If while we are alive, our egos automatically react to various incoming impressions, who are we if the incoming impressions begin to change? In addition, if all of our incoming impressions are situational, i.e., the quality of impressions changes from decade to decade, then who are we beyond/apart from the current conditions of today? Real I is eternal/unchanging, whereas our essence is born into a specific set of conditions. Since these conditions always change, how can we ever distinguish between the real and the merely situational?
Imagine that there is life after death. Let us further imagine that we could talk with and visit dearly departed souls. If all of the conditions of their lives were removed by dying, what elements would be left with which to recognize or interact? Southern plantation consciousness occurred during the Victorian age. Corsets, coupled with protocol, rendered many southern belles to 'faint' on the obligatory divan. Feeling faint produces a set of requisite feelings of being "delicate." The delicate southern belle felt none of the feelings of Rosie the riveter nor did the southern belle entertain any of the thoughts, feelings, much less behaviors, of current female astronauts. Yet, if we were to meet a southern belle from the Victorian age in the afterlife, asking her to describe herself, she might respond that she was a sensitive, delicate soul who found her life to be an example of a somewhat restrictive, oppressive form of living in this world. By the same token, Rosie the Riveter would depict herself using the language of her former life conditions. "I was a 'can do' sort of person, a woman whose life took a dramatic change when war broke out." Since Rosie was not forced into a corset, Rosie's self-description would not contain a faint, delicate, sensitive expression.
Our dearly departed southern belle essence was born into a scenario of worldly conditions, which produced a specific set of automatic thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Rosie's essence was born into an entirely different set of life conditions, which caused Rosie to manifest an entirely different range of thoughts, feelings and behaviors. Had our southern belle been born into World War II consciousness, she, too, would have turned into Rosie the Riveter. Conversely, had Rosie been born into a wealthy, southern Victorian plantation, Rosie, too, would have become delicate and sensitive.
Ouspensky once stated, "We are not what we are, but what we have become." Essence is what we are, our time of life is what we become. If we identify with our life, we become attached to the transitory. 'I Am' is eternal, whereas, 'I' (Ego, personality, reactive nature), is attached to this world. The sincere students of the Fourth Way might ask themselves, "Who am I without the background of my life? Who am I alone and apart from this world?"
Maurice Nicoll once wrote, "What you see in the mirror is what you are not." What you are has neither gender nor age, whereas, what you see in the mirror is a body born in time, a body that will pass away. Current 2006 DNA technology reveals that much of what people thought was the result of pure happenstance/free will has been hardwired into our DNA. Who are we beyond the pure mechanics of our machine?
Jesus states that we must be able to distinguish the bone from the marrow. By not remembering that our essence has been reborn in time, we become identified with our life. The Real Objective Truth is that our core is eternal. By learning how to not identify with the current situations of our life, we release much needed manna for the continual journey inward.