In the East, this
ancient Hindu maxim describes the resolution of subjectivity and objectivity.
It means, literally, "I am that."
In Romanticism Comes of Age, Barfield
offers a western understanding of the concept:
If we take the bare expression, "I
am that" [Tat Tvam Asi], we shall probably note a certain difference
between the tone in which it must have been uttered long ago by the Eastern
Yogi and the tone in which it is uttered today by the Western devotee of
imagination. There would be a difference of emphasis. For the Yogi,
desirous of advancing further along the path of wisdom,
the important thing is, or was, to feel "I am that"--there is indeed such
an entity as I myself and I can find it by looking at the outer world.
That is his discovery. For the Westerner, on the other hand, as he develops
his imagination, the novel experience is to feel "I am that." There was
never any doubt of there being an entity called "I," he feels, but the
great discovery, the advance in wisdom, is the realization that this "I"
is not shut up inside this physical body as if in a kind of box, as he
had naturally supposed. No, it is out there in the flower and the stone.
"I" am not merely this seer but the seen. I am that. (RCA 39-40)
|See in particular "From East to West" (RCA