What is individuality? How does it differ from personality? From character? Is it permanent or transitory? Do souls retain their individuality after death? These are recurring questions.
In the progression of nature, from the lowest living substance to the complex organization of man, everything follows the principle of evolution. Progression continues until the innermost is a perfected and individualized expression of Divine Essence. The principle of spirit existed eternally emanating from the fountain of spirit; but it could not be individualized and made manifest without organisms.
Man’s ancestry is dual; Father God and Mother Nature, and earthly parents. From his celestial Progenitors he derives his individuality. It is the mold into which the soul is cast at spiritual birth. As ages often separate spiritual and physical birth, individuality is already formed at the soul’s advent into the corporeal form.
Most persons first exhibit that character which they have inherited from their immediate progenitors; later, their individuality asserts itself. Individuality is the mental stamp we give our actions; we label everything with it. Every one of us has his own particular way of doing things; it is always unconsciously present and connected with everything we do. Individuality is not to be confused with peculiarities, mannerisms or eccentricities, for it is not a matter of externalities. It is innate and not subject to modification, alteration or eradication.
Individuality, or the foundation character, is innately divine and beautiful. It is godlike because it is an individualized portion of the Creative Principle. This radical and imperishable character is permanent. The progenitory character which man inherits from his earthly parents is alterable, and its patently acquired imperfections ultimately pass away; but his individuality remains forever the same.
Few, if any, individuals have ever been able to change the behavior pattern of their childhood, though in adult life they found themselves in entirely different surroundings and situations. The psychic life does not and cannot change its foundation, and the characteristics of an adult are noticeable in his infancy. A change of attitude in adult life need not necessarily signify a change of behavior pattern.
Psychiatry also has revealed that the phenomena of the soul life are of one incontrovertible and continuous pattern, that no change takes place from childhood to maturity. Students and thinkers of old reached the same conclusion, that is, that human nature has a fixed and unalterable basis. This, however, does not imply that man is not an accountable being, for man has free will and is the architect of his character.
Character is inherited and acquired. It is the medium through which the soul expresses itself, or that form by which the mind manifests. But the character is not the soul, neither is it an expression of man’s inward nature. Inward nature is compelled to express itself through form, but such form may be the creation of an unfortunate parentage or education.
Character is the sum total of fixed habits gradually acquired by manner of thinking and living. Although not permanent, it is constant, for no one believes that any man can suddenly change his character. “A leopard does not change his spots,” is the Biblical version of this truth. “If a man tells you the mountain has moved, believe him. But if he tells you he has changed his nature, believe him not,” says the Mohammedan. And, like the cat in Aesop’s fable who changed herself into a fine lady until one day at a banquet, when a mouse ran across the board, she completely forgot her acquired nature and became a cat again. Human nature may lie buried or submerged for long periods, but under stress or strain promptly asserts itself and comes to the surface.
As all created and acquired things contain within themselves the elements of change and perishability, so character may be rebuilt or completely torn down and another constructed. Good habits can be acquired in place of bad ones and constructive principles for destructive ones. Determination, application and the emulation of those who have strong, determined characters are the tools for character building.
Unlike character, which is deeply ingrained, personality is a surface quality and is always flux. It is the mask which men put on or take off at will. There are people who change their personality according to their associates, surroundings, or objectives to be obtained. They exhibit one face to their family, another to friends, clients, servants and strangers. Many people have completely altered their personalities when they discovered it militated against their progress and success, or, to use the current expression, “streamlined it.”
Personality is a definite asset for anyone aspiring to a public career. Actors and actresses with personality are box-office favorites. Physicians with a good bedside manner never lack for patients. Politicians with magnetism have the masses following them like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. Orators with eloquence hypnotize people into doing things which are totally prejudicial to their own interest and welfare. Often these moulders of public opinion and action have absolutely nothing to offer except their personality. The most worthless and weakest persons frequently have a fascinating personality. The minds of the masses lacking discrimination mistake glitter for gold.
Success is achieved by developing one’s innate aptitudes and abilities, and not by imitating others. No one is intended to be a mere copy of someone else, but someone different and unique. Those who have accomplished the most and left an abiding imprint on human life are those who dared to be different.
Neither insanity nor idiocy can affect or change individuality, as these conditions pertain to that part of man that is transient and perishable. While often startling and radical changes occur in the personality and character manifestation, the inner and real man remains the same. Any knowledge, talent or skill a person had before his mental aberration he will manifest again when freed from the physical body. Defective brains and diseased bodies do not exist in the spirit world, as death mercifully terminates afflictions resulting from these causes.
But neither death nor the grave can cleanse the spirit of certain characteristics which adhere to it. The different races preserve a residue and for many periods continue to manifest these differences. Ultimately however, divergent races converge and assimilate, acquired and racial characteristics disappear and the universal consciousness is accepted.
Each individual will differ everlastingly from every other individual. There is no one type proper to all mankind. Human nature is organized and equipped for progression throughout the ages. Each faculty and quality of one’s being is replete with an irresistible tendency to unfold in the direction of an endless career. Each individual will be developed in the likeness of its own interior character bequeathed by Father God and Mother Nature. There will be greater differences than we now have any idea of; we never have been the same and we shall be more different with the centuries.
Were spirits constituted alike, they would gravitate to one center, but being constitutionally dissimilar they can neither be merged into one another nor lose themselves—as some have been led to suppose—in the Universal Spirit or Great Creative Mind. You will not lose your individuality on “passing over”; you will know and be known by parents, children, friends and loved ones; such recognition is the principle of the law of affinity.
The ultimate purpose of Nature and God is to individualize the Divine and Universal Principle. But individualization does not mean separation from God and the rest of creation. The illusion of separateness has caused more sorrow and suffering than any other fallacy. The sun’s rays are individual, but never severed from their central source. The branches and leaves are individual, but have no life apart from the parent tree. So with man, he is individual yet forever one with Father God and all created things. Summing up:
Individuality is what God has made man;
Character is what man has made himself;
Personality is the mask which he wears.
Life’s hardest battles are waged within the human breast.