The Inner Path To Christ 3

Who are you really?

For most agnostics any talk about the eternal in our obviously short spanned life is a sign of mental weakness. They perhaps say, “Point it out to me.” The strange thing is that it is easy to see, but it is usually discounted. For instance, what is it you most closely identify as yourself? Is it your body?  Is your body you?

People can lose an arm, both legs, even mobility, but they still have a clear sense of themselves, of being a person.  Perhaps it is not as easy or as comfortable not having legs, but there is still a strong sense of being a person.

Or maybe you identify with the way you look, your face, your hair or the shape of your body.  But this changes with age, sometimes radically, and old people often say, “Although I look in the mirror and the person I see appears incredibly different to how I looked years ago, inside I still feel as if I am about 20 or 30 years old.”

If you identify your body as yourself, then you are faced by the tragedy of enormous change and the certainty of death, because the body dies.  Even so, up until the moment of your death your body has been eternal.  Think on it.  Your body is the result of two living cells merging and subdividing, and subdividing, over and over to form the mature body.  But those two original cells have an unbroken line of subdivision right way back to the beginning of life.

A single cell, which is a seed from which all life forms evolved from, doesn’t become old or die because it is immortal, for it keeps dividing and doesn’t die. In dividing it constantly creates copies of itself, but as it does so it gathers new experience, it changes what is copied, so becomes the ‘seed’ for multi-cellular organism. We all started from the original one cell, and we, you and I, are the result of gathered experience.

So, no plant or creature grows from a dead seed, and each living seed carries within it all the past gathered from all its forebears. So, the seed in your mother’s womb is as old as and even older than human kind, and you carry that wisdom or memories in you. But in this life, you developed a new brain, and the memories, education and programming you gathered this time are what you built your personality from, but beneath that is a very ancient self.

In that sense you personally have a connection with eternity.  Even the material your body uses in its growth was formed in the beginning of the universe, is from the stars, and is uncountable billions of years old.  So, there is another connection you have with eternity. In fact, what is there around you and within you that does not involve eternal existence? However, what we focus on most of the time is the changes taking place in our body and within this background of eternity.

Again, this is like identifying your hair, your limbs, or your looks as being you.  What discipleship is suggesting is the discovery of the part of you that does not undergo change.

But let us explore this question of what you identify with a little further. Maybe you identify with the way you feel, your emotions, or perhaps your thoughts.  But from one moment to the next those are not the same.  They are constantly shifting and moving and undergo more variation than your body.  If you identify with your thoughts and emotions, you can become lost in their swirling and shifting storm.  Believing you are your thoughts or emotions can be at the root of depression and confusion.

Losing an arm or leg, losing your physical beauty in age, may affect your thoughts and feelings, but those things do not in any way deplete your sense of existing.  So if your body, your thoughts and emotions are not YOU, then what or who are you?  What is it you can most securely identify with?  What is it that is not shifting and changing and capable of being lost?

R. D. Laing, in his long poem The Bird of Paradise, [i] said that, “The truth I am trying to grasp is the grasp that is trying to grasp it with.”

The problem with recognising your fundamental, and perhaps eternal self, is that you are so immersed in it, like a fish in water, that it is difficult for you to recognise. In the Old Testament the following conversation is reported between Moses and God:

And Moses said unto God, “Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, ‘What is his name? What shall I say unto them?’”

And God said unto Moses, “I AM THAT I AM”: and he said, “Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.” (Exodus Book 2 3:13-14)

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