Know thyself and know God 4

the cul-de-sac – no way through *

‘Jesus said:

Know Him who is before your face,

And what is hidden from you shall be revealed to you:

for there is nothing hidden that shall not be manifest.’

Gospel of St Thomas

The knowing that is being explored here is not ‘knowing about’ but rather a deeper experience in the depth of one’s being. I come back to the Quaker, George Fox – ‘this I know experientially’, which he writes after he has had an experience which changed him profoundly in the deepest part of his being. Writing of his depression about religion and those professing it, Fox describes how he felt that there:

‘…was nothing outwardly to help me, not could tell me what to do, then, oh then, I heard a voice which said “There is one, even Jesus Christ, that can speak to thy condition”, and when I heard it, my heart did leap for joy.’

He ‘knew’ that no one ‘upon the earth’ could ‘speak to my condition’ and: ‘that Jesus Christ might have the pre-eminence who enlightens, and gives grace, and faith, and power. This when God doth work who shall let [here meaning hinder] it? And this I knew experientially.’

Whilst stuck within the confines of what Carl Jung called the small self, there can sometimes be a sudden breakthrough beyond the limitations into a deeper consciousness of what Jung called the Self – with the capital ‘S’ – that of God within each person.

From the Sufi tradition Jalal al Din Rumi, the poet (1207-1273) puts it like this:

Awhile, as wont may be,

Self I did claim;

True Self I did not see,

But heard its name,

I, being self-confined,

Self did not merit,

till, leaving self behind,

did Self inherit.

So, to ‘know’ in this deep way is about an opening up to a way beyond our self-constructed certainties. It reminds me of growing up and feeling trapped in the end house of a cul-de-sac in the suburbs of South London – but, as I discovered as I got a bit older, just over the garden were the allotments, which seemed infinite to me as a child. It just needed a leap of faith to jump over the fence …

I see I quoted this from Thomas Merton already in March this year, but it does fit here and is a favourite:

‘Inside me, I quickly come to the barrier, the limit of what I am, beyond which I cannot go by myself. It is such a narrow limit and yet for years I thought it was the universe. Now I see it is nothing. Shall I go on being content with this restriction? … Desire always what is beyond and all around you, you poor sap! Want to progress and escape and expand and be emptied and vanish into God.’

* This is the actual cul-de-sac where I lived for 15 years taken from an estate agents pictures so everything looks  a bit distorted … it’s changed a bit – the house where I grew up (no 45)  was between this one (47) and the white one on the right hand side (43) which has been expanded – 45 was positioned further back you can just see the drive.