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In studying the nature of man, we separate the from the vehicles which he uses, the living Self from the garments with which he is clothed. The Self is one, however varying may be the forms of his manifestation, when working through and by means of the different kinds of matter. It is, of course, true that there is but One Self in the fullest sense of the words; that as rays flame forth from the sun, the Selves that are the true Men are but rays of the Supreme Self, and that each Self may whisper; " I am He ". But for our present purpose, taking a single ray, we may assert also in its separation its own inherent unity, even though this be hidden by its forms. Consciousness is a unit, and the divisions we make in it are either made for purposes of study, or are illusions, due to the limitation of our perceptive power by the organs through which it works in the lower worlds. The fact that the manifestations of the Self proceed severally from his three aspects of knowing, willing, and energising —from which arise severally thoughts, desires, and actions-—must not blind us to the other fact that there is no division of substance; the whole Self knows, the whole Self wills, the whole Self acts. Nor are the functions wholly separated; when he knows, he also acts and wills; when he acts, he also knows and wills; when he wills, he also acts and knows. One function is predominant, and sometimes to such an extent as to wholly veil the others; but even in the. intensest concentration of knowing—the most separate of the three'— there is always present a latent energising and a latent willing, discernible as present by careful analysis.

We have called these three " the three aspects of the Self"; a little further explanation may help towards understanding. When the Self is still, then is manifested the aspect of Knowledge, capable of taking on the likeness of any object presented. When the Self is concentrated, intent on change of state, then appears the aspect of Will. When the Self, in presence of any object, puts forth energy to contact that object, then shows forth the aspect of Action. It will thus be seen that these three are not separate divisions of the Self, not three things joined into one or compounded, but that there is one indivisible whole, manifesting in three ways.

It is not easy to clarify the fundamental conception of the Self further than by his mere naming. The Self is that conscious, feeling, ever-existing One, that in each of us knows himself as existing. No man can ever think of himself as non-existent, or formulate himself to himself in consciousness as "I am not". As Bhagavan Das has put it: " The Self is the indispensable first basis of life. ... In the words of Vachaspati-Mishra, in his Commentary (the Bhamati) on the Shariraka-Bhashya of Sankaracharya: 'No one doubts "Am I?" or " Am I not? " ' " The Self-affirmation " I am " comes before everything else, stands above and beyond all argument. No proof can make it stronger; no disproof can weaken it. Both proof and disproof found themselves on " I am", the unanalysable Feeling of mere Existence, of which nothing can be predicated except increase and diminution. " I am more " is the expression of Pleasure; " I am less " is the expression of Pain.

When we observe this " I am", we find that it expresses itself in three different ways: (a) The internal reflection of a Non-Self, KNOWLEDGE, the root of thoughts; (b) the internal concentration, WILL, the root of desires; (c) the going forth to the external, ENERGY, the root of actions; " I know" or "I think", "I will" or "I desire", " I energise " or "I act". These are the three affirmations of the indivisible Self, of the " I am". All manifestations may be classified under one or other of these three heads; the Self manifests in our worlds only in these three ways; as all colours arise from the three primaries, so the numberless manifestations of the Self all arise from Will, Energy, Knowledge.

The Self as Wilier, the Self as Energiser, the Self as Knower—he is the One in Eternity and also the root of individuality in Time and Space. It is the Self in the Thought aspect, the Self as Knower, that we are to study.


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