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Blessed Are The Pure In Heart: The Authentic Self And The Sixth Beatitude

We’ve made it to my favorite of the Beatitudes, the sixth one: “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” This one definitely stands out for the loftiness of its promised reward. Sure, some of the other Beatitudes speak of grand rewards like attaining the kingdom of heaven or inheriting the Earth, but this is the first Beatitude that specifically mentions God. And who wouldn’t want to see God? Everyone wants to know whether or not God exists, right? Nonreligious people are always asking what the proof is for God’s existence. And even people who do believe in God crave that sense of certainty that comes from directly perceiving God. So, let’s get into how this Beatitude allows you to see God and what the concept of an “authentic self” has to do with that.

This is the seventh post in a series on The Beatitudes, 8 keys to happiness that Jesus gifted to the world in his Sermon on the Mount. This series is meant to be read in order, so if you have not read the first six, I suggest you do so and then circle back to this one.

Reading this post will allow you to better understand:

  • What we mean when we talk about “the heart”
  • What pureness of heart entails
  • What your authentic self looks like
  • What the Heart of God is like
  • How to be more pure in heart by drawing upon the first five Beatitudes

Who Are The Pure In Heart? 

We always end up starting out here, don’t we? In order to understand each Beatitude, we have to ask ourselves, “Who are the people in this particular group that Jesus is referring to?” In the case of the sixth Beatitude, it’s the “pure in heart.” The first few Beatitudes seem to refer to people in various states of suffering or desolation: the poor in spirit, the mourners, the meek, the hungry and thirsty. Even the “merciful” (from the fifth Beatitude) are a group of people often thought of as somehow weak or inferior. In unraveling each of the previous Beatitudes, we’ve seen how all of these qualities, in fact, correspond to strength and the potential for immense growth. They are, ultimately, positive qualities, counterintuitive as that might be.

But the sixth Beatitude is different. “Pure in heart.” Well, most of us probably already recognize this as a good quality—or, at least, a quality we are supposed to hold in high regard. So where is the paradox we’ve come to expect from the other Beatitudes? Where is the depth of extra meaning? 

To those questions, I’d respond with this quote from the influential 20th century philosopher Ludwig Wittgenstein:

“The aspects of things that are most important for us are hidden because of their simplicity and familiarity.”

Ludwig Wittgenstein, 20th century philosopher

You think you know what pure in heart means because “pure” and “heart” are words that get tossed around so frequently. They appear so simple and familiar. On some level, they are. But because of their simplicity and familiarity, we rarely reflect on what these words really mean. So, let’s take a moment to do so now!

Understanding The Heart

There is a long history in the West of referring to “the heart” as the source of things like love, morality, and intuition. We “follow our heart” when we are faced with a tricky dilemma or a romantic relationship that demands a path of sacrifice. We “listen to our heart” when there’s an important life-altering decision to be made.

Much of this can be traced back to Aristotle, who believed that the physical heart—not the brain—was the seat of our intellect and emotions. Although Western science and medicine moved on long ago from subscribing to this view in a literal sense, these expressions that tie the heart to the intellect and emotions persist in our vernacular because we still feel deep down like there is some essence of truth there. So why do we feel that way? What do we really mean when we speak of the heart in this way?

The Spiritual Heart

From a mystical perspective, one definition of the heart that makes a lot of sense—especially when thinking about this Beatitude—comes from the 4th century Egyptian hermit Macarius:

“The Heart governs and reigns over your whole body. When Grace possesses the ranges of the heart, it rules over all the activities and the thoughts. For there in the heart, is the Heart-Mind. All the thoughts of the soul and all of its expectations, and in this way, Grace penetrates also to all the members of the body. Within the Heart-Mind, there are unfathomable depths. In the heart is death. In the heart is life. The heart is God’s palace. All things are in the Heart.”

Macarius, 4th century Egyptian hermit
Pure in heart
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In some ways, this description of the heart’s function is congruent with Aristotle’s. But it takes things even further. The reason we feel as though the heart may govern some aspect of our intellectual and emotional processing is because the heart is the command center of all of our thoughts and activities—not just the intellectual and emotional stuff, but everything else, including our spiritual side. Just like the physical heart pumps out the life-giving blood that courses through and animates every other part of the physical body, the figurative “heart” that the sixth Beatitude refers to is the core from which all of our thoughts, intentions, goals, decisions, and actions originate.

What Is A Pure Heart?

Taking this analogy further, consider what happens when the valves and channels in your physical heart get clogged with plaque. If you want to avoid serious, life-threatening cardiovascular complications, you need to keep your physical heart pure. The same goes for your spiritual heart. Maintaining your spiritual vitality means keeping your heart pure.

When you first read the sixth Beatitude, your first impression of “the pure in heart” might have been something like “those who never sin”—the saints, the monks, the puritans, the boy scouts, the Goody-Two-shoes. But that’s not what this Beatitude is about. You don’t have to be a perfectly virtuous person to be pure in heart.

The pure of heart are those whose hearts are functioning optimally. There’s no plaque. All of the channels from their hearts to the rest of their being are clear. In other words, you know you are pure of heart when your mind, emotions, and actions are all in alignment because all of those aspects of your being can be traced back to the same root source. You are living as one unified authentic self. This allows for Grace to flow through you seamlessly and guide you towards your highest purpose. As Macarius says, the heart is God’s palace. The pure in heart have well-paved roads that allow the messengers from this palace to circulate freely and permeate your entire being.

How To Be Pure In Heart

A lot of us feel spiritually lifeless because we haven’t hooked our hearts, our deepest center, onto the Source of Life.

Have you ever tried to keep houseplants? If you have, there’s a good chance you’ve probably seen at least one or two wither away and die on your watch, even when you thought you were doing all the right things.

There’s two ways to kill a houseplant. One is through neglect: you don’t water it enough or don’t give it enough access to sunlight. But the other way to kill a houseplant—which is actually much more common—is the exact opposite. You give your plant too much water and drown it. You give it too much direct sunlight and scorch it. Even too much fertilizer can be a bad thing.

The point is that purifying the heart is not necessarily accomplished with more prayer or more repentance or more anything. Oftentimes, the most important step toward being more pure in heart is subtractive. As the painter Hans Hofmann once said, “The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” If you want to see God, you should think less about what you need to do and more about what you need to stop doing; more about what you need to let go of and less about what you think you need to be grasping for.

The Pure Heart Of The Authentic Self

Pure of heart is another way of saying that you are authentic. You’ve got to be the same on the outside as you are on the inside. What you say and what you do has to be the same. Your motives are transparent. You don’t have anything to hide from others or from yourself. In order to have alignment between what you think, say, want, believe, and do, you need to be honest with yourself. Where are you at now and where do you want to be in terms of which things you hold in your heart?

There is a Bible verse that is particularly relevant here:

“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.”

Matthew 6:24

Money is certainly one thing that people commonly hold in their hearts, knowingly or not. But there are many other such things, not all of which are “vices”: your relationships, work, hobbies, passions, etc. None of these things are “bad” or “impure.” The problem is simply that you cannot serve two masters. If you want to see God, then God and only God must be at the center of your heart. Your heart can only be pure if it has one unifying focus.

Alignment With The Heart Of God

You don’t have to surrender all attachment to or enjoyment of the things named above: relationships, work, hobbies, passions. On the contrary, when your heart is pure and rooted in God, the Source of Life, all these other aspects of your life shine even brighter because they emanate from the strongest possible foundation. Everything falls into place because your heart and God’s Heart have become one. You have simplified things by giving your heart only the amount of water and sunlight it needs. You are living through your authentic self, which actually needs very little, and stripped away all those other aspects of our ego selves that get in the way of the single-focused nature of a heart aligned with the Heart of God.  

How do you know your heart belongs to the Divine? Because when you turn your heart towards God, you start to embody the very things you yearn for. When you long for peace, your actions and thoughts begin to reflect peacefulness. If you yearn for forgiveness, your heart becomes softer, opening the doors for empathy and understanding. The more you yearn for Divine Love in your heart, the more it manifests within you, strengthening your connection with the Universe, and guiding you towards your true essence. You’ll hear from God more quickly. You discern things more easily. Your thoughts won’t be as muddied with confusion because you know yourself at the deepest level.  

What It Means To See God

How can this all be true? Because the Heart of God and your heart are actually the same Heart. That’s why the pure in heart see God. Your heart is naturally pure because it is the Heart of God. It’s just that our ability to see God gets compromised when we compromise the purity of our hearts by trying to organize our lives around things other than God: money, work, relationships, etc.

Once you are pure in heart, you see God because you realize that your heart and God’s Heart are one. But you also realize this is true for everyone’s heart. Even for people whose hearts are far from pure, you recognize that they, too, possess God’s Heart deep down. That’s what Mother Teresa meant when she said,

“A pure heart is necessary to see God in each other. If you see God in each other, there is love for each other, and then there is peace.”

Mother Teresa

“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.” Put another way, “Aligned with the Universe are those whose lives radiate from a core of love, for they shall recognize the face of God everywhere.”

But recognize this: seeing God is indeed a result of becoming pure in heart, but it’s ultimately not the main reason for doing so. As with all mystical lessons, it always comes back to action in the world. What do you do once you realize, by purifying your heart that your heart and the heart of everyone else is the Heart of God? Simple. You love everyone as deeply as you love God and God loves you. And you do so through acts of kindness and compassion.

Cultivating The Authentic Self And Purity In Heart With Beatitudes 1-5

In many of the religions of India, like Hinduism and Buddhism, the lotus is a recurring image in the spiritual writings, teachings, and art. What’s special about the lotus is that it is such a pretty flower when it blooms. But first, it must spend its infancy growing in the mud.

Purity of the authentic self
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This is exactly how you should think about the Beatitudes. Attaining a pure heart, living through your authentic self, and seeing God are all beautiful things—they are signs that your inner mystic has bloomed. But before you get there, you need to appreciate your time spent in the mud. In the Tao Te Ching, the Daoist sage Lao Tzu challenges his readers,  

“Which of you can assume such murkiness, to become in the end still and clear?
Which of you can make yourself inert, to become in the end full of life and stir?”

Tao Te Ching, foundational Daoist text

How much can you accept and embrace your spiritual poverty? Your moments of grief and mourning? How much restraint can you show through meekness and acts of mercy? How deeply can you abide in the restless hunger for righteousness. It’s no fun being stuck in the mud. But the longer you hang out there, the more nutrients you will absorb and the colors of your petals will be all the more majestic for it when it’s time to bloom. You will finally get to enjoy basking in the sunlight above the surface and you will bring joy to all who pass by and enter into your life.



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