Inscribed above the entrance of the ancient Greek temple of Apollo Delphi, site of the sacred Oracle, are the words “Gnothi Seauton”, which translates to Know Thyself. The ancient Greeks and many of the greatest thinkers and philosophers before and after their time taught this lesson: There is no greater knowledge than that of the Self. However human nature is such that knowledge of things outside of the Self—worldly things—is the unfortunate preference.
For mastery of life, you must acquire mastery of Self. An important part of this mastery is to distinguish between knowledge that is helpful and knowledge that is potentially harmful. What do you know and how do you know it? More importantly, what do you not know?
Think of all the knowledge you have obtained to this present day. Where did it come from? What you “know” predominately comes from sources other than you: Your knowledge has come from parents, friends, schools, television, the Internet, and any other information source from which you have received messages. These are sources that tell you, either implicitly or explicitly, what you should be and how you should act.
Truth can be 'created' by the repetition of a lie
Information, truth, and knowledge do not share the same meaning. For example, you may think that you know yourself but how much of this knowledge came from sources other than your Self? And much of this knowledge is just information--it consists of descriptions, labels that point at you but they are not you. Can you see this?
The great 20th century spiritual leader and psychotherapist, Anthony De Mello, said, "We think we know, that is our tragedy; so we never discover." This is similar to the teachings of Socrates, who taught that wisdom is the awareness of one’s own ignorance. And we also find overlap with Lau Tzu’s Taoist teaching from the Tao Te Ching: "One who knows does not speak; one who speaks does not know." This wisdom touches upon the folly of making predictions based upon what we know (or rather what we think we know).
Perhaps Shakespeare draws the most succinct distinction between knowledge and wisdom best: "The fool doth think he is wise but the wise man knows himself to be a fool." And thus we have a lesson for mastery of life: Knowledge is a wonderful tool that can be used to navigate the outer world; however the greatest knowledge for your own mastery of life is of the inner world, which begins with the awareness that there are things that you do not know about your Self.
The tragedy of knowledge is thinking that we know...
This post is an unedited excerpt from my forthcoming book to be publishded later this year. Stay tuned...
Related: The Wisdom of the Empty Bucket