Have you heard the expression, “Know thyself”? It was carved in stone over the doorway to the Temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece. A couple of thousand years ago, the rich and powerful came from around the world to receive predictions of the future and words of wisdom from the seer who worked out of the temple. The words have been ascribed to Socrates and several other philosophers but in actual fact they were a popular saying in those days within a culture which took an interest in philosophy. That is philosophy in the literal sense being the love of knowledge. But far more important than where the words come from is what they mean. The superficial meaning is “take a look at your self and observe your own behaviour”. Presumably with a view to self correction of the passions and neurosis.
Now while that is all very well, and will doubtless lead a person to a better interaction with life, it has a deeper meaning, “Know who you really are.” As we will see later, one goal leads to the other. Coming to know what you are like as a person, those things which form your personality, eventually leads to the knowledge of who, or what, you really are. By a form of subtraction you take away everything which is temporary and what is left is YOU. And that knowledge is the core and centre of all wisdom. It gives power and freedom, takes away the fear of death and leads to a happy, fulfilling life. A life of purpose. Yet to answer this question alone and without the assistance of a teacher, perhaps even to ask it for some, takes many lifetimes. So let’s make a start shall we?
So who are you? Or I might ask, “What are you?” Are you a mother, a wife, a daughter? Or a father a husband or a son? What were you before you had children? What would you be if you split up with your partner? If your parents, God forbid, passed on? So perhaps you are not your role. What about your race or your nation? Are you American? African, European, Asian? What if you emigrate to another country and make your home there? Lets try your job description; Are you a truck driver or a lawyer or an office manager? What about a home-maker? But what happens if you change your career or lose your job, the kids leave home or you retire? What if you had an injury and were obliged to stop work right now? What would you be then? Surely you would be something still? All these parts of the human condition which most people think of as “themselves”, as “Me”, are in fact both temporary and to some extent an illusion.
What about your personality? Has that changed in your lifetime? Of course it has. It developed as you matured and changes day by day according to the function of your glands. What about your basic temperament? The answer is very similar, it is based on your genetic makeup, interacting with your programming, offset by your maturation and it changes according to your development and who you are interacting with. What about your mind? Surely that is permanent? Surely that is the part which survives the body? Well actually, no it is not. The conscious mind can disappear from a person with a brain injury. What about people who are mentally impaired, drugged or drunk? Has their mind not changed when they are performing like children? Could this really be where their Eternal Self has developed to? I think not. So what is left? What is there within you that does not change?
There is only one part of a human accessible to normal awareness which does not change and that is what we call the Observer. The Observer is the part of you which is looking out from behind your eyes right now. Or, if you were blind, would be listening or feeling whatever stimuli impinged upon your functioning senses. The Observer, you see, is not the conscious mind as it does not think or calculate. It does not react to your emotions either, in the sense of reacting to them with yet more thought or decision making. It merely observes. You are the “ghost within the machine” and separate from the machine which is your body. This is where you get to try it out for yourself. Sit quietly and be aware of your thoughts. Try to still your thoughts and note what happens. As mentioned before, some thoughts will eventually bubble up. Who is doing the thinking if you are “trying” not to? Clearly it is not you. If you have ever been drunk you may recall that the Observer remains the same, calmly watching. While drunk, the thought process or mentation changes and the decision making may become a little strange but the Observer still remains the same, watching.
Recite a multiplication table or poem or anything in your head. Where are the words or figures coming from? We know now they are coming from your unconscious mind and accessed from your memory. Of course they are; you learnt them years ago. Now think of two different two-digit numbers. Add them together in your head. Who is doing the adding up? And who is doing the watching? You can “see” yourself doing the sum so the “doer”, who we actually know now is the conscious mind, must be different from the watcher as it could not be doing both could it? The part doing the watching is the Observer and that is the real, immortal YOU.
Now you are aware of the Observer within you, can you remember it ever changing? I recall my Observer watching my life when I was a child 50 years ago in exactly the way that it does today. OK, its mental support network is stronger today but it remains the same in itself. And it was absolutely the same in previous lives where the language was different, the mind was different and of course the body was different too, sometimes male and sometimes female, young and old, clever and dim. But what is this Observer which never changes? It is that shard of the Creator which is inhabiting your head. But we already saw that you are the Observer didn’t we? That is something worth considering.
So if you are still with me you now have a grasp of your immortal Observer and are ready to see what else you are made of.