That famous inscription was reportedly found in the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi in ancient Greece. Later, it was adopted by Socrates as his guiding principle. It has informed my life and my choices for more than 40 years. It urges me forward toward greater self-acceptance and, at the same time, offers me a path to self-transcendence.
Like Paul of Tarsus, I’ve long wondered why, “I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want is what I do” (Romans 7:19). The psychoanalytic theory of Carl Jung helps me grasp that there’s more to me than meets the physical or conscious eye. In other words, what I see of myself, isn’t all there is. In his theory, Jung hypothesized that there is within each of us a “shadow.” This shadow is part of the unconscious mind that contains repressed weaknesses, shortcomings, and instincts that the conscious mind chooses not to face. It is the shadow’s thoughts, feeling, behaviors, beliefs, attitudes and actions that seem to direct so much of my life. It is as if my life is being directed by an auto pilot or default setting not of my own choosing. The shadow seems to consistently work against my highest good in everyday matters such as what to eat and drink, and ultimately against the realization of my soul’s purpose. As long as I allow the shadow to be in control, I will never find the “something more” for which my soul yearns.
This “something more” or soul’s purpose is the divinely inspired, uniquely creative way through which each of us is designed to express the Presence and Power of God.
As we learn in Unity: We are expressions of God. Therefore, to know God, it might be helpful to know ourselves. We might come to know the limited human self, so that we can understand, embrace and share the unlimited, spiritual essence that we really are. That essence is the “new creation” or new identity I want to put in place of the “old me” -the shadow me.
For me, the first step on this path of “birthing the new” is self-observation. By becoming more self-aware, I am becoming more conscious. To know myself, I am aided by an increasing awareness of all that is not me. As I shine the light of consciousness onto my everyday behaviors, I can learn a great deal about what is directing them. When I learn what is directing those behaviors, I am “freed up” to re-direct them as I choose.
I have the choice always to be directed by my unconscious desires OR to consciously direct my chosen desires. As I align myself with my Essence, I am choosing to live my soul’s purpose.
This above all—to thine own self be true;
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man. Hamlet, William Shakespeare