Know Thyself: The Way of Socrates

Osho on Socrates

Socrates is a Greek philosopher, who lived during a period of untold atrocities, amidst the experiences of death, war, and disease in ancient Greece. He is considered as a revolutionary sage who rescued the future Athenian leader Alcibiades during a siege on the city of Potidaea in 432 B.C and known for his strong awareness of death with less mystical interpretations.

Socrates guided the masses with a more realistic perception of the world through a deep-inquiry in the true nature of our very existence. He realized that the master key to attain true wisdom is to first admit one’s ignorance of things in life that I know absolutely nothing about existence followed by an inquiry into our true nature. 

Osho says Socrates had become a child again, but he had risked all his wisdom, philosophy, his great intelligence, all his arguments, his whole life’s effort of winning against opponents in debates, discussions. He had become the topmost intelligent man in Greece. But he had the tremendous courage to say, “I know nothing.”

Osho Says….




It is one of the misfortunes that Socrates has not really been the source of Western thinking and philosophy. Socrates was not in any way Western. Spiritually he belongs to the East, and that was the trouble, the reason that the Greek people could not tolerate him. He was poisoned, killed. His poisoning not only killed him physically, it also cut him away from the Western development of thinking. The Western attitude developed, not out of Socrates, but out of Aristotle. Aristotle, in a way — apparently — is the disciple of Plato, and Plato was the disciple of Socrates. But intellectually Aristotle is just the contrary of Socrates.

Socrates is a mystic — not believing in God, not believing in any belief, not teaching an organized religion; but on the contrary giving absolute importance to the individual, and helping the individual to find his own life source. That is the true therapy. “To know thyself” is the condensed meaning of therapy. The function of the therapist is not to teach you who you are, but to create situations in which you start discovering yourself. The first condition is creating self-respect in you — which all the religions are against. They all condemn you. They create a sense of guilt, and that is a wound that goes on growing within you. Whatever you do, something is wrong in it. You can never fulfill the expectations of others for the simple reason that you have a unique individuality. And that was the basic approach of Socrates — the uniqueness of the individual; each one has to discover his own truth.

The function of the teacher, of the master, of the therapist, of the educationist, is to create just the right atmosphere so that you gain self-respect, and to give you an acquaintance with the methods for going inwards. All educational systems take you outwards. Listening to the person — it will look strange, because the teacher’s function is to make you listen to him. The Socratic method is listening to the person respectfully, patiently, so that he can open up. He need not repress anything, he need not inhibit anything; he can be utterly naked and yet remain dignified. If a therapist can do that — help a man to be utterly nude, open, with no secret, hiding nothing — the therapist has succeeded, because in this nudity one realizes one’s innocence. One is born again. This nudity is symbolic. Just as a child is born nude, you are born again — now spiritually nude.

Socrates was punished because he was teaching the truth. He had a school — that was his commune — where the whole function was to be respectful to everyone who comes to the school and help him uncondition himself, deprogram himself so he becomes again an innocent child. Socrates has nothing to teach. He simply cleans you and leaves you to yourself, to grow according to your own potential. He does not give you even any guideline, because nobody knows what is hidden in your seed, what kind of flower is going to blossom in you.

All guidelines are dangerous — they may distract you from becoming yourself. This was his crime, and he was dragged to the court. The crime was: “You are spoiling the youth of Athens.” Certainly, in the minds of the mob, he was spoiling them. The mob wanted the people just to follow the well-trodden path of their forefathers.

And Socrates was teaching them to be themselves and to find out the path on their own, with no scripture, no holy book, no God, no guide. Socrates was taking all these things away from you, unburdening you, making you a tabula rasa; nothing is written on you, and you are free now to be whatsoever your nature intends to be. He leaves your future open. Naturally, the masses were against him. Their youth were being destroyed; they were being taken away from the religion, the philosophy, the ideology which had been followed for centuries. “They should carry it, it is their inheritance” — and

Socrates was insisting that you are a totally new being, with no inheritance. Yes, a great potentiality is within you — and it does not come from the past. It is present in you, and it is going to blossom, and only then will you know what you were supposed to be. Before it blossoms there is no way to know it. This was the crime: corrupting the youth. Socrates was punished with the death penalty — and by punishing Socrates, the West committed suicide. It was not the death of Socrates, it was the death of the most important insight into human beings. The West moved farther and farther away from man’s inner being; it became more and more head-oriented.

And because Socrates was punished by death, Plato changed the strategy. He wrote down everything that Socrates had said — and humanity will remain always grateful to Plato — but he changed the whole methodology. He was not so great a man as his master. He opened another school he called “The Academy,” where he was teaching the old ways, the traditional ways, the conventional ways, and people were happy. Nobody was against Plato. Aristotle was Plato’s disciple — he went still farther away. The death of Socrates created a stoppage to the inner growth of man in the West. Aristotle is the father of Western logic, philosophy, analysis. He has been respected for two thousand years. Socrates is also given respect, but nobody makes any effort to revive his school. The meaning of therapy is certainly of great importance, but it is only significant in its Greek origins if you go to Socrates. But the therapy that is prevalent in the world today has nothing to do with Socrates. You will not find even the name of Socrates mentioned in any book on psychology, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, psychiatry. All these have evolved since Sigmund Freud. Sigmund Freud is Aristotelian. He believes in analysis, he believes in dividing things into black and white, right and wrong, good and bad, life and death — clear-cut divisions. According to Aristotle, A is A, B is B. A cannot be B, B cannot be A — a clear-cut division.

It is not so with the mystics. In the East, analysis has never developed. And if Socrates had not been destroyed and his school had not been destroyed, there would have been in the West also, instead of psychoanalysis, far more important therapeutic methods. In the East, black and white are not two, darkness and light are not two. The darkness is simply less light — the difference is of degrees, not of polarities — the light is less darkness. And it is very existential. There are birds, animals who see in the night. When it is night for you, it is day for them; when it is day for you, it is night for them. Their eyes are attuned in a different way: they can see in darkness. That means darkness is not darkness, just for you it is darkness; it is below the range of your eyesight. Too much light you also cannot see; then it is dazzling. Look at the sun sometime — you cannot see. The sun is light, but you start feeling darkness; what has happened? You can even go blind; it is too much, it is far above your small range of vision. Below is darkness, above is again darkness; light is only in a small range. But there are other animals whose range of seeing is different. And it is understandable….

Take something easier: hot and cold. Are they opposites? They are not. Hot simply means less cold; cold simply means less hot. That’s why, with one thermometer, you can know both. How many degrees is the hot water and how many degrees is the cold water — one thermometer can show you both. That means the difference is only of degrees — the same thermometer shows you different degrees. Life and death are also not polar opposites. In the East Aristotle is laughed at, because the East thinks in a totally different way: no opposites, everything is complementary. Hence the question of analysis does not arise. What is significant is synthesis, not analysis, and the East has done tremendous work in synthesis. That’s what Socrates was trying to do. He was bringing the East to the West.

On my dining table I have a small statue somebody has sent to me. It is an ancient statue, it has existed in the East almost for seven thousand years. It is a statue which is half-man, half-woman. Only in this century one man, Carl Gustav Jung, who had traveled widely in the East… he was really disturbed because he could see where the West had gone wrong. Aristotle is the point from which the West separates from the East and takes a route of analysis. Seeing this statue, he managed to work upon his patients and figure out that every man is both man and woman. And so is the case with woman, she is both woman and man. Man and woman are two sides of one coin. One side is showing, the other side is hidden. If you are a man, your feminine side is hidden — but it is there, and it affects your life. It is better to recognize it, understand it. It is better to come to a synthesis between man and woman. Drop the Aristotelian idea that man is man, woman is woman, A is A, B is B; no, A is both, B is both. All contradictions have to be brought into a synthetic, organic unity.

But because Aristotle has remained a tremendous influence on Western thinking, Sigmund Freud created psychoanalysis; man’s mind has to be analyzed. There are millions of psychotherapists around the earth today, and this is the most highly-paid profession. And there is not even a single person in the whole world who is fully psychoanalyzed, the very effort is impossible. You go on analyzing, and the mind goes on creating new thoughts, new dreams, new projections, new illusions. There is no end to it; there are people who have been in psychoanalysis for fifteen years and they have reached nowhere. Yes, they have given a large amount of money to the psychoanalyst, thinking that when analysis is complete they will be again healthy and whole. But the psychoanalysis can never be complete. The very effort is directed into a wrong dimension. Psychosynthesis can be complete. And psychosynthesis should work differently. There is one Italian psychologist, Assagioli, who has created a philosophy of psychosynthesis against Sigmund Freud’s psychoanalysis. But the unfortunate part is that it is still within the framework of Aristotelian logic. Psychoanalysis is one polarity, psychosynthesis is the opposite of it — the same game, just the names are different. Assagioli is using a better name, but it is not of any help.

Socrates has to be revived again, Aristotle has to be removed. And that’s what I am doing here: bringing Socrates back to life — because Socrates is essentially the East, where analysis has never existed — nobody has ever thought about it — where organic unity has always been the goal to be achieved. So if a man is sick, that simply means that religions, cultures, civilizations have made him split, they have divided him. They have told him the body is separate, the soul is separate; matter is separate, the spirit is separate; this world is separate, that world is separate; materialism and spiritualism are enemies. I call the new man Zorba the Buddha, for the simple reason that to me materialism and spiritualism are not separate, they are inseparable. The moment you make them separate, you make humanity sick. And all analysis is separation, division.

There is no need — you are already existing in unity, your body and your soul are existing together in tremendous harmony. But if you are being told to be against the body, fight the body, control the body, inhibit the desires of the body, then naturally you are going to become schizophrenic. And the whole of humanity is in that situation. Everybody who belongs to any organized religion is schizophrenic, he is not whole. And unless you are whole, you can never be holy. None of your saints are holy, because they have missed the basic thing — they are not whole. They have chosen a part, and they have destroyed other parts of their being. They are partial. And man is not a machine. You can function only in your wholeness; that is health. You cannot function if you are against your own body, your own sensuality, sexuality, your own taste, desire for comfort, for luxury. If you are against all these things, then you can live only a very partial life. And that partial life cannot be of joy, cannot be of laughter. It will be so crippled you cannot dance, and it will be so dead you cannot sing…

Therapy is not psychoanalysis — I mean, my therapy is not psychoanalysis. My therapy is psychosynthesis, but not that of Assagioli. Assagioli’s psychosynthesis is very poor; it is just a reaction against Sigmund Freud. It has no true and authentic vision of synthesis itself. He is just fighting an argument against analysis; it is argumentative, it is still Aristotelian. My synthesis is not against Sigmund Freud’s analysis; on the contrary, it includes it, it is inclusive of Sigmund Freud’s analysis. Then it is true synthesis. Do you see the difference? Assagioli is against Sigmund Freud — again the division. Sigmund Freud has to be wrong, Assagioli has to be right. My psychosynthesis is big enough: it includes Sigmund Freud, he is not to be left out. Then it is non-Aristotelian, then it is organic. We accept his contribution. We don’t stop at that, we go far ahead of him, but whatever he has done can be accepted in the right context and it melts into the organic unity of therapy.


therapy is hearing the patient, respecting the patient, accepting whatever he is, giving him encouragement to be himself, destroying the idea of becoming somebody else, helping him to stand on his own feet, helping him to drop all divisions between materialism and spiritualism, making him an organic unity, an orchestra. Then life is a benediction. Out of this orchestra will arise what I call religiousness — the fragrance, the song, the music — but it will be total. It will have all the ingredients that constitute you, it will have all the instruments that nature has given to you…Life is the art of arranging all the instruments of your being into an orchestra. Of course, each individual will have his own song and his own music, but that makes life rich, that makes this earth immensely valuable. Everybody is contributing something to its beauty and its blessings.

Therapy is not only for people who are insane. Therapy is for everybody, because humanity’s past has driven almost everybody to a certain degree of insanity. If they are normally mad people then there is no problem, nobody takes note of them. If they are abnormally mad people, then you start taking note of them. And all your psychologists are doing only one work: making the abnormally mad people, normally mad. They are not restoring health.

In India, I was in a university for nine years. Hundreds of professors… it was the hottest place, exactly in the middle of India, and still those idiots were using ties. I asked them, “Are you mad or something? These ties are for cold countries, so no air enters. But here, you need some air.”

This is just normal insanity: in a hot country in summer they are using shirts, coats, ties, socks, boots — and dying within them, boiling, and they were worried about my sanity, because I used to wear a wraparound lungi in the university and just a very thin shawl around my shoulders, half the body open.

When I first entered the university with such a dress, the vice-chancellor said to me, “Are you going to come every day with this dress?”

I said, “If the sun is going to remain the same, I can come even without a dress. It is just out of consideration for you idiots that I am wearing this thin cloth; otherwise, my body is saying ‘Throw it away! It is so hot!'”

The vice-chancellor said, “Wait… don’t…! It is perfectly good, you can come in this dress, but don’t do anything more!”

I said, “Then never ask about my dress. You are all insane! I know you have been educated in Oxford, but I don’t consider you literate. The dress that you are using was perfectly good in Oxford, but not here. And if you don’t have that much intelligence to choose the right dress, then I don’t consider you have intelligence at all.”

Every professor who met me would look first at my dress, and I would say, “Yes? Start asking — but remember that what I am doing is exactly the right thing in this climate. And what you are doing is just insane. Do you want to commit suicide, or what? You are perspiring, your whole body is perspiring; you are stinking of perspiration. I am the only person whose body is getting air, is not perspiring. And I am able to throw off this dress any moment, and have a shower right here in the university.”

Soon they became silent. They would look at my dress but avoid talking about it. These are normally mad people. Just one step more and they will become abnormal; then the function of the psychologist is to bring them to their normal state.

This is not the function of my therapies.

My therapies want you to be a whole, organic being — intelligent, undivided, and living your life with intensity and totality; with no fear of any hell, no greed for any paradise; respecting yourself, not condemning, accepting yourself as you are.

If existence accepts you, what more certificates do you need? The sun does not reject you. The moon does not reject you. The stars are perfectly happy with you; the flowers perfectly enjoy you as you are. The whole existence accepts you. Just be a little kind to yourself, and there will be no need of any psychologists. There will be no need of anybody to bring you back to your innocence, to your real being. You have been born with it, it is your birthright to live it.


This is an excerpt from the transcript of a public discourse by Osho in Buddha Hall, Shree Rajneesh Ashram, Pune. 

Discourse Series: From Bondage to Freedom

Chapter #36

Chapter title: To each his own song

20 October 1985 am in Rajneeshmandir


Osho has spoken on Western Mystics like Gurdjieff, Rumi, Socrates, Zarathustra, Heraclitus, Pythagoras, Diogenes, , St. Francis, Dionysius, Boehme, Eckhart, Baal Shem and many more in His discourses. Some of these can be referred to in the following books/discourses:

  1. Sermons in Stones
  2. Philosophia Perennis, Vol 1, 2
  3. Zarathustra: A God That Can Dance
  4. Zarathustra: The Laughing Prophet
  5. Beyond Psychology
  6. Socrates Poisoned Again After 25 Centuries
  7. Sufis: The People of the Path, Vol 1, 2
  8. The Hidden Splendour
  9. Beyond Enlightenment
  10. The New Dawn
  11. The Sword and The Lotus
  12. The Path of the Mystic
  13. Nansen: The Point of Departure
  14. Om Shantih Shantih Shantih
  15. Light on the Path
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