… should, in my opinion, be on the school curriculum in every nation.
It is far more difficult and demanding than any of the subjects we teachers train so hard to teach – and yet, without it, a man is only half a man, a woman half a woman.
It is, quite rightly, at the heart of esoteric training – and facing the various facets (shining, warped, merry and dull) of the ego constitutes one of the great temptations in modern-day society: The temptation, that is, to avoid and deny, to say, ‘But I no longer have a malignant ego. I am sorted. I have embraced all that I am. I don’t need this…’
Writing my ‘Celestine Prophecy’ post the other day was very confronting. I nearly didn’t bother, nearly kept it at the level of facts – thought, ‘I don’t have to admit to my own weaknesses in this…’
But then I thought, ‘Pretending that I never manipulate others, that I do not know some of the games, started in childhood, I am still prone to in times of stress, is not going to let me move on.’
Knowing oneself should not be all soul-searching and doom-and-gloom, however; of course not: We are complex creatures, we humans, composed of many shades of light and dark – and seeing the beauty and truth in our natures is every bit as important as seeing the deviousness, denial and need to control others.
People have always said to me, ‘Ali, you are always putting yourself down…’ But, for years, I could not see this. All I could see was that I was being, as I thought, honest about my huge number of faults.
And, looking back, in some ways I was – but from the perspective of certain key individuals who told me, with great clarity, exactly what was dark, nasty and evil in my character.
It did not occur to me to question their views of who I was. Until recently, that is.
I am seeing a therapist, having Cognitive Behavioural Therapy – and, in a conversation last week, Jane (not her real name) said, of a person in my life who has given me great grief, ‘Do you really want to be friends with someone so self-centred?’
My immediate response: ‘But I am the self-centred one, not K…’
Jane looked at me in astonishment.
‘You’re not self-centred,’ she said immediately. ‘Do you have a sense of entitlement, expect the world to revolve around your needs and wishes?’
‘Er, no…’ quoth I.
I was genuinely shocked: Part of what I thought I knew about myself, a central undeniable truth if you like, was that I was utterly self-centred. Now someone looking in from the outside was telling me that I had got it wrong – or, to be precise, the three people who had mantra-fed it into my head had probably projected something they were reluctant to face in themselves.
‘You are self-focused,’ she said, ‘ and that is not the same thing at all…’
As I drove home, I thought about what she had said – and something important clicked: Far from having a sense of entitlement, for most of my life I have believed that I have no rights, or power, at all. Far from expecting the world to revolve around me, I am in a constant state of terror lest I fail to revolve speedily enough around the planets of other, more important, human beings.
And, hard on the heels of that thought, came this: ‘I know damn well that I am far from perfect, and could reel off a list of flaws as long as a giraffe’s neck – but maybe I am not as bad as I have always secretly feared…’
For me, this journey of Know Thyself is all about seeing what is really there, both the gut-wrenching meannesses, petty spite and inner hatreds I try to hide and the positives which, in many ways, are even more frightening for me to admit to.
But also this: Know Thyself is a voyage across a limitless ocean. It can never end. Until we end, that is. We think we have learned everything worth knowing – and then our ships of knowledge hit a previously unseen patch of water (rough or calm) and, looking over the side, we see the sea creatures of wisdom surging up once more to present us with another gift of self-knowledge.
Socrates knew whereof he spoke!