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The Higher Reaches of Self-Esteem by Dr. Nathaniel Branden

The Higher Reaches of Self-Esteem

From "ego" to "Ego"

by Dr. Nathaniel Branden


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37 Min.
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Integral Naked is pleased to announce an in-depth, multi-part discussion with Nathaniel Branden, pioneer in the psychology of self-esteem; sociological and political analyst; and cofounder, with founder Ayn Rand, of the enormously influential Objectivist movement.

This is the first of Integral Institute's "Living Library" Series, consisting of anywhere from 6 to 12 hours of personal autobiography elicited in conversation with Ken and other I-I associates. Now being taped for this series are Michael Murphy and Rabbi Zalman, with other pioneers in the planning (Frances Vaughan, Father Thomas Keating, Warren Bennis, etc.). Parts of these historical dialogues will be posted here on IN, with the rest available at the IntegralUniversity.org library.

After an enormously difficult break with Ayn Rand and the Objectivist movement in 1968, Nathaniel's exploration of the emotional, psychological realities of human life—something all but ignored by Objectivism—culminated in his book The Psychology of Self-Esteem. Later, with the tragic death of his then wife Patrecia in 1977, and the relationship he began with his current wife, Devers, he was introduced to experiences of a clearly trans-rational or spiritual nature.

But as Nathaniel points out, "One has to be very precise here, because people who learned a little bit about this development were very quick to assume that I had become 'spiritual' in other ways which I was not." In fact, most "paranormal" experiences can still fit within an Objectivist framework so long as you expand the kind of objects you consider for empirical evidence, and in many ways this is exactly what Nathaniel did.

While the objective content of Nathaniel's experience continued to unfold into new territory, the subjective self that experienced that content was deepening as well. He notes that even as early as The Psychology of Self-Esteem that he referred to ego in terms such as "the unifying center of consciousness," which was a precursor to his "moving very specifically in the directions of 'witness' consciousness" in later years.

Normally, when people think of ego, they think of the individual self-concept, or empirical ego, which the West has studied in great detail. But what Nathaniel was intuiting was the transcendental Ego, which is nearly identical with the Eastern notion of Atman, or the pure, transcendental Self which Witnesses all objects—including the empirical ego. As a theoretical aside, Ken notes that the essential message of the contemplative spiritual traditions is that "Atman and Brahman are One," or that the individual self and the transcendental Self share a Supreme Identity. This does not mean, however, that the individual self, or functional ego, is God, but that the Witness of that individual self is God.

For over three decades, Nathaniel has led the way in promoting, exploring, and building upon the importance of "self-esteem." Because modern research consistently shows that the trajectory of psychological development is such that identity expands from an egocentric self, to an ethnocentric self, to a worldcentric self, and finally to the transcendental Self, Ken discusses the implications of the developmental model and how it relates it to the concept of self-esteem, posing questions that are crucial to interpreting the message of the mystics.

In response to Ken's inquiry about the implicit manifestations of his own growth, Nathaniel humbly and humorously recounts the glowing feedback he's received as he has honored his commitment to realizing in deeper ways the richness of what lies beneath the surface of awareness. In response, Ken addresses the objective effect of consciousness, discussing the radiance that manifests in the finite body when one continues to "come home" to their deepest Self.

We invite you to enjoy this rich, warm, eye-opening dialogue between two friends and mutual fans who tackle the topic of ego with insight and sophistication....

Integral Naked is an online behind-the-scenes exploration of cutting-edge thought. From philosophers to musicians to spiritual adepts, get naked with some of the most provocative thinkers on the planet today.


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