Unification News for July 1999

Book Review - The Undefended Self: Living the Pathwork of Spiritual Wholeness

Chris Seidel

The Undefended Self is a rare publication, not only because of the nature of the subject itself, but also because of the author's ability to speak clearly on the unpainted condition of the human soul, and its virtually illimitable complexities and manifestations. The book offers worthy and insightful advice for anyone who is seriously attracted to the deeper questions and issues that underlie our day-to-day, often routine existence. The author, Susan Thesenga, objectively portrays the conflicts that resonate in the depths of every spirit, as she expounds on her search for an uncompromising awareness of her significance in the cosmic spectrum. Thesenga never loses her unadorned, down-to-earth characterization of what hinders the human soul and its desire for everlasting fulfillment.

The "Undefended Self" is quintessentially the state of being where all of our pretenses and defenses have been stripped away, and what remains is the pure, spontaneous, yet vulnerable self that is so intrinsically a part of each one of us. According to Thesenga, the search for the true Undefended self is a necessary journey of spiritual exploration that has the ultimate goal of bringing us closer to the reality, which our innermost self so earnestly yearns for. The journey is often painful and taxing, but, according to Thesenga, an absolute necessity to unlocking those parts of our personality which we have hidden beneath our conscious, for fear they might reveal a side of us that is unacceptable and essentially unlovable. As Thesenga states, "Not only are certain ideas judged wrong, it becomes unacceptable to even have these thoughts, and so they are relegated to the unconscious mind." Yet if we are able to tap into these "other selves," the energy we expended in hiding them can be released into the pool of our overall creative energy and power. Admitting these other selves are a part of us, however, does not mean they are us.

Eva Pierrakos, also known as "The Guide", was the author's physical mentor and spiritual teacher for seven years. It was believed that Pierrakos' main mission was to channel the wisdom of a spiritual entity (hence, the name "the Guide:" a reference to this entity). . Deeply captivated by her personality and insight, Thesenga sought to manifest the message of The Guide in her own life, and to assist others in their quest for deeper spiritual fulfillment. To this purpose, she established the Sevenoaks Pathwork Center in 1972 (in Virginia), which continues to hold seminars and sessions on the Pathwork Guide Lecture Series for anyone who dares venture past their defended identity. The full extent of "The Guide’s" message can be found in these Lectures, now taught at many workshop sites around the globe. After Pierrakos’ death, Thesenga continued to educate people about "The Pathwork", and finally wrote The Undefended Self: a book which is based on "The Guide’s" teachings and which succinctly summarizes her clairvoyant wisdom.

Thesenga outlines eleven chapters in all, each one the next progressive stage in unifying the distorted elements of one's psyche, and coming closer to the "undefended" ideal: accepting both the darkest as well as the most resplendent manifestations of our spirit. Each chapter is introduced by a story, which highlights the topic further explored in that section. Thesenga craftily interjects her own anecdotes with those of other Pathwork participants, covering a wide range of inner conflicts that are very real experiences of the human heart. Her tone is neither patronizing nor contemptuous, but rather gentle and assuaging. As she highlights in Chapter 3 ("Developing the Observer Self"), "The ability to observe ourselves objectively and compassionately is the single most important skill to develop in walking the spiritual path."

In the first chapter, she implores us to accept and acknowledge all of our dualities. For instance, a man making peace with not just his masculine, but feminine side would be uniting one of his many dualities. In other words, Thesenga entreats us to hurdle the mentality that we are either this or that type of person; that we are either dull or intelligent, brave or weak, kind or mean, all good or all evil. To the modern person this may seem like a contradiction, but as Thesenga notes "We easily fall into the temptation to oversimplify our experience. When we see our flaws, we lose sight of our magnificence. When we recognize our beauty, we forget our pain and vulnerability. Yet both extremes, and everything in between, is part of the human experience, our experience, our true nature as human and spiritual beings."

In sync with the author's views, a condition in psychology known as the Fundamental Attribution Error recognizes our predisposition to assign to others and ourselves characteristics solely based on action. We do this without affirming the circumstances of the situation, family, living environment, physical traits, health, mental state, mood, upbringing, and religious influences, among other things. This exemplifies how human nature is predisposed to stereotype, that we likely to say he is either this or that, or it is either black or white, while glossing over the infinite subtleties and complexities of our reality.

A significant part of The Undefended Self deals with the relationship of the "three selves," namely, the "mask self", the "lower self" and the "higher self". The mask self is our idealized self image: the image that we try to portray to everybody (including ourselves), of a person quite different from our true self. The lower self is the self that contains our many distorted perceptions of this world and ourselves, and is the self that we need to face in order to reach the higher self: the core of our being which resounds with pure, God-like energy. Thesenga relates these three selves to a series of three expanding circles: The mask self being the outermost and most superficial self, the lower being the next level, and the core of our being, the truest manifestation of who we are: the higher self.

Thesenga’s book is a poignant journey and learning experience for anyone who has taken it upon themselves to explore the most profound depths of spiritual reality and principle. The truth of her words strikes the reader almost instantly, often having the focus to be a lens for moments of lucid inner reflection. It is truly a vehicle for affecting personal transformation, if one is ready to delve into the rich suggestions of her words. The book opens with one of "The Guide’s" quotes, possibly Thesenga’s motive for writing The Undefended Self: "Every human being senses an inner longing that goes deeper than the longings for emotional and creative fulfillment. This longing comes from sensing that another, more fulfilling state of consciousness and a larger capacity to experience life must exist."

Chris’ Starz Rating: * * * * 1/2

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