Is Our Innate Sense of Self an Illusion?

Sociologist Erving Goffman, through this lovely illustration below, draws in from Shakespeare’s iconic line –

“The whole world is a stage”

And elaborates on a demonstration of the various masks we wear in our daily lives and how there isn’t really a “true self.” The self is someone who orchestrates and coordinates between these different roles we play but doesn’t exist in any form that can be described, even when we are alone.

Kahlil Gibran, on this topic, talks to his aspirational self and says:

“My path is not thy path, yet together we walk, hand in hand.”

His dialogue is an effort to isolate the very real conflict that all of us experience at some point, if not always- being able to differentiate who we really are from what our societal, external self has become. The elusive yet everlasting inquiry into knowing where we end and where our environment begins.

Dwell further on this topic by reading The Proof Of Evolution

Video by BBC

 

The Myth of the Missing Half

With Valentines day approaching, here is a short illustration of Plato’s symposium, which is a philosophical text dated back to 385–370 BC. In this dramatic dialogue Plato explores the various facets that constitute love and it is from this symposium that we see the term “platonic” emerge. If you have ever used platonic to describe your relationship with someone, you need to thank Plato’s deeply evaluative thinking.

The below video gives us a quick recap of where the idea of a “second half” comes from and what makes us yearn them so much. Enjoy!

Video by- BBC Radio

Now if this theory has any truth to it or not and what happens to the hopeless souls that don’t find their supposed “better half” well that’s a matter of contemplation and one the journal of mokita hopes to tackle soon.

Until then, if finding your second half isn’t on your to-do list, read a piece on the state of love today that explores a morose yet very real question – Have we evolved past love?

Dwell further on this topic by reading a debate on the existence and necessity of Monogamy. Do we need be paired in happy couples of two? 

 

How Do We Articulate The Existence of Our Soul?

Our soul, it exists. But it exists in a form distant from our being. We comprehend the idea of a soul as part of us but not limited by us. The elusive thought that our soul is an energy, it can neither be created nor be destroyed, throws up some light on the otherwise vague topic but not enough to enlighten us in any way. Pondering on the constituents of our soul draws up a blank slate or maybe some images of psychedelic renditions put into our minds by the media. But do we really understand our soul?

Is the soul the driving force behind all your conscious and sub-conscious actions? Or is it the electricity that lights up your bulb? Or maybe the soul can never be defined as being something but only as not being something. We know what the soul is not, its not our rationale mind, its not mortal and its not tangible.

To explore the existence of our soul, Jawaharlal Nehru in his book “The Discovery of India” references parts of the Upanishads (which are a collection of texts that contain some of the central philosophical concepts of Hinduism) and creates a metaphor to attempt comprehending the vastness of the immortal soul. A metaphorical explanation, was the only way to help understand a concept as vague and profound as our soul. The metaphor created here, is one wherein the soul is likened to a fire. But before that we need to understand the concept of an absolute soul. The absolute soul, is the one which drives our entire universe. The absolute soul is the energy behind the all encompassing macrocosm, much like a everlasting fire, and this leads into the concept of monism. Monism is the ideology that all existing things and beings can be explained as emerging from one reality or substance.

The individual soul, is like a spark that is thrown out by the fire of the absolute soul. This spark, once it enters the world, takes the shape of whatever it burns. The shape and strength of the spark of fire is dependent on the things it touches and burns. This then decides how long the spark will burn, how strongly and luminously will it burn and whether it will give rise to other sparks of flame or burn out on its own. The burning flame of our soul is shaped by the things we burn – the things we burn, metaphorically, are the families we are born in, the environment we thrive in, the social interactions we indulge in and every other aspect that shapes our mortal being. When we use the word “burn” in this context it is not so much it’s explicit meaning but its implicit rendition. What we burn is simply what we touch or come in contact with, which is a domino effect- one thing leading to another and another much like the spread of a fire.  Now, how vehemently we burn the things we touch that is up to us, growing the fire from a twig to a log this ability can be attributed to the ever growing consciousness of the mind and the zeal for survival. For if we don’t grow this fire, we burn out.

So our soul, it is a spark of fire that is shaped by everything we come into contact with as we transcend the sphere of life.

The ideology of monism and the concept of an absolute soul perpetrates the cause of oneness amongst all human beings, caste, creed, sex aside. The Upanishads consider the highest form of knowledge to be that of the individual mind, the objective external world is considered as not unreal but real in a relative sense, a projection of the inner reality.

Dwell further on the concept of an inner reality by reading Plato’s take on what constitutes our reality in Plato’s contemplative thought on the composition of our reality and stepping out of the oblivion.

 

Plato’s Contemplative Thought on the Composition of Our Reality and Stepping Out of the Oblivion.

Plato’s allegory of the cave or metaphor of the cave is written as an insightful dialogue between Plato’s brother Glaucon and his mentor Socrates. The riveting and highly metaphorical dialogue discusses Plato’s theory of forms and the contemplative thought that all material objects are non-existent and fleeting, if not given a form by attaching meaning to them via ideas. Similar notions appear in all of Plato’s work wherein he ardently believed that abstract non-material forms or ideas are the only reality that truly exists.

The allegory likens the state of a prisoner, who is chained to the wall of a cave since birth, to that of the human mind. In the allegory Socrates narrates a short story to Glaucon. In the story Socrates asks Glaucon to imagine a set of prisoners. These prisoners are tied since birth but they are tied to the cave in a very peculiar manner wherein their legs and necks are tied and held back by a chain, facing a wall at all times. Behind the prisoners is a fire and then a slightly raised walkway. The walkway is used by puppeteers to carry props in the shape of animals, birds, even humans all day long. To the prisoners, the reality of the shadows is the only one that has ever existed. This reality was so deeply ingrained in them that they started attaching prestige to the remembrance of these shadows, their details and the order in which they would appear. However besides being utterly random, there was no real order in which the shadows would pass by.

Socrates introduced several twists in the plot –  one of prominence being when one of the prisoners is freed and allowed to see the real world. When set free, the prisoner is blinded at first due to the sheer overwhelming brightness and finds it hard to believe that the shadows he has so intently watched all his life are actually living beings. The perplexing realisation that everything he attached importance to was in fact a farce, a figment, a minor rendition of the larger, more real truth. The irony gets far more exemplified when the prisoner ponders about returning back to the cave and introducing to his fellows the real truth about the world. However on returning to the cave the freed prisoner is blinded yet again, this time due to the sudden shift from brightness to darkness. According to Socrates, seeing his blindness the rest of the prisoners are convinced that stepping out of the cave is harmful. Socrates concludes that after witnessing this, the rest of the prisoners could attack anyone who tries to unshackle and take them outside. The freed prisoner realises that sharing his experience from outside the cave would mean that he would be distrusted, ridiculed and accused of having been corrupted.

The entire dialogue is an effective analogy of how the human mind comprehends reality. Our reality is defined largely by the materialistic things around us, which in the case of the prisoners are the shadows. As is evident, materialistic objects can never form the core of our reality. However what can comprise our reality is the form or ideas around these objects. The forms we attach to them help us give them meaning and a deeper understanding. The freed prisoner in this context is a philosopher or the enlightened one. This entity, having realised the truth, carries the burden of tussling with his fellows and convincing them that their life-long beliefs are just a metaphorical shadow of a larger and truer form of being. Unfortunately, having spent a lifetime believing in the physical materials and not the idea, the  metaphorical prisoners without being exposed to the rays of the sun will never believe that the figures cast by the flickering fire are just shadows of a larger world. Moreover, the fear of being blinded would forever keep them away from walking into the light.

Similarly, outside of this hypothetical dialogue, humans too form their entire identity sometimes purely basis physical objects, lacking any form or idea. A lavish apartment, an expensive car, jewellery, bank balance – if these form the crux of your identity then you become like the prisoner in plato’s cave. Experiencing only the dark shadows cast by the actual world, never truly understanding the meaning of living and having a consciousness. Constantly worried about losing these empty materialistic objects and fearing enlightenment, ascertaining it only as a path to becoming a pauper.

However if profound, contemplative, radical and sometimes ridiculous ideas form the crux of your being then you are the freed prisoner, freed from the shackles of this manipulative world and its materialistic shadows created only to act as distractions from a far deeper truth. The truth that will only reveal itself if we believe the thinkers and philosophers of our time. Or else for our lifetime we remain the prisoners in Plato’s cave.

Dwell further by reading a dialogue between Einstein and Rabindranath Tagore in – Our life, its a shared consciousness.

Image courtesy http://bit.ly/1PO6oqR