As source expands, layers form. Its innermost core remains solid and unyielding. The gravitational center of All That Is, holding fast to the truest truth, the clearest perspective. It is the heart that informs all integration and expansion, all progressive layers. Outward from this core, each layer is increasingly fractured and fragmented by possibility. More possibility at the "outermost" layers, less at the inner. This is "The World Tree" of many traditions.
Elements of All That Is can be viewed as selves. Another way to think of a self is a persisting intelligence. Each self fragments into its own elements, processing and integrating them in pursuit of coherence that produces clarity. The whole pursues coherence, and each distinct element seeks coherence. And so on, at every scale. Source constantly processes and integrates all its selves/fragments. Each of us, at every layer, seeking "authenticity." Mostly failing along the way, forcing adaptation. Change. Growth. Each fragment that grows challenges all other fragments to grow in order to sustain coherence.
As Source expands, Self expands, and vice versa. We (All That Is) grows infinitely with Source.
Macro and Micro Scales
You can visualize a "self" as a strand (or flower petal?) stretching from the core of Source to the outermost edges of reality. The stability of the core Self at its innermost layer cannot be sustained - or experienced perfectly - at an outer layer. Its outer fragments cycle through possibilities. The pointy end of a petal or tree branch shakes in the breeze more than it does at its base.
Likewise, at any layer of reality, a being is more fragmented at the outer edges of reality. More possibility = more variability = less coherence = more fragmentation. Each aspect or fragment of the Self, experiences its own existence and its own developmental opportunities. The farther outward these facets/fragments of Self, the smaller the forms they express through -- such as a humanoid incarnation. They tend to be less defined, more variable. It would seem the Self's perspective becomes more psychedelic/surreal the farther away it individuates from its innermost core.
Not all Selves touch the outermost edge of reality. Note the volume/mass within a sphere is greater than its surface.
Nirvana can be represented as change within a fragment/self from a highly variable state to a more stable/coherent state. This solidification - a collapsing of possibilities into a stable consciousness - reflects re-integration of that fragment into the coherent whole. The solidification of the entire surface creates a structure supporting a new outermost layer of reality. Thus the expansion of All That Is. Like an infinitely expanding tree.
The “higher self” imagined by the New Age communities can be observed as any part of a Self that's larger and closer to Source than the observer's location. At any moment, THE higher self is really ANY version of Self higher on the chain - or strand - relative to Source. If you're at the outermost edge of a flower petal, anything closer to the base is "higher" than you. But it's all "you" ... whatever that means.
Naturally, the outer layers of reality are composed of many fragments of many Selves interacting with one another. These interactions create novel experiences/energies. We're all aiding and demanding novel adaptations of each other. Teaching and learning together. Earth, for example, offers a unique space that facilitates particular kinds of experiences for many fragmented selves to interact. Each fragment's unique consciousness adapts to its local situation/context. These adaptations integrate-into and inform all fragments of the higher Self, updating them.
As a "higher" Self (it's all one self) pursues its own unity/alignment, each fragment below or component of that Self (such as your humanoid incarnation) adapts in its context with that unity/alignment priority and direction. This includes the process of integrating the fragment's (your) own challenging experiences. Typically a fragment (you or I) holds a subconscious priority/bias to adapt/grow in a way that pursues the Higher Self's own wholeness.
Many in modern spiritual circles frame this experience of wholeness as a "process of awakening." Not every fragment is configured for that experience. You're contributing to a collaborative process that gives your own Higher Self wholeness. You are not always the one to experience that wholeness. And in fact, the rational mind doesn't even understand what that would be. Like a jigsaw puzzle piece trying to imagine the whole picture as it stumbles around the table, trying to logic its ideal position.
Time as a Tool Facilitating Adaptation/Evolution
You might visualize a "higher" Self stepping across the threshold of a planetary context like Earth and instantly fragmenting. In a moment its energy could express through forms spanning a planet's entire evolutionary arc. From a single-celled carbon based life form to a highly intelligent humanoid a million years later, to its most evolved consciousness possible for that planetary context a billion years after that. Through each of these forms, and across all of them, that whole higher Self is now seeking its own unique hemostasis, or balance within the Earth system. This is its effort to realize its "most authentic" Self within that new context.
Each fragment gets pushed and pulled out of authentic alignment. Each has to adapt and evolve toward authenticity despite these local forces. As all a Higher Self's fragments go through this, they all seek alignment and coherence across time and space. They are all interactive, never really separated from one another, all growing together. You can imagine that when that Higher Self returns out of that planetary context, its fragments all recollect and that whole being has expanded consciousness through its collective experiences. Some reach complete coherence among all their fragments, most do not. In either case, just as one might expect going to any school or new travel experience, the consciousness is expanded for having gone through it. And that higher self is again a fragment of a larger Self, and so on.
All things connected and growing together. There is no such thing as "perfectly" or "imperfectly." There's just what IS. What would you compare it with? Any human ideal for how the whole should expand is like your fingernail coming up with a blueprint for Utopian civilization.
When you play with time concepts this way, you recognize that traditional linear "reincarnation" systems address a being's many fragments in a planetary context, but they're likely all happening and interacting at once. Absent time. Just Being here. A (nonphysical) Self participates in the evolution of Earth through these forms, but how do these forms get chosen? Earth demands particular adaptations/evolution in its own expansion. Other consciousness (such as those taking humanoid form) evolve as part of Earth's own evolution. It is a symbiotic, reciprocating process.
As we evolve here, we take in the efforts of Earth to evolve. Its tensions become our personal tensions. We work through them for ourselves and Earth simultaneously. In the process, both your higher self and Earth evolve. Together we're birthing a new part of reality (Earth), just by existing. It requires integration into The Whole. In a larger scale, these fragments of each Self are in a process of integrating novel experiences on behalf of All That Is. All scales of reality are connected. And so, on behalf of All That Is, we represent the volunteers (higher Selves) integrating a degree of Earth-consciousness into our being, which is also Source's being. We feel this more personally at our scale, but at the larger scale we're cells in a body.
The Uselessness of Judgment
Understandably, this current proposed model is simplistic to make it more digestible. It's possible all adaptations and mutations are doorways to infinite potential. And these concepts reflect just one stage, or one aspect, of an infinitely complex process unfolding here through Earth. (mumble mumble multidimensional timelessness).
Taking the validity of infinite paths and possibilities into account, a fragment's adaptations don't necessarily attempt to make everything (self and context) "better." In the immediate, they might even make everything "worse." And their efforts don't necessarily push in the most stereotypically profound or creative direction, either. Sometimes we simply flail. Yet even flailing can open a path of new demands for new adaptations. Infinite doorways of adaptation mean the expansion of All That Is is free to explore as it will. As you will.
Take "alcoholism" for example. Stripped of moralism, and extending our perspective to an entire strand of being, observe influential 20th-century drinker-thinkers as Charles Bukowski, Jack Kerouac, Hunter S Thompson, and Alan Watts, and others. Note these are tiny dots of experience within an infinite being's consciousness. The point is not to promote one path or another, but to highlight how all paths inform evolution at larger scales. The many experiences and adaptations across the many fragments of a higher self together pursue collective coherence. No single vantage point allows us to understand another's function in the whole. No one of them is meant to embody the whole.
We awaken to Self, over and over, within and across many kinds of existences. Even experiences taking us in a contextually "wrong" direction inform and deepen the larger self-awareness. This is a big part of what makes Earth such a powerful school. Each novel experience has the potential of bringing the whole closer to harmonious balance. And all units of consciousness in a context (such as Earth) are informed by all others, with more conscious fragments instinctively pursuing collective balance, at every scale.
From an Earth-based perspective, we might say that when a higher Self's fragments come to balanced coherence here, and reintegrate with the higher Self, it has "ascended" from the world, or "beaten the game" if you're into video game metaphors. Thus the concept of Ascended Masters. Even such beings as these are fragments of a larger, higher Self - possibly fragmented across numerous worlds, the entire galaxy, and beyond.
So you see, you don't have to get anything right. Just seeking authentic being serves the birth of this planet and its integration into All That Is. And wherever you land has just as much potential as anywhere else. The question is "What feels right to you, through and through?"
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MattSeven is a name I intuitively connected with in the early 2000's, using my legal name Matt. In 2013 I learned "Seven" represented the extradimensional collective from which it seems my individuality originates. MattSeven represents an effort to integrate the individual, collective, lower, and higher as one coherent consciousness.