The Birth of the Self

by Steven Harrison

“It is well to remember that the entire
universe is composed of others,
with one trifling exception.”
—John Andrew Homes

There did this sense of separation come from? How did we get ourselves into this predicament? Did we think ourselves here?

As a child, a word or a concept is so novel that we play with it. We repeat the new word. We hear its sound, feel its quality, and observe its effect on others. A new word doesn’t have substance because it has no history, no context, no purpose.

But once we are done playing with a word, when we have learned it, we store it for future use. When we use the word again, it is no longer fresh. We know all about the word and what it will do. Now it has become a technology for organizing and manipulating our world.

There is one more concept that we try out, feel, and eventually store away to use in a predictable way. This is the idea of self. We begin structuring our other ideas around a central organizing principle, a “me.”

We have tried out this new idea on the world, and the world responded as if this self were real. This idea, this “me” became the backdrop of our reality.

What point is the point of this birth, the moment of distinction from the world around us? Can we find the moment of separation?

If we cannot find that point, if we cannot remem­ber the moment where we moved from undivided to divided, from commingled to distinct, then how is it that we are so separate? How is it that we are so sure that we are separate?

The arising of thought gives the impression of separation. Thought, by its nature, divides. Its function is to create separation, distinction. The basis of our in­tellect is separating, categorizing. Our identification with the thought process gives us the impression that we are separate.

Yet, if we pay attention to the field of conscious­ness in which thought arises, we can find no separa­tion. The field of consciousness is apparently boundaryless. This vast, undivided awareness is avail­able to us at all times. It is there at any moment we are still. It is as present in us as our thoughts. But we iden­tify with thoughts, which are limited and separating by nature. Why is it that we do not identify with the field of consciousness, the milieu in which these thoughts arise?

Consciousness is only the background because we have neglected it in the busyness of our thought world, the conceptual framework in which we exist. The total­ity of life, the all and everything in which our thoughts occur and of which our thoughts are part, is not the back­ground. This is so simply because there is no foreground, there is no separation, this is no-thing that is not enfolded in the whole.

There is nothing outside of everything, and while we may create and identify with subsets of everything, even this attempt to divide is absorbed.

There is nothing outside of everything. All that we are left with is being. Being has no subject or object. It has no “thingness.” Being subsumes everything. It is the universe as it is.

In being, there is only unity. It is the Self that the self forgot in early childhood. It is the love that we all seek in relationship to another. It is the mystic expres­sion that religion seeks to convey.

In being, we discover our Self in relationship—not a relationship of time and space, but of two melded into one, self into Self, doing into being.

From Being One: Finding Our Self in Relationship, by Steven Harrison. Copyright © 1999 by Steven Harrison. All rights reserved. Reprinted by arrangement with Sentient Publications, Boulder, Colorado.

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