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Self versus Existence

January 7, 2011

There is a very distinct difference between the self and existence, although it’s very difficult to define, let alone communicate that difference; nevertheless, I will try. For the purpose of metaphysical clarification, I’ll start with existence– what is existence? Descartes famously answered this question in his proof of existence, cogito ergo sum “I think, therefore I am”; basically, to exist is to think, and to be conscious; one’s consciousness both validates and defines one’s existence. In other words, existence is determined by and defined by conscious awareness of the given entity, and the perception thereof. To relate this concept to the self (as I would put it), “Existence is the ‘self’ being discriminated (perceptually separated) from the ‘all’.”

So then, what is the “self”, from which existence is (via discrimination) derived? This is actually the harder question. With “existence”, I have been able to break down and elaborate upon a network of supporting constructs; beginning with the Id, Ego, and SuperEgo– progressing to their subservient emanations of Instinct, Nature, and Character– and so on. But with the self, the majority of which is unwittingly hinted at via the Id (which itself is the parent of the Ego and SuperEgo), it’s all mostly a mystery. What is the self, what form does it exist in, and what is its function? These are questions I still cannot truly answer, but merely speculate upon.

To understand the “self”, I turn to its symbiotic counterpart, of which I know a great deal more: the soul. By comparing my soul with my conscious existence, I can understand the self; the reason for this is likely because the “self” is essentially a hybrid of the soul and the environment. Think of it like this: The soul is the “one”, and the environment (conscious existence) is the “all”; the self can then be best understand in these two ways: The one within the all, and the all within the one. The best analogy I can think of that parallels to these abstract concepts is the symbol for Taoism:

Ying & Yang Symbol

The one within the all, the all within the one-- everything is connected

Reality is, according to both Taoism philosophy and my own beliefs, composed of different ways of looking at the same thing. Perception, the process of discriminating reality, allows people to appreciate different parts of a whole; that is, we are all ultimately the same, but perceive differences so we can appreciate the otherwise mundane and undifferentiated whole. To apply this to the nature of the soul (and the self derived from it), the self is composed of both negative and positive energy, with the nature (Ego) of that energy being determined by the discrimination (perception) process; if “the one is within the all” (as is prominent among collectivists– or as I like to call them, “borg”), then the predominating “flow” of the self is negative, and utility-oriented. If “the all is within the one” (as is prominent among individualists (“leaders”) like myself, the predominating “flow” of the self is positive, and creativity-oriented. These different ways of looking at the same thing manifest as the struggle between the “personal consciousness” and the “collective consciousness”, as exemplified by Jungian philosophy.

In my post Idealism, I tried (and failed) to understand the relationship between reality, the soul, and consciousness (existence), although I gained many important insights in the process. This post should serve to better clarify these things, and (I feel) has been largely a success in the accomplishing of its aims. The soul and the nature of the self will be a mystery to me for quite some time, but at least I can better understand these things, if only by drawing comparisons.

If the soul is the essence of the self, and the self is the container for the soul, then “existence” is the self being appreciated; by extension, I can conclude that by appreciating oneself (and the “all” within “one” exists), one is also by extension appreciating the soul from which that self is derived, as well as the “all” through which that appreciation is made possible. One in All, or All in One, experience life (either through the self or the environment) is the only means of understanding oneself, and the world.

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