08a | CR Book III, Chapter 4

'Self' as symbol [1941]

One must learn slowly that the self is not a
fixed thing - like the appearances of our visual
world - but that it is something which is more
real in its potentialities than in any of its a-
ctual states. This character of selfhood is re-
flected in the extraordinary vagueness, diffuse-
ness, and indefiniteness of the term 'self' (see bk
i ch3). Those who feel bound by the rules of Peri-
patetic logic will be perplexed by it, and to a-
void confusion, the main ambiguities of the symbol
must be outlined:

(a) The word 'self'represents both the chief
source of oppression, and the highest state of
emancipation. It is more in keeping with Indian
than with European tradition to use the word
'self' as an equivalent of Reality itself, Being it-
self, the Absolute, the Beyond, the Way etc. To assu-
age their logical scruples, Western writers often
introduce a typographical distinction between
self, Self, SELF etc. This practice has the disad-
vantage of introducing the logic of things into
this matter, and tends to set up a 'higher Self'
as one thing against a 'lower self' as another, thus
creating unnecessary problems, and obscuring the
identity of nirvana end samsara.

(b) A philosophy which is built round the con-
cept of selfhood fosters an almost unlimited tol-
erance. For the term 'self', in its indefiniteness,
excludes none of the traditional means of self-
realization. The word 'self' can he qualified by
any gender, and the object it represents con-
ceived as of any sex - neuter, male, female, herma-
phrodite. As a somewhat frigid neuter (das Ich) it
meets the requirements of: those who find refuge in
abstract impersonal knowledge. As a male, it may
excite to the imitation of a superperson, like the
Buddha or the Christ.

As a female, the self proved of great help to
those males who seek emancipation through wisdom.
Since the sway of Protestantism has for some 10
generations rather blighted this aspect of the
self, some explanation is necessary: For at least
5oo generations, men have worshiped a divine, ideal
Mother, who was closely allied to agricultural
pursuits. This old tradition takes a new form in
connection with the ascetic search for wisdom.
Complete suppression of sex desire seems indis-