07 | CR Book III
which becomes "his". He swallows money, possessions, influence over
others, knowledge, etc., in the hope of becoming himself greater. There
will be more of him that way, he flatters himself. Selfhood is excessively
expanded in moments of elation, in delusions of omnipotence, coupled
with a wishful negation of all obstacles, and personal limitations
(megalomania, paranoia, etc.), in the "magnanimity of expansive
natures", and by mystics who know themselves as the All.
Contraction of self results either from natural inclination of
temperament, or from conscious and thoughtful effort.
The Stoics demanded a medium contraction of self, in which they
retain what is "in their power", and reject, exclude, dispossess them-
selves of that which is not. All idealistic European philosophers restricted
selfhood to "reason" and "intelligent will". Their doctrine is unproved,
in direct conflict with the facts of experience (which shows that we are
not the masters of our mental contents and thoughts), and a result of
the professional prejudice of theoreticians.
The final stage of contraction is reached in the Buddhist doctrine
of anatta ("not-self").
As a speculative assertion, the doctrine is often understood to
maintain that, in fact of the impermanence and unsatisfactoriness of all
experience, the eternal, imperishable and blissful atman which the
Upanishads had postulated as the nucleus of our personality, does not
exist, and that the principle of the unity of selfhood cannot be got at.
It is as an attitude to life that the anatta doctrine is important. The
Buddha advises us to give ourselves up more and more, until we have
reached annihilation. Anatta was taught as an answer not to the
question: "what is the self?", but: "what shall I do with myself?"
Its spirit is concisely summed up in the words: This is not mine, I am not
this, this is not myself. Sentiment and love of self, attachment to what we
"own", are said to be at the root of all unhappy existence. The self
should be treated like the floating specks in the eyes of a nervous person.
We should forget about it. Even a fixed conviction that "I have no
self" is harmful.
On the other hand, one empties one's own self of all contents by
rejecting everything, by refusing it admittance into the home of what is
"mine". Karma and anatta seem to be in conflict. On the one hand, I am
told that my deeds are my own, that they will follow me like a shadow
which never departs. On the other hand, I am told that nothing is my
own. This problem can be solved by clearing up an ambiguity in the
meaning of "mine". Something is "mine" either in the sense that I hold
on to it, or that it clings to me. I may regard it as a cherished possession,
or as a burden. I may at the same time be asked to divest myself of it,
yet to beware that it does not stick to me. The "mine" is like a house,
but it is like a house on fire.
The evacuation and rejection of all mental contents, by itself, alone,
would lead to a negativistic, melancholic and slothful stupor. It needs
supplementing by the opposite way of embracing everything as equally
mine, inviting everybody's and everything's self to enter one's own
personality, and thus breaking down the barriers which separate my self
from other, equally ownerless, persons or objects. My self is swallowed
up by its surroundings. All things are experienced to be one. We can vary
the circumferences of our self, and the line that divides self from not-self.