Hey Tim, thanks for the thoughtful response. Your comment — that no matter what self-transcendence we pursue, there always remains some irreducible morsel of self — reminds me of an Emerson line from his essay, Circles:
“…this incessant movement and progression which all things partake could never become sensible to us but by contrast to some principle of fixture or stability in the soul. Whilst the eternal generation of circles proceeds, the eternal generator abides.”
Maybe what you call the “unessential self” is this incessant movement/progression, as our ideas of self are always in flux and malleable, and the transcendental work Emerson preaches is to hone in on what remains constant amidst the ever-changing layers of of “unessential self”, the “unchanging identity” or “eternal sameness”.