Multiplicity

My name is Legion, for we are many.

– Mark 5:9

 

The multiplicity, also known as the “doctrine of ‘I’s,” is the recognition that the human condition is one of fragmentation of self – that there is not a single, unchanging, unified “I” who speaks, thinks, feels, acts and moves, but a myriad of “I’s” with a myriad of mechanical impulses, reactions, preferences and genetically and culturally-acquired programs.  Man as a multiplicity describes the state of sleeping humanity. This legion, this state of sleep, can easily be verified in oneself through self-observation over time. By multiplicity, we do not mean the modern psychological diagnosis referred to as Dissociative Identity Disorder, formerly known as Multiple Personality Disorder.

 

“The lack of unity in a man is the source of all his difficulties and troubles. … [and] … does not work harmoniously as a whole. Man, in regard to his inner state, is a multiplicity, and from one angle in this teaching, this inner multiplicity is spoken of in terms of ‘I’s or egos in a man. Man has no one permanent ‘I’ but a host of different ‘I’s’ in him that at each moment take charge of him and speak out of him as if in his voice: and from this point of view man is compared with a house in disorder in which there is no master but a crowd of servants who speak in the name of the absent master. … [I]t is the greatest mistake that can be made either to suppose that oneself or others have one permanent unchanging ‘I’ – or ego – in them. A man is never the same for long. He is continually changing. … [One part] does not like telling lies … [and another part] likes to lie and so on. To take another person as one and the same person at all times, to suppose he is one single ‘I’, is to do violence to him and in the same way is to do violence to oneself. A multitude of different people live in each of you … which it is necessary to observe, and try to get to know, otherwise no self-knowledge is possible – that is, if one really seeks self-knowledge and not invention and imagination about oneself.”

– Maurice Nicoll, Commentaries, “On Additional Means of Self-Observation,” June 6, 1941, Vol 1, pg. 19, 20