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From Absolute Self (atma) to Non-Self

Consciousness begins as Absolute Consciousness, pure "I" or infinite Subject, which is the essential nature of the Absolute Reality.  All manifestation then is a movement from that Infinite consciousness or Self to Its own Objects of Consciousness or Non-Self.  Originally the individualisation is a valid part of the Absolute itself, and Self and Non-self coexist as equal aspects of the Supreme. But with the appearace of multiplicity this unity is lost and Self and Non-Self become a dualistic dichotomy, described in Samkhya as purusha and prakriti. Note that non-seplf can include mind as well as body, so this is not the western duality of spirit and matter.

Atmaology - Levels of Selfhood

Levels of Selfhood or the self-not-self axis constitutes a distinct ontological parameter, defined by subjectivity and the activity of consciousness. It is a central theme in Eastern Philosophy and Phenomenology. Consciousness is here distinguished from Mind and Psyche. Because of a lack of precision in understanding the various aspects and ontological axii, the self-not-self axis is very often usually confused or combined with either or both the "horizontal" inner-outer psychological series (psychology), or the physical-spiritual "vertical" series (occultism and theosophy). This confusion arises because the conventional current western religious and philosophical position involves a choice between Materialism (including variants such as Judeo-Christian resurrectionism - as they are unable to conceive of a soul apart from the body) and some sort of Cartesian, spiritualist, or natural-supernatural religious dualism. But these materialistic, holistic, or dualistic interpretations ignore all the manifold aspects and dimensions that human consciousness includes.

The much more sophisticated understanding of ancient India is based not on the dichotomy of soul/mind/spoirit and body/matter, but of Pure Consciousness or Witness and the Objects of Consciousness. This latter includes both mind and matter; in other words, thoughts are just as much non-self as the physical body. This simple yet profound observation can be confirmed or proved by any decent meditation practice. Thoughts are distinctly experienced as something different from the core-awareness, the "I" or "knower" or "witness" or Self (or "non-Self" - i.e., non-Ego - if you are a Buddhist, for the experience also proves to you that there is no persisting ego or outer personality self).

The study of consciousness is also considered in Husserlian phenomenology, where the static cartesian subject-object is replaced by the more dynamic polarity of noesis-noemata. However this only refers to the Mental or Noetic aspect of the Self-Not-self axis. In the following ontology, both eastern and phenomenological perspectives are integrated.

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text content and original diagrams by M.Alan Kazlev
relocated from original Integral Paradigm / Metaphysics page; this page uploaded 4 September 2005
some material originally uploaded 15 July 1998 as Consciousness page