The Authority of Your Own Personal Experience

“What of your training, Hercules, my son? …”

“… One thing, O Teacher, I must tell to you and thus deceive you not. The fact is not so long ago I slew all those who taught me in the past. I killed my teachers, and in my search for liberty, I now stand free. I seek to know myself, within myself and through myself.”

“My son, that was a deed of wisdom, and now you can stand free. Proceed to labour now …”

~ The characters of Hercules and his Teacher in The Labours of Hercules
by Alice A. Bailey (1880-1949),
American esotericist

 

All of us are swimming within the mystery of existence which is littered with the flotsam of differing opinions about the nature and purpose of life. To which do you cling to for solace, support, or guidance? Why?

The opinions are diverse and contradictory. Some teachers affirm that there’s eternal life after death. Others instruct to live this life with gusto, for it’s the only one you have. Others warn you’ll be reborn maybe as a cockroach, if you don’t watch your step. Some thump holy books, pointing to this or that verse for the authority of their venom. Some assert there’s a deeper nature. Laughing out loud, others reply, “Are you kidding!? The person with the most toys wins.”

Too often, we unquestioningly accept the opinions and beliefs of others. We vest authority in friends, parents, teachers, culture, tradition, main stream media, conspiracy theories, books, science, spiritual teachings, etc. for the beliefs to which we cling for meaning. Of course these “authorities” derived the presumed legitimacy of their opinions and beliefs from their friends, parents, teachers, culture, tradition, main stream media, conspiracy theories, books, science, spiritual teachings, etc.

Rarely do we turn to, rely upon, and assert the authority of our own experience. Even more rarely are we directed by teachers to think for ourselves. (These are questions of internalizing the locus of control about which I have written elsewhere: Assuming Responsibility for Conscious Choice and Evaluation and Personal Authenticity Expressing as Autonomy). Yet doesn’t an authentic encounter of your very own existence call you to personally inquire into your existence ‘in yourself and through yourself’ ? Questions of meaning and life direction are far too serious to be quelled by the anecdotal testimony of others.

Authentic inquiry into the nature of one’s own existence might include these following elements: affirmation of personal experience as one’s foremost authority; allowing all possibilities as hypotheses yet to be confirmed; taking responsibility for what one does NOT know from direct experience; and, being responsible to those truths which one has experienced directly.

Would you rather be a follower, a believer, or a knower?

 

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