As I learned about the Enneagram on Monday, I found that in that system there is one piece of terminology that is shared with theosophy: that of the Higher Self.
The Higher Self is one of those hard to express things that get experienced, but are hard to put into words. When words are found it is easy for others to mistake the words for the reality. Compounding the problem is the sense that it is too easy to mistake aspects of the personality for the Higher Self. I’m going to give it a try in this post and hope you all will try and reach beyond the words.
First off: the psychological fact behind the higher self is that in the life of any reasonably spiritual person there is the awareness that we are more than just our job, just our emotions, just our thoughts. We are more than just our memories, our body – healthy or otherwise – our social position etc. Something in us is beyond rich or poor, single or maried, intelligent or stupid, colored or caucasian, educated or not. This something is perhaps the very foundation of our humanity. It is certainly something the spiritual traditions agree that all people have in common.
Except that the consciousness of that something is not held in common with all people.
In my understanding this awareness is the basis of the highest morality. It is also the basis of our democratic values. It’s the reason why in the Theosophical Society (Adyar) the first and most important object is:
To form a nucleus of the Universal Brotherhood of Humanity, without distinction of race, creed, sex, caste or color.
But that is merely the ideal which follows from the psychological fact.
There is more to it. The Higher Self is also called in theosophy ‘the still small voice‘. It’s a voice easily drowned out by the personality. Which is why it is still small in most of us. It sometimes gets expressed in that knowledge that psychology insists is usually the adding up of unconscious clues. Sometimes we just know. And sometimes there seems no reason why we might – yet we know. A whole arena of psychic experience falls under this heading – and in theosophy it is NOT concluded that all psychic experience is an expression of the higher self. It is viewed, in most cases, as just an extra sense. And although having a ‘fifth’ sense makes one more informed – it doesn’t make one necessarily wiser.
Contact with the Higher Self though is both an expression of wisdom and the result of it.
Each must discover his own way in life,
and that way lies in his heart.
Let him delve deeply into the depths of his being;
his true centre is not far from there.
N. Sri Ram, Thoughts for Aspirants, self-realization
The great thing about the Enneagram seems to be that it helps one in finding a practical way towards listening to that still small voice.
Metaphysically the Higher Self is, in theosophy, equated with the Atma of Advaita Vedanta. And Atma is at the root one with Brahman. Brahman is both the divine and all of creation. In other words: the Higher Self is the basis of our connection with the universe. The ‘stil small voice‘ is the expression of our sense of connection to the whole of humanity – which is one reason why it is sometimes equated with our conscience.
There is one problem though with our conscience: it can also easily be the result of our conditionings, setting standards which just don’t work anymore. I’m not saying the Higher Self is beyond morality – but it is closer to ethics than morality. Morality is sometimes quite mundane. It is also concerned with how things are phrased instead of the content of the words. Morality is culture specific, where the Higher Self is beyond the distinctions of culture.