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Theosophical Encyclopedia

Personality

In theosophy, the personality is the aggregate of the body, LINGA ŠARĪRA or (ETHERIC DOUBLE), PRĀNA (vitality), emotion and the lower mind. It is contrasted to the “individuality” which is composed of the higher mind, BUDDHI (spiritual soul) and Spirit (štma).

The word “personality” comes from the Greek word, persona, which means “mask.” Persona is the mask used by Greek actors when they impersonate a character on stage. Thus, personality implies that it is an outer mask of an inner being or individuality. While personality in psychology has a wide range of meaning, this view of persona as an outer mask is given major importance in the psychology of Carl JUNG, who wrote that “the persona is that which in reality one is not, but which oneself as well as others think one is.” In his view, the persona is the social self, the mask one wears when one relates with people. One’s real individuality is in the unconscious and must be discovered by oneself. The integration with the individuality is a process of maturity which he calls “individualization.” Complete identification with the persona, on the other hand, leads to neurosis and unhappiness.

Theosophical philosophy similarly calls the personality the outer layers of oneself. Upon death, this personality is shed off in stages, until only the three higher principles (ātma-buddhi-manas) are left in entering DEVACHAN, after which it goes into another incarnation. Only the individuality is reincarnated, but there are exceptions wherein the personality and the personal memory is retained in the next incarnation, such as those who died of violence or before the age of seven.

Spiritual life necessitates the purification of the personality, as well as its mastery by the higher self. Transcending it, one is able to act from one’s inner Ego or individuality, which is impersonal, that is, devoid of personal preferences or dislikes. Such actions are said to be karmaless, that is, they will not result in personal karmic bonds in the future.

V.H.C.

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