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The Core Question: Who Am I?Review - The Core Question: Who Am I?
A Reflective Journey Into Uncovering Your Authentic Self
by Mark Julian Zyga
Friesen Press, 2013
Review by Bob Lane, MA
Feb 17th 2015 (Volume 19, Issue 8)

This is a surprising little book. Written by Mark Zyga, who tells us that "he has been working with individuals as a practitioner and hypnotherapist for over 14 years. He has also been teaching part time for almost 30 years in a variety of universities, as well as more esoteric and fun activities such as yoga, meditation and sailing to name a few."

The who am I? question, as readers of metapsychology are aware, is one of the central questions of metaphysics. In an earlier review of a philosophy book by Warren Bourgeois I wrote:

The problem: What is a person? Many theories have been offered over time to answer that question:

·         The soul theory--your essence is your soul or mind, understood as a nonphysical entity distinct from your body. Descartes came to think of the mind as the vehicle of continuity because of his observation that if an individual loses several body parts he/she is still the same person. What is the same? The person's mind (or soul).

·         The psychological continuity theory--you are essentially your memories and ability to reflect on yourself (Locke) and, more generally, your overall psychological configuration. 

·         Materialism--you are essentially the material that you are made out of--a collection of molecules, largely water molecules, and carbon based.

·         Narrative -- you are your story; personal persistence is a function of a narrative structure, your story of being-in-the world with all of its complexities and relationships with others.

·         The no self view--your self is an illusion. The "I" is a grammatical fiction (Nietzsche). There are bundles of impressions but no underlying self (Hume). There is no survival because there is no person (Buddha).

The significance of the problem: the way we answer this seemingly simple question will have an impact on life and death, on distribution of scarce resources, and on the way we define the good life.

Zyga's book is a self-help book, and not a philosophy text; the book is, he tells us, the outcome of a personal journey of adversity and intellect, and "a desire to help and assist others in their personal process with achieving desired change in a positive direction". There are thirty-two short chapters with an exercise [or "reflection"] at the end of each to be completed by the reader. At the heart of the book are three compendia which summarize the material covered in each of the three sections:

1.    Stepping into awareness;

2.    The art of understanding self;

3.    Manifesting authenticity.

For example, at the end of chapter two, where a simple distinction between "knowing" and "truly knowing" has been offered the reflection is: "Can you see the difference between "knowing" and "truly knowing"? [His concern is not so much the epistemological distinction between  believing and knowing, but he seems to be using these terms to sort out what a person believes about herself before and after some careful reflection.]

Chapter fifteen has the first of the three compendia providing a nine point summary:

1.    We all have our core question as to the nature of who we are and what will fulfill us in life.

2.    The question is generally complex, but more easily identified when we look at it as a question we can break apart…

3.    Your life is reflective of people close to you, family, God, culture, and traditions, and it is important to take these external references and OPS (Other people's stuff) associated with these external references into consideration when you are trying to become self-aware and find your true self.

4.     -  9

There is a great deal of folk wisdom in the book and it is summarized in the three compendia. "Spirit" and "spirituality" are terms used often and I think the author means by them our sense of inner self, our will, and not a specific metaphysical doctrine. There is a chapter on self-direction and one on self-esteem both of which are informed and informative.

Self-esteem in each and every person is a combination of
how a person feels about himself or herself and, possibly
more important, how one thinks the rest of the world sees
him or her. This is a common human trait that arises early
in life when your behaviors and personality are formed. The
shadow side of self-esteem is ego or more aptly put, being
egotistical. We need an ego to get through life, but when
the ego is out of control, the unhealthy or shadow side
appears and begins to hide the nature of your true essence.

THE CORE QUESTION is well-written, sincere, easy to read, and offers a gentle approach to self-analysis without getting bogged down in technical jargon. It strikes this reviewer as part self-help book and part memoir.

 

© 2015 Bob Lane

 

Bob Lane is an Honorary Research Associate in Philosophy and Literature at Vancouver Island University in British Columbia.


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