Self Knowledge

From Nordan Symposia
(Redirected from Self-knowledge)
Jump to navigationJump to search


Astro resized.jpg


1: knowledge or understanding of one's own capabilities, character, feelings, or motivations


Self-knowledge is a term used in psychology to describe the information that an individual draws upon when finding an answer to the question "What am I like?".

While seeking to develop the answer to this question, self-knowledge requires ongoing self-awareness and self-consciousness (which is not to be confused with consciousness.) Young infants and even animals will display some of the traits self-awareness and agency, yet not be considered as also having self-consciousness. At some greater level of cognition, however, a self-conscious component emerges in addition to an increased self-awareness component, and then it becomes possible to ask "What am I like?", and to answer with self-knowledge.

For lessons on the topic of Self Knowledge, follow this link.

Self-knowledge is a component of the self, or more accurately, the self-concept. It is the knowledge of one's self and one's properties and the desire to seek such knowledge that guide the development of the self concept. Self-knowledge informs us of our mental representations of ourselves, which contain attributes that we uniquely pair with ourselves, and theories on whether these attributes are stable, or dynamic.

The self-concept is thought to have three primary aspects:

  • The Cognitive Self
  • The Affective Self
  • The Executive Self

The affective and executive selves are also known as the felt and active selves respectively, as they refer to the emotional and behavioral components of the self-concept. Self-knowledge is linked to the cognitive self in that its motives guide our search to gain greater clarity and assurance that our own self-concept is an accurate representation of our true self; for this reason the cognitive self is also referred to as the known self. The cognitive self is made up of everything we know (or think we know about ourselves). This implies physiological properties such as hair color, race, and height etc.; and psychological properties like beliefs, values, and dislikes to name but a few.[1]


Self Knowledge is a major topic in the ancient wisdom tradition Vedanta, and is acquired after the student makes certain preparations, such as the practice of austerities, cultivating calm, freeing oneself from cravings and aversion, and then performs the ātma-vicāra, or self-enquiry. This knowledge is that all things are one. The consciousness of the individual soul and the soul of God are the same.

This knowledge, while normally acquired under the direction of a guru or teacher, is not taught in the traditional sense, but is experienced directly by the prepared student, by the process of insight alone, who performs the vicāra.

Vedanta is a form of monism or advaita (non-dualism), which sees the world as being all part of a single whole.

One of the earliest teachers of Vedanta was Adi Shankaracharya, who wrote commentaries which helped organize and explain the subtle concepts of the Upanishads.

Shankara taught that the reason why we suffer in life is because we are seeking happiness, fulfillment, and completeness in the external world of forms, in the form of kama (sense-pleasure), artha (security), and dharma (civic duty).

As one reaches the last two stages of life, one realizes that none of these things brought lasting happiness and a sense of completeness.

Shankara taught that the source of our suffering is a form of ignorance. Therefore, no action will cure this affliction. The lasting remedy is in the form of knowledge alone, and this is the knowledge of the true nature of Self.

Once this knowledge is attained, by direct experience, it is said that one attains a kind of lasting happiness, and this prepares one for transition out of the world of name and form, i.e., death of the body.[2]

See also