I remember growing up hearing about people who would go off to “find themselves.” I always thought that was a bit weird because wherever you go there you are, right?! But it was explained to me that what that meant was that they needed to get away and figure things out about themselves and maybe what they wanted to “be when they grow up.” Apparently, it was very difficult since few seemed to be able to do it. Today, I don’t think we need to sell everything and move to India or a commit to a lifetime of deprivation in a monastery in order to find out who we are.
The question, “who am I?” is an age-old question tackled by philosophers, shamans, erudite religious scholars and everyday people just like you and me. In fact, it is one of the core questions that we all, at some point ask ourselves on many different levels. Am I what I do… a bartender, a nurse, a computer repairman, a wife, and so on? Am I what people say I am… dumb, a failure, a person who just can’t get it together, a mistake? Am I what I feel… angry, lost, worthless, afraid or confused? Am I my body… overweight, skinny, broken or old? Or am I something more?
Are you something more? One of the great blessings of life, though we don’t always see it that way at the time, is when our beliefs about ourselves cause us pain. That pain is often the opening for us to ask if we are more than what we have been told. Once we begin to ask that question seriously, it is like climbing to the top of a giant water slide. There was lots of work, sweat, exhaustion and waiting on other people getting there, but once we sit down into who we are and let go there is a wild adventure ahead of us that sort of carries us of its own volition. We begin to get swept into a world of twists and turns never knowing exactly what comes next, yet we are laughing all the way.
We aren’t the first ones to ask these kinds of questions. All the great spiritual texts seek to answer that question and inevitably remind us that somehow the I am that we call ourselves, at its most intimate essence, is connected to divinity. For instance, notice these:
I am you and you are I, and in whatever place you are, I am there, and I am sown in everything. And in whatever place you wish, you may gather me, but when you gather me, you gather yourself.” (Gospel of Eve in Epiphanius, Against Heresies 26.3.1, The Lost Saying of Jesus: Teachings From Ancient Christian, Jewish, Gnostic and Islamic Sources- Annotated and Explained, p113) Rediscovered texts remind us that long ago the words of Jesus made no distinction between the I called the Divine and the I called me/you.
I am the vine and you are the branches. (Gospel of John 15:5) At it’s core there really is no difference here except in form as the substance, the sap, the life is the same.
Blessed are you who existed before you came into being. For you who exists, did exist and will exist. (Gospel of Philip 49, the Lost Saying of Jesus: Teachings From Ancient Christian, Jewish, Gnostic and Islamic Sources- Annotated and Explained, p109) Did you know you existed before you were born?
The Bhagavad Gita of India again gets to the central matter: There was never a time when I was not, nor you, nor these princes were no; there will never be a time when we shall cease to be. As the soul experiences in this body, infancy, youth, and old age, so finally it passes into another. The wise have no delusion about this. Those external relations which bring cold and heat, pain and happiness, they come and go, they are not permanent. Endure them bravely, O Prince! The hero whose soul is unmoved by circumstance, who accepts pleasure and pain with equanimity, only this one is fit for immortality. That which is not, shall never be, that which is, shall never cease to be. To the wise these truths are self-evident. The Spirit, which pervades all that we see, is imperishable. Nothing can destroy the Spirit. (Bhagavad Gita 2:12-17, Bhagavad Gita, Annotated and Explained p 13)
Seems to me that if most religions over history at one time or another agreed that “the kingdom of God is within you” then it would be the utmost wisdom to point people to their I am nature, instead of to a list of do’s and don’ts to try to achieve the knowledge of Self. So too, reading some else’s experiences can be inspirational but that doesn’t cause us to “own it” for ourselves. Aren’t you capable of discovering who you are in your own first-hand experience? Yes, you are!
That is why one of the great sayings of all time was carved into the stone walls for each to read before entering the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, “Know Thyself”. Knowing “thyself” isn’t about realistic assessments of our skills and competence. It means knowing your own true nature and learning to live from that place of identity.
As a church, a community of people asking the same questions that pervade our human family, we are committed to an “I am” approach. We want to be pointers. Not those who point out the flaws of each other and judge our shortcomings, but those who remind each other who we really are. So whether it is through our unique Sacred medicine/sacrament, integration, teaching, relationships or serving others, we at the Church of Psilomethoxin want to be a catalyst for you to know the true you by first hand experience. Please join us.