What does it mean to truly know and understand yourself and other people?
Our approach to that question is affected by the culture in which we live. And we might look to the knowledge available in our culture for assistance in answering the question.
The study of human psychology is one place to look. Have you thought about your id recently? Or your ego or superego? These concepts, initially promoted by Sigmund Freud, were not helpful to me as a young man desperately seeking to find out who he was.
While I’ve found some of the insights in the literature on human psychology helpful, they haven’t answered the essential questions of my life.
Jungian psychology, and related philosophies, have explored the dark places of the soul to find a deeper truth. My observation is that often people are no more aware of who they are at the end of that kind of process than they were at the beginning, even though there is an intelligent way to relate to darkness in our life.
For the past fifteen years, I have studied the Enneagram. It is an intriguing system of personality types. It identifies psychological tendencies in people and divides them into nine major categories. It is fascinating to notice the predictable ways people behave based on these tendencies.
But at the end of the day, are any of us really a personality type? Does that tell us who we are? Or does it introduce us to the reality of another person at a soul level? Whatever insights the Enneagram brings, there is something distasteful about pegging other people—or yourself—as a personality type.
Whether it is the Enneagram, Freudian analysis, or any other study of human psychology, so much of what psychological experts present seems random—an intellectual structure imposed on the human experience rather than an enlightened understanding born out of the experience. But the randomness of much of what is presented in the study of human psychology is not the only problem.
Imagine this. As a person from an earlier era, you come across an old car sitting in the high grass of someone’s backyard. The car is so old that it does not run. It has broken down.
Imagine you have never seen a car before. You do not understand what they are for or what they do. As you inspect the vehicle, you wonder, Why is that wheel over the seat? What are those pedals for? Why does it have a mirror?
What might prevent you from knowing what you are looking at? For one thing, the car has broken down. It is not moving, so you might not even realize that the car was built for a purpose it cannot currently fulfill—to drive down the street.
The other major problem is that there is no driver! And if you didn’t know that the car was meant to have a driver, how could you understand what it was or what it was for?
Most attempts to understand human psychology are like that: they are driverless, as if there is a driverless vehicle, and we are supposed to figure out how it is made, what it is for, and how it works. The manufacturer designed the car to have a driver in the driver’s seat. That is how it is made. That is how we are made.
You and I are not designed to be driverless cars. And who is the driver? Religion might attempt to provide an answer. Some religious answers are more credible than others. But still, whatever the belief might be, what is the actual experience of the driver driving the car?
For us as human beings, the driver is the Self. We might distinguish it as Higher Self to make it clear that it is not just the human personality—it is not just a part of the car.
The experience of Self is the experience of who we are. And from the perspective of Self, we can see, know, love, and understand our human experience. We can see, know, love, and understand each other. We can drive our car and get to where we need to go.
When I think that we are as human beings meant to be co-creators, it makes sense what we are, and what we are here for. It seems we are meant to assist in the direction of the development of life on earth.
More creepy to me than driverless cars, are humanoid robots. CP3O, the robotic man from “Star Wars”, was cute somehow; we knew he was not human. Current technology in robotics fashions near-human-looking “bots” which are very life-like but remain uncannily vacant. Perhaps they should be installed in the driverless cars to at least give the impression of someone at the wheel.
More to the point, we are in a conversation as to the conscious presence of “the one who dwells” resident in our own capacities. Much in humanity is remarkably dysfunctional, operating without reference to the true patterns of universal design and control; we have become, as it were, driverless vehicles, as David says.
There is something in our make-up which inherently knows about the indwelling soul within a person. The well-documented scene of Christmas Day on the Front during the First World War, where German and Allied Troops swapped carols and traded liquor and chocolate across the “No-Man’s-Land”, was evidence of this. For an instant, there was an understanding of a commonality, a brotherhood. The miasma of hostility was suspended, and the killing ceased.
In 1922, whilst TS Eliot was publishing his epic poem, “The Hollow Men”, Margery Williams was writing her children’s story, “The Velveteen Rabbit”. The toy rabbit become real – a real rabbit – because it is loved so much. We are not rabbits, but our Creator has made us, in his own image, and loves us and has breathed life into us. We are not hollow or without intelligent function. We are a legitimate part of creation, and life is not random.
Becoming a conscious being means that we must consider the operating system of the vehicle we are in. Not only does it require good maintenance and a driver, but also the right fuel, the fuel being Love itself. An ingestion of junk or substitute material is not life-sustaining.
In all things, let us embrace Love in its wholeness, and as we are given this gift, let us radiate into our circumstance as never before. Grammy nominee, Jackie DeShannon, wrote this song in 1965, “What the World Needs Now”…. Is Love sweet Love… not just for some, but for everyone.” Let’s keep singing that song!
Well put, David! And I believe the soul or higher self within us is vastly complex and ever expanding in spiritual evolution. What or who could ever measure, describe or typecast that essence?
The human being, made in the image of God, is the most complex organism in our universe. It’s why so many are seeking God, because He/She is the perfect being that can tell us what we should be striving for, and how we can understand ourselves. Instead, many choose to study the damaged and abandoned “car in the field”, even becoming experts on broken-down “cars”, writing textbooks full of meaningless terms that only confuse.
Although nowadays we are experimenting with driverless cars, it is obvious that cars were originally designed to have a driver. I don’t know what the safety statistics are regarding driverless cars compared to cars with drivers.
I doubt that statistics could prove anything definitively in either case because there are too many factors to consider: is the driver under the influence of drugs or alcohol? Is he or she of sound mind and body? Likewise with the engineers, scientists and mechanics who design the vehicles in question?
Of course, safety is not the only issue. It is also vital that a car be capable of fulfilling the purpose for which it was designed.
It is just as obvious, to me at least, that the human body was also designed to have a driver. I suspect that many have fallen asleep at the wheel. Perhaps David’s words are a wake up call.
We might ask ourselves: are we fulfilling the purpose for which we were designed?
Cars are designed to travel the earth. Human capacities are capable of so much more.
The experience of Self is the experience of who we are. Such an important concept – thank you David for this analogy. Blessings