At the heart of our soul’s story, and the heart of the consciousness that we live by, is the identity that we carry within us. In a time calling for global justice and a planetary consciousness, we need a broader, more inclusive and more universal identity than we may have previously known or been comfortable with.

James Redfield and Michael Murphy, the authors of God and the Evolving Universe, call our fullest identity possible our “transcendent identity.” The forces of our time carry the seed of “a greater integration” that is “pressing to be born in us.” Our personal identity has the potential to expand outward from us and take in larger and larger circles of others around us. Redfield and Murphy acknowledge what the Parliament of the World’s Religions had said, that saints and sages since antiquity have claimed that we can realize an identity beyond our personal history. Whether we refer to this transcendent identity as Atman (from the Hindu Upanishads), “the soul at one with God,” or as oneness, when it is experienced we feel as though we have discovered who we really are.

If we see ourselves as essentially a soul on an eternal journey, our identity, viewed from this perspective, can shift dramatically and quickly. When I reflect on this, no longer are any of my narrower physical, biological, or social time-limited identities all of what define me. This timeless identity shifts my viewpoint from the fragmented parts to the entire whole, and at the same time shifts my consciousness from one of duality to oneness.

This leads further, and naturally, to taking on the identity of a world citizen. An important piece of the emerging consciousness now under way is that of world citizenship. As we process the transformations now taking place on the shrinking planet we inhabit—mass travel on an international scale, enormous migrations, greater in the last century and a half than ever before, and millions of refugees fleeing from persecution—it is evident that consciousness of world citizenship is becoming more and more a reality, as well as a necessity.

Amid these changes and the suffering all this turmoil has caused, we have also witnessed the progressive integration of the world’s peoples into the citizenry of a single global homeland. As a result, people everywhere are now exposed to the cultures and norms of others about whom their forefathers knew little or nothing. This has in turn opened up a search for meaning on a scale not known before.

Being a citizen of the world first and foremost means having a consciousness, a frame of mind, a way of seeing and acting in the world that involves adopting a set of perspectives, approaches, and values that make the whole a greater priority than any of its parts. It means not being limited any one of our identities, whether they be familial, ethnic, or national. It would free us of a restrictive nationalistic perspective and enable us to see and know the entire world as a whole. We would be able to see and take in views, values, beliefs, and other ways of life that may be new to us and different from what we are most used to while recognizing and appreciating cultural and other differences, being comfortable with the diversity of viewpoints that exist in the world, and starting off with a global perspective on issues.

A world citizen is committed to a unifying set of values that promote equitable and sustainable development well into the future. This is built upon a deep, practical understanding of the interconnectedness of the nations and peoples of the world. It widens our allegiance to humanity as the primary reference group, rather than any one ethnic, social, or nationality group, and results in a love of humanity as a whole.

The entire world becomes our home and all humanity our family. A profound sense of responsibility for the fate of the planet and for the welfare of the entire human family comes with this. How we live out our lives as citizens of the world becomes the context for our souls’ journey, and for the story we tell about our lives.