Updated: Nov 7, 2020
Blessed Are The Pure In Heart
The state of the heart was a fundamental focus of early religions. This was evidenced in the placement of two lions at the entrances to buildings and cities. It was said that the lions where there to check that the heart of those entering was sufficiently soft. Effectively they where mindfulness tools, reminders to people who were entering the building or city to choose to be soft hearted. Nineteenth-century Christian historians and archeologists, John Neale and Benjamin’s Webb argue that lions served two fundamental purposes for anyone choosing to enter a sacred space: first it was the entrance to Heaven for martyrs and secondly, it was a reminder that you had to be prepared to turn your back on all worldly attachments if you were wanting to enter the kingdom of God.
In the sermon where we find the Beatitudes, it explains that whatever it is that you treasure, there will your heart (passion) be also. It can be deduced that hard heartedness is associated with “worldly attachment’ and soft heartedness is associated with “treasures in heaven”. The sermon goes on to explain, “No man can serve to masters...” the idea being that the treasure of our heart is our master.
This idea of hard heartedness was later referred to as being a heart that had waxed gross. We think of wax as being something soft and pliable, but becoming ‘waxed gross’ gives the connotation of being hard and no longer pliable. Being discussed in a later sermon, this state of the heart was associated with the idea of people being unaware. One of the more notable parables is the one about the sower, and how the environment into which the seeds fell or were planted would impact on the quality of the seedlings that would grow. This equated to Buddha’s three poisons: ignorance, avoidance and attachment. The essence of the parable is that when people are in a state of ignorance (not knowing they are unaware) - the seeds fall on unworked soil, avoidance (being more aware but ignoring the new knowledge) - the seeds fall in stoney places, and attachment (being more aware, trying to adopt the changes but not sustaining them) - where the seeds fall amongst the weeds, it’s because “their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed.” (Matthew 13:15-23)
It seems that the remedy for hard heartedness is in being aware. “...at any time they should see with their eyes, hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart...I will heal them.” But it’s more than just being aware, it also includes empathy and compassion (understanding with their heart). This makes a lot of sense, given that in the last Beatitude the Works of Mercy became fundamental to how one would turn up in the world having decided to become non-attached to “worldly treasures”. This is the point in our journey where we have made the commitment to being mindful of being more love-centred in how we turn up in the world. Having this as a priority, you would no longer be driven by pride or greed, envy or lust, wrath, gluttony and sloth (the seven cardinal sins) would be seen as harmful.
The state of being ‘pure in heart’ would reflect two key factors. The first is that you would be committed to living your life in integrity with loving values. You would possess the ‘Odour of Sanctity’ a measure of one’s worthiness that harks back to the Egyptians. Anubis, the Great Dog, stood at the gates of the afterworld to check the scent of those passing (enhanced by embalming). The more ‘pure’ one was, the more certain it was that they would possess this Odour of Sanctity and could enter the kingdom of Heaven. Of course, there they would get to see God. So hence, blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. This was the sixth Beatitude. The second factor was a life devoted to living with kindness. This idea of living a love-centred life would result in one being able to see God. John explained, “Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God.” (1John 4:7)
At EAP Mentor, we help people develop the clarity of mind that enables them to become both more aware and more mindful to being able to live with kindness. Awareness overcomes ignorance and avoidance, and mindfulness makes attachment obsolete. A life devoted to living with awareness and mindfulness is a life lived with love. This is what would qualify you to be called ‘pure in heart’.
It would seem that in that state, you would be allowed to pass the lions at the gate, and if you were to pass-on, you would possess the Odour of Sanctity which would permit you to “see God”.
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