The essence of spirituality is the search to know our true selves, to discover the real nature of consciousness. This quest has been the foundation of all the great spiritual teachings, and the goal of all the great mystics.
Throughout the history of humanity it has been said that the self we know — the individual ego — is a very limited form of identity. Ignorant of our true selves we derive a false sense of identity from what we have, or what we do — from our possessions, our role in the world, how others see us, etc. Because the world on which it is based is continually changing, this derived sense of identity is always under threat, and our attempts to maintain it are responsible for much of our “self-centered” behaviour.
Behind this identity is a deeper identity, what is often called the “true self”. This can be thought of as the essence of consciousness. Although our thoughts, feelings and personality may vary considerably, the essence of mind remains the same. We are each very diffferent people than we were twenty years ago, but still we feel the same sense of “I”. This sense of “I-ness” is the same for everyone, and in that respect is something universal that we all share.
When we discover this deeper sense of self we are freed from many of the fears that plague us unnecessarily. We discover a greater inner peace, an inner security that does not depend upon events or circumstances in the world around. As a result we become less self-centered, less needy of the other’s approval or recognition, less needy of collecting possessions and social status, and become happier, healthier and more loving people. In many spiritual teachings this is called “self-liberation” .
Most spiritual teachings also maintain that when one comes to know the true nature of consciousness, one also comes to know God. If God is the essence of the whole of creation, then God is the essence of every creature, and every person. This is why the search to discover the nature of one’s own innermost essence is the search for God.