THE FALSE SELF: MY ENEMY, MY FRIEND
Rich veins of truth are being unearthed these days re: the existence of a false or shadow self, sometimes called the false persona. I recall the time many years ago when it occurred to me that misunderstanding Jesus' statements about denying your self could easily lead to expecting the self-same self to deny itself. Not likely to happen, I'd say. And if you think otherwise, I know of some swampland in Florida you might want to consider as an investment. If there's a self to be denied in following Jesus, there has to be a self other than the self to be denied. There has to be a true Self to deny the false self.
But what is the relationship between those two selves? Second question, how did the false self come to be? Did it invent itself? Where did it come from? If its constitution is essentially a false consciousness, then whose consciousness is it? As conventional theological orthodoxy would posit, it came to be by the autonomous decision of the leading Arch Angel in heaven to dethrone God and take His place. If that provides some readers with a basic paradigm, it must be admitted that God granted to that Arch Angel the capacity to imagine such irrational evil. Those who accept such a model do so in the belief that God so values "free will" starting with a supposed angelic order, that He gave said capacity in spite of knowing the horrible consequences of doing so. Sorry, if that's the box within which is your understanding of the administration of God, then we'll probably part ways at this point in this study.
But if you're open to the possibility of another explanation, then I ask you to consider the following: The false self cannot be self-originating. It has no such ability. It requires that there be something from which it can take on its anti-Reality existence. The false self is the lie that opposes the Truth, and as such it requires the Truth for it to exist. Without The True Self, there can be no false self. Without the Truth, there can be no lie. It’s at this point that dualistic thinking runs into the proverbial brick wall. Truth must grant existence to deception. Truth must give over of ITSELF, of ITS very substance, to suffer being distorted, in order for the lie, for the false self, to exist in any sense, and by any definition.
Only The True Self, the Truth, has the freedom of will to make way for the lie, the false self. The principle can be seen in Jesus, who, as the Truth, gave Himself over to the lying consciousness of abandonment by God, His Father. He said that no man took away His life, but rather that He laid it down Himself---by the Self which is Him. Only the True Self has the freedom of will to choose to suffer a disconnect from the Being of His begotteness. Though the ages lie within eternity, and eternity within the ages, nevertheless, for the Eternal to choose existence for the ages and all contained therein, meant that the Eternal chose to experience a separation of sorts. Eternal Oneness suffering separation and disconnectedness. Too much to get your mind around? Of course. This is wisdom beyond our comprehension. One gets a peek as we "survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of glory Died." We cannot escape contemplating that He, who is Life, died. We cannot escape contemplating that He who is the Truth gave Himself over to be sucked into the bowels of deception. We cannot escape contemplating that He who is the Way became lost for our sake.
My enemy, my false self, is made to be my friend, for the purpose of that greater glory's imagination. As Jonathan Mitchell has pointed out in his expanded, amplified,
Deity's decision to not only beget but to create out of that which It begat was a wonderful and terrible decision. But a decision with glory in view. The act of creation involved the whole creation being subjected to futility IN HOPE, that is, with a certainty of expectation that the enormous cost to the Begettor and the begotten would be way more than worth it. Can a base metal such as lead be changed into a precious metal like gold? Even such a mind as Isaac Newton's imagined, and was convinced, it could be done. Possibly such a notion arose out of the gnawing intuition that the debased materiality of creation could become the stuff of glory, as the stuff
To make any sense out of our lives on The Way, we have to come to understand that the will of God has its penultimate and ultimate modes. There is the grand design of God's ultimate purpose toward which He--taking all creation along--is continuously and consistently moving, but in that forward movement God wills certain things for us as steps toward the consummation of His desire and intention. I have pointed out in previous articles, and it bears repeating, that, for instance, while the Lord will withhold no good thing from those who walk uprightly before Him---that being His ultimate will---paradoxically, along the Way toward that ultimate will of perfect, full provision, He does penultimately deny us some good things for whatever length of life-season His wisdom dictates. Such denials range from the unpleasant to the agonizing. Denial, God's no, is in fact integral to His provision, His yes. I ask the reader to ponder that experiences of denial are necessary for us to walk uprightly before Him.
Those denials always involve creaturely deprivation of one sort or another. Yikes! We don't like to connect purposeful deprivation with our All-loving Heavenly Father, and our gracious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. It is not at all a matter of:
Absolute fullness is on Its way to us.....ON the path of both provision and deprivation. This is progressive. I don't mean for the reader to understand me to be saying that God's provision, His yes, is only for the bye and bye. No, the ultimate is ministered to us progressively as we are at the same time progressively made to suffer lack. Sin arises out of deprivation, and when you're suffering lack, you become acutely aware of failure---that absolutely necessary element that prepares us for grace. No deprivation, no denial, no grace. It is grace by which God fills us, of course, but it is the denial of some measure of grace, that creates the emptiness necessary for divine filling.
The shadow self is tricky, I'll tell you. It can take the message above, and conclude that if it will deliberately set out to deprive itself, then it can GET God to fill it. The spiritually healthy life always looks for, and moves toward provision, accepting denial on the way. The spiritually healthy believer lives in the expectancy of enjoying more and more of God's goodness. Self-denial by the false self is a sick thing. Trying to self-crucify the self doesn't work. But God even folds that into His denial-unto-provision process. Look out for that most subtle form of pride that boasts in its self-energized self-deprivation. In our relationship with one another, our essential disposition ought to be one of desiring, and praying for, one another to be filled, but when the filling is a long time coming, we comfort one another by the comfort by which we are comforted. God is good---ALWAYS, but evil is part of His good working on our behalf. The day is presently unfolding, in which we shall all "be filled with all the fullness of God." No deprivation can compare with that.
It's the creature's experience of denial and deprivation that creates the false self. We were created to be fully full, and it drives us nuts not to be. So we invent a false, shadow self which has at its core the determination to GET satisfied. We can't bear to wait for God's filling initiation. Our sense of emptiness drives us to get, get, get, and get some more. It is in no way inconsistent that God saw, and ascribed to, all His creation as good, and when crowned with the creation of man, as very good, that He subjected that good to futility. Before the issue of good and evil arose, God subjected His creation to futility, and did so by means of deprivation and denial. Accordingly, we often see increasing spiritual maturity being accompanied by greater deprivation, YET that deprivation leading to a fullness by which others are provisioned.