Delphic Maxims: Know What You Have Learned (Γνωθι μαθων)

I have this trick of being able to repeat a phone number in my mind until I have a chance to enter it into my phone. Once I’ve got it safely squared away, I promptly forget the number. It’s a really good example of not knowing what I’ve learned.

This whole series on the Delphic Maxims is an active expression of this one Maxim. I could memorize the list, but would I know it? For instance, it’s not enough to remember to Know Thyself, one actually has to put in the work. Memorizing by rote is not learning. Regurgitating facts to pass a test is not learning. I can learn how to drive by reading a book, but does it then follow that I know how to drive without ever getting behind the wheel?

So many of the Maxims exhort us to examine our lives and our world carefully, and to take nothing for granted or at face value. This one specifically tells us to not take our education for granted. To apply this to the Pagan community, it could tell you not to take your religious training and education for granted. Don’t take everything at face value, but dig deeper and be certain you really know what you’re working with.

Whether this is ceremonial magick, calling the quarters or celebrating the Deipnon, consider whether you know it well. Do not settle for rote, which can become superstition. So often we think of doing things better as requiring more bling, but think of how much of a difference it makes between having superficial knowledge and knowing the layers and intricacies.

Have you memorized trivia about the Gods? Or do you know them? Can you recite the Sephiroth of the Tree of Life, or do you know them?

Every time I try to wrap this post up, it keeps going, which surprises me, because this seemed such a bland Maxim. There seems to be also an interesting sexual imagery here. Thanks to early translations of the Bible into English, we also have to know as a figure of speech representing carnal knowledge. I have known many men, but I have known only a few. There is a degree of intimacy implied, and yet that intimacy is only one kind. Someone you have been friends with for years may be someone whose mind and heart you know well, but carnal knowledge is a different kind. It’s passion, fire, need, vulnerability, triumph and primal, but it can leave the mind and heart obscured.

The whole concept of romantic love in our culture comes from both kinds of knowledge. We have a desire to truly know someone, and to be truly known. We have in our culture created as the pinnacle of human relationships one in which we truly know each other. A relationship that is well-rounded and whole.

Maybe that’s something to take into other areas of our life. To look at things holistically, from lofty virtue to bone and blood.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.


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