Self and Objects as Consciousness and Memory

Updated: Dec 2, 2020

As a result of the self-observing, I see that I am programmed by the automatic process of meaning-making that continuously happens in me.

I create objects in my mind that I can relate to, and I do this by creating identities and stories to say what I experience. In this way, I use language to label and describe the world. It seems this is the way we function as human beings using language. You might say it is the design of a human being. At least for me, personally, I see evidence for this in myself. My discovery is that my mind thinks through the functioning of objects in language.

I use words to describe my life stories, but they are not my actual life. When I say “I”, “me” or “mine” I am talking specifically about how I represent my life in a story about it. These specific words, the object pronouns, are hardwired in me as a reference for my experience. In my inner life, they point me to observe my own existence, yet I can say nothing about it without them

The word “I” is like a template for self-reference in regard to my experience of the life of my body. “I” is in effect equal to my person in the manner in which it describes who has the experience of my life. But before “I” even existed as a concept, there existed something in me which perceived my own life, even without language. I know this from personal experience, which I remember from my own infancy. I have been told I could not have been able to recall it, but I do!

A Memory Is Like a Photograph, Yet It Is Only a Story

In particular, I remember myself being photographed, and it burned an impression deeply in my memory. I was about 6 weeks old, and I was on a glass table with a marble base in the living room which my mother still has. I remember everything like a movie. The bright lights flashing, the peculiar smell of those glass bulbs, and the blast of heat I felt on my naked body. Those sensations formed a memory of being there then, and it was exactly the feeling of myself now. At that age, I had no words yet, but I had awareness, and enough of it to imprint a memory that I have to this day. I know this memory with certainty. I need no further evidence to prove this experience. There is very little else I remember so clearly from infancy.

Clearly, something real existed in me even then. I suspect it exists in others too. It is the essence of our being a human being. If a human soul either exists at birth or comes into existence shortly thereafter, it surely functions as the observing Self. Clearly my consciousness had a place already within my body. At times, like this moment in my life I remembered, I have sensed it. Well, that is the story I tell, but it was not the experience I had at that moment.

It seems that this soul-essence needs a body to manifest in the world, and to develop further. If I begin to understand this memory, I realize that my consciousness was present in my body at that time. Thus my own existence is evident to me. I have always had the capacities to sense and feel, and record memories from experiences. But ultimately, that leaves me with thinking as a function of my memory based on my experience. In effect, I am, as an identity, this remarkable capacity to remember myself and my experiences.

Because of consciousness and memory, I realize that “I” and my organism are not identical, the same way that a word is not the same as the thing it describes. Because I can observe, remember myself, and use language, I can become aware of the functions that are occurring in me. But self-reflection is not always present in life. Without it, my life is entirely mechanical. It is fair to say, that it is robotically on autopilot.

This act of seeing my own life, as an observer-observing, allows me to play a role that raises me above merely being a human biological machine. When I can see myself seeing, especially my own inner life, I can know clearly that the part that is seeing is not the same as the part that is seen. This is a very big thing to realize.

And Another "Storied" Memory From My Life

In 1984 during the est training, I had the experience of observing my own inner voice. It is the voice in my head that says “I”. It was a moment of being there not unlike my childhood memory. I realized in a moment, that the “I” in me that could hear that voice, was separate from the voice in me that was speaking. I had been directed, if I could, to stop the inner voice in my mind. But I couldn’t, and it was a moment when it seemed as though there were at least two of me. At that moment, my life changed forever. I realized I and myself, are not the same.

Like most people, I do not remember every moment of my life. I forget them, almost as well as I forget my nightly dreams in the morning. This waking sleep that lives in most of the time, almost like hibernation, is actually my waking life. I only remember the story of it that I tell myself afterward. But the vividness of the moment by moment I live is largely forgotten. I don’t actually remember much of myself my all.

An automatic personality called “me” is largely running my life. “I” am not aware of it moment by moment, but I create the story of my life as if it was my actual life. In this sense, I live as a function of an automatic way of being that language creates that is separate from my actual presence and consciousness. Consciousness itself is pure awareness. It has no language, and can only observe the mechanism of the body it inhabits. And that body is a biological machine.

The question is, “Can we bring more consciousness to the automatic functioning of this human biological machine that is animating our life in this way?

© Copyright 2006 Robert Fertman, All Rights Reserved

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