The 'I' of the human being is surrounded by three sheaths [the physical, etheric, and astral sheaths]. The 'I' itself is not egotistical. Only the sheaths are egotistical. If the 'I' is freed from its sheath, it wants immediately to spread or expand itself out to the whole cosmos. However, it is enclosed in its three sheaths. In the East, the image of this being enclosed is the lotus flower. Also in the lotus flower, the innermost core is surrounded by three circles of blossom petals.
In India this was expressed with the words:
If you want to come to the true 'I' you must go through all three sheaths. There are three stages that lead to the 'I.'
One enters the first stage and experiences:
One enters the third stage and experiences:
The third sheath falls.
Source: Esoteric Lessons 1913-1923, p. 411f