A small group of new students gathered in the room. A young man, quite impatient asked, "How do I find out who I really Am?"
The teacher said, "We'll get directly to it. Please everyone give your name." The students proceeded to do so.
"I am Jane."
"I am John."
"I am Ashley."
"I am Charles."
"Very well," said the teacher, "tell me a little about yourself."
Each student proceeded to provide a short description of their background and interests, and what brought them to the teacher. Then the teacher spoke.
"Each of you has described your attributes. Each of you has spoken of your Jane-ness, John-ness, Ashley-ness, and Charles-ness, but you have all overlooked something very fundamental. Each of you prefixed your name with 'I am' but none of you have talked about that."
John said, "That's just a matter of phrasing. It's typical. It's just grammar, you know, the way we talk."
"Is it?" said the teacher.
Jane piped in, "What does 'I am' have to do with talking about myself?"
"Well, said the teacher, "It seems to me, if you each prefaced your name with 'I am,' that it must be fundamental to you. Have you overlooked something?
The students sat in silence.
The teacher said, "All of you provided descriptions of your attributes, that which describes your apparent separateness. Even your names provide attributes, maleness with John and Charles, and femaleness with Ashley and Jane. What I am asking is what is common among you, and not separate?"
The students were again quiet, pondering.
After awhile the teacher spoke again. "You see, all of you have overlooked that which has the attributes. Wouldn't you say that that which carries the attributes is more fundamental to you than any attributes you attach to that?"
Several of the students nodded "yes," but said nothing.
"Consider," said the teacher, "that 'I am' is fundamental to each of you. 'I am' is the one statement for which you need no proof. Would any of you say that you do not exist?"
They all shook their heads indicating, "No."
"So, when you say 'I am' you are saying first, 'I exist' and only secondarily you are qualifying yourself as Jane, as John, or Ashley. Do you not see that you first are stating who you really are, and only secondarily that you are Jane or John?"
All were still silent.
"When Moses was on the mountain where he received the tablets, he asked God, 'Whom shall I say hath sent me?' What was the answer he received?"
Ashley spoke up, " God said, 'Tell them I Am has sent you.'"
The teacher said, "If God is I Am, then we can agree that 'I Am' is fundamental?"
The students eyes were getting big. Something was dawning on them.
"We overlook 'I am' and get caught in attributes. But our attributes are qualities. These qualities are like clothes. The clothes that God wears."
John and Ashley's jaws were dropping open. They had never considered this.
"I am is common to each of you in this room. I am is what you must have first, to be Jane, or John, or Ashley or Charles. Your parents said I am and your children's children will preface their names with I am. It is not a part of common speech by accident. It is fundamental. Can you see that I Am is what each of you are, before you forget yourself, and took yourself to be Jane or John?"
"Wow," said Charles, "I never saw it that way."
"Ah," said the teacher, " You are beginning to feel that presence, that something that is more basic to you than your attributes. I can see it in your eyes. That's good.
"Do you see that there is a common essence, an I am-ness present in each of you. It has no attributes, so it is easy to overlook, but it easily takes on attributes. Each of you are really that. Your Jane-ness, or Charles-ness, is really a presentation in I Amness. And each of you have taken the clothing as the real you.
"Some call it consciousness. Some call it the 'I principle,' but it is that which we overlook. It's easy to do. Having overlooked this, we begin the search. But we search for what we already are. We are looking out of what we are searching for!"
"So, what am I?" asked Charles."
"You are that. 'I am' has sent you into the world to play Charles. You are an actor on the stage of the manifested world. As Shakespear said, 'All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players.'"
Charles just kept saying "Wow." The others were silent.
Knowing that this was enough for the evening, the teacher thanked them for coming and and went to make coffee.