I shall make analogous reference to water, or more exactly ice-water-steam, as a model for the existence of the "self", bearing in mind that all analogies appear to break down at some point. Finally, I shall base my thoughts on the only thing I can trust, and that is my own spiritual experience. Truth comes, not from words, but from experience. Unfortunately, the written word has the annoying habit of getting in the way sometimes. But if I am to communicate anything rather than exist, shut off from the rest of humankind, I must concur with the Bee Gees (and others) that "words are all I have."
Let me now return to the ice-water-steam model to which I referred above. Molecules consisting of two atoms of hydrogen and one of oxygen, when viewed en masse, exist in three possible states; as ice, water, or as steam. (For simplicity I leave out the possible plasma state.) The difference between these states is one of heat content, not temperature. Thus ice and water can coexist at the same temperature, but different heat contents (effected by the latent heat of fusion), as can water and steam (effected by the latent heat of vapourisation.) But enough of physics theory.
What I am suggesting here is that it may be possible to view the psycho-spiritual world as something that can undergo changes of state, with equivalent changes in energy levels. Thus the ego or lower self (an idea suggested by Thomas Merton) would correspond to the solid ice, the higher self to the liquid water, and........well let us leave it there for the moment. Thus I would propose that the ego exists, but only as a change in state of the psycho-spiritual system. It does not exist as an autonomous little person, hiding somewhere in the brain/mind complex. Similarly, I doubt the existence of an "I" or "Self" as being independent of everything else, but as a raised (energy-wise) state of an overall Self.
When I underwent that wonderful experience in Iceland, which I tried to describe in my previous post, I was struck by a number of observations, both then and since. First of all, the self when in its lowest state (the ice or egoistic phase), appears to be entirely oblivious of the existence of any higher state until its very existence is threatened by dysfunctionality (melting) and the need to change and adapt. Until that point is reached, the ego defines itself by attachment to thoughts and opinions; feelings/emotions and obsessions/addictions; physical senses and all the aspects of physical existence. Any contact with anything "higher" requires faith and ritual, hence religion for example. However, politics and other causes may be alternative substitutes. It is in this state that the dualities of life are experienced, such as you-me, right-wrong, good-bad and so on, with all the judgementalism those dualities imply.
Secondly, I clearly perceived in my "Icelandic Experience" that when in the next and higher state (the water or Higher Self phase), the ego is seen only as part - a necessary part - of a whole, a more holistic or holy concept. For me as an intuitive introvert, that part is much smaller than the Higher Self. But I accept that for others this may not reflect their realities. One thing that has struck me quite forcibly is not that the dualities have dissolved into some kind of "One-ness", but that one half of the duality has simply disappeared, or almost so. In effect, when in a higher state of awareness, the machinations of the ego-state appear to be almost unimportant to the point of triviality. This conclusion may well be pointing to an inability to imagine a state above that of the Higher Self. And here we approach the possible use of the ice-water-steam model to infer something energetically higher than the Higher Self, but nevertheless part and parcel of the whole psycho-spiritual Being.
Christianity might well refer to this state (the steam or Christ phase) as the experiential awareness of the Cosmic Christ, the Inner Christ, or its equivalent. I have referred in earlier posts to my experience of such matters and can, therefore, vouch for such experiences. Now here we are clearly on the borders of conceptual divinity, so much so that I believe it was St. Catherine of Sienna who proclaimed that everything that she was, was God. (Sorry I cannot find the quote.)
This post does not supply explanations or definitions: it wasn't meant to do so. There is much that I could have said for which there is little time or space. There are many developments I could have pursued, but that might have entailed gilding the lily. What I have tried to do here is to offer a different approach, an alternative model of the Self that is more holistic, in the hope that some questions may more easily be answered, some understanding may be gained. But in the end it is experience that must be paramount, not words.