The Higher Self

We begin to understand what is divine through our efforts to be present. Presence is consciousness. Since sustained or continuous presence is only achieved with effort, we eventually recognize that being present, being truly awake, is the rarest and highest of all experiences. It is an experience that can so easily be undervalued, but when experienced deeply enough shows us what is real and what is not real. Without presence we really have nothing except our physical energy and our possessions. With presence we have our self, our Higher Self.

The Higher Self is our real Self. It is our Divine Nature. It is the part in us that is immortal and survives death.

Our real Self emerges more definitely the more we are present, and the more deeply we are present. Over the centuries esoteric literature has described the experience of the Higher Self in a myriad of forms: the god Re in Egypt; the Buddhist state of nirvana; the Garden of Eden and the Sabbath of the Judeo-Christian tradition; the Third Eye of Zen; the Beloved in Sufi literature; and in more modern times Real I, as opposed to the many ‘I’s of our mechanical life.

How can we know that we are actually more awake and that we are experiencing our Higher Self? The simple answer is that the Higher Self recognizes itself. The more mechanical and associative aspects of our being will always doubt and complain; even a profound experience of presence will not change this. It therefore becomes a necessary part of our work to anticipate the waves of doubt and imagination that will follow an experience of presence, and to distinguish between what is more real and what is less real in ourselves.

The internal work that a sincere person creates in himself or herself over time is based on distinguishing what is more real and less real, what is presence and what is not presence. Since we often say “I,” and since it is not the Higher Self who is saying this most of the time, we come to understand that often only one part of us is speaking, a part that wants something, remembers something, or opposes something. This can lead to a multiplicity of confusions when we believe that it is always the same person who speaks. The lower parts of ourselves speak and act automatically; the Higher Self is present and attends consciously to the needs of the moment.

From this point of view, it is difficult to avoid the conclusion that we seldom experience our real Self and we seldom experience the divine. When we come to the possibility of awakening, we may tend to think of it in the abstract, that some people made intense efforts and eventually became enlightened. But awakening is not for someone else and it is not something that someone else experienced and wrote a poem about. Awakening is the process of being present to our own life and of our own Higher Self. When we make active efforts to be present, we are not waiting for something external to happen. We become aware of ourselves now. And as we learn to develop habits that remind us to be present, we actually begin to discover our true Self. In turn this self-discovery energizes and empowers us to continue making more efforts to be present.

As the state of presence is simple, so too is the Higher Self simple. It is easy for us to fall into complications, and to regard tangential things as more important than the simplicity of our own presence. This is because the lower self opposes presence, and resists our efforts to be present.