' To Know Thyself '...


At the end of his long life of selfless teaching, the Buddha said that you must strive on the path yourself—the Awakened Ones only point the way. Like the Buddha, all genuine mystics will tell you that the ultimate authority and touchstone of truth is not any scriptures or dogmas or teachers, but your own deepest experience. “Don’t take my word for it,” they will say, “find out for yourself!” Just as a scientist tests hypotheses using experiments, so you should test the teachings in the laboratory of your life using spiritual practices. It makes sense that you should be your own ultimate authority, because it is your own true nature that you must discover and know.

As the oracle at Delphi commands: “know thyself.” And as Jesus instructs: “examine yourself, and learn who you are, how you exist, and what will become of you” (Jesus, Book of Thomas). The reason the genuine mystic directs your attention inward to seek your own true nature is because, as Jesus says, “He who has not known himself does not know anything, but he who has known himself has also known the depth of all” (Jesus, Book of Thomas). And Rumi tells you: “It’s you yourself that hide your own treasure” (Rumi, Mathnawi). So the genuine mystic will always point you to yourself, to discover the depths of your own true nature.

The mystical injunction to know yourself and look to yourself as your own ultimate authority, however, does not mean that teachers and teachings have no value in the mystical path. The point is that they only show the way, as the Buddha says. If you invest a particular teaching or teacher with ultimate truth, you will be implicitly separating yourself from the truth, and you will fail to realize the truth of your own nature. In the end, however, when you realize that the teachings and teachers—and indeed the entire world—is not separate from you, then you will see that your entire life is the truth of your own deepest being revealing itself to itself. Thus, to see truth in nothing reveals the truth in everything...


- Thomas J. McFarlane

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