The Oracle of Delphi – Know Thyself

“Don’t believe what your eyes are telling you. All they show is limitation. Look with your understanding, find out what you already know, and you’ll see the way to fly.” – Richard Bach

I was watching a tv documentary last night by Michael Scott about the oracle at Delphi (link for UK readers ) and he was explaining how those who visited the Oracle should have paid more heed to the motto at the site, which read “Know thyself”.

Most of us are familiar with the phrase, but many people don’t spend the time thinking about its meaning, and still less spend the time learning to “Know Thyself”.  It means understand yourself, but so much more than merely self observation.

The quote above from Richard Bach explains far better what Michael Scott was getting at – that the answers given by the Oracle were ambiguous, and could only be understood when a person interpreted them using their own intuition. It’s often said that we know the answers to our own questions, so why is it that we don’t trust our own answers?

Usually, this is because we have limiting beliefs about ourselves. We are basing our ideas about ourselves on what others say about us and others. A woman recently told me that her mother had always told her before a job interview that she wouldn’t be “what they are looking for”, regardless of the work. The mother’s limiting observations were not only related to interviews but to other areas of the woman’s life, and it was only many years later that she realised how much her mother’s words had affected her beliefs about herself.

We have all been affected by similar words from others, quite often without being aware of it, and we are also unaware that many of the beliefs we hold are not our own. So how do we undo this past conditioning? How does one “Know Thyself”?

We can start by listening to what we say, or write. Whenever you say “I am….” this or “I am…” that, stop for a moment and ask yourself if you really are, or if that is what you have come to believe, based on what others have said either about you or about other people.

What if you’re not sure? Start to become aware of your own emotions, your reactions to what people say or do around you – are those reactions genuine or conditioned? What pushes your buttons? When you notice what has pushed your buttons, then start to ask why?

You’ll be surprised at the answers you come up with. And when you begin to understand the answers, you’ll also begin to trust your own answers more, and will be on the way to understanding what the motto meant at the temple to the Oracle at Delphi. You already know.

For an earlier, more esoteric post on the subject of  to Know Thyself, see here:

Liberated Way

Ideas are like acorns, given attention they will grow into oak trees.

Colchester is my home town, a place that without much planning is becoming a magnet for artists and creative talent.  Any acorn that lands upon the ground has a need to germinate, grow and then reproduce.  One acorn becomes an oak tree, that can easily become a forest of oaks.  This is what is happening in Colchester as artists attract other artists, attract money and artistic facilities.  I don’t think this success in Colchester was planned, it just happened, and it started with just one acorn.

As I visited various artistic outposts in Colchester I was also gathering little acorns, those ideas that would benefit my business.  There was a source of “Mercury” key rings, something I could sell on for three times the price; the complaint of a customer at the tourist shop of lack of images…

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Integrating your Light and Dark Nature

I love this blog by Sen; it’s well worth poking around! I have found it useful and helpful in many ways. I can never say I agree 100% with everything that’s written, but more often than not, I agree with what Sen posts and it reflects my own way of thinking.

This one from early May is about balance. Here’s an excerpt, but I recommend following the link to read it in its entirety, and related posts.

Dark does not mean negative, and light does not mean positive – it’s like yin and yang, masculine and feminine, day and night, one is not positive and the other is not negative, it’s just two polarities of the same energy. Negativity in its true sense is simply a resistance to this “balance” at any moment; when you go too dark or too light, you go into negativity in that moment, and you will then need to come back to balance to feel whole again. Of course, there is nothing wrong with negativity, it’s just an indicator for growth, an indicator that you are out of balance – and unless you are really unconscious, you can always “sense” the negativity in you, it’s always about being authentic with yourself. When you come to a place of inner stability, this balance is your pre-dominant state of being, moreover you feel very aware of any form of imbalance/negativity that a situation may create in you and are not lost in it for long, you are quick to gain an understanding of the negativity – the balance gets restored very quickly even when its disturbed.

It just is

I came across the story in my previous post while looking for a story that I remembered had illustrated the principal of how we attach certain emotions to situations, if we choose to label them as good or bad.  When we do this, we are giving them power over the way we feel; things we have labelled bad causing us to feel afraid, resentful, disappointed, or alternatively, we can attach false expectations if we have percived something as being good, right, fortunate. When we react according to how we have judged things in the way we have grown accustomed to judging them, we can suffer if things don’t turn out the way we want or expect them to, or by acting out of fear or disappointment.

We are living a conditioned life.

By seeing something as ‘it just is’, we release ourselves from the attached feelings we have conditioned ourselves to accept.


A man named Sei Weng owned a beautiful mare which was praised far and wide. One day this beautiful horse disappeared. The people of his village offered sympathy to Sei Weng for his great misfortune. Sei Weng said simply, “That’s the way it is.”

A few days later the lost mare returned, followed by a beautiful wild stallion. The village congratulated Sei Weng for his good fortune. He said, “That’s the way it is.”

Some time later, Sei Weng’s only son, while riding the stallion, fell off and broke his leg. The village people once again expressed their sympathy at Sei Weng’s misfortune. Sei Weng again said, “That’s the way it is.”

Soon thereafter, war broke out and all the young men of the village except Sei Weng’s lame son were drafted and were killed in battle. The village people were amazed as Sei Weng’s good luck. His son was the only young man left alive in the village. But Sei Weng kept his same attitude: despite all the turmoil, gains and losses, he gave the same reply, “That’s the way it is.”

3 Questions

Sorry this is a bit longer than usual posts but it’s a (very) short story I found while looking for another…

3 Questions

From “Twenty-three Tales “published around 1872. This version, translated by L. and A. Maude.
and published by Funk & Wagnalls Company, New York, 1907. Other adaptations: 1, 2, 3

IT once occurred to a certain king, that if he always knew the right time to begin everything; if he knew who were the right people to listen to, and whom to avoid, and, above all, if he always knew what was the most important thing to do, he would never fail in anything he might undertake.

And this thought having occurred to him, he had it proclaimed throughout his kingdom that he would give a great reward to any one who would teach him what was the right time for every action, and who were the most necessary people, and how he might know what was the most important thing to do.

And learned men came to the King, but they all answered his questions differently.

In reply to the first question, some said that to know the right time for every action, one must draw up in advance, a table of days, months and years, and must live strictly according to it. Only thus, said they, could everything be done at its proper time. Others declared that it was impossible to decide beforehand the right time for every action; but that, not letting oneself be absorbed in idle pastimes, one should always attend to all that was going on, and then do what was most needful. Others, again, said that however attentive the King might be to what was going on, it was impossible for one man to decide correctly the right time for every action, but that he should have a Council of wise men, who would help him to fix the proper time for everything.

But then again others said there were some things which could not wait to be laid before a Council, but about which one had at once to decide whether to undertake them or not. But in order to decide that one must know beforehand what was going to happen. It is only magicians who know that; and, therefore in order to know the right time for every action, one must consult magicians.

Equally various were the answers to the second question. Some said, the people the King most needed were his councillors; others, the priests; others, the doctors; while some said the warriors were the most necessary.

To the third question, as to what was the most important occupation: some replied that the most important thing in the world was science. Others said it was skill in warfare; and others, again, that it was religious worship.

All the answers being different, the King agreed with none of them, and gave the reward to none. But still wishing to find the right answers to his questions, he decided to consult a hermit, widely renowned for his wisdom.

The hermit lived in a wood which he never quitted and he received none but common folk. So the King put on simple clothes, and before reaching the hermit’s cell dismounted from his horse, and, leaving his bodyguard behind, went on alone.

When the King approached, the hermit was digging the ground in front of his hut. Seeing the King, he greeted him and went on digging. The hermit was frail and weak, and each time he stuck his spade into the ground and turned a little earth, he breathed heavily.

The King went up to him and said: ‘I have come to you, wise hermit, to ask you to answer three questions: How can I learn to do the right thing at the right time? Who are the people I most need, and to whom should I, therefore, pay more attention than to the rest? And, what affairs are the most important and need my first attention?’ The hermit listened to the King, but answered nothing. He just spat on his hand and recommenced digging.

‘You are tired,’ said the King, ‘let me take the spade and work awhile for you.’

‘Thanks!’ said the hermit, and, giving the spade to the King, he sat down on the ground.

When he had dug two beds, the King stopped and repeated his questions. The hermit again gave no answer, but rose, stretched out his hand for the spade, and said:

‘Now rest awhile — and let me work a bit.’

But the King did not give him the spade, and continued to dig. One hour passed, and another. The sun began to sink behind the trees, and the King at last stuck the spade into the ground, and said:

‘I came to you, wise man, for an answer to my questions. If you can give me none, tell me so, and I will return home.’

‘Here comes some one running,’ said the hermit, ‘let us see who it is.’

The King turned round, and saw a bearded man come running out of the wood. The man held his hands pressed against his stomach, and blood was flowing from under them. When he reached the King, he fell fainting on the ground moaning feebly. The King and the hermit unfastened the man’s clothing. There was a large wound in his stomach. The King washed it as best he could, and bandaged it with his handkerchief and with a towel the hermit had. But the blood would not stop flowing, and the King again and again removed the bandage soaked with warm blood, and washed and rebandaged the wound. When at last the blood ceased flowing, the man revived and asked for something to drink. The King brought fresh water and gave it to him. Meanwhile the sun had set, and it had become cool. So the King, with the hermit’s help, carried the wounded man into the hut and laid him on the bed. Lying on the bed the man closed his eyes and was quiet; but the King was so tired with his walk and with the work he had done, that he crouched down on the threshold, and also fell asleep — so soundly that he slept all through the short summer night. When he awoke in the morning, it was long before he could remember where he was, or who was the strange bearded man lying on the bed and gazing intently at him with shining eyes.

‘Forgive me!’ said the bearded man in a weak voice, when he saw that the King was awake and was looking at him.

‘I do not know you, and have nothing to forgive you for,’ said the King.

‘You do not know me, but I know you. I am that enemy of yours who swore to revenge himself on you, because you executed his brother and seized his property. I knew you had gone alone to see the hermit, and I resolved to kill you on your way back. But the day passed and you did not return. So I came out from my ambush to find you, and I came upon your bodyguard, and they recognized me, and wounded me. I escaped from them, but should have bled to death had you not dressed my wound. I wished to kill you, and you have saved my life. Now, if I live, and if you wish it, I will serve you as your most faithful slave, and will bid my sons do the same. Forgive me!’

The King was very glad to have made peace with his enemy so easily, and to have gained him for a friend, and he not only forgave him, but said he would send his servants and his own physician to attend him, and promised to restore his property.

Having taken leave of the wounded man, the King went out into the porch and looked around for the hermit. Before going away he wished once more to beg an answer to the questions he had put. The hermit was outside, on his knees, sowing seeds in the beds that had been dug the day before.

The King approached him, and said:

‘For the last time, I pray you to answer my questions, wise man.’

‘You have already been answered!’ said the hermit still crouching on his thin legs, and looking up at the King, who stood before him.

‘How answered? What do you mean?’ asked the King.

‘Do you not see,’ replied the hermit. ‘If you had not pitied my weakness yesterday, and had not dug these beds for me, but had gone your way, that man would have attacked you, and you would have repented of not having stayed with me. So the most important time was when you were digging the beds; and I was the most important man; and to do me good was your most important business. Afterwards, when that man ran to us, the most important time was when you were attending to him, for if you had not bound up his wounds he would have died without having made peace with you. So he was the most important man, and what you did for him was your most important business. Remember then: there is only one time that is important — Now! It is the most important time because it is the only time when we have any power. The most necessary man is he with whom you are, for no man knows whether he will ever have dealings with any one else: and the most important affair is, to do him good, because for that purpose alone was man sent into this life!’


Many thanks to Otove for these links!

The Borscht of times, the Würste of times

Books books books! Every once in a while, someone’s silent labour is uncovered, as though a rejected cornerstone had been unearthed for all to see. In this case it is esoteric knowledge, compiled, distilled and ordered for a few initiates, and  briefly for us all.

The first of these is: Bookult (currently Down on 23rd of June – a replacement  has been posted ) 23hich has roughly 500 esoteric ebooks and what are known as ‘Libers’ free to view, download and enjoy. Compilations like these are rare, and may take many years to assemble. Unfortunately they regularly vanish along with the servers hosting them.

Among Bookults gems are The Martinist initiation courses, Franz Bardons initiation into Hermetics and perhaps most difficult to come by Jean Dubuis Alchemical Correspondence courses. Utterly invaluable.

Arcane Advisoris another great place to go, with more classified documents (AMORC’s Neophyte, zelator, ipsissimus Lectures) here than any…

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The Fool and The Tower – Detachment


This post is a little different to my usual posts, in that I’m referring to a specific situation that has been occurring in my own life recently, that has been quite testing.

I have a friend who is undergoing a very difficult test in their life, with an ex-lover who is causing considerable pain and anguish. This friend is torn between compassion for the individual – who is quite damaged from previous life experiences – and in self-preservation, as the individual instigated the break-up but is very needy, confused, and keeps hurting my friend over and over by begging to be reunited, then pulling back, again and again and again…

I’ve been very supportive of my dearest friend over the past few months, but it seems to be an endless cycle, and it needed a different approach.

My friend loves the individual very much, but over the last few weeks, it became apparent to me that there was also some dishonesty at work… my friend was being blinded by their own ‘construct’ of what they wanted from this situation; the love they were expressing for this individual was not unconditional (as they proclaimed it to be), but very much based on conditions and expectations they had not acknowledged. As I grew more aware of this possibility, I threw a spanner into the works, and introduced them to the symbolism of the Tower in the Tarot.

Though a very spiritual person, empathic and doing their best to act compassionately and not abandon the other individual – in fact, by wanting the individual to ‘change’ and restore their relationship –  my friend is also adding bricks the Tower: the Tower of attachment and lies. It’s a major step on anyone’s journey, to see this Tower for what it is, recognise it, and bring about its destruction.

It is very difficult to introduce this concept to people, especially when you are very close to them, and you know how painful it can be for them to inspect their own motives in a situation so important and vital to them, but it is a realisation that can bring about a huge release, and a great deal of unexpected peace. I know my friend well enough to know that by asking some searching questions, our friendship would not be damaged and would in fact, ultimately be strengthened because my motive is love for her. Like so many things in life, you can’t ask someone else to practice ‘tough love’ unless you understand the experience yourself, and I had to employ some tough love with my friend, knowing their reaction is something I can not control.

I sent this to my friend after speaking with them this morning, and I thought I would share it here, as it can be very helpful to us all when dealing with so many situations. I adapted this from several authors, including Stephan Hoeller.

The Fool comes upon a Tower, fantastic, magnificent, and familiar. In fact, The Fool, himself, helped build this Tower back when the most important thing to him was his place in the world.

Seeing the Tower again, the Fool feels as if lightning has just flashed across his mind; he thought he’d left that old self behind when he started on this spiritual journey. But he realizes now that he hasn’t. He’s been seeing himself, like the Tower, like the people inside, as alone, singular and even superior in some ways to others in the tower, when in fact, he is no such thing.

So captured is he by the shock of this insight, that he opens his mouth and releases a SHOUT! And to his astonishment and terror, a bolt of actual lightning slashes down from the heavens striking the Tower and sending its residents leaping out into the waters below.

In a moment, it is over. The Tower is rubble, only rocks remaining. Stunned and shaken to the core, the Fool experiences profound fear and disbelief. But also, a strange clarity of vision, as if his inner eye has finally opened. He tore down his resistance to change and sacrifice (Hanged man), then came to terms with Death (Death); he learned about moderation and synthesis (Temperance) and about power (The Devil). But here and now, he has done what was hardest: he destroyed the lies of his life. What’s left are the foundations of truth. On this he can rebuild himself.

With Mars as its ruling planet, the Tower is a card about war, a war between the structures of lies and the lightning flash of truth. This is a card about anything we believe to be true, but later learn is false. This realisation usually comes as a shock, hence, the violent image. It is, quite simply, that moment in any story where someone finds out a shocking truth, one that shatters their perceptions and makes them reassess their beliefs.

It sometimes takes a very bright flash of light to reveal a truth that was so well hidden. And it sometimes takes an earthquake to bring down beliefs that were so cleverly constructed. What’s most important to remember is that the tearing down of this structure, however painful, allows us to find out what is true and reliable. What will stand rather than fall apart.”

Detachment isn’t escapism or indifference. Detachment in a spiritual sense is the development of another dimension within us, a dimension which coexists with our active personality but is outside of it. It is to find an inner freedom, to discover a part of the being that can’t be touched by external circumstances or by the outer being’s activities – a separation within, between what we know as ourselves in the world and our inner being, a sort of an immutable witnessing. That is detachment.

On a practical level, this can mean the:* Developing and maintaining of a safe, emotional distance from something or someone whom you have previously given a lot of power to affect your emotional outlook on life.
* Ability to allow people, places or things the freedom to be themselves.
* Willingness to accept that you cannot change or control a person, place or thing.
* Ability to maintain an emotional bond of love, concern and caring without the negative results of controlling.
* Ability to allow people to be who they “really are” rather than who you “want them to be.”

To “let go” is not to adjust everything to my desires.

For the spiritually minded, Stephan Hoeller provides a little meditation that can help when you focus your awareness on what the Tower symbolises:

“I realise that by being attached to the contructs of my personality, I shall never be able to soar into the heavens. May all that needs to be destroyed in me, be destroyed. Thus I shall rejoice with the voice of thunder and exult in the flash of lightening.”

Gymnosophists – the Naked Philosophers

Kristen Szumyn in her article “The Barbarian wisdom of the ‘theoi andres’ : a study of the relationship between spatial marginality and social alterity” writes (after Clement of Alexandria): “Herodotus associates the possession of ‘wisdom’ (sophias) and ‘knowledge’ (philosopheon) with one who has extensively ‘travelled’ (planes) to foreign lands. Such a person is counted amongst the saphistai, the wise men or teachers. The Greek philosopher’s visit to foreign countries was a doxographical and biographical topos specifically associated with the attainment of wisdom. The philosophical and religious wisdom attained by such travellers was essentially ‘barbarian’. As Diogenes Laertius noted, the later Neoplatonic tradition held that ‘the study of philosophy had its beginning among the barbarians… the Persians have their Magi, the Babylonians or Assyrians their Chaldeans, and the Indians their Gymosophists; and among the Celts and Gauls there are the people called Druids or Holy Ones. These marginalised religious teachers and transmitters of spiritual wisdom are associated with the geographical and social periphery of society. This geographical marginality of the wise man is particularly evident in the Neoplatonic tradition of late antiquity; however this notion of the association between the sage and oriental or barbarian wisdom was a concept well established even in early Greek thought.”
Gymnosophists is the name (meaning “naked philosophers”) given by the Greekso certain ancient Indian Philosophers who pursued asceticism to the point of regarding food and clothing as detrimental to purity of thought (sadhus or yogis).
The Digambar Jain monks in India even now remain unclothed; they have been identified as the gymnosophists by several researchers; Xuanzang mentions having come across Digambar Jain monks in Taxiladuring his 7th century CE visit to India in the same Punjab region where Alexander encountered the gymnosophists.” (from wiki)
Plutartch wrote of Alexander’s meeting in the First Century with 10 Gymnosophists in the Punjab:
“He (Alexander) captured ten of the Gymnosophists who had done most to get Sabbas to revolt, and had made the most trouble for the Macedonians. These philosophers were reputed to be clever and concise in answering questions, and Alexander therefore put difficult questions to them, declaring that he would put to death him who first made an incorrect answer, and then the rest, in an order determined in like manner; and he commanded one of them, the oldest, to be the judge in the contest. The first one, accordingly, being asked which, in his opinion, were more numerous, the living or the dead, said that the living were, since the dead no longer existed. The second, being asked whether the earth or the sea produced larger animals, said the earth did, since the sea was but a part of the earth. The third, being asked what animal was the most cunning, said: “That which up to this time man has not discovered.” The fourth, when asked why he had induced Sabbas to revolt, replied: “Because I wished him either to live nobly or to die nobly.” The fifth, being asked which, in his opinion, was older, day or night, replied: “Day, by one day”; and he added, upon the king expressing amazement, that hard questions must have hard answers. Passing on, then, to the sixth, Alexander asked how a man could be most loved; “If,” said the philosopher, “he is most powerful, and yet does not inspire fear.” Of the three remaining, he who was asked how one might become a god instead of man, replied: “By doing something which a man cannot do”; the one who was asked which was the stronger, life or death, answered: “Life, since it supports so many ills.” And the last, asked how long it were well for a man to live, answered: “Until he does not regard death as better than life.” So, then, turning to the judge, Alexander bade him give his opinion. The judge declared that they had answered one worse than another. “Well, then,” said Alexander, “thou shalt die first for giving such a verdict.” “That cannot be, O King,” said the judge, “unless thou falsely saidst that thou wouldst put to death first him who answered worst.”
—Plutarch, Life of Alexander, “The parallel lives,” 64.,

There’s a Monster in the Room – Self-inquiry

“Self-inquiry is simple. It does not require you to do anything, change anything, think anything, or understand anything. It only asks you to pay careful attention to what is real. I have two sons. When they were about four, they both went through a phase of having nightmares. I would go into the room and switch on the light. Two small eyes blinked at me from the corner. “What’s the problem?” I’d ask. “Daddy, there’s a monster in the room,” a timid voice would reply. Now, I had more than one choice of how to respond. I could tell my frightened boy that it was not true, there was no monster, go back to sleep. That response is the equivalent of reading a book that says, “We’re all one, there is no problem, just be with what is.” Fine ideas, but they don’t help much. I could also have offered to feed the monster cookies, talk with the monster, negotiate. That approach is like some kinds of psychotherapy. Treat the problem as real, then fix it on its own terms. But the only real solution I ever found was to have a good look. Under the bed, in the closet, behind the curtains, we undertook an exhaustive search. Eventually my sons would let out a deep sigh, smile at me, and fall back to sleep. The problem was not solved but dissolved. It was never real in the first place, but it took investigation to make that a reality.”

Arjuna Ardagh.

(with thanks to Tim Pendry)

The Glass Bead Game

The Glass Bead Game

Herman Hesse’s Nobel Prize Winning Novel, The Glass Bead Game lays the foundations for an Artistic/Conceptual Game, which integrates all fields of Human and Cosmic Knowledge through forms of Organic Universal Symbolism, expressed by its players with the Dynamic Fluidity of Music. The Glass Bead Game is, in Reality, an Age Old metaphor for what has been called, the “Divine Lila” (Play or Game of Life). This metaphor has been expressed by every great Wisdom Tradition known to man, and its players, the Magister Ludi (Masters of the Game), use as their instruments Ancient and Modern modes of Symbolic Wisdom traditionally presented through Sacred Art, Philosophy, Magick and Cosmology.
For a more detailed elaboration of our vision of the GBG, see:
“Although we recognize the idea of the Game as eternally present, and therefore existent in vague stirrings long before it became a reality, its realization in the form we know it nevertheless has its specific history.”
“How far back the historian wishes to place the origins and antecedents of the Glass Bead Game is, ultimately, a matter of his personal choice. For like every great idea it has no real beginning; rather, it has always been, at least the idea of it. We find it foreshadowed, as a dim anticipation and hope, in a good many earlier ages. There are hints of it in Pythagoras, for example, and then among Hellenistic Gnostic circles in the late period of classical civilization. We find it equally among the ancient Chinese, then again at the several pinnacles of Arabic-Moorish culture; and the path of its prehistory leads on through Scholasticism and Humanism to the academies of mathematicians of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and on to the Romantic philosophies and the runes of Novalis’ hallucinatory visions.”
“This same eternal idea, which for us has been embodied in the Glass Bead Game, has underlain every movement of Mind toward the ideal goal of a Universitatis Litterarum, every Platonic Academy, every league of an intellectual elite, every rapprochement between the exact and the more liberal disciplines, every effort toward reconciliation between science and art or science and religion”
~ Hermann Hesse
and if you choose to watch this video, PLEASE watch to the very end!