Archive for the ‘Self’ Category

GOD WITHIN

Monday, December 19th, 2011

En faisant de Dieu un événement de l’histoire, en inscrivant sa Présence au cœur de l’humanité, Jésus-Christ a intériorisé Dieu. Dieu n’est plus une puissance cachée derrière les étoiles, Dieu est au-dedans de nous. (Maurice Zundel)

[08-16/10/11 – Droits de l’homme, droits de propriété. http://www.mauricezundel.net/]

This idea of God, a power hidden behind the stars, is quite striking, and pretty traditional.  It is a simple graphic idea, quite easy to grasp and it deals nicely with the problems of coming to grips with a God who is utterly transcendent – the idea of a being beyond, but relating to, the visible cosmos. A problem occurs, however, when it comes to Jesus Christ. Even though we have may have accepted the idea of the Incarnation – that this being has become man – we don’t really dwell on the utter contradiction of Jesus Christ, God and man. Either God, or man, but God/man – that is the greatest contradiction of terms. God is infinite self-sufficiency; man is contingent matter. To say that one is the other does not make sense. The cognitive dissonance involved in such a gross contradiction means that, rather than grappling with it and trying to understand its consequences, we tend to accept that God, the transcendent power hidden behind the stars, is present in some way we don’t understand in Jesus Christ. And that, probably, for most of us is as far as it goes.

But Zundel does not look away. He follows the logic. If God is in Christ then God is immanent. He is within humanity. He is within us. This is a novel and startling idea. It is not, first of all, our common experience. Indeed, we would look very suspiciously at anyone who claimed that they were aware that God was within them. Yet Zundel is quite serious, as Paul was quite serious when he said, ‘I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me.’ (Gal 2:20) One might be forgiven for thinking that perhaps this might be the case but that it applies only to a selected few great mystics. However, the tenor of the New Testament implies that God’s immanence in humanity is universal. The presence of God within us is not just for the select few but for all. In what way, then, is God within us? And what does it mean – especially since it is not our common experience?

Zundel does not pose this question, neither does he answer it directly. Instead he comes at it in a roundabout way by looking at what it means to exist as a human person. He says, Exister, c’est être l’origine et la source de soi-même.’ (To exist is to be the origin and source of oneself.) The emphasis here is on the self. Only God is the origin and source of his own being. But for us, to exist as human persons in the fullest sense consists first in becoming aware of what it is that makes us persons. This awareness is not necessarily conscious and explicit. More often than not it is instinctive and implicit. It is the awareness that I, the person me, am an amalgam, a nexus of relationships. And secondly, that the person I am is determined by the manner in which I reciprocate in, respond to these relationships. Our modern consumerist culture, with its attendant social changes and secularisation of religion has led to the dominant idea (at least in the West) of possessive individualism.  C. B. McPherson described this as,

Every man is naturally the sole proprietor of his own person and capacities (the absolute proprietor in that he owes nothing to society for them).*

By the mid-twentieth century, after two devastating wars, the old societal bonds and values were crumbling and their value open to question. At its best the possessive attitude is neatly summed up in Fritz Perls Gestalt Prayer

I do my thing, and you do your thing.

I am not in this world to live up to your expectations

And you are not in this world to live up to mine.

You are you and I am I

And if by chance we find each other, it’s beautiful.

If not, it can’t be helped.**

This is a sad distortion of the nature of things. It is not the way we are, although it does reflect the way which the impersonal anomie of our urban culture often forces us to be. John Donne is much nearer the mark when he says,

No man is an island entire of itself; every man

is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe

is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as

well as a manor of thy friends or of thine

own were; any man’s death diminishes me,

because I am involved in mankind.

And therefore never send to know for whom

the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

The truth is that we, as persons, are interdependent. We are social beings. We depend for our existence as mentally and emotionally healthy persons on the quality of our relationships with others. One of the worst things one can do to another person is to imprison him or her in solitary confinement. One of the worst things that can happen to a child is to suffer neglect and rejection. Without human interaction we cannot grow, or flourish. Without love we become empty husks, shadows of what might have been.

For some time in my younger days I worked for a market gardner in Burgundy, Pierre Oriol. He was a home-grown philosopher. When I asked him once what philosophers he read, he said, ‘Je ne lis pas. Je pense.’ Perhaps it was because he did not read that his thinking was so fresh and original. After the Saturday morning’s work he would invite us up to his house to be paid and over a glass or two of pastis he would challenge us with some of the ideas he had been mulling over. One Saturday the argument extended well into the afternoon. Pierre challenged us, ‘L’amour n’existe pas.’ Of course love exists, was the reaction. But for Pierre love, essentially, is pure self-giving with no hint of self-interest. All that we generally call love, as far as he could see, is inherently selfish and therefore is not, properly speaking, love. I did not have much experience of life then and could not refute his argument. Since then I have seen the unsparing commitment of individuals to the sick, the vulnerable and the suffering. Since then I have experienced what it is like to love and to be loved. I would not now try to refute his argument but rather take it to another level. Perhaps there is no such thing as the pure love Pierre intends and of course there is no love which does not involve self, but as the Japanese philosopher Nishida explains, ‘The centre of the self is not limited to the interior of the individual; the self of a mother is to be found in her child.’*** Which brings us back to Zundel. The self of the Father is within the Son, the lover within the beloved.

(To be continued.)

* Mapherson, C. B.  The Political Theory of Possesive Individualism, OUP, Oxford, 1962,  270

** PERLS, F.  Gestalt Therapy Verbatim, Bantam Books, London, 1971

*** Nishida Kitaro, Zen no Kenkyu 1921. Translated as An Enquiry into the Good by Masao Abe and Christopher Ives. Newhaven CN: Yale University Press 1990.

Palm Sunday

Sunday, April 5th, 2009

I have written nothing for a long time. I have been able to write nothing. My thought processes seem to have reduced to preoccupation with the immediate here and now and any kind of intellectual exploration, any kind of sustained thinking has become an impossibility. Prayer, after a few brief moments initially, is a battle with drowsiness. There is no fervour, no longing to be fully engaged, no élan. Nothing. I wonder if I am drifting into the apathetic quietude of senility.

From time to time I am seized with a sort of anguish at this unresisting slippage into a mental twilight. Questions arise, recurring again and again, seeking and not finding answers. ‘Of what value is this human life, me?’ ‘What significance has this moment?’ ‘Do these thoughts, hopes, wishes, prayers mean anything at all, or are they simply mental fluff stirred up by the cold winds of reality?’

Against this, never has human life seemed more precious. I exult in the energy and joyfulness of young people. I am full of admiration for those whose generous commitment and willingness to go beyond the mere requirements of the job leads them to help others. And yet, never has the human biosphere been more raw and bleeding. There is the calculated and unapologetic abuse and exploitation of ordinary people by governments, financial and business institutions. There is the genocide and ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians by the Israelis – the mindset which led to the ethnic cleansing and extermination of the Canaanites thousands of years ago still flourishes in Israel. There are large sections of the Old Testament I can no longer read and I wonder how formerly I was ever able to consider them the word of God and accept the horrors they describe so uncritically.

(more…)

Subjective eperience

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2008

Subjective experience again. I look out the window rapt at the wonderful cloudscapes we have here, especially at sunrise and sunset, or I sit pondering on questions like this, or I sit trying to focus on the Jesus Prayer drifting from concentration to distraction to concentration again, or I offer a prayer for someone, or I think about the moment of death when subjectivity will cease and I wonder how these various experiences differ, and more importantly, what gives some greater significance than others. From somewhere, I do not know where, comes the idea that relationship is the key. Walking along the street bodies pass, physically close, sometimes touching, but no eye contact. There are no human relationships there. Close proximity but impersonal. Then eye-contact and immediately everything changes. I am no longer alone. There is another person and we relate. The relationship is perhaps just the minimal acknowledgement of another’s presence, or recognition of a friend, or an enemy, or merely an acquaintance. In each case the quality of the relationship will be different. The point of relationship is that the other changes my inner world, as I do his. How my inner world, my subjective experience, is changed depends on the kind of relationship, its quality and intensity. The point is that in a relationship the subjective experience of each is transcended and extends into that of the other. In the ordinary casual relationships of everyday this amounts to perhaps not more than feelings of pleasure or displeasure, affirmation or denigration. An intimate relationship, however, can be life-giving or life-denying with the power to change us radically.

What is this mysterious thing relationship? It is a connection, a link. This is not something material in the sense that it can be measured, or detected by any instrument, although it is obviously rooted in our physical bodies and can have dramatic physiological effects. 

Subjective experience, subjectivity – is complex. It denotes more than a subject’s inner awareness. It ranges from the awareness of a baby, where everything is experienced as an extension of its own body, to  the awareness of other-than-me, to empathy with others, to inter-subjectivity, to mystical experience. Concerning the latter, which Lonergan says is love without limits, he goes on to say, “This complete being-in-love, the gift of God’s grace, is the reason of the heart that reason does not know. It is a religious experience by which we enter into a subject-to-subject relationship with God.”*

 In person-with-person love there is a barrier, an interiority in the other that is always out of bounds. Likewise there is an interiority in the self, which even if one wills it, cannot be opened to the other. The inter-subjectivity of loving and being loved is always less than whole. In the experience of love of and by God there are no limits, at least on God’s part. He enters completely into the subjectivity of the other and, on very rare occasions, the individual finds himself within God, as it were. He is the presence within and perhaps once or twice in a lifetime one finds oneself within that presence within.

God never presents himself as object in any sense, and so he comes to us not as experience but in experience: not as that which we can appropriate, render proper to consciousness, but rather as a mystery that passes through our lives, a disturbance that opens our ways of being, doing and thinking to quite other perspectives and that cannot be positively identified by introspection.

*Bernard Lonergan, A Second Collection, Darton Longaman & Todd, London 1974 p. 129 

Self

Tuesday, March 11th, 2008

Long discussion with — last night about religions in general and Buddhism in particular. He is quick on the uptake and very interested in Buddhism. Discussed the problems of self, no-self, emptiness and Nirvana. He saw the idea of self as a changing process, rather than something permanent, or eternal, but remarked on the natural tendency to desire a continuing existence after death. I answered spontaneously without thinking, that to think thus was to be thinking in samsaric terms. It was to say that I understand that all the entities of present experience are contingent and ephemeral and I do wish to transcend them all and enter Heaven, or Nirvana, or whatever, but I would like to do this as my present impermanent,  relational self. Put like that the contradiction is obvious. I never saw it so clearly before. It is like a caterpillar saying – I do want to be a butterfly but I do not want to give up chomping on these delicious leaves. 

Reciprocity

Tuesday, February 12th, 2008

I came across a telling quote from Edith Stein in McIntosh* p. 232. She is talking about the contemplative vocation and the desire to be wherever there is suffering in order to help, to assist, to love – simply to be there. This, however, is not possible. She goes on to say, ‘You can be at all fronts, wherever there is grief in the power of the cross. Your compassionate love takes you everywhere, this love from the divine heart.’ This is an idea that needs to be explored. There is certainly a powerful impetus to love, and especially the poor, the suffering and the victimised.

  Not only an impetus to love – there is also the sense of responsibility for the other which Levinas delineates. L’s discussion is, as far as I can see, one-sided, from the point of view of the self. But what goes for the self goes also for the other. There is, in fact, a mutual responsibility arising from a mutual calling into selfhood. The mother addressing her baby by name for the first time initiates his emergence as a self/person. But the baby is responsible for his mother as mother. By responding to her call he evokes her motherhood. 

L does not hold that the face-to-face relationship is a reciprocal one – ‘because it implies that humans are interchangeable, that one may substitute one person for another, trade off rights for goods, justifying exploitation or worse.’

 However, I do not see how the idea of reciprocity can be avoided and I suspect that L defines the word differently. I suspect that he means by it something like tit for tat, a mutual exchange of goods but not something which goes to the essence of those involved. By reciprocal relationship I mean one in which a change in one of the poles of the relationship produces a change in the other. Each of the entities in the relationship has a defining effect on the other.

*Mcintosh, Mark. Mystical Theology: Integrity of Spirituality and Theology , Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishers, 1998.


Self

Monday, February 11th, 2008

July 30, 2002

Reading The Monk and the Philosopher* – so far an excellent introduction to Buddhism  – disappointing, though, on anatta. Much is made of the illogicality of the self. On analysis its existence is seen to be impossible, but the argument makes the assumption that the self is a thing, just as the body, or the brain, are things. When one looks for the location of the self it is nowhere to be found. He fails to make a clear distinction between a phenomenal and a substantial self. Buddhism readily admits to a phenomenal self. How could it not? It is the idea of a substantial self that is the problem. This problem is made more difficult because the terminology implies that the argument concerns a ‘thing’. If, however, the self is considered as a dynamic relational process a whole new perspective is opened up. Of course the self is not a thing; nor does it reside in the body, or the mind – although these are part of the dynamic process which generates, if that is the right word, the self. The self implies an other and without this other self cannot come into existence. If the self can be said to reside anywhere it is in the aidagara, the between, the relationship of self and other. It is the other who calls out the self in the newborn baby. It is the baby’s response to the other that discovers its latent self. Ultimately it is God, the Absolute Other on whom all relationships depend. 

*The Monk and the Philosopher: East Meets West in a Father-son Dialogue, Jean-Francois Revel, Matthieu Ricard, HarperCollins, London 1998

The mirror self

Tuesday, February 5th, 2008

Self is not self-sufficient. Self is like a mirror through which we look at everything. Everywhere we go we take the mirror and look at what is round about through it rather than looking directly. We find it very difficult to look directly, to put the mirror to one side. Sometimes it happens – when we are caught up in something so absorbing, so all-encompassing that the mirror becomes a restrictive hindrance and we let it go – listening to music, caught up in the collective emotion of a crowd, or group, etc. When we find ourselves in darkness the mirror becomes an obstacle. There is little or nothing to be seen so the tendency is to focus all the attention on the mirror itself. We become engrossed with our own feelings and preoccupations. It is a bit like being on the periphery of a wonderful spectacle and turning our back to it so that we can look through the mirror to see ourselves in the context of the spectacle. Of course we can see very little because our face is in the way. That’s as far as the analogy goes. There is, in fact, no spectacle to be seen but we do not know that because our face is taking up pretty well most of the mirror. But we feel there is something there to be seen. We are sure of it because we have had intimations of it, feelings of joy and sudden elation, feelings of a loving presence. So we intensify our gaze in the mirror but all we see is the reflection of self. Because, apart from the mirror and the reflection in it, there is nothing there to be seen. We must put the mirror of self aside – very, very difficult – and, to parody one of the desert fathers, learn to sit in the darkness and the darkness will teach us everything.

Self

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

Reading  Steven Collins’ book Selfless Persons* on the meaning of annata in Therevada Buddhism. Gradually the ideas are becoming clearer in my mind. There is no denial of the phenomenal or psychological self. What is denied is that this self is an enduring or eternal entity. What is not denied is that there are no eternal, or enduring entities – if entity is the right term. I suspect it isn’t. Our view of ourselves is much too static. The transitions from past to present and from present to future elide so that it seems there is one continuous ‘I’. Being a person is a process just as a wave is a process. The wave emerges from the calm waters under the influence of the wind. The wind transfers some of its energy to the water so that what was indeterminate and featureless takes on form and movement. The waves run until their energy is dissipated. Sometimes they augment each other, sometimes they cancel each other out. No one ever thinks of separating out a wave and regarding it as an independent individual. Waves cannot be separated from the process of which they are a part – the sea, the wind, the sea bed, the shore, the moon.

Similarly with being a person. To see a person primarily as an individual, abstracted from the process which makes him/her a person is to misunderstand. Is this what Buddha is getting at with anatta? Not that there is no individuality, nor that there is no self who is the thinker of thoughts and doer of deeds, but that there is no enduring self separate from and transcending experience. The problem though is that we are ‘self’ conscious. Self is the thought that thinks, the eye that sees, the hearer of sounds, the feeler of sensation. It is not usually ‘there is thought… there is vision, sensation etc.’ but ‘I think… I see… I feel’. It is almost as though ‘self’ and ‘consciousness’ were a conjoint pair and it was not possible to have one without the other. Through meditation, however, there comes the realisation that the self who experiences belongs to and is part of the experience. Each experience is composed of thoughts, sensations and emotions and the self, which is the subject of a particular experience, belongs to that experience alone and not to any other experience – though memory provides an illusion of continuity. Sometimes looking back we say, ‘I have changed.’ or ‘I was not myself then.’ or ‘I have grown up.’ This was Descartes’ mistake. He thought he was doubting everything, every idea, feeling, sensation. The one thing he could not doubt, because it was being experienced, was thought itself. He assumed that because there was thought he was thinking. Therefore he, Descartes, existed. An understandable assumption, but an assumption too far. If he had rigorously pursued his doubt, questioning even the fact of thought itself, he might have noticed how tight was the bond between the self and the thought and that as the kaleidoscope of thoughts passed before the attention thought, self and emotion formed an indissoluble trinity. Any change in the perception of one was accompanied by corresponding changes in the others. The self which thought was as fluid and mutable as the thoughts themselves. Strictly speaking Descartes’ conclusion should have been ‘Cogitatio, ergo esse.’ So we are left with a mystery, the mystery of being.

*CUP, Cambridge 1982 

Meaning and self

Thursday, January 10th, 2008

Thinking about what it means to be a person. I am sure that all our attempts to deal with this up to now have come to nothing because we have concentrated on individuality, or rationality, or moral freedom. In every case the underlying assumption is that the person is an independent and rational being free to make moral choices. We have not been aware of, or have ignored, the central and most fundamental fact that first a person is a nexus of relationships. Person only has meaning in the context of relationship. A person is he who relates to another person. Without the relationship with others the individual cannot evolve into a mature person, cannot learn a language to articulate thoughts and feelings, etc. We need to explore the dimensions of personal being – the physical, biological, mental, social and spiritual. Unless a person is an athlete, or something similar, he does not usually attend to the physical and biological unless something goes wrong. Nor in our Western culture does the spiritual impinge much on our consciousness unless we have what Maslow called a peak experience, or we experience what Jaspers called a limit situation. Most of the time we alternate between our private mental world and our social environment. It is mainly in these two contexts that we look for meaning. For some people the spiritual dimension is also a factor but very often I fear this spiritual dimension is a mental construct rather than the real thing. By mental construct I mean a system of beliefs and practices centred on the self and significant others. God and the rest of humanity are placed on the periphery. This is the spirituality of novenas and miracle working statues of the Madonna, of auras and crystals and intervening angels. We will never discover what it means to be human from such a myopic self-centred perspective.

Meaning will be found not by looking at the individual but by trying to understand the complex relational processes, those which make the individual what he is and those of which the individual is a part. As long as we can only see from the individual self-centred perspective we will never understand. Only when we realise this can we understand why self has always been seen as a barrier and a hindrance to spiritual progress. Perhaps ‘understand’ is putting it a bit too strongly. We will probably never really understand, but we can, and we need to be aware of these processes. To begin to be aware of them is to begin to decentre the self. For such a feeble reed the self does take up an inordinate amount of space and try to dominate every perspective. Get him out of the way.

Reality and self

Tuesday, January 8th, 2008

I came across the following the other day in an article by Humberto Maturana.

I claim that the most central question that humanity faces today is the question of reality. And I claim that this is so, regardless of whether we are aware of it or not, because every thing that we do as modern human beings, either as individuals, as social entities, or as members of some non-social human community, entails an explicit or implicit answer to this question as a foundation for the rational arguments that we use to justify our actions. Even nature, as we bring it forth in the course of our lives as human beings, depends on our explicit or implicit answer to this question. Indeed, I claim that the explicit or implicit answer that each one of us gives to the question of reality determines how he or she lives his or her life, as well as his or her acceptance or rejection of other human beings in the network of social and non-social systems that he or she integrates. 

[Maturana, Humberto R. 1988, Reality: The Search for Objectivity or the Quest for a Compelling Argument, The Irish Journal of Psychology  Volume 9 , no.1]

I agree with this. Maturana goes on to say, ‘that this question can be properly answered only if observing and cognition are explained as biological phenomena generated through the operation of the observer as a living human being.’  I do not agree with this. There is a ferocious epistemological question here. How do we know, and what do we know, and can we be certain about either? I don’t know the answer to this but I have a lot of sympathy for Descartes’ assertion that we have to trust that God would not deceive us. That is not much use for someone who does not believe in God but for me at this moment it is all that I have got; that, and the assertion by many, many others that they have experienced the ultimately Real.

I believe that the Reality that is God transcends the empirical world of our experience. This reality is also immanent. Whether reality is seen to be pen-en-henic or pan-en-theistic probably depends on the tradition from which one approaches it – Eastern or Western. There is a problem however. As Francisco Varela puts it, ‘Reality, as we know it, is not separable from we, that know it; we, as knowers are not independent of the reality we know’ [Varela & Goguen, 1978, p. 320] Is what we know, therefore, only the empirical reality of sensory experience? Or, is it possible to know the Ultimately Real? Since God is immanent I believe we can come to know him, that he dwells within the real me – or, to put it in a less egocentric way, that I am in Him.

It is this ‘dwelling within the real me’ that I want to come to grips with. All I know is the phenomenal me and what the phenomenal me experiences. The phenomenal me is the self which is dominant at the moment of speaking. It is becoming increasingly clear to me that the conscious self is a constantly changing chimera. As I said before, each memory sequence, or time-slice, has its appropriate self. All these selves share common characteristics, some more, some less, but each is nonetheless distinct. This becomes very clear when meditating. When the concentration on the breath becomes intense enough the observer is distanced from the memories, the thought-trains and the inner dialogues that continually arise. These are seen in perspective and each has a self which is not the observer. When the concentration is particularly intense the self that is the observer disappears and there is simply breathing. The self, me, is relational. It is always engaged in a dialogue – inner, outer, both. Hence there is always a hiatus between the speaker and the listener, even when they are the same person. That space, or aidagara, allows change. The reflecting back of the experience permits discrimination, categorisation and judgement. This in turn contributes to the initiation of a response that evokes a new experience. This is the dialectic of the phenomenal self. It moulds and is moulded by its dialogue with experience.

Since writing this I have come across the following in D’Aquili and Newberg:

We suggest that the mind/brain is set up in such a way that there is one primary working circuit, or, when incorporated into a psychological perspective, a primary ego circuit. This circuit comprises our sensory input areas, our input analysis areas, and our output processing areas…The most complex part of the circuit is probably the input analysis since this includes memory of past experience, emotional input, cultural norms, logic and any other parts of the mind/brain that we bring to our analysis of sensory input… [I]t is also the primary circuit that is involved in the development of consciousness. For us to generate consciousness we must somehow project ourselves outward, which we may do by through our behaviours, our language, or even internally by ‘talking to ourselves’. This final way is important since it is an internal projection of our self within our own mind/brain. This output is then perceived by our senses as a new input, which in turn is analysed and identified as self. The more this self is projected outwards the more we are able to perceive its existence. All of this projecting and perceiving occurs within the confines of the primary circuit. Specifically, the mind/brain is aware that it is projecting something. If this projection correlates with the input, then we state that the input must have come from us and we identify the input as originally generated by our self. This self is distinguished from the rest of the outside world because we do not identify all input as coming from our self… There seems to be a self-resonance that is required for the development of consciousness. As the cycle continues, things such as memory, past emotions and behaviours all become incorporated into what we perceive to be our self.[D’Aquili E. and Newberg A. B. 1999, The Mystical Mind, Fortress Press, Min
neapolis p. 62ff]

There are what D’Aquili and Newberg call secondary circuits, some of which may underlie only one thought. ‘Others might underlie a huge array of emotions, of thoughts and behaviours. These secondary circuits are usually not immediately available to the primary circuit.’ What they do not say, but it is perhaps implicit in his description of the mechanism, is that this self is not some fixed and permanent entity like a soul. Not only is it constantly changing in response to the fluid experience of a changing environment but different situations, different relationships, evoke different selves. The description of the projection of self to self above implies a certain distance between the projection and the perception. In practice this distance does not normally exist. The experience of introspection is subjective. Even the inner dialogues are subject to subject. The transition, therefore, from the subjective experience of Self-a to the subjective experience of Self-b is not perceptible except in retrospect. Even then it is not the transition which is remembered but the contrast between the memory of Self-a and the memory of Self-b. These are usually seen not as different selves but as different modes of the same self.

However, in meditation the centre of awareness is focused on, in my case, the sensation of the breath as it enters and leaves the nostrils. The subject is the experience of breathing. On the periphery of awareness are the inner dialogues, voices, images, emotions and hypnogogic dreams. They come and go according to the intensity of the focus of awareness on the breathing. They are intensely attractive and the slightest weakening of the focus is enough to draw the attention away and one is immediately the subject of the dialogue, or a fantasy. This leads me to wonder whether there is a fundamental undifferentiated subject, the experiencer. The self is relational, i.e. it only exists as one pole of a reciprocal relationship. The original undifferentiated subject of experience is moulded and shaped in the dynamic reciprocity of the experience of the other. This then colours all future experience. If we accept Mead’s analysis of ‘I’ and ‘me’ each succeeding self is the child of the previous one, inheriting a predisposition for a particular worldview and attitude towards the other – whether personal or impersonal.  It is not normally possible to get back to the original undifferentiated subject. Even in meditation it is achieved only after long and intense concentration and then fleetingly. In order to do it one has to withdraw from all contact with others, actual and imaginary, and from the inner dialogue with self. Once there one has a baseline. The self is seen to be conditional and relative.  The emotions, which can sometimes achieve an absolute dominance, are seen in perspective. Apart from glimpses of the void this is as far as I have got.