I’m wary of the language of ‘higher self’ although it crops up a lot in New Age writing. For me it goes with a sense that things away from the earth and body are superior. Elevation goes with notions of hierarchy, too, which also makes me uneasy.
Talking about deeper self has an earthy sound to it, evoking something more like archaeological layers. Just as the earth is made up of rock and soil layers that represent history, so the deeper self is a vast accumulation of where we’ve been and what’s happened to us. It does not have authority over the everyday self, but it has resources the everyday self doesn’t.
Who we fully are can’t be expressed in a single moment. Who we are will depend on context, and what emerges in response to whatever is going on. We draw on our deeper selves all the time. Intuition, off the cuff decision, inexplicable whim – this can all be rooted in the soil of our deep self. How we understand the world and what we think is normal can also be part of a bigger identity that we aren’t necessarily conscious of. How we react to different things can teach us a lot about who we are.
Spiritual language is often full of hierarchy and authority. It’s there when we talk about transcendence, and enlightenment. It’s there in any spiritual tradition that tells us to overcome the body and worldly things for the sake of the soul. The language of ascending as a spirit to the sky God, permeates our language and even if you haven’t been raised a monotheist, those ideas are everywhere. Even if you don’t believe in it, ascending towards light can turn up as a layer in your deep archaeology. It amuses me greatly to suggest this. Bodies of course tend to go down rather than up in the natural scheme of things. Our earthy parts make their way back to the earth.