If we consider that a fictional entity such as a daemon or egregore can become self intelligent through the process of sustained attention then we could extend this to the idea of the self.
The persona or mask, the idea one has of oneself, is likewise a thought form that develops autonomous intelligence from the attention fixated upon it. The persona is thus a supernatural entity. To wear the mask is to be the mask, to identify with it.
As I project the image I have of myself to the world, my peers accept this image and reflect it back to me. From the world I receive affirmations that solidify my sense of self. When one’s sense of self is particularly solid, to act out of character is not only difficult but also feels awkward and inappropriate.
The self continually reaffirms its own image of itself. This image is of course fictional; it is the story we tells ourselves over and over. It develops as the result of a group collaboration: between the host and his/her social circle – effectively a magic circle. And like an egregore it develops its own self-intelligence and an instinct for self preservation.
When we communicate with each other what we are actually dealing with are the fictional images that we establish between each other. These images are the incorporeal intermediaries (daemons) that facilitate our existence; though it might be argued that it is we who facilitate theirs. While your friend is someone whose company you enjoy, your image of him is only an approximation to the complex character that is actually ‘him’. Moreover the image that he has of himself is also an approximation. It begs the question whether there is even an objective ‘him’ to which both your and his images are trying to approximate.
The daily world exists because we know how to hold its images; consequently if one drops the attention needed to maintain those images, the world collapses.
~ Carlos Castaneda, The Second Ring of Power
What works on a practical level is that both of your approximations are reasonably similar to each other – so that you have a reliable common intermediary that you can both reference. Perhaps it is not so important that you know each other perfectly.
So the question arises as to whether there is an absolute fundamental self obscured by the impermanent persona? Is there a true face behind the mask? And if so, how would this true self be separate from the false self or persona that disguises it? What is the agency that separates the two; the absolute from the relative, the real from the fiction? Is this agency itself real or fictional?
Show me your original face before you were born
~ Zen Buddhist koan
What does appear bona fide is the human faculty to recognize via the senses the quality of genuineness and authenticity in people; it is like a light that shines through the persona and inspires others. It is commonly accepted that this spirit is the true essence emanating from within; the bedrock of the soul or psyche that stands the test of time – or at least during the course of one’s life. The ‘higher self’.
However… let us consider for a moment the possibility that spirit is actually the fictional image itself. Wouldn’t that be something! That we create the self-image in order to approximate what we believe lies behind the mask. That we create these fictional images of who we are specifically to service this erroneous belief in our spirit or higher self. And that if we didn’t believe in a higher self, or absolute spirit, there would be no incentive for us to create images that approximate to it.
What we have here is an unfortunate situation where the belief in a true or higher self compels us to create the image that approximates it. We can reduce this further and say that the belief IS the image. This image feeds us the affirmations that we need to continue believing – thereby guaranteeing its survival. This is artificial intelligence at its most cunning!
Interestingly discarnate beings like ghosts are also referred to as spirits – and this might provide a clue. Those who hold strong beliefs in the supernatural, like in a true divine self, are susceptible to the affirmations that reflect back at them. Affirmations appear for those who cast the augury. And so for them, the influence of demons, ghosts and even aliens can serve as sobering reflections of their unwavering beliefs.
When one observes the practice of confession in the Catholic Church, for example, it is clear that the belief system panders to the idea of a true self that has been obscured by sin. Through the act of confession, one sacrifices the sinful persona in order to become purified through the grace of God. While such a sacrifice could certainly bring reward, the intention is somewhat contradictory.
If one makes the sacrifice with the intention to be cured from sickness, for example, then it is a clear exchange. But if the objective is a fictitious spiritual redemption then the intention is effectively to identify as another persona. Of course the confessor will feel alleviated after unburdening himself of his dirty secrets; but this new found state of temporary purity is also a persona. The problem is that the confessor has tricked himself into thinking he has made an important strides towards his Christian heaven and it will be quite difficult for him to ever ditch this belief.
We spend all our energy and waste our lives trying to re-create these zones of safety, which are always falling apart. That’s the essence of samsara – the cycle of suffering that comes from continuing to seek happiness in all the wrong places.
~ Pema Chodron
Can human beings approach life without these manufactured images serving as intermediaries? If so, the relationship between men will no longer be impaired. Paradoxically – also somewhat ironically – by accepting that ‘you’ and ‘I’ are fictitious personas, we start to act authentically. It is by asserting the prominence of a true self that the untrue self is created in tandem.
To practice sorcery, one must navigate their own delusions of self – with its unnerving affirmations – in order to become proficient in their art. It is necessary for the practitioner to discover that there is no underlying meaning to the cosmos, or to his life. That meaning is itself just a persona, an intermediary between man and cosmos; a fantasy one indulges in to find a little security in one’s existence. When one gives up this security, one gives up the self.