THE antiques living in Greece had a saying: "gnoti seouton," meaning: know yourself. This was long before the arrival of Christianity, like the birth of Christ in this world.

When the apostle Paul made his travels through Asia he visited also Rome, the capitol of the Roman Empire. He found there the Pantheon, the temple of all the ancient gods. One statue was there that had a sign in front of it saying: the "unknown god." And then Paul said to the Romans: this is the God of Christianity, the real God.

The antiques knew already the importance of self-knowledge, knowing yourself, although they never had heard the message of Christ about man as a beautiful creature of God, created by God in his image and likeness.

The Carmelite Saint Teresa of Avila who lived in Spain during the 16th century wrote a book with the title “The Inner Castle.” You can compare this with the big castles of the Middle Ages, where there are many different rooms and living quarters of the servants.

According to Teresa, you can roam around there and find all kind of different experiences like, rest and restlessness, wisdom, confrontation with your own uncertainty and vanity. But the most important thing you experience there is that the Divine King dwells there. In our soul, in our inner self God lives there. The purpose of solitude and silence is to get to know this Divine Inhabitant. To let His light shine from the inside through all the rooms and quarters towards the outside.

Self knowledge

Teresa tries to show her sisters, for whom she writes her book in the first place, the importance of ‘self knowledge.’ To know yourself as a beautiful creature of God, made in His image and likeness, in whom He finds his "delight." God loves us in the way we are. He himself made us. He likes to dwell in us, be at home with us, to encounter us in our deepest self.

In order to become aware of this, you need to become silent and turn into yourself. When we keep on running around and we get lost in things outside us, like entertainment, possessions, apparent certainties, we lose contact with Him and then you need also courage to turn back into yourself. You realize every time again that you obscure that Loving light. Uncertainties creep in and tell you that you are ‘not good enough’ as you have been created by Him. And this leads again to all kind of wrong judgments about yourself and others.

Another mystic once said: “Self knowledge teaches us from experience, that life comes only through a kind of death: a death to the old way of understanding about ourselves and others.

Road toward the inside

The road toward the inside is a road of letting go, letting go of what you think you should be, letting go of thinking that things of the outside can give you certainties, forgetting that you should be somewhere else than where you are. Then you have to let go of the idea that you have to keep control over your life yourself.

Only then there comes space for God to make Himself known and are you able to receive something of His love for you and you discover that He keeps you in his hands. Then you will desire also more intimacy with the divine presence in you and an encounter with God as your friend.

This is what Teresa describes in her autobiography so beautifully: “I think the interior prayer is nothing else than encountering God as a friend; you know that you are loved by Him and you are often alone with Him.

For Teresa is praying not so much saying a lot of prayers but having a loving and personal encounter with Him. You can pour out your heart with Him and being silent together with Him and enjoying this.

(Email: nolvanvugt@gmail.com)