“Who are you really?” is the question at the core of all mysticism. It’s a question fraught with deep longing. We wear a lot of masks in this culture—we’re often one person at work, another person at church, and yet another person at home. But who are we when we are by ourselves? The mystics say that even that is a mask. We put up a good front for everyone—including ourselves. And all of it is illusory. We long to be authentic, but like layers of an onion, the masks are peeled away to reveal other masks.
The Christian mystics, though, tell us an amazing truth: everything is in God, all the way down. And everything that is in God, is God. God is our fundamental reality. God is our primary and fundamental identity. And until we experience God as our core reality, we will still be trapped in an illusion.
How do we do that? Jesus said, “He who seeks to save his life will lose it, but he who loses his life for my sake will find it.” Losing our life means seeing through the illusion of the ego, dying to the idea that we are somehow separate from everything else. This is dying to self.
If we can die to self, if we can “lose our life,” however, a miraculous thing happens—we discover who we really are. We discover that we are one being with all other beings, and one being with God. God’s life becomes our life, God’s joy becomes our joy, and God’s concerns our concerns. Jesus promised us “abundant life”—a life lived in conscious union with God and all things.
This is symbolized in the Paschal mystery of Easter—Jesus died, was buried, and rose again a new creature. We, too, are invited into this Easter mystery. Jesus invites us to die, too—the idea of “us” that is limited, the “us” that is our ego, the “us” that is just an illusion—so that we can be resurrected into a new life, into conscious connection with divinity.