By Harry Palmer
From the time of the ancient Brahmins of India, through the Greek and Roman civilizations, up to the modern deans of the human potential movement, one doctrine, though worded differently, has remained unchanged. It weaves its way in and out of every spiritual practice, every philosophy, and every self-help program.
It is know thyself.
Is this merely an extraordinary piece of good advice that has been passed from generation to generation for ten millenniums, or is it something with roots that go deeper? Is it the expression of some essential purpose that inhabits the human soul?
Even the proverbial abandoned child, raised in complete isolation on a deserted island without recognizable language or custom, will one day come to the entrance of this inner path. Who am I? Why do I exist? What is life? These are questions that cannot be satisfied by worldly things. They reveal a path of inquiry that leads inward, through the uncharted turbulence of the mind, into the soul region.
The child may or may not embark upon this path. It is an unknown. Perhaps, the child will think, it is better to direct my attention to my needs. Gathering fruit and catching fish. Building a better shelter or constructing a boat. The inner path is so unclear. Even from the doorway, I am not sure that I like what I see.
So attention is turned outward, directed by the ever-whispering need. Feed the need. Food. Drugs. Sex. Security. Money. Success. Recognition. Affiliation. Applause. Religion. Independence. Knowledge. Control. Distraction. Entertainment. The need wants more.
Have you ever stood, looking into the refrigerator wanting something but not knowing quite what it is? The perfect taste. The perfect consistency. A totally satisfying bit of something that will turn your craving into ecstatic bliss. Maybe it’s behind the mayonnaise jar? Way in the back next to the yogurt? Maybe it’s not in the refrigerator at all. Maybe it’s in the cupboard. Is it salt or sweet? Pickles?
The need is whispering, “Do it. Get it. Eat it. Smoke it. Drink it. A little more.”
This need is a peculiar thing. Beyond making you susceptible to clever marketers, what purpose does it serve?
Nothing you do or put in the body satisfies the need for long. Substances may dull the awareness of the need, but they do not satisfy it. Achievements may distract attention from the need for awhile, but the need always comes back. Junkies know the need. Smokers, alcoholics, and foodaholics are on a first-name basis with the need. Seekers, achievers, and performers are driven by the need. The guilt-ridden have surrendered to the need, but the need is not compassionate. It does not know mercy. It consumes lives without concern for deeds or intentions and eliminates them as waste. Have you met this insatiable need? Do you stay distracted to keep it away?
Just relax; the need appears. Maybe it will come as an itch or a pain, maybe as an important thought, maybe as an event that needs your attention. It’s never far away.
When events repeat themselves in my life, there is a lesson I need to learn.*
Following another’s path leads to who they are, not to who you are.
The need is like a string tied on your finger to remind you of something important, some message you meant for yourself to remember. Do you remember? You were very wise to send yourself a message as clever as this insatiable need. No matter how much you feed it, it keeps coming back to remind you. It is a big, flashing neon sign that says the satisfaction you seek in the world is unfulfilling—the reality that seems so solid is transitory in its true nature.
The need is not meant to be fulfilled. It cannot be fulfilled. It is meant to steer you, to poke and prod you patiently until you commit to that inner journey to know thyself. Feel it; don’t feed it. It is a reminder not to waste this opportunity to find truth.
So where does this know thyself journey begin? Most people start by reading or listening to the stories brought back by the people who have actually taken the journey. These travelers pretty much pass for the average person except for one difference. They have slipped the need. They have learned the lesson of the need. In place of driven, desperate lives, they live deliberate, contented lives. Instead of a self-centered struggle with the need, they act equitably in service to others.
Sometimes well-meaning scholars turn the travelers’ stories into religious scripture. This is a mistake, because the scriptures can become new grist for the need and delay the person’s own necessary commitment to know thyself. Seekers feed the need with scriptures, but like drugs, no scripture will satisfy for long. Following another’s path leads to who they are, not to who you are. You have to make this journey yourself.
Know thyself is an uncharted path that goes beyond any answers or descriptions that can be written or spoken. It is firsthand experiences. World lessons. You are not seeking a definition or even the blueprint for a definition. You are seeking the heart of the designer. The answer to Who am I? is a firsthand experience of who creates the need. The higher self awakens. The Avatar arises.
The Avatar Course was designed to honor the uncharted way. People are attracted to it by an intuitive knowing—the second reminder—rather than driven by need. Avatar teaches the use of proven navigational tools that can be used, in harmony with your own integrity, to pass safely across the uncharted turbulence of the mind into the region of the soul.
Avatar is how to know thyself.
* From “Avatar Lessons For A Better World” in Harry Palmer’s book ReSurfacing: Techniques For Exploring Consciousness, available in 24 languages.