Know Thyself and find your way

Know Thyself and find your way

Know thyself. One of my favourite stories of ancient Greek legends is that of the Athenian general Themistocles. He has to defend the city from the formidable Persian forces, much stronger than his own army. The problem was so large that he took it directly to the gods. Zeus told him that the wooden wall would not fail the city. Now, the mighty Persian army could easily take down a wooden wall, no matter how high or wide it might be. The general was thankfully skilled in the art of contemplation. This allowed him to focus and deeply consider the advice of Zeus that would save the city. When he did so, he discovered that the wood in question, which formed a formidable wooden wall that ultimately conquered the enemy, was indeed ships. The wood would make a fleet of ships that conquered the entire Persian army and saved the city. You need to Know Thyself and find your way towards purpose because if you don’t, you’ll probably go insane.

To know thyself is the beginning of wisdom.


Socrates himself followed the advice that was inscribed on the temple of Athena in Delphi – Know Thyself. Two words that could sum up what we know as the scientific practice of psychology today. So we start our lives by getting to know ourselves. This knowledge, however, serves us only for a time. We discover our likes and dislikes. We develop traits, preferences, attitudes, and personalities from this knowledge. In fact, we create a personal identity and a self-image from this knowledge. The problem is this: we change over time. Our self-image remains the same, always believing it has arrived at an end, the ultimate pursuit of any anxious mind. This is the beginning of the birth of the mind’s conflict with itself. Your ego identity, built from past experience, is at odds with the self doing the creating of all things new. The new self does not heed the original need for safety and certainty. It transcends this need and desires adventure and uncertainty. The self-image cannot stand this idea and becomes rattled. Worse still, it becomes defensive, and defense is the first act of war!

We are not finished products. Instead, we are seekers and sojourners who are continually and consciously evolving. We are moving through the stages of life that Carl Jung called the stages of athlete, warrior, and the making a statement stage of life that is then followed by the spiritual stage of life. The stage of ultimate transformation, as it is with worm to butterfly, so we return to our Sacred Self.

The stages of spiritual awakening

Most of us are sleep walking through life believing that things are more random and chaotic than ordered. Structure, patterns and hierarchies are not that easy to see at first. A certain level of depth is required to begin to understand The Stages of Life and Spiritual Awakening and how they unfold for each of us as individuals, as complex human beings that are part of a much bigger system than the space and time that anyone can experience subjectively themselves.  What this all means is, is that life for human beings has been going for about 3.7 billion years. This beautiful and strange blue planet has been around for about 14 billion years and there have been 120 billion, or with the zeros for context 120,000,000,000 humans that have lived this life that you are living right now.

The dread of change by the self concept undoubtedly leads us into disillusionment and what can oftentimes be described as a “dark night of the soul.” A downward spiral into depression, feeling low, worn out and tense or empty. This is where the autopilot of ego kicks in. Ego defences to be more precise. The uncertainty our evolving consciousness demands has all left us feeling unsafe and frightened. So much so that our survival response is triggered and we are easily startled into responding to life’s constant questioning of us with fight, flight and freeze answers. Our journey turns into that of a fight.

Know Thyself and find your way home

Between our hero’s new journey and the self concepts will to stay still. As stubborn as a mule, our self concept, or ego, digs its heels in and uses all our time and energy to fight the internal good fight. Contemplate the following poem and see what it brings to you intuitively. Practice lectio divina, or sacred reading for a few moments and really get to what the artist, the poet, is trying to tell us here. So much more can often be given to us when we use our EQ versus or IQ to understand the dynamics of this life, to Know Thyself and find your way home.

I came out alone on my way to my tryst.
But who is this that follows me in the silent dark?

I move aside to avoid his presence but I escape him not.

He makes the dust rise from the earth with his swagger; he adds his loud voice to every word that I utter.

He is my own little self, my Lord, he knows no shame; but I am ashamed to come to thy door in his company.

How to Know thyself better

There comes a time when you don’t need to be controlled by the mind’s ego-insurgents anymore. It has done its job of directing the child and keeping them safe with scripts and stories and away from what it perceives as the scary world of contemplation. It has successfully hidden you from yourself. That’s what the mind does. It hides things in the dark to survive. Once upon a time, it reminded the child that they were cold and that they may need their jacket. It told stories and talked all day long until the voices sent them off to sleep at night.

You don’t need a rock bottom, a near-death experience, or even another storm to start living the authentic life you want to start creating. All you need to do is really Know Thyself. This is how you escape the bondage of your own Truman show. The one being directed in your head. Truman’s director said, “We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented.” He is right! But eventually, one day, at some moment in time, we want to know what other shows are playing out there. This is life’s call to purpose, to adventure, and enlightenment.

“All the world’s a stage. And all the men and women are merely players”.

Will Shakespeare

All you need to do to know thyself is work on it. Spend time and allow space for it – the two most valuable commodities we have. Know your multifaceted. A complex body-heart-mind that has a soul. Understand that your ego has to go. The personality and masks you have also have to go. The false, hidden and shadowy sides of the self need to go along with them. In place of these old friends, or ego insurgents as we call them, you will find new ones. Sacred ones. Here are the ten most prominent things you will find deep within yourself, hidden like treasure. When we defeat the dragons we can be sure to find the hidden treasure. Otherwise, what point to life would there be. Keep your eye on the prize and keep your heart in the game. The saints had a saying, ‘do not harden your hearts’ and perhaps this is precicely what they meant by it. When we dull down EQ we’re done for. We defence up and fortify and nothing gets in – not even the good things in life.

The Paradigm Process

Every time you use your heart to respond to the environment and to the outside world, you will build neurological networks that will literally change your internal chemistry. Chemistry that governs your thoughts, feeling, perceptions and your ultimate understanding of present reality. We are chemical factories. When we choose peace, we make peace and then it manifests. When we do the opposite the reverse is also true. This is the law of karma, of cause and effect and a law of attraction.

In my case Pilgrim’s Progress consisted in my having to climb down a thousand ladders until I could reach out my hand to the little clod of earth that I am.

C. Jung
Know Thyself and find your way

Know Thyself and find your way home. Yoga of course means union and we need to bind together all the parts of ourselves as animalistic humans that are just like every other creature on the planet and then as divine, spiritual and immortal souls that are on a quest towards a universal oneness of self.

Published by Mark L Lockwood

Mark L Lockwood (BA)(Hons)(psy) teaches spiritual transformation and is the founder of Contemplative Intelligence. Author of The Power of Contemplative Intelligence, Autotherapy and Recovery Magic. Our work is about the science of finding your spiritual self.

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