Self-Help and Self-Knowledge: Are we the sum of our material conditions?

“G-d helps those who help themselves.”

This is a quote that may be familiar to some of us, as something our parents or a mentor might have said to us during a time period when we were wondering what direction to go in, what path to take, which mountain to climb, or not. Although it is often thought to have originated in the bible, Ben Franklin was actually one of the first to state it in that particular way, although there are older quotes attributed to others that basically say the same thing:

“Help thyself, heaven will help thee.” LaFontaine, Book VI, fable 18

“Heaven ne’er helps the men who will not act.” Sophocles

“Help thyself and G-d will help thee.” George Herbert (1593-1633), Jocula Prudentum

Understanding this term is pretty subjective, I think, and depends upon the context and our own personal belief systems. For me, it means that my active participation in the course of my life trumps sitting back and waiting for blessings to rain down upon me. That by moving toward my goals, I create activity that allows G-d to move with me, presenting opportunities and circumstances that bring me closer to the place and life that G-d desires for me to live. This works in the area of synchronicities, where me taking advantage of coincidences that seem to pop up miraculously move me closer to my goals. The fact that these coincidences would not have occured if I had not previously been moving toward my goals is never lost upon me and speaks to a larger constellation of possibilities that transcends religions, that makes it clear that such things do not just happen to Christians alone, but that lies beyond religion in the realm of spirituality, and is the gift and blessing of all of humanity.

Considering the importance of a state of mind, it becomes very clear that we are what we think, and our possibilities are only circumscribed by the limitations of our dreams and desires. The lives that we live, even though they may seem as if they are incontrovertible, and, perhaps, forced upon us by fate, are largely a matter of choice. Moving past one’s personal circumstances then is dependent upon us making the choice to do so, and that is so much easier said than done, especially when our identities are tied up in the material conditions around us, which includes the possessions, the friends, the families, and the society in general.

What does this mean to people who live in ghettos? Trailer parks? The urban wastelands in the underdeveloped countries of the world? Who are stuck in systems of education and economics that leave them foundering, attempting to prosper in a system that seems to relegate them to the margins? And what about those who charge such individuals with responsibility for their conditions? Who state that they must rise above their surroundings and be all they can be, rather than remain, complaining, mired in the morass of abject poverty and engaged in morally reprehensible behavior?

Is this, then, the spiritual equivalent to a bootstrap philosophy as espoused by so many that seem to want those underpriviledged individuals to remain in their impoverished conditions? I submit to you that political posturing, while seeming to mirror higher, spiritual truths, is often based upon personal gain or agendas that require that the words serve a hurtful purpose, and are not accompanied by corresponding actions meant to relieve these people from the desperation of their conditions. Also, talking at people is different from talking to people and judgement of others always invites judgement of Self, and hypocrisy is an ever-present condemnation of those who seek to gain power over others by misapplying spiritual truisms out of context. While the words themselves may act to empower an individual who hears them to make positive change in her or his life, the responsbility inherent within speaking such words invites the creation of karma for the person speaking, dependent upon the intention, context, applicability and effects of the words spoken.

But it must never be forgotten that we are, indeed, free agents of sorts, and that we are responsible for our conditions to the extent that we can change them ourselves, be that an individual task or something better charged to groups of like-minded people, bent upon changing their worlds. The interpretation of our material conditions being subjective – and dependent upon our frame of mind and experiences – we must always recall that some of the happiest people in the world have very few material goods, and that this lack of wealth does not seem to affect their spirituality negatively at all. Which gives rise to that perennial question:

Are we, then, the sum of our material conditions? Am I that person who got raped when I was  ten years old? That person that was bullied when I was twelve? That person who won all those championships when I was eighteen? that person who got fired for doing something stupid on that job when I was twenty-nine? That person who did this and received those benefits during that time in this place?  And, if we decide that yes, that is who we are, what does that mean for us today? Are we the same person now as we were then?

What if we make another choice? A choice not to be that person anymore? What if we choose to be who we are right Now and let all of that go? Let the past go, forget it; let the future go, let it come on it’s own, and create ourselves anew with each moment, manifesting the truth of who we are right this moment. Is that possible? Realistic? Desireable?

Self-knowledge is perhaps the greatest journey that any individual can make. Going within one’s Self is a more fateful and fearful journey than climbing Mount Everest, or crossing the Sahara, or swimming the English Channel. Making that trip into one’s past in order to clear terrible memories, going deep within in order to confront fears and phobias is a trip that we would much rather put off for our entire lifetimes. Somehow, we believe that repressing these memories and feelings is a proper response to them. Often, the feelings that we get that make us keep secrets, or deny what we’re feeling, come from some sense of familial or societal pressure to conform to some abstract conception of normalcy, and we fester beneath the smiles and loud talk, living lives of quiet desperation as we die inside, our visages and postures twisted over the years as the ugliness within us grows stronger, the fear more palpable, the memories stronger and more present, taking over our present and making our future a reflection of what has been, rather than what should be.

The act of changing one’s destiny, then, means that we must know who we are, fully. We must recognize our fears and phobias and move to diffuse their power over us. The practice of repressing feelings and memories must be seen as an automatic fear response coming from ego, that feeds upon these buried emotions and feelings, solidifying its position as the sole purveyor and interpreter of your, our, reality. Beyond ego lies the Watcher, the observer, the seat of the soul and consciousness, where our true Self lies waiting for us to activate the power that we possess from birth, the ability to manifest whatever we desire in our lives and in the world around us.

“For G-d has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and self-control.” 2 Timothy 1:7

Beyond denomination and religion lies Truth. Conscious intention and creative visualization allow us to manifest our realities beyond the ability of any perceived circumstance to maintain itself as our one and only everlasting truth.  The way others see us and even the way we see ourselves are illusions based upon our addiction to the past and future,  our need for continuity and our fear of the unknown, the unknown in this case being ourselves, the “I” that lies beyond the experiences in our past and that lies waiting for us to remove the blinders and reveal what has been hidden within us each for far too long and allow ourselves to blaze forth like stars, shouting in triumph to the multiverse as we finally open our eyes and awaken to the truth of who, and what, we truly are.

You know that this is true. Think back. Think about situations that have occured in your life when you have made an incontrovertible decision. When you have known – I mean, absolutely known for a fact – that you just had to do something. That there was no way around it, and, more importantly, that you did not want to get around it, you wanted to do it, had to do it. You felt powerful, didn’t you? You felt very clear, knew what you had to do, how you had to do it, why and when. And you did it, didn’t you, and everything turned out the way that it was supposed to, moving you forward into your destiny and bringing you to this moment, right here, right now, where you are reading this and realizing that you know all of this already and that all these words are doing is releasing that power again, awakening your memory of visualization, pinging that Self purposefully obscured by the ego’s selfish machinations and bringing a great big smile to the face of your soul as it strengthens, and as the ego weakens, just that much more. This conversation that we’re having right now is a conversation with yourself, as you consider and realize that you are not the sum of your material conditions and that you are exactly who and what you decide to be, right now, and right here, in this moment.

That’s powerful, isn’t it? And do you feel that power fading right this moment, right Now, as thoughts about your circumstances arise to do combat with your feeling of invincibility? For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction. Are you having thoughts about the lack of money in your pockets and the perceived inevitability of you ever having enough money in your pockets? Do these thoughts make you feel weaker? Do you feel the helplessness, the hopelessness increasing as you lose yourself in past memories of failure or future hopes of prosperity, and the Now recedes? What about the situation you find yourself in with your significant other? The impossibility of carrying on normal relationships with your father? Your mother? Close your eyes and remember that feeling of power and control, and let it rise to pervade your consciousness while you let all of these negative thoughts dissipate into the moment and you feel the Now awakening, manifesting in your life. Open your eyes and notice how crisp and clear everything is, how colors are brighter when you’re not wasting your time worrying about the past and fearing the future, how your every sense is focusing upon the moment, upon the Now, upon life as lived, not as we force it to be through the imposition of the past and future upon the life we’re living right this second.

Awaken the G-d within your Self and manifest your chosen reality. Tap that divine power that is your birthright and be who you know you are, letting no one or no thing distract you from this goal and watch, and see, as the multiverse laughs in sublime delight and moves with you, presenting you with opportunities and circumstances that lead you directly into that life that you were born to live.



  1. This post resonates hard-core with me. It sounds crazy to say it’s taken me years to get to this Now, yet it seems true. I am here in this Now. After this Now, there will be another that is a little or a lot different. The Now. Identity. Saying yes to Life living itself through me. This is where I find myself these days and I’m totally stoked about it. You write things here that I haven’t sat down to describe in detail for myself. I like where you go, the trails your mind runs barefoot over. Thank you for opening up and sharing 🙂

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