An idea I’ve been working with in my spiritual pursuits lately is something I think of as “the reflexive principle”. It’s basically a formula which states that how I treat myself is generally how I will treat others (over time), and how I fundamentally believe God treats me.
For example, if I am strict with myself, I will tend to be judgmental of others and believe that God is strict with me. This is because I would be espousing strictness as a form of truth, which lifts it to a universal experience of the character of life. If I work on the principle of generosity and bounty, meanwhile, it only becomes a natural expression of my inward state when I am generous with myself. This tends to open up my generosity to others, and my faith that God is willing to be generous with me. The reflexive principle reflects a triune relationship in my connection to God: that how I see God, how I see myself, and how I see others are all elements of one thing. I think we have only one central bias – at the deepest levels – which expresses itself in these three channels concurrently.
I use this principle in several ways, such as finding out what my heart really thinks about God, myself and the world. If I’m harsh with myself, I discover the belief that God should be harsh with me; if I’m truly happy with others, I see that I’m happy with myself; if I view God as authoritarian, I find society to be filled with laws and requirements. Every combination seems to express this reflective principle, to the extent that I wonder if the three are actually separate.
What if I am my self, my God, and my society? I mean, my perception of the three can only dwell within myself. As purely external entities, they don’t exist for me as objects of perception. In other words, what I see is a reflection of myself upon those things, and thus what the reflexive principle tells me is that I can find out more about my essential beliefs by looking inward.
That the God I relate to is not found in my professed beliefs at first surprised me. The reflexive principle says that I can only believe in God as a friend insofar as I’m capable of being such to myself – even though my Faith says that He will always be more so. It is not about what is, but what I have faith in as being. Thus I improve my relationship to myself, people, and God always in lock-step. One leg of the triangle cannot outstrip the others, without some degree of falseness creeping into my relations (i.e., a belief about God I don’t have faith in, a belief about myself that doesn’t reflect how I treat myself, etc).
In one sense, I see this set of relationships as a fractal design: where God is the fractal itself, Infinite in scale; the world is the diversity of its patterns; and my self is but one point within its immensity: individual and yet nonetheless infinite as well, possessing the same inherent design as that reflected in the whole. That one small part wants to understand itself can be done by looking to what’s around, and finding that within myself is a mysterious, complete identity with the Whole: “He hath known himself who hath known God.”