ‘Buddha’, which means ‘awakened one’, because he had awakened from the attachment to his own person which was as erroneous as the attachment of the dreaming peasant to his royal self. Then as now the mass of humanity were still so utterly sunk in their thought-made self as to take it for the final one.
The essence of this doctrine is that all these things are ultimately known by the mind, are known only as mental perceptions and therefore can only exist within such a conscious immaterial and untouchable principle of awareness as we know the human mind to be.
Once we comprehend this situation then it becomes possible to find the answer to questions like, why if the person is itself owned and is not the ultimate owner does it seem to own the self; and, why does it yield the feeling of being substantially our real self? The answer is that the witnessing self is present in hidden association or mystic immanence in the personal self and reflects into that self the feeling of its own real existence. Its presence in each one of us thus explains why it is that we have the sense of personal identity at all. But this does not warrant the materialistic illusion which substitutes the personality for what underlies and supports it.
Read about the I and the Witnessing Self, in Volume 14 of the Notebooks of Paul Brunton and in Standing In Your Own Way by Anthony Damiani.
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