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"So You Thought You Knew Yourself" by Melissa Eror

A note - Blogging isn't free. Right now I provide gifts to my writers as a way of thanking people for writing. I would like to be able to afford to give them some sort of renumeration, even if it is small, for making this blog what it is. I'm in talks with a friend who may be able to help connect this blog, which has been in existence for one year now, with more religious communities dedicated to interfaith dialogue. Your donation will do a lot toward making that happen.


“Our hearts incline towards the longing to be someone, something, and then towards the longing not to be, not feel, not to experience” The Island by Ajan Pasanno/Ajan Amaro 2009 Abhayagiri Monastic Foundation

By experiencing these contrary feelings, our very self seems to be something inconsistent and ever changeable, contrary to all description of how the soul is considered to be as the consistent and unchangeable essence of the individual. By experiencing the world through our untrustworthy and inconsistent set of senses and our similarly inconsistent and untrustworthy emotions and feelings it is possible to see how some philosophers like Hume and Dennett claim that the self, that part of us we feel so intimately and so completely as ‘us’, is an illusion our of programming or memory retained out of organizational and navigational usefulness.

 However, others are just as certain that the soul/self exists, although there is no agreement as to whether or not the soul is mortal. But as intimately acquainted with the feeling of the self as we are, illusion or not, the self/soul is also mysterious and unknowable, not to be understood by the terms of this world. Our world is something we know, we recognize everything in our experience as belonging to our world simply because we can sense that those things are here in the world with us.

And we sense in those things the patterns that let us compare, contrast, learn and predict and thus survive; in those patterns we discern other beings, the seasons, chemical reactions and the flight of birds to name but a few and we recognize these patterns consciously or not as something that impresses the mark of this universe on all things found within.

 We would either stop in wonder or write it off as illusion if we were to witness a person being sawed in half and then brought back to wholeness and the same goes for a glass of milk being spilt and then unspilling itself. But even the immaterial things we sense like beauty and joy and even those things like justice that bear no direct relationship any of the patterns or feelings nature provides are recognized as belonging to this world/reality because they follow the larger pattern inherent in the universe as we know it.

 This one pattern that universally applies to all creation is the pattern of inconsistency and change that all things endlessly and without exception are subject to in this material realm; a place where all things are born (made manifest), stay for a time and then die (each molecule is released to evolve separately as part of and into other things). Our own senses and awareness are ceaselessly inconsistent and therefore marked as being part of this realm.

 We can learn about something and then forget what we have learned, we can feel pain and not feel that same pain when our mind is diverted, we can change our mind or feel less or more anger or love, etc. and we can understand things more or less clearly and in different ways at different times of day and times in our lives. Even our thoughts are not at our command, coming and going it seems, at times, almost by their own will; our thoughts and memory often change come in and out focus and disappear without volition.

But there is one thing in our material universe that does not fit this pattern that all other things in the universe commit to and that thing is the self/ soul. The actual sense of self is the same when we are half asleep, in a dream or fully awake and aware, the sense that ‘i am’ remains steady and constant. We cannot even be sure that this awareness of self does not exist when we are unconscious; after all, it is the ordinary awareness as part of the material world that acts inconsistently while the sense of self never wavers or varies to our knowledge. We experience this sense of self as an immanence of awareness of being within the thinking mind; a transcendent consciousness of being that unwaveringly infuses the thinking mind with this awareness. It is the thinking mind that takes this awareness of self and applies it to what its senses can know and which reveals itself as a physical/mental construct operating in the world and a being among other beings, all of whom are limited in space and time and subject to the laws of nature; all abiding by the patterns of this world.

But this transcendent awareness of being, this unwavering immanence does not think or remember on its own, it simply is but by the understanding it imparts to the thinking mind seems to allow for free will to enter the picture. And because our soul/self is like nothing else we have ever encountered in nature and in fact seems to go against the laws of nature we can’t be certain of where the self/soul comes from, whether it is mortal, or anything else about it past that which we sense inside ourselves already.

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About Radical Second Things

Michael Orion is a blogger, writer, artist and photographer based in the Bay Area. Besides his maintenance and promotion of Radical Second Things, he contributes to the San Francisco newspaper SF Western Edition, where he writes about local non-profit organizations.

Mark Cappetta is a practicing Catholic and active LGBT activist. He has been instrumental in keeping Radical Second Things and updates the Facebook account almost daily.

Eva Gnostiquette is an artist, programmer, "future scientist," bi-trans girl and graphic designer. She voluntarily helped to create the first print issue Radical Second Things and designed our beautiful banners. Thanks so much, Eva!

Jordan Denato is a professional artist based out of Iowa. He took the initiative to illustrate both Jennifer Reimer's story and Michael Orion's Oscar Romero work. He has his own art studio, Tar and Feather Studios, and is a critical part of Radical Second Things.

Radical Second Things is a liberation theology themed blog that has clear cut goals - we see the structural decline of the United States and much of the west and hope to present alternatives that will offer "a preferential option for the poor" as more become vulnerable.

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