Christian Platonism

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Intentions and the Higher Self

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[Here are some notes I made previously on the subject of intentions and the Higher Self. They need to be developed more fully and perhaps integrated with other material.  But I think the idea here is important — the main reason I’m posting these notes to the blog is so that I don’t I don’t lose them!]

Intentions determine perceptions.  What we see, what we experience, the meaning we extract or impose on a situation — all are determined most strongly by the intentions we bring with us to the experience.

It is plainly true that we can choose our intentions.  If attention is directed to the task, one can change intentions from one thing to another.  For example, if I am in a new place, and choose the intention to seek enemies, then I will find many enemies.  I will literally make people into my enemies, seizing on whatever few details can be construed as evidence of hostility and exaggerating them.  Contrarily, if I choose the intention of seeking friends, then I will see others in that way.

This itself is an interesting and important aspect of life — but we are after something deeper right now.  The point here is not that intentions exist, or their nature, or their effect.  Rather, it is that we have the capacity to choose them.  In fact, we seem to do so constantly.  Intentions not only affect our social perceptions and outer perceptions, but our inner perceptions, and the milieu of our mental experience.  What we think about, which thoughts we attend to, which ones we follow — all are determined by our intentions, and therefore by our choices of intentions.

Either simultaneously, or in rapid succession, part of our mind or our self both chooses intentions and experiences the effects of the intentions.  Here is the important question, then:  what determines our choice
of intentions?

One may plausibly suggest that at any given time, there are many possible
intentions (or sets or structures of intentions)  from which we may choose.  Why do we choose one intention one time — the intention to have carefree fun, for example — and another — such as the intention to be serious and responsible — a different time.

A distinct possibility is that there are exists a still higher or subtler set of intentions that operate so as to affect or determine the choice of the first level of intentions.

Indeed, I believe that if a person is suitably attentive and introspection, they may observe this.  Further, if there is a realm of second-order intentions, which determine our first-order or ordinary intentions, may there not be both choices among the second-order intentions — i.e., third-order intentions? We could extend the argument to suggest still additional realms of choices and intentions.

In fact, I suggest that something like this in fact is occurring all the time in the mind, psyche or self (whichever term we use; that we cannot even agree on such a term itself shows that there is much exploration of this realm that is needed.)

Higher Self

This model helps gives us a perspective on the nature of the self, and, in particular realms of the ‘Higher Self.’  This phrase is used so often that it seems unlikely that something like this doesn’t exist.  We all seem to agree that it does.  I have never heard anybody disagree with the term. But as to its precise nature we seem to know little.  (I have many notes on this subject, including a survey of the topic in classical philosophy which I am eager to collate and write when a suitable opportunity presents itself.)  Here I simply suggest here that these higher levels of intentions and choices pertain to operations, activities, and the nature of our Higher Self.
That is the first point.  The second is that, because, as stated above, by careful introspection, some of these intentions and choices may be observable, this potentially provides a means by which we may gradually discover or become re-united or re-identified with our higher self.

As always, words fail to describe the exact meaning here.  Much is implied in what I am saying that I shall have to try to spell out better elsewhere.  The basic idea it relates to is my view that our usual mental state is that of an ego which has ‘fallen’ from a higher state, and which is seeking to re-ascend to this former state.  The higher state is one, basically, where the ego and higher self are united, or the ego is identified with the higher self.  Intuitively, the phrase ‘self-realization’ seems to describe this condition.
Perhaps, in Jungian terms, we might suggest that the optimal or ideally functioning self contains both an ego and a higher self.  (Perhaps it contains other elements as well, but here we just consider these two.)  The self is in a much better position, a much greater state of harmony and regulation,
when the ego and higher-self are united.  Otherwise they work at cross-purposes.

This models seems completely plausible to me.  I also believe that there are many lines of evidence that support the view.  One line is an exigetical interpretation of the myths of many world religions.  That is, I suggest that embedded within the mythos of religions is a detailed explanation and ‘fallen ego’, and a soteriology aimed at raising the ego back to a state of
reunion or re-identification with the higher self.

This view by no means precludes traditional spiritual interpretations of religious mythos.  That is, it is entirely possible that religious mythos operates at both levels simultaneously — for the conventional idea of salvation of ones immortal soul, attainment of heaven, paradise, etc., and
also reunion of the ego and higher self.  If is further possible, perhaps even likely, that these two levels of salvation, the spiritual and the psychic, are integrally related.

[I would like to tie this in better with some aspects Husserl’s phenomenological philosophy, notably concerning his idea of the transcendental ego and his notion of intentionality.  There are certain similarities, but I believe in both cases Husserl’s thinking is somewhat different than what is suggested above.]

Written by John Uebersax

December 30, 2008 at 11:17 am