This paper was presented at
Psychology: The Indian Contribution
National Conference on
Indian Psychology, Yoga and Consciousness
organised by the Indian Council of Philosophical Research
at the Sri Aurobindo International Centre of Education
Pondicherry, India, 10-13 December 2004

(click to enlarge)

Re-conceptualizing ‘Self’: exploring the possibilities of an East - West synthesis …

Preeti Mishra
M. Phil Scholar
Department of Education
Delhi University


The East –West dichotomy was never as profound as it appears in addressing the issue of Self. At the same time, however, never were the prospects of a fruitful complementarity of the two systems of thought, as intellectually stimulating, as in re-conceptualization of a more holistic psychology of Self. Self as an experiential or ‘emic’ concept in contemporary social sciences as well as ancient eastern perspectives is to be distinguished from the ‘ego’ as used in an ‘etic’ or externally analytic approach to personality in Western psychology. The west with its scientific – reductionist orientations has long avoided discussions on Selfand consciousness as metaphysical-ontological issues. The reasons are twofold: Firstly, these issues by their very nature are not open to investigations by usual scientific methods. Secondly, a reductionist explanation of these concepts, in essence is impossible. On the other hand, the eastern theorists, in their quest for spirituality and transcendence, have invariably ignored the essentially phenomenal nature of human experiences, as a starting point. In establishing the supremacy of the ‘higher Self’ over the ‘lower self’ , most eastern systems of thought have trivialized the lower self, as a consequence of which it has been relegated to the background in all discourses on self and consciousness. The problem of ‘Self’ lies uneasily at the border of science and philosophy. To ignore such a problem would be both unscientific as well as an act of intellectual lethargy and thus unethical. (Chalmers, 1996). The present paper, thus, argues that to comprehensively address the issue of Self as an integral factor in personality studies, an eclectic approach becomes indispensable. The paper argues for a complementarity between the western phenomenal-materialist orientation and the eastern spiritual-transcendental-ontology in evolving a worthwhile psychology of Self. The arguments go far beyond the usual arguments presented for eclecticism and suggest that the inherent complementarity of the two perspectives discussed, among several other equally plausible reasons, necessitate eclecticism as the only possible route to a holistic analysis of ‘Self’.


The orientalists, since an inordinate period of time have been addressing the issue of Self from a metaphysical vantage point. They acknowledge the Metaphysical-ontological discourses to have fallen short of describing all the nuances of Self and Selfhood. The Occidentalists, on the other hand, have with immense dexterity prefixed ‘self’ to myriad terms (from self-confident to self-condemning to self-centered to self-made). This often leads to an understanding that westerners are in full knowledge of the semantics of Self. The question which then arises is : whether this incongruence is a validation of the so often accused intellectual sterility vs. extraordinary-analytic brilliance, or is there more to it…? If the self does defy all definitions, how could we logically explain the problem of over abundance of definitions in the west?

My own analysis of the situation suggests that, much of the above mentioned incongruence could be explained, by exploring the a priori assumptions (informed by the respective metaphysical-ontological stands) of the eastern and western systems of thought. The west has treated psychological capacities and reflective awareness1 as defining traits of selfhood, when at best they are examples of predicated information processing. Whereas, the westerners largely focus on predicate awareness (Rao,2003), the Eastern system of thought has been addressing questions of ontological-metaphysical nature all this while.

The epistemological considerations demand that the nature of knowledge sought, should decide upon the methods of inquiry, and thus explains why, the orientalists have been immersed in philosophical analysis (Samkhya) to define Self and to suggest the route to such Selfhood (Yoga). The west on the other hand, with the empiricist- materialist emphasis on experiencing the phenomena essentially situated in a spatial- temporal context ( localized) has a notion of self characterized by a realist, non- metaphysical orientation.

The subsequent section of this paper elaborates upon some Indian (hereon, I would delimit my discussions on the eastern perspectives to the Yoga philosophy and the classical text of the Bhagvad Gita) and Western conceptualizations on Self to elaborate upon this differential emphasis, within the framework of my primary argument of complementarity and eclecticism.

The Indian Concept of Self:

The Hindu India has traditionally been concerned with the Self as an ontological entity. A consistent view of orthodox Hindu philosophy is that the Self is an independent, incorporeal substance. The Yogic ontology, a subscriber to this theme, is inherently dualistic. It endorses two ultimate realities- Purusa or pure consciousness, which is non corporeal and thus Nirguna and the psycho-physical substantiality called Prakriti, which is unconscious. Prakriti endorses three attributes or Guna2and is thus Saguna. It is in the unique interaction of the higher Self or Pursha, and the Prakriti that the world and the human beings are created. Prakriti and its components namely Buddhi (intelligence), Ahamkara (ego-sense), Manas (mind) and Indriya (senses) borrow consciousness of the Self (Purusa). However, in course of interaction with the material world each of these components mistakes itself to be the absolute reality or the Self.

Buddhi as the purest psycho-physical substantiality becomes Purusa incarnate on being illuminated by Purusa’s consciousness and acts as the knower and controller in man.. Till it is untainted by desire, and uninterrupted in intuitive knowledge, learned men identify it with the Self. Manas & Ahamkara as Self : They are the hubs of commotions created by the desires to lord over the world and control it. The Ahamkara influences the senses and cognitive processes and labels all experiences as personal, thus, confusing man into believing that the ‘Ego’ is the true Self. Body as Self: While reflecting consciousness, even the sense organs, mistake themselves as Self. In saying that ‘eyes see, nose smells’ etc. the fact of borrowed consciousness is forgotten. It is in the above situation i.e. identifying Self with Prakriti rather than Purusa, that according to the Yogic philosophy all suffering emanates. Purusa as Self: The supreme being or the Purusa is immortal, spiritual and free. As the Self , it lacks all substantial contents. Purusa is the witness, the inner seer. It becomes aware of various objects through Citta. Liberation consists in freeing the Self (purusa) from Citta so that it regains its original nature of being only a witness (drista) of the mind’s activities. The Bhagvad Gita, as a perfect expression of the philosophical mind of man and the nature of the Supreme Self stresses that man is not the Self . He is only a part of Self or Purusa. The duality of ‘higher (whole) and lower (part) self’ is explained as follows: The true Self is ‘Parabrahma’. There is, also, the transcendental, indestructible self within each one of us, who is Brahmn. Though Brahmn has an eternal nature, but as it comes in contact with the material world (Maya), its constitution is altered. Owing to Maya, every entity is fallible in the material world. Brahmn under the influence of the Guna and Klesa3 and Maya becomes ignorant and desirous of lording over the world. This dualism of Self and self is best illustrated by the analogy of two birds dwelling the same tree4.

As part can never be equal to whole, so individuals could only attain ‘self’ by fulfilling their own potential. Thus, beyond Kaivalya, they have to neither attain nor lament. Kaivalya or true knowledge consists in knowing that the body is ever changing and only the Self is permanent. True knowledge, is the knowledge of the constitution of the individual soul, the super soul and the relation between the two Such pure knowledge ends the chain of fruitive actions; the Dhira individual ,thus, knows that the Purusa allots all duties. Such self-realized man becomes Sthira-Buddhi or Stithaprajna. A self realized individual ceases to differentiate identities due to different material bodies. To attain such state of transcendence, which is beyond the mind-body, complex, one needs to control the wandering nature of the mind5. The way to do this is by embracing values of Paramartha, Jnanayoga, Karma-Yoga and overcoming of Samskara. Patanjali’s system of astanga-yoga emphasizes the Abhyasa and Vairagya doctrines to transcend the limitations of faulty perceptual structures6of human mind. The journey begins with a preliminary desire for self-realization. The initial path is of non-fruitive action (karma-yoga) or devotion and surrender (Bhakti-yoga). The following of any of these paths takes one to a state of fearlessness and freedom from all material bondage, thus, facilitating the move towards reverence of the Supreme Self.

As for the lower self (on which the west concentrates)i.e. Brahmn motivated man, he never shirks from discharging his ordained duties. The man in Bhagvad Gita has the potential for being miraculously inspired by a sense of beauty of the holiness. He is Samyak-Jayaita: one who renounces all desires, hatred and weakness and is an embodiment of righteousness. The average man of Bhagvad Gita is a Swabhava- Swikara: an imperfect man with a latent element of perfection in him. Though the Supreme Self is unattainable, yet each man is potentially divine. The inherent duality of the two selves is a characteristic feature of the mortal state. The human beings must awake to this realization of the potential divinity latent in them, and must adopt the path of Cittavrittinirodha, to advance to attain Samadhi. It is here after that the man is free from all bondages, Avidya and Klesa and moves closer to illumination of true knowledge.

The Western Concept of Self :

The self has made reappearance in mainstream psychological discourse in the west, but in a different garb. The concept of self has now become self- concept: a picture of people, which is socially given. Some recurrent characteristics of a western conceptualization of self deserve a mention here. Self is essentially a social creation symbolically and signally constructed among social beings. Thus, in line with the dependent substance7 theories, it is neither structural nor transcendental. Self is also often connected to the attainment of a degree of reflexivity or reflexive awareness1. Self characterizes the immediate situational presentation of a particular person during specific encounters within the shifting contexts. This existence of an expectant contemporaneous self presupposes the prior existence of a developmental experiential self. The Western view of self, thus, is based on such root metaphors8 as constitutionalism, and/or mechanism. From Classical Psychoanalysis to the Humanist perspective not much of variation in this orientation is evident.

The Psychoanalysts on Self: Sigmund Freud’s work never addressed the issue of self directly. Rather Freud was quoted as saying that metaphysical questions were not within his province as a scientist. Based on our understanding of the Freudian framework we can only draw these inferences: At the very outset it is evident that a self independent from body or detached from it has no place in the essentially biological orientations of Freud. The self in his theory is the total being: the body, the instincts and the conscious and unconscious process. The consciousness in the Freudian model is not used synonymously with mind. Consciousness is only a small part of the mind. It is equated with awareness in the predicate form. Freud’s theory seems antithetical to the Indian perspective on Self in several ways. : The Freudian individual is pure Id at birth. Thus, in the absence of reality orientation and maturity, children would not be able to attain self –realization and that in the absence of any reflective awareness; a child may not even have a self at all. Yoga philosophy, on the other hand, acknowledges Self as an all pervading entity from birth to death and also that self realization is not contingent upon age.

Any reference to Psychic energy in the Freudian system is in the form of Libido-an essentially material-oriented agency busy in procuring realistic solutions to intra psychic conflicts. As tension and conflicts are sources of growth, the eastern concepts of Cittavrittinirodha, avoiding the afflictions of Klesa and of becoming a Dhira are gradually phased out, thus, ruling out the control-abstinence-renunciation model of attaining transcendence. Though, there may be other routes to transcendence, the Freudian system is not concerned with the issue, as worldly existence and not spirituality is the theme of Freudian Psychoanalysis. The Ego, which is often considered the western equivalent of Citta, tries to manouver the environment or itself to retain a homeostatic state. The role of Ego in essence, is reactive rather than proactive or creative as in the Citta doctrine. Transcendence– motivation is ruled out in more than one way in the Freudian conceptualization. The materialist orientation comes across in the biological innateness of all structures of mind-the Id, Ego and Super-ego. In the eastern perspective, although, Prakritic components are innate, yet they become functional only by transcendental energy. Thus, the elements of organismic and metaphysical motivation respectively are in -built in the two systems. The Freudian self is essentially Saguna, and thrives in sense gratification. In fact Freud has identified hunger, sex-appetite etc. among other things as life- instincts. The ‘Selfhood’, if any, in the Freudian system would refer to a state of mental and physical harmony and a no conflict situation with adequate gratification of instincts.

The Eastern perspective discussed earlier presents a Nirguna Self. Klesa or afflictions (which include raga or attachment to sense objects) are impediments in the path to selfhood, which is essentially transcendental (to mind and body both). Analogies are often drawn on how Id, Ego and Super-ego parallel the Sattva, Tamas Rajas Guna of Yoga philosophy. I however do not subscribe to this contention9. Whereas Brahmn state for us is the be all of life, Freudian man would call us psychotics. Thus, the Freudian framework, with its narcissistic portrayal of the human being, leads to inferences on self, which, from the eastern point of view are very dismal and disappointing.

A Silver lining, however, appears as we proceed to the Jungian conceptualization on personality and self. Jung replaced the term personality with ‘psyche’10. Jung specifically addressed the issue of Self in his formulations. The Jungian Self was the central archetype of the psyche. The conscious and unconscious complimented each other to form a totality which is Self. The Self thus, becomes a deep inner guiding factor, different from the ego and consciousness. Ego, which is the centre of consciousness, received light from the self. (Notice the similarity with the eastern concept of Buddhi being the chief psycho-physical substantiality of Prakriti and receiving consciousness from Purusa)

“Though we know this Self yet it is unknown. We don’t know whether it possesses any thing we would call consciousness… if the Self could be expressed and experienced it would be a limited expression and experience whereas in reality its experience is unlimited and endless. If I were one with self. I would have knowledge of everything.” (Jung.1975). Jung emphasized individuation as the goal of life. Individuation was aimed at development of Self to the extent that it replaces Ego as the pivot of psyche. This state was the culmination of a fulfilling life.

I find several constructs in Jungian conceptions, which act like the Ausubelian anchoring ideas11 for the eastern perspective. The similarities (with some permissible variations) are mesmerizing; for instance, the Jungian archetypes come strikingly close to the Yogic Samskara. Archetypes connect each generation to its predecessors and in this sense are subliminal influences traversing from one spatial-temporal context to another influencing the human beings mode of thought and actions. Again the Jungian discourse on human beings as incapable of knowing the real Self or being only partially able to attain the state of selfhood, gives a sense of an inarticulate inspiration (guiding Jung) provided by the Yogic dualist conceptualization of Self. Is not the treatise on the individual’s inability to ever attain ‘atman’, state similar to what Jung proposes? Jung too suggests that human beings could only partially experience the Self ! Importantly the Jungian Self is essentially spelled with a capital ‘S’12. Finally, the Jungian speculations about the true nature of Self i.e. “Whether or not it has a consciousness itself…” Is actually an effort to address the issue of the SagunaNirguna Self, and thus, testifies the influences of oriental insights in Jungian theory of Self & psyche. However, as Stephen Popper (1942) suggested, with the exception of Carl Gustav Jung, no other western personality psychologists address the issue of self from a metaphysical–spiritual vantage point. This would be validated in the subsequent discussions.

Karen Horney, with her predominant emphasis on the social influences in shaping personality, her conceptualized self primarily in the form of the Self–concept as against self as a concept. Her conceptions of twin self13 were limited to the predicated awareness and reflexivity and were not very different from the Freudian conception of harmony and homeostasis. Besides Horney and Jung, Alfred Adler another prominent Neo-Freudian, conceptualized self as synonymous with an Individual’s style of life. Adler viewed the integrated personality as the self. As he suggested:

“ In real life we always find a confirmation of the melody of the total self…. If we believe… found in traits, drives or reflexes, the self is likely to be overlooked.” For Adler, self was a dynamic unifying principle rather than a structure of psyche. The self was, (as in all dependent substance theories) no separate entity to be actualized but present in the transactions within the world. Adler differed significantly with the Yoga system in that he granted power to man that would make him desirous and capable of lording over the world. Yoga called it a state of being influenced by Maya. Thus, a self that was devotional, surrendering and transcendentally inclined was not possible in Adlerian framework. Also, in defining inferiority and superiority. Adler, became a polar opposite of the Indian concepts. The Indian system considers deficiencies as Vritti. The deficiencies of any nature are to be overcome by control and abstinence. Adlerian man , on the other hand delves deeper in these Vritti or chooses some other the materialistic interests to prove his proficiency & reasonable superiority. Thus, when the Eastern concept considers individuals seeking pleasure in materialistic world as conditioned souls, Adler and most other western psychologists propose a materially(including emotionally) conducive ethos to attain reflective awareness.

However, a striking similarity between the two perspectives awaits analysis. The personality types suggested by Adler-The getting as well as the ruling types, the avoiding type and the socially useful type, closely resemble the Bhagvad Gita’s treatise on men governed by Rajas, Tamas and Sattva Guna respectively. The socially useful doctrine is garbed as Paramartha undertaken by the Sattva led man. Barring this resemblance, however the Adlerian self is best regarded as a social self, living and thriving in a social order.

Given that Adler laid the foundation for Existential thought, it may seem that chronologically we were moving towards a more and more holistic concept of self However, this is not true. In the era: between psychoanalytic and humanistic paradigms, cognitive psychology gained prominence and the advent of Behaviorism almost eliminated the concept of self from every day psychology. Skinner’s views on self are illustrative of this development in psychology. Skinner considered self as an explanatory fiction. He concluded that:

“ If we can not show what is responsible for a man’s behavior, then we say he himself is responsible for it. The wind is no longer flown by AEOLUS. The rain not cast down by JUPITER PLUVIUS..A concept of self is not essential in an analysis of behaviour. “ (Skinner, 1953)

Another shock hit the metaphysical discourse on self worldwide, with the arrival of Gestalt psychology. Fredrick S. Perls, a prominent Gestalt psychologist accused philosophers and anthropologists of glorifying self to include things beyond everyday manifestations of who we are. For Perls the self was synonymous with ‘I’ and was neither a static, nor objectifiable notion. I or self was “the emerging gestalt of totality of identifications including all aspects of a healthy organism”. Thus, both gestalt and behaviourist psychologists nullified the doctrine of self as a worthwhile concept, a theoretical construct even worth pursuing or mentioning in their discourses.

Carl Rogers and Abraham Maslow’s contribution in re establishing the significance of Self was seminal and rendered them into established self theorists. The third wave psychology did well to restore Self as a construct, yet the overarching western preoccupations with individualism, materialism and an empiricist, analytical attitude could not be overthrown by them in their own theories too. Selfhood was at best defined as more sophisticated reflective awareness.

The Rogerian self is a dynamic entity in one’s field of experiences. The field includes all that goes on in the envelope of an organism at any given moment. The experiences of a field are potentiality available to awareness. He discusses ideal self which, typifies the self concept an individual would most like to possess and places highest value on. Self – actualizing then means being as competent and capture as we are biologically able to be.

The Maslowian conception is no different. The individual’s inherent nature i.e. ones own tastes; values and goals must be understood to be actualized. Self-actualized individuals act in accordance with their true nature. The materialistic domination however gets primacy as Maslow hypothesizes that until an individual’s material and affective needs are partially met , the stage cannot be set for self actualization. The Maslowian system thus poses a comprehensive experience of various aspects of life as a pre-requisite for self-actualization. The Eastern perspective rejects this method as it may lead one deeper into the clutches of Maya but for both Rogers and Maslow, satiation through Maya paves the ways for self actualization.

After Jung, the account of self which is proximal to the Yoga school of thought is the existential perspective of Erich Fromm. His grounding in Existentialism brought him closer to metaphysical, ontological issues. He suggested that each individual has, among other needs, a need for transcendence-- to rise above their passive roles as creatures and realize their own creative, proactive, non-deterministic nature . But owing to their limited resources as human beings , they can not attain such transcendence. This theorization matches closely with the Gita’s treatise on potential divinity in all human beings. Also, as previously discussed, the human cognitive faculties represent a distorted picture of reality and thus it is not possible to attain the Atman state. Fromm also suggests that misery arises in human life as human are desirous of immortality, good health, success, freedom etc, but they get death, illness, failures and dependence etc. The conception matches with the predicament of conditioned souls : individuals who mistake Prakritic components as self and are disillusioned with the fallibility of such a self. Whereas Fromm leaves human beings to fate and societal forces, the eastern perspective goes a step beyond and makes the individual self proactive through Cittavrittinirodha.

The above discussion suggests that, in conceptualizing the nature of self, most western theorists (barring one or two) have patronized some common themes such as: The Materialist Rationalist self, The Analytic conception of self, Self as Individualistic. The implications of these themes follow—

Overriding materialist concerns and an overarching concern with empiricism eliminated both opportunity and incentive for reflection and contemplation of self and consciousness as more than phenomenal experiences. Also, an individual with all his shortcomings (vikara) and afflictions (Klesa) was treated as the self and the Indian conception of pure Sattva collapsed in the West.

Western theorists have, since Descartes and Locke used the terms ‘mind’ and ‘consciousness’ interchangeably. The Citta of Indian thought became ‘self’ in western thought. The self was perceived as intentional as against Nirguna. The preoccupation in the West has primarily been with knowing ‘what is’ rather than ‘what ought to be’ leading to an analytic, materialist –empiricist approach to studying the self. The process of self-realization was identified with attaining reflective awareness. The eastern perspective too, suggested that the first step to self– realization was to understand one’s own position in the cosmic order but this was only the stepping stone. The western theorists replaced the Cittavrittinirodha doctrine of the Yoga system with thriving on materialistic life instincts. The unit of study thus is transactions in and with the physical reality-both instantial and diachronic. The Indian theories of Self are simultaneously theories of transcendence and enlightenment. The Indian concern with ‘being’ as against ‘knowing’ makes deliverance its objective from Samskara to Nirvana and thus to transcendence. The Indian Self is identified with a non-corporeal independent non-materialist state of being.

East & West : Contrasting or Complementary:

Although, the humanist-existential paradigm has done away with reductionism and is celebrating subjectivity, yet it has not been able to rise above materialist – phenomenal orientations. The metaphysical reality still finds no place in mainstream psychology (except for occasional work in parapsychology.)

The truth however is, we have ample evidence-historically and in first person accounts to claim that the Self is identifiable with consciousness in transcendental terms too and is more than social self alone. K.R.Rao (2001) reiterates this stand when he suggests, “ Humans enjoy dual citizenship of the transcendental and phenomenal consciousness. The Eastern and Western perspectives thus, should be perceived as complimentary rather than competing, to provide a more comprehensive understanding.” It is only by juxtaposing the two perspectives that we can develop a truly comprehensive account of Self. We have two brilliant theoretical systems, which await us to identify the latent complementarity in order to develop a Holistic psychology of Self. Some compelling analyses, which present cases of complementarity, are presented here on:

The Yoga perspective presents transcendence as the final aim of human lives. Transcendence itself is open to dual interpretation. The spiritual metaphysical-transcendence which aims at unison with the Atman is the higher form. A more phenomenal state of transcendence is when we make efforts to be in a state of honesty with self and empathy with others, to overcome constraints of the mind-body complex, attaining perfection in what we know, do and feel .. Bhagvad Gita calls it a state of Stithaprajna and Rogers calls it the fully functioning self . The Humanist-existential mainstream psychology in the West, outlines a harmonious and integrated existence in this world as the aim of the ideal of selfhood. I find the similarity between a Stithaprajna and a fully-functioning or self-actualized being very striking. The initial stage of transcendence (which the west also emphasizes) is the stepping stone for the higher form of transcendence. So, it is only a self-actualized person (of west) who can aim for the higher ideal of achieving unison with the universal Self.

Again, the western theoretical systems concern themselves with dealing with the problems of Ego (Citta) and social adjustment. The preoccupation of the western system with solving all the problems that crop up in day to day situations is augmented in the East by a more instrumental, volitional self- one that attains higher levels of perfection by transforming itself. A truly fulfilling life consists in coping with and confronting both existential dichotomies and metaphysical questions. The Eastern view does realize the importance of tackling everyday problems and thus such pragmatic solutions as the Astanga Yoga are proposed.

Then again there are constructs like Paramartha which do not find a prominent place in western individualist psychology. On the other hand, the Svartha  concept which is often undermined in India ( though Bhagvad legitimizes Svartha ) is practiced to studied moderation in the west, thus lending a sense of autonomy and belonging ness to human corporeal existence too. Both the systems in such situations must learn from each other and arrive at a point where neither individualism nor selfless collectivism can hold the reigns of human existence alone.

Finally, I feel that the Indian System has an inbuilt niche for the western system to come into and reside in. Brahmn as fragmented consciousness can never achieve the status of Atman or Purusa. This renders Purusa unachievable. The Brahmn, thus is the only achievable ideal of selfhood for human beings. My contention then is that the Indian concept of selfhood itself requires among other things reflective awareness(of west). One can not thus forget one’s material roots as doing that wouldamount to achieving Selfhood as against selfhood. So, I suggest that the phenomenal fixedness that the west is so often accused of, is actually inbuilt in the Indian dualist conceptualization of Self and self or Atman and Brahmn . The Indian and western concepts have always been complimentary only that the complementarity was never as conspicuous. Neither did our cultural situated ness in idiosyncratic perspectives facilitate the conspicuousness of such complimentarily.

It is on this account that I propose eclecticism as a logical orientation to re-conceptualization of self as a more holistic and comprehensive construct. Both the Western and Eastern perspectives are directed more towards one domain than the other leading to a biased emphasis in either case. The merit lay in each system doing complete justice to whatever they took up as the focal area. There is, thus, no reason why two systems, which show such great complementarity, should not be revisited with an eclectic orientation. The synthesis of East –West perspective on Self is desirable on more accounts than the profound complementarity doctrine alone. Such eclecticism is worth pursuing for the enormous potential of research and knowledge construction that it promises.. The potential of such eclectic psychology of Self for broadening the horizons of intellectual discourse should be equally compelling for the metaphysical philosopher and the rational scientist.

Another reason springs from the postmodernist, multicultural orientations. Since each one of us is brought up in a culture that through its language, logic, social, political , ethical and religious values conditions us to view the world and ourselves in a unique way, the realization of the contextuality and localized nature of the construct of self is important for all educated and refined minds.

Finally with the era of globalization, the concept of Self itself has undergone an enormous change, though theoretically we have yet not accounted for it. We hardly find individuals who embody the spirit of Indian man of the Bhagvad Gita. The influences of other cultures on the modern man are too profound to be ignored, whether East or West. With the confluence of cultures, values, aspirations and philosophies of life, it is important that the changes are acknowledged in earnest and incorporated in the conceptualization of the nature of Self too. I also strongly believe that such a broadened understanding of the dynamics of Self and the widened matrix of factors affecting Self can also inform us in tackling issues related to psychopathology and mental heath in general. Also, the potential, of such an eclectic psychology of Self to inform our philosophies of life, our socialization patterns, our value systems as well as expectations from and aims for life are only bounded by imagination ….if only we could transcend such boundaries...


1 Johnson (1997) in Culture and Self reiterates the western pre-occupation with this form of self-consciousness as “ any functional concept of self presupposes either evidence or inferences on reflective awareness … self is consistently connected to attainment of a degree of reflective awareness.” Marsella (1985, Pg. 94).

2 In the Yogic system all emotions are traced to essence (Sattva), energy (rajas) and inertia (Tamas) of the Manas. Sattva leads to pleasure, Tamas to delusion and rajas leads to pain. What ever is perceived with a pleasant feeling tone is due to sattva and every unpleasant tone is attributable to rajas

3 The 5 afflictions (Klesa) are Avidya (ignorance) Ahamkara (egoism), raga (attachment) Dvesa (envy) and instinctive fear of death. Of all Klesa, Avidya is the cause of all suffering.

4 One of the birds (Brahmn) immersed in Maya eats the fruits growing on the tree (corporeal body). The other friendly bird (Parabrahmn purusa) patiently waits for the first bird to turn to him for company (path to selfhood). The fruits of such tree are contemplated in terms of sense objects. Lust is, thus, an eternal impediment in the path to selfhood. The individuals in the clutches of such illusionary energy are always anxious to attain peace by hoarding material possessions. Such human beings have conditioned souls. Such individuals identify themselves with the corporeal bodies.

5 In the Yoga systems, mind has two inherent tendencies: dispursiveness and one pointed ness. The aim of all Yogic practice is to overcome fluctuations of mind (Yogas Cittavrittinirodha) and attain one pointed ness (Ekagra). Ekagra stage controls the Vritti(s) and facilitates Samadhi thus paving way for Kaivalya.

6 Yogic system considers phenomenal awareness as inferior. The images of the world are considered a function of the sensory system. Thus, in human condition the way one generates information and knows the entire world and oneself is anything but perfect. Thus yoga aims to achieve higher awareness i.e. awareness progressively delinked from sensory processing. It is in this sense that the Bhagvad Gita reiterates time and again that the working senses are superior to dull matter. Mind is higher than senses, intelligence is still higher and the Brahmn is the highest in man. The supreme consciousness (Self) is higher than the individual consciousness in the cosmic order.

7 The world stage has provided two different answers to the question ‘what is self?’ These answers represent two contrasting schools of thought-two paradigms based on contrasting emphasis and assumptions. These are:

  • The independent substance theories; and
  • The dependent substance theories.

The independent substance theories of self: These work on the conceptualization of “consciousness-as–such’ or phenomenal consciousness. For them the Self is an entity having reality of its own. It may (Saguna) or may not (Nirguna) have attributes and activities. Also such a Self may be corporeal or non- corporeal. The Samkhya-Yoga system of thought provides an illustration of this paradigm. The Self (Purusa) in Yoga philosophy is a non- corporeal (Nirguna) entity independent of worldly existence (Prakriti)

In the dependent substance theories of self, the self is neither a corporeal nor an incorporeal entity by itself. It is an entity that subsists- whose reality is dependent on something else. The Western world view on self epitomizes this perspective. The self may be seen as emerging from the individual’s interactions with the material world and thus is often called an ’Organic entity’ or a ’constitutional’ entity.

The world stage has provided two different answers to the question ‘what is self?’ These answers represent two contrasting schools of thought-two paradigms based on contrasting emphasis and assumptions. These are:

  • The independent substance theories; and
  • The dependent substance theories of Self.

The independent substance theories of self: These work on the conceptualization of ‘consciousness-as–such’ or phenomenal consciousness. For them the Self is an entity having reality of its own. It may (Saguna) or may not (Nirguna) have attributes and activities. Also such a Self may be either corporeal or non- corporeal. The Samkhya-Yoga system of thought provides an illustration of this paradigm. The Self (Purusa) in Yoga philosophy is a non- corporeal (Nirguna) entity independent of worldly existence (Prakriti) In the dependent substance theories of self, the self is neither a corporeal nor an incorporeal entity by itself. It is an entity that subsists- whose reality is dependent on something else. The Western world view on self epitomizes this perspective. The self may be seen as emerging from the individual’s interactions with the material world and thus is often called an ’Organic entity’ or a ’constitutional’ entity.

8 Stephen Popper (1942) in his work on ‘root metaphors’ suggested six different world views, each based on a root metaphor. Popper suggested that theories were incongruent with each other owing to the difference in underlying root metaphors. He suggest that animism (the world has a character of a spirit or time) as the major metaphor underlying the eastern view of personality. He suggested that mechanism (deterministic account) and constitutionalism (a contextual account) were the foundational metaphors in most western personality theories, with the exceptions of Carl G. Jung.

9 Freudian selfhood (homeostasis) is attainable with increased ego strength representing harmony or psychic balance and an excess of either Id (neurotic) or Super-Ego (psychotic) is undesirable. The Yoga- System, in contrast glorifies the Sattva Guna as it does not pollute the Purusa within, and, is thus the desirable goal of life. The Sattva or purity component enjoys the popularity it does, owing to the collectivist, normative Indian psyche. To equate it with Super-ego- the morality principle especially when the materialist individualistic European ethos gives primacy to physical and emotional satiation and thus rejects an overriding concern with morality as psychosis, is unfair. A similar analogy that I can think of is a follows: Id = Vritti, Ego=Citta and Super-Ego= Brahmn (individual consciousness). But, the problem of different cultures and different expectations from life, again resurfaces.

10 Psyche borrowed from Greek literature semantically becomes synonymous with the term '’soul’. Jung was well versed in oriental philosophy and probably this affinity resulted in his addressing the hitherto unaddressed and ignored human potential for transcendence

11 David. P. Ausubel, suggested that our previous knowledge helps in internalization of new knowledge by providing anchoring ideas- i.e. previously internalized constructs which provided either an analogy or a relationship etc. for new information thus providing it with an entry point in our conceptual structures. These were like hooks to which new information attached itself

12 The Yogic system uses the term ‘Self’ in two different senses. While referring to the supreme consciousness or Purusa the term ‘Self’ with a capital ‘S’ is used . It is in reference to the Jiva’s consciousness that the term ‘self’ is used. Thus, the transcendental and natural selves are differentially spelt. Most of the Western theorists arbitrarily use ‘Self ‘ and ‘self’ when their theoretical structures imply a preoccupation/ emphasis on the materialist ‘self’ The Jungian treatise makes exclusive use of the term ‘Self’ which reflects on his spiritual transcendental presuppositions about the nature of Self.

13 The real self was conceptualized by Horney as a central inner force common to all human beings and yet unique in each . Real self is the inborn potential, the core of personality. Self realization, thus, refers to the development of clarity w.r.t. one’s own feelings, thoughts and desires. Ideal self on the other hand, is an exaggerated misrepresentation of one’s real self and is a state of mental disharmony. The materialistic orientation in Horney’s work is highlighted by the facts that both Real and Ideal self are contingent upon conducive and non-conducive situations (respectively) in the physical and emotional vicinity of individuals.


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