Thursday, March 12, 2009

"I am everywhere"

Church built on site of St Thomas' martyrdom in Chennai, India.

It's one of the proposals of this blog that Self - perhaps it's better not to use the definite article ('the Self'), because Self is not an object - is ubiquitous (everywhere), and therefore not really separate from the world.

Recently I was in Chennai, India, where the apostle Thomas was speared to death by local priests. This led me to re-read the Gospel of Thomas, where I found a clear statement of the ubiquity of Self:

"I am everywhere". "Even if you break a branch in half I am there."

Another quote which clearly shows the unity of Self is:

"Whoever drinks from my mouth will become as I am: I myself shall become that person."

Basically the equation is: The Universal Self (speaking in the form of Jesus) = your Self = everything that exists.

It's no wonder the early church hierarchy tried to destroy this gospel. A statement like that really undermines the notion that we need a priesthood as intermediaries between ourselves and the Divine.
Though the Gospel of Thomas was rejected from the canon, it's themes recur in the writings of the great Christian mystics. You can't ban Selfhood. You can ignore it, but it doesn't go away.

A couple of years ago, Pope Benedict tried to refute the ancient tradition of Thomas going to India. Indian Christians, who revere Thomas as the founder of Christianity in the subcontinent, provided evidence to support the tradition, and the Vatican backed down.
In the first century the booming spice trade sea route linked South India strongly with the Roman Empire. Jewish merchants visited Kerala frequently, many of them settling there. Jewish communities, tracing their ancestry back to the time of Thomas and earlier, exist in the region to this day. There is no reason why he could not have gone there, as attested to by several ancient sources.

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