But there is a Root, or Depth in Thee…

For this turning to the Light and Spirit of God within Thee, is thy only true turning unto God, there is no other Way of finding Him, but in that Place where he dwelleth in Thee. For though God be everywhere present, yet He is only present to Thee in the deepest, and most central Part of thy Soul. Thy natural Senses cannot possess God, or unite Thee to Him, nay thy inward Faculties of Understanding, Will, and Memory, can only reach after God, but cannot be the Place of his Habitation in Thee. But there is a Root, or Depth in Thee, from whence all these Faculties come forth, as Lines from a Centre, or as Branches from the Body of the Tree. This Depth is called the Centre, the Fund or Bottom of the Soul. This Depth is the Unity, the Eternity, I had almost said, the Infinity of thy Soul; for it is so infinite, that nothing can satisfy it, or give it any Rest, but the infinity of God.

William Law, The Spirit of Prayer

William Law, writing in 1749, gets absolutely what I was trying to say in yesterday’s post: the way to God is deep within the heart of each of us. Quakers speak of ‘that of God in every one’ (George Fox) and it is by finding this divine seed as we might call it, by ‘inward retirement’ that I think we find the gateway to the Ground of Being itself. We are not separate, never could be separate, from the Source of all being; and yet that Source, that Ground, is infinitely greater than we are ourselves, and eternal where we are brief and transient. God is not ‘out there’ in space or somewhere like that, but neither is God ‘in here’, contained within the human mind or soul like some psychological type or complex. JB Phillips told us that our God is too small; looked at as the Ground of Being, any conception we could possibly form of God is far too small, and can never be anything more.

The process of ‘inward retirement’, to borrow Pierre Lacout‘s phrase, is the only way I have found to approach that Root or Centre where it touches God, and God touches it. The means of inward retirement may be as different and various as women and men are themselves, but there is one destination – which we shall all reach in the end, whether we know it or not – and in the end all our ways and means come down to that one turning – metanoia – to the deepest and truest identity far within, that is the indwelling Light and Spirit itself.

One thought on “But there is a Root, or Depth in Thee…

  1. Ona

    (This is a wandering ponder, be warned!) I do agree that inward looking is useful; it may be necessary; it’s certainly widely recommended.

    But I’ve wondered sometimes – we spend so much time being self-centered, being inward turned, barely paying attention to the world around us. (I realize this is different than the inward retirement being discussed, but bear with me.) Spiritual practices that drag us out of our inwardness are interesting in that regard: attending to the needs of others (teaching, nursing, etc), physical activities (arts, crafts, cooking, farming, building, music, etc.). God sought and found in the neighbor and the world.

    I don’t think these two aspects of seeking and finding are in any opposition. They may appeal to different types of people. I don’t think one can truly encounter God inside or outside and not have the inside/outside concept fall apart.

    I liked at one point using “intimate and infinite” to describe what seems paradoxical, yet isn’t. God so tender, heart-touching, knowing me better than I know myself; yet infinite beyond words, even impersonal, vast, majestic. But both, without contradiction!


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