11 – Identification
The appearance of an ‘I’
‘Adults are just outdated children.’ – Dr Seuss
Jez: After a while, this feeling-engagement with life, through the self, changes our relationship to the world. Imagine our baby has been on this planet long enough to learn, through her explorations, that a wooden toy feels and smells different to a woollen blanket. Eventually she realises that these different sensory experiences are in fact separate objects: There’s a toy, and there’s a blanket.
Matthew: According to what you’ve laid out so far, they’re different manifestations of Love?
Jez: Yes although, of course, as a baby, she has no concept of Love. The world out there is not yet labelled; it’s simply lived without thought.
Matthew: But now it’s starting to be experienced as a world full of separate forms.
Jez: Yes, and then something happens which changes her experience of being in the world dramatically. So far, we’ve discussed how she interacts in the world through the self. For example, several times a day the self comes into contact with food. Through her senses, she experiences this form of Love as a mushy substance. But one day, during these mealtime explorations of mushiness, she perceives a difference between the pink fingers and the food that they’re grabbing. There’s a recognition that she seems to be ‘in’ the fingers in a way that she’s not ‘in’ the food. Something momentous has happened in our baby’s development: Just as she’s learnt to define objects by their forms, so an awareness of her separateness now defines herself within the limits of her body.
Matthew: She becomes identified as a self.
Jez: Exactly. This is what I meant when I said, ‘Feeling changes our relationship to the world’, because eventually feeling leads us to see ourselves as part of it.
At this stage her identification is rudimentary; it’s simply the recognition of being inside a body. It’s as if, in order for our baby to interact with the physical world, she adopts the perspective of that world. To explore the apparent separateness of the world, she apparently becomes separate herself.
Matthew: You’re saying ‘apparently’ because it only appears that way from the perspective of the Relative Level?
Jez: That’s right, the wave appears to be separate from the ocean, but if you look at the wider reality, it clearly isn’t. So at this stage, there’s partial identification with the self; it’s a practical outcome of needing to engage in the world more. When not being active in the world, our baby returns to the Stillness of Being. At this stage there’s perfect balance between the two, between the inner and outer.
Matthew: OK, so what happens then?
Jez: Through constant interaction with the world, the self continues to get stronger and more sophisticated. For example, our baby gradually becomes aware that, whenever adults talk about or refer to her, they make a sound from their mouth and that sound in some way relates to her. In other words, she’s been given a name. Let’s call her Lucy.
Matthew: I’ve heard in some cultures they don’t immediately name a baby; they wait a while.
Jez: I’ve heard that too – they leave a respectful gap before a baby is named, as if it’s allowed to reside in the ‘everything’ for a short while before it’s named as a ‘something’.
Of course our baby, Lucy, soon learns that she, and her Mummy and Daddy, are not the only things to be given names. Stimulated by her parent’s repetition of words, she learns that everything out there in the World is represented by a sound made by the mouth. As her mind and memory develop she learns to name the world out there.
This is an important part of her development: By mapping and naming the world around her, Lucy develops her ability to think and act. Of course, playing is a huge part of her development too. What was your favourite toy as child?
Matthew: I loved Lego – I remember building towers with my bricks at a very young age.
Jez: On the surface it just looked like you were having fun, but as we play we’re expanding our capacity for thinking. As all this happens, there’s a subtle shift in our energetic centre.
Matthew: What do you mean?
Jez: We’ve talked about how, in the Natural State, we’re responding to life through feeling. Where do you think the energetic centre of feeling is in the body?
Matthew: The heart?
Jez: Yes. When we‘re in Love, perhaps the biggest feeling we can ever experience, we have a strong feeling in our heart. We say: ‘My heart is open,’ or ‘I give my heart to you.’ You see symbols of a heart carved on trees between lover’s names to symbolise this feeling of Love they’re sharing. Physically it can feel like the chest is filled up, vibrating with Love that just wants to be shared. That feeling may begin as Love arising towards a lover, but in the end it can’t be restricted to a particular person. It’s felt by anyone around.
This is why we feel so good around babies in the Natural State; without realising it we’re responding to the fact that they’re located in their energetic centre of feeling: their hearts. This is where we all began our lives but as we settle in the self and spend more time every day using and expanding the mind, our energetic centre gradually shifts from the feeling centre (the heart) to the thinking centre (the brain). As adults this is taken for granted. If you asked anyone you know to point to where they are in their body, where do you think they’d point?
Matthew: To the head.
Jez: It’s where the self identifies itself, if you see what I mean, because thinking is what the self does. Without the capacity for thought, there’d be no self. From this point on, thinking becomes central to our lives; it opens up the world to us in so many ways. For example, it introduces us to the concept of time.
Matthew: You mean, because we begin to be able to think about something happening in the past?
Jez: Yes. You could remember playing with Lego yesterday, imagine playing with it again in the future, then find those bricks and bring them into your present experience. So through the mind, the self locates a past, a present and a future; it becomes aware that it exists in something called ‘time’.
Matthew: We work out that breakfast happens in the morning and bedtime happens at night.
Jez: Right. So the self is developing and establishing itself through language, play and thinking, and it locates itself in the present through the understanding of the construct of time. But there’s another important factor involved in the development of the self: the process of individuation. I think it’s time for another definition from the dictionary.
Matthew: It says here: ‘How an individual person is held to be distinct from other elements in the world and how a person is distinct from other persons.’
Jez: This happens in all sorts of ways. For example, as Lucy’s confidence in operating in the world increases, her self learns that, as a separate being, she has her own unique response to the world. She has likes and dislikes. for example. Furthermore, she finds these preferences do not always align with the experience of life her parents are providing for her. Was there any food you especially disliked as a child?
Matthew: Mushrooms – I hated them…
Jez: And did your parents stop giving you mushrooms to eat?
Matthew: Eventually, after I kicked up a fuss, pulled faces and left them on my plate enough times.
Jez: You became conscious that, through the power of choice, you could sometimes have an influence over what you experienced. You can see how one of the attributes of the original state of Being is starting to change; Choice-less Awareness is slipping away.
The self’s ability to have control over its experience through the power of choice becomes the cornerstone of its sense of individuality. Through its likes and dislikes, the self defines and clarifies its identity. It says: ‘I like Lego but I don’t like mushrooms.’
Matthew: I saw a programme about this stage of a child’s development. The first few years are an amazing time of expansion, of neurones forming connections in the brain.
Jez: Yes, physically life is making all these connections, growing our bones and tissues while psychologically we’re expanding our consciousness and forming this self, this idea of who we are.
The self develops in other ways too: As well as becoming more skilled at operating in the world, it becomes more individual and distinctive. Particular abilities, talents and quirks begin to show themselves; a unique Character develops. For example, from a very early age I drew constantly; it was something I had a natural affinity for.
Matthew: Apparently the teachers at nursery school realised fairly early on that I was really good at maths and reading.
Jez: These natural talents or quirks don’t seem to come from nurture; they’re inherent in us and everyone has them.
Matthew: How does all this development of the self and the Character fit in with the Love you said is at the heart of the state of Being?
Jez: It’s all an expression of that Love. The Character is simply Love expressing itself in the form of that particular baby. When was the last time you were around a newborn baby?
Matthew: Quite recently: One of my best friends has had a baby boy and some mutual friends and I just visited them.
Jez: How did you all react to him?
Matthew: Everybody went a bit gaga around him; you know how it is.
Jez: People can get a bit besotted with babies; most of us love being around them. It’s because they’re living in the Natural State and so they show up what we’ve lost. We feel a sense of wonder, Joy and Love in their presence. In most cases, encountering this Love in the form of their babies, also calls forth the Love in the parents; it’s part of an evolutionary cycle.
Matthew: What do you mean?
Jez: Nature gives us the urge to procreate, to propagate the species and it also provides the nurturing spirit in most people to bring up their children. This is all driven and fed by the natural uprising in the parents of Love for their child. This is not the only source of Love for the child; as I mentioned, in the Original Relationship to Life our baby, Lucy, is receiving Love from everything around her: light, air, smells, food, the entire manifest world. Her parents are just one source of the Love that Lucy receives, but a very important source that’s part of the evolutionary cycle.
As the self develops it’s the parents’ job to show their children the rules of how it works to be a human on this planet, to teach them that they need to eat, sleep and not put their hands in hot water etcetera. All these practical lessons are about subjects we adults take for granted, so they’re easy to teach. But alongside this practical education there’s another strand to what’s being taught, and that concerns how to ‘be’ in this world as a self.
Matthew: But you said that babies are in the Natural State so they know how to ‘Be’.
Jez: This is a really important point: Babies know how to Be, they are Being, but they have no experience of Being in the world as a self. We have to be shown this, and that job falls to our parents or our guardians. It’s this education in how to be as a self that really begins the process of forgetting the Natural State.