…For they shall see God.
Having concentrated my most recent posts on the 99 Divine Names of Allah, it has been a long time since my last post on the
beatitudes, and I am happy to return to the discussion I started (what seems like) long ago.
“Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God,” says the sixth beatitude.
While I most often see this beatitude translated as “pure in heart,” my NAB edition reads “clean.” The Greek term is karharos, from which the English “catharsis” is derived. Meaning “clean, pure, unstained,” kathoris properly means “without admixture” (biblehub.com) and can be understood in terms of, say, metallurgy: as in a metal that has been purged of all its impurities and in this context would be understood as the heart which, being purified, is “free from possessiveness, a heart capable of mourning, a heart that thirsts for what is right, a merciful heart, a loving heart, an undivided heart” (Forest 89).
So what of this heart?
Kardia is the Greek term and was understood by ancient Greeks as “the seat of the emotions, instincts, and passions, as well as the source of intellectual and spiritual life” (Verbrugge 288). Note, the seat of both intellectual and spiritual life; unlike our modern location of the intellect (or mind) in the head, the ancient Greeks (much like in Chinese thought) did not divide intellect from spirit. Moreover, the heart “was the center of the human will and the seat of one’s power of decision” (288).
Kardia appears 156 times in the New Testament (289) and is consisted with Old Testament association of the “heart with one’s inner life, the center of the personality, and the place in which God reveals himself” and regularly “denotes the seat of intellectual ans spiritual life, the ‘inner self’ in opposition to external appearance” (289). It is in the heart that God addresses one and if stained by sin, the “physical aspects of the natural self…one’s thinking, willing, and feeling…one’s innermost being” is spoiled (289). If it is through the heart that God speaks to one, an impure heart prevents one from receiving that message, or, in the case of Jesus’s promise in this beatitude, from seeing God.
Jesus, in a way, is going a step further here: from “hearing” God to “seeing” God.
The Greek horao, meaning “see,” was related to words meaning “behold, visible, sight, vision, appearance, observe, and eye” (413-4) and “by Homer’s time it had the meaning of to conceive or experience, and even to be present at or participate” (414). Such is important for whereas “the Greek verbs of seeing or beholding have religions and philosophical significance, for Greek religion, like that of antiquity in general was a religion of seeing,” ancient Judaism, “by way of contrast, emphasized the role of hearing” (414).
Jesus too emphasizes, in this beatitude, the former. So what would a Jew, speaking to Jews (people who were hearing him), mean by “seeing God?” Connected as the promise is with the heart, this seeing does not necessitate a “physical” seeing, since God is “invisible.” Rather, since the heart here is pure, it, being open to receive, is, in a manner of speaking, a heart capable of bearing witness. Much like what Sufis call marifah, the eye of the heart, Jesus is talking about an inner seeing, an inner knowing. An inner vision of God.
And since the heart that can see God is one that is pure, this vision of God is one that is not tainted by an ego, which when used in the New Testament, is often, as it is in Matthew Chapter 6, contrasted with God (biblehub.com).
As long as ego remains in tact, as long as one centers one’s life around “me, mine, my” (which are valid translations of the use of the Greek ego) one’s heart, is seems to me, will remained stained and one will be blind to God.
A question to end: What is one attachment you think hinders your spiritual development?