I am reading a fascinating book by John A. Sanford, an Episcopal priest and Jungian analyst, called The Kingdom Within: The Inner Meaning of Jesus’ Sayings.
In it, he posits that we discover the Kingdom of Heaven within ourselves only once we become our authentic selves. As this fits in so well with the series I did on Shadow Work, I thought I would write a bit about it.
Jesus says: “The kingdom of heaven is like a treasure hidden in a field which someone has found; he hides it again, goes off happy, sells everything he owns and buys the field.” Matthew 13:44
Sanford says, “There is an inner reality within each of us that is like a great treasure lying hidden in the field of our soul waiting to be discovered. Someone who finds this inner treasure, and recognizes its value, will happily give up all other goals and ambitions in order to make it real in his or her life.”
He then compares the first parable to this one:
“Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a merchant looking for fine pearls; when he finds one of great value he goes and sells everything he owns and buys it.” Matthew 13:45-46
While at first glance, the parables seem similar, when looked at more closely one sees that in the first parable the kingdom is a treasure that we search for and find; and in the second, it is we who are the pearls of great price, the merchant being God.
“So, the paradox is,” Sanford says, “that the kingdom is both that which we find within ourselves as an inner treasure and also that which is searching to find us, who when found become something of supreme value in the eyes of God. We are the fine pearls if the kingdom can take root within us, and to us God gives a place of supreme value in his creation.”
Throughout the history of Christianity, and despite the fact that there is none of this to be found in the teachings of Jesus, we have dwelt on the unworthiness of humans in contrast to God’s goodness. We have emphasized original sin rather than original innocence.
“We harbor the kingdom within our own soul,” Sanford says. “God searches for the one who will recognize the kingdom within him or herself and he ascribes to such a one supreme value.”
The kingdom of heaven is a central arch of the teachings of Jesus, and one of the most important images he uses to describe it is “growth.” (see Matthew 13:4-9, 24-30; 7:15-20)
Matthew, Mark and Luke all mention the parable of the mustard seed, in which the kingdom of heaven is likened to the smallest of seeds that grows into a tree large enough to shelter the birds.
“So,” continues Sanford, “the kingdom of heaven begins in a person’s life as something seemingly small and insignificant but through a process of growth becomes a mighty power.”
While many remain ignorant of the potential for inner growth, it is through acceptance of the inner power for growth that our lives reach fulfillment. Our dreams, Sanford says, often reflect this potential with images of trees or children.
“Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” John 3:3, KJV
“This certainly implies that the kingdom is a present reality to be entered into by the individual when he or she achieves such radical transformation of character that it is represented under the image of rebirth,” Sanford says.
That means that for the individual today, the kingdom can be reached through the process of inner growth into wholeness and creativity.
“the kingdom of God is within you.” Luke 17:21, KJV
Unfortunately, many translations have chosen to use “among” in preference to “within.” This is likely because, Sanford claims, we live in an extremely extraverted time in which we have traded the inner life of spiritual growth for outward actions. Although, he says, the ambiguity of the Greek preposition entos is probably deliberate because there is a sense in which the kingdom of heaven is both within ourselves and outside ourselves and among us and other people.
“You must therefore be perfect just as your heavenly Father is perfect.” Matthew 5:48
Impossible, we say. How are we to achieve that perfection?
Another poor translation as the original Greek meant “brought to completion” or “brought to the end state.”
“If we understand the word in this way,” Sanford says, “we see that Jesus is urging us to be brought to the end state for which we were created and that is brought about through the unfolding of the inner Self.”
This means that God can be as personal to us as our own inner creative process. The kingdom is both highly personal yet potentially open to all, regardless of race, creed, sex or social status.
“The kingdom requires a morality that is not founded on rules and regulations imposed from the outside,” Sanford says, “but on self-knowledge. This self-knowledge can be achieved through inner confrontation. Inner confrontation occurs when we confront the person within us for whom the Law is necessary.”
That is, the Laws (Commandments) would not be necessary if there were not parts of our personality that might commit things like murder, adultery, stealing, coveting, etc.
“The higher morality requires confronting the shadowy one within us who has made the rules necessary in the first place,” he says. “In this way we achieve a truly differentiated moral attitude toward ourselves and life and are fit for the creative life of the kingdom.”
So, once again, we have been given a reminder of the extreme importance of Shadow Work and self-knowledge.
Next Week: Entering into The Kingdom