Here’s a quiz for today. Who said the following:
Look for him [God] by taking yourself as the starting point. Learn who it is who within you makes everything his own and says ‘My God, my mind, my thought, my soul, my body.’ Learn the sources of sorrow, joy, love, hate. Learn how it happens that one watches without willing, rests without willing, becomes angry without willing, loves without willing. If you carefully investigate these matters, you will find him [God] in yourself.
(b) Dr. Phil
(c) Robert Pirsig (author of “Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance”)
(d) Deepak Chopra
Continue reading to see the correct answer.
While the answer could be “all of the above,” in fact this was written about 1,200 years ago by a Gnostic teacher. This quote comes from Volume 1 of Jaroslov Pelikan’s The Christian Tradition: A History of the Development of Doctrine. In a chapter titled “Outside the Mainstream,” Pelikan describes early “Christian Gnostic” thought.
It’s abundantly clear from Pelikan’s description that the qualifier “Christian” here is simply one of convenience, to distinguish these Gnostic movements from Gnosticisms that branched off from Judaism or classical paganism. The Gnostic systems, with their panoply of “aeons,” and “archons,” the god-being who is a “pleroma” or collection of thought-like emanations, the “demiurge” who is the creator but also is a sort of anti-God, and the Jesus who is a non-physical spirit who never actually suffered, clearly are drastic mutations of the Apostolic Christian teaching about the unity of God, the humanity and divinity of Christ, and the physical nature of Christ’s suffering on the cross. In this sense, they are not “Christian” at all.
But what’s most interesting to me as I learn more about these early heresies is how the same themes have continued to resonate through millennia, even to today’s pop spirituality. There is nothing new under the Sun. (Ecclesiastes 1:9.) It’s vital to understand how Christian and other religious thought and doctrine have developed through history so that “new” movements can be placed in context. Historical study gives us perspective that helps avoid embracing spiritual fads that are nothing more than ancient mischief.