“Stop acting so small.
You are the universe in ecstatic motion.”
One of the most confusing and debated issues in philosophy, theology, psychology, anthropology, and now in the emerging neurosciences and quantum consciousness explorations, 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 conditioned filtration system of the limited human organism.
Just so, we will never be able to accurately account for that which utterly transcends the human intellect, any more than we can hope to view the grand procession of celestial galaxies by using our curled fingers as a telescope, since the essence of it vibrates at a much higher frequency than is accessible by human 3-D receptive/interpretive hardware.
To get a rudimentary sense of the matter, we can begin with the observation that most of us take the individualized body-mind-self to be representative of who and what we are — hence the “me-story”, or personal narrative. 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. That mistaken identity is further complicated by sub-programs of gender, race, social affiliation, and cultural belief systems.
It is all an innocent enough assumption, since by inserting ourselves into this vibrational frequency, we necessarily assume a kind of amnesia regarding our true nature. The purpose of this amnesia is to create the illusion that we actually are the human animal which we have temporarily inhabited. The ensuing self-sense is not some troublesome critter that needs to be extinguished (as some human religious systems claim), but simply a way to navigate the objective human realm for the duration of the experience.
The illusion of the “person” is necessary in order to grant the incarnational adventure a sense of reality. For the experience to have a vivid 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, or “person”.
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 human animals in order to enjoy the visceral 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) in the virtual reality scenarios or psycho-physical realms of the 3-D vibrational frequency.
When we return to our purely spiritual state after dropping off the material body costume, 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. In this way, the whole group is able to share in the experiences of any of its constituent parts, and thus continuously expands its level of self-awareness in the process.
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. At this level, we enjoy increasingly greater access to the Universal Knowledge, so much so that it renders even our most seemingly profound human concepts of enlightenment comparable to the vague murmurings of sleepwalkers.
This higher or “Whole Self” or “Spiritual Self” appears to be, for all intents and purposes, much more like our real and immortal nature than any human illusion, just as the world of Spirit seems infinitely 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 into the illusory environment of 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. Kashmir Shaivites have depicted it (metaphorically) as the dream play of Shiva, which in today’s quantum terms would correspond to the image of a projected super-holograph.
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 sentient forms, which are nevertheless still indivisible shards or projections of Itself. As Spirit beings of light and power (Source Energy), we are perfect vehicles and conduits for Source’s creative play of consciousness.
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 Personality or Ultra-cosmic Entity (which are mere human concepts), but much more like a vast, fluid, ineffable holographic energy field of transparent Clear Light, an interconnected and resonant web of reality to which no human terms or descriptions can ever truly apply, but which includes all creation as manifest aspects and dynamic 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. As the bliss-permeated saint Ananadamayi Ma poetically remarked: “Who is it that loves and who that suffers? He alone stages a play with Himself; who exists save Him?”
Indeed, whatever we interpret from our limited human point of view as the “Divine” is simply “That” which is looking out of our eyes, living us as Its own life, and replicating that same process in an infinite numbers of ways, an infinite number of lives, yet each distinct to the eyes through which It lives and sees and creates. 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.”
When even the illusion of being an independent and exclusive higher light being self finally drops away in the Light of Love’s unconditional grace, we recognize that our highest human conceptions of liberation and Nirvana were simply crude representations of the reality of our infinite loving potential. Although uniquely individual expressions of Source Energy, we have also never been other than Source Itself. Pointing to this paradox, the sage Ramana Maharshi noted: “The ‘I’ casts off the illusion of “I”, but remains as ‘I’.” How amazing! Furthermore, there was never anything to acquire, attain, or become that was not already true of us. We have never been other than “That”. We are the whole thing, and simultaneously no-thing. It is the Universal Reality itself – the matrix of all that is — which is manifesting as the Great Perfection, a super-hologram (to use a quantum term) in which past, present, and future all exist simultaneously, in a divinely joyous choreography beyond human comprehension.
In seeing through and transcending any exclusive identification with all provisional self-constructs (whether sacred or mundane), it might seem that this is as far as we can go — to recognize that we are in reality extensions or shards of infinitely expanding Source Energy — 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 super-holographic cell within an even vaster cosmic body, one far beyond our conceptual reach, populated with holographic thought-universes more numerous than grains of sand on a beach.
In that regard, the noted Quantum Physicist David Bohm suggested that the superholographic level of reality is a “mere stage” beyond which lies “an infinity of further development”. Just so, there might very likely be no limit nor circumference which could somehow account for, define, or contain it all, no true and final self-existent Absolute behind conditional appearances that can be established, but simply a dependently arising thought within another thought, ad infinitum. Moreover, there may never have been a singular “big bang” where it all began, no actual beginning nor end to Love’s Play, no origination and therefore no destruction, no place to plant a flag and claim some surety, no end of the line where the “buck stops”, but more like a dream within a larger dream within even larger, more exquisitely confounding dreams, far beyond any progressively sublime conception — human or divine. Truly, it is all open-ended, limitless, and unknown, and that is the elegant glory of it — its sheer magnificent Mystery!
“Merely assuaging fears and satisfying desires will not remove this sense of emptiness you are trying to escape from; only self-knowledge can help you. By self-knowledge I mean full knowledge of what you are not. Such knowledge is attainable and final; but to the discovery of what you are there can be no end. The more you discover, the more there remains to discover.”