The old maxim “Know thyself” appears far back in time. It is traditionally ascribed to ancient Greece. The saying was engraved on the forecourt of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi, also known as the Oracle of Delphi. It was later adopted by Socrates and Plato, who grappled with the mysterious nature of knowledge and identity. Legend tells that the Seven Sages of ancient Greece, philosophers, statesmen and law-givers who laid the foundation for western culture, gathered together in Delphi and encapsulated their wisdom into this command.

According to Plato, Solon, one of the Seven Sages, received his education in Egypt. Although Egyptian quotations on “Know thyself” have surfaced in modern times, it is impossible to ascertain their authenticity. It is likely that Ancient Egypt emphasized Self-knowledge, especially in relation to the journey into the afterlife, a topic widely explored in the burial texts, including the Coffin Texts. Therefore, it is probable that the early Greeks imported their philosophical foundation from the banks of the Nile.

The call to Self-knowledge also appears in the east, independently, as far as we can tell, from its Greek emphasis. The Hindu scriptures bring the Self into prominence, speaking of its realization as the means to immortality. Even in farther east, in Imperial China, Confucius draws from the ancient texts of the I-Ching and calls for a system of Self-government, which implies Self-knowledge.

Thus, the call to knowing the Self is universal historically and cannot easily be attributed to a single individual or even a single culture. In modern times, two of the most prominent protagonists of “Know thyself” are Osho and Jung.

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