St. Paul, the passionate convert: ‘I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me.‘ [Gal 2:20; Paul’s letters preceded the Gospels.]
‘I live; yet not I’ is a feeling arrived at routinely by anyone in later stages of Meditation Practice. But can you live it? Can you sense it when brushing your teeth?
You will find vivid examples [and I will post them once I locate them in my old files] in every religious tradition. From the ‘Supreme Self’ of a short-stopped Vedanthic interpretation to much less abstract ethnic and regional and folk deities.
But no one was as spectacularly successful as St. Paul who reached back into his immediate ethnic and regional roots to locate the divine connect in a manger in Bethlehem. More than half the world today celebrates his explanation. And I happen to love Christmas.
[‘He humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross‘. The closing lines of St. Paul’s translation of likely the first Christian hymn. The Vatican, both architecturally and organizationally, was modeled they say, on Rome and Roman Authority structures. And your typical man-made ‘God’ is faithfully modeled in the image of the King, granting favor and ordering punishment.]
You can go a step higher than St. Paul. Deux Factus Sum: ‘I am become Divinity!’ The top of the mountain. You can’t get any higher than this.
The earliest declaration, without qualifiers or compromises which reads: ‘I am Divinity!’ is found in the Bṛhadāraṇyaka Upaniṣad:
Ahaṁ Brahmāsmi: ‘I am Brahman‘. Short, simple, take it or leave it.
In its proper interpretation, the opening word Ahaṁ in its breakdown by syllable has the same interpretation as the Mantric expression AUM [see the Post]. And Brahman is a complicated word not identical with ‘Divinity’ as commonly understood.
But for as far back as I recall it has been understood as: ‘I am Brahman‘ in its literal take. Though unlike elsewhere, nobody got killed for saying it. In fact, quite the opposite. It became a cliched term, a pretense at philosophical depth from the incorrigibly callow.
In today’s India the phrase ‘I am Brahman‘ said with enough gravity and vigor will get you a supplicant crowd by lunchtime and by sunset you will be settled in the Guru-Business. And there is no business quite like it.
Ana l-Haqq: ‘I am God Itself!’ [‘I am the Real’, in other translated interpretations].
These famous words deeply entrenched in the psyche of every pious Sufi Muslim, were uttered in Baghdad by Mansur al-Halláj [922 CE] a Persian Mystic who was was arrested and executed forthwith. [Impaled they say, meriting the full wrath of God.]
Al-Halláj himself they say, pointed to Jesus for his inspiration. One crucified a millennia earlier for saying something very similar: ‘Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life‘ [John 14:6]
‘No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known‘ [John 1:18].
Jalaluddin Rumi [Mawlānā Jalāl ad-Dīn Muḥammad Rūmī;Byzantine Roma; 1207-1273 CE] wrote of the event:
‘When the (Halláj) said ‘I am God’ and carried it through, he throttled all the blind (sceptics). When a man’s ‘I’ is negated (and eliminated) from existence, then what remains? Consider, O Denier!
Men and Women imagine that Ana l-Haqq: ‘I am God Itself!’ is a presumptuous claim, whereas the really presumptuous claim is to say Ana l-abd: ‘I am the slave of God’, for [the latter] affirms two existences, his own and that of God.
But he who says ‘I am God Itself!’, has exited, has given himself up and holds: ‘I am naught, He is the All; there is no Being but God.”
Shūnyam would differ. ‘I am naught, He is the All; there is no Being but God’ is still too presumptuous, still saying too much, still at the tail-end of the Two-ness Template. And a Model can only birth a modeled ‘God’.