Individuality and Insight
Perspective is one of the great elements of the human experience. To be able to see, to perceive from an angle unique to oneself, is an essential resource for life. The use of the metaphor of sight here is for the sake of discussion, but really, 'having perspective' is an experience that comes in the form of insight. Becoming aware of an element is the first part of a process in which the element is registered as part of a system of elements. Deriving meaning, then is a process of making sense of a perspective. Once the meaning is felt, we have integrated the perspective, and then can be said to have 'insight'. Insight is that sense of 'sense', that somehow something is seen for what it is (and here I mean 'is' in the fluid sense; isness changes), thereby making it possible to have a relationship with it. Before an objective relationship with aninsight is formed, it is difficult to accept it and thus respond. It is significant to define 'objective' here not as 'detachment', but as 'respect'. Insight is the resolution of this process, and is this a spring-board for a new process of life.
To be able to have perspective is one thing, but to contemplate it long enough to entertain its validity is quite another. Perhaps one the greatest barriers to this is a lack of faith in ones perspective, and indeed, ones contemplative process. Given time, an open relationship to perspective, (and an individual one at that) can give access the power of insight. What is faith in oneself? To speak of such a thing is to open a big can of worms.
Western culture carries with it two contradictory ideas about the individual. On the one hand, man is at base inherently evil, with animal instincts that need to be suppressed. This is the carry on of original sin. It manifests as distrust in humanity, and sets the stage for authoritarian ethics. I.e 'We are no good, and our salvation is the formation of the human according to principles derived from a higher authority'. This higher authority has been, variously religious and secular, the difference in practical terms for the individual is somewhat irrelevant. Particular to authoritarian ethics is that goodness, rightness and moral superiority comes from obedience and belief in the omnipotent power of such an external authority. The power of the authority can be overt, as in the Vatican, for example, or subtle, as in the anonymous presence of 'The greater good' in societies and in nation-states. On the other hand, the idea of individual achiever is celebrated, and we are encouraged to 'develop a good character, a good personality'. Who we are matters in the competitive marketplace of the professional world. Rather, who we appear to be matters. Excellence is to be striven for, and one must get ahead of the pack in order to stand out. Standing out makes us attractive, and being attractive gives us the edge in the world of status, employ-ability, and social recognition. Indeed, the 'self-improvement' is a compensation for the belief that at core we are bad. This contradiction, at worst, creates neurosis. How can an individual both be bad at the core, and convince others that shim is valuable? A very common manifestation of this psychic schism is that of 'altruistic self denial'. 'I'm no good, so the best I can do is serve the greater good'. This is not to say that there is no greater good, but rather that the faith in the goodness of humanity must begin with faith in oneself. An individual is not separate from humanity, indeed oneself is ones first port of call in the experience of humanity.
The epidemic of 'altruistic self-denial', in the form of self-image or self-concept worship is one of the great unspoken issues of our time. To understand this issue we can turn to ethics. The difference between authoritarian ethics and humanistic ethics is highly relevant to this discussion. The latter is concerned with faith in a person, and their feelings, as being legitimate and valuable indicators of ones welfare (or lack of). The denial of feelings, the distrust of emotional content, is an illness, symptomatic of which is the conviction that one doesn't really exist, or maybe that ones needs aren't real. The question of ones existence or non-existence is far less interesting here than the implied motivation for nihilism. Why would an individual entertain the idea that they are not individually important? Leaving aside 'mystical union' and other experiences of a 'transcended self', the individual is defined here as a body, a nexus of experience. It is true that not all experience is pleasurable, and it is normal to avoid pain (at least in most). What happens if the experience of pain is repeatedly attributed to existence of an individual self? Put simply, the sense (somatic) of self cannot withstand the repeated scape-goating of an authoritarian ethic (the manifestation of which is external or internal, overt or subtle) without interruption to the individuation process.
Ok, so what? If we manage somehow to reclaim the projection of power from an external authority (and correlating internal mental habit), we must still integrate all of the associated psychic elements, including the desire to dominate, hatred, and the violence inherent in categorical thinking and the competition between thought-forms. Evilness, then, can become an entity apart from any specific locus. This entity is the keeper of this power, and we can experience it as an adversary, or an ally, depending on our ability to work with it in the psychic landscape. Once we have moved through any negative material surrounding our understanding (physical and otherwise) of power, we can see power as neutral, and ultimately a resource for the creative potential of humanity. It easy to trick oneself into feeling 'holy' whilst maintaining malignant projection patterns. The real trick is to stay with the phenomenal (somatic) experience of the thought-form long enough to avoid attaching it to someone or something else in the external world, and this is altruistic, albeit less overt than charity fund-raising. Once an uninterrupted relationship with the particular phenomenon is achieved, it becomes part of the body-mind system as a whole. It is important to note that while the phenomenon doesn't cease to exist, it can become quietened, allowing room for whatever is the next material for contemplation. This conscious holding of energy is essential for a similarly conscious investment of that same energy in one's life.
The act of seeing objectively with respect, each thought-form as it passes through the experience nexus of the body, can be called perspective. The key point being that we must be able to see the power of thought forms clearly (right relation), using the lens of the body, before we have the time to have 'Insight'. Insight, as outlined above, is meaning derived from a system of elements. Meaning to whom? The individual, who is the body. An individual has the power (once reclaimed) to understand the meaning of power, in relation to the various tones of experience of the body.
Insight is the negotiation, of the central axis of the individual body, with the mandala of the psychic realm, arriving at a harmonious orientation. Harmony can be seen as the stablest foundation to respond (to life) from. The way the body experiences harmony (or lack of) is the best and primary material for examining the barriers to Insight. In the long run, the psychic landscape continues to become at once familiar and mysterious, deepening and expanding.