The Debilitating Self  

  In this essay, we will explore the phenomenon (energy, entity) of the Debilitating Self. The author has been privileged to learn about this phenonemon through his study of the works of and communion (inspirational dialectical interchange) and interaction with carnate and discarnate Perennialist Teachers and his own personal past and ongoing struggle with his debilitating self. The author has had the very great privilege of experiencing encounters with several living Perennialist Teachers and interacting with them for brief, and one sustained, periods of time.

  In the Perennial Tradition the terrestrial domain is viewed, in one respect, as a training ground in learning how to die to the elements in us which keep us from ascending through rebirth to a Higher Consciousness. The negative tendencies and aspects of the ordinary personality are referred to as the "debilitating self." If allowed or tolerated, this phenomenon possesses the individual, doing everything it can to keep the person in an enfeebled condition. Seekers must develop a center of consciousness independent of their enervating ego with which to carry out the process of spiritual transformation.

    As long as persons are totally identified with their debilitating self they have no capability to build the understanding, desire, and power required for personal metamorphosis. Perennialist savants teach that persons must literally die to this false ego or debilitating self before they can even "hear" about or "see" a new way of being.

     The Perennialist teacher, Jesus, for example, taught:
"Believe me, a person cannot even see the Divine Empyreal Commonwealth without dying to this world and experiencing a new birth into the supersensible realm." 1
      Social programming--acculturation into whatever society one is born--inevitably produces a person who is almost totally possessed by his debilitating self. So he has very little awareness of who he is or what he might become. The person feels like the debilitating self is his true self--so comfortable and familiar it seems--that it's difficult to develop the sense of a separate center of consciousness: the Higher Self.

      As long as the individual identifies with his devitalized self, he remains in the worst possible state: what Plato calls ignorance of ignorance. The person not only doesn't know what he is and what the world is, but he's unaware that he is ignorant. Controlled by the decrepit self, he presumes that he fully knows himself and external reality.

      The worst feature of ignorance is self-satisfaction, Plato tells us in the Symposium:
"For herein is the evil of ignorance, that he who is neither good nor wise is nevertheless satisfied with himself: he has no desire for that of which he feels no want."

      Possessed by his enfeebled self, the individual presumes his ignorance is wisdom so he seeks no cure:
"The soul wallowing in the mire of every sort of ignorance and by reason of self-indulgence becomes the principal accomplice in her own captivity."

Plato, Phaedo

The Quintessential Intervention

      Lost in the quagmire of their own unrecognized ignorance, individuals cannot and will not seek the truth about themselves or their world. Left to its own devices, humankind would be in a hopeless state: an accomplice to its own benightedness. The state of ignorance--with its attendant suicidal blunders--would soon mean the end of the species.

Ignorance can only be overcome
by an outside force of Higher Wisdom.

     The clearest proof of Divine Guardianship over humankind is the presence of genuinely transformative teachings throughout human history. The continuing presence of this Transcendent Oversight is evidenced by the ingression of an updated re-interpretation of Divine Wisdom to each human generation by the Perennialist Teacher for that age.

The Debilitating Self Sustains Ignorance

      At every step of the way, the debilitating self attempts to sabotage the individual's struggle against ignorance and his attempt to realize his unity with his Higher Self.

Person The Debilitating Self's Obstructions Unity With the Divine
1. Keeping the person ignorant of his own ignorance
2. Encouraging the person to see his debilitating self as his true self
3. Nourishing the person's feeling of self-satisfaction, the sense that he's perfectly okay the way he is
4. Bolstering the person's presumptuousness:"I already know everything about myself and the world."
   "I am equal to anyone in terms of knowledge or capability."
   "I need not show deference to anyone."
5. Supporting the person's delusion that he already knows how to think for himself
6. Sustaining the person's desire for mindless ease and self-indulgent pleasure-seeking

      Not only does the debilitating self foster laziness and self-satisfaction, it encourages the individual to form all sorts of wrong ideas and beliefs that contribute to his ignorance and self-slavery. Most of these delusory concepts are deliberate perversions of true Perennialist teachings.

     For example, the Perennialist concept of the debilitating self is undercut by the fundamentalist Christian chimera of "the Devil" trying to keep a person in his power. That's a ridiculous distortion used by organized religions to keep their "penitents" in their power. But there is a negative psychic element and force which works to keep persons from achieving anything genuinely transformative or enlightening.

      This negative elemental energy makes it appear that personal difficulties reside entirely in one's external life circumstances: trouble with your job, your relationships, your health, your computer, world oppression, evil political forces, etc, when the real battle is going on inside the person.

      One of the most destructive delusions is sacerdotal Christianity's dogma of "salvation." According to this deceit, a person need only "believe" in a supernatural "savior" to have his "sins" forgiven by a vindictive deity. This scam encourages a person to presume that he need "do" nothing to achieve "righteousness," that everything has already been done for him by a savior's murder on a cross; a barbarous human sacrifice placating an angry, revengeful god.

      Completely contrary to this deception, the individual must be an active agent at every step of the way to realization of unity with his Higher Self. The only things that can be done for the person are the provision of genuine teachings, diagnoses, and ongoing transformative prescriptions (teachings and exercises) by a Perennialist teacher. The seeker's striving is the primary impetus.

"The lower self is a phenomenon which never rests save in falsehood--
it never seeks the Truth."

Abu Yazid Bistami, Perennialist teacher

The Essential First Step

      Before a person can even start on the ascent to unity with Higher Consciousness, he must have gained a feeling of divine dissatisfaction with himself and his world--a sense of his ignorance, self-satisfaction, lethargy, and need for betterment. Without some sense of need for improvement the individual has no incentive to search for information and procedures for self-correction and reformation. When a person experiences a sense of disappointment and disapprobation of himself, he begins to experience "death to self" which can place him on the path to rebirth into his Higher Self. If this occurs, he thereby becomes a seeker.

  Almost all persons, even those who read such essays as this, fondly embrace the debilitating self murderously convincing them that they are perfectly okay precisely as they are now. They see no need for transforming themselves from the self-satisfied, uninformed, dolts they presently are to imformed, comprehending, constantly-improving genuine human beings and seekers.

      Ignorance and self-indulgence inevitably lead to personal crises, which can provide the occasion for awakening and dying to his old self. This is a perilous circumstance for the debilitating self; its manipulation of the individual is in danger of exposure and defeat. So the enfeebling self first tries to delude the person into thinking that his crisis is not his fault--that the evil broker talked him into a subprime mortgage, the credit card companies made alluring offers that bewitched him into getting six credit cards and charging them to the max, and the 2016 election campaign made him believe that Trump was a "leader for the people," when it's clear from Trump's actions that he is nothing but a fascist dictator.

      If that ploy doesn't work and the person happens to remember that he didn't actually read the fine print on his subprime mortgage, that he really wasn't forced to go into debt by borrowing on his home equity, and that he willingly drank the TrumpMessiah kool aid, then the enervating self encourages the person to feel depressed and hopeless. As long as the individual is incapacitated he's under the control of the debilitating self.

     The enfeebling self may promote a counterfeit identification of oneself with a baleful psychic center, leading to a deleterious splitting of the psyche. The person then begins to hate himself, plunges into paroxysms of self-castigation, and ends in despair.

     Perennialist teachers provide teaching material, exercises, diagnoses, and prescriptions which nurture positive, divine discontent and honest awareness of oneself and one's world. True knowledge is attained through a spiritual guide prescribing enlightening experience for a seeker. The guide must thoroughly understand the learner's personality and provide the precise kinds of experience which will facilitate understanding and probity. Some of the material and exercises will involve an opportunity for the seeker to come face to face with his own ignorance and negativity.

     A Perennialist teacher knows how to lead the novice into a positive identification with a higher center of consciousness, encouraging self-discontent and a positive control over enervating desires and habits. The teacher provides exercises which allow a novice to experience--not just read or think about--the deadly nature of his debilitating self. These exercises bring the novice to full awareness that his enervating ego will keep him in the death-stupor of his ordinary state of somnolence unless he makes a decisive break from its murderous embrace.

      The novice must be provided specially designed exercises that will shake him awake for a period of time--allowing him to feel the horror of being literally possessed by an alien and deadly force. The manner in which a Perennialist Teacher works with a seeker to struggle against his debilitating self is lucidly illustrated in this teaching of Fenelon.

"Faults will turn to good, provided we use them to our own humiliation, without slackening in the effort to correct ourselves. Discouragement serves no possible purpose; it is simply the despair of wounded self-love. The real way of profiting by the humiliation of one's own faults is to face them in their true hideousness."
Fenelon, The Inner Life

      Once having begun to recognize his deadly faults and having set out on his search for self-transformation, the novice experiences the challenge of discovering, recognizing, valuing, and using transformative material.

The Life and Death Struggle Against the Debilitating Self

      As a seeker in the Perennial Tradition engages in the transformation of his being, the first stages of effort constitute a literal struggle for his soul. His debilitating self--the old, familiar, lazy, "take-it-easy, I'm-trying-as-hard-as-I-can," "let-me-alone, this-is-difficult" adversary or vampire--does its best to keep him as he is and has been. He must push himself--through supernormal effort--to break through this first gigantic barrier, dying to the old self completely.

     The novice's struggle against his debilitating self is so intense that at first the Perennialist teacher may appear to be "pushing" the person beyond what is within his capacity. What the teacher is really doing is working with the inner aspect of the seeker's being, literally "being present" with his Higher Self in struggling against the forces of debilitation, confusion, and destruction.

     The seeker must make what he will feel to be an impossible effort to master everything he's being given to do, so he can escape from the impeding, backward-drawing force and move ahead to the new dimension where he'll be able to make significant changes in himself and his life-situation and fulfill responsibilities effectively. The teacher assists him to see just how serious and momentous his present "work" is--and how much he needs to expend every effort he can with appropriate alacrity.

     At the beginning of the transformative process, the student must recognize that the ways he is used to doing things are not only not the best, but are evasive pretexts that will "kill" him if he persists in those stultifying patterns. At the beginning it's necessary for the person to continually step out of his ruts and approach things from a completely different angle and a heightened tempo. Once he does, he finds an extraordinary power: the ability to do more, more rapidly, with less effort.

The Debilitating Self Strikes Back

     When the debilitating self feels threatened, it tries to fasten a tighter death-grip on the personality, frightening the individual with bogus alarums of annihilation. What the false personality doesn't realize is that at this stage it really has no authentic being, so it couldn't possibly lose a reality it doesn't possess. The person doesn't realize that he totally lacks the capability of deciding anything. His state of non-being involves his fooling himself into believing that he makes decisions when in fact all that happens is that some habit, predilection, negative emotion, or unconscious tendency forces him into acting or thinking as these unknown forces determine. The only remedy for the aspirant's moribund state is to point out his condition to him--which he will likely not take kindly.

     One of the many noxious tricks the debilitating self contrives is to make the personality believe that it's making progress in self-transformation when it is in fact merely engaging in pretence and becoming more negative. It deludes the person into believing he is a "serious student" in Higher Knowledge, but the person's behavior proves that this is merely a fabrication. The person allows his debilitating self to distort, co-opt, twist, and misuse almost every facet of his encounter with Higher Knowledge to increase the debilitating self's hold on him. Instead of the material having its designed effect, the person allows his debilitating self to short-circuit his encounter with Wisdom.

     A powerful controlling mechanism the debilitating self uses in this regard is to get the personality to repeat seemingly positive incantations which actually protect the person from learning, transformation, or enlightenment of any kind. The novice is heard chanting with great pride the incantation: "I am eager to learn and change. I am eager to learn and change."

  The counterfeit student reads transformative material, but she doesn't take it seriously or appreciate or value it. Instead, she uses it to increase her bondage to her debilitating self.

  A Perennialist teacher is able to see through these and other self-deceptive tactics of the debilitating self and provide the "strong medicine" of transformative dialectical interchange, diagnoses, teachings, and exercises which can 2 awaken the novice from her deadly coma.

"The position to be reached is that of the Self which knows Itself as transcendent as well as immanent. Observe that in its fullest conceivable development this is only an extension of the attitude which we must take up even now, if we are to be anything more than automata. If we are to govern our lower nature at all we must take up a position or mental attitude in which we can say, 'I am more than that in and through which I act.' Any mental position from which we act as something higher than that upon or with which we act, is a more or less transcendental position."

William Kingsland, Scientific Ideal

Uniting with the Higher Self

     If the seeker is going to have a chance, he must develop a genuine relationship with his Higher Self. That requires that he use those brief glimpses he has of his debilitating self--of how hideous it is, of what a death-grip it has on him--to develop the beginning awareness of a stable self that is at that moment discerning his debilitating self. With this inchoate awareness of his Higher Self, he can begin work to keep as the focus of his consciousness the Higher Self that is able to genuinely discern and acknowledge his faults and begin work toward transformation and enlightenment.

     The seeker must also work assiduously to attain appreciation of the Perennialist Teaching and the Perennialist Teacher (carnate or discarnate). If he is fortunate enough to gain a relationship with a Perennialist Teacher, the Teacher then guides the novice to the next positive steps: understanding that he must earn discernment of Perennialist Wisdom, must gain self-control over negative emotions, must genuinely desire increased understanding, must build personal effectiveness and force, and must attain an awareness of his responsibility to others.

     Increasing contact with his Higher Consciousness is something the student must carry out continually. This is not something that happens to a person automatically as he works with his teacher; it's something he must work to gain increasing understanding of and realize progressively. The student is made aware that no aspect of a Perennialist program of personal transformation is a form of occultism that does something to the person as an external force impinging on his being. All transformative effects are realized by the student through his own effort. Very often, people come to a study program with fantasies of magical effects "happening" to them, Sunday School tales of some Great Teacher appearing, laying his hand on them, and their suddenly being transformed into Higher Beings through some kind of alchemical magic.

     The "curative effect" is not automatic, so it does no good to "wait" for it inactively. This is a metaphysical kind of "medicine" that requires that the person "attain apprehension and comprehension of" the curative effect for it to take place, becoming fully conscious of the catalyst that activates the entire process. The student must work assiduously to gain an understanding of how to discern the "curative effect."

     A person's noxious self wants him to think he's powerless or stupid; that he can't master or overcome enervating ideas or tendencies that he misinterprets as uncontrollable impulses. The Perennialist teacher will have dealt with--and continually deal with--debilitating elements possessing students, so he will be familiar with their nature and tactics. The teacher also understands the destructive self through his own efforts at self-examination and self-discipline. The concept of the debilitating self is totally different from the conformist Christian belief in exorcism of "evil spirits"--"casting out of demons." The Perennial Tradition views the noxious self as something the person is responsible for--not an alien, external entity over which he has no control.

     The student learns that there are no elements in one's psyche (personality and mind) that operate independently of his will or intellect. He can allow the enfeebling self to take primary control and make him think that it is beyond his power, that forces outside him are "directing" ideas and energies "at" him.

      But the student must learn to take responsibility for the negative aspects of his enervating self and gain increasing control through identifying with his Higher Self.

     The student learns to recognize the first hints of the debilitating self trying to take control of him. These are some of the characteristics the student learns to watch for:

    • You feel powerless, anxiety-ridden, mentally confused and impotent.

    • You begin to feel "weak" and "overpowered" as if by some external force.

    • You feel that you can't possibly ever gain or do anything real in life.

    • You dislike yourself and berate yourself for the least thing.

    • You feel superior to most other persons and indulge in senseless criticism and condemnation of them.

    • You feel you've been duped by Perennialist teachings and a Perennialist teacher to disrespect yourself by forcing you to believe in a chimera called the debilitating self.

    • You believe you've regained your real self and repossessed your intelligence to have found huge, previously unrecognized character flaws in your teacher, justifying your rejecting him or her and everything the teacher espouses.

    • You find comfort in allowing yourself to believe that you're hopelessly in the grip of your debilitating self.

    • You become an expert in finding excuses for every weakness you have or failure you allow.

  "The lower self is treacherous and hindering, and resistance to it is the best of actions."

Abu Sulayman Darani, Perennialist teacher

     While learning to identify the characteristics of the debilitating self, the student learns to recognize the signs of being in touch with the Higher Self:
  • You sense the beginning of positive control over your thoughts and actions

  • You recognize the "debilitating self" when it's operating and stop it immediately

  • You take charge of your overall being, identifying with the Higher Self (Soul) and disallowing the "debilitating self" from taking over

  • You gain an awareness of the ability to discern subtle elements in persons, objects, and events

  • You experience new, creative thoughts, ideas, and actions coming through you in a way that you can feel and use: inspiration and intuition

  • You experience instances of a positive sense of oneness with all persons in a timeless, spaceless moment of eternity: everyone and everytime being here with you

     The student learns to recognize when his Higher Self is more in charge of him than his debilitating self. For a while he can't be sure if his enfeebling self is merely fooling him and thinking "positive" thoughts to make him believe that he's making great strides. However, he learns to recognize the unmistakable elements of his Higher Self and the counterfeit elements of his destructive self. He gains the awareness that he doesn't stop the debilitating self by remonstrating with it, arguing with it, or condemning it. He learns to overcome it by filling his life-space with positive content that comes from his Higher Self.

"Go and seek yourself, and when you have found yourself keep watch over yourself, for this lower self clothes itself every day in three hundred and sixty diverse garments . . . and leads men astray."

Ibrahim Khawwas, Perennialist teacher

    A major part of the student's "work" in the beginning is gaining intellectual astuteness: acumen, penetration, sharpness, creativity, perception, discernment. Not only does this enable the student to overcome the elements that have kept him in an enervated mental state, but it becomes one of the major ways he is later able to contribute to others. This capability of discernment allows him to penetrate to the essence of transformative teaching material, allowing it to affect him in ways it is designed to do.

     The beginning student gains the increasing awareness that "things" and events don't create his feelings, he does. Instead of focusing on feelings and a sense of failure, he learns to sense what transformative elements (small though they may be at first--or may appear to him) he's already experienced and is continuing to experience: increased self-awareness, a new conception of honesty, a stabilizing of his persona (not jumping from one extreme to another as much as before), how he's able to move more quickly in dialectical interchange than before (the next step will be to learn to "let go" as he "pushes forward" [which may seem contradictory] so the "flow through" of higher ideas begins to occur), how his "work" is already contributing by "serving" as an example of how persons overcome important elements, and so on. It's best if the novice discovers as many of these elements as he can by himself.

Deadly Presumptuousness

      Given the current pandemic of egomania that has most persons in its death-grip, self-aggrandizement is one of the most difficult afflictions for people to overcome. An individual student will read Perennialist material which he recognizes is genuinely transformative and much beyond his own powers to conceive or produce. Yet in the next breath he will presume that he's somehow on an equal par with the Perennialist teacher who created the material, relating to him in a completely "familiar" manner. Or, going to the other equally ridiculous extreme, the person may pretend to be inferior, obsequiously fawning over the teacher in a caricature of a disciple venerating his guru.

      The brassy student will expect to be complimented for telling the teacher how brilliant the teacher is, assuming that the savant is as desirous of praise as the student is. If the teacher doesn't thank him for his fatuous adulation, the student will assume that the savant is egotistic and full of himself.

      The fact that the student falsely considers himself to be the teacher's equal in all regards, proves that the student hasn't comprehended the material or the teacher. The person subconsciously realizes that the material has produced a super-normal effect on him and that the teacher who designed and conveyed the transcendent material must be exceptional. But egomania [the debilitating self] grips the student so tightly that he can't credit that the teacher is any more than unusual or extraordinary--certainly not of a type above him.

Clear manifestations of the Egomaniacal Persona
[debilitating self] controlling most persons

      A person approaching a Perennialist teacher usually assumes that his current attitudes, behavior, and assumptions are unquestionably correct, so he proceeds to tell the teacher--in torturous detail--what he plans to do and how proud he is of what he's been doing. It doesn't occur to the self-obsessed individual that he has just come upon a treasure trove of information, teachings, and processes--of which he was previously totally unaware--which would provide the opportunity for understanding and transforming himself if he approached this person in the requisite manner.

      He's oblivious to the fact that he has effectively no genuine understanding of or skill in spiritual development--and that his fatal egomania is about to destroy any chance he might have for personal enlightenment. At the very least, an intelligent student would want to stop doing what he's doing--since there's a very great possibility that his current behavior is incorrect--and wait until he receives guidance as to what he ought to be doing.

      The asinine student often regales the teacher with his interpretations of what he presumes the teacher is doing and the "true meaning" of what the savant is teaching. He tries to prove to the teacher what a smart fellow he really is for having figured everything out and wrapping it all up in a few simplistic aphorisms. Presupposing that he truly understands what the teacher is saying and doing, the student assumes that this places him on a first name basis with the teacher and that he can initiate an equal-to-equal dialogue that will benefit the teacher no end.

      A Perennialist teacher does not herself "need" the respect or esteem of a seeker; it is the applicant, rather, who needs to feel respect for someone who is far superior to him in spiritual understanding and achievement. Unless the seeker can approach Perennialist teachings in the correct way, he has no chance whatsoever of proceeding on the Way.

      A first test of a person attempting to begin study with a Perennialist teacher is whether or not he can approach the teacher in a "middle" way: neither docility nor arrogance, but rational esteem. He will realize that he must follow the prescriptions of the Perennialist teacher if he is to advance, and greet any teaching, exercise, or assignment with gratitude and enthusiasm to follow through as best he can.

      All humans, including Perennialist teachers, must work throughout their lives to discover and extirpate negative elements in their personalities. Therefore, all individuals may be found to have some negative elements in their personalities at some point in their lives. The essential question is whether or not these persons work to discover those negative elements and then eradicate them from their personalities. We identify persons as possessed by their debilitating selves who not only evince negative elements in their personalities, but retain those negativities throughout their lives.

      Persons overpowered by their debilitating selves are those who relish discovering errors in other persons' judgments and actions that these persons made earlier in their lives, and assuming that the others have made no discovery of these negative elements and have not extirpated them from their personalities. We can identify a debased person as one who delights in seeing faults in others and relishes a sense of self-righteousness, assuming that the other person has never changed or improved--and assuming, quite erroneously, that they themselves are above such defects. The person who allows himself to be overcome by his debilitating self gains a false sense of superiority through exposing faults in others in an irrational and self-righteous manner.

The Higher Self

     As the student's identification with his Higher Consciousness increases, the debilitating self is felt as a kind of underlying element which is always ready to rear its ugly head--if allowed--but no longer in control of his life and being. The major focal point of his consciousness is now with the Higher Self and his activities are directed toward continuing self-transformation, the overcoming of oppressive forces in the world, and assisting others in their spiritual ascent.

"You have taken off your old self with its proclivities and have put on the new self, which is being regenerated through knowledge in the image of its Creator."

Paul's Letter to Colossian Initiates 3:9


1 John 3:3, author's translation from the koine Greek; the words of this passage are frequently mistranslated as "Kingdom of God."

2 The teachings, diagnoses, dialectical interchange sessions and other elements a Perennialist teacher uses with genuine seekers, can, but not necessarily will, bring about significant improvement in seekers. The seeker must possess a genuine, sustained desire for and dedication to self-improvement for these transformative elements to take effect. In the case of the woman referred to, she will have to, if she is ever to gain significant self-improvement, seek out and gain contact again with a genuine teaching and teacher.