The Two Parts of the Self

One of the most important facets of self-understanding and self-mastery is the realization that our different levels of consciousness can be divided into two groupings: (1) the lower self, consisting of our physical body (part of which is the etheric double with its prana or life energy), the emotional body, and the lower mind. This is call the personality. (2) the higher or inner self, consisting of our abstract mind, our transcendent consciousness, and the universal consciousness. This is also called the individuality

These two groups are often represented by two triangles, an upper upright triangle for the higher self, and an inverted triangle for the lower self.

The lower self or personality is a product of conditioning and influences. It produces the different habits and reaction patterns. It tends to resist things that go against the habit. For example, if I don’t do physical exercise, my body will resist efforts to start doing exercise. If I have the habit of smoking, the body will resist efforts to stop smoking. If I’m used to lying or exaggerating, I will have difficulties trying to be honest.

Unfortunately, not all of the habits of the lower personality are wholesome or helpful. Some of them in fact are destructive. Some go contrary to one’s highest ideals or aspirations.

The higher individuality or higher triangle, on the other hand, is impersonal. It sees things more objectively and not on the basis of likes or dislikes. It sees that smoking is harmful or should be stopped even if the body has acquired the habit. It sees something as right or wrong, regardless of whether an action will gain or lose advantages.

Throughout our life, we face these conflicts between the higher individuality and the lower personality. This is what St. Paul was speaking about when he stated: “For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” (Rom 7:15) Helena Blavatsky similarly exhorts that it is one’s duty “to control and conquer, through the Higher, the lower self.” (Key to Theosophy)

The more mature a person is, the more the individuality prevails in action or decisions. Such actions tend to be wiser and conducive to internal harmony. On the other hand, people who allow the lower habits to prevail become prisoners of the past and are unable to rise above their conditionings.

What can we do to start letting the Higher Self become the dominant factor in one’s life?

Start with small things that are doable. Suppose you are not inclined to do 30 minutes jogging due to laziness. Then just make a small effort to do 2 minutes. But once you decide to do 2 minutes, then do so even if the body resists. Just do it. When you triumph for the first time, something is beginning to happen unconsciously. The inner will is beginning to assert itself, and the lower self is beginning to give way. Do it again another time, perhaps for 3 minutes or 5 minutes. Just do it because you say so. When you have repeated these doable decisions, you may notice that there will come a point when you will be able to assert over your laziness and do the 30-minute jogging.

This kind of self-training may make a major difference in your life. After your inner will has become strong enough, you can undertake major decisions or new behaviors that can change the direction of your life, such as writing 30 minutes every day, or reading 30 minutes every day, or playing the piano 30 minutes daily. When the higher will is strong, then one can reach one’s highest potential.

Who Are We?

There are two kinds of knowledge that are most important in life: knowledge about the world, and knowledge about the self. In the long run, the second one is the more significant. Without self-knowledge, we will just be carried away by the pressures of the outer world. With self-knowledge, we are able to determine our own destiny. Laozi wrote: “He who knows others is wise, he who knows himself is enlightened. He who conquers others is strong, he who conquers himself is powerful.”

Gurdjieff wrote: “Without self knowledge, without understanding the working and functions of his machine, man cannot be free, he cannot govern himself and he will always remain a slave.”

How do we start in our quest for self-knowledge?

First, we need to realize that we are not just this physical body. Materialists say that there is no soul, and that our thoughts and feelings are just the byproducts of our physical brain. When we die, it’s the end, there is nothing else.

Evidence shows that this is not the case. We have higher levels of consciousness quite independent from our physical body. Scientific studies have demonstrate this, such as in near-death experiences. This has been affirmed since the ancient times in mystical and religious traditions, whether Christian, Hindu, Buddhist, or Jewish Kabbalism. St. Paul speaks of the triune distinction of the body, soul and spirit. St. Thomas Aquinas speaks of the three kinds of souls, the vegetative, the animal and the rational. But what is important is that these can be validated by our own personal experience. Let us look through them:

1. Next to our body, there is an etheric body or etheric double which can separate itself from the physical body at certain times, such as during near-death experiences. Doctors all over the world have reported authenticated cases of people who had no pulse or breath, and yet these people found themselves floating above their bodies able to see and hear what was going on. This double is the vehicle for prana or qi energy that flows through the meridians and which can be manipulated by acupuncture. The energy emanation of this body can be photographed using Kirlian photography. When it is seen by the human eye, it is described as the human aura.

2. Finer than our body and etheric double is our emotional nature, sometimes called desire body. This is the center of our feelings. It is closely connected with the etheric double, such that when we feel a feeling, energy in the etheric double surges up. For example, when we are angry, we feel this energy in our head, chest and hands.

3. Then we have a mind that has two parts: (a) the lower mind, which is also called the concrete mind. Thoughts on this level have images, sizes, colors or shapes. They are closely connected with feelings, and hence are part of our personality. (b) the higher mind or abstract mind. This is capable of understanding concepts that are abstract such as infinity or square root. This level of thinking is impersonal, and transcends what we personally like or dislike.

4. Above the mind is our transcendent consciousness. This level of experience has been described by thousands of people who have attained it since the ancient times till today. It is called mystical experience. Christians call it contemplative or spiritual consciousness, Buddhism and Hinduism call it prajna or buddhi. Many great people, whether religious or non-religious, have reported to have attained this, such as Alfred Tennyson. The psychologist Abraham Maslow called this self-transcendence.

5. Universal Consciousness. This level is spoken of by many mystics but few appear to have attained it. It is called Nirvana by Buddhists, Union by Christians, fana by Sufis and Moksha by Hindus. It entails the dissolution of the ego and the merging into one of the individual consciousness and the cosmos.

The above divisions help us in understanding many important things, such as the explanations to paranormal phenomena, such as healing, apparitions, life after death, etc. It also shows us what is our higher potential as a human being, which is the awakening of these higher inner potentials within us. It enables to gain self-mastery and thus be able to attain our life goals.

Effects of Words and Thoughts

A Japanese scientist, Dr. Masao Emoto, found that words and thoughts can affect the molecular structure of water. His findings led to other experiments on organic matters which have important implications in the way we should live our lives.

Dr. Emoto put water in test tubes and put different labels on them, such as “I love you,” or “I’ll kill you.” Then he froze the water in minus 25 degrees centigrade freezers. The results were startling. The test tubes with positive labels such as “I love you” formed into ice crystals which had hexagonal shapes like beautiful snow flakes. On the other hand, the test tubes with negative words looked like mud. This experiment was repeated thousands of times with similar results.

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Many people then experimented not with water but with living things, such as fruits or cooked rice. I did it myself. I put two bunches of cooked rice into two clean and dry bottles and sealed them tight. On the first one I put the label “Beautiful” while on the other one I wrote “Ugly.” I kept it on our bedroom shelf and I forgot about it for an entire week. Then I when I was looking for a book, I accidentally saw the bottles. I took them down, and saw that in the “Beautiful” bottle, the rice was still the same white clump of rice, but in the “Ugly” bottle, the rice was already half black with mold. After another week, the rice in “Ugly” bottle was almost all black, but the one in the “Beautiful” bottle was still entirely white although it had become pasty. I kept these bottles for a year, and the rice in the “Beautiful” bottle remained white, while the one in the “Ugly” became entirely black.

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I asked students in our school, Golden Link College, to do the same experiment, and they got the same results.

Many years ago, I showed the photo of these bottles during a lecture in Davao, and a young man from Leyte saw it and repeated the experiment but with a twist. He put the label called “Gwapo” or handsome/beautiful, but he sent negative, angry and violent thoughts to it. The other bottle he labeled “Pangit” or ugly, but sent loving, kind and peaceful thoughts. What was the result?

After six months, he happened to be the speaker in a conference in Leyte where I attended. He spoke about his experiment and brought the bottles. The rice in the bottle with “ugly” label was still white. But the one with “beautiful” label was entirely black.

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What does this tell us?

Words and thoughts have powerful effects not only on water but on organic matter, such as rice and fruits. It means that when we constantly think positive thoughts within ourselves, we are affecting not just our feelings but our entire body and our health. A baby’s body is 78% water, while adults have 60%. When we are angry or hateful we are harming ourselves and perhaps people around us.

An American woman was breastfeeding her baby at home when her husband came and talked with her. After a while they started to argue. They became angry and started to shout at each other. They quarreled intensely and the husband walked out and banged the door. The wife felt very furious and bitter. All the while, she was breastfeeding her baby. That evening, the baby turned blue and died.

The mother, while in a state of intense anger, probably produced toxins within her body that went into the milk that the baby was drinking. The baby could not take it.

So we ask ourselves: In our home, do we give negative labels to our children, like “you are lazy,” “irresponsible,” “liar,” etc.? We should realize that those negative words are affecting our children more than we realize. On the other hand, whenever we constantly use positive words towards them, then something is happening to them that nurtures wholesome growth and health.

Whenever we get angry, then, let us remember the experiments of Dr. Emoto. Let us change the way we treat ourselves and people around us. Make the world a better place by thinking and saying positive and affirming words.

The Power of Habits

Our destiny in our life is controlled by our habits in a very major way. Unless we master our own habits, they will control our lives.

Let us take health as an example. People get healthy or sick by the health habits that they have developed. The moment health breaks down, then practically everything stops. One may resign from work, no longer be able to travel, and dreams and ambitions can no longer be pursued. If they smoke, eat a lot of meat, drink liquor, sleep late, don’t exercise, etc., all of which are habits, what will they expect after the age of 40? I know of people who are already taking heart maintenance medicine at 40 years old, or has high sugar level, kidney problem, etc. All these are largely preventable. How? By forming the right health habits early in life.

Let us take happiness as another example. Some people have grown up developing the habit of being angry when there are problems. A few people don’t have that habit. What is the effect? Those prone to anger will have problems in their family life, work relationship and their state of happiness or unhappiness. Some are in prison right now for acts they did during moments of rage. They know that they want to be happy. Yet they cannot help but be overcome by the habit of anger. The older we are, the more difficult to change our habits.

But the good news is that habits can be changed. How can we do so?

We must be clear first about the kind of life that we would like to live. Do we wish to be loving towards our family and other people? Is this really important to us? Then make a decision that we will practice daily habits of being kind or using positive words when we interact with members of our family or co-workers. In this example of one’s goal, here are suggested steps:

1. Decide on behaviors that you will do every day, such as smiling, saying thank you, saying neutral or positive words at least 95% of the time.

2. Create a powerful leverage so that you will be motivated to develop this habit. For example, (a) tell your wife or husband about your decision, and ask him or her to give you feedback if you are not being kind and positive. Ask them to remind you. (b) Visualize yourself constantly being positive, smiling and cheerful. It may feel awkward at the beginning. But remember that you are battling a negative habit that had been formed for 10, 20 or 30 years. (c) List down the advantages if you are successful in becoming a cheerful and positive person. Then make another list of consequences if you continue to be prone to anger, resentment or being critical. This will encourage you to persevere even if there is difficulty.

3. Give it at least three weeks of constant practice. Do it every day. When the behavior is repeated for three straight weeks, you will notice a change. You no longer need to exert effort in order to be positive and cheerful. The habit has taken over and your spontaneous behavior has changed. But it must be sustained consciously even after it has become a habit.

4. Then choose another set of habits that you would like to develop in yourself, such as exercising everyday, stopping smoking, reading books regularly, etc. Do such habit development program one at a time. Make sure you succeed each time. Then you will gain confidence and your personality will become obedient to your decisions.

Remember that our body, emotions and ordinary mind are like automatons. They follow the grooves of habit — how you think, feel and act. They behave unthinkingly out of habit. They determine in a significant manner the destiny of our life. We have higher levels of consciousness beyond habits, but many people have not sufficiently developed the powers of these higher levels, and hence are more subject to the control of habits.
Take charge of your habits. You take charge of your life.

Being Effective With People Without Anger

In the previous article, the way to dissipate past accumulated anger through breathing and self-awareness was discussed. A second aspect of this issue is to find a more effective approach in dealing with problems with people without the use of anger.
Anger is not a good or effective habit. When we have problems or conflicts, the best way to approach the issues is through reason and compassion. Not only is the rational approach more effective, but it brings about an inner calm after an issue is resolved. This is the way to approach people issues whether one is a parent, businessperson, teacher, professional, politician, etc. I know of people who are very effective in their work without having to resort to anger. One businessman, for example, who runs two companies which are among the largest in the Philippines, is very effective not only in business (which are profitable) but in personnel management. In the more thirty years that I have observed him very closely, I have never seen him get angry or even irritated. Yet he solves each problem swiftly and effectively through a rational approach.
In Golden Link College, teachers are trained so that they are effective in handling students without having to resort to anger or punishment. There are many parents who have brought their children up in a wholesome way without the use of anger, threats and punishment.
Below are two suggested steps in becoming more effective in dealing with people in situations of conflict.
First is to nurture self-awareness in one’s daily life. Every time that there is a problem, a threat or a crisis, we will notice that the body reacts in tension. Energy surges within which wants to act in an aggressive and violent way. Be aware of this, and feel these physical tensions (chest, head, shoulder, stomach, etc.) as we do deep breathing, and we will notice that they subside after a few minutes. By being constantly aware, this habit to burst in anger will disappear.
Second is to have a effective rational approach in problem solving that will be a substitute to anger. For example, you have a newly hired assistant to do certain task and to report to you regularly. You teach him how to do the task. Tomorrow, he fails to report or makes a mistaken report. No need to get angry. Consider that this failure may be due to inadequate training by you or a misunderstanding of your instruction. Devote a certain time to re-train this assistant and double check if he has understood your instruction by asking him to re-explain the procedure. The next time he reports, he commits the same mistake. If you are sure that your training was adequate, then it means that the assistant has a problem. Tell him that it seems that he is not prepared to do the task that you are asking him to do. Ask him if he has any problem about it. If he says that there is none, and that he promises to be accurate, then tell him that he will be given another chance but that he may have to be transferred or relieved if he makes the same mistake. Later, he makes again the same mistake. Then sit down and discuss with him that he will have to be transferred or he will have to resign because he is finding it difficult to do the task he is assigned to. The assistant will not complain or feel bad because you have been very reasonable and supportive. Then act on his transfer or termination. All these are done without anger or frustration.
Dealing with children is similar. Talk to your child without threat or anger. Explain with kindness and patience. Help them succeed in doing what needs to be done.
A rational and compassionate approach is perhaps the most effective approach to handling people problems, including issues in the family. It requires a clear mind and a firm will. It elicits respect, it is not offensive or degrading and fosters long-term loyalty and a loving relationship.

Managing Anger

Anger is one of the most destructive among human emotions. It creates problems in relationship, especially in the family. It also affects one’s soundness of judgment. It is the cause of most homicidal crimes. It is the emotion that prevents one’s capacity to love.

Many people don’t realize that when they are angry, they cannot love. The reason is simple: what do you want to do to someone whom you are angry with? You want to hurt him or her. It does not matter if the person is your husband, wife, child or parent. You want to hurt them either physically, emotionally or psychologically. How can we love someone whom we want to hurt? At the moment of anger, we are incapable of loving.

This tendency to want to hurt has instinctive roots. Animals feel this surge of aggressive energy throughout its body when it has to defend itself or to attack. We will notice that when we are angry, we too feel an energy surge within us. It is felt in the head as heat. In the body, arms and legs, the energy surge wants to come out, sometimes causing the body to tremble. The arms and hands want to hit something. That’s why some people punch the wall or kick a table because they need to release the energy. When they speak they tend to raise their voice or shout because of the need to express this energy.

Unfortunately, this instinctive reaction, while important for survival among animals, is highly destructive in human beings. It prevents us from being rational in the way we handle conflicts and problems. By being aggressive, we create more conflicts and problems in our family, workplace and relationships. It also harms our health because anger produces toxic substances within our system that lowers our immune system.

How do we handle this energy called anger? There are two aspects to it: past accumulated anger, and present anger. The latter is often the triggering of the former. So it is important to remove past accumulated anger. Since the ancient times, many people have known how to release this in a non-destructive manner. It is done this way.
When you think of a person or event that had caused you anger before, you will notice this surge of energy within you. Your heartbeat may become faster, your chest may feel heavy (like a ball or a flat board), or you may feel pressure in your head. When you feel these, go into deep abdominal breathing (about 5 seconds breathing in, and 6 seconds breathing out). When you breathe in, feel the pressure on your chest or head or any other uncomfortable sensation that you may feel. When you breathe out, feel or be aware of your arms and legs. Do not try to remove or push away the discomfort. Just feel it. You will notice that the energy begins to flow by itself and then you may feel tingling sensations or numbness on your fingers or feet. This means it is now releasing. It may take 5 minutes or 30 minutes to release this fully, depending upon the situation. While doing the deep breathing, do not think of the person or event anymore. Just be aware of your bodily sensations, until the entire discomfort disappears. This brings you back to a restful or relaxed state after it is released. You may feel sleepy or tired after you have released it, then just rest. You can repeat this exercise until you don’t feel any uncomfortable reaction anymore when you think of the person or event.