In The Five Levels of Attachment, Ruiz explores the five levels of attachment that cause suffering in our lives. The levels are:
- Authentic Self
Level One: The Authentic Self
The first level of attachment represents the Authentic Self, the living being that is the full potential of life. It describes that force that not only animates the body but also gives life to our mind and our soul.
The Authentic Self is always present, and it is only our attachments that keep us from remembering who we really are. From this place, our name is an empty symbol whose definition or meaning is determined by our agreement; the action of making that agreement is the first expression of ‘me.’
Level Two: Preference
At the second level of attachment, we still move with the awareness of the Authentic Self. We recognize our ability to attach ourselves to something as we engage in the present moment, but we are also able to let go of the attachment when the moment has passed. We see ourselves as a reflection of life in the Dream of the Planet, and we attach and detach ourselves with ease simply by recognizing and letting go of that reflection.
At level two, we have the awareness that knowledge is a tool that provides us with the information we need to make choices about where we wish to place our attention and take action. But at this level we don’t distort the information we perceive, and we are using it to engage only in this moment. We can choose to adapt in accordance with the present life situation without losing the awareness of our Authentic Self, without the need to project a false image of self.
Level Three: Identity
We have a need to name, describe, and understand the things we engage with in life. Knowledge allows us to understand the world and the universe, but when it comes to understanding ourselves, our identity is a symbol that can be wrapped in an expression of our knowledge.
From the stance of knowledge, identity is the grounding sense of self that allows us to have our place in the Dream Planet; it gives us a point of reference by which we identify and engage with one another. But this identity is a mask that blurs our awareness of the Authentic Self, an attachment at this level occurs when we identify ourselves with our knowledge.
Level Four: Internalization
The fourth level of attachment, Internalization, describes a degree of attachment to knowledge where our identity becomes the model by which we accept ourselves. This is domestication through attachment.
At this level, our narrators have begun to set the conditions by which we domesticate our identity. They measure our acceptance and rejection of ourselves and others based on the beliefs we use to construct the mask of our identity. We will distort the information we receive to reinforce the conditions of what we expect from life. The narrators also serve our need to validate who we are in our Personal Dream, as well as the face we present to the Dream, as well as the face we present to the Dream of the Planet. Our knowledge is corrupted; it is no longer a clean reflection, but a Smokey Mirror.
Level Five: Fanaticism
Level five, Fanaticism, describes a rigid attachment to knowledge with an excessive intolarance of opposing views. It is driven by a need to believe in something one hundred percent, even though that something’s meaning is dependent upon the agreement of others. Anything that contradicts or puts into question the sustainability of the belief is a direct threat, and a fanatic will defend the belief at any cost. Prejudice, intolerance, and violence are the instruments by which the belief is imposed onto the Dream of the Planet.
Regardless of how it can appear, the driving force behind fanaticism is not hate or anger, but rather an extreme form of conditional love for self and others. Attachment at this degree requires us to try and domesticate everyone around us, and we become tyrants. There’s no freedom in tyranny.