Following on the heels of a wonderful case study centered around a verse from the Gita, let us take up another case for our continued discussion.

Here we have a very interesting statement from the Voice of the Silence:

Saith the Great Law:—”In order to become the KNOWER of ALL SELF * thou hast first of SELF to be the knower.” To reach the knowledge of that SELF, thou hast to give up Self to Non-Self, Being to Non-Being, and then thou canst repose between the wings of the GREAT BIRD.

* The Tatwagyanee is the “knower” or discriminator of the principles in nature and in man; and Atmagyaneeis the knower of ATMAN or the Universal, ONE SELF.

Let us examine this verse with the same earnestness as has been displayed thus far in our study!

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Saith the Great Law: — "In order to become the KNOWER of ALL SELF (9) thou hast first of SELF to be the knower." To reach the knowledge of that SELF, thou hast to give up Self to Non-Self, Being to Non-Being, and then thou canst repose between the wings of the GREAT BIRD.

I feel like a dog chasing it's own tail. Here's a snapshot of what's going on in my mind as I contemplate this: "thou hast first of SELF to be the knower." ok I'm starting from the position of being the knower. I am the knower. "thou hast to give up Self to Non-Self". Give up Jimmy to non-Jimmy. What is Jimmy? Is Jimmy the knower? Wait a minute. How is it that I'm able to ask "what is Jimmy?" I thought I was Jimmy. Hold on. What is this "I" that's asking. If I am able to hold "Jimmy" out for consideration, then the "I" that is considering Jimmy is not Jimmy. And so on, and so on.

Where's the resolution to this? I keep trying to grab on to something, and just as soon as I think it's within sight, it evades me. I can't nail down exactly what it is that is "knowing". As soon as I turn the light of knowing on what "It" is that is knowing, I wind up in the same position as before. Perhaps there isn't a knower. Maybe it's just "knowing".

Hehe... I like this dialog. It's quite familiar ;)

I keep trying to grab on to something... I can't nail down exactly what it is that is "knowing"...

That might be the problem. ;) Perhaps it's not that there's no knower, but that the knower isn't an objective thing, and so not capable of itself being grasped onto (the way one can grasp onto a personality). The knower is behind that which is trying to grasp. A hand can grab many objects, but it cannot grab hold of itself.

It seems to me that since we're accustomed to dealing with our personality (or lower self), we sort of assume that our higher Self is going to share the same kind of traits as it, but just 'higher', and so we go looking for those kinds of traits when we seek that higher Self. But this seems flawed to me. I think we're actually seeking something so altogether different from the lower self that we need to shift our expectations of what we'll find.

"That might be the problem."

Yes, you are right. I was listening to a non-duality teacher today, and he said we can't find Buddha with Buddha, we can't find light with light. It makes sense.

"...we need to shift our expectations of what we'll find."

What expectations should we have?

What expectations should we have?

Now that's a wonderful question!! I suppose it brings us to "what is the role of 'knowledge' in the path" if what we're aiming for is experiential 'knowing'?

In the quote we read:

”In order to become the KNOWER of ALL SELF * thou hast first of SELF to be the knower.”

We see two distinct versions of "knower"—in all-caps and in lowercase—and it seems to state that we must have the latter (lowercase usage) prior to being capable of the former (all-caps) usage. So, perhaps it is a matter of creating a conceptual map, so to speak, based on SELF that may lead us towards the "gnosis", as Sveta put it, of that ALL SELF (?).

One can drive a car home, but when one arrives, one parks the car and enters the home without it. And perhaps this is a little like that.

Any one else have thoughts on Jimmy's question?


Emerson called the Oversoul an universal eye.  Non-Jimmy, (as well as non-Gerry for that matter) is this same universal eye.  We have also the expression, "I have seen the enemy and it is me."  I think this means that our limited notion of ourself is our primary obstacle. If we study and study but do not chip away at our false notion of self we have gained but little, so we are told.  There is a universal sense of Self sitting beyond the personal self.  Read Whitman's Leaves of Grass to get a sense of the affinities of this Self.  Incredible.


"Emerson called the Oversoul an universal eye."


We might also call it the universal 'I' in the sense that it is the every present 'subject' or Self in all sentient beings.   From this perspective the 'I' is pure consciousness, awareness.  It becomes 'me' as that awareness - reflected in a vehicle of consciousness (an upadhi) - identifies with the form in which it is reflected.   According to the Advaitees, Awareness is the one true existence, SAT.  Also, according to this tradition, there are two fundamental types of knowledge:   knowledge of the world (material and subtle) and knowledge of the Self, Atman.  The former is always relative, dependent on other things and therefore, while useful, it is no real knowledge at all.  The latter, knowledge of the Self is the only true knowledge (jnana) and the knower of the Self is called a Jnani.

The Self can never really be an object of knowledge.  The eye does not see itself, nor can awareness ever be an object of awareness.  Perhaps we have moments when we can 'rest in awareness', free of the opposites.  

Sankara says that knowledge of Brahman (Atman) is non other than Brahman.  HPB quotes him as follows:  

'The knowledge of the absolute Spirit, like the effulgence of the sun, or like heat in fire, is naught else than the absolute Essence itself..'  (SD I 6)


That is an excellent adaptation of the idea.  Bravo!

There is knowing, and then there is Gnosis. The knowledge of self is not the same as Gnosis of the Self. It is in the cognizance of the latter which rends the veil of the individuated self concept. Insodoing, we fit ourselves for initiation- dying from the self and reborn as the Self which is symbolic of the Phoenix.

Yes, In order to "know",  one has to BE.  It is a process of transformation, lifting oneself up plane by plane,  from the gross to the subtle.  It is not an external knowing by the brain-mind but internal perception by being.   

”In order to become the KNOWER of ALL SELF * thou hast first of SELF to be the knower.” To reach the knowledge of that SELF, thou hast to give up Self to Non-Self, Being to Non-Being, and then thou canst repose between the wings of the GREAT BIRD.

What is "Gnosis of the Self"?

I believe gnosis of the Self involves the relationship between the Atmic individuality and Deific essense of the universe, via wisdom if you ride the GREAT BIRD.  Blavatsky cites aquatic birds (air and water) but I don't know what is said about the Phoenix (fire). I look forward to looking into it. 

Cited in an online glossary (Hamsa):

“In this alone is contained the universal mystery, the doctrine of the identity of man’s essence with god-essence, for him who understands the language of wisdom. Hence the glyph of, and the allegory about, Kalahansa (or hamsa), and the name given to Brahma neuter (later on, to the male Brahma) of ‘Hansa-Vahana,’ he who uses the Hansa as his vehicle. The same word may be read ‘Kalaham-sa’ or ‘I am I’ in the eternity of Time, answering to the Biblical, or rather Zoroastrian ‘I am that I am’ ” (SD 1:78).



Does knowing lead to Gnosis?  What does it mean to know something?

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Permalink Reply by Di Kaylor on January 13, 2013 at 8:55am

To know SELF, I recall being asked how an amnesiac knows he/she exists, having lost the memory of personality (hypothetically), or that inner sense that I exist regardless of qualifying who I am in any way.  It’s very close to the feeling I have when I truly trust something or someone without articulating why even to myself.  I know that’s a far cry from the passage, however.

This passage is about traveling from ignorance to wisdom, as we learn. Aligning oneself to one’s Higher Self, the Atma, or your individuality rather than your personality is a big step, almost seeming insurmountable at times.  If you are just becoming familiar with reincarnation,  adding to that the study of the greater cycles, it will at some time concern most people what it is exactly that carries on throughout lives.  Just as you get used to thinking you ARE that individuality, or you start seeking that feeling of unity constantly, still it may occur to you to feel loss about what it means to merge with a unified “self.”  You really start thinking about the purpose of life, and what is important to learn from living.

The question may reframed as what is wisdom? To be the knower of all things “self.” That this is even do-able amazes me. That I could choose to try, is the next amazing realization.

Actually, my first thought when I read this passage was that riding Hansa, the GREAT BIRD, is a wonderfully engaging image. Add to that the meaning behind it (divine wisdom beyond the reach) and connected to stories of swans (Kala Hamsa) and I think pelicans in some storylines.  The footnotes indicate that the yogi who rides Hansa is not affected by karmic influences. The outcome is the ability to act so wisely we stop creating karmic consequences.

I’m not sure I understand why it is restful to ride between the wings.  Sweet, yes.  Maybe Nirvanic?



Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 13, 2013 at 6:43pm

What does it mean to "give up Self to Non-Self, Being to Non-Being"?

And what do we think of the terms "Self" and "non-Self"?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 13, 2013 at 7:20pm

I think it means to give up our personality self to the Higher Self.  The passage demands sacrifice of our personality - our likes and dislikes, our attachment to the evanescent, our pride and ego, etc. 

And for most, the Monad (Higher Self) is the Non-Self because it is so "insubstantial" to us at this point of evolution.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 14, 2013 at 10:45am

Thanks Barbara! So, due to our limited perspective and conditioning, Self (in the sense of the Monad) appears to us as "non-self"? This does seem to match my current understanding. HPB says that the arupa planes are arupa to us, and so perspective does seem all-important when approaching these terms.

Do you feel there are distinctions to be made between the use of the term Self and the term Being in this quote?

Permalink Reply by barbaram on January 14, 2013 at 9:34pm

Hi Jon:

I think, giving up “Being to Non-Being” refers to the time when one loses their sense of separateness and identifies with the One Life.  From the angle of the personality, it is a loss of being to non-being for the drop has merged back in the ocean.       


Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 17, 2013 at 10:51pm

This is a lovely way to view it, thanks :)

Permalink Reply by Sharisse on January 15, 2013 at 11:01pm

I came across this today and was surprised how it relates so well with this statement:

Having forsaken the sense of I, might, insolence, Desire, anger, possession; Unselfish and at peace, One is fit to become Brahman. Having become Brahman, tranquil in the self, One neither grieves, nor desires; Regarding all beings as equal, One attains supreme dedication to me. Through this dedication, One knows me in essence; Then having known me essentialy, One forthwith enters into me. Ever performing all actions, Taking refuge in me, By my grace, One reaches the eternal, imperishable abode. Renouncing all action to me with your mind, Intent on me, relying on the yoga of understanding. Become constantly mindful of me. Mindful of me, you will cross all obstacles by my grace. But if, due to your sense of I, you will not pay heed, You will perish. (BG 18:53-58)

I think, in my limited view, that it's about ultimate freedom. From our own limiting selves. And just as everyone is saying letting go of the personal identity (fear, ambition). Being freed from suffering, as the ego does not continue once liberated. We can not bring ourselves if we want to rest on or be one with the Great Bird. Not necessarily a physical death, but more of an awakening.

Permalink Reply by Jon Fergus on January 17, 2013 at 10:54pm

Thank you Sharisse! This passage is very powerful, particularly the impact of that last sentence.