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The Real "Know Thyself."



“Know Thyself.” Every school boy and girl for generations has been taught that this was the motto of Socrates and an ideal of the ancient Greeks. It makes so much sense. Seems so wise. Of course know who you are. What you think and feel. What makes you tick. What our history teachers didn’t tell us is that is not what the ancient Greeks meant. (…probably because they were taught by teachers who didn’t know.) “Know Thyself” predates Socrates. It was inscribed on the wall of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and what the God meant was “Know that you are going to die. You are not like me. You are mortal.”

We moderns want to see this in terms of our own psychology of inner work. We use it to give an ancient blessing to our modern ways of thinking and being. Most Athenians would have attributed these words to the God Apollo and would have heard them as a warning against “hubris” or excessive or false pride. “Don’t fool yourself. You are not invincible like I am. Flesh is mortal. You are flesh and you are going to die. So live your life accordingly.”






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