False Self

“Every one of us is shadowed by an illusory person: a false self.
This is the person that I want myself to be but who cannot exist, because God does not know anything about him. And to be unknown to God is altogether too much privacy.
My false and private self is the one who wants to exist outside the reach of God’s will and God’s love – outside of reality and outside of life. And such a self cannot help but be an illusion.
We are not very good at recognising illusions, least of all the ones we cherish about ourselves – the ones we are born with and which feed the roots of sin. For most of the people in the world, there is no greater subjective reality than this false self of theirs, which cannot exist. A life devoted to the cult of this shadow is what is called a life of sin.

All sin starts from the assumption that my false self, the self that exists only in my own egocentric desires, is the fundamental reality of life to which everything else in the universe is ordered. Thus I use up my life in the desire for pleasures and the thirst for experiences, for power, honour, knowledge and love, to clothe this false self and construct its nothingness into something objectively real. And I wind experiences around myself and cover myself with pleasures and glory like bandages in order to make myself perceptible to myself and to the world, as if I were an invisible body that could only become visible when something visible covered its surface….”

— Thomas Merton, “New Seeds of Contemplation”


3 thoughts on “False Self

  1. Well, that just about sums it up. I have actually found that to be the most true for me in respect to “Christian” activities.

    In other words, my false self is often what I believe a good Christian boy would be; and I do weird things to live up to that. For example, for awhile I thought I should be a pastor (and maybe on day I will, just now), that was just a false sense of self…but that false self was more difficult to identify than something “less holy” if you know what I mean. I’d cover myself with bandages that I thought made sense, but that were actually not me at all.

    Perhaps that’s a bit different that the excerpt, but it made me think of it nonetheless.

    Thanks for the post.

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