What, exactly, is the true self?

The self we identify with is rooted in a world of finity and franticness, of desire and despair, of manifestation and meaninglessness.

Her fate is sealed by the physical, by neurons and experiences that narrate her tale and live her life before she is even aware of it. The mental slavery of the mind which is situated in this deterministic realm cannot be abolished. It is this self, that is both the victim AND the perpetrator, of all its tragedies.

This self, however, is NOT the true self.

The true self is not bound by the physical, by time and space, the limitations posed by the brain and the deterministic universe. The realm of the true self is infinite, ever changing, with endless creativity as well as fluidity, and, although seemingly not as absolute as the physical realm, much more profound and meaningful.

The true self is like the whole realm of infinitely possible forms of existence of the self, of all possible questions and all possible answers, the most ideal and true reality, the ultimate realization of the individual but in unity with everything else that could possibly exist.

The true self may fade away over time, as the physical and emotional self and realm is identified with, and may even seem to be cast into oblivion, but once rediscovered, it may express itself, even in the physical realm. The self that is aware of its true inner self:

  • Is patient;
  • Does not judge;
  • Is passionate but never obsessive;
  • Knows things with clarity without the need for logic, evidence or sound arguments;
  • Is never confused in distinguishing right from wrong;
  • Is irrigated by the river of wisdom and creativity;
  • Has a sense of self and unity that does not depend on any condition, acquired characteristic, or acknowledged achievement;
  • Knows its purpose and calling, even in the midst of tragedy;
  • Radiates joy and friendliness, blows a gentle breeze of compassion, and is anonymously generous like a fertile meadow in full bloom;
  • Is elegant, subtle, graceful and fluid like the northern nights;
  • Is deserving of all appraisal and love yet without the desire to obtain these.

A shining gem of perfection the true self may seem when unveiled, it remains forever out of reach for those who dwell in the dust of this ephemeral existence. As long as we live, we mortals can only try to open as many doors as possible to let the true self in, however, we will never truly reach the optimal realization in this life. Still, it is the best and only thing we can do to find meaning, overcome suffering and ignorance, and fulfill our purpose – whatever that may be.

Photography by Peter van Delft