What Is the Meaning of The Phrase “Know Thyself?”

What Is the Meaning of The Phrase “Know Thyself?”

Last Updated on April 1, 2024 by The Unbounded Thinker

“Know Thyself”, a dictum mainly attributed to Socrates, was carved into stone at the entrance of the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece.

Modern scholars analyzing the phrase overlook its spiritual meaning: they are unaware that Socrates was a philosopher deeply concerned with spiritual matters.

Plato’s book, The Last Days of Socrates, shows that Socrates was a spiritual philosopher who believed in the existence of the soul and life after death. 

Here, I’ll explain the meaning of the dictum “Know Thyself” from a spiritual point of view because of three major reasons. First, Socrates was spiritual. Second, it was written on the Temple of Apollo: a building established for spiritual purposes. Third, the phrase “Know Thyself” is rooted in religions, such as Buddhism and Hinduism, as well as mystical secret societies.

In religions and secret societies, the phrase “Know Thyself” primarily means the attainment of self-realization or the realization of one’s true nature (Check out my article: Seven Ways Awaken To Your True Nature According to Philosophy and Religion). For instance, in Hinduism, it means looking inward and realizing that your true self is Atman, the eternal and unchanging self that is part of Brahman, the Ultimate Reality. It involves knowing that you are not limited to the ego, which is an impermanent self influenced by the material world and past experiences. It means realizing that you are a being beyond birth, death, time, and space.

I support the idea that the phrase “Know Thyself” refers to the realization of our true nature

Therefore, I believe knowing thyself means having a direct realization that you are divine and eternal. In other words, it means knowing that there is more to your existence than just the physical body by discovering your divinity. It means knowing that the physical body is an earthly cloth you – the soul – wear in this short earthly life, and realizing that you won’t live in alignment with your true nature if you become obsessed with bodily desires.

Furthermore, it means contemplating questions – such as, Who am I? What is my relationship with the creator of the universe? What is my highest spiritual or mental potential? – that force you to embark on a transformative journey of unlocking your spiritual powers, accessing higher states of consciousness, and aligning yourself with the divine will.

In summary, to “Know Thyself” means contemplating your inner self to eliminate limiting beliefs and illusions so that you realize that your true self, is an eternal soul, that is part of the whole. This realization results in self-respect, self-confidence, the courage to face whatever life throws at you, and a profound inner strength that guides you through adversity with unwavering resilience and grace.

‘When the Master of Life knows his true nature and understands the unity of contact, he is freed from all delusion and sorrow; he rises to something greater above.’-The Kolbrin Bible

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