Spiritual Seeking? The Fundamental Flaw…

No False Identities

It’s an odd notion that any identity would be false while another is real, and yet this is often the backbone of modern spiritual teachings and personal growth approaches.

It’s a seductive idea that appeals to the mind’s comparative and dualistic sense of reality.

As with everything, there is a context where the concept of false selves serves a purpose or seems useful, but as far as genuine spiritual investigation is concerned, it’s a misguided and confusing idea.

A Term

The “real” self is a term which refers to some named or implied state or perspective. Perhaps it’s called ‘higher’, ‘freer’, even ‘the Soul’ or some derivative. In any case all are identities on some level and so subject the the life cycle of experience i.e. it comes, it is experienced, it passes.

All experience is the illusion, and so in terms of real and false, they are equally false. So there are no false identities, only passing ones.

The problem is the use of the term Self and Real together. For in what is real, there is no self.

Genuine Spiritual Investigation

Seeking some notional ‘real’ self necessarily causes you to make some other ‘self’  invalid or wrong. The irony is that this is the  fundamental seed of all suffering. The judgement perpetuates the karmic cycle and is ultimately a distraction from genuine spiritual investigation. So, I invite you to drop the judgement and simply notice what is.

Imagine the currently experienced self as a cloud and experience it as it is. Sometimes you’ll notice clear skies, sometimes the cloud(s) will be high and barely have much impact on you. Sometimes the clouds are so low that it can seem like you’re in a never ending fog.

None-the-less, as you become present to each experience, you’ll begin to notice that, whatever the weather, it passes. And the still quiet presence that is the noticer really has nothing to do with its progress.

When this distinction is truly clear; then genuine spiritual investigation can begin.

Joel Young

Please share, if you feel this perspective could enrich your freinds lives :0)


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  1. Dear Joel,

    again a beautiful perspective/blog/however we may call it, something that permeates the way I (as a psychologist) work/interact/am with the people in my practice. And in my own life, practising what I ‘preach’. The idea/effect of temporary talking about/working with selves/parts/aspects is indeed that clarity can grow, making choices grows, not judging as a way to be can be experimented with etc. etc. Just now with a client we are both (client and I) so thrilled, grateful and truly happy with this genuine encounter and all that comes up to play with. What a wonderful job/life I have!

    Warm regards, Marie-José

  2. Hi Joel
    I really needed to read this today.I have been mistaking the weather for the sky.
    Ann Marie

  3. Thanks for your comment Marie-José.
    I love that you point to the gift of clarity that judgement free awareness of our many ‘selves’ can bring – it also affords us flexibility, adaptability, the ability to grow and shift all of which lead to beauty, compassion and delight in so many forms… no wonder you and your client are steeped in gratitude and I feel that too so often. So thanks for sharing your perspective in this blessed blessing of a life!

  4. Anne Marie – your comment warms the cockles of my heart! I’m so delighted to be the vehicle through which ‘just the thing you needed’ could be delivered by The Universe!
    Enjoy the warmth of the sunshine and the breathtaking variety offered by the contrast of clouds. Let the rain quench your thirst and rejuninate your cells, let thunder & lightning energise your Soul and let the wind, who’s presence is only visible by it’s consequences, remind you of unseen Graces, more powerful than yourself…

  5. This one has really got me! Firstly right at the beginning the opening sentence brought love and compassion to all experiences of my self rather than judging certain ones as wrong. IT felt like validating bits of me that had felt I don’t know, ‘less spiritual’ or stupid or badly behaved or something. Then when you get to talking about the notice I read your words and experienced something like a very gentle, clear energy that felt very vulnerable. And I also felt confused! I became very emotional. Something in me is touched by the words about being present to the experience and the still quiet presence of the noticer. I think that the truth in the words is being felt whilst the more mindy bit isn’t quite understanding. I think I am confused by the difference between observing something to avoid experiencing it ( like 5 enneagram) and a noticer. And where the noticer fits in on different perspectives of oneness/soul and personality? and I find myself asking in tears But who is the noticer? really. But even with this thinking and questions I love the writing and there is some kind of emotional shift happening. Thank you for the writing. Charlotte

  6. Oh and I had a funny moment where I accepted being a cloud and not the sky too. Something like oh yeah so I am part of the illusion too , just like everyone else and the objects in my room right now, Not like I am somehow real and everything else is illusion. Like I was hearing words about everything being illusion and translating that to be everything except me. I used to do something similar with infinite love too. Infinite love went on forever and ever and ever … and skipped round bits it didn’t like on its journey to the infinite. Then I gave myself the term all encompassing love and it also went on forever and ever into the infinite , but it encompassed all in its path, including what I would have avoided before. This give me a similar feeling.

  7. Thank you for your wonderfully open shares Charlotte, and for embracing the invitation to experience it.

    I love that you are experiencing openings and questions and all of it – it’s one of the reasons I finished with “then genuine spiritual investigation can begin“…

    Your point about the enneagram is a classic example of the confusion I am pointing to. The number 5 comes to you clothed as a messanger of spiritual understanding, but brings with it stories of right and wrong… I’m guessing for you it might be along the lines of “noticing is not feeling and feeling is more real” And while I’m not saying that that is the new wrong – for there is always a context where ideas become experientially ‘true’ – and much maturation of the personality can come from studying personality maps… what I’m saying is the contextual lines are blurred, if confusion and suffering are experienced. In NPA when I talk about ‘multiple perspectives’ remember that the gift is the ability to move from one perspective to another. In Shamanic terms it might be called ‘shape shifting’. The non-personal, non-judgement perspective gives you a fluidity of movement – a fluidity of experience and contextual clarity.

    As for the noticer… Ultimately, my experience has been that the noticer is, inevitably, an experience, therefore a ‘self’ and ultimately illusion (you could interchange the word transitory for illusion btw). The invitation to spend some time noticing the noticer, is the invitation to ‘come to the edge’… and see where that takes you 🙂

    Love & Blessings


  8. Thank you Joel, that is very helpful. X

  9. So glad you found this helpful Charlotte – it’s taken me a while to get to the comments, and I’m really greatful for them x

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