"The experience of being the knowing subject . . is only one half of the process of knowledge. The other half is the experience of being the known object.”
To know yourself. This shrouded in mysticism ancient concept brings a sense of esoteric mystery in modern thought. But the human soul has been an object of exploration and contemplation since tens of thousands of years ago. It has been the tool for spiritual insight of the first shamans of ancient tribal communities, who felt there is more to themselves than can be seen. Self-knowledge was born back then, when people for the first time began to interprete their dreams and the symbolism that sprang out of the depths of their minds. When people began to search for the source of their thoughts that appear in the mind as if having a life of their own. The source of their emotions to which they were subordinate.
Since then the great endeavor in search of answers that human though embarked on gradually gave birth to all the legends, philosophies and religions we have today.
Spirituality is a fundamental and intrinsic quality of Homo Sapiens. Our ancient predecessors felt their intangible connectedness to those invisible aspects of nature, to this hidden life-giving Source that was behind everything. And thus ritual was born, out of the need to communicate with the intangible that was later recognized as God.
The perception of the mystic, hidden, spiritual and this intimate connectivity of all that is visible with something beyond ordinary senses do not spring from anywhere else, but the human soul. Satori, enlightment and divine insight do not come from anywhere outside, but take place in the soul. All this is important to mention, because worldwide there is this prevailing age-old delusion that the Divine is situated somewhere outside ourselves, what is more, somewhere far away and far above up in the unreachable heavens. We are used to perceive God as a human-like figure with human emotions who sits authoritatively on a throne in the skies forever watching the crawling little specs below, may be eating chips while following up the developing intrigues, war conflicts and newest technological brake-throughs.
Of course, our whole view of the world from a religious perspective is old and inconsistent with modern humanity and this is why there is so much tension between peoples and religions. We need a new, wider, deeper and more encompassing view and understanding of God, the Universe and our place in it, a view that will suit our mental potential and capacity as intelligent, civilized beings. We do not live in the middle ages anymore, despite that the new pope seems to have been living under a rock.
And there is only one way to achieve the next level in our social advancement as one humanity – by realizing and understanding ourselves deeper and better. The change must begin in the mind of the individual, the transformation from the primitive levels to higher levels of self-awareness and realization on the whole.
Which returns us to the ancient notion of knowing yourself.
To know yourself is the process of self-realization, self-contemplation and self-improvement. It is the active consciousness that is aware of its mechanisms, that observes itself, takes notes of its behavior and reactions, understands and realizes the psychological motifs of others as well as those in itself. Active consciousness that operates on a higher level than the average awareness we have as a social standard today.
The science of contemporary psychology, as though still in its infancy, has organized and synthesized all the empirical knowledge we have thus far about the mechanisms and structure of human psyche into an elegant and comprehensive system. Psychology is the modern analogue to the ancient practice of knowing yourself.
People from the past had always perceived this inmost, invisible darkness that has control over them and filled them with fearfulness. This darkness is the very nature of the predominant part of our psyche – the unconsciousness, the contents and mechanisms of which are unseen and unknown to our regular “I” consciousness that is by default our self-perception and all this that we call “Me”. When you say “I” you address this limited perimeter of awareness that floats “on top” of the depths of your complete Self.
So, what exactly is this unreachable unconsciousness? And if our wishes, moods, affections and behavior are predominantly set to motion by psychological motifs that we are not aware of, then how can we realize all these so that we expand the limits of our minds?
The unconsciousness contains all the mechanisms that drive us in life, its roots begin from our DNA, where the fundamental instincts are encoded (Self-preservation and Reproduction instincts that we share with all other life on this planet, as well as many other forms of behavior which we will discuss at another lecture). The structure of our psyche is in layers and as we pointed out the deepest layer begins in our DNA that contains all the information from the very beginning of life on Earth. We have much to understand about this and much to learn. This is what the old Sanscrit esoterics call “Akasha”, the Informational pool of Earth or what Carl G.Jung describes as the Collective Unconscious, the source of primal symbolism. In brief. Then comes the personal level of the unconscious where all those emotional affections, events, twists and turns that shaped our personality throughout our lives are contained. In the universe energy is never lost, information is energy, memories are information. From the very moment when your brain is complete in the womb you start the record button and it never stops until your death. The psyche records your life completely, even though consciously you forget many things and remember just a few of all.
Having described these very basics of the psyche you may argue that if your psychology is rooted in your DNA then personality is predetermined genetically. The answer is a firm No. Firstly, you cannot dismiss the influence over ones personality the family setting has. The influence that the setting where you grow up has on your personality is tremendous and is the main shape-giver of what you are as a person and character. Then when the child is older it is greatly influenced by its peers, the “spirit of the era” in terms of the most fashionable stereotypes, mind frames and traditions that prevail in the society it lives in. And until it is adolescent and able to think and analyze on its own, this child` psyche is already fully formed and in most cases it remains in this shape with very little change throughout its life. That is why how you rear up the child is of utmost importance about what it is going to be when it grows up.
Of course, this is the case for most people who never embark on the journey of self-realization, observation and improvement. Because whatever your psychological start in life, when you grow up you have the ability to consciously reshape yourself, rebuild your personality and radically better yourself as a self-aware individual.
Considering the more or less uniqueness of every individual psyche, the process of self-improvement thus cannot have one universal formula that will work for all. However, there are certain key points that are collectively applicable to all and a must in order for you to achieve results, these are as follows: to put yourself at the place of the object of observation, to ask questions about yourself to yourself and search for the reasons behind your behavior, character, personality traits, moods, affections and reactions; honesty and sincerity with yourself. Perseverance and persistence in your will to achieve results and attain insight.
The first steps are the hardest. For me, after a decade of active mentality and self-analyzes I have achieved remarkable results that are already visible for everyone who knew me since back then when I first began. And even, I can say that I truly put my will into this some five years ago when I overcame my worst teenage years. So, in this period of five years I improved my character and relationships greatly, attained amazing insights about the nature of human mind, soul, society, religions, God… during the last two years I`ve increased my IQ with 30 points and my understanding about myself and the world is increasingly deepening and widening. Also, I notice an acceleration in the rate of sudden realizations and profound insights. A truly remarkable journey that sadly very few people undertake.
In the beginning it is hard, confusing and seemingly futile. The hardest part is being honest with yourself. It is very hard to admit to yourself that you were wrong, that you reacted inadequately, that the blame is in yourself and to acknowledge your negative personality traits. But if you persist, the results gradually come and in time you expand your awareness and the process of self-analyzes becomes a state of your mind. Your ability to communicate with others improves as well as all of your relationships. And problematic relationships are a plague for modern societies, resulting in all those ridiculous intrigues, constant fights, brake-ups and divorces.
Just imagine if everyone consciously betters him/herself and heightens his and her awareness. Humanity will radically transform into something unforeseen by grim science fiction views of the future where the same people fight with better guns.
Let us turn our attention now towards the introductionary quotation of E.Edinger and analyze that, which it describes.
In order for any knowledge to exist two fundamental factors must be present – observing subject and object of observation. When the scientist examines the atom, he or she is the observing subject, while the atom is the object of observation. When we explore the world we live in, the world is the object of observation and we are the observing subject.
During the predominant part of their life, the average person is mostly in the role of the observing subject, experiencing the world with our senses that connects us to reality outside and our consciousness with gaze fixed on the scene from without. It happens more or less to occasionally reflect on oneself, but so rarely this self-contemplation is persistent and consistent enough so to lead the personality to realization and awareness, to improvement, unfoldment and perfection.
In the process of self-knowledge and self-awareness, you put yourself at the place of the observable object, while the observing subject is you again. This is the consciousness that is aware of and observes itself. And in this process of self-observation your inmost universe becomes alive and fills up with forms, emotions and symbols that were previously unseen by your minds` eye.
Self-knowledge, as the highest aim and spiritual meaning to human life has been a central part in all philosophical and esoteric teachings since the most ancient of times.
Yet, our psyche remains largely unexplored and poorly understood to this day. The average levels of self-awareness being so low worldwide and humans still primarily driven by their most basic instincts. Mostly incapable of self-control, slaves to destiny, relying on the main stream to guide their thoughts, behavior and life. Still living by the laws of the herd and mental passivity.