Here we come to the root of our alienation from God, and from our true Self that is hidden in Him. We have set up for ourselves a false self, the ‘superficial ego,’ which we consider our personality and which we identify with throughout our lives. This false self is a mask, and like all parts of creation is not evil in itself, but becomes evil when we take it to be more than it is–when we identify with the mask completely and forget that it is only a tool for us to utilize as we act and live in the world. Most of us go our entire lives never knowing that behind this mask, which is as mortal as the body, there is a true Self, and this core is the presence of God in us, and is why we are called Sons of God and why Christ taught that the Kingdom of Heaven is within you and not somewhere outside of you, and why the body is also called a Temple in whom the Lord dwells, if only we prepare it a place. But the superficial self–the ego–if we identify with it, blinds us to this reality. And here is the truth of the opposition between creature and Creator–between man and God: that insofar as we identify with the superficial self, we are alienated from Him. This is the meaning of the Fall–that man identified himself with his mortal self, and through this identification became mortal. And here is the esoteric doctrine beyond that opposition: that insofar as a man is able to ‘die to self’–that is, to the superficial self–and instead come to realize his true Self in Christ, he becomes Christ, and in a very real sense, is united with God, and through union with God, he becomes God. Hence the witness of St. Athanasius: “For the Son of God became man so that we might become God.”
By acknowledging that the true Self within us is not separate from God, and that the Self is in fact His presence within us, we can see that by choosing to identify with the superficial self, the false self, we commit idolatry because we prefer the created thing to the Creator Himself, the mortal to the immortal.
He who identifies with the self refers all things to it, sees all things from its inferior perspective, and in fact cannot see anything from any other perspective. He is limited in his ability to comprehend the transcendent, since he has rooted himself to the world, and one cannot move beyond one’s center.
Worst of all, he who identifies with the self loves all things in reference to the self. The whole purpose of the Gospel of Christ, who above all else taught love of neighbor, of the non-self, is to break the believer out of his self-fixation–it is to save him from himself by exhorting him to see the Self in others and to understand that it is the same Self that is in him, and that in all cases, this Self is Christ, and we are but his members, his body crucified and torn and scattered.