Know Thyself
[Γνοθι  Σαυτον]

The Secret Teachings and Practices of Hermeticism, Platonism, and Alchemy

Author  Unitive State Philosophy Higher Self Creative Inspiration Theurgy Transmutation

    "Man . . . is the true laboratory of the Hermetic art; his life the subject, the grand distillatory, the thing distilling and the thing distilled, and Self-Knowledge . . . the root of all Alchemical tradition . . ."

Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy & Alchemy, 1850, 1960

      The foundational conception and prerequisite understanding of Hermetic, Platonic, and Alchemical embodiments of the Perennial Tradition is that humans can attain, through assiduous study of their inner essence, practical knowledge of Transcendent Forms of manifested Being and mysteries of the Divine Nature.

  Elemental philosophy, of the Hermetic, Platonic, or Alchemical type, has become obsolete because humans are now considered incapable of discovering the essential causal elements or Forms.

   Even the idea that humans could attain transcendent knowledge has become unthinkable.

"The human mind, indeed, has been so long unaccustomed truly to know anything, or even think of, much less investigate, its own intrinsical phenomena, that to speak of them at the present time may subject us to every imputation of error and presumption. And why? A barren period has supervened; and man has no longer any experience in the life of wisdom, nor yet surmises the virtue that is in him, to prove and magnify the Universal Source." 1
Contemporary, mis-educated, inferior minds are only capable of gullible acquiescence to the dogma that modern experimental sciences alone provide knowledge. They believe that claims of interior illumination are merely fanciful.

      We must take seriously this conception and understanding of attaining transcendent awareness through self-knowledge--that is, literally and personally. These words do not refer to some scholastic pretence; they refer to a tangible experience of unity--oneness--with Divinity, an entering into God's essence, an identity and participation in the Divine Life. This is a discernible experience of merging with our Higher Consciousness, in which God is literally manifesting through us and we through Him.

      Only an advanced mind is capable of comprehending how monumentally significant this attainment of self-knowledge really is--that it actually, literally makes possible the opening to oneself the door to a higher consciousness. It requires an exceptional person to realize that teachings concerning higher awareness through self-knowledge are not merely suppositions, but actual truths that can be activated through meditation, assiduous study and practice.

      In this essay we'll examine the specifics of the Hermetic, Platonic, and Alchemical teachings to learn how to practice the maxim: Know Thyself. We approach this exercise with due seriousness, recognizing that by becoming capable of self-knowledge we can attain transcendent knowledge and achieve a higher state of consciousness.

"Meanwhile we, who look directly onward to penetrate the mystery, seek not at random any longer in the outer world where so many before have foundered . . . but we look within, or rather, that we may learn how to do so, inquire of the wise ancients to direct us about the true method and conditions of Self-Knowledge. For it is this, no common trance or day-dream, or any fanatical vision of celestials, that we propose to scrutinize, but the true psychical experience, catholic, even as the basis of that Law by which we reason, feel, and are one, uniformly living and alike all." 2

     Hermes (circa. 1900 BCE), a Perennialist savant, taught the mysteries of self-knowledge.

     Taoist and Hindu self-knowledge teachings.

Teachings concerning self-knowledge:

Exercise 1

"You shall become aware, through daily practice, that what you imagine to be your self is concocted from beliefs put into you by others, and is not your self at all."

Iskandar of Balk, a Perennialist Teacher

Exercise 2: Meditation/Contemplation Exercise for Self-Knowledge

      Below are images for contemplation and meditation. I'd suggest you remain with each image for some time, allowing the symbolism and meaning to penetrate your psyche. In some instances you can gain significant knowledge about yourself by acknowledging and evaluating your reactions to the images. For example, if you find yourself reacting to a particular image with exasperation or boredom, careful examination of this feeling can provide insight into your (inflated?) sense of yourself.


 Know Thy Ignorance

Know Thyself

 Know Thyself ?

Know Thyself

 Know Thy Point

Know Thy Facade

 Know Thyself

"The good news is, it's not cancer. The bad news: the entire room is being erased starting from the upper right-hand corner."

"Can you pick up that pen for me? The man behind me has tied up my hands under the desk."

 Know Thyself--Or Else!

 Know Thy Self-Limitations
Know Thy Inner Self

 Know Thyself


Know Thyself

 Know Thyself

 Know Thy Self-image

 Know Thyself

 Know Thy Proclivities

 Know Thyself


 Know Thy Self

 Be Conscious Of Thyself


 Know Thy Higher Self

          Exercise 3: Gaining Self-Knowledge Through Separating The Soul from the Body


1 Mary A. Atwood, Hermetic Philosophy & Alchemy, 1850, 1960, p. 145

2 Ibid, p. 17

3 The Perennial Tradition: The secret legacy, the single stream of initiatory teaching flowing through all the great schools of mysticism -- See the author's book, The Perennial Tradition