The gaze toward
Psychology distinguishes between private self-consciousness and public self-consciousness. In the former, we become conscious of our own interior life; our selves as private selves. In the later we are conscious of ourselves as social objects; percepts in the gaze of others. Both are very elemental experiences of the self–we learn about ourselves through being aware of ourselves (that is, both subject and object of perception), but also through being aware of others’ awareness of ourselves (that is, as object of others perception).
I propose a third type of self-consciousness: spiritual self-consciousness. It sounds flaky, I know, but it is simply a way of saying that we are aware of God’s awareness of ourselves – we know ourselves as God knows us. Unlike the other two forms of self-consciousness, spiritual self-consciousness overcomes the subject-object split. God who is wholly other is also wholly present. In being seen by God we are not reduced to mere object, but we are also called to participate in the act of seeing. We experience the self as being held and transfixed in a greater, loving gaze.