Self-respect derives from self-knowledge – Part 2


This follows on from the previous segment on how to earn respect. If you missed that then you can click the following link to see it –

We will address the topic of self-respect from the previous segment and I will expound on that theme and tie that in to why self-knowledge is the key to developing self-respect.

There are a number of terms that can be synonymously used with self-respect such as: self-esteem, self-confidence, self-love and so on.

Self-respect can operate on a continuum with narcissism (excessive self-love) at one extreme and despotism at the other extreme. At one extreme you cause harm to yourself and at the other extreme you cause harm to others. The reason that they operate on a continuum is because the narcissist and despot can both harm others and themselves simultaneously.

“Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide.” – Marcus Tullius Cicero

The concept of self-respect goes back thousands of years into antiquity before the Common Era and is documented the Ausarian Drama (Osirian Drama) of the ancient Nile Valley civilisations.

It is too complex a topic to explore fully here, however the area to consider is the part where the individual (the self) examines their own conduct in relation to principles of order, balance, justice, harmony, truth and reciprocity known as Ma’at. Ma’at is often depicted a female who would be depicted with a feather in her hair, as well as a pair of wings outstretched to signify balance. Ma’at would carry a set of scales, which would be used to weigh the heart of each individual. This process would reveal the ideal weight of a person’s heart and the objective would be for a person’s heart to be lighter than the feather of Ma’at, which is taken from the ostrich bird.

This philosophical and psychological understanding of self-knowledge took centuries to reach its zenith and then spread outwards from the African continent and migrated to the Mediterranean cultures of the Hebrews, Mesopotamians, Cretans, Phoenicians, and a number of other cultures throughout the world from the 2nd millennium BCE.

This concept of Ma’at had such a profound influence across the world that even the symbol of justice in the world today is a lady who uses scales as a symbol of Lady Justice, via transformations through the Greek Titan goddess of Themis, the Olympian goddess Dike, daughter of Zeus and the later Roman adoption into the goddess Justitia, which leads to the current concept of Lady Justice.

The adherence to Ma’at is the highest level of self-respect possible and pre-dates all other systems of morality that we currently have evidence for.

This level of self-respect is something that can be learnt through belonging to a culture that values self-respect or to be able to cultivate it within your own consciousness and this leads on to the topic of self-knowledge.

As with many of the other things that I have been writing on recently, this subject needs a series of volumes to really get into the subject deeply, however I’ll outline the essential elements to speak to a person on the journey of self-knowledge and how they can integrate it into their daily behaviour.

Two important instructions that were inscribed on the temple of Apollo in Delphi, Greece, was:

‘Know thyself’ and ‘nothing to excess.’

The philosopher from Miletus known as Thales is reported to have said, ‘”The most difficult thing in life is to know yourself.”

At the same time the understanding of self-knowledge is exactly the thing that anyone will need in order to prosper at anything in life.

An example of a lack of self-knowledge is contained within the myth of narcissus. There are a number of versions of the story and I version that is commonly cited is by the poet Ovid.

Echo and Narcissus

One day Narcissus was going through the woods when Echo, a mountain nymph saw him and was attracted to him, then followed him. Narcissus sensed he was being followed and shouted “Who’s there?”. Echo repeated, “Who’s there?” She revealed her identity and tried to embrace him. He backed away and told her to leave him alone. She was heartbroken and spent the rest of her life in despondency until nothing but an echo sound remained of her. Nemesis, the goddess of revenge, noticed his behaviour after learning the story and decided to punish Narcissus. Once, during the summer, he was getting thirsty, and the goddess lured him to a pool where he leaned upon the water and saw himself in the bloom of youth. Narcissus did not realize it was merely his own reflection and fell deeply in love with it, as if it was somebody else. Unable to leave the allure of his image, he eventually realized that his love could not be reciprocated and he melted away from the fire of passion burning inside him, eventually turning into a gold and white flower.

The condition of excessive self-love or vanity is often known as narcissism as a consequence the story of Narcissus.

The symbolism within the story has a number of layers to it, and the person who lacks knowledge of self will always be at the mercy of others who can control them, and will also be deceived by their own illusion that they have of their identity.

If a person or group knows more about your identity than you, then you are susceptible to being deceived and fooled by those who do not have your interests at heart. Moreover, to be completely honest, it would be your own fault.

A person who puts their head into a lion’s mouth and expects not to be bitten because they have a ‘positive attitude’ deserves everything that they get.

The principle of balance is an important element to gaining self-knowledge, as it not just the accumulation of knowledge that leads to self-knowledge, but action that derives from that knowledge.

Self-knowledge + principled action = self-respect

The principle of balance is also known as the principle of polarity. A few ways that the principle of polarity occur in relation self-knowledge are:

–      Consciousness vs unconsciousness

–      Creation vs destruction

–      Masculine vs feminine

–      Observation vs rationality

–      Supremacy vs inferiority

–      Truth vs fiction

–      Pleasure vs pain

–      Myth vs reality

–      Power vs weakness

–      Knowledge vs ignorance

The mistake that many people and cultures make is that they see polarity as a binary process, for example day vs night, and this approach is devoid of real understanding. The truth is that day and night are part of the same cycle of the movements of the sun in relation to the earth, and it is so for the other aspects of polarity.

Another example is that a male child is created through the union of both a male and a female. It takes both of those genders to create a life. A droplet of male sperm without an egg to fertilise is merely a droplet of liquid, and a female without being impregnated will discard various liquids during her menstruation cycle.

The concept of balance or polarity is often a difficult thing to understand as our senses are based in things that are tangible, and our mind relates to things that are both tangible and rational. This creates confusion and contradictions in people and societies, and if you can get to the level where you can understand the distinctions between things that appear to be in conflict then you are well on the way to self-knowledge.

‘The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in mind at the same time and still retain the ability to function.” – F. Scott Fitzgerald

A good question to ask is how can a person develop self-knowledge?

There are a number of ways to do this

  1. To follow the example of those who have gained a knowledge of self
  1. To be instructed by someone who is accomplished in the practice of self-knowledge and not a person who preaches about it
  1. To go on a journey of honesty and self-discovery
  1. Introspection – values, purpose, desires, fears, beliefs, conscience, inspiration, imagination

1. Follow examples of those who have acquired self-knowledge 

The origin of practically all knowledge is rooted in the study of cosmology. Whether a person is a theist, atheist, agnostic, scientist, or any other denomination then cosmology is a unifying factor.

For humans to get to this stage of understanding has taken tens of thousands of years to develop that level of knowledge, and as of yet the movements of the celestial objects in our solar system is the only source of truth that is both predictable and indisputable. There will be a time in the distant future when things change and the celestial objects will change their movements, and until then our concepts of time, language, symbols, mathematics, physics, biology, metaphysics, agriculture, psychology, navigation, birth, evolution, myth, death and so on are inextricably linked to our relationship to the cosmos, and is also due to the fact that the earth that we reside on is a moving planet that is part of the cosmos itself.

With these notions of cosmology the question of truth can only be understood through the predictable cycles and repetitions of these celestial objects. The two most visible ones are the moon, which gave birth to the lunar calendar, and the sun, which gave birth to the solar calendar.

The stories of birth, death, reincarnation, journeys, and so on are taken from the understanding of these cosmological cycles and then they are anthropomorphised as myths which take the form of humans, deities, spirits, gods, heroes, spirits, demons, monsters, and so on.

One of the most tragic chapters of human history is that many never get to understand themselves because they are wilfully or unconsciously ignorant of how things happen and will literally kill others based on their perceptions and misunderstandings of mythical ideas and their thirst for power. I will mention more about power in the future because it is possibly the most important thing that a person can ever create or obtain.

There is no one book that contains all knowledge, and anyone that says that is seriously disabled in his or her cognitive facilities. A comprehensive understanding of nature including the cosmos will give us everything that we need to prosper in life.

Here are the areas to study to gain a thorough understanding about self-knowledge.

–      Human body (biology, nutrition, health, strength, fitness)

–      Human mind (values, belief systems, prejudices, emotional control, persuasion, language, visualisation, manifestation)

–      Nature & the cosmos (cosmology, chemistry, astronomy, mathematics, music, geometry, minerals, plants, animals)

A genuine pursuit of self-knowledge is a lifetime study.

Interestingly enough you may have noticed that there is no mention of money or economics in this outline for self-knowledge. Am I saying that money and economics are not important? No. Not at all, they are essential for survival in any nation; and yet they will only take you to a certain point, especially when you understand that monetary systems are creations of the mind that are backed by faith and perceptions of power in much the same way that religious systems and political systems are.

The human aspects are the most important to study initially because that is ultimately the only aspect that you have complete control over in your life, and then when you have developed self-knowledge then you will be able to see the relationship between your body and the other elements in the world cosmos.

In addition to those things mentioned above you should have a thorough understanding of your own country, culture and history, and if you are an immigrant to a particular country then it is important to learn the language, morals, history and culture of that place even if your native land is elsewhere.

Some may say… ‘That all sounds too difficult…’ ‘I can’t do all that work’, ‘isn’t there a quick fix solution?’ ‘How would I find time to watch reality TV and sports?’ ‘How would I find time to go out and party?’

In the previous instalment about external respect, I mentioned that your values are essential to understanding your own behaviour.

There is no right or wrong in relation to your values, however certain types of behaviour will always lead to certain types of results.

If you are struggling in life, it is because you are not living up to your potential or there are people who have power over you, either they are stronger, smarter, more influential, craftier, quicker than you are, and I can promise you that

Things will never change for the better if you do not change for the better.

The change always must start within first, and a person must always be willing to ask, is this result that I want to achieve worth the price of achieving it?

That is a question that only you can answer.

Albert Einstein once said:

“We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.”

If we want to get to a new destination, then we must take a new path.

The speaker Jim Rohn once said, “If you don’t have a plan for your life then somebody else does.”

Therefore you have no one to blame if you are not willing to put in the necessary work.

It is easy? No. Not at all. Nothing that involves greatness and real success is ever easy. It possibly could be the most difficult thing that you ever do in your life, and yet, there is nothing more rewarding than being free, even when you are in bondage or imprisoned. Once a person has a free mind, then they are practically unstoppable.

A foolish person will always be fooled, regardless of their situation. A fool will never be able to identify the real cause of their problems, and will perpetually be like a person who tries to catch a shadow of an object while missing the real objective.

There is an expression that says ‘the cream will always rise to the top.’ Yet, the dregs will always remain or sink to the bottom.

There is nothing wrong with failing to achieve success in life, and to add to that there is a great deal wrong with not doing your best with whatever situation you find yourself in.

You can review and re-read this information because the basic foundations are laid out here as well as a preview of the 4 ways to develop self-knowledge.

I’ll continue the other 3 aspects of self-knowledge in the next instalment. You can click here to read the next instalment –

This follows on from the previous segment on how to earn respect. If you missed that then you can click the following link to see it –


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