The “True Self”
OPENING QUESTION FOR SHARING
Share a memory of when light seemed especially important to you. It could be an experience in nature, or the lights of a night sky or of a Christmas tree, or a sunset or sunrise, or even a night where you longed for the dawn to come. It could be something else entirely. Share a time where light was important.
Luke 18: 9-14
He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous and regarded others with contempt:
“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee, standing by himself, was praying thus, ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people; thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week; I give a tenth of all my income.’
But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even look up to heaven, but was beating his breast and saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’
I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”
Today I thought we might look at this parable in the light of what many people from different eras and religious perspectives have written about the “true self.”
The writer Joyce Rupp offers different metaphors for discovering the True Self, a journey that requires opening a door from within:
The Sufi poet Jalaluddin Rumi [1207–1273] describes our soul-space as a magnificent cathedral where we are “sweet beyond telling.” Saint Teresa of Ávila [1515–1582] views it as a castle. . . . Another way to speak about this inner sphere where our truest self and God dwell is with the words of scripture. In his letter to the Corinthians, Paul asks, “Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you?” (1 Corinthians 3:16).
The body is often referred to as a temple of God but our soul is also a wondrous residence. This hidden part of us, in union with divinity, is where our abundant goodness (our God-ness) exists. Jesuit paleontologist, Teilhard de Chardin [1881–1955], understood the necessity of opening the door inward to find and claim this goodness. Reflecting on his spiritual growth, Chardin observed this truth: “The deeper I descend into myself, the more I find God at the heart of my being.”  . . .
Cathedrals. Castles. Temples. However we describe our inner terrain, one thing is certain: we tend to live in just a few rooms of our inner landscape. The full person God created us to be contains more than we can imagine, but most of us dwell within only a small portion of the superb castle of ourselves. Opening the door of our heart allows us entrance to the vast treasure of who we are and to the divine presence within us.
Author Paula D’Arcy suggests fire as another metaphor to describe the mystery at the center of our being:
Mystics and sages of all traditions speak of the inner fire, the divine spark hidden in our very cells and in all that lives. This flame of love is the pure presence of God. Because of it, life is sustained. No power is greater. 
Our authentic self, which is in union with God, may seem out of reach. It never is. “Deep in ourselves is the true Self,” writes Beatrice Bruteau [1930–2014], “and that true Self is not separate from, or even different from, the Source of Being.”  Always our truest self cries out to be known, loved, embraced, welcomed without judgment and integrated into the way we live. When we open the door and go inside, God is there in the temple of our soul, in the ashram of our heart, in the cathedral of our being. Which is not to dismiss the reality of this same loving presence being fully alive in our external world. The Holy One is with us in all of life. Our purpose for opening the door inward is to help us know and claim who we are so we can more completely join with God in expressing this love in every part of our external world.
Franciscan author and spiritual teacher Richard Rohr writes:
The True Self is who you are because of divine indwelling, the Holy Spirit within you (Romans 8:9). We are all tabernacles of God, says Paul (1 Corinthians 3:16).
Few Christians have ever been seriously taught about their inherent union with God and will find all kinds of self-hating reasons to deny it. Only the True Self can dare to believe the gospel’s Good News.
The false self, or smaller self, is characterized by separateness. The small or false self is who we think we are, but our thinking does not make it so. It is our identity created through culture, education, class, race, friends, gender, clothes, and money. That’s all that Adam and Eve had once they left the Garden where they walked with God. But let’s not feel too bad for them or even guilty ourselves. It seems that we have to leave the Garden. We have to create a false self to get started; the trouble is that we take it far too seriously. It is always passing away—in stages and then all at once at death. Only the True Self is eternal. We all suffer from a terrible case of mistaken identity.
The True Self is characterized by communion and deep contentment. It’s okay, right here, right now. The True Self is the realigned self; religion’s main purpose is to lead us to experience this Self, which is who we are in God and who God is in us. It has to do with participating in a Universal Being that is beyond our being. Ultimately, our lives are not about us. We are about life! That doesn’t mean we stay in the True Self twenty-four hours a day. Life is three steps forward and two steps backward. Yet once we know the big picture, we will never be satisfied with the little picture.
Author and near-death-experiencer Anita Moorjani describes her true self this way.
In my NDE state, I realized that the entire universe is composed of unconditional love, and I’m an expression of this. Every atom, molecule, quark, and tetraquark is made of love. I can be nothing else, because this is my essence and the nature of the entire universe…Universal life-force energy is love, and I’m composed of Universal energy!… When we know that we are love, we don’t need to work at being loving toward others. Instead, we just have to be true to ourselves, and we become instruments of loving energy, which touches everyone we come into contact with…
I have discovered that to determine whether my actions stem from “doing” or “being,” I only need to look at the emotion behind my everyday decisions. Is it fear, or is it passion? If everything I do each day is driven by passion and a zest for living, then I’m “being,” but if my actions are a result of fear, then I’m in “doing” mode…We know we’re on the right track when we feel ourselves at the center of our love without judgment of ourselves or others, and we recognize our true magnificence within the infinite Whole…We all have our own way of recognizing that infinite space within us, and for some it may be prayer. For others, it can be music, art, being in nature, or even pursuing knowledge and technology – whatever brings out our passion, creativity and purpose for living. Dying To Be Me, pp 139, 147, 156
Two of the three authors of The Gifts of Near-Death Experiences, Shelia Fabricant Linn and Dennis Linn, describe becoming aware that they are the Light.
Sheila describes a forest experience:
“Everything radiated or vibrated even more intensely than I normally perceive it. At that moment, I was acutely aware of myself as the Light that constituted all the things I saw around me… Gradually an abiding sense of myself as the Light has grown within me, especially recently, as I have exposed myself to NDEs and their message has taken deep root within me. The sense of myself as Light that I had by the forest is now nearly constant. I know myself to be the Light I have always seen in all the things around me. I can no longer accept self-perceptions or cultural and religious teaching that would tell me otherwise.”
Dennis describes his own experience of Light.
“I have never experienced the Light radiating from all things around me as Sheila has. But I did have an experience of coming in contact with my Light that changed my life. Many years ago, I was in an environment of intense love with several thousand other people… What I recall is that the moments of hurt throughout my life, beginning with my earliest memories, were filled with Light…This was a great step in a journey that ultimately led to knowing that I am this Light.
If we had to summarize all our work with people in seminars and other forms of pastoral ministry, we wonder if it would come down to helping them heal the way they have forgotten that they are Light. Kenneth Ring expresses what we want for ourselves, our child, and everyone else:”
…There is an essential teaching from the Light that, NDErs say, applies to everyone…It wants you to realize that your core being is this Light – it is not something external to you.
The Gifts of Near-Death Experiences, pp 74-6
What does all this have to do with Jesus’ parable? Well, I (Mary Ann) think the Pharisee was stuck in his false self, relying on following every law correctly to be accepted by a judgmental God, and judging those who did not follow each law as less than him, and unworthy. He didn’t know that his real worth was being a fragment of the Divine Light of God, rather than his status, actions, or religious beliefs. He was turned towards himself, his false self.
I think the tax collector also judged himself by his actions, but he was turned towards God, asking for forgiveness. He was not stuck in the past, re-living and feeling defined by his mistakes over and over again. He was turned towards God for forgiveness – looking to live differently in the present and the future. I like to think he was closer to his True Self, because of turning to God and asking for forgiveness. Maybe he found his true worth!!!
(Taken from the chapter “The Light” in The Gift of Near-Death Experiences: You Don’t Have to Die to Find Your True Home, Matthew Linn, Sheila Fabricant Linn, Dennis Linn, p. 76.)
- Close our eyes and put your feet flat on the floor. Breathe slowly and deeply. Place your hand on your heart and imagine that you are breathing in and out through your heart.
- Let your awareness move down to your core or essence, to the most ancient part of yourself. Imagine a tiny point of Light, glowing brightly in the depth of your being.
- As you continue to breathe deeply in and out through your heart, watch the light grow, bigger and brighter. Despite its brightness, the Light is soft and warm.
Let the Light continue to grow and expand within you, until it fills your whole body and extends beyond you. Let it radiate out from you until it fills all the space around you and extends as far as you can imagine.
Be aware that this is your Light, one with all the Light in the universe and yet unique to you. Notice any special qualities of this Light, and notice how you feel as you experience it.
Imagine if you really knew that you are this Light. How would you live differently each day? How would this affect your children or other loved ones?
I WILL JUST SAY THIS
bloomed in Spring.
are the leaves of God.
The apparent seasons of life and death
our eyes can suffer;
but our souls, dear, I will just say this forthright:
they are God
we will never perish
Teresa of Avila
It’s rigged – everything, in your favor.
so there is nothing to worry about.
Is there some position you want,
some office, some acclaim, some award, some con, some lover,
maybe two, maybe three, maybe four – all at once,
maybe a relationship
I know there is gold mine in you, when you find it
the wonderment of the earth’s gifts you will lay
aside as naturally as does
a child a
But, dear, how sweet you look to me kissing the unreal;
comfort, fulfill yourself in any way possible – do that until
you ache, until you ache,
then come to me
DECEIVE OUR GLORY
Something inside me said I was a mineral, and I was so glad to just be,
I replied, “I’ll take that job; it sounds like fun.”
But after eons, roots appeared on my soul that want to nurse
from a warm body, and the wonder of her love, the tenderness of the earth lifted me into the air and I beheld
light, and praised it from
Time sculpted my senses and another song I heard,
“You are more than plant, you are like those
so I believed that and roamed and roamed, but then I
started thinking: What is my real
I became the wings on falcons and angels.
I flirted with God in the sky.
And I believed that He, once in a while kissing me,
would be as close to love as I would get,
but now I know:
All words and images deceive
EVERY PROPHET’S NAME
I found completeness
when each breath began to silently say the name
of my Lord.
That name – my conception of Him – extended to me
a hand that led to a place
where even His divine name could not exist.
Most sounds express discontent, longing, or negotiation.
The teapot may whistle out an ecstatic cry,
but even that I learned to control
until everything I knew burst
in a glorious symmetry.
I have no seams, no walls, no laws.
My frontiers and God’s are the same.
One Divine Being is existence.
All the forests on this earth combined are but
a tiny wood fiber – a particle of one spoke
on the Wheel.
What is the relationship of form to the unseen aspects of God?
What percentage of God is unseen?
What percentage of the Truth of Him do we know?
He led me to a place where only Light existed.
Only in us is God so lost that He asks
The soul outside all walls
never troubles Him, never wonders things like,
“Where are You,
For then your arms and God’s
I said to my Lord,
“This Holy place I have entered –
is Your name the only key
And my Lord responded,
“How old do you think is existence?
For eons of time, souls have been entering Me;
Every Prophet’s name is a key,
as is every heart full of
Teresa of Avila