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'Who Am I?' is an ancient question.
The ancient Egyptians and the ancient Greeks said 'Know Thyself'.
Western philosophy states 'I think, therefore I am' (Descartes).
Shakespeare wrote that it is as if we are on stage, that in our life we play 'many parts'.
Social science speaks of Identity, of which we may have many 'hats' such as parent, our gender, our job, our ethnicity, our nationality, our age, etc.
Transpersonal psychology has Subpersonalities, such as our Inner Child, with which we navigate our life.
But what is the deep Self, the real 'I'?
One clear and deep answer to 'Who Am I?' comes from the Self-Enquiry of Ramana Maharshi. He often recommended it as the most efficient and direct way to Self-Awareness. You can read more about what he said here and here. Basically, each thought I have can be seen as happening to me. That 'me' or 'I' is not my body or mind. Then, by asking 'Who Am I?', I can link to my Source. See video below.
Anandamayi Ma suggests the same:
Enquire: 'Who am I?' and you will find the answer. Look at a tree: from one seed arises a huge tree; from it comes numerous seeds, each one of which in its turn grows into a tree. No two fruits are alike. Yet it is one life that throbs in every particle of the tree. So, it is the same Atman [spiritual life] everywhere.
Inna Segal (posted 29 January 2014, accessed 15 November 2016) shows this self-enquiry in action in a workshop:
I invited everyone to focus on themselves and ask a very important question: Who am I?
I told the group, ‘If you are not your arm or leg, because if those were cut off you would still be here, and if you are not your thoughts or feelings or experiences, because they change, then who are you?’
The room became quiet as people began their personal exploration.
After a while, I heard answers like, ‘I am love,’ ‘I am all there is,’ ‘I am a soul,’ ‘I am life,’ and so forth.
So, self-enquiry is one way to self-knowledge. Another is devotion. Anandamayi Ma again:
Either melt by devotion the sense of separateness, or burn it by knowledge - for what is it that melts or burns? Only that which by its nature can be melted or burnt; namely the idea that something other than your Self exists. What will happen then? You come to know your Self.
Some scientific reductionists or atheists may argue that if your brain is 'cut off', then there is nothing. But this is not what happened to neurosurgeon and scientist Dr Eben Alexander. His NDE (near-death experience), where his brain was shut down did not extinguish his 'I'.
That is why the ancients said 'Know Thyself', because they knew that the body is the house of God.
"We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience." (Pierre Teilhard de Chardin)
"Spiritual work involves giving our spirit power over the matter within us, and as soon as we decide to undertake such work, we have to distinguish between the two poles in our being that are spirit and matter. We start taking a distance from ourselves, and gradually we not only realize that the thoughts and feelings with which we are able to do this work are merely instruments at our service, but we also become aware that our true self exists well beyond our actions, our feelings and our thoughts.
Taking a distance from ourselves, however, does not mean departing from ourselves. Far from abandoning the self from which we take a distance, we keep it well within our sight, and when we have lifted ourselves up to the divine world using our thinking as an instrument, we come back down to better direct it and refine its matter. Again, we take a distance, and again we come in closer, each time bringing back more power and more light." (O.M. Aïvanhov)
Who Am I? Quotes
Animal, Human and Angel
Maps of Consciousness