The Ich

Recalling the significant fact from the earlier paper that though, on the one hand, we are truly unique for no two of us are the same, our biographies in all their detail preclude that, we, nevertheless, all bear the same name; we all refer to ourselves as "I", and this is the case for every human being the world over, allowing, of course, for differences in language.

It is the ineffable mystery of this name that we gradually begin to relate to ourselves as coming from the deepest part of our being. The "I" can never reach us as from coming from without. It is only to oneself that any one can apply this name. I am an "I" only to myself; to everyone else I am a "you", and everyone else is a "you" to me. The real being of the "I" is independent of all outer things and so no one can ever call us by that name.

Now let us ask, is this where the Divine and the Human come together? Can we speak here of the "I" as the unutterable name of God — a name which can never come from anything external to the Divine — extending by way of correspondence the human experience of "I" to God. For if the human being can only hear this name "I" coming from himself and never from outside, must we not grant the same to God and recognize that God's name can only be uttered by Him — no one outside Him can speak it — this most inward part either of the Human or the Divine Being. Here is the Holy of Holies of the soul to which no entry is possible except by a Being with whom the soul is of like kind and essence. The God who dwells in the human being is He who speaks when the soul that has raised itself to the heights perceives and knows itself as "I". This is to be understood in keeping with Paul's great dictum: it is no longer "I" who live but Christ who lives in me. (Galatians 2:20)

For it is God who speaks to Moses from the burning bush on Mount Sinai and names himself "I Am" as we hear in Exodus that enables us to ask: is it, indeed, in the I principle that the Divine and the human soul meet? Recall the passage where Moses is instructed to say to the people of Israel when he brings the tablets of the law down to them: the "I Am" has sent me to you. Moses stood at the critical point in human evolution when the I-principle was making its transition from the group or tribal soul condition to the individual soul and marks a significant stage forward in the history of human consciousness.

While the name pronounced by God as "I Am that I Am" which Moses was to say to the people of Israel: "I am has sent me to you" has been considered to be "Yahweh", it should be realised that while it was, indeed, one of the Elohim (plural) the primary rulers of our Earthly evolution — the Eloha (singular) Yahweh, according to Rudolf Steiner, worked from the Moon, thereby reflecting the spiritual light of the Christ which emanates from the essence of the Sun. As the representative of Christ, Yahweh, assumed the name "I" or "I Am". This is the source of the moon nature of the Hebrew tradition. The "burning bush" that Moses saw is the "I Am" which is the true name of the descending Christ Being and the human soul, the higher and lower "I Am", this mysterious "I" being both human and divine. (Note: Of the different translations given to Exodus 3: 14, none of which in my view give the needed translation, the one that expresses its true nature is "I Am the I Am".

Christ identifies Himself as the "I Am" in St. John's gospel where the seven "I Ams" describe a profound expression of inwardness: "I am the true vine, ye are the branches; I am the good shepherd; I am the door; I am the bread; I am the light of the world; I am the resurrection and the life; I am the way, the truth and the life, no one comes to the Father but through me." (The "me" here is to be understood as the World "I", the Ego principle of humanity.) These seven "I Ams" form a sequence of spiritual developmental stages awakening the Christ impulse, the "not I but Christ in me" as the expression of our humanity.

John again, in his Apocalypse, identifies the Christ as this "I Am" and shows that each of our souls in its potential (its entelechy) is also identified by that name. Rudolf Steiner alone, as far as I have been able to tell, showed that the "I Am" is the name "which no one knows except him who receives it" (Revelations 2:17; 19: 12) and that is applies not only to the Christ but to each of us n our higher Christ-redeemed being (Revelations 3:12). As Rudolf Steiner explained, there is no one else in all creation who could ever utter that name ("I Am") with reference to the one who carries it except that person alone. We can begin to understand the expression, "the unutterable name of God."

Rudolf Frieling's "Islam and Christianity" shows how the mysticism of Paul is in accord with this. "It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me." This "no longer I" in no way means the denial of the I-principle. This "no longer I" is rather an actual achievement, which can come about only by means of an ego able to create space within itself and absorb what is to be let in; it does this by putting aside what it contains of its own selfish interests. Just as only I myself, and no one else, can say "I" to me, so no other person can say "no longer I" on my behalf, but only, "no longer thou". Only the "I", from 'within itself, has the power to step back and give shelter to another. If the ego were destroyed, this shelter would also be lost. Paul's formula continues with "but Christ who lives in me" — that is to say in my ego, which therefore continues to exist after it has unselfishly achieved the withdrawal of itself into the "no longer I".

Love lives precisely in this: that two "I"'s give each other interior room and shelter. If someone who loves me were to cease being a "thou" for me, if he disappeared in me, how could I still love him? "Love never ends" means also that the two distinct individualities continue to exist, and when self-forgetfulness arises for one, the forgotten self lives on in the consciousness of the other and is sheltered there.

The issue of our true name is clearly brought out in Matthew 18:20, "where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in their midst." One can ask, who is it that is meant by "my name"? It can only mean the Being that indwelt Christ Jesus from all eternity, namely the "I" that belongs to the spiritual evolution of the human being in all ages and conditions. It is the only real name we have, and it remains with us through all our existence. It has given birth to us and is our true parent who has begotten us again and again that we may gradually become one with His image and likeness.

It is noteworthy that the word for "I" in the German language is "Ich" which can be seen as the abbreviation of Iesus Christus.

The origin and dawning consciousness of our "I" principle had first to be preceded by the kingdoms of nature — mineral, plant and animal and their counterparts in the threefold nature of the human being as the microcosm of the macrocosm: the physical or mineral body, the life or etheric body (plant) and the consciousness or astral body (animal). That which indwells these lower members of the human being and makes possible self-consciousness, the ability to say "I am," is something which existed before Man and World were, in the heart of the Creator and before time was, in eternity. The world I had first to create this lower threefold form for itself from outside, before it could differentiate itself through that form and develop it from within outwards by entering into it. The Creator enters His own creation in order to take it further. Man in the image and likeness of the Creator points to the macrocosm in the image and the likeness of the microcosm.

How remarkable that I-awareness can only become conscious of itself in and as a three-fold being. The ordinary "I" of Man exists within this form as a mere shadow of its real self, in order to distinguish itself as a separate personality — a self. All of this had first to be fashioned through long ages before we could bear it as an I-being. What worlds had to be created and pass away before an I-being could incarnate in human form among us and show us the way onwards? What earthly lives have we spent in coming to such consciousness before the gift of that name could be conferred upon us, enabling us gradually to awaken to it? What lives have we still to live through before we can enter into the fullness of it?

"I" is, of course, only a name, a word — something we use half-consciously to distinguish ourselves from others. And yet, as I have already pointed out, we all use the same name to do so. The name only begins to have real substance when, like all words, it directs our attention to the concept which it represents. Strangely, the concept in its essential nature has nothing to do with the audible or written form of the word. The concept is supersensible; the word is not. Words only draw our attention to the fact that we have concepts by drawing our thinking attention to some region of the supersensible world of ideas and concepts. My finger may point to, let us say, the moon but the thing, the reality pointed to is what matters. Once established, the finger can be put aside.

The concept of "I", instead of merely shutting us up in our particular version of it, carries us into a sphere which is not only supersensible, but impersonal and objective about the only thing which on the ordinary level is the most subjective and personal about us — namely the "I". This "I" is both personal and super-personal, but it is the super-personal that constitutes the way the Spirit leads us on our path of awakening. The paradox of the "I" allows us to look from two angles at the same time making possible a fuller understanding than a one way formulation.

In his seminal work, the Philosophy of Spiritual Activity (now titled The Philosophy of Freedom), Rudolf Steiner makes clear there is only one concept pointed to by a particular name or word — only one. There are not as many concepts of "triangle" as there are consciousnesses that can think it, only one. The one unique concept called "triangle" is not split up among many different consciousnesses so that each one has his own private concept of triangle. Any difference between your concept and mine regarding a particular object is not due to its concept, but to the perception we have of it. Once we clarify our percepts, we see that all think the same concept. We could not talk and understand one another about triangles or anything else if we did not all share the same concept.

What about the word "I" then which also points to a concept? Is there only one unique concept for "I"? The answer is a resounding yes. The fact that you and I are so different is not due to any difference in the concept of "I", but to the form that concept takes in each of our personalities — for it is the nature of the concept that though it is single and unique for all thinking consciousness, it can take on many different forms. Whenever you or I say "I", referring to our everyday self, we do so in order to distinguish ourselves from each other due to our different percepts of one another. But when we seek the reality of the "I" in its unique nature, we begin to approach something that is not only common to us both, but which as an entity in itself is also something more than anyone of us. It is a supersensible being that transcends each one of us.

This is the mystery of unity and multiplicity of transcendence and immanence. It is this spiritual essence that "makes" individuals of us on the one level — for I certainly am not you, nor you me — but on a higher level, the level we are led to on the way to the Spirit, it can create a union between us which is stronger by far than that of blood, race, or gender. It is the level of the conceptual-spiritual where the "I" of each can begin to see itself as one in the "I" of all, as Alan Howard so eloquently phrased it.

Having come so far in our thinking, it is now necessary to make clear the distinction between the concept of religion — its essence — and the rigid form the religious element often assumes. The principle of religion, on the one hand, is distinct from the forms in which humanity has at different times and places expressed its religious nature. Such forms can be legion, though "re-ligare" itself means to unite or bring together again what has become separated and lost the Spirit of Man and the Spirit of the World. What is important here is the developing, flowing religious impulse as it unfolds in time quickening the will to bring together in clarified thought and elevated feeling an awakening to the spiritual nature of the human being and the spiritual nature of the universe in accordance with our changing consciousness. This is the unity that has fallen away while we have been establishing our individuality as material beings on earth. For the sake of freedom we have had to lose the heavens in order to gain knowledge of ourselves here on earth.

To the extent that the religious element flows through the changing, developing, and evolving human consciousness making no fixed demands, it need not become hardened into an established form, raise temples for its practice, nor demand subjection to a common creed, nor are pastors or masters needed to guide its deliberations. The religious element must now nurture our common strivings to inwardly experience the world of ideas as an inner reality of spiritual beings. That, perhaps, is its only form; a form that is essentially no form — a form of the free spiritual life with the possibility of drawing its followers into a bond of fellowship closer than any other religion has ever done before.

Let us take Islam, for an example. The Koran with its doctrine of the absolute unbridgeable transcendence of God and rejection of Son-ship, exercised a powerful influence and caused the mysticism that arose from it to have a special character. Allah has no son and consequently can not be looked upon as a Father.

From a text of Jalal al-Din, better known as Rumi (1207 — 1273), we have the following: "A pilgrim comes to the House of God and knocks at the door of the beloved [God]. A voice within asks who is there? The pilgrim answers, It is I. And the voice replies: In this there is no I and Thou. And the door remained shut. Then the pilgrim goes into the forest to fast and pray. A year later he comes again and knocks once more at the door. Again the Voice asks, Who is there? And this time the pilgrim answers, It is Thou; whereupon the door opens." Here the religious longing for direct experience of God leads to Man plunging into the divine and completely abandoning his own individuality.

When the mystic Hallaj, who was executed as a heretic in 922, said about himself, "I am God" it had a special, unrecognised nuance. He meant that his identification with the Godhead had obliterated every trace of his separate individuality.

With Allah there is no room for another "I", in other words, for a "son". While the Islamic believer stands too far from God as one bound to submit — "Islam" means utter submission, a prostration at the master's command which comes down to the human being from an external source far above. The Islamic or Sufi mystic, on the other hand, strives for excessive nearness, losing his individuality as can be seen by Rumi's example, where the mystic no longer says "It is I" but "It is Thou". The desire is to disappear into the divine.

So it was in the days of St. Thomas Aquinas, the Angelic Doctor, and Albertus Magnus at the University of Paris in the 13th century, where fierce debates raged with the followers of the leading Arabian philosopher, Averroes, who maintained the view that the soul's immortality was illusory in the sense that after death it merges with the Godhead as a drop of water returns to the ocean and fully disappears. According to such an outlook, the absolute individuality of the human soul is an illusion. St. Thomas Aquinas, however, declared for the universal "I" principle of Man, the human spirit cast in the image and likeness of the Creator as a distinct creation seeking to unfold towards that image in the fullness of time.

When the human being admits Christ, the two do not merge into an undifferentiated unity, but the two "I's" continue to exist in fellowship. "I will come into him and eat with him, and he with me." (Revelations 3:20). And further "He who conquers shall have this heritage, and I will be his god and he shall be my son." (Revelations 21:7) But most wonderful is the passage from St. John 15:15: "No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you."

The manifestation of Christianity comes to expression as a deed wrought by a Divine Being to instill the "I am" principle into Earthly life for all humanity. At a certain point in time the Creator Himself enters into his own creation to become the leader of the heavenly forces on earth. No longer limited to the chosen few who could gain access to the mystery centres of the ancient world, Christianity was to become a path to the Spirit the "I am" — as a personal quest suited to the emerging moral individuality of all for all humanity.

What began as a religion — Christianity — eventually becomes greater than all religions in the sense of fulfilling them, bringing together and reuniting all that has been separated in the course of time, embracing all separated human beings in their deepest nature, namely, the "I am", but now the "I" as knower as it has been known, in the union of all with all into universal humanity.

We are also to experience a uniting with the Earth, our mother, and the cosmos, our father, both of whom we have lost in our freefall to the consciousness of coming to ourselves as independent and responsible beings. Nature too must be redeemed for it suffers grievously in its travail, having been cast off as the chaff in the creative process that has forged us.

It is essential to realise that we are not to remain as we are now. We are only in the midst of the creation. Christ's saying "you are Gods" (John 10:34) points to the growth and development of the divine seed planted in humanity, the creative spirit in us. Our true nature will not cease its inner activity, the goal of which is the realisation of the Holy Grail itself, the cup that overflows the two great virtues of freedom and love. Eventually our human nature will ray out freedom and love, two sides of the same quality.

Only one who is inwardly free, for whom no external cause or pressure coerces, can truly love. Only what arises out of our inner sovereign being as the product of a knowing insight through the power of love can restore the unity of this fragmented, hard and fast world and make whole what has fallen apart. This fragmentation was necessary to the dawning self-consciousness of Man, but it is now to give way to the self-consciousness of freedom and love.

The threads that weave the ultimate warp and woof connecting together all with all serve to awaken the human soul to the creative archetypes that brought the world into existence and will give birth to a new and transformed world through the awakened Human Spirit — the heavenly city of Jerusalem.

The creator as the Son of God has entered into his creation to take on the destiny of Man and lead him to his fulfilment and thus becomes the first born — the Son of Man -- saying: "Lo I am with you till the end of Time." The great aim is the development of a being who can love the whole creation in perfect freedom, uniting with all the world's becoming as true religion. Such is the destiny of our earth existence — the ultimate realisation of an inner spiritualised Christianity.

In a subsequent paper, I hope to take up the question of how a moral technique for the development of the virtues of freedom and love can be achieved.

By Nelson Willby, 2006