Image by PDPics (modified by InnerSelf)
A long, long time ago, when human beings were not so fixed in their physical bodies as they are today, there lived a man (or was it a woman?) who made for himself a marvelous mask -- a mask that could pull many faces. The man used to put on the mask and entertain himself by suddenly accosting people and watching their reactions. Sometimes the mask would be laughing, sometimes crying, sometimes grimacing and scowling.
His victims were always shocked at the sight of such an extraordinary, unnatural, unfamiliar face -- even when it was smiling. Whether they laughed or cried made no difference to him. All he wanted was the excitement of their reactions. He knew he was himself behind the mask. He knew he was the joker -- and that the joke was on them.
Hiding Behind a Persona, a Mask
At first, he'd pop out with the mask on a couple of times a day. Then, as he got used to the excitement and wanted more, he began leaving the mask on all day. Finally, he saw no need to take it off at all -- and slept in it.
For years, the man wandered through the land enjoying himself behind the mask. Then one day he awoke, feeling a feeling he'd never felt before -- he felt lonely, cut-off, something missing. Jumping up in alarm he stepped out in front of a beautiful woman -- and immediately he fell in love with her. But the woman screamed and ran away, shocked by the frightening, unfamiliar face.
"Stop," he cried, "It's not me!" wrenching at the mask to tear it off. But it was him. The mask wouldn't come off. It was stuck to his flesh. It had become his face. The man, through his fabulous mask, was the first person to enter this unhappy world.
Time went by. No matter how hard he tried to tell everyone what a disaster he'd brought on himself, no one would believe him. No one was interested in listening anyway, because they'd all copied him. They'd all put on masks of their own -- to get the new excitement of playing at being what they were not. Like him, they'd all become the mask.
How the man eventually put a stop to the masquerade and returned to his joyous being, is the finale of the story; for all fables must have a happy ending. However, only when you, the reader, are joyous and free of unhappiness now (which is any moment) will the story truly come to an end. For you are the man or woman in the mask.
Get The Latest From InnerSelf
The Strain of Carrying Your Personality & Mask
The mask you are wearing is your personality. Look in the bathroom mirror -- that's it. Watch the face you pull. Sometimes approving; often disapproving. You can't really believe it's you. So you look in every passing mirror, even shop windows, to reassure yourself and confirm it's YOU. Sometimes, you even get the weird, irrational feeling of wanting to strip off the mask, don't you? This is not uncommon. It's just that people don't like to talk about it; it sounds silly. But it's not so silly, is it? -- when you start being honest.
The biggest load you're carrying in your life is your personality -- the strain of pretense. Keeping it up weighs you down and sucks the life out of you. You blame so many things for the feeling of heaviness and lack of life. You blame your work, your relationships, your diet, your problems. And yet it's your personality that has cut you off from your natural joy and vibrancy.
The personality makes you worried and emotional. It's the cause of your moods and self-doubt, your depressions and times of misery. It confuses your mind. It's fearful of the future and guilty or regretful of the past. It gets listless, bored and restless with the present. It's the unsuspected shadow that slides in between you and your partner. It's the cunning and knowing in the eyes. It lives off every kind of stimulus, good and bad, depression and excitement. And it's utterly terrified of being found out -- discovered as the phony and spoiler it is.
Do you recognize any of these symptoms in yourself? Then you're ready to begin dismantling the personality. I say dismantle because the personality is a 'mantle', a cloak. And you've thrown the mantle of the personality around you, to shield you from the nastiness of the world and the hurtfulness of people.
The Personality: Your Protector or a Bully?
You have made the personality your protector. You have handed over much of your authority. So the personality jumps to your defense immediately when you feel hurt, threatened or criticized. It hits out for you with piercing or bludgeoning words. Sometimes you wince at its violence and insensitivity. But then it's your champion, your defender. So you meekly go along with its often appalling behavior, and make excuses for it to yourself. The wily protector, given absolute power, becomes the absolute dictator. And you despair of ever being free.
The truth is, you have no need of this protection. The personality is like a bully at school whose gang you once joined to be on the safe side. After you've grown up he comes back and convinces you that you still need him. He's able to do this because, without knowing it, you harbor all the pain of yesterday -- the old fears and hurts of your childhood, your youth and adult life. The bully, knowing your fear, won't leave you alone. And you're terrified to lose his protection.
Notwithstanding this, the personality does have its place and role. It makes a rotten master, but is a good servant. The servant must no longer be allowed to run your life. It's fouled it up long enough.
Everything you perceive as wrong with the world is the result of someone's personality. In fact, the world itself was constructed by personality's ignorance. That's why the world is such a cruel, exploitative and dishonest place, compared with the beauty and integrity of the earth and nature. Just as the personality lives off you, and drains your resources, so the world is exhausting the earth's resources.
Developing True Character, Not Personality
Behind every personality, behind every mask, is a character. Character is your God-given uniqueness. Character is what you have to return to more consciously in yourself -- the character of your joyous being behind the personality. Everybody without exception has character. The personality so often obscures and deprives you of the pleasure of your character, but this lovable or admirable character appears when the personality is no longer active, when the frontal awareness is connected directly with the flame of innocence. The man or woman is then seen in a different light; the unique character shines forth, and we feel pleased or privileged to be in their company.
The stress of the personality arises out of the terrible contradiction of trying to hold on to existence, while the life that you are lets go every moment. Life is ceaseless movement. Everything now is different in some way to what it was yesterday.
Why don't we move like life, with the speed of love that lets go every moment? The answer is in the two words life and existence. Life is in existence but existence is not life. Life is new every moment. Existence also should be new every moment, but we hold on to it and it becomes painful. If you don't hold on to existence, you are the life in it, new every moment. Then the two become a harmony. Then being is joyous.
The harmonious interchange between life within and existence without depends on you keeping your psyche free-flowing. The personality clogs the psychic system which is naturally ever moving. The personality freeze-frames our existence. We've freeze-framed our houses, our possessions, our children; and made them 'mine'. We hang on to them as though they'd disappear if we don't cling to them. It's all due to the insecure personality that feels it must either hold on or lose its identity. So we fight people or countries to hold on to what we have. But life as we see it around us, behind all the personable people and their personal problems, holds on to nothing.
Time To Energize Your True Self
So now we come to the crucial question. How can you learn to let go, and be life that is new every moment? How do you start to live joyously? The answer is you have to get more energy.
The remarkable thing is that all the energy you require is already in you now. But it's being wasted by your personality. There is only so much energy in your system, your body. It's not unlimited, but there is sufficient to enable you to realize the truth; to return you to the joyous life behind the mask -- your original, vast and untroubled state of being.
Published in England by Barry Long Books. ©1994.
Only Fear Dies is about the real possibility that we can free ourselves of unhappiness, which is another way of talking about enlightenment. This potential for freedom is the heart of all the work of the author, Australian spiritual master, Barry Long. And this is one of the most important of his books. Long describes in his inimitable and vivid way how unhappiness seizes hold of us from birth, how it forms our personalities, dominates our history, is manipulated by the media and chases us to death and beyond. The root of unhappiness is fear - but the good news is that in the conscious or divine life, fear dies. In 'dying for life' we realize at last that only fear dies. Written 15 years before Eckhart Tolle's world best-seller 'The Power of Now', Barry Long's book covers similar ground and has been hugely influential.
About The Author
Barry Long (1926-2003) was a writer and spiritual teacher with an original and challenging way of communicating age-old truths. Barry taught that the way to truth and the reality of love is through direct experience, not belief or imagination; and that freedom comes from taking responsibility for one's own life. His legacy may be seen in the work of some of those he inspired, including other teachers, notably Eckhart Tolle. Contact The Barry Long Foundation, c/o P.O. Box 251, Cerrillos, NM 87010. Visit the foundation's website at www.barrylong.org.