In Search of Self and Beyond

“Stop acting so small.

You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”

~ Rumi


One of the most confusing and debated issues in philosophy, theology, psychology, anthropology, and now in the emerging neurosciences, is the concept of the self. To be succinct, the matter may be condensed into the question, “Who or what am I?”

The purpose of this essay is not to summarize the current state of the investigation, nor to champion any particular position that has already been advocated by far more accomplished minds than mine. Rather, I am here to suggest that most of the confusion around the subject is based on a fundamental misunderstanding — one that relies on the severely limited filters associated with the human vantage point. From the human vantage point, we will never be able to account for that which transcends our assumed humanity, any more than we can hope to view the grand procession of celestial galaxies by using our curled fingers as a telescope.


Essentially, most of us take the uninspected sense of individualized self to be representative of who and what we are — hence the “me” story. The prime misunderstanding generated from that conviction is the belief that we are human beings in a world of other human beings, all vying for survival and prominence. This is an innocent enough assumption, since by incarnating here, we arrive with a kind of amnesia regarding our true nature. The purpose of this amnesia is to create the illusion that we are actually the human animal which we are inhabiting. The ensuing self-sense is not some troublesome critter that needs to be extinguished, but simply a way to navigate the objective human realm.

navigating the maze

The illusion of the “person” is necessary in order to grant the incarnational adventure a sense of reality. For the experience to have a real impact, we need to identify with the fictional avatar in the virtual reality game of being human to the extent that we momentarily forget ourselves and believe we are the game character itself. In that regard, all those systems which deny that we are the so-called self are somewhat correct, as long as they are pointing to the fact that we are not truly the body-mind vehicle, the flesh and blood human character.

However, even those systems which claim that we are humans with souls actually have it backward, in the sense that we are much more like spiritual beings who have infused a portion of our light energy (which are then called souls) into humans in order to enjoy the human experience. In doing so, we create a two-in-one opportunity to gather interesting human experiences, by acting as both the Witness and the Do-er (although in reality we are neither). When we return to our purely spiritual state after dropping off the physical body, we expand the knowledge base of our familial “soul group”, of which we are more like cells, with the fresh experiences we gleaned while fused with the human animal.

By investing a percentage of our light energy through a process of focused attention into the human host, we come to identify with the human character for the duration of its lifespan, enjoying the unique sense of self that results from the fusion. Nevertheless, we are not that human self, any more than we are the body-mind organism with which we are identified. At death, the human does not move on — we do. The human returns to the atomic elements, but we eventually re-integrate that percentage of energy previously incarnated with our apparent “higher self”, or Spirit, which manifests as a seemingly immortal being of Light in what appear to be heaven-type worlds, dimensions which vibrate at a much higher frequency than the denser human circumstance.


I say “apparent” because in reality we are not truly this higher self (or Whole Self, to use Natalie Sudman’s terminology) either, although the higher self may seem to be much more like our real and immortal nature than the human illusion, just as the heaven-type worlds seem much more real than our lower density 3-D earthly sojourn. However, regardless of our luminous radiance, we are still very much like characters in a dream, a dream being dreamt by the Source of all the universe, in the same way that humans are like a dream we seem to create when we incarnate that portion of our energy in the human bio-vehicle. Just as the human/soul entity populates its dreams with all sorts of characters at night while asleep, so too do we appear in the Mind of Source.

As “spiritual” beings, we have been infused with a sense of individuality by Source, just so that It can experience itself from every possible angle and thereby enjoy its creation through our various perspectives as co-creators of all manifestation. In order to be able to appreciate Itself, Source manifests the conditions for the appearance of innumerable life forms, which are nevertheless still indivisible shards or projections of Its own Source Energy that temporarily enjoy a sense of separation and individuality. As beings of light and power (Source Energy), we are the vehicles for Source’s play of consciousness, conduits of the creative Play.

light body

In that regard, one could say that what we actually are is Source Itself, pretending to be multiple distinct selves. Consequently, those who claim that we are not even souls at last are also ultimately correct. In any event, Source is not some kind of super entity, Cosmic Self, or Supreme Being (which are mere human concepts), but much more like a vast, ineffable energy field of transparent Clear Light Awareness, to which no human terms or descriptions can ever apply, but which includes all creation as manifest aspects and reflections of its own unconditional loving.

Indeed, as the great mystic Meister Eckhart proclaimed: “Love is nothing other than God. God loves himself and his nature, his being, and his divinity. In the same love, however, in which God loves himself, he also loves all creatures, not as creatures but he loves the creatures as God. In the same love in which God loves himself, he loves all things. Now I shall say something I have never said before. God enjoys himself. In the same enjoyment in which God enjoys himself, he enjoys all creatures. With the same enjoyment with which God enjoys himself, he enjoys all creatures, not as creatures, but he enjoys the creatures as God. In the same enjoyment in which God enjoys himself, he enjoys all things.”

Fundamentally, there are no sentient beings in the universe — there is only Source, playing all the roles, wearing every mask, engaged in all the functions, and purely for the joy of the dance. Any sense of separate self which we might clothe ourselves in is merely a temporary dream costume of Source, as is any illusion of substantial and enduring personhood. Here, the mystics’ claim that “there is only God” is actually the literal truth, or as Alan Watts said: “You are an aperture through which the universe is looking at and exploring itself.”

eye see u

When even the illusion of being an independent and exclusive higher light being self finally drops away, we recognize that our highest conceptions of liberation and Nirvana were simply crude representations of the realization of our inherent selflessness. We have never been other than Source Itself — there was never anything to acquire or become that was not already true of us. We are the whole thing, and simultaneously no-thing.

In seeing through any notional construct and identification with some ephemeral individual self (whether sacred or mundane), it might seem that this is as far as we can go — to recognize that we are in reality simply dream figures in the Mind of Source — but we need not stop here. If we consider the intrinsic logic of the manifesting hierarchy of self/Self Realization — ascending from human creation to spiritual being and then to the Source of the whole manifest and un-manifest totality — we can also intuit that Source Itself may be more like a cell within an even vaster body, one far beyond our comprehension, with thought-universes more numerous than grains of sand on a beach.

worlds within worlds

Furthermore, there might very likely be no limit nor circumference which could somehow account for, define, and contain it all, no true and final self-existent Absolute behind conditional appearances, but simply a dependently arising thought within another thought, ad infinitum. Moreover, there has never been a “big bang” where it all began, no actual beginning nor end to this Play, no origination and therefore no destruction, no place to plant a flag and claim some surety, no Big Mind or Self where the “buck stops”, but more like a dream within a larger dream within an even larger, more exquisitely confounding dream, and so forth beyond any progressively sublime conception — human or divine. It is all open-ended, free and unknown, and that is the elegant glory of it — its sheer magnificent Mystery!

“Once you understand non-self, then the burden of life is gone. You’ll be at peace with the world. When we see beyond self, we no longer cling to happiness and we can truly be happy. Learn to let go without struggle, simply let go, to be just as you are –
no holding on, no attachment, free.”

~Ajahn Chah


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About Bob OHearn

My name is Bob O'Hearn, and I live with my Beloved Mate, Mazie, and our lazy dog, Amos, in a lovely little mountain town called Paradise, situated on the ridge of the Little Grand Canyon, in the Northern California Sierra Nevadas. I have 6 sites you may enjoy: Photo Gallery: Essays on the Conscious Process: Poetry and Prosetry: Transliterations: Love Poems and Duets with Mazie: Autobiographical Fragments, Stories, and Fables: Thank You!
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25 Responses to In Search of Self and Beyond

  1. Rubye Jack says:

    I agree with you that it is all a mystery, but more than that we don’t have the words to talk about it even if we did have some realization of what it is. However, it seems to be our nature to keep trying to figure it all out even though it is a fruitless endeavor. Ah well…

    • Bob OHearn says:

      Hi Rubye,

      Yes, the masters say that those who know don’t speak, but then go on and write endless commentaries on various issues. It seems that humans just love to communicate their thoughts to the tribe, and occasionally some thought might just spark a kind of awakening, or at least serve to expand another’s horizons, so it’s all good.

      Buddha said it pretty well in the Lankavatara Sutra: “So with the teachings in all the sutras: They are intended for the consideration and guidance of the discriminating minds of all people, but they are not the Truth itself, which can only be self-realized within one’s deepest consciousness. Mahamati, you and all the Bodhisattvas must seek for this inner self-realization of Noble Wisdom, and not be captivated by word-teaching.”


  2. SO VERY TRUE……Enlightening …

  3. marcel says:

    “fuck it” he added :D

    I’ve often been between the extremes of detachment and dispassion from “spiritual practise/self-inquiry” and the detachment and dispassion from “wordly acitivities”. Months of reflection can turn into months of “fuck it” lets eat, smoke and hang in front of the tv 24/7. It turns out that all of it is based on an imagined character. Only activity which never was a “volitional choice” was playing, you know like those dolphins and the rings, whether “fuck it” on the couch or imagining to be something holy, give me a balloon and I turn into a kid.

    • Bob OHearn says:

      [in Just-]

      By E. E. Cummings

      in Just-

      spring when the world is mud-

      luscious the little

      lame balloonman

      whistles far and wee

      and eddieandbill come

      running from marbles and

      piracies and it’s


      when the world is puddle-wonderful

      the queer

      old balloonman whistles

      far and wee

      and bettyandisbel come dancing

      from hop-scotch and jump-rope and






      balloonMan whistles




  4. marcel says:

    Self inside self,
    you are nothing but me.

    Self inside self,
    I am only You.

    What we are together
    will never die.

    The why and how of this?

    What does it matter?

  5. marcel says:

    I have it in my images folder from your gallery, our talk reminded me of it, though what I thought about it a year ago has no value anymore. So I found a pdf file with several ones… mesmerizing!

  6. marcel says:

    Wonderful thank you, these poems are amazing!
    “You leave, so that we two
    can do One Dance”

  7. Rod Lloyd says:

    Thank you, Bob. I wandered along the path of Kashmir Shaivism for a bit. Learnt a lot about the Shive of Awareness that we are, sort of. Like the way you express. I feel a sort of amalgam of Hindu/Buddhist seeings. This “Self/self’, is from one viewpoint, and not from another, it seems to me. Nothing definite finally in this “floating world”. This is also helpful to me as I explore the other theme elsewhere, on reincarnation ideas. Many thanks.

  8. Rod Lloyd says:

    Thanks to Marcel for the links also. Will enjoy.

  9. Bob OHearn says:

    You Have Never Moved
    Jackson Peterson

    You have never moved. You have always surrounded and projected yourself creatively into a self-generated mandala or world of experience made of consciousness itself.

    Look around, everything seen and sensed is pure self-generated consciousness. There are no other “things” or “beings” outside this consciousness. This is true for everyone. We are only seeing ourselves in all that we see, but “our self” is what everything is.

    A past life or future life are just the next or last most recent self-generated scenery where a different body was or will be featured as the subjective point of perspective.

    No one here has ever known death or birth.

    Floating in total emptiness, our holographic self-projection is the only reality there is to know.

    However the core center of Consciousness is not divided into a you or me.

    The one same creative Universal Consciousness is the centermost point of each individual mandala; the ultimate impersonal Emptiness that expresses Itself as the subjective experience of being a “you” or “me” while Itself never becoming an identity and while Itself appearing neither in space or time.

    Isn’t this all rather like a dream? Gnostic flashes of knowing oneself as that Universal Source, are Its current vignette self-displayed.

    How amazing it is that Infinity’s majestic play is expressed in such an ordinary yet extraordinary way, day after day!

  10. Bob OHearn says:

    The seeker is he who is in search of himself. Soon he discovers that his own body he cannot be. Once the conviction: ‘I am not the body’ becomes so well grounded that he can no longer feel, think and act for and on behalf of the body, he will easily discover that he is the universal being, knowing, acting, that in him and through him the entire universe is real, conscious and active. This is the heart of the problem. Either you are body-conscious and a slave of circumstances, or you are the universal consciousness itself — and in full control of every event.

    Yet consciousness, individual or universal, is not my true abode; I am not in it, it is not mine, there is no ‘me’ in it. I am beyond, though it is not easy to explain how one can be neither conscious, nor unconscious, but just beyond. I cannot say that I am in God or I am God; God is the universal light and love, the universal witness: I am beyond the universal even.

    I am what I am, neither with form nor formless, neither conscious nor unconscious. I am outside all these categories.

    You cannot find me by mere denial. I am as well everything, as nothing. Nor both, nor either. These definitions apply to the Lord of the Universe, not to me.

    I am complete and perfect. I am the beingness of being, the knowingness of knowing, the fullness of happiness. You cannot reduce me to emptiness!

    ~Nisargadatta Maharaj

  11. Bob OHearn says:

    “God is Love. And Love must love. And to love there must be a Beloved. But since God is Existence infinite and eternal there is no one for Him to love but Himself. And in order to love Himself He must imagine Himself as the Beloved whom He as the Lover imagines He loves.
    Beloved and Lover implies separation. And separation creates longing; and longing causes search. And the wider and the more intense the search the greater the separation and the more terrible the longing.
    When longing is most intense separation is complete, and the purpose of separation, which was that Love might experience itself as Lover and Beloved, is fulfilled; and union follows. And when union is attained, the lover knows that he himself was all along the Beloved whom he loved and desired union with; and that all the impossible situations that he overcame were obstacles which he himself had placed in the path to himself.
    To attain union is so impossibly difficult because it is impossible to become what you already are! Union is nothing other than knowledge of oneself as the Only One”.

    ~Excerpted from The Everything and The Nothing by Meher Baba

  12. Bob OHearn says:

    ‘Nothing is me,’ is the first step. ‘Everything is me’ is the next. Both hang on the idea: ‘there is a world’. When this too is given up, you remain what you are — the non-dual Self. You are it here and now, but your vision is obstructed by your false ideas about your self.
    You know so many things about yourself, but the knower you do not know. Find out who you are, the knower of the known. Look within diligently, remember to remember that the perceived cannot be the perceiver. Whatever you see, hear or think of, remember — you are not what happens, you are he to whom it happens. Delve deeply into the sense ‘I am’ and you will surely discover that the perceiving centre is universal, as universal as the light that illumines the world. All that happens in the universe happens to you, the silent witness. On the other hand, whatever is done, is done by you, the universal and inexhaustible energy.

    ~Nisargadatta Maharaj

  13. Bob OHearn says:

    To attain a greater understanding [of Source] a person would need to process concepts, thoughts and laws of infinity not associated with the human brain and its current design to process information. Information would need to be processed within a greater speed, spectrum and dimension altogether. The human animal brain is currently not capable of processing all the information necessary to understand prime creator. It is as if the structure of the brain was like that of a mouse, which was then expected to process concepts that would allow it to build a space rocket, or asking the mouse to speak Italian.

    It is of suitable benefit to keep things simple as to permit the mind to settle enough to accept its boundaries. It is enough to say that this universe is but one miniscule spec of sand in relation to all of what is. The universe is a part of another larger universe, and that part of another larger still, so on and so forth. Each one having no measurable boundary or edge due to the continuous expansion of them which takes place at a speed unconceivable to man. Where each universe exists, an immeasurable spectrum of vibration resonates and oscillates, which facilitates all things in existence within the same space. This could be understood as infinite dimensional corridors that are living, moving, expanding, interweaving membranes. All things are happening. All things moving. All things becoming. All is a process. A process of Self becoming. The One is becoming that which is. This One is prime creator. For trillions and trillions of years will this expanding Self expression, Self-expulsion continue, until in an instant all shall return as One. Yet this One, this prime creator, the source of all things, this source process, this life giving mechanism is in itself just a miniscule fragment of something else. There is no end, all is a process of something else, even prime creator.

    Free will is a means to which ‘the process’ becomes not just a process, but becomes a REALization of Self, or Prime Creator, through the invention of time.

    Let us expand.

    Understand Prime Creator is a being that undergoes its own evolution, expansion and growth as you understand yourself to do so. This evolution of Prime Creator is facilitated through the application and function of time by the process of recreation of Self. That is, Prime Creator is continuously recreating itself.

    Time is a construct that enables the One to recreate its Self by the process of the time it takes for each of its fragments (you) to REALize itself into its full potential. Each time the One becomes fully Self-realized, it evolves into another evolutionary form. This is what is known as the divine inhale and exhale of God. This recreation it the process of its own evolution as a being, of a much larger being.

    Free will is the means to which each of its fragmented aspects can facilitate its purpose and function, its own direction of new creation, thus causing its own continuous Self evolution from within. It is as if you are the atoms and molecules within your own physical body causing the body of the biological child to mature into an adult from within, who perpetually continues to grow and who lives forever. As human beings evolve biologically in this way from the smaller components within, so too does Prime Creator.

    The biological and spiritual evolution of the human species is a symbolic miniaturization of the process that Prime Creator is undertaking through, and as a result of . . .YOU.

    You are not the creation of Prime creator. Prime Creator is the creation of you.


  14. Bob OHearn says:

    “All major mystical traditions have recognized that there is a paradox at the heart of the journey of return to Origin. Put simply, this is that we are already what we seek, and that what we are looking for on the Path with such an intensity of striving and passion and discipline is already within and around us at all moments. The journey and all its different ordeals are all emanations of the One Spirit that is manifesting everything in all dimensions; every rung of the ladder we climb toward final awareness is made of the divine stuff of awareness itself; Divine Consciousness is at once creating and manifesting all things and acting in and as all things in various states of self-disguise throughout all the different levels and dimensions of the universe.”

    ~Andrew Harvey

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