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:

16 thoughts on “The Oracle of Delphi – Know Thyself

  1. The Oracle of Delphi – Know Thyself, is the beginning. The first step towards intimation into the mysteries of life. Just as real now as it was then… thanks for sharing…


  2. Thanks for the link – great post, and it’s in-keeping with the theme of renewal and regeneration, as you posted about today. I’m totally in agreement on the point you make about being able to reject religion yet still have an intense interest in these things for what they can reveal about the base material of the human condition. That is what drives me. Likewise your point about neither concealing nor revealing the truth – my blog is also just hints, and signposts that lead (hopefully) to further signposts. It’s the journey rather than the destination that is important, after all.

    And I had totally missed the connection with Delphi and the dolphin, unless I learned of it and then forgot, which is usually the case with me!
    All the best to you!


  3. Both really – philosophical theories on the nature of the Self throughout history has been a passion of mine since I read a gnostic interpretation of an ancient Egyptian text about a man arguing with his soul. Also, the idea of the inner voice belonging to the daimon – our higher self – fascinates me.Plus, trying to increase awareness of the chaos of experiences that affect our sense of self, the conditioning, the purpose of the ego… finding a way to introduce certain ideas to people in a balanced manner that appeals to their own understanding.. all of it!


  4. What territory do you mean exactly? the psychology of the self and how difficult it is to establish some theory of the mechanisms that make something like a coherent feeling of self possible? Or ist rather the chaos of experiences and how they get integrated?


  5. And then you would still have to take into account that this apperantly “little” Self is also inherent in every other “voice” you hear inside you, because it has shaped the memory and perception of everything else itself relies on 😉


  6. Yes, there’s quite a crowd in there really! Parents, ex-bosses, friends, ex-lovers, and the rest… and then there’s a little voice (our Self) trying to be heard through all the din!


  7. Another tip is to ask who that little voice belongs to…sometimes it isn’t your own but a parent or teacher or someone else putting you down in the present but really an echo from the past.


  8. We have a little voice within us who acts as an internal compass, throwing up feelings all the time to every encounter. Questioning those feelings and noting down the conclusions in a notebook helps to further understanding of the self.


  9. I love that suggestion – very alchemic! With practise, that could easily become very effective. Thanks for sharing that, and thanks for your comment about the blog, much appreciated.


  10. Ouspensky suggests tagging each emotion with one of the seven planets, Mars for angry or self asserting feelings, Venus for the opposite, for example. Then when one is feeling jealous, angry, greedy, etc, one can recall the other vice to neutralize it. Transmuting emotions so to speak.

    Great Blog BTW


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