Look Inside

God is in me or else is not at all.

--Wallace Stevens

I was in my doctor's examining room one day when I glanced up and noticed on the opposite wall a display rack with a sign that read: LOOK INSIDE!  The sign was calling my attention to various brochures on health topics.  But I understood the message in an altogether different way.  Sages of every spiritual persuasion have long urged seekers to look within for the true source of wisdom.  Our tendency, however, is to look to the sages for spiritual truth, which misses the point entirely.  No matter how enlightened a sage may be, he or she can do nothing more than point to truths that are already within our grasp.

Jesus told the Pharisees, "Behold, the kingdom of heaven is within you."  The Pharisees had wanted to know when the kingdom was coming, but Jesus said they had it all wrong.  They should stop looking elsewhere and instead look to themselves.  For his pains, Jesus was elevated to the highest heaven, which was literally to be kicked upstairs.  His followers were now instructed to look to him as the source of all truth.

Even those inclined to take the sages at their word may misinterpret what they have been taught.  The exhortation to look inside may suggest we are talking about a place.  We may picture a sacred vault hidden away in the thumping chamber of the heart or enfolded in our gray matter, somewhere inside "me."  A quick glance in the mirror is enough to assure us there is indeed a "me" there -- even though the self we see in the mirror is technically not inside anything; it's out there in the world.  The "me" inside appears to be nothing more than a string of thoughts that arise  from nowhere and disappear into nothingness.  They are hardly anything to hang your hat on, much less to serve as a repository for sacred truth.

"Inside" and "outside," as used in this context, are relative terms -- less the designation of a place than of a direction.  Those who associate truth with a particular religion, holy man, scriptural authority or spiritual discipline are looking in the wrong direction.  All of them can serve as channels of truth, but the source lies elsewhere.  

What happens when we do look inside?  Eventually we may discover that the self is not a container but is itself contained in something vastly larger.  The Apostle Paul endeared himself to pantheists everywhere when he said that in God "we live and move and have our being."  Strictly speaking, he was not a pantheist but a panentheist -- the distinction being that a pantheist believes God is in everything, whereas a panentheist believes everything is in God.  To look inside is to go to the source; to look elsewhere is to turn our back on God.

Acts 17:28

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