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EBUP41: Getting To Know Yourself

Eric Butterworth Unity Podcast #41

Eric Butterworth Sunday Services — Getting To Know Yourself

You may recall that inscribed over the entrance to the ancient Temple of Delphi was the phrase, “Man, Know Thyself.” Any religion that prates of God out there, of a devil on the prowl down here and of heaven or hell in the great tomorrow is patently lacking in the means to live abundantly today. What we need are the keys to the kingdom within.


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“When the times that bind the mind are broken and one is introduced to his real self that has no limitations, the bells of heaven ring with joy.” These words oft quoted indicate our purpose here on Sunday mornings; to help you to break the ties that bind the mind. One of the most common tendencies in systematic philosophy or theology or even in metaphysics, is the creation of intellectually satisfying cosmology. And normally, the self is on the outside looking in. So we’re not looking for a new insight into man in the abstract but rather a new awareness of the person we are.

You may recall that inscribed over the entrance to the ancient Temple of Delphi was the phrase, “Man, Know Thyself.” Any religion that prates of God out there, of a devil on the prowl down here and of heaven or hell in the great tomorrow is patently lacking in the means to live abundantly today. What we need are the keys to the kingdom within. In his excellent work, The Perennial Philosophy, Aldous Huxley says, “It is because we do not know who we are, because we are unaware that the kingdom of heaven is within us, that we behave in the silly, often insane, sometimes criminal ways that are so characteristically human. We are saved, we are liberated and enlightened by perceiving the heretofore unperceived good that is already within us. By returning to our eternal ground, remaining where without knowing it, we have always been.” Words of Aldous Huxley.

Everyone is searching for self-awareness. We’re all trying to find who we are and know ourself. Not knowing who we really are, we tend to become actors, playing many roles, wearing a variety of what we might calls masks, smiling masks, smug masks, urbane masks, macho masks, wise-appearing masks, all in the frantic attempt to convince ourselves and others, that the masquerade is real. Students think that the word, “personality” is based on the Latin word, “persona,” which is the word for mask. So we live much of the time in consciousness at the perimeter of ourselves. We tend to lose sight of the self that sometimes cowers behind the mask of personality of an even deeper self, in the spiritual center around which all things result.

So we’re forever trying to understand ourselves and others in terms of worldly relationships and creature comforts and ignorant of the more that is within us, the high dimension of our spiritual life. We constantly identify ourselves with and as that which is limited. The main difference between man and the animal world is that becoming a person is not a static thing like a cub becoming a bear or a duckling becoming a duck. With us, it is a continuing quest, an unfoldment, calling for practice and sacrifice and discipline. It means, in Nietzsche’s words, surmounting ourselves.

But man is a civilized creature. And civilization has often come to mean the responsibility of putting on a façade, wearing a mask, under the guise of being normal or good or socially acceptable. The child in a religious family is very early taught that he must be good or he’ll be spanked. So he puts on the mask of goodness and kindness, even Sunday go-to-meeting piety. Early along, he discovers that it is the ultimate badge of conventional respectability to be seen going to Sunday services. But in the process, he achieves a personality and we might say several sub-personalities that mask his true individuality. So he may not be consciously aware that he does this. Like Willy Loman in Arthur Miller’s, Death of a Salesman, he’s so concerned with being well liked that he never discovers who he is or how to be himself.

In time, the person may identify with his masks as being what is. Like Popeye, “I am what I am, that’s all I am.” But it’s not all he is. Behind the façade of blustery person is the transcendent itself, with the capacity to grow to be more, to do more. So he may try to cover the person he thinks he is, which he becomes convinced is not good enough and he becomes fair game for Madison Avenue image makers, who lure him into buying the apparel or the baubles or the cars to give him the look of success, the appearance of Euphemus, the charisma of macho suavity.

In times, many persons become confused about themselves, who they really are. For instance, one may have a time of moodiness or emotional upset. You may say, “Oh, don’t mind me. This is one of my days to feel sorry for myself.” At least this person seems to realize that it is a mask being donned for the day. But who is this self? And who are you when you are not yourself? Here’s another common example: Consider two women. One is the classic good housekeeper. She’s a slave to her home, following everybody around with a duster and a cleaning cloth. It’s a miserable experience to live in such a house. This woman has a secret fear that someone will discover something out of order in her home.

The other woman is a relaxed homemaker. Her house has that “lived-in” look. She, too, has a fear that someone will catch it in disarray. The fear is not strong enough to make her orderly, just enough to cause her to feel guilty. She’s the one who says, “I wouldn’t want someone to think my house always looks the way it always looks.” I know this problem, for the desk in my study always looks the way it always looks. Still, somehow I always feel I must apologize for it. But it’s my desk. Where it is written that a desk must appear neat? I get along admirably with a filing system. It consists of knowing under what pile to find something needed.

But I work with this system creatively and I suppose I’d be uncomfortable without it. It had been conditioned by a culture, tends to feel that the image of a neat desk with a pencil and paper carefully placed in the center, ready to capture the wisdom of the gods is the way one should function. What I’m saying is that we play many roles in life. We wear many masks. We become what Emerson calls “bandages over our eyes,” to prevent us from being, from rightly identifying ourselves and effectively relating to others. Robert Burns once mused over the possibility that God might grant us the gift of seeing ourselves as others see us.

If you know that if you could really see yourself walking down the street, you probably would not recognize yourself. You ever thought about that? Partly because due to a sense of inadequacy, we never really look at ourselves in the mirror and see the whole person. We consult the mirror simply to help us put on our masks, to apply our makeup or straighten our tie, fix our hair. Because we carry pictures in our mind of one who is too fat, too skinny, too shy, et cetera, et cetera. Some persons go through all their lives, never get a sense of the whole person. Their self-image is forever formed out of their positive or negative reaction to people or conditions.

They wear certain masks that remain the same at 50 or 60, as they were at 15. Much of this comes from family conditioning when a mother or big brother repetitiously imprinted on the child a self-sense of plainness or awkwardness, unfortunately sometimes, a born loser. You see, we say of a person, he’s a moody person. This is not accurate, really. More correctly, he’s a person who sometimes has moods. This is not a play on words; this is a very important identification.

Because you are not your emotions. I am not moody. I am not fear. I’m not unhappy. I have emotions and the self that has the emotions can control them. So I can say, “No,” to unruly emotions. In the same sense, looking at my desk, it is not correct to say that I’m disorderly. I’m a person with the habit of giving priority to ideas generated rather than to the condition of my study. It’s a healthy rationalization, but it’s ...

It’s extremely important to become aware of one’s self, at a level beneath the masks, what we might call, “subpersonalities.” And to realize and to identify with them as the central eye, the permanent core of reality within, which is the true self. Suddenly, we can say to ourselves, “I don’t have to be like this, really. I can choose not to be that way. There’s always a choice.” This is one of the single most important realizations of the quest for self-awareness. You always have a choice. You may think you’re a strong person, but even that could be a kind of mask, such as I am weak. Other words, you may be acting strong because someone conditioned you to feel that boys don’t cry or, “Buck up, dear, be strong because it’s the Christian way to act.”

When you make the discovery of your transcendent self, you know that you’re neither strong nor weak; you simply are and you can choose. Then if you choose to be so, you can be strong because you want to deal with things in this way. But not as a cover or a pose or a role that you may be playing. One may feel that he’s put down and put upon by people. Many folks have this sense of paranoia, feeling that one is forever the victim in life, so you identify yourself in this way. You may wear the victim mask. Pretty soon, you look and act like a victim. Of course, you’re victimized; people treat you in this way. But you don’t have to be like this. There’s always that of you that is transcendent to it.

Instead of saying, “I’m a victim,” you could say, “I have a victim. I’m my own victim.” Like the actor saying, “I have a role.” When you begin to see this, you’re on the threshold of getting free from the victim consciousness. You realize that if you decide to do so, you can just as easily play the master. You have a choice. When we lack the mooring of conviction of our true self, we tend to drift with the tide, moving from mood to mood, from one kind of self-identification to another. And these moods and character traits inhabit patterns and complexes, tend to group themselves together in little communities of mutual activity. We could call them “subpersonalities.”

They sometimes tend to develop a will of their own. Without an awareness of who we are, we just drift from one complex or mood to another. Here’s an illustration that we often use in our retreats. I call it “the doorbell syndrome.” Imagine for a minute how you might act or react. There’s a ring of the doorbell in your home or apartment. You open the door, it is first a neighbor wanting to borrow a wrench. Second, a salesman selling books. Third, a suspicious character wanting to use your telephone. Now, can you see how you might deal with each one in an entirely different way, each within the framework of a particular set of values and emotions, even a particular kind of language.

This can lead to an understanding of the behavior of others, as well as your own. Someone may express himself rudely in a very unfriendly manner. You might say of him, “He’s obnoxious.” And at a later time and in a different social setting, you may observe the same person, acting in an extremely friendly and kind manner. You may consider this in two different attitudes: First of all, my, he certainly has changed, or he’s insincere. But it’s the doorbell syndrome again. He’s simply dealing with different situations on different levels of consciousness, governed by different subpersonalities, much in the same sense as most of us do much of the time.

You see, because we don’t have a strong awareness of who we are, we act out a series of sometimes completely irrational roles, even with many regrets and wishes that we could change. For instance, in a love relationship, the green-eyed monster may rear his ugly head. Soon, you’re consumed with jealousy. You may say, “I don’t like myself in this way. I wish I could change, but I’m just a jealous person.” But you’re wrong. You’re not a jealous person. You’re a person experiencing feelings of jealousy. You see what we’re getting at here? Keep the sense of identity as a person. You’re not your feelings. You have feelings. So you discover that you don’t have to be jealous when you realize your transcendent self. You can experience understanding, faith and love, if you choose to do so.

So when the jealous feelings arise within you, you can say, “No, I’m not a jealous person. I’m a person with feelings but I have feeling. I’m not my feelings and I can control my feelings.” You may be in an intense situation with a clerk in a store or a repairman in a shop. You may say, “I’m angry.” So you wear the angry mask and sometimes it stays with you through the rest of the day. People wonder what’s the matter with you. If asked, we’d be happy to tell them it’s because that fellow did that thing back there in the store, treated me in that way. I’m angry. But you see, you can disidentify from the experience and the angry emotion. You can remember that there is that of you that is transcendent to his. You can choose to deal with the person in an entirely different way, which incidentally, will get entirely different results.

You can realize, “I’m not angry. I simply have angry feelings at this moment, but now I choose to be patient and understanding.” You can actually be an observer of the confrontation. So you can see the problem. You can see the motivations of the other person and you can see your own reactions. So then you can make a decision that you will not permit this person or any person to determine how you’re going to think or feel or act, then you’ll be able to rationally determine the best way to cope with the situation. Again, you’re a whole person and you can never be limited to or by the masks that you wear. Just to realize that you’re wearing a mask is to be on the threshold of self-mastery.

Because if you’re wearing a mask, the you that wears it can choose not to wear it or at least, to wear a different one. A doctor in the holistic field asked a patient to outline how he feels. After the usual ordinary recital of aches and pains, doled in a whiny, self-pitying tone, he then says, “Okay, you’ve told me how your body feels, but now, how do you feel?” To some, this is shocking, even insulting. Simply because society has conditioned us to believe that sickness is contracted purely from the outside; that we can only be healed by outside therapies or pills. So we want to be helped but we don’t want to help ourselves. We want to pay someone for something we already have lying pent up within ourselves.

We want to be coddled, pampered, loved, anything to escape from turning within to release life’s greatest resource. Matthew Arnold says, “We would have inward peace, but we will not look within.” You see, what the holistic doctor was getting at, is that an ailment is basically a disease in the body; a dis-ease. But you’re not your body. You have a body. It is a vital and wonderful instrument of self-livingness. You certainly need to keep it in good health, but it is yours to maintain. It is possible, actually it was intended that you stand at the point of one that is in control of your mind, your body and your emotions.

When you achieve self-awareness and the degree to which you do, you experience that which makes for wholeness. It’s not a matter of trying to achieve perfection, only to realize your personhood. Then you can choose. You can choose to be strong or weak, happy or sad, loving or angry. But you’ll always know that it’s your choice, not “he made me angry, or this situation made me upset. Or this person causes me to be jealous.” You chose that emotion. But when you know that it’s your choice, then you stand astride the experiences of life like a giant colossus. You may be in pain. You may be suffering with some physical problem. Someone may ask you, “How do you feel?” You may respond, “My body is hurting, but I choose to know that I am in the flow of healing life. I choose to take charge of my mind.”

There’s another aspect of this goal of getting to know yourself. Who are you? Are you the person that you represent to the world? Are you the one your friends, neighbors and strangers see when they look at you? Are you the person you would like to be, perhaps? The great writer, Joseph Conrad said, “Man’s real life is that accorded him in the thoughts of other persons by reason of respect or natural love.” If that’s true, then you are what your companions hold you to be, the person you represent to the outer world. It could be said that one’s personality is not so much what he truly feels about himself, as the feelings about himself that he induces in others.

This may be what Oscar Wilde had in mind when he wrote in his Picture of Dorian Gray. “One has a right to judge a person by the effect that he has on his friends.” So you’re the person whom your friends and associates know. But still, do you know who you are? A great principle taught by the Bible is as a man thinketh in his heart, so is he. The great truth is, you are what you can be. You are what you can be. It’s so simple. It’s invariably overlooked. There’s a whole new unit that exists within the partial creature that you’re expressing. The oak tree is inherent in the acorn. The eagle lies within the egg and the Christ of your being is always within you, is your power to grow, to overcome, to excel.

So getting to know yourself is knowing and believing in the cosmic self of you, which is the pattern of what you’re designed to become. In a very real sense, you’ve been seeing ourselves not as children of God, but as sons and daughters of misfortune. As the Irish playwright, Yates, says, “We have believed that the root of reality is not in the center, but somewhere in the whirling circumference.” So the need is to identify with the reality of ourselves, which is God. We say, “I’m sick. I’m poor. I’m confused. I’m angry. I’m jealous. I’m fearful.” But, I am is God. And God cannot be any of these things. But as I say them and identify with myself in this way, I bind them to me with God power. That’s the strange thing about this power of mind.

The truth is, if you would take time to know the truth, I am the life of God in expression. I am strong and vital. I am the substance of God in action. I’m in the flow of abundance. The clear, unclouded mind of the Infinite rules my mind and I think clearly and calmly. But I have to take time to know that, to identify with myself at the highest possible level; let go of the lesser. This reflects the purpose and the process of affirmation. As many of you know, in the study of truth, we try to get away from the old idea of praying to God about things, asking God, begging God, pleading with God to do this, that or the other. But we affirm the truth. Not to change anything or suggest things to human consciousness, but rather as a means of removing the mask of false identification and decreeing the reality of ourselves.

The practice of truth is not ignoring the facts of human experience but is seeing these from the highest possible level. And the great fact of you, if you take time to know it, is that you are innately the Christ, the Son of the Living God. Again, this is what we are about on these Sunday experiences, getting to know ourselves. We want to identify ourselves with the whole person that we are and always have been, so that we can consciously and confidently stand aloof from ourselves, from the body and emotions and the moods and subpersonalities that hold us in their sway. The goal is to know yourself, to respect yourself, to love yourself, to have confidence in the divine creative flow within yourself, so that as Montaigne says, “You may put your ear close by yourself. Hold your breath and listen.”

We talk a lot about oneness as the goal of our study on truth. The realization of oneness, wholeness, and am a completely perfect and perfectible expression of the Infinite. That I am one; one with mind, one with God, one with life, one with the allness of the Infinite. So the important thing is to know, I am one. I am one. Beyond the limitations that I see in the mirror of the human, beyond the self-identifications that I’ve developed over a period of my life and the habit patterns of the subconscious mind, beyond all of this, I’m one. I’m whole. I’m one. Taking liberty with the proper words and usages, I form the word, “one-derful.” One-derful. You can say this without a person realizing you’re egotistical. I’m wonderful. I’m one.

In a divine sense, the wholeness of me is one; one with life, one with God, one with the Infinite. I am wonderful. I’d like you to join with me in saying that for a moment now. I am wonderful.

I am wonderful.

Again, I am wonderful.

I am wonderful.

This means that you disidentify from all the “two-derfuls,” if you will; all the dualities, all the limitations, all the consciousness of weakness, sadness, jealousies. All the things that recognize the duality of life. But I’m wonderful. I’m wonderful. Say it again, I am wonderful.

I am wonderful.

Again, I am wonderful.

I am wonderful.

Now, let’s get still and think about this for a moment in the quiet. What we’re really trying to do is to know who we really are. Unconsciously, in the human sense, we analyze our life in trying to know what we are. We think in terms of the subpersonalities, the habit patterns, the complexes, the moods, the “I am fearfuls,” the “I am jealous,” the “I am worrieds.” So we let all this go, identify with the wholeness of us, the wonderfulness of us. I am one. I am whole. So, for a moment, think of yourself as getting off the stage, out of the roles that you’ve been acting, disidentify from all of this. Identify yourself as a spiritual being that was just always behind the mask, in the deep center lie within you, the person you really are in truth.

Look into the mirror of truth of spiritual awareness, as you see yourself as you can be, as in your heart of hearts you desire to be and whisper, “I am one. I am one. I am whole. I am complete. I am wonderful.” May this consciousness of your true identity remain with you in the days to come. And may you join with us in spirit, if not in person, at our Allentown retreat, constantly and consistently and progressively feeling this awareness of oneness; getting to know yourself, really. And you shall know the truth and the truth shall make you free. So be it.