Who Am I?

The following is an old exploration from over 20 years ago.  It doesn’t relate to me nor to any individual personally.  It relates to the generic human being, to the human condition, to humanity in general.

Am I my physical body?  Parts of my physical body can be removed.  Limbs can be amputated.  Organs can be removed.  My heart can be transplanted.  Even parts of my brain can be removed.  This certainly changes my experience of life.  But it does not change my identity, who I am.  My identity is not fragmented nor partitioned when parts of my body are removed or swapped out.  Parts of my identity do not transfer with removed members of my body.  My body is part of what I am.  But it is not who I am.  Then who am I?

Am I my emotions or feelings?  I alternately wear the clothes of joy, happiness, indifference, anger, sadness, fear, etc.  But what is it that wears such apparel?  I can feel my emotions, but I can also detach from them.  I can be apart from my emotions.  I can choose to feel them, to express them, to control them and so on. to a greater or lesser extent.  I can experience or express different emotions or even no emotion, without changing my identity.  There can be times when the seas of my emotion are quite calm and still.  I can look out on the world through a transparent veil of feeling.  Yet my identity is not diminished thereby.  Rather am I more aligned with and resident in my identity.  My feelings, emotions, conditioning and so on are part of what I am, but again are not who I am.

Am I my thoughts, my cogitation?  My thoughts change continually yet my sense of identity remains intact.  I can direct my thinking to a certain extent.  There is a part of me that can detach from my thinking and supervise it to a degree.  I can considerably expand my mental environment, my thinking framework, by study, reading, attending lectures, courses and so on.  I can grow from the limited mental space of a child to the considerably larger space of an adult.  Yet my identity remains substantially the same.  I am still me.  I can cease thinking in meditation or during transcendent experiences, yet my identity is not in any way extinguished.  If not my thoughts, then who am I?

As my body develops and ages through the stages of childhood, maturity and seniority does my core self similarly age?  My interaction with the world certainly changes with this aging process.  But part of me, my core identity, is largely unaffected by my changing bodily condition.  It does not feel changed by every birthday that passes.  It observes the phases of physical growth like the passing of the seasons.  Similarly, when my physical body and mental processes are impaired, e.g. by excessive alcohol in drunkenness, I can still maintain a certain detached awareness and even inner lucidity.

Am I my perception, my cognition, my experience, my awareness?  These are all functions that I perform.  But who is it that perceives, experiences or observes?  Behind the mechanics of my awareness, who is it that ultimately senses and lives my reality? 

Functional Identity

Does it really matter who I am?  I have a functional sense of identity that suffices for my interactions with the world.  I am that which represents my presence and through which I function in the world.  In physical terms this is my body.  In mental terms it is my corpus of thought and so on.  I tend to define myself in relation to my roles and functions in society – what I do more than who I am.  I am what flows through me rather than what remains or resides in my core or essential being. 

I am in practical terms the outer boundary or the front line of my projection into the world.  I am also all that lies behind this boundary.  But these deeper levels are mostly of interest only to myself and then only when I am not absorbed in nor consumed by the outer world.  In a purely functional sense, I don’t need to know who I really am.  I have an adequate up front definition, provided I don’t think too much about it.  But the more I examine this the more it falls apart in my hands.

In terms of integrating myself it matters greatly who I am.  This is my great mystery and voyage of discovery.  I search for myself like the Egyptian goddess Isis searching for the fragmented and scattered body of Osiris.  I seek to find myself both in an outward and an inward direction.  I am constantly seeking to integrate myself around my true or core identity.  A lot of what drives my engagement with life is the need to discover, to know and become more of or be myself. 

I seek to express my essential self apart from that which limits or defines it.  Sometimes I am running away from myself, burying myself in activity or distraction to avoid meeting my real Self.  But we can only delay, never completely avoid our moments of truth, where we come to reconcile what we might like to think we are with what we truly are.  All our exploration is ultimately an exploration of Self.

When I strip away all the expressions of my reality, the clothes or forms I wear at every level, I am left with a core of pure existence.  All that I can truly say about my essential self is that I exist.  I am pure existence.  I express my existence through various forms.  These help to define my identity locally.  They limit my identity, but in doing so give it definition and local expression.

Core Existence

I am one in the core existence that underlies and is all that is.  In this sense I am one with all that exists, with all that is.  I identify with modes of or phases in my existence, as it projects along my chain or sequence of expression.  In doing so I frequently overshadow my essential derivation from and existence in the Source or essence of being.

I Am is my deepest and innermost truth.  It is the most profound sense of identity I can reach from this vantage point in reality.  Descartes’ famous assertion – “I think, therefore I am” is an inversion of the natural order of my reality.  Existence precedes and underlies thought.  Thought is an expression of amness or existence.  I Am is the thinker that thinks my thoughts.  “I am, therefore, I think” is a truer description of my reality.  I Am represents my fundamental existence.

My core or essential identity resides at ever more abstract levels of reality.  It passes beyond those levels where boundaries exist.  It reaches beyond form, structure, location, time, limitation or definition.  It is ultimately integrated in the pure absolute unqualified Source that embraces all that is.  Here I am fully integrated not only with myself but with all that is.  Here my existence, transcending time, spans eternity.  It knows all of creation.  It is the Source of creation.

In between my temporary localised identity and my eternal universal identity, I embrace various degrees of integration.  There is a gradual transition or progression between these two extremes.  Moving away from my conventional local identity, I expand to embrace ever larger measures of who I am.  Ultimately towards Source, this expansion extends to embrace all of creation.  I am less localised in my individual identity and more at one with the essence of all such individuals.  I am no longer alone.

There is a story told that when the Beatles group visited India in the sixties, they met a local Indian ascetic.  He was a remarkable individual with unusual powers, who went around mostly naked.  They explained that if he came back with them, he would be a sensation in London.  He replied dryly – “I am London”.  This must qualify as one of the great put downs!

When I look inwards my vision eventually expands to embrace the Source and thereby the essence of all creation.  When I look outwards it similarly expands to encompass ever larger measures of manifest creation, in the phenomenal world.  There are two cones of vision extending out from my current vantage point in reality.  I locate myself at the intersection point between these two worlds, these two modes of reality.  My conventional experience of life is that of mediating the flow through me between these two polarities of creation.

I derive my identity in the inner reality and project it in the outer world.

Dynamic Identity

My identity is not a static or fixed quantity.  It moves along the arc of my projection into manifestation in the material worlds.  It flows and ebbs along this trajectory.  Sometimes I am absorbed in a worldly situation. Other times I am standing in my body.  I often reside in the cockpit of my emotions or my mind.  Still other times I am away beyond all of these.  My identity expands and contracts depending on where it is located and on how burdened or otherwise it is with localisation.  I locate myself at various nodes along the trajectory of my existence.  But in a certain subtle sense I am always referenced to my core or essential identity in Source.  My phenomenal identity or identities are phases of expression within my noumenal essence.  They are waves on the surface of the ocean of my being, my eternal reality.

I like to maintain a stable sense of identity in the phenomenal world, a clearly defined and mapped out individuality.  I fear any loss of identity as if it challenges my very existence.  I cling to my sense of who I am, as an island of stability, surrounded by unknown and possibly treacherous waters that may engulf and extinguish me.  I dare not venture too far from this platform of stability. 

Yet it is impossible to remain fixed in a world, whose nature is flow and dynamic change.  The stability we seek only truly resides in the absolute reality of Source, our own Source.  All else is constructed on shifting sands.  If I am willing to accept change as the nature of my phenomenal identity, then I open the door towards discovering my deeper inner identity.  If I am willing to surrender my localised identity as a changing even transient quantity, then I am clearing space for my eternal identity. 

As I expand to embrace my core identity in Source, I am less dependent on any localised or projected version of myself.  Such derived identities can then become very fluid, dynamic and responsive to the needs for change and growth.  They are convenient staging posts for my journeys through the fields of creation.  I can use or dispense with them as needs be.  Ultimately, truly and simply I Am.  I Am also one or integrated with the I Amness of all in creation.  So, distinctions, separative characteristics and so on become less meaningful and relevant.

The localised me is only a part of something vastly deeper, greater and altogether more magnificent.  The projected me is only the tip of the iceberg of who I really am.  We need not remain imprisoned in our localised sense of identity.  We have the option of growing towards freedom and integration.  Yet we need to make change with due diligence, ensuring that new support structures are in place before abandoning the old, until such time as we have no need for external support.

I tend to encapsulate my sense of identity in a bubble to preserve it.  I do this both in an inner sense, i.e. to define my extent in inner space, and in my outer dealings with the world.  I like to have a clearly defined boundary.  However, in establishing a boundary, to define what I am in relation to the outer world, I am also defining what I am not.  I am shutting out part of reality.  I seek to preserve this bubble, as if my very existence depended on it.

What would happen if I burst this bubble?  Would my identity evaporate unto oblivion?  No.  It merely expands and rises up towards higher levels of abstraction and integration into purer existence towards Source.  It gravitates towards the centre of existence.  Relative to the outer world would I become more vacant, dis-connected, other worldly or ineffective thereby?  Again no.  The energies flowing in the channels of expression that form my life are allowed to flow more naturally and spontaneously.  I am more naturally in the doing of my life and less in the business of self preservation.  I can begin to stop meddling in my life and let it happen. 

Natural Identity

I begin to live less from a limited local focus and more in harmony with a global perspective.  I can avail more of the natural flows and cycles that support all creation.  I can respond more to the needs of a situation and less to my own needs in the situation.  In my localised identity I try to control or manipulate my environment.  In my generalised or noumenal identity, I can increasingly let creation flow through me, to accomplish our joint ends.  There is less need for me to make things happen.  It is more a case of letting things happen.  But not in a passive way.  I am still actively involved, but from the more abstract level of pure and conscious energy flows, where there is much greater fluidity and less friction or resistance.

It is not I who am accomplishing, but creation that is accomplishing through me.  I become more the sovereign, who oversees the doing, rather than the slave toiling with the details up at the coal face of my life.  I learn more to orbit the Source or powerhouse of creation, rather than a meagre isolated focus, out on the periphery of existence.

From an outer perspective there is little difference in how I choose to manage my identity.  What needs to get done gets done either way.  From an inner perspective there is a difference in how it gets done, in the degree of involvement required.  This is a personal issue for the way I choose to experience and participate in my life.

In refocusing my identity, it is undesirable that I should compromise my presence in the world, by becoming remote or vacant.  I still need to maintain a strong clearly focused presence and to integrate and ground this at every level of my being.  It may seem paradoxical to be reaching both inwards and outwards.  However, all such progress is a balancing act.  I am in the business of integrating and reconciling all the opposites or polarities in my life.  To do otherwise would unbalance my existence and compromise further progress.  I can have my core approaching the core of creation and my periphery extended to fully embrace my outer world.

Now I can easily visit such concepts in relative safety at the intellectual level.  There is a certain comfort in the distance involved.  It is an altogether more challenging and even frightening prospect to try to integrate them or realise them in practical terms.  I need to approach them at every level in my being.  I need time and lots of it to part company with my old ways and to adapt to a new way of doing the business of living.  However, once the mind is awakened, I can gradually approach a new focus or awareness, as it percolates through the levels of my being.

Before I venture out from the relative safety of the cave, I presently inhabit I need some conception of the larger reality that surrounds me.  At least in my present form my identity is safely tethered to my physical presence.  I have somewhere to anchor it.  I need to make forays out to explore my environment, while having the security of my cave to return to.  I need to realise something of my connection to Source, before gravitating towards it in a practical sense.  I need to be tethered somewhat at a higher level, before surrendering my existing anchors.  I need time and opportunity to explore and adapt.  But my existence is framed against a backdrop of eternity.  I can take all the time in the world.  How long I choose to wait is my own decision.

Who am I?  I am a funnel or node through which currents of creation, of life, flow.  I am an intersection point where such currents of creation meet and interact.  I am also the currents themselves.  I am a doorway between worlds, but there is no need for me to limit my identity to such a localised focus.  I am where my awareness or consciousness resides.  As such I have a dynamic identity.  I am also such consciousness itself.  I choose to project my identity into localisation in the forms I create.  I can equally choose to re-integrate back out of such localisation, into the supernal reality of my essential and eternal existence.  Ultimately, fundamentally and simply I Am.

Who would ever have thought that I, the I in each and every human being, am such a profound, deep, mysterious, vast, interesting and all-embracing reality?