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Who is I AM?

The relevance of the I AM sayings in the Gospel of John – an introduction.

Woman greeting the sun, Elisabeth Wales, Unsplash

I have lived with the gospel for many years, and by attuning to the profoundly significant allegorical and metaphysical levels beneath the outer stories, a door has opened to experiencing the Christ and the personal initiatory process, including my joy on its feminine aspect through my work with Mary Magdalene [1]. Now in a series of posts I would like to contemplate us, our unique ‘I’.

When we say ‘I am’ we are making an existential statement about who and what we are. Mostly this refers to our ego, our survival power base. Ego belongs to the astral, a characteristic of all sentient (sense-based) creatures. Astral is the home of instinct, which is neutral, part of ‘nature’. In humans the individualistic ego that emerges from the astral gives us our ability to self-reference. By saying ‘I’ we become conscious that we are individuals. Through a well-developed ego-I we aim to get what we need or want and can mark our accomplishments in the world. But our destiny, our purpose involves more than this. For when we undertake the initiatory journey, we are undergoing transformation. Our perception of self changes and a different ‘I’ emerges. It is why in metaphysics I AM (in capitals) can be a distinctive self-reference.

The designation goes back to the Book of Exodus (3:13-15). As a sign of something beyond ordinary experience, the divine voice speaks to Moses from a bush that burns but is not consumed. Moses asks, ‘What shall I say when people ask your name?’ And the response comes, ‘I am who/that I am’ – ’ehyeh ’asher ’ehyeh. Connected with the verb ‘to be’, this doubling portrays the existential nature of divinity, revealing a high being who is the essence and source of Beingness.

Seven focused ‘I AM’ sayings are found in the Gospel of John:

I am the bread of life (Jn 6:35)

I am the light of the world (Jn 8:12)

I am the door of the sheep (Jn 10:7)

I am the good shepherd (Jn 10:11)

I am the resurrection and the life (Jn 11:25)

I am the way, the truth and the life (Jn 14:6)

I am the true vine (Jn 15:1)

Seven is a powerful sacred number symbolising completion and fulfilment. The gospel was written in Greek and in these sayings ego, the common Greek meaning ofI’ is not used, but rather ego eimi. It means ‘I exist’ or ‘I have being’. In the thought of the time, it could still invoke the divine name. That is why Jesus offended some men in Jerusalem when he declared, ‘Before Abraham was, I am.’ (John 8:58)

John’s gospel is about the Word who is also the Christ. It records the incarnation of the cosmic Word in the chosen human being Jesus, a singular event that had been in preparation over the ages and brought a new impulse to humanity and into the world. In the ego eimi sayings Jesus Christ is in a process of revealing who he is through symbolic attributes of divine beingness, so for example: I exist/have being as the bread of life.

On a human level the gospel reveals the initiatory process of awakening to the spiritual self undergone by the anonymous beloved disciple (whose identity is easy to uncover) – the anonymity is more about the opportunity to imagine ourselves in the role. The sayings are about the qualities of our I AM, our spiritual ‘I’ as powerful images of every human being’s potential.

Images of our divine potential

Greek philosophers saw the divine I AM mirrored within the human being. Sacred geometry was revealed in the ideal human proportions – Leonardo da Vinci referenced this in his famous L’Uomo, ‘The Man’.

Leonardo's drawing of l'Uomo

Yet it’s more than physical. The essence of I AM is spirit and exists in eternity. It overshadows all that lives. But at this point in evolution the I AM can find a home on the earth plane only through human consciousness. The I AM, ego eimi is our higher self. This mostly sleeps within the soul and hopefully will awaken as we move gradually towards that higher existence. We have the potential to bring the wisdom of I AM to life in our soul. Then the higher self becomes the source of harmony and unity.

But it doesn’t happen automatically. The sad reality is that the individualistic ego has grown crookedly and continues to do so. So within humans there’s an impulse to grab greedily for self, to envy, denigrate and blame, and even claim power over others, which only fuels the ego wants in those who feel powerless. The I AM retreats in the face of such negativity.

It is so easy to concentrate mainly on what is not I AM in the world. But this serves us poorly because it brings out our own negativity. Meanwhile there is much goodness in human souls shining forth in the finest, kindest, most compassionate and lovingly offered thoughts and deeds. This is significant. The most potent way to gain gnosis of I AM is to see its expression in others. It’s an age-old spiritual practice. By acknowledging the divine essence of the other we come to recognise that it is mirrored in us.

To live according to ‘our’ I AM we must become empty of self, which may seem like a contradiction. Yet to give the cosmic I AM room, I, my small self-focused part must diminish so that life eternal can be born in me. Then I AM can be expressed in thoughts and deeds that are free of falsehood, fear and judgement, and which build, uplift and add love to the world.

Having a mystical conversation

When we contemplate the I AM sayings, we undertake a mystical conversation with our indwelling I AM. We are allowing the cosmos to speak in us. A focus on each saying separately, perhaps over a week, gives different emphases to this wonderful process. As well there is an inner rhythm to the I AM sequence, and another way of attuning to the sayings is to meditatively speak or chant all seven. We can also align each with a chakra or spiritual centre and recognise that all have a unique colour and tone.

Further enrichment is available by linking each I AM saying with teachings by Christ. In the gospel the seven ego eimi sayings are accompanied by a teaching or event that reveal the I AM working in us and how it can manifest. I reference these in the posts that follow.

In the following posts I'll include an affirmation that connects with the inner meaning of ego eimi in a personal context [2]. I have worked with these affirmations over the years. You may wish to choose your own.

The Gospel of John is known as ‘the spiritual gospel’ and these treasures offered by the beloved disciple of Christ are powerful tools as we discover the freedom to be who we really are. So welcome to the I AM series, coming soon.

[1] This led me to build a new website, Magdalene Christianity ,with ways of approaching her beautiful story. [2] My husband and soul mate Stephen was inspired to include affirmations. I have tweaked some of them slightly.


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