GREGORY PHILLIPS

 

After graduating with a first class honours degree in Social Anthropology from the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London, Greg went on to qualify as a Religious Education teacher (Secondary). At the age of 25 he was introduced to the practice of self-enquiry through a book by Arno Ilgner called 'The Rock Warrior's Way'. The book was initially read with the aim of improving his rock climbing skills but Ilgner's repetition of Nisargadatta Maharaj's simple words "You are not your thoughts and feelings, you are the observer of your thoughts and feelings" had a profound effect on Greg and provoked what he describes as his first experience of awakening. When asked to describe this experience Greg said, "I began to see that my own ideas of who I was lacked consistency. Through my undergraduate study of anthropology I'd already seen how ideas of personhood could vary across cultures but this was something personal and intimate; it was like the whole foundation of everything I had built my personality on began to collapse and as a result I was no longer attached to my own ideas of who I was. I accepted that on one level I had a personality in the minds of others but I saw clearly how each person's idea of me, including my own, was always slightly different and always incomplete; no one idea of me was correct, not even all of them added together captured the totality of who I was; all were only partial representations. In addition, who I was seemed to change from day to day; I couldn't say with any certainty who I would be in the future so I saw in this sense that my identity had a temporal, unknown, dimension to it as well. Anyway, I decided there and then that the concept of a stable, unified identity persevering through time was nothing but a reassuring fiction and in reality, in the words of Albert Camus, my identity, of which I had formerly felt so sure was "nothing but water slipping through my fingers."