Entering the Wilderness of the Undiscovered Self

Theme of the following quotations: Some persons will respond to the call of spiritual emergency by resolving to become their authentic selves. The person who does so initiates a psychological process that tends increasingly to differentiate herself from the values and beliefs bestowed her by the happenstance of the social and cultural conditioning into which she was born and raised. Relative to the community of shared values and beliefs that she previously knew, she has metaphorically exiled herself into the isolation of the wilderness of her own undiscovered self. There she will thread her way by distinguishing between the values and beliefs given her by society and those revealed by her own nature and determined by her own choosing.

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To individuate you must go your own way in life, breaking free of the social pressures and beliefs that keep you from being who you are, going off, symbolically speaking, into the dark forest or into the wilderness, finding your own unique path, thereby becoming a true individual. You must be liberated from the womb of culture and from the conditioned ego-personality and persona it supports.

~ Keiron Le Grice,
contemporary mythologist, educator, writer
in The Rebirth of the Hero


On one or on several occasions in the course of their lives, even the most harmless people do not altogether escape coming into conflict with the fine virtues of piety and gratitude. Sooner or later each of us must take the step that separates him from his father, from his mentors; each of us must have some cruelly lonely experience–even if most people cannot take much of this and soon crawl back.

~ The character of Demian, in Demian,
by Herman Hesse (1877-1962),
German author


Certainly, however, in the later stages of what I had thought was a lonely trail I came upon the outskirts of a country which seemed to be well known to the few, though little spoken of and I think unguessed at by the many.

~ Joanna Field (1900-1998),
English author,
in A Life of One’s Own


Conscientious – so call I him who goeth into god-forsaken wildernesses, and hath broken his venerating heart….

Hungry, fierce, lonesome, god-forsaken: so doth the lion will wish itself.

Free from the happiness of slaves, redeemed from deities and adorations, fearless and fear-inspiring, grand and lonesome: so is the will of the conscientious.

In the wilderness have ever dwelt the conscientious, the free spirits as lords of the wilderness; but in the cities dwell the well-foddered, famous wise ones – the draught beasts.

~ The character of Zarathustra in Thus Spake Zarathustra,
by Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900),
German philosopher


We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness, which no one else can make for us, which no one can spare us, for our wisdom is the point of view from which we come at last to regard the world.

~ Marcel Proust (1871-1922),
French novelist


What constitutes “personal authority”? Stated most simply, it means to find what is true for oneself and to live it in the world. If it is not lived, it is not real for us, and we abide in what Sartre called “bad faith,” the theologian calls “sin,” the therapist calls “neurosis,” and the existential philosopher calls “inauthentic being.” Respectful of the rights and perspectives of others, personal authority is neither narcissistic nor imperialistic. It is a humble acknowledgement of what wishes to come to being through us.

~ James Hollis,
Ccontemporary author and Jungian analyst,
in Finding Meaning in the Second Half of Life


Each man had only one genuine vocation–to find the way to himself…. His task was to discover his own destiny–not an arbitrary one–and live it out wholly and resolutely within himself. Everything else was only a would-be existence, an attempt at evasion, a flight back to the ideals of the masses, conformity and fear of one’s own inwardness. The new vision rose up before me, glimpsed a hundred times, possibly even expressed before but now experienced for the first time by me. I was an experiment on the part of Nature, a gamble within the unknown, perhaps for a new purpose, perhaps for nothing, and my only task was to allow this game on the part of primeval depths to take its course, to feel its will within me and make it wholly mine. That or nothing!

~ The character of Demian, in Demian,
by Herman Hesse (1877-1962),
German author


I must be myself. I cannot break myself any longer for you, or you. If you can love me for what I am, we shall be the happier. If you cannot, I will still seek to deserve that you should. I will not hide my tastes or aversions. I will so trust that what is deep is holy, that I will do strongly before the sun and moon whatever inly rejoices me, and the heart appoints.

~ Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1882),
American author, poet, and philosopher,
in Self Reliance


Our relationship to past symbols of authority is changing because we are awakening to ourselves as individual beings with an inner rulership. Property and credentials and status are not as intimidating any more… New symbols are rising: pictures of wholeness. Freedom sings within us as well outside us.

~ M. C. Richards (1916-1999)
American author, poet, potter
in The Crossing Point


We are designed, coded, it seems, to place the highest priority on being individuals, and we must do this first, at whatever cost, even if it means disability for the group.

~ Lewis Thomas (1913-1993),
American physician, poet, etymologist
in The Medusa and the Snail


I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference

~ Robert Frost (1874-1963),
American poet,
in The Road Not Taken


~ Note: If you have found these quotes to be supportive, you may be interested in my book How to Be Yourself: A Guide to Living an Authentic Life which contains more than 300 quotations such as these which are organized into different topics related to authenticity. The book is available on Amazon in print and ebook format. (See top right cover image for a link to more info). ~

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