Know Thyself

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Upon the frontispiece of the Temple of Delphi, the following Greek words are inscribed:  γνῶθι σεαυτόν. The translated words, as most readers probably realize, mean Know Thyself. Was this just a catchy little motto to adorn the temple? Or were the words intended to prompt individuals to deeply investigate the essential nature of their being amidst the shallowness of life? Surely the ancient people had more important matters to attend to than to remind us to know whether we were Fred or Barney, or Betty or Wilma.

Given the apparent state of our current world, this subject of this article may seem trivial, or even inappropriate. But is it? At this particular point in our evolution, the world seems to be a breeding ground for fear; and most of us realize that persons are subject to the effects of fear. Persons can fear shortages of necessary items such as food or fuel; they can fear becoming ill or even dying. Under certain conditions, they can even become fearful of their neighbours and friends. There is no shortage of concerns related to self. Hence, this article. In times such as these, knowing the true nature of our being can offer us meaningful solace and serve as a great source of strength. In fact, it may make the difference between whether we survive, or even learn how to thrive. To go beyond current circumstances in the world, we may be forced to drop many of our assumptions related to the false identity (ego) and be courageous enough to discover our True Self.

Many but not all ancient cultures were more inclined to investigate the nature of their being than modern humankind. At our current stage of our evolution, the majority of individuals are quite comfortable to blindly accept themselves as name and form. That means that we usually–without any investigation whatsoever–believe ourselves to be either Fred or Wilma by name; and to also assume that the rest of our human package is made up of the accompanying male or female form. For most, this is the end of the story; case closed. This, however, leaves the question regarding our essential nature unanswered. In an effort to find the real answer, let’s begin:

A name is simply a representational word for a thing. It is not the thing. The word orange refers to a juicy fruit that can be peeled and separated into wedges. Whoever was first naming the orange could have called it an uhgh, and such would have made no difference whatsoever. None of us would ever mistake the word for the actual fruit; for we innately realize that our hunger would not be satisfied by eating a word. The same principle of logic can easily be understood to apply to the representational word that we go by. Can we really we Fred or Wilma? Of course, not, for those are merely words used to apply to the real Self.

If not name, then what are we? Are we not the body? Could we be? Here, too, the light of investigation can displace some of our ignorance regarding our true nature. As all of us are well aware, our body is always changing. As years pass, we have seen clear evidence of this. However, most of us feel as though we are a long-lasting separate self. By some estimates, approximately 300 million cells die every minute. How, then, can there be any lasting identity (a thing that apparently exists independently) in something that is changing so rapidly? Does that make sense?

The next assumption–that we could be the mind–is also worth investigating. The false self (ego) is a conceptual identity that is rendered via an amalgamation of sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts that occur thousands of times each day. Our sense of being a separate self is also constantly generated through our use of the word “I,” which is the most commonly uttered word. The “i” that claims to be the doer is actually a fabrication of mind–made up of name and memory. It is reinforced through thoughts related to an imaginary past or future. Nowhere, however, can the false self be found in the stillness of the present moment. This is at the heart of the scripture from Psalm 46:10: “Be still, and know that I am God. When the mind slows or even stops–which can be experienced during meditation or events that shock us out of ourselves–the person (the little self that may potentially be fearful right now) suddenly goes AWOL. Gone! Buddha knew this; Jesus knew this; and Confucius, Lao Tzu, and so many others knew this! Many of us have naturally experienced this during periods of absence, when time seemed to fly. During such times, it’s almost certain that thoughts related to a personal “i” weren’t arising.

To truly know What we are requires that we toss aside our materialist paradigm of the world. Quantum physics has long debated whether matter as such (in the concrete sense of the word) actually exists. It is common knowledge that atoms, which were once believed to be the fundamental bits of matter, are actually comprised of 99.999% empty space. They are more accurately described as being whirling clouds of energy than anything approaching the common definition of matter. Matter is a construct of the mind; it is rendered or made seemingly real via the mind. The same applies to time and space. Modern science has never been able to locate the seat of consciousness in biological processes; and there is good reason why they never will: The situation is backward. Consciousness is not a byproduct of biological processes; consciousness is, rather, the foundation of our being. It is What we are. As such, it cannot be destroyed. A passage from the Bhagavad Gita–which may have previously seemed nonsensical, suddenly makes sense: “Weapons cannot cut it, nor can fire burn it; water cannot wet it, nor can wind dry it.”  Doesn’t that sound like something immaterial such as Spirit, Consciousness, or Awareness?

But, most individuals will state: My consciousness feels so very personal, as though it’s happening within my head. The deeper nature of consciousness is often explained via analogy to the sun and the moon. The sun is self illuminating–it needs nothing to give it light, for it is its own source. The equivalent would be Universal Consciousness. The moon, which appears so bright, actually only reflects light. It is not a source itself. The same is true of our body and mind. They seem sentient, but the light that shines through them is not ours–it is reflected from Source, our Maker.

So, now, to the point of this article: Fear related to a virus. When we truly know that our essential nature is not dependent on the body or the mind, we realize that Consciousness endures even when the body does not! What was never born cannot die. Knowing this, via direct experience, is called awakening or enlightenment. The mind and the body undoubtedly had a beginning; and they most certainly will have their end. We, however, are neither. We are the Awareness (Consciousness) by which all sensations, images, feelings, and thoughts are known. To know a world, and a body in it, there must be a witness of both! Universal Consciousness is who we are. Some people may choose to call this God (by whatever reverent name they apply); others, who may be more comfortable using scientific terms, might call this the unified field.

Does this mean that we should accept this information on faith and trust that this is the truth? Absolutely not! We can experience the nature of our being here and now. Even a few minutes spent sitting quietly in meditation can prove to ourselves that we are an individualized center of consciousness. Instead of assuming that our thoughts are part of us; we can directly experience that thoughts are observable, in much the same way that we witness our body. We innately feel that we are a knowing subject. The body and mind, however, are known. Logically, therefore, how can an object–even our body–be who we are? The simple answer is that it cannot. Here, too, a quote from the great sage Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj can help: “You can only be what you are in reality. You can only appear to be what you are not.”

Investigating how eyesight functions can also point us toward our essential nature. Eyesight basically functions by transforming light (which enters through the eyes) into shapes and forms–all of which occur within the darkened space of an enclosed cranium. Our eyes do not see; the brain sees. Most individuals assume that the images seen must refer to objects made of matter. But where is our proof of this? The term naive realism refers to the viewpoint in which someone views the world as being independent of mind; the word naive, of course, referring  to the assumption that their is a concrete world of matter beyond our perceptions. But is there? All of our other senses merely confirm an apparent world made of real matter; but we have nothing beyond our perceptions to prove this. Does the word “matrix” come to mind? Perceptions are the world. The body that the majority of people believe themselves to be is actually comprised of photons of light. It is a representation in a representational world. All of this–our bodies, the world–appear within us. We are Spirit–eternal. We are the alpha and omega, differing only in degree from our Creator.

The image at the top of this article is borrowed from the last chapter of a book entitled Three Magic Words by U.S. Andersen. Printed in 1954, it is one of many books related to the Law of Attraction and the power of thought. Many individuals will have heard about the Law of Attraction via a book and video called The Secret. The basic premise is that what we bring about what we think about. From a materialist paradigm, this may seem absurd; for most people believe that their thoughts have little impact on their world. From the idealist paradigm, however; one that asserts that things are actually experiences in Consciousness, the Law of Attraction is quite logical. Via thought, we attract experiences that we label either good or bad. Once again, a passage from the Bible can help. From Job 3:25-26: “What I feared has come upon me; what I dreaded has happened to me. I have no peace, no quietness. I have not rest, but only turmoil.”  Please don’t be offended by the word “God,” in the quote. Consciousness, Awareness, or Source could also be used. The name doesn’t truly matter, for as we realize, names are only conceptual labels. We can never get wet from the word water. What does matter is that consciousness is not dependent on the body or mind for survival. Never was…and never will be.

How can discern the difference between the false self and the Real? It’s easy, for the false self leaves clues by which it may be known. One of the easiest ways to tell whether we are operating from the perspective of our false self is to be aware of whether we are being selfish. If we are, it’s a sure bet that we’re living from ego; you know, the little “i” that will cling to the last package of toilet paper at the grocery store as though its life depended on it. That false self can be utterly destroyed by staring it straight in the face! What makes it tick? What is it? And am I only that? No!

Am I pretending to know the truth of our being? No. Everyone must arrive at his or her own conclusions. This article is not intended to convert anyone to a particular ideology or belief. It’s offered solely to help us look upon the current world situation from a perspective of love and peace, while helping one another move through a challenging period. Such may be easier contemplated–and absolutely accomplished–by abandoning the self-centered traits related to the fictitious person and daring to embrace the truth of our being for the common good. We are so very much more than flesh and bones! We are spiritual brothers and sisters. During this period, humanity will either evolve or devolve; we will take the high road or the low. The choice, as always, is up to us.

Dare to dream (and care for one another).

With heartfelt regards,

Art

Copyright © – 2020 – R. Arthur Russell

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