Friday, December 17, 2010

What does it mean to Know Thyself?

"Know Thyself" or Γνθι Σεαυτόν is the Ancient Greek aphorism first uttered by the Oracle of Delphi, or rather the God Apollo, who spoke through her.  The saying is attributed variously to Thales of Miletus or Chilon of Sparta, two of the seven wise men of Greece. Plato wrote in Protagoras that the Seven Sages notable maxims were featured at Delphi: ‘They [the Sages], assembled together and dedicated these [short memorable sayings] as the first-fruits of their lore to Apollo in his Delphic temple, inscribing there those maxims which are on every tongue – “Know thyself’ and “Nothing overmuch” ‘(Plato in Protagoras).
Socrates who was proclaimed the wisest man of all by the Oracle of Delphi, famously argued that the guiding rule or maxim was to “know thyself” to be wise, that the unexamined life is not worth living.
I sought to persuade every man among you that he must look to himself, and seek virtue and wisdom before he looks to his private interests, and look to the state before he looks to the interests of the state; and that this should be the order which he observes in all his actions.
(Socrates, as written by Plato in The Apology)
What does it mean to “know thyself”? Perhaps the “self” is the being and “to know” pertains to the wisdom, so "know thyself” means wisdom of being. Or is it just a phrase about choices, as presented in the Matrix movies, where the self is directly linked with the unsolvable question of whether we really do have choices or a self. Thus, "know thyself" really means know your choices and why you make them. Or is it to be aware of essence of being? Is it to experience the true self, not the self impressed from others – the made self; i.e. feeling of inner you without the inference of thoughts and notions will “know thyself”? Or maybe it really refers only to observing the effects of the conditioned ego’s beliefs on the field of Reality. That is, transcending that defensive pattern of fear and attachment means that you are left with authentic being. In other words, you cannot know self, only “be.”

Perchance Friedrich Nietzsche saying explains it all: "For one thing is needful: that a human being should attain satisfaction with himself, whether it be by means of this or that poetry and art; only then is a human being at all tolerable to behold."
Aside all the discrepancies, one thing we know certainly is that there is no more important knowledge than knowledge of Reality - of what it truly means to 'Know Thyself' as the foundation for living wisely and ensuring survival.


  1. "know thyself" i think means to know oneself, to understand who you really are and to be fully aware of this.

  2. I sometimes feel as though i shouldn't trust myself and not listen to my own advice... does it meen that i don't know myself very well to trust thyself.... :|

  3. Yes in a way it does mean that. But it also means that you know yourself well enough where you can recognize that you don't know who you as a person entirely are. This could be that yoy are confused in particular situations, where normally people take stand and you do not particulary know where you stand, than perhaps it could be said that you need to investigate thyself and clear up the confusion.