Four Sheaths of Identity

alt. title: Paean to D. H. Lawrence and Walt Whitman

alt. alt.: The Meaning of Holding Hands

The Vedantic philosophy of the East sees human identity in terms of sheaths housing the true self. It gets pretty complicated, but we can settle on four sheaths: physical, emotional, intellectual and spiritual. Think of each as a sock the Self is wearing. The sheaths are not actually separate, but coextensive, so they are really different ways of looking at the same sock, but seeing them as separate layers makes them more comprehensible from the everyday point of view.

When I hold your hand, it’s not merely a physical act, but a trigger, an indicator, an objective marker of all sorts of transcendental knots and connections forming at the emotional and intellectual and spiritual layers of being. If I go deep within myself at that moment, I can feel it to be so.

Today’s religious followers too often feel only the mock-spiritual, an economy of meaning perversely separated from the physical, which leaves them with something dry and unsensual. Obliged to deny sensual richness, they remain sensually impoverished.

Today’s materialists too often feel only the physical and “demystify” the other sheaths into anemic scientific formulas, abstractions with all the transcendental and cosmic life drained out of them. And they wonder why they are unfulfilled, or half-fulfilled, in life.

I feel within myself the measure and vanishing point of all sheaths.
I am the fulfillment of a destiny.
You are the fulfillment of a destiny.
We are the fulfillment of a destiny.

And we know this to be true.

We can fight against it and tie ourselves in knots of neurosis and frustration. Or we can untie the knots, accept the full freedom that destiny expresses through us, and open the flow.

kyle cropped1

Painting (“Ghost in the Range”) by Kyle Nugent (www.kylenugent.com)

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4 thoughts on “Four Sheaths of Identity

  1. I would have to agree with the spirit of this posting. When I thought of the 4 views of a person, it kind of reminded me of the trinity, in that there really is one reality, but when deconstructed, things often appear to be made up of seperate components which only exist as metaphor for what cannot be fully described with words. People are always trying to objectify the inifinite with words.

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  2. Pingback: Romantics in the House | shakemyheadhollow

  3. This is an excellent interpretation of the various layers housed within us, the socks in other words :)! Our need to understand everything in terms of the 5 physical senses has almost obliterated the inner senses. We must learn to let go and surrender to the mystery within!

    Liked by 1 person

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