We are sleepwalkers. This is the truth that one of the most famous epigrams in the history of humanity invites us to wake up to.
We think of ourselves as conscious, rational, self-aware beings, capable of pursuing goals, capable of changing ourselves and the world around us, and capable of build- ing meaningful relationships and living extraordinary lives. Yet a revered maxim inscribed in the Greek temple of Delphi over 2500 years ago reads “know thyself”.
Why would conscious, rational, self-aware beings need to know themselves? Isn’t self-awareness a form of self-knowledge? What truth is the Delphic maxim telling us to wake up to, and why? And in what way are we asleep?
The idea that there is a fundamental truth about the human condition that we need to acknowledge, because we are not as self-aware and conscious as we think we are, is very old. As a matter of fact, it can be said that this truth about the human condition belongs to the wisdom of humanity, rather than to a particular philosophical or spiritual tradition. We find it in the cosmology of the states of being of the Veda ̄nta, a school of thought of the Hindu tradition. We find it in the doctrine of enlightenment of the Buddhist tradition. We find it in the Chinese Taoist classics on the doctrine of inner alchemy, such as The Secret of the Golden Flower. We find it in the wisdom tradition of the Toltecs, as the knowledge passed on through generations of naguals— Toltec spiritual masters and shamans. We find it in the Sufi tradition as the study of the Haal, a special state of consciousness where we see things and ourselves as we really are. We find it in the Gnostic traditions, and in the Kabbalah as the doctrine of the levels of the soul.
The presence in every major wisdom tradition of the theme of waking up to the real human nature, bears witness to the centrality of this profound intuition about the human experience; an intuition that is an integral part of who we are as a species.
“Know thyself” is an invitation to embrace self-disco- very, and to recognize that the gift of being human is much greater than we think. It is the intuition that our full existence as human beings, begins when we dis- cover our true nature, not when we are born. It is the secret knowledge that we exist beyond the five senses, and beyond the limiting narratives that enslave human existence to the drama of suffering. Every wisdom tra- dition teaches us that being human means that we are meant to be born twice, first as body and mind, and then as spiritual beings. We are meant to hatch out of our psychological placenta, and break free from the prison of the mental realities that protect us when we come to this world, and that we keep carrying around unconsciously in our adult life like a blindfold. We are meant to outgrow a syntax of life that revolves around a material conception of what a human being is, and embrace a new narrative of endless emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual possibilities.
The reward of self-discovery is the end of suffering. It is the end of a drama that does not define who we really are. It is the basis of our emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual wealth. It’s feeling deeply alive and safe. It is the quiet and subtle contentment of being here.
Know thyself = Know thy Self
In Western cultures, there seems to be a tendency to think of wellbeing, self-discovery, self-realization and spirituality as things in their own right, as goals one has to deliberately choose and pursue. The truth is, there is nothing “spiritual” about spirituality, and there is nothing special about self-discovery, self-realization and wellbeing that makes them goals one has to intentionally choose and pursue. They are not things distinct and separate from the other aspects of human existence. The reason why in most cases we have to intentionally undertake a spiritual journey of self-discovery, is that we are not used to integrate them into our consciousness, like we are not used to tightrope-walk or juggle.
We are led to think of self-discovery and spirituality as things in their own right, when we fail to recognize that the nature of human existence is not meant to be fully rationalized. When we fail to recognize that life has a unity that transcends reason, and that it doesn’t make sense to try to explain that unity, with the same kind of reasoning we use to build a skyscraper or weave a rug. We should become spiritually literate and learn about the Self, the human soul, its mysteries and its treasures, like we learn to tie our shoes and brush our teeth. But for cultural reasons this does not seem to happen as often as it should. This is why the teachings of every wisdom tradition can be regarded, essentially, as a path to reconcile our true nature with our existence here on Earth.
The Journey of the Self is a way to “know thyself”, to understand how we unconsciously create our experience of life, and how we can learn to use the power of the Self to consciously create emotional, social, intellectual and spiritual wellbeing in our life. Through seven powerful principles, we are going to discover the Self, and to create spiritual wealth—an unshakable state of fulfillment, serenity and joy that comes from being aligned with your true nature, and that transcends any experience, any thought and any emotion.
The Self is your spiritual DNA: it is the primal part of you that codifies who you are at the most fundamental level, regardless of what life throws at you; it is what makes your soul what it is. In this book we represent the Self with a flower.
Just like the DNA, the Self is pure potentiality. Think of pure potentiality as information. Your DNA is not your body, yet it contains all the information needed to build your bones, muscles, organs and every other part of your body. Similarly, your Self is not the “you” that is reading this book, it is not your mind, your thoughts, your emotions and your memories, but defines everything your imagination can create, every thought you can think and every emotion you can feel. This distinction between your Self and the image of you created by your self-awareness and self-perception is so important that we’ll talk about it right out of the gate, when we’ll introduce the first law of spiritual wealth, which is dedicated to explaining this fundamental distinction and its practical implications.
Each Self is unique, so is your soul. The easiest way to learn about your Self is through the life it creates for you when it interacts with the world. To learn about the Self, we need to learn its language.
The Parlance of the Self
The Self doesn’t interact with you and with reality in terms of causes and effects. It doesn’t understand anything in terms of purpose, utility, meaning or efficacy. It doesn’t have goals in the way you and I understand what it means to have goals; those are our attempts to understand rationally the ways of the Self. The thing is, the Self cannot be understood rationally. To understand the ways of the Self, we need to familiarize ourself with how the Self sees the world.
The Self operates according to a radically different frame of reference, a frame of reference so radically different from anything we are used to in everyday life, that deciphering its workings demands dedicated study. The study of the Self is, in essence, what we call spirituality.
It is the fundamental knowledge needed to dialogue with our Self, with other people’s Selves, and with higher Selves.
It is difficult to exaggerate the importance of learning the parlance of the Self. For the Self defines our experience of life at a much deeper level than rational thought. It defines our own deep sense of life’s meaning before we rationalize it, and for this reason alone, it demands special attention. The Self functions at a metaphysical level, and plays a fundamental role in the discovery of our life’s purpose.
We have the illusion that our choices and, to a certain extent, fate, define our lives, because we are used to interact with reality from within a causal frame of reference. We do this to get that. That’s how we think, and that’s how we understand the world around us. When we understand reality in terms of causes and effects, we measure our experiences in terms of the outcome they produce, and ascribe meanings to them based on the causal efficacy that those outcomes have on our lives. This is how we measure choices and decisions and dreams and ambition.
To understand how the Self sees the world, we need to abandon the causal frame of reference we are used to, and think in terms of universal metaphors. Metaphors do not belong to any causal frame of reference: they do not make things happen and do not explain how things happen. They do not possess what philosophers call causal efficacy—the ability to exert causal influence. Metaphors convey universal meanings; that’s their purpose. Universal metaphors guide us in our perception of the world and in our experience of life in very profound ways. A way to understand how universal metaphors work is through the study of the archetypes.
The Archetypes: 12 Keys to Understand the Self
The archetypes are universal psychological patterns that define the early stages of the human experience. We find them throughout the history of humanity in the myths and legends of every civilization. The myth of the hero that goes on a journey replete with dangers and pitfalls, slays dragons, rescues damsels in distress, finds a sacred object and brings it back to his kingdom is the epitome of these psychological patterns. We unconsciously learn to create a rudimentary experience of life from the narratives of the archetypes, and continue to do so in our adult life until we fully assimilate their message, and develop the ability to create our own life narrative. The experience of life that originates from the archetypes is full of drama, suffering and tribulation, and can make us perceive our existence here on Earth as a sort of punishment in which life is “inflicted” to us rather than being a gift for us to enjoy.
Through the metaphors of the archetypes, we unconsciously develop the beliefs of what a human being is, of what life is and what is in harmony with human nature, and use those beliefs to imagine our future, and to ask ourselves how we can feel deeply alive and successful in that future.
The great psychiatrist C. G. Jung identified 12 archetypes as the basic components of the collective unconscious, the combination of which, in varying proportions, describes the psychological fabric of every human being. Each archetype embodies a way of viewing human existence, and symbolizes how we experience the awakening of our consciousness. The archetypes characterize what are regarded as the main themes of human existence: the quest for safety, Innocent and Orphan, the quest for responsibility, Warrior and Caregiver, the quest for identity, Seeker and Lover, the quest for authenticity, Destroyer and Creator, the quest for power,King and Magician, and the quest for freedom, Sage and Fool. The archetypes have a purpose to fulfill, fears that threaten their purpose, and a bright and a dark side that characterize how they can evolve.
The Innocent wants to be free to be himself. He seeks safety and fears abandonment and punishment. He has a positive, optimistic and sometimes naive outlook on life, and a tendency to deny problems and put too much trust in others. His shadow sides are his proclivity to avoid conflict and to live in denial. His qualities are loyalty, trust, integrity, optimism and open-mindedness.
The Orphan believes that all men are created equal. He wants to belong and fears being taken advantage of and being left out in the cold. He has a down-to-earth, sometimes cynical view of the world, and a tendency to feel victimized by life. His shadow sides are dishonesty, predatory behavior, and expecting special treatment and exemption from duties. His qualities are realism, honesty, interdependence and pragmatism.
The Warrior believes that where there’s a will, there’s a way. Also known as the Hero, the warrior wants to win and protect the weak, and fears frailty. He has a strong sense of justice, and is willing to confront anything if that is the right thing to do. The shadow side of the warrior is the villain, a ruthless, violent, rampant and amoral personality, always looking for the next prey. His qualities are courage, competence, discipline and self-mastery.
The Caregiver loves his neighbor as himself. He wants to protect, heal and help the others, and has a profound aversion to selfishness and indifference. He tends to spread himself too thin, and finds it difficult to say no and to set healthy boundaries for himself. When he manifests his shadow sides, he can turn into a martyr, or in a personality that uses caretaking to manipulate others. His qualities are empathy, compassion, generosity and selflessness.
The Seeker tells you “Don’t fence me in” because he doesn’t like the feeling of being involved in something. He is a true explorer. He wants new experiences and fears conformity and feeling stuck in a rut. He is reluctant to enter long-term commitments if he feels that they may limit his freedom. His shadow sides are pointless perfectionism, shallow thinking, and the inability to commit to a goal. His qualities are creativity, ambition, authenticity and a genuine sense of wonder.
The Lover believes that “you are the only one”. He wants joy, intimacy and ecstasy, and fears rejection and feeling unwanted. He tends to avoid conflict and finds it hard to face commanding and arrogant personalities. His shadow sides are sexual, emotional and relational addictions. His qualities are commitment, passion, devotion, gratitude and diplomacy.
The Destroyer, also known as the Rebel, believes that rules are made to be broken. He is a change agent in the broadest possible sense. He fears stagnation, annihilation and the stale status-quo, and can sometimes get carried away by his quest to bring metamorphosis into cultural systems, ideas, traditions and in what doesn’t work. His shadow sides are self-destructive behavior and physical and psychological abuse. His qualities are charisma, humility and vision.
The Creator believes that if you can think it you can do it. He wants to create new, meaningful things, and fears inauthenticity, banality and feeling defined by stereotypes. He is a true artist, a trailblazer, a creative soul that aims for the stars, and that can sometimes get in his own way by becoming a perfectionist. His shadow side is an obsessive, ineffectual personality that either disintegrates itself into perfectionism or that never achieves anything because is incapable of focusing on one thing. His qualities are creativity, ambition, individuality, courage, purpose and imagination.
The King, also known as the Ruler, believes that power is everything. He loves to control, wants to bring lasting prosperity to his community and fears chaos and sabotage. He has a vision of a preferred future and does not tolerate easily those who don’t share his vision. His shadow side is the dictator, the megalomaniac who doesn’t know how to handle responsibilities. His qualities are leadership, resolve, authority and responsibility.
The Magician makes things happen. He wants to gain the ultimate knowledge of Nature and fears the malevolent use of the mysteries of the Universe. He has the ability to read reality in radically new ways and transform the world with the power of his superior knowledge. His shadow side belittles himself or the others, and turns good into evil. His qualities are charisma and personal power, and are emphasized by his unshakable belief in the power of knowledge.
The Sage believes that the truth will set you free. He wants to understand and educate the others, and does not tolerate ignorance, deception, dishonesty and stupidity. His ability to explain complex ideas in simple terms is unparalleled. His shadow sides are dogmatism, cold unfeeling rationality, and thinking that the others are wrong and not good enough. He is a scholar, a communicator and a teacher. His qualities are wisdom, competence, curiosity, intelligence, integrity and objectivity.
The Fool believes that you live only once. He wants to live to the full, reveal the lighter side of things and enjoy life. He fears boredom, lethargy and gloominess, and has the ability to create an atmosphere of joy and happiness. Beneath the surface, he is a deeply spiritual being that emanates joy as a result of his spiritual wealth. His shadow side is indulging in excesses. His qualities are lightheartedness, joyfulness, authenticity, open-heartedness and freedom.
The Dancing Selves
Think of the Self in the world as an actor. When you are born, your Self is given a script where the characters are the 12 archetypes. You are not aware of having a Self. You are not aware that your Self is reading a script. And you are not aware that what you call your perception of life is nothing but the plot of the script that your Self picked up when you were born.
Without the awareness of the Self, you think that you are the “you” that is reading this paragraph right now. You identify yourself with your thoughts and sensations, and as far as you know, there is no script and there is no Self reading a script: reality is what your emotions and thoughts tell you it is.
Each Self at the early stages of its evolution is part of a theater company that performs certain plays that make up the fabric of cultures and societies. Those are the plays that create the image of ourselves—what we call personality—the social realities we live in, and the roles we play. Within those roles, we identify power, authority, reputation, success, fame, self-realization, heroes, and any other character and concept that becomes the frame of reference of our life.
Without the awareness of the Self, our experience of life is defined by the plays performed by the theater company we are unknowingly part of, emotionally, materially, mentally and psychologically. We truly believe that life is made of the drama, the stories and the revelations that make up the plays we unknowingly perform, because we are not aware that we are acting.
How the Seven Laws Function
The seven laws we present in this book represent types of awareness. You develop the specific type of awareness by integrating the corresponding law into your consciousness. And when that awareness is active in your life, the way you perceive life changes, as a result of how you have learned to handle your thoughts, emotions and intuitions.
The seven laws operate simultaneously, a bit like physical laws. Think of your smartphone and how it is subject simultaneously to multiple laws of physics. It is subject to the law of gravity, that’s why it has a weight. It is subject to the laws of electromagnetism that describe how the phone interacts with the electromagnetic fields. And it is subject to the laws of quantum physics that govern how the complex circuitry inside the phone works.
Likewise, the journey of your Self is simultaneously subject to seven metaphysical laws that make up the general features of your earthly experience. Think of these features as the main geographical features of a mysterious country. They describe the location, size and shape of mountains, lakes, rivers, forests, deserts etc. Your ability to consciously travel this mysterious country depends on how much you understand its fea- tures. There is no right or wrong. A journey is a journey. Nothing dictates that first you have to climb a mountain and then explore a forest. In this journey the difference between knowledge and ignorance is measured solely in terms of your ability to consciously decide where to go, how and why. The conscious decisions I am talking about have nothing to do with control.
Remember, this is a journey, not a trip. The ability to consciously engage with your existence is in no way a reference to any notion of planning whatsoever. As a matter of fact, we’ll discover that the utmost expression of conscious- ness and self-mastery is the ability to enjoy the flow of life, without forcing or controlling anything at all. So don’t think of these laws as a set of instructions, but as a map. Here’s what this map looks like.
Laws 1 and 2—the Law of Non-Identification and the Law of Authenticity—are about the human nature, about what it means to be human, and set the tone for the book. They convey the basic structure of human existence here on Earth and its main consequences.
Laws 3, 4 and 5—the Law of the Journey, the Law of Manifestation and the Law of Mindful Compassion—are about the journey. These are self-management, self- awareness, big-picture laws that define the basics of the human experience.
Laws 6 and 7—the Law of Responsibility and the Law of Continuity—are about the Self in the world, about how each individual journey is part of the evolution of humanity and of life in general. These laws help us understand our journey the way our Self sees it, and help us put our life’s experience into a new, powerful and hugely empowering perspective.