Generally, such questions are not asked. They can become important in certain dissociative disorders. If I have two guys in my head, there is clearly an issue. Is what I identify as my self – the sum of my life experiences, memories, decisions, opinions, feelings, habits – is this what will survive the death of my body? Will Nancy and Jim’s second child, the neurotic, anxiety-prone, attention deficient boy, wander the halls of heaven worrying about what’s expected of him next? Will he enter paradise with a running dialog in his head – not actually in paradise but just talking to himself about what he supposes to be paradise?
Just whose psyche is it?
This is an apt question – particularly when you consider that the word psyche in Greek means “soul.” A psychiatrist means, interestingly, a “doctor of the soul.”
From a spiritual perspective, much of what we experience on a moment-to-moment basis, is pathological. That is to say, it is a product of spiritual sickness. The root of this sickness, in Greek, is philautia, “love of self.” In more common parlance, we could say that we are ego-driven.
We create a false-self through our collection of experiences, memories, decisions, opinions, feelings, habits – a false-self that is anxious about its existence, and that is constantly re-inventing and revising its story.
“I’m not sure I ever loved her,” a troubled husband says. This is the same man who once thought he couldn’t live without her. But as our lives change, our memories and experiences, opinions, etc., are revised. They are always extremely selective. The active life-memory that we engage on a regular basis is but a tiny fraction.
“I remember my fourth grade year,” we say. But we don’t remember any “year.” We remember a few select faces and events that we deem “fourth grade year,” much like a set of yearbook photos. We may have a few select experiences or dominant feelings. These are often memories that have not been successfully integrated into a general sense of well-being. They linger because they still hurt.
Indeed, the entire question of identity is problematic. Oddly, in the modern world we often don’t identify with our bodies. “That’s not him,” you hear at a funeral as people comfort themselves with Manichaean sentiments. And yet the body, with its DNA, is the one most consistent (and persistent) component of our existence.
So who is it that Jesus saved and why is it so important?
“He calls us each by name,” is a comforting quote in the modern world. It is extremely important where the life of the individual is both exalted above everything and crushed beneath the weight of mass consumerism. We shop for our identities, only to have bought what everyone else has. “Jesus called me by my name.”
The highest example of human existence offered in Christianity is described in St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians:
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He emptied Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name (Phi 2:5-9).
This act of self-emptying is known as kenosis. It is the ultimate act of love, the ultimate act of self-giving, self-forgetting. And it is the act that St. Paul here directly connects with Christ’s exalted Name. For St. John, this is the moment of Christ’s glorification. It is an act not just of the sacrificing God/Man, but the very act which He enjoins on every one of His followers – it is the ultimate act of true human existence:
Whoever seeks to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life will preserve it. (Luk 17:33)
And it is interesting that the word translated “life” in this passage, is the word: psyche, soul. Whatever it is that is so precious about our identity is the stuff of self-offering. The ego cannot enter the Kingdom of God.
Our identity is something other than what we commonly think about:
Beloved, now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is. (1Jo 3:2)
To him who overcomes I will give some of the hidden manna to eat. And I will give him a white stone, and on the stone a new name written which no one knows except him who receives it.”‘ (Rev 2:17)
This “identity” is not unconnected with what we now think of as our self. But it is the self resurrected, transformed. That “self” is constantly being born through the work of Christ within us. It is not the improvement of our present self, a “moral project.” For the process is not one of improvement but of life from the dead. The old dies and the new is reborn. So that the Christian life is not one of learning how to “behave” ourse