Monday, May 4, 2009

God Within

Unlike the canonical gospels, the Coptic Gospel of Thomas records Jesus' proclamations in a list-like format. Many scholars believe that such sayings-gospels pre-dated other scriptural formats and provided the necessary groundwork for the later production of narrative accounts. Theologically, Thomas focuses almost exclusively on the sacraments of baptism and Eucharist, in contrast with Paul's obsession with resurrection - this may also correspond to a historical trajectory towards Calvary, as the baptismal formula found in Galatians 3:28 represents one of the oldest known expressions of the early Jesus movement.

Interestingly, Thomas grapples with the nature of God's immanence and transcendence in a unique way:

Jesus said, "If those who lead you say to you, 'See, the kingdom is in the sky,' then the birds of the sky will precede you. If they say to you, 'It is in the sea,' then the fish will precede you. Rather, the kingdom is inside of you, and it is outside of you. When you come to know yourselves, then you will become known, and you will realize that it is you who are the sons of the living father. But if you will not know yourselves, you dwell in poverty and it is you who are that poverty." (GTh 3)

This humanistic ethos does not threaten God's universality but seeks to locate God's worldly manifestation in the particular. Jesus' observation serves as a call to unfold the layers of the self and allow the soul to pass into higher forms (Emerson: 'ascension'). By knowing and loving ourselves - and, by extension, by knowing and loving others - we encounter God's presence.

This sentiment can also be found in this morning's shabad from the Sri Guru Granth Sahib:

ਦੂਰਿ ਨ ਜਾਨਾ ਅੰਤਰਿ ਮਾਨਾ ਹਰਿ ਕਾ ਮਹਲੁ ਪਛਾਨਾ ॥
I know that You are not far away; I believe that You are deep within me, and I realize Your Presence.
[Guru Nanak Dev Ji in Raag Tukhaari on Pannaa 1108]

Through self-reflection and introspection we see God; through outward compassion and devotion we feel God.

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