Episode 14: Sculpting False Self
Welcome to Episode 14. In an earlier episode, we happened upon an key peacemaking axiom: All conflict is the result of one False Self becoming entangled in opposition to another False Self.
Each False Self is comprised of many clusters of ego traits. These clusters generate intentions and desires. When two or more False Selves come into proximity with one another, the swirling clouds of intentions collide. The stage is set for conflict.
As the clouds comingle, specific intentions or desires line up in opposition to one another. They lock onto one another, stuck in the embrace of conflict. The oppositional entanglement of intentions and desires generates heated emotions. Hostility rages. The conflicted parties — two or more ego selves — appear to be locked in a hopeless struggle to the finish.
When we view conflict in this manner there is only one way to de-escalate the conflict: We must dissipate and then vanish the clusters of False Self traits. Peace arrives only after we scrub away ego personality. We must call on the Master Sculptor for help in chipping away the False Self — as Bonaventure taught long ago.
The results of sculpting away False Self are miraculous. Oppositional entanglement and hostility fade. Conflict resolves. Parties catch a glimpse of the Divine Self. It becomes clear that False Self is built to precipitate conflict while Divine Self brings mystical unity and what might be called a state of “being-in-love.”
Throughout history, men and women have turned to monastic seclusion in order to sculpt traits that are not of divine origin. They have dedicated their entire lives to prayerful sculpting with the aid of the Master Sculptor.
But, as an alternative to a life of monasticism, the Assisi Option offers periods of both hermitage and ministry. Time spent “in the world” elicits and thus illuminates False Self traits. Residual traits that might remain hidden in a monastic life come to life as a result of oppositional entanglement with others.
Alternating hermitage and ministry sheds light on clusters of adverse traits. A person who takes part in the active give-and-take of relationships uncovers ego traps overlooked in more tranquil settings.
As you might imagine, sculpting away the traits of False Self is hard work. And it takes time. Progress is rarely linear and unbroken. Rather, a sculptor experiences progress punctuated with setbacks. The False Self turns out to be a tenacious foe — as its traits are complex and extensive.
Saint Paul, in his letter to the Romans, wrote: “What I do I do not understand. For I do not do what I want, but I do what I hate.” Paul describes the False Self — clusters of traits that override our will causing us to act against our best intentions. False Self sabotages our good intentions, especially when we embark on the removal of ego structures.
Sculpting that uncovers Divine Self reveals an immortal soul endowed with the image and likeness of God. After the mud of the ego is removed we are left with pure being or “being-in-love.” This revealed Divine Self becomes the benchmark outcome of our sculpting efforts.
If we did not gain an awareness of Divine Self, if we failed to glimpse the tranquility of divinely infused “being-in-love,” we would continue to be trapped in swirling clusters of ego traits, doomed to endless confusion. However, once we glimpse the Divine Self — our essence as immortal soul — we are called to continue our work in sculpting away the False Self.
During this hard work, we catch glimpses of mystical tranquility. The clouds of False Self temporarily dissipate, opening a window on the peace of the Lord. We may be reminded of the line from Saint Augustine — “You have made us for yourself, and our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.”
The tranquility of Divine Self compared with the hazy confusion of the False Self motivates people to summon the Master Sculptor. When they glimpse the prize that awaits them, they redouble their efforts to escape the prison of ego constructs.
This progression from False Self to Divine Self takes place in stages during mediation, pastoral counseling, and spiritual direction. Conversion takes place as people alternate hermitage with ministry. Restless hearts become calm as parties come to rest in their true endowed nature.
As I explained in an earlier episode, the work of dissipating and vanishing False Self constructs plays a featured role in peacemaking. It is easy to see why — people engage one another with their False Self personas. And the False Self is structured in a way that escalates conflict.
Aspiring peacemakers should take time to reflect on these dynamics of the False Self. They must develop skill in sculpting away the False Self in order to release people from entanglement in conflict. That concludes our reflection for today. May God bless you and bring you peace.