Temet Nosce! (Know Thyself!)

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Temet Nosce!

(Latin axiom from the Temple Delphi: Know Thyself)

This phrase is usually depicted with an exclamation mark, signifying it is a command, as if to know thyself is a simple declaration, and once you accept it, you will know yourself. It is an ancient wisdom established in the mystery schools well before Plato began to use it as a theme in his writings.

What does it mean? What is thyself?

This is the question that hovers over this philosophical expression like a ghostly mirage. Everyone understands what it is to know something. You have experienced it, seen it, interacted with it, and you have knowledge of it as a result.

Thyself… that’s a little more precarious to pin down. That deals with the elusive consciousness—the part of us that is connected to something vaster than even our imaginations can conjure.


The case of butterflies.

Have you ever seen the handiwork of a lepidopterist (butterfly collector), who has pinned down a butterfly for display purposes within a glass box? The butterfly is usually displayed with its wings wide open in order to display their best color and full scale.

I remember seeing these as a child when I was about five years old. There were hundreds of butterflies at a museum in Barcelona. They were remarkable for many reasons, one of which was how often the open wings displayed features of an eye or multiple eyes. The patterns were there to dissuade prey—mostly birds—from thinking they were fragile, defenseless insects.

I remember thinking that a butterfly couldn’t be that hard to catch, considering all of those butterflies had been caught by scientists, and I had seen my share of scientists, and none of them had looked particularly athletic. I remember studying those butterflies, all lined up, categorized, and pinned down like tiny Persian rugs. I made a decision that day to catch some of my own.

Sparing you the details, I spent the better part of that weekend trying to catch butterflies in a flowered field only about three blocks from our home. By Sunday night, as the light faded from the day, I had one moth to my credit. Its wings appeared bruised at the ends, and its color was a cross between cinnamon and pale sand. No pattern. There was, to my dismay, nothing remarkable about it—apart from the fact that it was now my captive.

Butterflies were much harder to catch than I had imagined. As docile as they looked underneath their glass display cases at the museum, they were amazingly elusive in the wild. And that’s really my point as we return to the axiom to know thyself. You can pin down the know part. You can even think you know the “thyself” part. However, this axiom is deeper than that.



Just as the butterflies in the display cases seemed so knowable and representative of a butterfly’s essence—its color, shape, pattern, size and so on, the missing element was life. I couldn’t possibly know a butterfly by examining it in a box, yet that is how we often operate as “self-realized” individuals. We think we know ourselves. Our ego-personality laid out on display, all of the human traits recognizable, size, shape, intelligence, education, career, hair color, clothes, and a hundred other characteristics. Unfortunately, it isn’t that easy.


Knowing what cannot be known is the paradox.

Thales of Miletus, the first Greek philosopher, was once asked, “What is the most difficult thing to achieve?” He replied, “To know thyself.” When asked what the easiest thing was, he answered, “To give advice.”

Even the revered Greek philosophers understood that the axiom to know thyself! is the most difficult task a human being can grapple with. It wasn’t simply taking an inventory of one’s unique traits, personality, physical, emotional and mental qualities. There was something fundamentally more… and elusive.

You can’t pin down and examine consciousness. You can’t “catch” it. You might find a “moth” or two, but these are shadows of the Self. As the poet Rumi suggested, “Who am I in the midst of all these thought streams?”

We are not the thinkers of our thoughts. Our thoughts arise from many sources, some of which have nothing whatsoever to do with our Self—that pre-quantum identity referred to as the Sovereign Integral. Thoughts arise from unconscious, subconscious, programmed consciousness and combinations therein. They can appear to be us, but thoughts actually arise as the artifacts and regurgitations of a programmed, consensual reality.


The strata of layers that form thyself.

What are the layers or dimensions that we are made of? The diagram below attempts to show the layers of the onion that comprise each of us. If you are in a human body, you possess each of these layers, and everyone will have an identity link to one layer stronger or weaker than another. Our linkages to these layers are, in part, what define our uniqueness.



If someone has formed a particularly strong identity linkage to their Conscious Self, then they are probably inclined to think of “thyself” as the sum of their successes and failures. If they have strong linkages to their Human Soul Self, they are more inclined to think of “thyself” as a formless spiritual presence that is learning and evolving to become a teacher or master. If their linkages are most strongly with the Physical Self, they are more inclined to perceive “thyself” as the force that propels them to survive the hostilities of the world around them.

No one has a single linkage. No one possesses all perfectly symmetrical linkages to the eight layers. No one has fixed linkages. The linkages are in flux, they operate situationally, they form attachments to layers that reflect where they focus their attention.

When you see the axiom to Know Thyself! consider which layers you place your focus and attention on. Is there one in particular that you have formed a strong identity linkage? If you were to know thyself as that layer, or perhaps a combination of layers, is that even you? Maybe you are more like the butterfly caught in the wind’s play, and not pinned down beneath glass. Maybe you activate your imagination to stretch beyond the strata of the normally defined “thyself,” and in these brief, but profound moments, you touch into the Sovereign Integral consciousness.

Thyself is infinite. It cannot be defined. To know it, is to know its shadow. For that which is truly you cannot be known, because knowing is facilitated by the mind, and the mind cannot comprehend this pre-quantum presence that dances beneath and above our sightlines and the arc of our human consciousness. It is better, perhaps, to form a new axiom. Let’s give it a phrase: Live as I AM WE ARE!


Tags: WingMakers, Know Thyself, I AM WE ARE, Sovereign Integral, Temet Nosce!

19 thoughts on “Temet Nosce! (Know Thyself!)

  1. Dear James and Mark.
    The new Wingmakers website is stunning. I can’t wait to delve deeply now into it. I say ‘now’ because this now, as with this website is so different from the old version of the now I left behind or should I say I integrated. I can relax with this new version , its beauty and content and synthesis it all without pressure. With the old website I was in tremendous fear (of invasion of the body snatchers) and a whole list of other maladies of the mind. These maladies have been disipating and integrating mostly because of the practice of the 6 heart virtues. Everything and I mean everything between chaos into order has orderd itself (mySELF) mostly because of the LOVE that was shown to actually have attributes. These 6 heart virtues are these attributes as LOVE as the Core of everything. James, thank-you for expressing them through your work, writings and Grand intelligence and Love of humanity. Mark, thank-you for so accuratley putting something so BIG, so complex into a format, a website , that is coehesive and digestable and thus usable.

    Ultimately I know I still have to do the work and be genuine and authentic in my desire to complete this personal work through the continuous use of these virtues. Your very gracious contribution and ability to make all of this stuff understandable (and I think more importantly likeable and beautiful) helps me to relaxed and go with the desire I have and interest I have to peruse and rediscover this website without intimidation, fear and trepidation. These lesser qualities I had with the first website but not so much with this one. Both because I have grown through the application of the 6 heart virtues and of coarse because the world is so much different now. I have less fear of all the conspiracies and have integrated them consciously as time evaporates. It, (this website) really is amazing and its intent is greatly appreciated. To the both of and with the deepest gratitude and LOVE. Thank-you



  2. Thank You so much, James, for more pearls of wisdom : “Thyself is infinite. It cannot be defined. To know it, is to know its shadow. For that which is truly you cannot be known, because knowing is facilitated by the mind, and the mind cannot comprehend this pre-quantum presence that dances beneath and above our sightlines and the arc of our human consciousness. It is better, perhaps, to form a new axiom. Let’s give it a phrase: Live as I AM WE ARE!”


  3. For a long time I thought I was my soul… I thought this was where my spirit intersected. I thought it was the “highest” part of myself. I have not really identified with my other parts… living in this “world” has always been hard. I never wanted to be here. When I was young (6 years old) I would hold my breath until I turned blue and would pass out.
    Sovereign Integral consciousness makes the most sense of any idea I have ever taken into my self.
    So where am I bringing this idea when I take it into my self? Is it my Sovereign Integral Self which is not trapped… whispering through all the layers to my Sovereign Integral Self within the Human Instrument?
    Ahh I see… OK I shall Live as I AM WE ARE.
    Thank You James… Peace and Love, Disa


  4. Simply being aware or cognizant of the strata of layers that form thyself is the first step in freeing oneself from the clutches of the genetic mind. Then as we live from the heart and practice the Heart Virtues we become living examples of “The Art of The Genuine.” That is what living should be like, a perpetual work in progress where the beauty is experienced in the moment. The brief moments that we are able to pull our inner most selves into our lives and express and share our Sovereign Integral awareness and practice the life principles there of. I am We are!


  5. When I was very young, 4 yrs old, I would ask myself and others why me? Why did god chose me? I would close my eyes and see the universe full of stars and still did not understand and of course the elders would just call me silly or disrespectful of the Catholic religion. All my life was a quest for knowledge of this mystery of being, read lots of spiritual books, psychology and astrology to know myself. I finally feel I have arrived home. To understand the Sovereign Integral and the I AM WE ARE is that wonderful realization of who I am. Thank you James for bringing this realization to Us.
    First Source always in our hearts!

    All my Love,


  6. Saw the shadow of the sun
    So my heart leaped at the possibilities
    Then the true sun unveiled himself
    And my soul sank into pure peace.


  7. Thanks so much for Interview 5. I had a vision of something opening to me – and did it ever. It’s what I’ve been waiting for for so long.


  8. I AM the Heart of the One. I AM calling.
    The Heart of all hearts, as your heart I am beating.
    I AM the pulse of the rhythm of union.
    I’m rising within you. It’s my voice you hear.
    Beating and rising, to you I AM calling.


  9. Dear James, much appreciation & gratitude.
    1)Can you please comment on the role of meditation and its effect on the strata of layers of the self?
    2)Does the I Am We Are practice at the end of the 5th Interview decreases/removes the layers of programming, in the person doing this practice?
    Thank You. Kwen


  10. Thank-you James for everything you say and do for all of us. This treasure trove of information you have delivered is and will continue to be a great resource for humanity.
    In gratitude, Leslie Winter


  11. Butterflies…yes…I have watched many. And as I have walked through museums studying – those – “pinned down like tiny Persian rugs” my heart breaks. I wonder, “Am I this too?” “Am I the pinned or pinner?” “Am I both?”
    I do not know Thyself. I am human but feel more like a butterfly caught in a great lightening storm. Flying blind.
    Let me explain….
    Trickster Light
    I live near a recreational field. I was walking my dog one evening when I unhappily noticed that they had installed mammoth lights. I understand the reasoning behind this installation but…the lights blind my night vision and prevent me from seeing what is beyond the lighted area. And, I have found that sometimes there is light in darkness.
    Examining the new light additions, I noticed a creature flying towards one of the giant lights as if in a hypnotic trance. Where, it was promptly zapped, sending it tumbling to the pavement. Walking over to the crash site, I found a strange creature – a prehistoric mothlike creature, 3 inches in length, with two fanglike protrusions. I’d never seen anything like this outside a museum. It was stunned but alive. Studying it, I marveled at its fangs and size. Whispering to it, I explained that it might be best to avoid the trickster light which captures, stuns and sometimes, kills. And off it flew.
    Funny thing, that cold night there were no other creatures flying around those lights.
    I continued walking my dog. As we turned to head back, I noticed a creature up by the light. And like a kamikaze pilot it flew straight for the light where it was loudly zapped. Whispering to my dog, we headed back over to find this strange creature again on the pavement, paralyzed and this time upside down. Turning it back over with the help of a stick I searched for signs of life. It responded slowly, barely.
    I whispered to it again about the trickster light. And wished it well.
    I returned the next morning before sunrise to find my strange creature where I had left it. Speaking with it, the creature roused itself slowly, struggling. Using my phone arm band like a stretcher, I moved my patient to a safer location in the grass. I whispered to it to hold on. Light would be dawning soon.
    I returned that evening to find that my strange creature had left its grassy haven.
    Now, some may say that maybe a crow swooped down and ate it. Or maybe a scientist captured it for pinning. Or maybe, a child dropped it in a jar for show and tell.
    But this is not how our story will end.
    As the sun rose that morning, it found my strange creature blessing my injured friend with its healing light. And my strange creature regaining his strength flew off to his ancient home to share his tale of the trickster light.
    I too feel hypnotized by this world’s trickster light. And, I too have been zapped by it. I understand the attraction. But nature has helped show me the truth. And maybe, one morning, I too will be blessed by the sun and returning to my ancient home I will share my tale of the trickster light.


  12. Yes, butterflies are wonderful. When I was young, I also tried to catch a butterfly. In a meadow, near my apartment, there were a lot of them. Sometimes they looked like floating above the earth “flying multicolored carpet”. Once I managed to catch a butterfly, but he, being in captivity, fast “faded”. His wings were torn from attempts of flights. I wanted to cry and let him go, but he just “froze” on a blade of grass. Frankly, I prefer to see them in the wild, when they “dance” in the wind. Before my home, grows a shrub so-called “butterfly bush” (buddleia). Many butterflies drink nectar from its tiny flowers and …. they dance with the wind. I wish all butterflies and Butterflies happy New Year 2015.


  13. Interestingly I have often been known to think of and use the phrase ‘my own knowing’ meaning something beyond the mind. There is a continual re-hashing of word usage in the on going communications that TeUmu comes up with in his deliverance of language and the way he expresses it into the world; for definitions deceptive as they are reconfigure in the my ever morphing template of understanding. There is a place of non-duality between Unfortunately and Fortunately that is no where in particular but everywhere that is conveyed rather clumsily into this world on the wings of words. This nowhere carries the fullness of silence that the hiccup of words does not have the authority to issue in the fullness of the wellspring of its Source. Despite this glowing anomaly I’m compelled to use language. With an expanding awareness: I have on more than one occasion thrown my arms up feeling somewhat defeated as to ‘where to from here’ in order to convey the unknowable in the format of words. Of course the acceptance that words cannot convey the experience of being a human integrally linked to the Sovereign Integral as we all are with my unique perspective therein, I relinquish this task as non doable and hoorah to that! So to cut a long story short, the wisdom of telling a story first to intersect with imparting what is there to bring forth as James has done in the above, is a wonderful bridge to the elusive Butterfly and its flight path into our lives herein.


  14. First of all, I want to thank you for spreading the knowledge that we need to expand our awareness…we are all here to help each other…have you ever considered that all the visions, and things you’ve heard from the “wing makers” are just a part of your imagination?.. This is not to say that it’s not real, to me everything is not real, until we choose to accept it as real, at which point it becomes unreal, and your self becomes not real…then, if we take it one step further, and accept the unreal as the reality, we become the unreal, or that which breaks down and define what is real?…I know this doesn’t exactly go with the article, but I wanted to share my thoughts…when I found your website, it amazed me…it all made sense to what I’ve been doing, which is trying to unify us, to help us understand who we are…however for me, it was never clear, it’s been a slow process, through poetry…leading to [you] and [us]…I’m gonna share a couple poems, one I wrote awhile ago, one I kinda edited from one posted here, I’d like to hear your thoughts, and if you want more of my poetry, all I need is an email…

    One Idea
    Cascading Emptiness
    Provoking Thoughts
    Separating Mind
    Surrounding Dark
    Confrontational Existence
    Being Accepted
    Profound Awareness
    Knowing Infinite
    Fluid E-motion
    Becoming Essential
    Interweaving Realities
    Loving Unconditional
    Returning Oneness
    Reminiscing Perfection
    One skin hides another,
    As I remember this.?.
    A poem’s re-written,
    By itself, not [ us ] existing…

    In the letters of-not mine…
    We search for [ our ] truths-
    [ we ] see naught-but, lies
    In words we [ once ] used…

    Words, without meaning ring,
    By [ your ] truth-[ us ] denied.
    Until my touch, does it’s thing.
    Giving words, [ we ] left behind…

    [ Your ] tongue [ once ] subdued-
    [ Our ] truth, missing [ us ]-
    [ Your ] writing lacked truth,
    Without [ my ] [ you ]-living trust-ily…

    [ Our ] past launched a raging fire-
    That was witnessed in night.
    Death saw [ us ] blazing higher,
    As [ once ] dead fields-met light…

    Feeling like a liberator of life force,
    i renewed blistered-dying grasses.
    Where once, our selves divorced
    I grew [ our ] gardens-neglected…

    Weeds were all that thrived,
    Where grass [ once ]flourished,
    Without [ us ], it could not survive,
    Nor could flora-unnourished…

    I peeled back [ your ] skin,
    To unleash a holy flame
    Bringing [ us ] to black-within,
    Where [ our ] light once began…

    We called night to descend.
    And [ our ] blackness did rise,
    Showing [ us ] [ our ] true skins,
    Cresting fertile voids, of [ our ] mind…

    Flames spread speedily-enchanting,
    [ Our ] face, a mural in my mind.
    Remembering fires [ once ] danced with,
    New skins unfurl-awaiting [ your ] time…

    Forever they roam inside me-
    As living shadows of [ your ] selves.
    Ever seeking, to find thee,
    From within-stories we tell…

    One person hiding another,
    With thicker skin-giving comfort.
    Behind [ you ]-molted love smothers,
    With understanding-[ un ]discovered…

    No flame can touch [ your ] center.
    Blind eyes see, hoping to remember-
    The language we assembled,
    By[ us ] piecing lines together…

    Seconds tick-from young [ we ] grow,
    Into adults, who think they know.
    Past-selves dismissed, never shown.
    Thoughts reminisce, of times not sown…

    The photographs aren’t forgotten,
    Between the changes of [ you ].
    In mind, [ you're ] always marching,
    Into, infinities bloom…

    Calibrating abandoned thoughts,
    With almost celestial precision,
    Aligning stars, to connect the dots,
    [ we ] outline our magnificence…

    Now, that all loves been spent,
    It goes where it belongs.
    Into [ our ]-unrealized realms,
    To sing it’s joyful songs…

    Purpose that was hidden,
    In the words of another.
    Built this fire-wisdom filled,
    To unblind i’s [ uncovered ]…

    The code of the mute-
    Uncoiled, this fist pounding.
    As scrambled words-[ once ] [ you ] used,
    Come back, with a sound so resounding…


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