The question of identity/identification is central to spiritual awakening. We often hear that unless we kill the ego and the impermanent sense of identity, the true self will never awaken, there is a lot of misunderstanding on that aspect of awakening.
Most spiritual teachers will tell you that “you are not your ego but you are that objectless consciousness”. It is a key thought aimed at facilitating the dissolution of the ego but it does not ultimately reflect the reality that unfolds after awakening. After awakening, things are seen in a new light and the above sentence could be changed to “I know myself as objectless consciousness but I am also that temporary ego”. It was first necessary to detach yourself from the impermanent and limited identity to awaken to the inclusive nature of the true self.
After awakening, it will naturally appear that everything can be embraced, included and integrated, that nothing is excluded and that it is the nature of love in action. So, if the path to awakening appears initially as a new form of duality it is essentially temporary and it will ultimately lead to what is sometimes called in technical jargon “the collapse of the witness”, oneness back to itself with the integration of all pairs of opposites.
Individuation (the development of a sense of a separate defined self) is a necessary step in the development of consciousness. Infinite consciousness is experimenting with a limited aspect of itself by developing self-consciousness and the focusing of consciousness through a mind and an identity is part of that process.
While consciousness is trying to awaken from the ego in some human cells it is important to remember that in other cells it is still developing and reinforcing that sense of ego. In a way being able to stand on your own two feet as a self-conscious individual is also a form of awakening. Gaining and losing identity are both necessary steps in the evolution of consciousness.
One of the big misconceptions is that after spiritual awakening identity is not necessary, that the ego is just a hindrance, an unnecessary fictional character. It is the type of statement you will hear in the pseudo-Advaita circles coming from individuals who have partially awakened but don’t understand the principles of embodiment.
If identification with an impermanent identity might be a hindrance on the “way up” to awakening, it becomes again a blessing on the way down to embodiment. Now that you know that “you are not just that ego”, you can embrace it again ” and use the lines of least resistance of the personality as channels of manifestation. The big difference is that you now know that you are the infinite manifesting through a limited form and your light can penetrate any thought, emotions and ultimately the physical cells of your body, this is what true embodiment is.
This slow process of the infinite, conscious of itself, manifesting through a limited form is what is called “transfiguration” in Christian imagery, it is “the verb made flesh”.