One of my favorite quotes is from an ancient text known as the Gospel of Thomas. The quote says:
“If you bring forth what is within you, what you bring forth will save you. If you do not bring forth what is within you, what you do not bring forth will destroy you.”
It is attributed to Jesus, but many say that claim is heresy. For me, I am not so much interested in the quote’s origins as I am in its meaning. Though it’s a bit unwieldy, for me the quote resonates with a profound truth. The first time I ever heard it, my heart ached with familiarity: I felt like the mysterious author was speaking directly to me. But it was a nebulous kind of familiarity. Trying to grasp the quote’s meaning is like trying to capture a cloud. Your hands will pass right through.
Perhaps breaking down each of its components will help. So, let me give that a try:
This is the easiest part (I think). It means to express yourself. It means to articulate what is inside. This could be spoken or it could be an act of creation. Great artists, writers, and actors find the means for doing this. It’s what makes them so charismatic, their works so compelling.
Think about Robert De Niro, for example. He usually plays bold, larger than life characters who are brimming with bravado. As my dad likes to say of intimidating figures, “I wouldn’t want to meet him in a dark alley.” Just think of De Niro delivering one of his most famous lines, “You talkin’ to me?”
Yet, have you ever seen De Niro when he is not acting? He is quiet, reserved, almost meek. So, which is the real De Niro? I think it’s both. De Niro can channel his inner badass with such ease that that’s how most of us think of him. His gift is being able to turn on his alter ego at will. He knows how and when to bring it forth.
‘Bringing forth’ might also speak to becoming aware of our gifts. One of the great aspects of life coaching, for example, is that a skilled coach brings forth herclient’s highest potential. The results can be particularly profound when the client was somehow cut off from this higher part of herself. In coaching, we call this “finding the spark.” It is that interior flame, that essence that can never be extinguished, though it can be diminished.
What is Within You
The thing that we seek inside of ourselves might be our ultimate destiny, our unique truth or wisdom, or our highest gifts. The Greeks speak of it as the inner daimon, an inner spirit or divine spark.
Of his famous statue, David, Michelangelo said, “Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it. I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free.” The block of stone possessed an inner daimon and all Michelangelo did was to free that spirit.
Will Save You
What first comes to mind for me when I see these words is to ‘spare’ or ‘keep from harm.’ Yet, I sense that the quote is pushing us toward something more profound. I believe it is referring to a divine notion of salvation, the act of saving your soul.
I like to think this is related to the concept of karma. Each lifetime is the opportunity to work out the effects of our karma (or the sum of our actions in this and previous existences). When we fail to do so, we reincarnate to get another chance at clearing our karmic debt. ‘Bringing forth that which is within’ us is a way of accessing those higher qualities that can help us transcend our karma and fulfill our divine destiny.
Will Destroy You
Ouch, that’s kind of harsh. For me, this emphasizes the imperative of bringing forth one’s divine spark. The consequences of not doing so are grave. I think many of us know what it feels like when we are suppressing the greatest aspects of our true selves.
Personally, I experienced this during my career in Corporate America. I’ve had two corporate stints, separated by a year and a half hiatus. At first, when I re-entered the corporate world, I did a great job of showing up as my true self. I kept myself balanced with practices like doing grounding exercises in my car before I went into work. This kept my vibration high and my energy attuned to my higher self while providing resiliency for handling the politics of the workplace.
I knew that my well-being was not an outcome of the environment that I was in. It was the other way around: my well-being was fundamental and it created the environment that I experienced.
But then something shifted. This happened right around the time of the financial crisis of 2008. I lost touch with my practices and became untethered from my grounding. I began to be strongly influenced by the ebbs and flows of organizational life. It felt soul-crushing. I can’t blame it on the corporation, though. It was that I lost my connection to my inner daimon. I was definitely being destroyed.
I recaptured my connection to my inner daimon when I left that job in order to complete my PhD and later began to build my coaching practice.
When it is not brought forth, your inner daimon festers inside you. I believe this kind of unexpressed potential can lead to disease — of the mind, of the spirt, and of the body. So, for me, that’s the message behind the Gospel of Thomas.
So, my friends, what is inside of you that you must express?
Interested in learning more about the Gospel of Thomas? Check out Elaine Pagels’ excellent analysis: Beyond Belief.
I’m Kira Swanson, a mindset coach for writers. I help writers master their mental game so that they can focus on what they love: writing. I help my clients to tap their inner source of motivation and inspiration, create the time to write, and quash the self-doubt that plagues so many creatives so that they can finally finish that draft.