1. What true knowledge of oneself is and what can be gained from it
Relevant Words of God:
After several thousand years of corruption, man is numb and dull-witted; he has become a demon that opposes God, to the extent that man’s rebelliousness toward God has been documented in the books of history, and even man himself is incapable of giving a full account of his rebellious behavior—for man has been profoundly corrupted by Satan, and has been led astray by Satan such that he knows not where to turn. Even today, man still betrays God: When man sees God, he betrays Him, and when he cannot see God, so too does he betray Him. There are even those who, having witnessed God’s curses and God’s wrath, still betray Him. And so I say that man’s sense has lost its original function, and that man’s conscience, too, has lost its original function. The man that I look upon is a beast in human attire, he is a venomous snake, and no matter how pitiable he tries to appear before My eyes, I will never be merciful toward him, for man has no grasp of the difference between black and white, of the difference between truth and non-truth. Man’s sense is so benumbed, yet still he wishes to gain blessings; his humanity is so ignoble yet still he wishes to possess the sovereignty of a king. Who could he be the king of, with sense such as that? How could he with such a humanity sit atop a throne? Man truly has no shame! He is a conceited wretch! For those of you who wish to gain blessings, I suggest you first find a mirror and look at your own ugly reflection—do you have what it takes to be a king? Do you have the face of one who could gain blessings? There has not been the slightest change in your disposition and you have not put any of the truth into practice, yet still you wish for a wonderful tomorrow. You are deluding yourself! Born into such a filthy land, man has been severely blighted by society, he has been influenced by feudal ethics, and he has been taught at “institutes of higher learning.” The backward thinking, corrupt morality, mean view on life, despicable philosophy for living, utterly worthless existence, and depraved lifestyle and customs—all of these things have severely intruded upon man’s heart, and severely undermined and attacked his conscience. As a result, man is ever more distant from God, and ever more opposed to Him. Man’s disposition becomes more vicious by the day, and there is not a single person who will willingly give up anything for God, not a single person who will willingly obey God, nor, moreover, a single person who will willingly seek the appearance of God. Instead, under the domain of Satan, man does nothing but pursue pleasure, giving himself over to the corruption of the flesh in the land of mud. Even when they hear the truth, those who live in darkness give no thought to putting it into practice, nor are they inclined to seek out God even if they have beheld His appearance. How could a mankind so depraved have any chance of salvation? How could a mankind so decadent live in the light?
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. To Have an Unchanged Disposition Is to Be in Enmity to God
To know yourself is to know your every word and deed, your every movement and action; it is to know your mind and thoughts, your motives, and your notions and imaginings; it is even to know your philosophies for living that are of the world, and the various toxins of Satan within you, as well as the knowledge and education you acquired in school. All these things must be dissected. Though a person may have done a great number of good works since coming to faith in God, many matters may yet be opaque to them, and less still may they have come to an understanding of the truth—yet, because of their many good works, they feel they have already come to live in God’s words, and have submitted to Him, and have quite satisfied His will. This is because when no adverse circumstances arise, you do whatever you are told; you have no qualms about performing any duty, and you do not resist. When you are told to spread the gospel, it is a hardship you can bear, and you offer no complaint, and when you are told to run here and there, or to do manual labor, you do so. Because of these displays, you feel you are one who submits to God and a true pursuer of the truth. Yet were one to question you more deeply and ask, “Are you an honest person? Are you a person who genuinely submits to God? A person with a changed disposition?” then, thus questioned, thus held up against the truth for scrutiny, you—and, it may be said, anyone at all—would be found wanting, and neither is any person able truly to practice according to the truth. Therefore, when the root of all man’s acts and deeds, as well as the essence and nature of his actions, are held up against the truth, all are condemned. What is the reason for this? It is that man does not know himself; he always believes in God in his own way, performs his duty in his own way, and serves God in his own way. What is more, he feels he is full of faith and reason, and, in the end, he feels he has gained much. Without his knowing it, he comes to feel he is already acting in line with God’s will and has satisfied it completely, and that he has already met God’s requirements and is following His will. If this is how you feel, or if, in your several years of belief in God, you feel you have reaped some gains, then all the more should you come back before God to reflect on yourself. You should look at the path you have walked over your years of faith and see whether all your actions and behavior before God have been entirely after His heart, what you do that resists God, what you do that is able to satisfy God, and whether what you do meets God’s requirements and can be entirely in accord with His will—you should be clear on all these things.
—“Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
To know ourselves is to know what things there are in our thoughts and viewpoints that oppose God, that are not at all compatible with the truth, and that do not contain the truth. Man’s arrogance, self-righteousness, lies, and deceit, for instance, are aspects within a corrupt disposition that are easy for people to know. You can come to some knowledge of them simply by fellowshiping the truth a few times, or by fellowshiping often, or by having your state pointed out by your brothers and sisters. In addition, everyone possesses arrogance and deceitfulness, though to varying degrees. However, people’s thoughts and viewpoints are not easy to know; they are not as easy as knowing people’s dispositions. These are deep-rooted things. Therefore, when you have achieved a little change in your behavior and outward conduct, there are still many aspects of your thinking, notions, viewpoints, and the education of traditional culture you have received which are against God and which you have not yet unearthed. These are the deep-seated things that lead to our enmity toward God. Therefore, when God does something that does not conform to your notions, or something that differs from what you imagine God to do, you will resist and oppose it. You will not understand why God has acted so, and, though you know there is truth in everything God does and you may wish to submit, you will find yourself unable to do so. Why can you not submit? Why such resistance and opposition? The reason is that there are some things within man’s thoughts and views that are hostile to God, and that are hostile to the principles by which He acts and to His essence. These thoughts and views are difficult for man to know.
—“Only by Recognizing Your Misguided Views Can You Know Yourself” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
What is there to knowing yourself? First, you must know what disposition you reveal in your words and deeds. Sometimes it is arrogance, sometimes it is craftiness, and sometimes it is evil. Also, when you encounter problems, you have to know whether your motives fail to be in line with God’s will or accord with the truth. You must also know whether your attitude toward your duty is one of shouldering a burden or of being devoted, and whether you are sincere in expending yourself for God or if your doing so is transactional. You must also know whether you have extravagant demands of God, whether you have a heart of submission, and whether you are able to seek the truth in the face of the environments, people, events, and things that God orchestrates. Know, too, whether you are someone who loves the truth, what sort of humanity you have, and whether you possess a conscience and reason, whether you exist within a state of rationalizing and bargaining when you encounter issues, or can seek the truth and let go of your own notions and imaginings, your ambitions, desires, and plans, and whether you are one who seeks the truth. Yet another aspect of knowing yourself is understanding your character, knowing whether you are an upright person and whether you have a conscience and a kind heart. In your approach to every type of environment, person, event, and thing, you can see your own character, and you can come to know whether you are someone who loves the truth and has genuine faith in God. Look also at what sort of attitude you have in issues directly related to God: how He is referred to, His names, His incarnation—are you reverent and do you submit? What else would you say there is? (Knowing the measure of our caliber.) (Understanding our outlook on life, our values, and what we live by. Knowing what our pursuit is, what path we are walking.) These are all things that people should understand. All in all, knowing yourself in every aspect is essentially this: knowing your caliber, knowing your personality, knowing whether you love the truth or not, knowing the path that you are walking, knowing your outlook on life and your values, and knowing every type of attitude you have toward God. All these things are included.
—The Word, Vol. 5. The Responsibilities of Leaders and Workers
If your self-knowledge only involves the cursory recognition of superficial things—if you merely say that you are arrogant and self-righteous, that you rebel against and resist God—then this is not true knowledge, but doctrine. You must integrate the facts into this: You must bring to light the motivations within you for fellowship and dissection in whichever aspects you hold fallacious views or misguided opinions. Only this is truly possessing knowledge. You must focus on knowing your motivations and the source of your essence. You should not gain understanding from your actions alone; you must grasp the crux of it and resolve the root of the problem. Once a period of time has gone by, you must reflect on yourself, and summarize which problems you have resolved, which still remain, and how they should be addressed. So, too, must you seek the truth. You must not always let others lead you; you must have your own path for entry into life. You must frequently examine yourself: what are the things you are doing wrong and are at odds with the truth, which of your words and motivations are wrong, what dispositions you are revealing. If this is how you consistently enter in, and you make strict demands of yourself, then slowly but surely, you will gain more understanding in this regard; ultimately, you will tie it all together and see that you are simply no good. When the day comes that you truly possess such knowledge, you will no longer be capable of arrogance. What is crucial right now? After fellowship and dissection, people are aware of and know about these things, but they still don’t know themselves. Some say: “How could I not know myself? I’m aware of the matters I reveal arrogance in.” If you are aware, then how are you not aware that your disposition is arrogant? Why are there times when you seek personal advancement, when you crave status and distinction? This means your arrogant nature has not been eradicated! Thus, change must start from the motivations, views, and opinions behind your actions. Do you acknowledge that much of what people say is barbed and venomous, that there is an element of arrogance in their tone? Their words carry their motivations and personal opinions; this can be seen from what they say. There are those who have a certain manner of speaking and expression when they don’t betray arrogance, but their presentation shifts when their arrogance shows itself—the ugly face of Satan has shown itself. Everyone harbors motivations. Take those who are crafty: They always whisper and squint their eyes while speaking; there are motivations contained in this. Some people speak in a low voice, furtively; their words contain schemes, but they give nothing away in tone or countenance. Such people are even more treacherous, and are very difficult to save.
—“How to Cross Into the New Age” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
You are now somewhat able to recognize the corrupt disposition you reveal—which corrupt things you are still liable to reveal, which things you are still liable to do. All this, you know. Yet the most difficult thing is being able to control yourselves. You do not know when you will do something or what grave things you are capable of doing. Perhaps there are things that you thought you would never do or words you thought you would never say, but in a given time or environment, you indeed did or said them. People are not able to control these unexpected things. How can this be? It is because people do not thoroughly understand their nature and essence; their knowledge of it is insufficiently deep, so putting the truth into practice is very strenuous for them. For example, some people are quite deceitful, dishonest in word and deed, yet if you ask them in what regard their corruption is most severe, they will say, “I am a little deceitful.” They will merely say they are a little deceitful, but they do not say that their nature itself is deceit, and they do not say that they are a deceitful person. They do not see their own nature all that deeply, and do not look at it as something as serious, nor as thoroughly, as others. Others see that this person is so deceitful and so crooked, that there is fraud in their every word, that their words and actions are never honest—but they cannot see so deeply into themselves. Any knowledge they happen to have is merely superficial. Whenever they speak and act, they reveal something in their nature, yet they are unaware of this. They think they are being honest in what they are doing and that he is doing things in accordance with truth. That is to say, people have an overly superficial understanding of their own nature, and there is a huge discrepancy between this and God’s words of judgment and revelation. This is not a mistake in what God reveals, but rather is humans’ lack of profound understanding of their own nature. People do not have a fundamental or essential understanding of themselves; instead, they focus on and devote their energy to their actions and outward expressions. Even if someone occasionally said something about understanding themselves, it would not be very profound. No one has ever thought that they are this type of person or have this type of nature due to having done this type of thing or having revealed something. God has revealed the nature and essence of humanity, but humans understand that their way of doing things and their way of speaking are flawed and defective; therefore, it is a strenuous task for people to put truth into practice. People think that their mistakes are merely momentary manifestations that are revealed carelessly rather than being revelations of their nature. People who think this way cannot put the truth into practice, because they are not able to accept truth as truth and do not thirst after truth; therefore, when putting truth into practice, they only perfunctorily follow the rules. People do not view their own nature as being too corrupt, and believe that they are not so bad that they should be destroyed or punished. They think that it is not a big deal to lie occasionally, and consider themselves to be much better than they were in the past; in fact, however, they are nowhere close to being up to standard, because people only have some actions that do not outwardly violate truth, when they are not actually putting truth into practice.
—“Understanding One’s Nature and Putting the Truth Into Practice” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
Nowadays, most people have a very superficial understanding of themselves. They have not come to clearly know the things that are part of their nature at all. They only have knowledge of a few of their corrupt states, the things they are likely to do, or a few of their shortcomings, and this makes them believe that they know themselves. If, furthermore, they abide by a few rules, ensure that they do not make mistakes in certain areas, and manage to avoid committing certain transgressions, they then consider themselves to possess reality in their belief in God and assume that they will be saved. This is completely human imagination. If you abide by those things, will you really become able to refrain from committing any transgressions? Will you have attained a true change in disposition? Will you really be living out the likeness of a human being? Can you genuinely satisfy God that way? Absolutely not, this is for sure. Belief in God works only when one has high standards and has attained the truth and some transformation in one’s life disposition. So, if people’s knowledge of themselves is too shallow, they will find it impossible to solve problems, and their life dispositions simply will not change. It is necessary to know oneself on a profound level, which means knowing one’s own nature: what elements are included in that nature, how these things originated, and where they came from. Moreover, are you actually able to hate these things? Have you seen your own ugly soul and your evil nature? If you are truly able to see the truth about yourself, then you will start to loathe yourself. When you loathe yourself and then practice God’s word, you will be able to forsake the flesh and have the strength to carry out truth without difficulty. Why do many people follow their fleshly preferences? Because they consider themselves to be pretty good, feeling that their actions are right and justified, that they have no faults, and even that they are entirely in the right, they are therefore capable of acting with the assumption that justice is on their side. When one recognizes what one’s true nature is—how ugly, how despicable, and how pitiful—then one is not overly proud of oneself, not so wildly arrogant, and not so pleased with oneself as before. Such a person feels, “I must be earnest and down to earth, and practice some of God’s word. If not, then I will not measure up to the standard of being human, and will be ashamed to live in God’s presence.” One then truly sees oneself as paltry, as truly insignificant. At this time, it becomes easy for one to carry out truth, and one will appear to be somewhat like a human should be. Only when people truly loathe themselves are they able to forsake the flesh. If they do not loathe themselves, they will be unable to forsake the flesh. Truly hating oneself comprises a few things: First, knowing one’s own nature; and second, seeing oneself as needy and pitiful, seeing oneself to be extremely small and insignificant, and seeing one’s own pitiful and dirty soul. When one fully sees what one truly is, and this outcome is achieved, one then truly gains knowledge of oneself, and it can be said that one has come to know oneself fully. Only then can one truly hate oneself, going so far as to curse oneself, and truly feel that one has been corrupted profoundly by Satan such that one does not even resemble a human being. Then, one day, when the threat of death appears, such a person will think, “This is God’s righteous punishment. God is indeed righteous; I really should die!” At this point, he will not lodge a complaint, much less blame God, simply feeling that he is so needy and pitiful, so filthy and corrupt that he should be wiped out by God, and a soul like his is not fit to live on earth. At this point, this person will not resist God, much less betray God. If one does not know oneself, and still considers oneself to be pretty good, then when death comes knocking, this person will think, “I have done so well in my faith. How hard I have sought! I have given so much, I have suffered so much, yet ultimately, God is now asking me to die. I don’t know where God’s righteousness is. Why is He asking me to die? If even a person like me has to die, then who will be saved? Won’t the human race come to an end?” First of all, this person has notions about God. Secondly, this person is complaining, and not showing any submission whatsoever. This is just like Paul: When he was about to die, he did not know himself, and by the time God’s punishment was nigh, it was too late to repent.
—“To Know Oneself Is Primarily About Knowing Human Nature” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
What Peter sought was to come to know himself and see what had been revealed in him through the refinement of God’s words and within the various trials that God provided for him. When he truly came to understand himself, Peter realized just how deeply corrupt humans are, how worthless and unworthy of serving God they are, and that they do not deserve to live before Him. Peter then fell prostrate before God. Ultimately, he thought, “Knowing God is the most precious thing! If I died before knowing Him, it would be such a pity; I feel that knowing God is the most important, most meaningful thing there is. If man does not know God, then he does not deserve to live and has no life.” By the time Peter’s experience had reached this point, he had come to know his own nature and gained a relatively good understanding of it. Although he perhaps would not have been able to explain it as clearly as people would nowadays, Peter had indeed reached this state. Therefore, pursuing life and attaining perfection by God requires knowing one’s own nature from within God’s utterances, as well as comprehending the aspects of one’s nature and accurately describing it in words, speaking clearly and plainly. Only this is truly knowing yourself, and you will have attained the result God requires. If your knowledge has not yet reached this point, but you claim to know yourself and say that you have gained life, then are you not simply bragging? You do not know yourself, nor do you know what you are in front of God, whether you have truly met the standards of being human, or how many satanic elements you still have within you. You are still unclear about who you belong to, and you do not even have any self-knowledge—so how can you possess reason in front of God? When Peter was pursuing life, he focused on understanding himself and transforming his disposition over the course of his trials, and he strove to know God, and in the end, he thought, “People must seek an understanding of God in life; knowing Him is the most critical thing. If I do not know God, then I cannot rest in peace when I die. Once I know Him, if God then has me die, then I will still feel most gratified to do so; I will not complain in the slightest, and my entire life will have been fulfilled.” Peter was not able to gain this level of understanding or reach this point immediately after he had begun to believe in God; he first had to undergo a great many trials. His experience had to reach a certain milestone, and he had to completely understand himself, before he could sense the value of knowing God. Therefore, the path Peter took was one of gaining life and of being perfected; this was the aspect upon which his specific practice was primarily focused.
—“How to Walk the Path of Peter” in Records of Talks of Christ of the Last Days
As I judge you thus today, what degree of understanding will you have in the end? You will say that although your status is not high, you have nonetheless enjoyed the elevation of God. Because you are of lowly birth you do not have status, but you gain status because God elevates you—this is something He bestowed upon you. Today you are able to personally receive God’s training, His chastisement, and His judgment. This, even more so, is His elevation. You are able to personally receive His purification and burning. This is God’s great love. Through the ages there has not been a single person who has received His purification and burning, and not a single person has been able to be perfected by His words. God is now speaking with you face to face, purifying you, revealing your inner rebelliousness—this truly is His elevation. What abilities do people have? Whether they are the sons of David or the descendants of Moab, in sum, people are created beings who have nothing worthy of boasting about. Since you are God’s creatures, you must perform the duty of a creature. There are no other requirements of you. This is how you should pray: “Oh God! Whether I have status or not, I now understand myself. If my status is high it is because of Your elevation, and if it is low it is because of Your ordination. Everything is in Your hands. I have neither any choices, nor any complaints. You ordained that I would be born in this country and among this people, and all that I should do is to be completely obedient under Your dominion because everything is within what You have ordained. I do not give thought to status; after all, I am but a creature. If You place me in the bottomless pit, in the lake of fire and brimstone, I am nothing but a creature. If You use me, I am a creature. If You perfect me, I am yet a creature. If You do not perfect me, I will still love You because I am no more than a creature. I am nothing more than a minuscule creature created by the Lord of creation, just one among all created humans. It was You who created me, and now You have once again placed me in Your hands to do with me as You will. I am willing to be Your tool and Your foil because everything is what You have ordained. No one can change it. All things and all events are in Your hands.” When the time comes that you will no longer give thought to status, then you will break free from it. Only then will you be able to confidently and boldly seek, and only then can your heart become free of any constraints. Once people have been extricated from these things, then they will have no more concerns.
—The Word, Vol. 1. The Appearance and Work of God. Why Are You Unwilling to Be a Foil?