Thursday, April 7, 2016

The Tree of Life - The Tree of Masks

My God, my God, who am I attending to? How many am I? Who is me? What is this interval between me and myself?

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

Although an individual's root genetic character does not change, their personalities do.  Personality, a function of mood, is influenced by positive and negative attention - praise, criticism, compliments, abuse, affirmation, humiliation, yes!, oops!  This personality-mood gestalt is worn as a mask over the root character and is normally appropriate to it, the physiognomy of individuals are in line with their mask.


Why do we wear masks?  The disguise, defensive in nature, begins as a response to traumatic experiences, acting as a protective interface between the self and society at large as society requires interacting with people outside of our control in order to survive.  Individuals, learning from experience, attempt to shield their vulnerabilities and only project/reveal those aspects of themselves that they wish to.  Once developed the mask will feed on attention of different types, again mostly appropriate to the underlying character - a form of social nutrition reward system to encourage in us that tribalism that was so responsible for our evolution.  If an individual recieves an excessive amount of positive or negative attention then their resting mask can be distorted into an inappropriate mask - sometimes permanently.


A particular problem arises in this system when the mask is mistaken for the character underneath and takes on a life of its own.  Feeding on attention now becomes a means unto itself - gorging for pleasure as opposed to nutriment.  This mis-identification is brought about when a character has been forced to wear - through spoiling or abuse - a mask which is unnatural to them.  Many people operate within the elastic limit of their character, their mood oscillating with events and the attention of others but returning to equilibrium - some though have passed the plastic limit, the natural character's mask is bent out of shape or broken entirely, and a new mask, fevered and alien, takes over.  Rectification of this situation does not mean abolishing the mask to become a smiling nobody, it is about restoring the natural mood* and therefore the ''happiness'' of the underlying character.


Attention then, to simplify, comes in two forms, positive and negative - one building up the individual and the other breaking them down, extremes of which produce permanent, or semi-permanent, distortions of the mood and alter the mask and the health.  Different masks naturally seek out  certain types of attention, will feed on them until satisfied and then retire until they need more.  In this way the mood oscillates up and down but typically stays around that individual's equilibrium - often if they are getting too much praise or criticism they will find a way to block it out of themselves and prevent distortion.  Likewise when one is giving out attention one can only give out so much until the supply is exhausted.  Pushing somebody past the limits in producing attention can exhaust them in the same way as recieving it can.


Attention is exchanged between individuals in environments usch as a workplace or meeting place.  The recycling of attenton in these places lead to the wear and tear of that environment and ultimately to its collapse/regeneration.  Some masks like to move between new environments as often as they can and meet new people, some reside.  Of those that remain within a fixed environment, a natural hierarchy of masks** and roles assigned to them emerges - an ecosystem related to varieties in the endocrinological spectrum.  As you ascend the hierarchy, the masks generally need more attention in order to feed their appetites but also relate to attention in different ways from lower masks:

Kether - The Director (pituitary)
Chokmah - The Angel (pineal)
Binah - The Timelord (pineal)
Chesed - The Magician (thymus)
Gevurah - The Demon (thymus)
Tifereth - The Dreamer (pancreas)
Netzach - The Lover (adrenals)
Hod - The Immortal (adrenals)
Yesod - The Vampire (genitals)
Malkuth/Daath - The Gambler (thyroid)

Gamblers seek out new environments and new masks - they are good at meeting people and adapting to newly discovered environments.  The attention they prefer is the new.

Vampires form close relationships with individuals in the environments as opposed to groups wthin them.  They enjoy ''best-friends'' type relationships and the preferred attention type is the exclusive.

Immortals protect the group from outsiders - they are cliquey team players and the attention they prefer is the sharing of agreement in principle, affirmation.

Lovers form close relationships with the group as opposed to individuals within them.  They flit between individuals in the group rapidly, recover from relationships far quicker than others and the attention they prefer is the longing or yearning.

Dreamers feed on the glow of others recycling attenton between them and create internal worlds and dreams, it is a passive form of attention gathering like photosynthesis.

Demons feed on explosive bursts of attention given off in dramatic, memorable exciting events, good or bad.  They will do what they can to create, and then detonate, these events but they can survive off one explosion for a very long time if necessary.

Magicians also feed on drama but where demons operate in the background, magicians, like entertainers, prefer to be the centre of attention.  They treat groups as audiences and the favourite type of attention is applause.

Timelords tend to appear aloof, stoic and out of reach - they do not need much attention to subsist.  Secretly though, they feed on worship.

Angels feed on continuous intense bursts of love or fear, a kind of pulse, which they can generate in the environment by  - religiosity, Dionysian activity, Apocalypticism, politics.

Directors manage and guide environments so the preferred attention type is the one that they gather through direct control of individuals.


Just like the Tree of Time and the Tree of Faces even though we may express a particular part of the system in our relationship with the whole we contain the whole within us.  The mask is natural and appropriate when it is subordinated to the character  but not when it subsumes the character and takes on a life of its own.  Stoicism is a means through which one limits their exposure to the oscillations in their mood, maintains the naturalness of their mask.  By exploring this Tree of Masks we can understand how our mood oscillates as we seek attention and recognition from others, and ultimately we can play with the masks in our stories rather than have them play with us


Who am I to myself?  I am only one of my sensations.

Fernando Pessoa, The Book of Disquiet

*Bear in mind that the natural mood can be ''angry'', ''depressed'', etc.  What happiness means from this perspective entirely subjective. A depressive/melancholic is not automatically ''happy'' at parties full of loud, smiley people.
**Although in terms of cellular consciousness all masks are related to Tifereth which is the nucleus of the cell.  Problems with the mask can be considered nuclear envelopathies. More on this in the Depth of the East.  The Tree of Masks however can be considered as a fractal Tree within the Depth of the East.

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