People love to label themselves. At school, you are geek, jock, cool, nerd, in, or out. At work, you are what you do, psychologist, mechanic, cleaner, office worker, tinker, tailor, soldier, spy, or even just unemployed. In religion, you are theist (Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Mormon, or whatever), atheist or agnostic. Politically, people are liberal, conservative, left, or right, socialist, or fascist.
It is easy to understand why people need their labels. Humans are social animals and naturally gravitate towards our particular tribe. Labels conveniently and unthinkingly assign us to a tribe and allow us to easily identify other members of the tribe. This in turn allows us to more easily find people who we are likely to get along with. Potentially, they help us identify friend from foe.
For most people, labels tell us where we belong and they provide an explanation about where we fit in the world. In doing so they can help give us a sense of shared meaning and purpose. They provide us with a sense of certainty that we can’t provide ourselves, mostly because we have no real understanding of who we really are.
Labels Can Be Useful, To a Point.
In a broad sense labels do make some sense. If I’m looking for someone to fix my car, it is great to meet someone with the label “Mechanic”.
When I say that I am a Mystic, I am identifying myself with a particular spiritual tradition in which practitioners experience transcendent states of Divine connection. But labels also confuse, because people seem to think that mystics necessarily believe in a whole bunch of other things that I regard as utter nonsense within our slice of the Infiniverse.
Examples include things such as crystal healing, telepathy, psychics, astrology and conspiracy theories. In fact, I’ve had a fair few people respond with unbridled hostility when they found that their assumptions weren’t borne out in reality, with one going so far as to angrily insist that I “wasn’t a real mystic” because I don’t believe that ESP exists in our universe.
Labels are an external imposition on the self that we use as a scaffold to fix our identity firmly in place. Ask someone about themselves and they invariably provide a list of labels that they identify with, rather than behaviours that make them unique. Indeed, in much of the world, social convention demands that we ask people, “What do you do?”, when in fact we want to know, “Who are you?”
Lacking any coherent self-image, people will strongly resist any urging to discard the scaffolding. They fear that without it, their sense of self is bound to collapse. Challenge their labels they feel that you have challenged the self and can lash out with considerable hostility.
Labels as Inconvenient Stereotypes.
Labels are nothing but stereotypes and when it comes to the deeper spiritual journey are useless and disruptive. For example, what does it mean to be Christian, vs Muslim? What purpose do these labels serve, but to reinforce the distinctions between two warring camps of dogmatic ideology? Each claims to worship a god of love, peace, justice and mercy, but each can barely restrain itself from attacking the other and each is adamantly certain that everyone else is going to spend eternity in Hell.
Rather than realising that all people of goodwill can find a way to work together, people would rather look at the label and simply assume. Whereas even the most simple understanding of the world should teach us that good and bad exists throughout the world, by only looking at the label we resort to the fundamental stupidity of “My Tribe Good. Other Tribe Bad”.
The main problem with labels and the reason why they are so destructive to your own personal journey as a spiritual being is that labels are something external to you and while you are defining yourself by an external label, you have abdicated your responsibility to define yourself. When you abdicate this responsibility, destroy any possibility that you will ever discover who you are and where your true path lies. Instead, you are placing your destiny in the hands of others and allowing yourself to be led like a sheep to whichever slaughterhouse that label happens to take you.
Defining Yourself Without Labels.
Who are you once the labels don’t exist? Do you even exist without your labels? Of course you do!
Far better that instead of labels, you define yourself around your aspirations about who you would like to be and the content of your actual behaviour.
The starting point for this exercise is not who you are in the here and now, but who your idealised self would be. If someone were to offer you a personality make over, to allow you to create the ideal you in an instant, who would you choose to be?
It is important that you understand that when I ask “Who would you choose to be?”, I am don’t intend for you to look externally and find another person, or storybook character that you aspire to be. Rather, I mean for you to look inside you and try to understand what your perfected self might look like. While real life and fictional heroes can certainly play a role in helping you realise the qualities that you can aspire to, they inevitably lack the complexity, nuances and subtlety that living the real you entails.
Once we have identified our Idealised Self, we have to take a step back and to brutally and honestly examine our current self to the view of recognising exactly who we are.
For example, if I reject labels and look at myself, I recognise that I aspire to be one of one of the Happy Ones and become an avatar for the Divine aspect of Joy. I have dedicated myself to a path of Light, even though I am still figuring out precisely what that even means. Right now it means that I become more generous, more helpful and more engaged in promoting tolerance, and challenging certitude, so as to bring the world closer to a state of peace and harmony.
This idealised self is necessarily vague, but is valuable because it doesn’t rely on labels imposed from outside, but realisations and determinations that I have found within.
Once I step into myself, I can see that compared to this idealised picture, I am still a greatly flawed person. On the positive side, I am generally happy, hopeful and optimistic, even in times of hardship. I love people and I enjoy helping others. I am determined and even courageous on occasion and don’t easily give up on people.
On the negative side, I recognise that I struggle in many areas of my life. I routinely find myself discouraged by the negative reactions of others and deep depression can overwhelm me, especially when the world doesn’t seem willing to provide any path towards the realisation of my hopes and dreams. Some of my relationships seem to be caught up in toxic death spirals for which I share responsibility. Occasionally my anger and frustration can boil over into dysfunctional rage that only causes more damage.
Once we have taken stock of who we are and who we would like to be, it then becomes possible for us to move towards the people that we would like to be and do so in ways that would have been impossible without this kind of self-analysis.
In identifying our best and current selves without using labels, we have achieved something that many people fail to achieve in their entire lives. We have begun to connect with our true selves and in doing so we have started a journey that will lead us to our authentic Heaven.
Without labels we are free to pursue our authentic selves, rather than someone else’s vision for us. For example, imagine that I was a Roman Catholic and wore that label like a second skin. You’ll note that once I take away the external label of Roman Catholic, there is nothing to tie me to the dogmas of the Catholic Church, such as attending mass every Sunday. Through the process of connecting with my authentic self, I have discovered that there are no strings that necessarily tie me into someone elses ideas of who I should be.
Once you have conceptualised yourself within this framework, it becomes obvious that your ability to move towards your idealised self is hindered, rather than helped by the adoption of labels.
For example, as a prospective being of Light, whose purpose is to spread happiness and joy in the world, I can see that it is more important to find others who wish to join me in the spirit of that journey than it is to find others who share my externalised label. Indeed, if I look for others who claim this label, I might lead myself in entirely the wrong direction. For example, I know two people who insist that they are “Happy Ones”, but any conversation with them is filled with misery to the point that it is obvious that the label they wear has little bearing on the reality within.
It matters little whether someone wears the label of Christian, or Muslim. What matters more is their commitment to the path of Light, the promotion of tolerance and their dedication to the path of joy. So long as someone holds to these ideals, who cares what label they wear?
Honesty About the Self is Crucial.
Issues arise when people are committed to Darker paths of fear, intolerance, hate and anger. While this kind of exercise can potentially allow a person to gain clarity with respect to their journey and begin to move towards their better self, there are some who will actively embrace these aspects of Darkness and strive towards becoming their worst self.
Very few people have the honesty to acknowledge the Darkness within their souls and recognise that the evil in the world is potentially present within the hearts of every one of us. I suspect that even fewer are able to admit to themselves when they are on a path of Darkness. Mary Wollstonecraft famously contended that “No man chooses evil, because it is evil; he only mistakes it for happiness, the good he seeks.”
Instead, they will lie to themselves that they are committed to a path of Light, but justify their Darkness through other means. For these people, it makes sense to hide behind a convenient label that provides justification of their inner Darkness. How often in our world is death and destruction offered as a path towards Light? How many claim that the ends justify the means? How often do people shift the blame for their own Darkness onto the shoulders of others?
People fear uncertainty. To deliberately step away from our defining labels is to embrace fear and uncertainty and takes considerable personal courage.
With this in mind, it perhaps more likely that people will refuse to abandon their labels and insist that the path encapsulated by their label is the only sure path of Light. Indeed, most forms of dogmatic Labeling have at their heart the apparent belief that only by engaging with that Label can one truly be of the Light and that all other Labels inevitably lead to Darkness.
Sanctions against those who reject the Label can be both swift and severe. In many parts of the world, Apostasy is a capital offence, while religions such as Scientology and The Jehovah’s Witnesses shun and cast out those who would seek to gain awareness of their true self through rejection of the label.
This behaviour, while unfortunate. is a simple reflection of the fact that a significant proportion of the population are completely out of touch with their authentic selves, or incapable of admitting when their behaviours and aspirations conflict with their stated goals. It takes considerable courage to reject the label and to follow a different path to the rest of the Tribe.
The Joy of a Life Without Labels.
When living our lives as labels, rather than as unique aspects of the Divine Soul, we will never achieve our true potential, because we will never realise our Pure and Ultimate Self. It is only through the jettisoning of labels that we will take charge of our own lives and achieve the ability to shape our authentic destiny as we see fit.
Choose to be your Ultimate Self!