The following text is from Hegel's Phenomenology of Spirit. It is actually a selection of texts from the section entitled:
"SELF-CONSCOUS INDIVIDUALS ASSOCIATED AS A COMMUNITY OF ANIMALS AND THE DECEPTION THENCE ARISING: THE REAL FACT"
I'm not sure I understand the title, but the excerpts which follow express very well--indeed, greatly influenced--my understanding of the self and the process of self-knowledge and self-actualization.
-------------------begin excerpt from Hegel----------------------- We have to see how this conception of substantial individuality is made explicit in its various moments, and how it comes to be conscious of its true nature. Individuality confronts us . . . as an original determinate nature: *original*, in virtue of its being implicit... This determinate original nature of consciousness . . . appears as the immediate and only proper content of the purpose of the individual. [The individual] contains this [determinate original nature] within [himself or herself], and is to begin with taken as existing, but not yet as acting. The simple "original nature" now breaks up, in action and the consciousness of action, into the distinction which action implies.  To begin with, action is here an object, an object, too, still belonging to consciousness; it is present as a purpose, and thus opposed to a given reality.  The other moment is the process of this statically presented purpose, the process of actualization of the purpose, bringing the purpose to bear on the entirely formal reality, and hence is the idea of the transition itself. In other words, this second moment is the "means."  The third moment is, finally, the object, no longer as immediately and subjectively presented purpose, but as brought to light and established as something other than and external to the acting subject. At the outset . . . the nature of individuality in its original determinate form, its immediate essence, is not yet affirmed as active; and in this shape is called special capacity, talent, character, and so on. This peculiar colouring of mind must be looked at as the only content of its purpose, and as the sole and only reality. If we thought of consciousness as going beyond that, as seeking to bring into reality another content, then we should think of it as a nothing working away towards nothing. This original nature is, moreover, not merely the substance of its purpose, but implicitly the *reality* as well, which otherwise assumes the appearance of being a given material on which to act, of being found ready at hand for action to work up into some determinate form. That is to say, action is simply transferring from a state not yet explicitly expressed to one fully expressed; [T]he inherant being of that reality opposed to consciousness has sunk to the level of a mere empty appearance, a mere seeming. This mode of consciousness, by determining itself to act, thereby refuses to be led astray by the semblance of reality on the part of what is presented to it; and has likewise to abandon its dealings with idle thoughts and purposes, and keep hold on the original content of its own nature. No doubt this content first exists as a fact for consciousness, when it has made that content actual; but the distinction between something which while *for* consciousness is only inside itself, and a reality outside consciousness existing in itself, has broken down. Consciousness must act solely that what it inherently and implicitly is, may be for it explicitly; or, acting is is just the process of mind coming to be qua consciousness. What it is implicitly, therefore, it knows from its actual reality. Hence it is that an individual cannot know what he is till he has made himself real by action. [!!!] Consciousness, however, seems on this view to be unable to determine the purpose of its action before action has taken place; but before action occurs it must, in virtue of being consciousness, have the act in front of itself as entirely its own, i.e. as a purpose. The individual, therefore, who is going to act seems to find himself in a circle, where each moment already presupposes the others, and hence seems unable to find a beginning, because it only gets to know its own original nature, the nature which is to be its purpose, by first acting, while in order to act it must have that purpose beforehand. But just for that reason it has to start right away and, whatever the circumstances are, without troubling further about beginning, means, or end, proceed to action at once. For its essential and implicit nature is beginning, means, and end all in one. [!!!] As *beginning,* it is found in the circumstances of the action; and the *interest* which the individual finds in something is just the answer to the question, "whether he should act and what is to be done in a given case." For what seems to be a reality confronting him is implicitly his own original fundamental nature, which has merely the appearance of an objective being--an appearance which lies in the notion of action involving as this does self-diremption, but which expressly shows itself to be his own original nature by the interest the individual finds therein. Similarly the *how,* the means, is determined as it stands. Talent is likewise nothing but individuality with a definite original constitution, looked at as the subjective internal means, or transition of purpose into actuality. The actual means, however, and the real transition are the unity of talent with the nature of the fact as present in the interest felt. The former [talent] expresses that aspect of the means which concerns action, the latter [the fact found of interest] that which concerns content: both are individuality itself, as a fused whole of acting and existing. What we find, then, is *first* circumstances given ready to hand, which are implicitly the original nature of the individual; *next* the interest which affirms them as its own or as its purpose; and *finally* the connexion and sublation of these opposite elements in the means. This connexion itself still falls within consciousness, and the whole just considered is one side of an opposition. This appearance of opposition which still remains is removed by the means. For the means is a unity of inner and outer, the antithesis of the determinate character it has qua inner means (viz. talent): it therefore abolishes this character, and makes itself--this unity of action and existence--equally an outer, vis.: the actually realized individuality, i.e. individuality which is established for individuality itself as the objectively existent. ---------------------end excerpt from Hegel-------------------------- Hegel, G.W.F. The Phenomenology of Mind. J.B. Baillie, trans. New York: Harper & Row, 1967