The media is replete with stories relating to racial, gender, and sexual identity. Why is there such intense energy around these issues? This book approaches the question of identity directly. Barquet asks why we have an identity at all and explores how it is constructed.
Barquet holds that the sense of self is necessary for the survival of the individual and, therefore, also serves the continuation of the human species. For Barquet, the Self is formed through an ongoing process of development. It remains malleable and requires a steady supply of what he calls “affective fuels.” These fuels include social interactions, material possessions, physical affection and other stimuli. The Self expands or contracts depending on the supply of available fuels.
The Self, claims Barquet, is like a balloon with a tiny leak. As air escapes from the balloon, it needs to be replaced by a stream of fresh air such that the balloon remains inflated. The author posits that the fear of nothingness drives us to seek out “fuel” that maintains the balloon’s shape. The Self is like a thin membrane between the organism and Nothingness. He suggests that spiritual adepts transcend the fear of nothingness, enabling them to see the Divinity in each of us.
Barquet explores the “fuels” of the Self in detail. These explorations include a remarkable harmonization of the Buddhist and Christian traditions. However, his comments on economic systems, and especially his treatment of sexuality, trade on stereotypes and are less convincing than his general theory.
Despite some spelling errors, Barquet’s work is readable and relatively jargon-free. Although he draws some debatable implications from his theory, the theory itself is compelling, and overall, Barquet provides plausible answers to the questions he probes. Readers of Eckhart Tolle will find a kindred spirit in this slim volume.
Also available in hardcover and ebook.