Who Am I?

By Mifune
Conspiracy Central Blog
September 8, 2007

Who Am I?

One of the most important and fundamental questions a person might ask is, “Who am I?” The implications of the answer are so profound that they must affect every aspect of one’s life. In searching for the answer, one may also want to consider the difference between true free will – a choice that is driven by one’s essence – and actions that are pre-determined by any number of natural and environmental influences, such as DNA, psychological and social conditioning, traumatic events, physical stimuli, diet, and the like. By understanding the direct causes of influences upon ones thoughts and actions, one is able then to recognize the difference between pre-determined and free will choices.

Tabula rasa, or blank slate, is the idea that human beings are born without any innate mental content; that we come to our knowledge of the world through our experiences alone. It is this idea, founded in Eastern philosophy, mentioned by Aristotle, and more fully developed by John Locke, the Founding Fathers of America such as Thomas Jefferson and the American Transcendentalists such as Thoreau and Emerson, that we derive many of our modern-day ideas about liberty and natural rights. Quoting Wikipedia.com,

“As understood by Locke, tabula rasa meant that the mind of the individual was born “blank”, and it also emphasized the individual’s freedom to author his or her own soul. Each individual was free to define the content of his or her character – but his or her basic identity as a member of the human species cannot be so altered. It is from this presumption of a free, self-authored mind combined with an immutable human nature that the Lockean doctrine of “natural” rights derives.”

Historically at odds with the concept of tabula rasa is Platonic Epistemology. According to Wikipedia.com,

“Platonic Epistemology holds that knowledge is innate, so that learning is the development of ideas buried deep in the soul, often under the mid-wife-like guidance of an interrogator. Plato believed that each soul existed before birth with “The Form of the Good” and a perfect knowledge of everything. Thus, when something is ‘learned’ it is actually just ‘recalled.’”

To approach the dichotomy of innate versus empirical from a different angle, many Eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism hold that when a person dies, he or she is reincarnated as another human being according to the rules of karma. If one lived poorly and had bad karma in a past life, one will be reborn into a miserable life. If one lived well and had good karma, one will be reborn into a happy life. According to Wikipedia.com,

“Rebirth in Buddhism is the doctrine that the consciousness of a person (as conventionally regarded), upon the death or dissolution of the aggregates (skandhas) which make up that person, becomes one of the contributing causes for the arising of a new group of skandhas which may again be conventionally considered a person or individual. The consciousness arising in the new person is neither identical to, nor different from, the old consciousness, but forms part of a causal continuum or stream with it. The basic cause for this persistent re-arising of personality is the abiding of consciousness in avidya (ignorance); when ignorance is uprooted, rebirth ceases.”

Hypothetically, if one were to take the doctrine of rebirth at face value, such a reality would lend credence to the idea that knowledge is innate. However, the idea of reincarnation would also tend to support the Lockean doctrine of natural rights, that each individual is free to author his or her own soul. If we do have absolute freedom, then we also have a responsibility to use that freedom wisely. Knowledge of oneself and of the world, of how to discern truth from falsehood and good from evil, is essential to the exercise of free will, rooting out ignorance, and escaping the cycle of rebirth. Therefore, the seeking of knowledge and objectivity takes on something of a moral imperative.

There are in fact many ancient traditions that refer to escaping the cycle of rebirth. Buddhism refers to it as Nirvana. Esoteric Christianity called it the Gnosis. Sufi Islam knew it as the Path of Knowledge. According to Cassiopedia.org, Georges I. Gurdjieff, a Greek-Armeniam mystic, insisted,

“… that nearly all people today live in a state of “waking sleep.” This assertion is applied to the entire moral gamut of modern society. Gurdjieff said, even specifically at times, that a pious, good, and moral man was no more “spiritually developed” (as he would define it) than a common criminal. The Gurdjieff teaching involves the development of what Gurdjieff and others would term “higher bodies,” and has very little, especially at the onset, to do with altering one’s actions in what most would call everyday, or normal, life. Gurdjieff denied the spiritual value, and indeed the existence altogether, of moral right and wrong, or of “good and evil” as we understand it, saying it was not the actions of a man that were of value (as Gurdjieff would say that man cannot lay claim to the commission of these acts, and that they were entirely automatic); the only thing of value was the extent to which a man may observe and understand his actions.”

Gurdjieff called his system of teaching the Fourth Way. Quoting Cassiopedia.org,

“Generally, the term [Fourth Way] refers to a body of teaching on the possible spiritual development of man, introduced to the Western culture by George Gurdjieff in the first half of the 20th century. P. D. Ouspensky, a contemporary and student of Gurdjieff, has brought many aspects of the teaching to a condensed form in the book ‘In Search of the Miraculous.’ Within the 4th Way teaching, the term 4th Way is a path of spiritual development set apart from the 3 traditional ways, these being the Way of the Fakir, emphasizing the mastery of the physical body, the Way of the Monk, emphasizing mastery of emotions, and the Way of the Yogi, which emphasizes discipline of the mind. These different ways or approaches to spiritual development generally correspond to the three types of man.”

“The 4th Way differs from these in that it seeks to simultaneously develop all three sides and to do so in the environment of ordinary life, whereas the three first ways all require from the beginning a complete abandoning of daily life and a seclusion into a monastic environment. The 4th Way is sometimes therefore called the way of the ‘sly man.’ All the 4 ways may lead to the same understandings and may bring their practitioner from the ‘outer circle’ of humanity to the ‘exoteric’ and later ‘mesoteric’ and ‘esoteric’ circles .”

The question “Who am I” is very difficult for anyone to answer. Some people may spend their whole lives in search of the answer to this question. Upon examination of ancient and esoteric traditions such as Tibetan Buddhism, Sufi Islam, Gnostic Christianity, and the teachings of G. I. Gurdjieff, one may find that real meaning in life lies in the pursuit of knowledge with the express purpose of attaining objectivity and self mastery. Because I am ultimately a soul in search of truth, and every part of “me” that is not my essence is not of me, then I must live my life searching for truth, and disregard everything else as mere distraction.

Works Cited

1. “Tabula Rasa.” Wikipedia. 1 Sept. 2007. 4 Sept. 2007 <http://www.wikipedia.com&gt;.

2. “Platonic Epistemology.” Wikipedia. 7 Aug. 2007. 4 Sept. 2007 <http://www.wikipedia.com&gt;.

3. “Rebirth (Buddhism).” Wikipedia. 25 Aug. 2007. 4 Sept. 2007 <http://www.wikipedia.com&gt;.

4. “Georges Ivanovich Gurdgieff” Cassiopedia. 23 Jan. 2007. 4 Sept. 2007 <http://www.cassiopedia.org&gt;.

5. “The Fourth Way” Cassiopedia. 1 Oct. 2006. 4 Sept. 2007 <http://www.cassiopedia.org&gt;.

 

 

 

 

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