Misattributed St. Francis Quote “The One You Are Looking For…”?

A quote often attributed to St. Francis doesn’t seem to have a credible source, but it’s still a good saying, and others appear to have said similarly.

There is a mystical quote that goes like this:

The One you are looking for is the One who is looking.

A similar quote is:

What you are looking for is where you are looking from.

Or:

What we are looking for is what is looking.

If you Google these, or their several variations (differences in translation?), almost everyone says that the quote comes from St. Francis of Assisi. A few places say it is from a “wise man,” leave it anonymous, say it is from “the mystics,” or even attribute it to Rumi. Which is it?

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If Francis did say it, that would be profound indeed. He is a revered Catholic saint, philosopher, and mystic. And if the quote can be traced to him, then it carries the weight of his teachings and insight.

But I’m skeptical it was him. I haven’t found any authentic reference to the quote in Francis’ writings, or in any other book.

I did find some similar quotes attributed to others (I have not verified the authenticity of these attributions):

What you are looking for is what you are looking with.

-Ernest Holmes

The place you are looking for is the place from which you are looking.

-Mooji

What you are looking for is already in you… You already are everything you are seeking.

-Thich Nhat Hanh

The truth is that you already are what you are seeking. You are looking for God with his eyes. I suggest you ask, ‘What’s ultimately behind this set of eyes?’ Turn around to see what is looking.

-Adyashanti

I would love to know if the original quote is indeed from St. Francis of Assisi. If someone knows of a reference to his writings, or of the quote’s origin, please share it in the comments below.

Whether or not St. Francis said it, I think it does convey truth. It is pointing at the deeper essence of what we are that is the source from which we gaze onto the world. Many of us are unconscious or unaware of this deeper pure consciousness. Consciousness doesn’t know itself. But when we sit and allow the mind to come to silence and stillness, and look carefully inwardly, eventually we find that the One we were looking for (i.e. God) is the deepest One within us that does all looking. It is the knower of all things known, and that is the knowing.

A much earlier saint, St. Augustine of Hippo, said something similar in his book Confessions, where he wrote:

Late have I loved you, beauty so old and so new: late have I loved you. And see, you were within and I was in the external world and sought you there, and in my unlovely state I plunged into those lovely created things which you made. You were with me, and I was not with you.

-St. Augustine

Or, here is my translation of the same quote:

It took me so long to love you—my God!
your Beauty, so old and so new!
So so long!
Just look at it!
You were within me the whole time, but I was outside myself,
and I was looking for you all over out there in the world.

In my loveless state, I rushed around foolishly searching
in all the fine things that you made.
Meanwhile, you were right here in me,
but I wasn’t aware of you!

-St. Augustine, my translation

The painting above is Saint Francis of Assisi in Ecstasy, Jusepe de Ribera, 1639, oil on canvas.


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