The Question Who am I? determines your life. When you ask yourself Who am I? you can get not only the answer to the meaning of your life but also an understanding of why human beings are the way they are and why the planet is the way it is. In other words, what you identify with determines your life and what Humanity in total identifies with determines the destiny of the planet. It may seem like a simple question, but in fact it is quite profound.
If you are on the Spiritual Path, therefore, the question Who am I? is the number one question to ask in your life. It is really the basic starting point, and this has to do with the fact that human beings have three main possibilities for development, according to their different types of consciousness.
The physical types with their physical body consciousness dominate the planet. They are quite happy with materialistic life, simply eating, going to work, going to the pub and going to sleep. For them, life and consciousness are bounded by the physical world. Another type of human being is the emotional type. Artists have emotional consciousness because all art is based on expressing emotions, from the deepest depression to the highest ecstatic elation and everything in between. Another possibility for human beings is to work with the mind, and the intellectual types form a large proportion of Humanity, consisting of people in the sciences, technology, education, medicine and other fields where the mind is used. These types use their rational, logical, thinking ability—for everything.
On the personality level, therefore, when you ask yourself Who am I? you can say that you are the physical type, the emotional type or the mental type. And of course there are combinations of physical-mental, physical-emotional, mental-emotional in varying degrees.
These types are found across society and whichever type predominates will determine the destiny of that society. There are certain societies that are mostly physical, dealing with everything in terms of physical values, so their destiny will move along that line. Some are emotional and some are intellectual and therefore move along their respective lines. An individual or a society will develop along their dominant line, whether it is physical, emotional or mental, or a combination of lines. This explains why certain regions of the planet, certain societies and cultures, are the way they are: they are expressing certain qualities along their line or combination of lines.
On the personality level, therefore, every human being can be classified according to a type, and that includes the country they were born in, the race they were born in and the religion, group and family they were born in. There are artistic families and intellectual families, and all kinds of groups having their specialized lines, which show where their destiny lies.
The question Who am I? can tell you what your life expression is on the personality level, but what if we go deeper than that?
What if we say that there is more to the human being than the personality? What if the idea of the Soul is not a mythology or a weird philosophical or theological idea but a fact, a reality? What if when you ask yourself Who am I? instead of saying you are a famous artist or a university dropout, you suddenly have the sensation that there is some other quality inside you that is timeless, eternal, boundless, not limited by any society, cultural structure, philosophy or religious belief?
When you ask yourself that question and that other appears, naturally your whole life will be different from that moment on, because all the things that were important to your personality are not going to be as important. When you reach that point of evolution, when you ask yourself Who am I? and you sense a vast, infinite potential existing within you, naturally it will override all the lower expressions inside you, everything of the personality nature, no matter what kind of family you were born into.
Suppose you were born into an artistic family of musicians, but when you ask yourself Who am I? you do not identify with what your family is doing; instead you identify with something beyond the emotions that needs to be expressed. Naturally, you will feel disconnected from your family. Or suppose you were born into an intellectual family, but because you feel that you are something beyond the mind, you feel out of tune with your family. In either case you cannot identify with the vision and goals of the rest of your family (or group, culture, religion or nation), because you know that something grander, something vaster—something more important—needs to emerge from you.
You then come to a crisis point, the crisis of the first step on the Path.
This is when you begin to feel that you are an outsider in your own country, in your own race, religion or culture, in your own family, because you feel that the values people live by are not yours. You feel that their values are limited and limiting, based on a narrow understanding of life. You feel that there is a vast reality inside you that needs to be expressed and you feel that expressing that vast reality is the meaning of your life. It is the answer to the question Who am I?
Then your whole life is turned upside down and the battle begins. You have to free yourself from your family and friends because they want you to keep you in their category, according to their way of being; naturally, they will not want to let you go. You have to break away from your other limitations: the old patterns, the old culture, the old religion, the old society, the old ways of working and thinking. You feel that you cannot be a part of that because everything that is nationalistic, cultural or traditional is limited to the workings of the personality, to set forms that somebody invented in the past. You know that you are more than that and you have to free yourself so that you can go on the big Quest—the quest for the Holy Grail, the quest for the Ultimate Truth, the Ultimate Reality within you.
For some of you, whether to pursue that quest or conform to your environment may be a long struggle, until you break through and realize that you have to go on that quest no matter what, because life has no more beautiful meaning or higher purpose than the quest for Truth. Whether other people want to do it or not is their business, but they cannot limit you. Only you can limit yourself: by trying to fit in with what everybody does and wants you to be. If you do that, you cannot go on the Quest, not completely, not correctly, because something is holding you back. You cannot be free.
This is why the idea of ashrams, monasteries, warrior schools, and sacred places came about. People felt that they could seek the Truth with other pilgrims like themselves, so they banded together and went away from mainstream societies and formed monasteries, communities and groups so that they could pursue the Inner Quest in the company of others. Even the so-called solitary sādhus in the Himalayas are really not solitary because usually they form small groups of half a dozen or so. Even the Christian monks who went out into the desert, supposedly to meditate alone, tended to stay in the same area. People always felt the need to go out and work together in a spiritual community, even in small groups of two or three people, to seek the Truth, to find an answer to the fundamental question of life: Who am I?
This is the one and only question in life, and as soon as you move from the normal explanation of who you are to wanting to discover a deeper dimension of who you are, then you are moving out of the mainstream into the next category of human being, the category of the seeker, the disciple, the knight on a glorious quest for the Holy Grail. You are now at the stage that having realized that there is something deeper inside you, you have to do something about it, you have to do something practical in order to attain your vision or goal. Otherwise it is a philosophical idea that you can research and write books about; but you will not be on the Quest. Your quest starts when you begin to work practically: meditating, doing breathing techniques, sound work and physical movements. It is only through practice, through actual doing, that you will reach your goal.
Excerpt from “The Way of the Spiritual Warrior – The Timeless Path to Enlightenment” (Chapter 20)
- Finding Stillness in Today’s Society
- The Divine Presence – Shekinah
- The Spiritual Path and your Purpose in Life.