Self-reflection

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Aquila
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Self-reflection

Post by Aquila »

Self-reflection is often mentioned but it's meaning is rarely explained. What is self-reflection? How do you self-reflect? Is there methods of self-reflection or is it more like a quality you can learn? How is self-reflection related to spiritualism and esotericism?
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Nefastos
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Re: Self-reflection

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I consider self-reflection being perhaps the most important part of our being both as occultists and human beings. It is the the most delicate, the most subtle part of manas and its connection to kâma manas: and this bridging point of the manases is also the point between the two kinds of being, spiritual and material.

It is often claimed that human beings differ from animals in their self-awareness. This is problematic, since actual self-awareness is not possible to measure with any scientific means. But be it as it may, us human beings who seemingly are self-aware more than animals often lack this crucial point of self-awareness: self-reflection.

To self-reflect is to put oneself in the very same mental world one projects all the time, as an objective (critically perceived) entity. An easy example, a guru preaching for love and telling how wonderful all-encompassing love is. In case such a guru does not truly self-reflect, his words will most likely sound even more fascinating to many, because he lacks doubt – being unable to even see the possible problem. But in case such a guru self-reflects, he will have a million problems going in his head concerning such love in his own life. It is useless to give truisms to others in case one does not really live up to those things oneself. Worse still: it is not only useless, but damaging, because it gives to people examples of hypocrisy, &c.

Naturally self-reflection also has its problematic points: Dostoevsky's cellar man said that it's definitely a disease – for he had gone to a very wrong, self-centered and petty direction with it. But still I would say that in our age it is perhaps the most important virtue of all. Without self-reflection, even one's attempts of ascension easily turn to evil and foolishness. One must be extremely careful to see oneself and the others in the completely same light in the world. Self-reflection is one's ability to (strive to) see oneself as objectively and neutrally as possible.

Many abilities of abstract intelligence are almost too highly valued in our modern culture. In the context of esotericism, such things as ability of logical deduction, mathematical reasoning, memory, and so on, are not as important as abilities that belong to the sphere of feeling and intuition (love). But this one is an exception. Self-reflection is the most important part of one's intellect, and should be practiced mercilessly all the time, with every process of thought. Yes, it slows us down, and yes, it often makes the life more miserable; and as said in the guru example, it even tends to wrest away a great part of our personal magnetism. Still all these sacrifices must be done without hesitation, for this is the crucial point of humanity.
Faust: "Lo contempla. / Ei muove in tortuosa spire / e s'avvicina lento alla nostra volta. / Oh! se non erro, / orme di foco imprime al suol!"
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Re: Self-reflection

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Nefastos wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 11:11 am
To self-reflect is to put oneself in the very same mental world one projects all the time, as an objective (critically perceived) entity.
Yes, this has been on my mind lately: the idea of bringing the subjective to the objective is in the center of self-reflection. There’s atleast two ways this happens:
1. Through retrospective reflection of past events occurring between the objective and subjective worlds.
2. Through active reflection of one’s actions in the very moment, which creates the bridge between the now and the future. This is the karmic focal point where we either take ascending steps or steps that will sent us to our doom.

If self-reflection is foremostly practiced in the 1st way, then we might ask ourselves how penetrating step we are taking to the objective world with our subjective center? At best, we are perhaps re-evaluating our relation to the objective in the past, but this process itself can still, and is a sort of doomed, to be saturated by the subjective. Religious sentiments can be of danger here, as this is the point where sworn allegiance to seemingly high spiritual powers will show their true colours: when we attach our identity to deities religilously or non-religiously, it is in this reflection of our already executed deeds where the inferior nature of these spirits are revealed. We start to cling to our identity and relationship with these deities to explain our behaviour, instead of re-evaluating the relationship and thus the center of our Self. If we would proceed in the latter, then we would be stepping in to the 2nd part where the Self is repositioned through the reflection and gained it’s royal center once again, where we gain back our ability to reflect the meaning of our actions before they are executed. Away from reactivity to the majesty of the sovereign Self. Sovereign, because the powers of the deities are not outside of us, but in their correct places, in service of the Self. I am reminded once again of my favourite Poe novel: MS. Found in a Bottle, where the protagonist finds himself from a ship riding an apocalyptic storm with the atmost precision and calm, as if working in perfect unison and observation of what the storm needs them to do. They don’t give any attention to the protagonist who is observing them as if he is an ant somewhere between the floor boards.

I would like to hear what kind of mythical sources people find fruitful under this topic and why.

Writing has been an excellent tool for me in the process of practicing self-reflection in to the immediacy of the moment because it forces to verbalize ones thoughts in to objectively understandable form, and this process tends to often reveal small problems that have been hiding in. It could be revealed from a turn of phrase nuanced in a certain problematic way or the overall cloudiness of thought through which I’ve had to traverse through with great effort. Then, when I’m recognizing this and reforming the writing in a way I think it would be better, I’m actively transforming those parts in myself through the magic of the art.
Nefastos wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 11:11 am An easy example, a guru preaching for love and telling how wonderful all-encompassing love is. In case such a guru does not truly self-reflect, his words will most likely sound even more fascinating to many, because he lacks doubt – being unable to even see the possible problem. But in case such a guru self-reflects, he will have a million problems going in his head concerning such love in his own life. It is useless to give truisms to others in case one does not really live up to those things oneself. Worse still: it is not only useless, but damaging, because it gives to people examples of hypocrisy, &c.
I often feel like my willingness to question what abstract ideals mean in practice is not taken well in our culture. Not sure if this is a reflection of our cultures unreadiness for self-reflection or my lack of self-reflection in the department of choosing my words wisely.
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Re: Self-reflection

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Thank you both for your extensive answers! To me self-reflection is among those traits that often seems to me merged within other ways of thinking and conscious mental processes but don't get thought about so much itself. Fra Nefastos mentioned the connection with manas/kâma manas which sounded very enlightening. Now thinking about that, it feels so obvious and still such thought has rarely crossed my mind.

This connection and couple of other parts in Nefastos' message made me think about a theoretical question of various levels of self-reflection which could be based on the connections of manas/kâma manas, buddhi/kâma and atma/subtle body. While the manas/kâma manas connection is somewhat neutral thinking on your own actions, thoughts etc, the buddhi/kâma connection could be about a compassionate self-reflection between feelings of others and yourself. Understanding how certain feelings affect situations, actions and thoughts, and not judging them either. Maybe this kind of self-reflection combined with compassion could be a key out of the "cellar man's" problemacy of self-centeredness etc. For long our western societies have emphasized certain unrealistic expectations of rationality which has neglected emotions as something of less value. Emotions only need a different answer which, I believe, lies in acceptance. This sort of self-reflection is the ability to step back from the circle of reacting to feelings with other feelings, or trying to control them with rationalizing, but instead taking a step back and accepting the feeling as it is. Of course making such a division between rational thinking and feelings, or manas and buddhi, or anything else is a bit artificial but maybe it serves a point here. Probably they all work together and in deeply connected ways which can't be separated in reality.

To be able to self-reflect, do you need ethical ideals? Can ideals also turn against self-reflection?

At least this seems somehow important as there has to be something that gives you the idea that there is something to improve. If we think our actions in the world already follow a perfect set of ethics, this might actually hinder our self-reflection. As everything is alive, also ethics are a process that unfolds in time. It's never only about trying to perfectly follow the chosen set of ethics. We will also be facing new ethics which might pose us new questions that we didn't expect to even exist earlier. In religious and other idealist thinking, which easily turns into stiff monuments of the past, these seems to be crucial things to consider.
Smaragd wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 1:23 pm I would like to hear what kind of mythical sources people find fruitful under this topic and why.
Maybe not exactly what you asked but I would bring out a connection very close to us, from SoA mythology:

Mars and the ideal of self-sacrifice - I think self-reflection is close to self-sacrifice. At least it is an essential part of actions that help us to be less egoistic and not following our emotional pride and self-image it has created. I don't have the English version of the Hymn to the Living Vine at hand but there is a part in it that could also be interpreted in this sense.
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Re: Self-reflection

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The other day an idea about introspection came to mind (or came to mind again).

Regarding levels of self-reflection, there’s something interesting I can easily spot in myself. I presume it’s something quite general in people.

Firstly, in some situations I can make very sharp notions about myself, my behaviour, my choices. And see patterns in why I think in a certain way etc.

Then, it’s a different question altogether whether I act upon this self-reflection or not.

I guess this is most obviously noticeable when there are some negative things that we see in ourselves. I know for sure that I can be pretty merciless when scrutinizing my own negative traits and wrongdoings, but still quite often this doesn’t mean that anything actually changes in my behaviour. It’s quite frustrating, but also quite fascinating. It’s like the work happens under a different aspect entirely, when this self-scrutiny leads to something actually happening, something changing. Âtma (and/or the subtle body) in action here? Âtma-Manas?
"Ja kun minun kirkkauteni kulkee ohitse, asetan minä sinut kallion rotkoon ja peitän sinut kädelläni, kunnes olen kulkenut ohi.
Kun minä sitten siirrän pois käteni, näet sinä minun selkäpuoleni; mutta minun kasvojani ei voi kenkään katsoa."
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Re: Self-reflection

Post by Smaragd »

Aquila wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 3:26 pm While the manas/kâma manas connection is somewhat neutral thinking on your own actions, thoughts etc, the buddhi/kâma connection could be about a compassionate self-reflection between feelings of others and yourself. Understanding how certain feelings affect situations, actions and thoughts, and not judging them either. Maybe this kind of self-reflection combined with compassion could be a key out of the "cellar man's" problemacy of self-centeredness etc.
It is funny how the self-centeredness is thus something that completely lacks that of which could be called ”Self-centeredness”.
Aquila wrote: Wed Sep 22, 2021 3:26 pmTo be able to self-reflect, do you need ethical ideals? Can ideals also turn against self-reflection?

At least this seems somehow important as there has to be something that gives you the idea that there is something to improve. If we think our actions in the world already follow a perfect set of ethics, this might actually hinder our self-reflection. As everything is alive, also ethics are a process that unfolds in time. It's never only about trying to perfectly follow the chosen set of ethics. We will also be facing new ethics which might pose us new questions that we didn't expect to even exist earlier. In religious and other idealist thinking, which easily turns into stiff monuments of the past, these seems to be crucial things to consider.
Yes, this is one possible outcome if one follows that which I tried to paint out by the idea of identifying with (especially) lower deities. Those deities can very well be a set of ethics turned to stone, i.e. morals, perhaps even strict aesthetics. Anything with form, although there’s ofcourse great benefits in such practice. For me, everything is a some sort of deity, so it would be good to use the process of identification with different deities, even the rather high ones, in quite a loose manner. For me this means that I can partly identify with some spark of truth I recognize within the attempts to exoterically draw them out, but sure as hell, I try to avoid identifying myself with those exoterical forms or what I think this or that deity is, because it feels like too much identification leaves this sort of a burn mark on the mirror through which also the self-reflection is done. And because of this burn mark, the greater deities behind – the God behind God –, or the very deity whose image has been burned on the mirror, will remain somewhat hidden further on. This is unless rectifying actions can be taken to fix it. To me it seems the adept would fly through the different celestial spheres as need be in any given moment, and this flight is impaired with too much identification. But the matter can be expressed also in seemingly opposed way: the adept is able to completely identify with all the celestial spheres in a flash of lightning, and lift those garments off oneself when the corresponding powers are not needed an emphasis of. I’m thinking here that identity and self-reflection, although being quite different concepts, can have surprisingly large effect on each other. For example, a narcissist has a rather blown out identity, which drastically affects their ability for self-reflection.
Nefastos wrote: Mon Sep 20, 2021 11:11 am Naturally self-reflection also has its problematic points: Dostoevsky's cellar man said that it's definitely a disease – for he had gone to a very wrong, self-centered and petty direction with it. But still I would say that in our age it is perhaps the most important virtue of all. Without self-reflection, even one's attempts of ascension easily turn to evil and foolishness. One must be extremely careful to see oneself and the others in the completely same light in the world. Self-reflection is one's ability to (strive to) see oneself as objectively and neutrally as possible.
I gather these ill ways of self-reflection tend to be quite far away from bringing the subjective and objective close to each other. That is perhaps part of the reason I felt such great need to emphasise the importance of closing the distance between the two, and the problem of doing only retrospective self-reflection. The latter remain more easily self-centered as the subjective bubble is easily left unpopped, dampening the air and allowing the virtue turn in to a disease.
Beshiira wrote: Thu Sep 23, 2021 8:59 pm I know for sure that I can be pretty merciless when scrutinizing my own negative traits and wrongdoings, but still quite often this doesn’t mean that anything actually changes in my behaviour. It’s quite frustrating, but also quite fascinating. It’s like the work happens under a different aspect entirely, when this self-scrutiny leads to something actually happening, something changing. Âtma (and/or the subtle body) in action here? Âtma-Manas?
It is indeed very difficult to change the course of the ship just like that, as it is naturally floating to the disaster by the weight and carelesness of our old habits. Thinking of the âtma-linga sharira line here, pure will seems hard to just muster in to reality, so it is much more easier if one goes through the whole chain systematically if needed: will-love-wisdom flows in to
->the sacrificial of the self – the sole point of view of the subject
->flows into the rational mind, which discerns the path towards the objective between the subjectives
->flows in to the linga sharira, where energetically we are thus making changes in to the subtle physique of our being. An ill habit, reminiscent of a muscle memory, may thus start to alter its course and we lift the weight of different weighting shells from our shoulder and gain in the process greater understanding of our being. Those shells, demons, whatever the name, reveal clearer essences that were hiding behind such knots. These are the veils that get stripped from our view as we further on in the mysteries.
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Re: Self-reflection

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This forum (and writing in general) has proven to be a fine tool for the subject for what I'v gathered it's indeed ok to talk about self and personal opinions and experience here. Usually when I talk with people I tend to try remain on solid facts and detach myself from the topic at hand as much as I can. It's a habit I adopted from I used to find it highly annoying and impolite when people talked much about themselves and I wanted to be better than them. Haven't really thought about that either before writing this.
Another method I use is asking "why me?" whenever suffering or lesser annoyance occurs or life seems unfair or I have to witness such but I suppose the method could be applied to joyful situations too.
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Re: Self-reflection

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Medeia wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 11:20 am Another method I use is asking "why me?" whenever suffering or lesser annoyance occurs or life seems unfair or I have to witness such but I suppose the method could be applied to joyful situations too.
This is actually quite effective in all its simplicity. The question positions the perspective from too near the situation to that of 3rd person where it is much more easy to judge the situation and gain insight towards how one can realign and what has been left un-noticed thus far. It is quite similar to how one dreams the dream and then makes an interpretation from the perspective of the awaken mind.
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Re: Self-reflection

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Smaragd wrote: Sun Sep 26, 2021 9:26 pm
Medeia wrote: Fri Sep 24, 2021 11:20 am Another method I use is asking "why me?" whenever suffering or lesser annoyance occurs or life seems unfair or I have to witness such but I suppose the method could be applied to joyful situations too.
This is actually quite effective in all its simplicity. The question positions the perspective from too near the situation to that of 3rd person where it is much more easy to judge the situation and gain insight towards how one can realign and what has been left un-noticed thus far. It is quite similar to how one dreams the dream and then makes an interpretation from the perspective of the awaken mind.
Haven't seen this quite that technically, this was nice addition to the process, thank you.
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