Click below to listen to this article:
The infinite self
One of the most profound questions that humans have asked throughout history is: Who am I? The answer may not be as simple as we think. Some philosophers and mystics have suggested that a person’s true-self is infinite because everything is connected, and therefore, one. This idea challenges the conventional notion of identity as a fixed and separate entity, and invites us to explore the deeper dimensions of our being. In this article, we will explore this concept. Looking at it from a number of perspectives.
The scientific approach
One way to approach this idea is to consider the concept of consciousness. Consciousness is the subjective experience of awareness and perception, which is not limited by the physical boundaries of the body or the brain. Some researchers have proposed that consciousness is a fundamental property of the universe, and that it pervades all forms of existence (Chalmers, 1996). This implies that everything is conscious to some degree, and that we are part of a larger field of consciousness that transcends space and time. In this view, our individual consciousness is a drop in the ocean of universal consciousness, and our true-self is the ocean itself.
Another way to explore this idea is to examine the nature of reality. Reality is often assumed to be objective and independent of our observation, but quantum physics has shown that this is not the case. Quantum phenomena, such as entanglement and superposition, reveal that reality is influenced by our measurement and expectation, and that it exists in a state of potentiality until it is observed (Bohr, 1934). This suggests that reality is not fixed or deterministic, but rather fluid and creative, and that we are co-creators of our own reality. In this perspective, our true self is not a passive observer, but an active participant in the unfolding of the cosmos.
A third way to approach this idea is to reflect on the experience of oneness. oneness is the feeling of being connected to everything and everyone, and of being part of a greater whole. It is often reported by people who have had mystical or spiritual experiences, such as near-death experiences, meditation, or psychedelics (Griffiths et al., 2006). oneness can also be cultivated through practices such as compassion, gratitude, and altruism (Ricard et al., 2004). oneness can transform our sense of self from a separate ego to a universal self, and inspire us to live with more harmony, wisdom, and love. In this mode, our true self is not an isolated individual, but a compassionate expression of the divine.
The Spiritual perspective
One of the most profound and inspiring ideas in spirituality is that a person’s true self is infinite, transcending the limitations of the physical world and the ego. This idea suggests that we are not merely our bodies, personalities, thoughts, emotions, or roles, but rather we are eternal beings of pure consciousness, connected to the source of all creation.
According to spiritual teachers such as Deepak Chopra and Eckhart Tolle, the true-self is not limited by time, space, or causation. It is eternal, unchanging, and blissful. The true-self is the source of creativity, intelligence, and love.
However, most of us are not aware of our true-self because we identify with our everyday self, which is conditioned by our past experiences, beliefs, and fears. The everyday self is constantly seeking validation, security, and happiness from external sources. It is attached to the ego, which creates a false sense of separation from others and from our true nature. The everyday self is often restless, dissatisfied, and unhappy. Spiritual leaders suggest that this is because most of us are not authentic, instead we project a false self, based on a process known as masking.
Many spiritual leaders have explored the idea that a person’s true self is infinite. Here are some quotes and examples to illustrate this point:
Sant Rajinder Singh Ji Maharaj, a spiritual master of the Science of spirituality, writes: “True leaders need knowledge of the self that gives access to an inner moral compass that guides our activities and gives direction for those who follow us. How can we achieve this? A clear and simple directive has come to us through the ages: ‘Know Thyself.’ True leaders enter within their own hearts and Souls, engage in self-analysis, and connect with the spiritual force within themselves. They become connected to the limitless spiritual power within” (Singh, 2017, para. 4).
Rumi, a 13th-century Persian poet and mystic, says: “You are not a drop in the ocean. You are the entire ocean in a drop” (Rumi, n.d., as cited in Helminski, 2000, p. 13).
When Pierre Teilhard de Chardinhe said, “You are not a human being in search of a spiritual experience. You are a spiritual being immersed in a human experience.” it reflected Teilhard’s vision of human evolution as a process of spiritualization, in which humans become more aware of their connection with the divine and the cosmos. He believed that humans have a dual nature: they are both material and spiritual beings, but their true essence is spiritual. He wrote: “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.” (Teilhard de Chardin, 1957, p. 58).
To illustrate this point, he used the analogy of fire: “What would we think of a fire which did not spread? What would we think of a fire which contented itself with burning? The fire which does not kindle others is no true fire. The same holds for the spirit.” (Teilhard de Chardin, 1957, p. 62). He argued that humans have a natural tendency to seek God and to unite with him, and that this is the ultimate goal of evolution. He called this the Omega Point, the point of convergence and completion of all creation.
The quote by Dr. Brian Weiss, “You are not your body; you are not your brain, not even your mind. You are Spirit. All you have to do is reawaken to the memory, to remember.” (Weiss, 1988, p. 219) is from the book Many Lives, Many Masters.
According to Weiss (2020), the purpose of remembering our past lives is to heal our present ones and to evolve spiritually. He claims that by accessing the memories of our past lives, we can understand the root causes of our fears, phobias, illnesses, relationships, and patterns of behaviour. He also asserts that we can receive guidance and wisdom from our spirit guides or masters, who are highly evolved Souls that oversee our spiritual development.
One example of how remembering past lives can heal the present one is the case of Catherine, Weiss’s first patient, who underwent past life regression therapy. Catherine suffered from anxiety, panic attacks, depression, and phobias that did not respond to conventional treatment. Under hypnosis, she recalled vivid details of more than 80 past lives that spanned thousands of years and different cultures. She also channelled messages from her spirit guide that revealed information about Weiss’s personal life and his deceased son. As Catherine relived her past lives and received the messages from her spirit guide, her symptoms gradually disappeared, and she became happier and more confident (Weiss, 1988).
Another example of how remembering past lives can help us evolve spiritually is the case of Elizabeth and Pedro, two strangers who met at one of Weiss’s workshops and felt an instant connection. Under hypnosis, they discovered that they had been lovers in several past lives, but their relationship was always tragic and ended in separation or death. They also learned that they had a soul contract to meet again in this lifetime and to heal their Karmic wounds. By remembering their past lives together, they were able to forgive each other and themselves, and to experience a deeper love than before (Weiss, 2004).
These quotes and examples show that many spiritual leaders agree that the true self is infinite because it is connected to the source of all creation, which is God or the spiritual power that sustains everything.
Furthermore, there are examples which illustrate our potential spiritual nature:
near-death experiences (NDEs), where people report leaving their bodies and entering a realm of light, love, and peace, often encountering deceased loved ones or divine beings. These experiences suggest that our consciousness survives physical death and that we have a higher self that transcends our earthly identity (van Lommel, 2010).
Meditation, where people practice focusing their attention on the present moment, their breath, a mantra, or an object, and experience a state of inner silence, bliss, and awareness. These practices suggest that we can access our true-self by quieting our mind and detaching from our thoughts and emotions (Walsh & Shapiro, 2006).
mystical experiences, where people have a direct encounter with the divine or the ultimate reality, often feeling a sense of oneness, awe, joy, and gratitude. These experiences suggest that we can experience our true self as part of a larger whole, and that we have a sacred dimension to our existence (James, 1902).
The Western religious perspective
One way to approach the idea of an infinite true self from a Western religious perspective, is to contrast it with the false self, which is the product of social conditioning and psychological adaptation. The false self is limited, temporal, and dependent on external factors.
The true self, on the other hand, is unlimited, timeless, and independent of any contingencies. The true self is the essence of what a person is, the core of their being, and the source of their values and conscience. As Vaden (2016) writes, “The false self is an identity constructed by the world; the true self is an identity given by God” (p. 2).
Another way to understand the idea of an infinite true self is to consider how it relates to God, who is the ultimate reality and the ground of all being. God is infinite in every sense: in power, knowledge, presence, goodness, and love. God is also personal, meaning that he has a mind, a will, and a relationship with his creation.
Man is made in the image of God; therefore, he shares some aspects of God’s infinity and personality. As Schaeffer (1972) explains, “On the side of the fact that God is a personal God the chasm stands not between God and man, but between man and all else. But on the side of God’s infinity, man is as separated from God as the atom or any other finite of the universe” (p. 18). Thus, the true self reflects both the infinity and the personality of God.
Dr. M. Robert Mulholland Jr., a professor of New Testament at Asbury Theological Seminary, explains: “The ‘more’ is the journey from living out one’s false self to living as our true self in Christ—a self that is deeply centred in and utterly abandoned to God. Two Ways of Being in the World You see, there are two fundamental ways of being human in the world: trusting in our human resources and abilities or radically trusting in God” (Mulholland, 2016, para. 3).
Jesus Christ, the founder of Christianity, declares: “The kingdom of God is within you” (Luke 17:21, New International Version).One possible way to explain the quote is to understand that the kingdom of God is not a physical place, but a state of being. The infinite true-self of man is the essence of his soul, which is created in the image and likeness of God (Genesis 1:26).
The soul is eternal, immortal, and divine, and it transcends the limitations of the body and the mind. The soul is the source of love, wisdom, peace, joy, and power, and it reflects the attributes of God. Therefore, the kingdom of God is within you means that you have access to the divine qualities of your soul, and you can manifest them in your life. As Jesus said, “the kingdom of God is not coming with signs to be observed; nor will they say, ‘Look, here it is!’ or, ‘There it is!’ For behold, the kingdom of God is in your midst” (Luke 17:20-21, New American Standard Bible).
To illustrate this point, one can use the example of Jesus himself, who demonstrated the kingdom of God within him by performing miracles, healing the sick, forgiving the sinners, and teaching the truth. Jesus showed that he was one with God, and that he had authority over nature, disease, death, and evil. He also invited his followers to do the same, saying, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father” (John 14:12, New American Standard Bible). Jesus revealed that anyone who believes in him can tap into the power of their soul and express the kingdom of God within them.
Another example is that of Saint Francis of Assisi, who renounced his worldly possessions and devoted his life to serving God and his creation. Saint Francis was known for his love of animals, nature, and people, and he embodied the virtues of humility, simplicity, generosity, and compassion. He also experienced mystical visions and stigmata, which are signs of his union with God. Saint Francis exemplified the quote by living harmonizing with his true-self and with God’s will.
This quote from Jesus means that the kingdom of God is not a physical location or a future event, but a present reality that can be experienced by anyone who aligns with their true-self. The true-self is the soul that is made in the image and likeness of God and that possesses divine qualities. By accessing and expressing these qualities, one can manifest the kingdom of God within them and in their surroundings.
The idea that a person’s true self is infinite from a religious perspective is a rich and complex one that can be approached from different angles. It involves contrasting the true self with the false self, relating the true self to God’s infinity and personality, and investigating how the true self appears and expresses itself in human life. The idea of an infinite true self can inspire people to seek their ultimate identity and purpose in God.
The Eastern religious perspective
According to Eastern philosophy, the self is an illusion that obscures the true nature of reality and causes suffering and unhappiness. Eastern religions, such as Hinduism and Buddhism, believe that we are all interconnected and part of a greater universal whole. Therefore, there is no separate or individual self that can be isolated from the rest of existence. Instead, the self is a construct of the mind that arises from ignorance and attachment.
For example, Hinduism teaches that the Atman, or human soul, is a part of Brahman, the soul of god. Atman is not a distinct entity or self, but rather a manifestation of Brahman in the phenomenal world. As the Upanishads state, “That which is the finest essence – this whole world has that as its soul. That is Reality. That is Atman. Thou art That.” (Chandogya Upanishad 6.8.7). To realize this identity between Atman and Brahman is to achieve liberation from the cycle of rebirth and suffering.
Similarly, Buddhism teaches that there is no inherent self or essence in any phenomenon, including human beings. This doctrine is known as anatta, or no-self. According to Buddhism, what we perceive as the self is actually a collection of impermanent and interdependent factors, such as physical form, sensations, perceptions, mental formations, and consciousness. These factors are constantly changing and dependent on causes and conditions. As the Buddha said, “All phenomena are without self.” (Anatta-lakkhana Sutta). To realize this truth is to attain nirvana, or cessation of suffering.
Therefore, from an Eastern religious perspective, a person’s true self is infinite in the sense that it transcends the limitations and boundaries of the conventional self. The true self is not a separate or individual entity, but rather a part of the ultimate reality that pervades all existence. The true self is not subject to birth and death, but rather eternal and blissful. The true self is not something that can be grasped or possessed, but rather something that can be realized through wisdom and compassion.
Arguments against an infinite self
One of the major arguments against the idea that the true-self is infinite is that it contradicts the empirical evidence of human finitude and limitations. According to this argument, human beings are bound by physical, mental, and social constraints that prevent them from accessing or expressing their true potential.
For example, Chopra (2019) states that “pure consciousness gets blocked or obscured when your attention is occupied with thoughts and sensations. You live out stories created from ego needs, desire, old conditioning, wishful thinking, and much more” (para. 6). This implies that human beings are not inherently infinite, but rather conditioned by their environment and experiences. Moreover, this argument suggests that the notion of an infinite true self is a form of wishful thinking or escapism that denies the reality of human suffering and mortality.
Another argument against the idea that the true self is infinite is that it is based on a metaphysical assumption that is not verifiable or falsifiable. According to this argument, human beings cannot know or prove the existence of an infinite being or essence that transcends their empirical self. For example, Pewisms (2021) claims that “the real true self is an eternally, ever-changing or moving creative force in the universe arising from the one infinite being that is God” (para. 2). However, this claim is not supported by any empirical evidence or logical reasoning, but rather by a personal belief or intuition. Moreover, this argument suggests that the notion of an infinite true self is a form of dogmatism or mysticism that ignores the diversity and complexity of human perspectives and experiences.
How can we come to know our infinite self?
How can we explore the idea that our true self is infinite? One way is to practice meditation, which helps us quiet the mind and access the stillness within. Meditation allows us to experience our true self directly, without the interference of thoughts or emotions. As Chopra says, “Knowing your true self comes from direct experience. It is the recognition of awareness as your essential nature, beyond your body, thoughts, or feelings. It is consciousness knowing itself, by itself” (Chopra.com).
Another way is to read the works of spiritual masters who have realized their true self and can guide us on the path of awakening. For example, Chopra’s book The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success explains how we can align ourselves with the natural laws of the universe and manifest our true desires. Tolle’s book The Power of Now teaches us how to live in the present moment and free ourselves from the pain of the past and the anxiety of the future.
A third way is to observe ourselves and our reactions in daily life and notice when we are acting from our true-self or from our everyday self. We can ask ourselves: Am I being authentic, or am I pretending? Am I being loving, or am I being judgmental? Am I being grateful, or am I being resentful? Am I being creative, or am I being repetitive? Am I being peaceful or am I being stressed? By becoming more aware of our choices and behaviours, we can gradually shift from living in fear to living in love.
Exploring the idea that our true self is infinite can be a life-changing journey that brings us more joy, fulfilment, and freedom. As Tolle says, “You are here to enable the divine purpose of the universe to unfold. That is how important you are!” (The Power of Now).
A fourth way to explore the idea of an infinite true self is to examine how it manifests in human experience and expression. The true self can appear in time but also exists beyond time. It may even be absent at different moments in time without ceasing to exist. The true self can also express itself through various forms of creativity, morality, spirituality, and love. The true self can be discovered through introspection, meditation, prayer, or revelation. The true self can also be obscured by ignorance, sin, or deception. The true self is not a static or fixed entity, but a dynamic and evolving one. As Sparby et al. (2019) state, “The true self can be viewed as having a kind of spiritual existence… It involves phenomenological and narrative aspects in addition to psychological dimensions” (p. 1).
The idea that the true-self is infinite has surprisingly widespread support across every sphere of spirituality and religion, as it can be found in various forms and expressions in different traditions and cultures. For example, in Hinduism, the concept of Atman refers to the individual soul that is identical to Brahman, the supreme reality. In Buddhism, the concept of Buddha-nature refers to the inherent potential of every sentient being to attain enlightenment and liberation from suffering.
In Christianity, the concept of the image of God refers to the divine likeness that humans possess as a result of being created by God. In Islam, the concept of fitra refers to the original state of purity and goodness that humans are born with and can return to by following God’s guidance.
In Taoism, the concept of wu wei refers to the natural and effortless way of living in harmony with the Tao, the ultimate principle that governs all things. In Kabbalah, the concept of Tzimtzum refers to the process by which God contracted his infinite light to create space for creation and free will.
In Sufism, the concept of fana refers to the Annihilation of the ego and union with God. In New Age spirituality, the concept of ascension refers to the evolution of consciousness and vibration to higher dimensions of existence.
It also has some scientific support. Some researchers have explored the possibility that consciousness is not a product of the brain, but rather a fundamental property of reality that can exist independently of matter. For example, Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon who had a near-death experience (NDE), claims that he visited a realm of pure awareness and love that was beyond space and time, and that his brain was not functioning at all during his experience (Alexander, 2012).
Similarly, Dr. Jim Tucker, a psychiatrist who studies cases of children who remember past lives, claims that some of these cases provide evidence for reincarnation and the continuity of consciousness after death (Tucker, 2013). Moreover, some physicists have proposed theories that suggest that reality is holographic, multidimensional, or quantum in nature, and that consciousness plays a key role in shaping it (Bohm, 1980; Greene, 2004; Lanza & Berman, 2009).
However, as of today, it’s not something that can be proven or disproven. The idea that one’s true-self is infinite is ultimately a metaphysical proposition that goes beyond the scope of empirical verification or falsification. It is based on subjective experiences, intuitions, beliefs, and assumptions that are not universally shared or agreed upon.
The suggestion of many spiritualists is that the individual does not take their word for it but find out for themselves. Many have sought their own evidence by engaging in practices such as meditation, prayer, psychedelics, NDEs, or past-life regression. But not all have succeeded in having transformative or transcendent experiences that confirm their hypothesis. It’s therefore something that remains a concept of personal truth rather than a universally accepted one.
Alexander E. (2012). Proof of heaven: A neurosurgeon’s journey into the afterlife. Simon & Schuster.
Anatta-lakkhana Sutta: The Discourse on the Not-self Characteristic (SN 22.59). (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.accesstoinsight.org/tipitaka/sn/sn22/sn22.059.nymo.html
Bohm D. (1980). Wholeness and the implicate order. Routledge & Kegan Paul.
Bohr, N. (1934). Atomic theory and the description of nature. Cambridge University Press.
Chandogya Upanishad. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.wisdomlib.org/hinduism/book/chandogya-upanishad-english
Chopra.com. (n.d.). Knowing Your True Self – Deepak Chopra™️. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from https://www.deepakchopra.com/articles/knowing-your-true-self-2/
Chopra, D. (1994). The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success: A Practical Guide to the Fulfillment of Your Dreams. Amber-Allen Publishing.
Chopra.com. (n.d.). How to Find Your True Self | Chopra. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from https://chopra.com/articles/how-to-find-your-true-self
Chopra, D. (2019). How to unfold your infinite potential. Chopra. https://chopra.com/articles/how-to-unfold-your-infinite-potential
Chalmers, D. J. (1996). The conscious mind: In search of a fundamental theory. Oxford University Press.
Greene B. (2004). The fabric of the cosmos: Space, time, and the texture of reality. Knopf.
Griffiths, R. R., Richards, W. A., McCann, U., & Jesse, R. (2006). Psilocybin can occasion mystical-type experiences having substantial and sustained personal meaning and spiritual significance. Psychopharmacology, 187(3), 268-283.
Helminski, K. (2000). The Rumi collection: An anthology of translations of Mevlâna Jalâluddin Rumi. Shambhala Publications.
James, W. (1902). The varieties of religious experience: A study in human nature. Longmans, Green & Co.
Lanza, R., & Berman B. (2009). Biocentrism: How life and consciousness are the keys to understanding the true nature of
the universe. BenBella Books.
Mulholland Jr., M. R. (2016). The deeper journey for leaders: From the false self to the true self. Transforming Center. https://transformingcenter.org/2016/07/deeper-journey-false-self-christ-self/
New American Standard Bible. (1995). The Lockman Foundation.
Oprah.com. (2014). Deepak Chopra -Self Confidence – Oprah.com. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from https://www.oprah.com/spirit/deepak-chopra-self-confidence/all
Oprah.com. (2012). Deepak Chopra: The Difference Between the True Self and Everyday Self. Retrieved December 20, 2023 from https://www.oprah.com/inspiration/deepak-chopra-the-difference-between-the-true-self-and-everyday-self
Pewisms. (2021). The real true self is an infinite creative force, how can we awakened to our true self? Reddit. https://www.reddit.com/r/awakened/comments/17ug9zn/the_real_true_self_is_an_infinite_creative_force/
Ricard, M., Lutz, A., & Davidson, R. J. (2004). Mind of the meditator. Scientific American, 291(5), 38-45.
Rumi (n.d.). The essential Rumi (C. Barks & J. Moyne, Trans.). HarperOne.
Saint Francis of Assisi. (n.d.). In Britannica. Retrieved December 21, 2023 from https://www.britannica.com/biography/Saint-Francis-of-Assisi
Schaeffer, F.A. (1972). He Is There And He Is Not Silent. Tyndale House Publishers.
Singh, S. R. (2017). True leadership: A journey of self-discovery and service. Science of spirituality. https://www.sos.org/articles/spiritual-growth/true-leadership-a-journey-of-self-discovery-and-service/
Sparby T., Edelhäuser F., Weger U.W. (2019). The True Self: Critique, Nature And Method. Frontiers in Psychology 10:2250.
Study.com. (2023). Eastern Philosophy of Self | Hinduism & Buddhism Concept – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.com. Retrieved from https://study.com/academy/lesson/existence-nature-of-the-self-in-eastern-philosophy.html
Teilhard de Chardin, P. (1957). the divine milieu: An essay on the interior life. New York: Harper & Row.
Tolle, E. (1999). The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment. New World Library.
Tucker J.B. (2013). Return to life: Extraordinary cases of children who remember past lives. St Martin’s Press.
Vaden M.B. (2016). The False Self And True Self: A Christian perspective (Doctoral dissertation). Retrieved from https://repository.sbts.edu/handle/10392/5064
Van Lommel, P. (2010). Consciousness beyond life: The science of the near-death experience. HarperOne.
Weiss, B. L. (1988). Many lives, many masters: The true story of a prominent psychiatrist, his young patient, and the past-life therapy that changed both their lives. Simon & Schuster.
Weiss, B. L. (2004). Same soul, many bodies: Discover the healing power of future lives through progression therapy. Free Press.
Weiss, B. L. (2020). Past-life regression therapy: A guide for practitioners and clients. Hay House.
Wikipedia contributors. (2021). Religious views on the self – Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religious_views_on_the_self
Wikipedia contributors. (2023). Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. In Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin