The most important function of the self, as the focusing point, is to enable awareness and intent. Without the self, nobody would be there to be aware. As Chandler puts it,
Both understanding and consciousness depend on something outside, i.e. transcending the computational system, something which knows and relates them. (1995, p.360).
Awareness is intimately related to experience, so it can be said that the self makes experience possible. But, what sort of experience one will have and its quality depends on what a self identifies with. Physical pain, for example, will affect the person to the extent to which the self identifies with the body at that moment. The intensity of an experience can make, in turn, this identification stronger (up to a point). Without the self, intent (self-initiated action) could not exist either. Awareness and intent can be considered other forces (besides the four recognised in the material world). Certain scholars reject this possibility on the basis that in this case we would all be telepathic or telekinetic. But this does not follow. The effects of awareness and intent come about only in particular circumstances and on a subtle level (the same applies to the physical forces - electro-magnetism, for example, was not even discovered until relatively recently). Intent can directly affect only the matter that its source (the self-soul) is engaged with, which is usually the brain, and awareness is even more specific. It affects its source, rather than its object (some quantum physicists would claim that it can also affect its object, but this is debatable). This is not to say that the self exists only when the person is aware and intends (just as the eye pupil does not disappear when the eye is shut). The continuity is preserved despite unconscious episodes, because at least some soul waves remain focused even when awareness and intent are not obviously involved.
The self is also necessary for binding, so that a person can be and can act as a whole. It has a unitary or integrative function not only in relation to our past experiences but also our present evaluations and constructs, and our future expectations or predictions. Eccles writes that 'the self has the drive or the need or the tendency to unify and bring together the various activities of the brain. (Popper and Eccles, 1977, p.498)
All this enables a degree of auto-control. Although many processes in the body and brain are not under the direct influence of the self, self can still have (through its identifications) an overall control, a function similar to an operator. The importance of this function can be recognised if the experience of those who have lost it is observed:
...without the everyday orientation of being the one who controls, the 'operator who directs the mind, he realizes that he must function without a sense of self... the person entering psychosis creates limitless confusion by trying to reinforce his personal identity, in an attempt to catch his bearings by trying to build himself up. (Podvoll, 1990, p.145)
The comparison with an operator should not be pushed too far, though. In most cases the self is only a potential operator. Other stronger factors (such as physical and environmental conditioning) may have a greater influence. Usually the self can have an effect only when these factors are in a relative equilibrium. Through the processes of evolution and development they gradually lose their dominance and the role of the self increases. In other worlds, through life experiences the self-soul is learning to master its energy.
The self is the equivalent of the One on the level of individual life forms. It relates (potentially) to ones inner word as the One relates to Reality. The self intends, but does not perform. The self also does not think in a conceptual way, but it enables a person to be aware of shis thoughts (as well as everything else) and form proactive, creative ones. That the self is the source of awareness and intent, but not the source of conceptual thinking is not a contradiction. It is like a user-computer system. The computer has its own language that the user does not need to understand in order to interact with the computer and be aware of what is on the screen; which is in the case of the self, the end result of mental process. To think in terms of images, words and other representations, some hardware is also necessary - the brain. The self is, in fact, rarely aware of the routes that lead to formed thoughts and conversely, our thoughts are not always intentional.
- . A character in Charles Dickenss Hard Times, when asked on her sick-bed whether she was in pain, answers: 'I think theres a pain somewhere in the room, but I couldnt positively say that I have got it. Anecdotal evidence suggests that many people have had a similar experience when their association with the body (or a part of the body) is weakened.