Who Am I?
I don't really recall ever really wrestling with this question in a serious way for most of my life. Somehow, through that process of socialization that Ram Dass calls "somebody training" we come to develop a sense of self-identity, eventually coming to see that self as something stable that we refer to as "I".
For those of us with a western upbringing, that "I" is probably connected to some idea of a soul as well, though I also don't recall anybody explaining how a conditioned self and an eternal soul influence each other. In short, we don't really take the time to dive deeply into this question of who or what this thing we call "I" really is. At the same time, we spent plenty of time talking about who we thought God was as if we really knew. But how can you even begin to understand anything about God if you don't know who you are? As was placed on the entrance to the temple at Delphi, the spiritual quest starts first with the inquisition to "Know Thyself".
This journey for me first started with Alan Watts. I can still hear his voice saying "I wonder what you mean when you say the word I." When I discovered Alan Watts I had already started meditating, but it was very much still a psychological tool for me. Something I did to try and calm feelings of anxiety and depression. I had no inkling of the depth of the spiritual journey and how many of the assumptions I held were simply that - assumptions. Alan described the self that most of us identify with as something illusory. That "skin-encapsulated ego" as he calls it, is itself just another one of those thoughts that is constantly occupying one's mind.
As I understand it, the soul, or psyche, as a concept really entered into the early Christian movement through Paul's theology. A mystic himself, Paul seemed to be trying to explain his experience of unitive awareness through the imagery of Christ living through us. That allowing the resurrected Christ to live through us displaces the false self, which is all too often in the driving seat of our lives.
The problem with the popular understanding of Christianity is that it mistakes Christian doctrine and theology for propositions that you have to believe instead of seeing them as descriptions of the human experience as it relates to reality. Theology and doctrine are conceptual descriptions of experience and as I see it, cannot be understood any other way.
Don't mistake the menu for food.