Ken Wilber discusses the many kinds of self, the nature of identity and enlightenment, and the spectrum of deceit that keeps us from knowing who we really are.
While navigating the great game of waking-up and growing-up, we encounter a multitude of selves. In this talk alone, Ken references no less than ten: The Ultimate self, the unique self, the True self, the relative self, the infinite self, the authentic self, the false self, the finite self, the Real self, and the ego. As if structure and stage-stage development was not already daunting enough, we must also contend with this parade of selves—each vying to be seen, each seeking expression, and all needing to be ultimately made sense of if we’re ever to encounter a sense of unity as our identity continues to evolve. If only we had some sort of handy guide to help us navigate the treacherous territory of our own delusions, to keep us honest with ourselves, and to help us call ourselves out whenever we begin to get carried away with our own inherent defectiveness and/or awesomeness.
In a rare tour of this formidable landscape, Ken offers a guide for the perplexed, a cartography of selves to aid the travels of any seeker who wishes to escape the gravity of his or her own self-deception. To start, he brings us back to the primary aim of the great mystical paths: to realize Unique Self as the unity of True Self plus perspective—that is, to cultivate a lived recognition of the Self that is no-Self in an absolute sense, without denying the self that exists in the relative realm. Then, in unparalleled detail, he explains the tripartite construction of the relative self as as simple equation: False self + Shadow = Authentic Self. This authentic self is the goal of vertical growth and transcendence; the product of growing-up, and it’s what provides the perspective component of the Unique Self unity.
But spiritual traditions often confuse the authentic self with the self-contraction or ego, which is then vilified as the single greatest factor preventing realization. Not only does this terribly complicate the situation, it actually prevents the emergence of the authentic self altogether—thereby preventing the full emergence of a Self that is both fully awakened and fully grown up. Once this conflation is resolved, and the authentic self/false self relationship understood, we can then simultaneously and freely engage both paths: one toward the recognition of True Self in an absolute sense, and one toward the construction of authentic self in a relative sense. Then, on the topic of the second path, Ken unpacks the spectrum of false self creation as a spectrum of shadow that may emerge at every fulcrum—a developmental cascade of delusion and deception that all of us have been subject to at some point in our lives. And it is this spectrum of sub-personalities, shadows, and self-contractions that must be resolved for the authentic self to fully emerge….
Text by Clint Fuhs
About Ken Wilber
Ken Wilber is a preeminent scholar of the Integral stage of human development. He is an internationally acknowledged leader, founder of Integral Institute, and co-founder of Integral Life. Ken is the originator of arguably the first truly comprehensive or integrative world philosophy, aptly named “Integral Theory”.