Lester Levenson: What Am I?

Holding on to the ego is like trying to hang wallpaper on a wall that isn’t there. – Inscribed on the Believing Mind


Session 13: “What Am I?”

No one can do anything to us. No one can do anything for us. Some day you’ll see this.

For the last talk of this series I thought it might be a good idea to do a summary of what we have been through, where we are going, and what there is at the end.

The way I like to look at our direction is that the ultimate goal of every being is total and complete happiness with no taint of sorrow whatsoever. We are all striving for this in our every act, but somehow missing the goal. The reason why we miss our goal, our target, is simply that we do not have a clear vision of the target and therefore we are aiming blindly. So long as we remain blinded we can never attain that goal of perfect happiness.

Someone comes along and says: “Attention! You have spent many lifetimes looking in the wrong direction! Stop looking without and look within! Only there will you find that which you have spent lifetime after lifetime seeking!” And then you meet someone like Lester who tells you: Seek your very own Self—therein lies your complete happiness. Stop looking for happiness in people and things. There you merely relieve the pain of the desire for something, and this relief you call pleasure. But the pleasure is short-lived because the desire is not eliminated; it’s still there, and therefore the pain of it continues to gnaw at you.

Now the starting point is you. You must take the way toward discovering you, and only you can do it. Accept nothing unless you can prove it yourself. Prove it and it is yours. Prove it and then you can use it.

The uniqueness of this science—and it is a science; someday you’ll see it is the science of all sciences—is that this is a subjective science. We have to seek it within; we can’t put it out on a table in front of us and examine it. We can only examine it within our own mind, or better, within our own being. Also, the intellect is of no avail to us. The intellect can get us in the right direction to find it. The right direction is turning within, stilling the mind and experiencing this truth, this knowledge, and only by experience can we get to know it.

Methods are many, but the very highest is the method that everyone uses in the final end, and that method is finding the answer to “What am I?” This quest should be kept up all the time, not only in meditation, but during the day. While we’re working, no matter what we’re doing, in the back of our mind we can always keep that question posed: “What am I?” until the answer makes itself obvious to us.

Now, any answer the mind can give us must necessarily not be it because the mind is an instrument of limitation. All thoughts are qualified; all thoughts are limited. So any answer the mind gives cannot be right. The way the answer comes is simply by our casting off the blindness that we have imposed upon ourselves by assuming thoughts that we are a thinking mind-body. When the thoughts are quiet, the limitless Being is obvious. It’s self-evident. It’s there all the time. It’s just covered over by thought concepts, every one of which is limited.

So, the way is to pose the question “What am I?” and quietly await the answer. Other thoughts will come in, and the biggest difficulty is quieting these thoughts. When other thoughts come in, if we pose the question, “To whom are these thoughts directed?” the answer naturally is, “To me.” Then, “What am I?” puts us right back on the track again. That way we can continuously keep our attention on “What am I?”

To see that there is no place from which these thoughts can arise is to cultivate the Way.  – Bodhidharma

In addition to posing this question until we get the answer, it is good practice in our daily life to be not the doer, be not the agent. Just be the witness! Acquire the attitude of “It is not I, but the Father who works through me.” This is the main conduct of life that we should strive for. The more we become the witness in life, the more we become detached from the body, and the more we are our real Self.

So, there are two things I’m suggesting: one is the quest “What am I?” and the second is, in life itself be not the doer: be the witness. Let things happen; allow life to be. That’s the way we are in the top state, and the best behavior in life is that which is characteristic of the top state.

Knowledge comes through likeness. – Meister Eckhart

There are many other things which I’m sure you are aware of: humility, goodness, kindness, honesty, etc. All these things help, but the greatest aid is to be not the doer but be the witness.

Now, when the Self of us presents itself to us, it’s a tremendous experience! It’s a very difficult one to contain. We feel as though we’re going to burst, because we recognize our omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence! But just seeing it once doesn’t establish us in that state. However, once you experience it, you’ll never let go until you reestablish it. You’ll continue to try, and you should continue to try, to get back into that state. The next time, it’ll last a bit longer, the third time still longer, until finally we are in it twenty-four hours a day.

Though the state of my soul was already permanent in newness of life, yet this new life was not in that immutability in which it has been since. It was a beginning life and a rising day, which goes on increasing unto the full meridian; a day never followed by night, a life which fears death no more, not even in death itself, because one who has suffered the first death (of the self) shall no more be hurt by the second (of the body). – Madame Guyon

When we attain this top state, we are not zombies, but we are all-knowing and everywhere present. Everything falls perfectly into line. We move in the world just like anyone else moves, but the difference is that we see the world entirely differently from the way everyone else sees it. We see our body and every other body equally as our Self; likewise, every animal and every thing as our Self. Seeing everything as “I” gives us that singular Oneness throughout the universe which is called God, or the Self. We watch our body moving through life like an automaton; we let it go its way. And since we are not really that body, nothing that happens to that body can affect us. Even if it were crushed, it wouldn’t mean much to us because we fully know that we are not that body. We know our eternal Beingness and we remain That!

I left without feeling I was going out, and without being able to reflect on my deliverance. Yesterday morning I was thinking, But who are you? What are you doing? What are you thinking? Are you alive, that you take no interest in what touches you as if it did not touch you? I am greatly astonished at it, and I have to apply myself to know if I have a being, a life, a subsistence. I do not find it. On the outside I am like another; but it seems to me I am like a machine that speaks and walks by springs and that has no life or subsistence in what it does. This is not at all apparent on the outside. I act, I speak like another, in a manner more free and expansive, which embarrasses no one and pleases others, without knowing either what I do or what I say, or why I do it or say it, or what causes me to say it. – Madame Guyon, upon being released from the Bastille (James, p. 238)

So, one who has attained the top state is difficult to distinguish from anyone else. He’ll go through the same motions of life and whatever he was doing before, he might continue to do. But his outlook on life is entirely different: he is completely ego-less. He has no concern for his own body. He is interested in others and not in himself. He is interested in all humanity. Whatever he does has absolutely no ego motivation. His body will continue to live its normal span and usually goes out, in the eyes of the unknowing, the same way most bodies go out, via so-called death and coffin, but the one who was originally connected with that body never sees any of this death. He sees this entire world and body as an illusion that was created mentally, just as we create scenes, cities and worlds in our night dreams. When we awaken, we realize there never was such a thing, and in the same way, when we a awaken from this waking state we see that the whole thing was a dream and never really was. That the only thing that ever was, was my Being, the absolute Reality, being all beingness, infinite, all-perfect, all-knowing, all-powerful, omnipresent.

So, to reiterate, the main two points that I wanted to bring out today were that firstly, the very highest method is the quest “What am I?” As we pose this question in quietness, when other thoughts come in, ask, “To whom are these thoughts directed?” The answer is “To me.” “Well, what am I?” and we’re right back on the track again, until we get the total answer. And, secondly, the way in life is to be the witness, to be not the doer.


Levenson, Lester (1993). Keys to the Ultimate Freedom: Thoughts and Talks on Personal Transformation. Sedona Institute (p. 116). (Recorded July 12, 1965) (http://www.freespiritualebooks.com/keys-to-the-ultimate-freedom.html (download)

James, Nancy C. (2011) The Complete Madame Guyon. Brewster, Massachusetts: Paraclete Press.

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