I just found this reply in my drafts folder, thought I should share it now. . . sorry I didn't post it in a timely way. . .
Jigme Tsultrim wrote: If perfecting a visualization of a being which represents a higher attribute, such as compassion, and then believing that the being merges with oneself, and this produces the desired result of perfecting the compassionate nature of the practitioner, then the ultimate nature of that being , whether a wisdom deity or a creation of one's practice, is empty.
The ultimate nature of that being should always be discerned as empty, whether a wisdom deity or one's own visualization. However, our own self should not be considered any less empty. The practice should lessen our own self-grasping, but in so doing it shouldn't develop in us a new attachment to form. That is why we always dissolve the deity into emptiness and meditate on that at the end of the session.
In that sense this could be seen as a kind of self hypnosis.
It's not self-hypnosis, it does correspond to a relatively
"real" wisdom being, and the mantra along with the visualization harmonizes our energetic field with that of the wisdom being, so we can receive the blessings and help them radiate to other suffering beings in need. And again, by identifying with the Wisdom being we also loosen our grasping to our own habitual identity.
Such a view in no way diminishes the value of the practice.
It misconstrues it, which will diminish it's effectiveness, the correct view is part of the deal.
So does the nature or lack thereof of one's self require input from an outside source to improve, or is perfection the responsibility of the practitioner?
While we are still bound by the dualistic fixation of outer and inner, self and other, and so on, we will need a mirror to help us discern our true nature. The qualified Guru acts as the mirror up until we can discern it without their assistance. That's a Dzogchen perspective anyway.