The concept of the name of God is one which has fascinated scholars and philosophers from the dawn of time. God reportedly revealed ‘His’ name to Moses via the burning-bush; as recorded in the book of Exodus 3:14. The name Moses heard was, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh. Actually, it’s a phrase rather than a name, so what does it mean, and does it have any significance for us today?
In biblical Hebrew, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh is a deceptively simple phrase consisting of the relative pronoun asher sandwiched between two instances of the first person singular of the verb hayah — to be. Ehyeh is most commonly translated as “I am.” Asher is a remarkable Hebrew word that can mean, that, who, which or where, but in this context, is most often translated as that.
Therefore, generally speaking, Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh, or I am that I am, can be taken to indicate the self-existence and infinite eternality of God as the Source of all. It indicates the unity between the formless Divine Nature and the essence of all forms.
As Abhayananda comments in his illuminating book, The Supreme Self‘: “I am is an immediately evident fact — perhaps the most evident of all facts. It is not necessary to think in order to be aware I am — Descartes’ assertion to the contrary notwithstanding. I am is self-evident and logically prior to thought, for it is the I of I think.
This I am (Sanskrit: Aham; Hebrew: Ehyeh) is synonymous with consciousness in humankind. It is the constant underlying background, which serves as witness as well as substratum to all possible mental states….
Consciousness is the immutable, static witness; what it witnesses is its own projection in the form of thoughts, feelings and images, as well as the impressions registered by the senses. Consciousness is the subject, the seer, and everything else is the object, the seen.
Consciousness never vanishes; it is the one unfailing constant witness to all the various mental states: for example, in the waking state, consciousness is the witness of two simultaneous levels of activity: the internal one of thoughts, imaginations, etc., and an external one of sense-data from the “objective” world.
In the dream state, consciousness witnesses only on the internal level, viewing the effusive activity of the imagination known as dreams. And in the deep-sleep state, consciousness finally gets a break, as there is nothing at all to witness — but Itself….
There is yet another state of consciousness besides these three already mentioned: that is the state wherein consciousness transcends the Self-imposed limitation of a separate ego-identity — the illusion of being confined to one particular body — and recognizes Itself as universal.
The I experienced in this state is not a different I from the one which has always been experienced; it is the same I, but happily divested of the wrong notion of who I is.
We may call this state nirvana, samadhi, satori, the mystic marriage, oneness with God or whatever we like, it is more precisely however, the startling experience of the expansion of one’s consciousness from its limited personal identification to an unimaginably pure and lucid awareness that knows: I am the one Consciousness of the universe! All this is my Self!”
Surely, it was this same lucid awareness that prompted Jesus of Nazareth to declare: “Before Abraham was, I am.” thus symbolically proclaiming the unity of the Divine Nature (Divine Light) with the consciousness of existence we all experience — a recognition that apparently was quite misunderstood by his hearers and only inspired antagonism.
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