Every now and then, we can have the feeling that God is missing in action. We feel the presence of God one day, usually when things are going well, and by the next day, the Divine has seemingly departed the premises, leaving us to our own devices.
This feeling even struck the saintly Mother Teresa who for years felt not the presence of God in her life, but the absence. In her words “as for me, the silence and the emptiness is so great, that I look and do not see, listen and do not hear.” But if we believe in God, it raises the question:
Where is God hiding?
I’ll paraphrase an old story that’s been told by Paulo Coelho among others, that I think offers us the answer. It’s about three sages who are tasked with hiding the secret of life from humankind.
One day the sages were discussing the secret of life and where they should hide it so that men and women could not find it.
Bury it under a mountain, one sage suggests. No, the others counter, they will find a way to dig up the mountain and uncover it.
Put the secret of life in the depths of the deepest ocean, another sage suggests. No, the others say, one day they will find a way to travel to the depths of the ocean and will find it there.
Put the secret inside them, suggests another, they will never think to look for it there. All the sages agreed, and so the secret of life was hidden within us.
Could this be God’s secret hideaway? The idea that God lives within us has been sprinkled throughout the writings of the world’s great thinkers, often appearing as small diamonds within dense texts. The works of the 14th Century religious scholar Meister Eckhart can be a tough read, but this one sentence of his speaks volumes:
No one has known God who has not known himself.
The Greek philosopher Socrates, who lived almost a thousand years before Eckhart, came to a similar conclusion: “Our own self-knowledge is a knowledge of God.”
If you take the tale of the three sages who hid the secret of life, and combine it with the thoughts of Eckhart and Socrates, you might make the following connections:
- God is hidden within us.
- When we know ourselves, we know God.
- With this knowledge, we find the hidden God.
But what does it mean to know yourself? If you don’t know yourself, who does? Perhaps the key here is to get past the surface or public self, push the ever-present ego aside, and connect with our core being–“the watcher” deep inside us, the one who sits back and observes. This allows us to connect with what some refer to as “the real you”.
For the second part of this story, “Is the key to knowing God, knowing yourself”, click here.
I recently published the spiritual fable Thaddeus Squirrel. It’s available at Amazon.