The Personality’s Place in Spiritual Practice (a review)

The websites Channel Higher Self and Satsang with the Self feature videos by a young spiritual teacher from Sedona, Arizona, called Lincoln. The videos are channelled teachings, and what Lincoln channels he refers to simply as Higher Self.

- Channel Higher Self -
- Channel Higher Self -

I haven’t even begun to go through all 199 videos. I was struck, however, by the title of this particular session: The Personality’s Place in Spiritual Practice. The synopsis poses a number of questions:

Many spiritual teachers teach their students ways to change the personality, claiming spiritual gain and enlightenment. Is this an effective method to lead the student to spiritual enlightenment?

Since the personality is the ego, and the ego is what is keeping us from experiencing our True Self / Spiritual Enlightenment, [t]hen, if a teacher is teaching the students to change the personality, is the teacher really enlightened? Or is the teacher still trapped by their own identification with their personality?

Why are there so many spiritual teachings that focus on the personality? Are these techniques effective tools for spiritual enlightenment?

The overall answer to all the above questions, as given in this three-part video, is “No.”

In the video, Lincoln/Higher Self declares that there is no need to focus on the personality during spiritual development. Instead, it is important to see beyond the personality from the beginning of one’s spiritual training, focusing instead on the pure consciousness within, the source of love, the essence of who you are. Working with the personality, he says, only empowers the ego illusion.

Much of the message repeatedly contrasts the reality of the true self (the source of love) with the illusion of the ego (the source of anxiety) and its expression in the world as a false self. It advocates letting go of all attachment to the personality and to thoughts in order to allow the direct experience and direct expression of the true self. Being fixated on how you are in the world and how you compare to others simply increases the sense of separation which leads to fear and the need to control. Comparing self with others, and especially judging oneself to be more enlightened than others, is all an expression of the ego, the artificial self-image, not of the self, the love within. The more time you spend focusing on your personality, the more you reinforce the illusion of separation and so empower the ego. The remedy is not to think new thoughts but to “allow the personality to dissolve into the heart,” to be purified by the love within.

On the face of it, this might sound like a contradiction of what this website is about. I advocate self-understanding at all levels as a way to freedom and fulfilment, and that includes understanding the personality and ego as well as experiencing the true self or essence. Lincoln/Higher Self seems to be saying that focusing on personality per se is self-defeating if you want to become more Self-realised.

I have several responses to this, which may not be very joined up, but here they are:

When any normal person tries to stop focusing on thoughts of self and focus on the feeling of love instead, they can do it for, what, 10 seconds at best? Certainly the moments of allowing love might get longer and longer the more they practice, and as that happens they could become less and less wrapped up in their thoughts. But, realistically, the remaining 99.9% of the time will still be spent with them focusing on the world and their perceived problems and the choices they face.

Most people on the planet simply do not have the means, the motive nor the opportunity to retreat into inner silence and dissolve their thoughts in love as a day-to-day, moment-by-moment practice. The thinking mind is here to stay.

What we can do, at least, is practice not getting wrapped up in it — we can make the monkey mind our servant rather than our master.

As the video says, when you directly experience the self, there is no personality or ego there. However, right after the experience passes the personality and ego return. They do not simply dissolve away for good. They were simply set to one side enough for you to allow the direct experience.

The follow-up to an enlightenment experience, however, is an excellent time to focus on your personality and decide what you might like to change about it.

People often fear that enlightenment means giving up their individuality. This is based on a misinterpretation of what it means to “give up the illusion of self” — you give up an illusion of self, yes, but you do not give up the self. There remains the reality of self which cannot be lost. Teaching people to ignore their personality risks, I think, causing this kind of confusion.

I’m not knocking the videos at all – there is some great stuff there. I just suspect that when Lincoln/Higher Self is talking about personality, he is referring specifically to false personality — the traits we adopt just to impress others or to get what we want out of the world. If that is the case, then the message makes a lot of sense. We should be careful, however, to distinguish between false personality, which is ego-based, and true personality, which is the distinctive character of the individual consciousness.

In my experience and understanding, individual differences in self-expression are not all based on illusion. We are not spiritual clones. There is something in my core energy that is fundamentally different from yours. We are like two beams of the same light but at different frequencies.

While we are all of the same essence, each of us is a unique instance of that essence.

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