Know thyself and know God 3


From the gospel of St Thomas:

Jesus said:

If they question you:

‘What is the sign of your Father in you?’

Say to them:

‘It is a movement with a repose’

To say that these words are enigmatic is to underestimate them … what can be meant here? It seems it may be to do with as Quakers say ‘that of God within us’ – the Light at the centre – the Self. There are so many terms used for this numinous presence such as the Real Self and the true Self, others include Reality, Truth, the Absolute, the Ultimate. Thomas in his text uses the All, One, Unity, the Kingdom, Life, the Living, the Father, the Kingdom of the Father, the Father and the Mother, Light, the Pure Spirit. As McGregor Ross adds all these are facets on the jewel that is this. The jewel itself is of course beyond the capability of any word or words to describe it – words make up a part of it and a part cannot describe the whole.

How limiting then our attempts to define God by the restrictive language we use … Thomas Merton wrote our concepts of God are as tiny matches lighted to try and look at the sun.

As soon as we light these small matches which are our concepts: ‘intelligence,’ ‘love,’ ‘power,’ the tremendous reality of God Who infinitely exceeds all concepts suddenly beards down on us like a dark storm and blows out all their flames.

Our tendency is always to manage and control our anxiety by reducing God to our level – an object, or thing that we possess. But the very word ‘define’ means to place limits. Merton writes: ‘There is ‘no such thing’ as God, because God is neither a ‘What’ nor a ‘thing’, but a pure ‘Who’. He is the ‘Thou’ before whom our inmost ‘I’ springs into awareness and love.’

This attempt to explore what knowing God and knowing ourselves might be about suggests that the very deepest part of ourselves is already connected with God. Catherine of Genoa had this experience, and it enabled her to thankfully exult as she ran through the streets: ‘my deepest me is God’.

Our struggle to know God through concepts – although inevitably restrictive and mediated knowledge, is not to deny its value. Bible imagery can help us to know about God through an intermediary and the experiences of those who went before. Ultimately knowing God is an affair of the heart. God might elude our feeble reasonings, but countless people can attest that God responds to the yearnings of the heart. It is inside us that we can know God – a saying of Allah attributed to Muhammed:

My earth and heaven cannot contain me,

But the heart of my believing servant contains me.

The divine secret truth is as Merton writes, that the Ground of all that exists is the Hidden Ground of Love. Deep in the deepest part of me there is Peace – ‘the repose’ that in its fulfilment is also able to move and so enter into that circulation of Love that constitutes the Divine Reality.