Some Mormons, other Christians, and perhaps people generally, are uncomfortable with the idea that the truth is found within us. They might consider this to be incompatible with the gospel, navel-gazing, narcissism, and selfishness. But I think the whole purpose and goal of the Christian gospel, and of spirituality more generally, is to help us discover that Truth is at the core of our being, which is our divine nature in God, in Reality. This is beyond all that is “selfish” in us, reaching the ground of who and what we really are.
Many of the things being taught in the world about the “self” can be taken the wrong way, which only fuels the ego, selfishness, and narcissism. But those are misunderstandings and corruptions of the deeper truth, in my view. The truth is that what we are in our essential nature is a Child of God, a Son of God, a Manifestation of God, and we can come to perceive this directly within ourselves through prayerful practices such as meditation and contemplation. When we come to know this, we come to find we are One in God, even as Jesus did, and which he prayed we would too (John 17). We realize the at-one-ment in ourself. This is theosis.
In order to see this Truth, however, we must put off the “natural man,” that ego which is our common state of consciousness, which sees only “I,” “me,” and “mine.” We must surrender the “self,” submit our individual will, allow it to subside away, even pass away. Contemplative practices of all traditions can help us with this. Then we will see the Saint emerge from deep within us, which was always there but which was hidden and obscured by the veil of the ego, or “natural man,” as noted in the Book of Mormon in Mosiah 3:19.
For the natural man is an enemy to God, and has been from the fall of Adam, and will be, forever and ever, unless he yields to the enticings of the Holy Spirit, and putteth off the natural man and becometh a saint through the atonement of Christ the Lord, and becometh as a child, submissive, meek, humble, patient, full of love, willing to submit to all things which the Lord seeth fit to inflict upon him, even as a child doth submit to his father.
There are many other scriptures which guide us towards this, such as 2 Corinthians 3:18. Seeing this deepest truth within us is very much like looking in a “mirror.”
We all, with unveiled faces, are looking as in a mirror at the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit.
When we come to see God within ourselves, God’s law (Truth) is written directly on our minds and hearts as noted in a couple scriptures in Hebrews 8:10, 10:16. We see this Truth within our Self, which is our being in God. This perceiving of God within ourselves is likewise spoken of in the Book of Mormon:
And now behold, I ask of you, my brethren of the church, have ye spiritually been born of God? Have ye received his image in your countenances? Have ye experienced this mighty change in your hearts?… I say unto you, can ye look up to God at that day with a pure heart and clean hands? I say unto you, can you look up, having the image of God engraven upon your countenances? (Alma 5:14, 19)
When we are born again in God, when we are purified of the ego-self, and are thus “converted” at a very deep interior level, when we “repent” (Greek metanoia, a “change of mind”), we realize God’s image in our countenance, deeply in our own heart and being. That image of God is then found on and in our very Self, and we likewise see it in all others as well, all of Life and creation.
This is all part of the plan of becoming like Christ. We come to see Christ in ourselves, and to be “like Him” (3 Nephi 27:27). And if Christ is in ourselves, then we know within ourselves what we should do. Our will becomes One with God’s will, in perfect harmony with Divine justice, mercy, and Love.
But again, this is only known when our ego passes away, the psychological “self” is seen through, when that ego is “crucified with Christ” as the Apostle Paul said, and we find that “Christ lives in me” (Galatians 2:20). The ego will often try to make itself into our head, into its own sovereign authority, taking the place of God in us (2 Thes. 2:4), and all its activities will be towards its prideful self-aggrandizement and self-protection, its ungodliness. That is not the authentic self, what we really are, but what is often called the “false self.” That is the self that must be sacrificed, as on an altar, or on a cross, in similitude of Jesus.
The True Self is Christ in us, known in other religious traditions as the Buddha-nature, the Atman, the al-Insān al-Kāmil (Perfect Man), the Messiah, the Manifestation, the One, the Soul, the Tao. And when this is truly realized, revealed, then we begin to act as God in Love, in Truth.
5 thoughts on “Is the Truth Really Found “Within”?”
I agree with most of what you say in your posts, Bryce, and I understand that your underlying message points to where the faiths of the world are in alignment as opposed to dischordance. That said, you have a tendency to re-interpret Christian scripture in order to suit this purpose. I agree with you insofar as I understand you to say that the divine flame within us all is the same, and that that which ignited a soul to seek God in Palestine, for example, is the same as that which ignites a soul to seek the Self in India. In each case, the seeker and the sought are the same. But I think that we have to be careful and respectful in understanding scripture within the context of that scripture’s tradition. Some of what you claim Christian scripture to be saying is not what Christian scripture intends to say. My intention is not to put that forth as a judgment about the veracity of your claims, or the Christian claims, or any other, but as a statement of incongruence between the two, at times. I always look forward to your posts, thanks for sharing your thoughts.
Thank you for your comment, Walt. Yes, I openly admit that I am reinterpreting scripture and traditions in new ways. That is the essence of my translation of the scriptures too (BHT). It is all my interpretation, and it won’t necessarily agree with tradition. In fact, it may not agree in many ways. That’s on purpose. My purpose is not to rehash the way the traditions traditionally view their scriptures and beliefs, but to see them in new light according to my own personal experiences and studies. That, I think, is actually a more vibrant and living religiosity than is found in many religions today, but which was more common in times past. When spiritual understanding is not continually reinterpreted in the present according to present circumstances and experience, it can become old, stale, meaningless, and dead to us. I think this has unfortunately happened in many religions.
Karen Armstrong points this out well in her book The Case for God. Particularly in the case of the Jews, they “discovered that religious discourse was essentially interpretive.” It is a “religion that focuses not merely on the reception and preservation of revelation but on its constant reinterpretation.” In fact, midrash was even “unconcerned about the original intention of the biblical author.” It is in that spirit that I reinterpret many things. It’s not just to make it fit my purpose, but because I believe I see a deeper meaning in the text or tradition which has not been voiced. I am being that voice. I try to intuit what the original author may have intended, but more importantly, I interpret according to my experience in the present, and what meaning the scripture may have to us today. Of course, anyone is free to disagree with my interpretation, but it is precisely in those spaces of dialogue and discussion that I think we may learn and grow. If what I say is not how others say it, it is because I’m offering the opportunity to think in new ways.
Speaking of dialogue, Walt, I would love to talk about what scriptures you think I interpret different than what you think the scriptures really intend to say. I don’t think my interpretations are necessarily the “right” ones, or the only ones. But I think it is in this crossroads of differing thoughts about the meaning of scripture where we may expand our minds and open our views.
Thank you for your thoughtful and considered responses, Bryce. I agree that differing views leads to assumptions being challenged, and that this facilitates growth and learning. In the future as I continue to read your posts I might chime in if it seems an interpretation has strayed too far from the original intent of the authors or the tradition. Granted, any discussion of scripture or tradition must involve interpretation, and these will often differ, sometimes to a great degree. One of my favorite reinterpretations of Christian scripture is John Dominic Crossan’s take on the story of the Gerasene demon in Mark 5:1-20, which he considers to be a parable about resisting Roman occupation. Such reinterpretations can and do invigorate one’s spirituality and lead us to think in new ways. The more deeply I think about these things, however, the more I realize that there is a fundamental worldview underlying much of the Biblical account that it is often not reconcilable with certain reinterpretations, and in those cases it’s might be more appropriate to address those deep, fundamental presuppositions head on as opposed to reinterpreting something at the surface-level.
Thank you, Walt, for sharing your insights about this.
I think one of the remarkable things about these stories is that they seem to have many layers of meaning and interpretation that can be peeled back. No one interpretation is final, it seems. And we each bring our own personal experiences, insights, perspectives to the text which may shed new light. It really is a living word, never static.