What is the author of this story telling us? Moses was a fugitive tending sheep in the desert when he had the vision of the burning bush and heard the Lord speaking to him of a mission that he must undertake. Believing that he was only a limited individual, “Moses hid his face; for he was afraid to look upon God.” (Exodus 3, v.6) Furthermore, he said “Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt?” (v. 11) In reply, God said “Certainly I will be with thee.” (v.12)
“And Moses said unto God, Behold, when I come unto the children of Israel, and shall say unto them, The God of your fathers hath sent me unto you; and they shall say to me, What is his name? what shall I say unto them? And God said unto Moses, I Am That I Am: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I Am hath sent me unto you.” (v.13-14)
The teaching can be interpreted on many levels, but the innermost meaning is this: “I am,” universal being and consciousness, is not only always with us but is our truest essence or nature. As seemingly limited human beings, we experience and act in this world through a physical body using the senses and the mind to create and imagine our lives, but we are capable of channeling great forces, as did Moses in confronting the pharaoh and leading the Israelites out of Egypt. This “I am” is the “cornucopia” from which come all things.
The prophets never claim to be this lordly universal essence but only to transmit its messages. That this transcendent being could ever be limited to a single physical body or “incarnation” is not a logical or reasonable proposition in any case, although history tells of many individuals who “claimed” the limitless for their small egos.
In Jewish tradition, the name of God (the tetragrammaton YHWH from Exodus 3:13, literally meaning “He is”) is not spoken, certainly at least partly because this reality cannot be fully expressed in words. Any name or word or concept is already a falsehood by virtue of limiting the limitless.
Nonetheless, each man is actually “super-man” or “beyond man” and these apparent individuals only “avatars” in the virtual dream of life, over which consciousness-being-awareness presides beyond the illusions of space and time. Every religious and philosophical tradition expresses this truth in some way, from Plato’s “the good” to the a-theistic Buddhist concepts of “Buddha nature” or “one’s original face.”
This universal goodness or being is abundant with grace and every type of wealth, but we create and sustain limited egos or identities and thereby deprive ourselves. Occasionally, a modern prophet like Mahatma Gandhi or Martin Luther King transcends such limitations to open a gate not only for themselves but for a nation or a race and allow that grace to flow, much as King prophesied in his “I Have A Dream” speech: “…we will not be satisfied until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream.”