Alice Bailey said that “true humility is based on an adjusted sense of right proportion,” What that means to me is that one has a sense of one’s identity, of who one is, but at the same time sees oneself in the context of society and humanity as a whole….  

Robert: Hello, and welcome to Inner Sight. Our topic for today is identity. We want to explore who you are, who we are, and how people establish a self-definition where they feel very comfortable in the idea of who they are. If we keep an open mind and if we are flexible, we’ll find that there are many, many endless layers of self and if we’re courageous enough, we can explore them. The most noble definition of identity has a lot to do with expanding our concept of self to other human beings. Some of the most enlightened people who ever lived saw not only their separateness as being a definition of self, but they often expanded their consciousness to include all of humanity. From that there was generated a lot of love towards other people because they saw all people as an extension of themselves, of their own identity. “Each one of us in due process of evolution forms part of a greater life, yet though we are merged with the whole, we do not lose our identity, but forever remain separate units of consciousness. Though one with all that lives or is, of one thing we can be sure, and that is that our identity ever remains.” That thought is from Alice Bailey, and the essence of most of what we talk about on this show comes from the twenty-four books that she authored. So, to explore identity further, how does one develop an identity without developing a big ego at the same time? 

Sarah: Well, it is usually done through the hard-knock school of life. I think most people are familiar with both the sense of inferiority and superiority that can plague the development of a healthy sense of identity. There are times when one might find oneself denigrating oneself, downplaying one’s essential divinity, feeling less worthy than other people, and there are other times when there’s an overinflated sense of a one’s self importance. Life has a way of trimming one’s sails when one gets into that condition, so it usually doesn’t last too long. The writings of Alice Bailey have an interesting take on identity, where a healthy sense of identity is merged with a concept of true humility. Humility for a lot of people might bring to mind a character like Uriah Heap in the book David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. But that’s not humility, at least not in the sense that Alice Bailey posed that quality. She said that “there is no true humility without knowledge of the self. And she also said that “true humility is based on an adjusted sense of right proportion,” What that means to me is that one has a sense of one’s identity, of who one is, but at the same time sees oneself in the context of society and humanity as a whole and whatever group or groups one feels affiliated with. So, there is the uniqueness and the preciousness of the individual identity, but at the same time an awareness that one belongs to and is part of a larger whole. That’s humility, and that is a nice sense of identity that does not bring with it a big ego in the traditional sense. 

Robert: Who is self really when we think about self? I think you’re right about what you said Sarah, that it’s very difficult to love other people and to understand humanity in general if we don’t have a concept of self, so I think that throughout life we should always explore the concept of self. It’s sad to see people get to a certain stage of their lives and their personality gels and it’s almost as though they feel secure in a very solid self and self-definition of who they are. The self, as implied in the writings of Alice Bailey, has a lot of depth to it and we can continue to explore that depth. It takes a lot of courage also to reach deep within ourselves and to continue to be open minded as to who we are. 

Sarah: Well, there’s also the fact that I think a lot of people just give up. It may not be that they’re content with themselves, but they just seem to lose the energy to keep changing and growing, and that’s really what lies behind the development of a healthy identity. It has to be constantly expanding and elevating itself. I think I’ve mentioned before a comment made by a very old lady in a program I saw about the very elderly and why they managed to live so long, the people that make it to one hundred or so. This woman said, “every day I try to be a better person” and that really touched me. She was 102. And if at 102 you’re still trying to be a better person, well then surely those of us who haven’t reached quite that point in life can keep trying. So, you can’t give up. You can’t stop trying to develop and refine your character and gain a deeper sense, not only of your own identity, but of the identity that all people are struggling to define and express. If you’re going through those struggles, so is everybody else. 

Robert: I’ll say one thing for certain, and that is, if people accept the challenge of reading the Alice Bailey books, one thing will happen; you’ll be challenged as far as who you are or what your identity is. I found that to be true as I explored the twenty-four volumes of Alice Bailey. I’m constantly being challenged as far as my identity and what humanity is all about. I must say that a lot of the ideas are thought provoking and it’s the type of thing where we have to put down the book sometimes and really ponder on a particular idea of what self is all about, as presented by Alice Bailey. 

Dale: I think part of the problem is that our sense of self gets so distracted by external things that are all around us. We look at ourselves and we try to define ourselves by how much money we have, or the number of degrees that we have, by our car, our house or all these material things, or our job or our profession and particularly our ethnic background. All of these things are on the surface, they’re outside of the self and they’re really distractions. They really force us to look in the wrong direction and I think we should be looking more inward towards the real self for that sense of identity. 

Sarah: Isn’t what you’re talking about the tendency that people have to define their identity in terms of what they are not, in other words, to distinguish themselves from others. To say I am a doctor, I am a wealthy person, I am a Democrat or whatever, you’re distinguishing yourself from others and that’s why they have such a narrow sense of identity. If you approach it from the opposite end of the spectrum and you try and define your identity in terms of what you have in common with all selves, it’s quite a different approach you find yourself taking. You’re working toward the centre of life that way, rather than going out to the periphery like you say. 

Dale: Yes, I think that’s the direction one should take, because it’s there that you begin to realize that the sense of oneness and the ability to identify with this self is the key, because it is the one constant that is common with everybody. Not, everyone is the same on the surface, but within us there is that constant, and that’s what enables us to identify with each other. 

Robert: One of the most noble missions that each individual can be on is our search for self, who are we and what is our relationship to the universe and what is our relationship to God. There are many things that occur in our lives that hide our search for identity, such as defining ourselves as our profession. This is why a lot of people get so upset when they’re no longer involved in their profession because they feel like they’ve lost their false sense of identity that they’ve constantly intertwined with their definition of self. Even the idea of I am my body, if you speak to someone who’s had the misfortune of losing a limb, they’ve discovered that they are still themselves. One can also say, I am my thoughts, but then we can change our thoughts, we can also change our beliefs. So, what we find is our search for self is really something very deep and we have to really meet the challenge and be very open minded in order to explore what self is because there are so many things that hide our identity. Is there anything else you can think of that maybe does hide our identity? 

Sarah: Well, I think it has to do with what we identify with. In other words, what we link our identity to. Like you say, some people identify so strongly with the body that they can’t imagine being anything but the physical being, with all that goes with that: race, sex, appearance, and so on. But if we identify with values, character traits, intelligence, spirituality, that’s a bit more abstract sense of self. It’s also taking one away from the outer objectified expression of self and leading one to an inner appreciation of the psychology that makes up the self. It’s all a matter of where we place our sense of affinity. I think if we say I am a child of God, that’s who I am, that is myself, I am a creation of God, then we have a doorway into understanding self as the very reality that relates us to all other selves. Yet, people who hear the word “self” probably immediately think of a separated individual. This is what’s so mysterious about this whole concept. The opening quote you mentioned by Alice Bailey, that “though we are merged with the whole we do not lose our identity but forever remain separated units of consciousness, though one with all that lives or is,” how can that be? That’s a profound mystery and yet something in me says that is absolutely true, that we never give up that sense of being, but that it expands and becomes more and more inclusive until it gradually, in time, includes the whole. 

Dale: I think that’s part of the key too, that it’s the one constant that ever remains and is always in the process of expanding and that’s what we should allow it to do. If we identify with, let’s say, our personality and we are stuck there, then there will never be any growth or any expansion of that unit of consciousness. Even though the unit of consciousness may be a separate unit, because it is of the soul, the soul is group conscious and therefore it is one with everything else. 

Sarah: That’s one of the great values of crises for people, that it jars their sense of identity into a larger, higher realm. Who they thought they were is challenged when they are in a crisis, and sometimes they discover new aspects of their nature, new talents, and strengths that they never knew were there before. 

Dale: I went to the dictionary and looked up the word identity and it says, sameness of essential character; self sameness or oneness; so, even Webster understands the true meaning of identity. 

Robert: The most enlightened beings that humanity has ever produced—Christ, Buddha, Krishnamurti, and several others—they all looked upon themselves as being part of humanity and humanity as an extension of themselves, as one and the same. This is probably why they felt such a great love and caring for all of humanity. According to modern day science, this is indeed how it is. Do all individuals have an identity, or do groups and even nations also have a collective identity? 

Sarah: Well, individuals have an identity, but we are all part of groups that also have an identity. We identify with first off, I suppose, our nation, the nation we belong to. We can look at the world and see the tremendous problems that nationalism, this sense of distinctiveness as a culture, as a society, can cause. Certainly, it’s normal and actually an enrichment of the world that nations are not all alike, that cultures and societies are different because they contribute different values to the world tapestry. But this sense of being special and privileged, better than other cultures and societies is a real evil, and that’s the inflated sense of self on a national level. You can look at plenty of groups in the world today, too, and see that they are really congealed, if you will, around a concept of themselves as a group, which separates them from the rest of humanity and can really work as a divisive force for the greater whole. 

Dale: I don’t know if it’s a problem that we have in this country or not, but it’s what I call, and maybe other people call, the hyphenated American. Many of us see our identity in our ethnic background, whatever that may be, whether it’s Irish American, Italian American, African American or Cuban American. Are we an ethnic group or are we American? I don’t know if we’ve ever really settled that question or not. There is still too much of a tendency, I think, to identify with our ethnic group, which tends to separate us off from other groups and at other times we call ourselves Americans, so I don’t know. It doesn’t bother me; I don’t have any problem with any ethnic background but as far as I’m concerned, I’m just an American but many other people seem to want to put their ethnic group first. 

Sarah: Well, I suppose it’s a way of whittling down one’s group to a more and more refined and specific category. Even identifying oneself in terms of one’s national allegiance can be limiting. When you go to the United Nations and are familiar with the work done there, you see that the different workers in the UN do not define themselves in terms of the country from which they originated. They are individuals who are serving the United Nations. Their identity is within the United Nations staff and this seems to immediately put you into the role of being a citizen of the planet rather than a citizen of a particular nation. 

Robert: I think you’re correct. I think it’s probably enlightened to look upon oneself first as a human being and perhaps then as an American or an Italian or whatever it might be, because it’s that looking upon ourselves as a nationality that really causes so many problems, so much separateness. I think that’s much more enlightened to say first, I’m a human being. 

Sarah: Yes, that was certainly the viewpoint of Robert Mueller, who worked for, I think, 40 years with the United Nations. He came from Alsace Lorraine at a time when that region of the world was torn between France and Germany and his own family was divided by that conflict. He defined himself as a citizen of the planet, as a member of a family and as a human being, and those were the only categories that he really wanted to be affiliated with. 

Robert: I think the only thing more enlightened than looking upon oneself as a human being, is the idea that I am a life form. Perhaps that should come before I am a human being, because if one says I am a life form, then one has respect for the dignity of all life forms. 

Sarah: Right, good point. 

Robert: Does the development of identity have anything to do with spiritual growth? 

Sarah: Well, it has everything to do with spiritual growth and this concept of identity or of the self is an absolutely vital part of developing one spiritual consciousness. The sense of oneself being a unique and separated individual is an important achievement along the way because that’s, in a sense, the first step toward realization of one’s God-self. The realization that one is an individual with an integrity, literally an integrity to one’s character, one’s beingness, is a major achievement in the development of consciousness. But one can’t remain there. One has to progress beyond that to a sense of being affiliated with a group and with the whole. So, the whole evolution of consciousness and of spirituality is really depicted in an ever-expanding sense of the self, as if one were to drop a pebble into a lake and watch the ripples arching out. That would be a good visual image of the expansion of the sense of identity. 

Dale: Identity is something that has to do with beingness. That is the most basic part of us and that’s what comes from God, what really is the gift that we have from God. That never changes. We said that in the keynote and that’s what’s so hard maybe for people to realize, that there is this very core within us that just never changes. What changes is everything around us or the expansion of the awareness that one undergoes with each moment, each life. So, the expansion of consciousness is what is constantly changing, but the very core of the beingness is what is constant and what remains the same. We never lose that. 

Sarah: I think this whole topic is one that’s very difficult to discuss because we are discussing something that lies well ahead of most of us, this ability to identify with the self in all forms of life. We can imagine it, we can try to visualize it, but it’s an achievement that’s still ahead of us and yet I think we have to begin trying to build an idea of what we’re heading towards. There’s this concept from Buddhism, this question: as a human being, are you a drop of water in an ocean, or are you the ocean expressed in the drop of water? While they’re both the same thing, the waterdrop in the ocean merges with the whole, and yet I suppose it retains its essential integrity. That’s the gist, as I understand it, of this opening statement from Alice Bailey, “one with all that lives and is, and yet always retaining the sense of identity.” 

Robert: Analogous to that might be the idea that, just as we are who we are, perhaps we are also the universe, just as the whole ocean can be found in the drop of water, perhaps the whole universe can be found in the individual self. But it’s up to each one of us to have the courage to explore that self. What are some of the means for expanding our sense of identity and for making it more inclusive? 

Sarah: Well, certainly the practice of meditation. A regular practice of meditation inevitably expands one’s sense of oneself. Many people who start a practice of meditation find that they, for a while, go through a period of disorientation because they are sloughing off the husks of their former self and being exposed to a new concept of what being a human being really entails. Service is another method for expanding the identity because, as we view our work and our interactions with others as a form of service, we enter into a capacity to identify with others on a deeper level and to be able to understand their view, their longing, their aspiration. It opens up the quality of the heart that enables one to see others in a deeper way. Certainly, the practice of spiritual study, reading spiritual texts that appeal to one, can also awaken and expand the sense of identity. 

Robert: So, for all people who’ve been with us, we would like to say that there’s a world prayer called the Great Invocation, and it’s a call for light and love and goodwill to flow into the world and into our hearts. Let’s listen for a moment to these powerful words. 

Sarah: Closes the program by reciting the adapted version of the Great Invocation

(This is an edited transcript of a recorded radio program called “Inner Sight”. This conversation was recorded between the host, Robert Anderson, and the then President and Vice-President of Lucis Trust, Sarah and Dale McKechnie.)

(Transcribed and edited by Carla McLeod)




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