In the sacred groves of learning, back in ancient times, seekers had to dedicate their life to the study of their chosen philosophy, proving to their teachers that they were serious regarding the information that was to be imparted to them.
Following the journey of the individual who would coin the word, philosopher, Pythagoras began studies as a very young boy with Anaximander and Thales who were well versed in science. The ancient writers stated that the young Pythagoras became a vegetarian, drank only water and severely limited the time he spent sleeping in order to be in his optimum physical condition.
Pythagoras traveled to Syria, spending months in caves meditating, in order to prepare him for his trip to Egypt to learn from the great sages.
Ancient writers state that Pythagoras was refused entrance to the teachings of the Egyptian sages, being that he was a Greek. Pythagoras had to prove that he was serious and eventually through his determination he was accepted in their great halls and structures of learning. He studied for some twenty-two years visiting every priest and teacher throughout Egypt. In Egypt he learned “astrology, astronomy, geometry and spiritual mysteries.”
Pythagoras later studied with the Brahmans of India. He also studied in Persia until he was 56 years old and decided he wanted to head home to Greece to share his wisdom.
Obviously our access to knowledge is much easier and we virtually have access to all the accumulated knowledge of the world on our cell-phone. But mere knowledge is not wisdom.
The ancients said that learning, knowledge and wisdom are the three divisions of instruction. Learning is shallow and “consists of those things we memorize and are told.” Knowledge is substantial, and consists of those things “we know, and not merely the things we assume to believe.” Wisdom excels all, “being the potent essence composed from experience.”
Through Wisdom we understand all things. All knowledge is belief, but not all belief is knowledge. “In this distinction lies the difference between Wisdom and ignorance, certainty and uncertainty and the real and the counterfeit.” If we merely believe without knowing, we can never be certain of anything at any time. So what is Wisdom…the firm knowing of the reality of something. Not just believing.
Though it seems easy to think of the axiom, Know Thyself, this is far more than just simple words. In the highest sense in ancient times it meant, To Discover Our Own Power. In a very ancient text it stated that when one learns the “cause of the existence of things in the First Value, he who seeks to know must first learn to imagine and deliberate. For Imagination is the mother of deliberation, and wonder is the mother of Wisdom.
Wisdom is the philosopher’s stone and precious above all else.
One step on the journey towards Knowing Thyself is the following action taught by Pythagoras to the students of his academy around 500 BC.
Upon laying your head on your pillow at bedtime, undertake a review of all of your activities in reverse order starting with laying your head upon your pillow. Continue recalling backwards throughout the day as many activities as you remember since you awoke. Now continue if you can recalling any dreams during the night and into the previous day.
This is more than just a simple exercise for it has a purpose of breaking the onward ‘flow of time’ that we have been subjected to in this reality. We have one aspect of our Being trapped within this onward ‘flow of time’ and another aspect of our Being that is totally above this ‘flow of time.’ This exercise is a gift of understanding and a step toward recognizing this Higher Aspect.
Don’t rush while viewing your previous activities, don’t immediately judge your actions, but allow any feelings to rise up with you being an observer rather than the actor at the time.
While the seekers of old had many tests, actions and challenges during their journey of discovery, we have the advantages of what they learned and what they have shared. Sometimes the most profound experiences for our growth may appear very simple.
Onward, inward and upward. With love, in love and through love to you.