Know thyself, but which self?
Knowledge of the self is the foundation of western philosophy and psychology. Psychotherapeutic disciplines have justified their approaches by promising relief of the pain of life and providing for an examined life. There are extreme cases of lingering in psychoanalysis for decades to undo the damages of childhood with the promise of psychological health. Mystical disciplines from Buddhist to Christian, Jewish and Baha’i, on the other hand, emphasize freedom from this egoic self through practices such as prayer and meditation.
Ultimately, these paths all converge into a beautiful balance of awareness of complex psychological states and gradual disidentification with their transient dominance. The more our attention’s emphasis is on unity, transcendence, and true service, the less we are subject to the pull and pushes of our psychodynamics and brain tendencies.
The self means different things in different contexts: In its most limited sense it is the apparatus of our ego to deal with the happenings of the world. In its sublimation however, it refers to an essence which is sacred, immaterial, undefinable, and noble. Awareness of this latter meaning and its conscious cultivation is the ultimate key to breaking free from the pain, anxiety, and suffering of the world.
“O MY SERVANT! Free thyself from the fetters of this world, and loose thy soul from the prison of self. Seize thy chance, for it will come to thee no more.”
~ From The Hidden Words of Baha’u'llah