The following is a from a lecture by psychology professor Jordan B Peterson. Here, he makes reference to King Arthur, the knights of the round table, and the quest for the Holy Grail:
“Where do you look for the most valuable thing when you don’t know where it is? Well, each of the knights looks at the forest surrounding the castle and enters the forest at the point that looks darkest to him, and that’s a good point to understand because the gateway to wisdom and the gateway to the development of the personality, which is exactly the same thing, is precisely through the portal that you do not want to climb through.”
The revelation for me here is the idea that the gateway to wisdom and the gateway to the development of the personality are the same thing. This speaks to my curiosity about the relationship between seeking God and discovering yourself. (On that note, see Pilgrimage and Horizons of Self) If you do it right, you discover yourself, if not, you simply reinforce yourself and call that “God”. That’s about right. If you discover rather than reinforce, you will actually get closer to the professed spiritual objective. To have self-awareness is not to say that you should focus on yourself, but instead to be aware of the fact that as you pursue something bigger than yourself, you will discover more of yourself; by pursuing, say, God, you will simultaneously reach deeper into yourself.
In my opinion, the phrase ‘seek God’ is theologically questionable. My belief is that God’s Spirit dwells in His people, which means that His presence isn’t somewhere elusive, needing to be sought. Where the apprehension of that truth gets fuzzy is in the practice of trying to live a Godly life, because the same impulse that makes me want God, also makes me want more. More than God? That is theologically impossible, but emotionally imminent, because at the level of professed ideal, I seek God; but what I chase at the emotional level is some piece of lost treasure which I believe will make my heart whole. Another way to think about that, as Dr. Peterson referenced Carl Jung, “the highest ideal that a person holds, consciously or unconsciously; that’s their ‘God’.” Discerning between worshiping God, encountering Him as a Being outside of myself, as I would think of another person as being outside of myself, discerning between that true worship, and the appeasement of deeply rooted mental and emotional constructs, is not always an easy task, in my experience. That begs the question, to what extent do I conceptualize God, and to what extent do I encounter God? There is a true miracle in making the switch from the former to the latter. Maybe this is the “death to self” I hear some Christians talking about. I feel like this question can translate to the realm of interpersonal relationships; my ability to encounter the other person, rather than conceptualizing them, is my capacity to love. If I encounter them, I become aware of them. On the other hand, if I conceptualize them, I am not really aware of them, I’m just using my interaction with them as means to find me.
I’ve had this thought lately, that the next frontier of human relations, for me personally, is to hear not just the words of the person I converse with, but to hear their context and their story, and respond to THAT, because the words are head-level, but the story is gut-level. Therein lies some real human connection. And I realized just yesterday that self-awareness is about the same thing, an honest assessment of context. With yourself, or with others, it’s the same grace.