Is the spiritual world real? Yes. Can I prove it. No, of course not. But I think I can offer here an explanation that at least explains why belief in the spiritual world is plausible, and not counter to reason. At the risk of sounding immodest, I believe that what you are about to read represents the best thinking I have done thus far in my life on the subject of spiritual things. It is quite simply my favorite of all my original ideas.
I am a teacher. My goal in life is to take concepts and ideas that can be difficult to understand, and make them accessible to people. A few months ago, in an email conversation with an atheist friend of mine, I came up with a way of explaining the spiritual world that may not convince atheists to become theists, but I think can at least help them see why belief itself is valid. I also think this is a good way of helping believers through times of difficulty and doubt.
The image above is a stereogram. Stereograms are pictures that are not what they appear to be. On the surface they can look like almost anything, but if you look at them long enough, stare kind of into them and kind of past them, (go ahead, try it!) a whole other 3D reality emerges and once you see it, it’s as clear as could be. This is not magic, though it appears to be. The truth is that the dots in the picture above have been placed in the way they are specifically so that the richer image inside can emerge if a person is looking at it the right way. There are some people, I understand, who will never be able to see the richer pictures inside a stereogram. Therefore, they will never have a single bit of evidence beyond the testimonies of those who have seen.
Among those who do see, some see with great ease and others see with great difficulty. And for the sake of the analogy, let’s say that the picture in the stereogram isn’t of a dinosaur or a picnic basket, but an incredible 3D Rorschach inkblot. In other words, something extremely real hidden in the plain random dots on the canvas, but then once a person sees it, people might be inclined to impose their own understandings as to what the image is. No debate whatsoever that it is real and that the shape itself is exactly the same for everyone who looks at it, but people will take different things away from it when they look at the picture. But nonetheless, they would be seeing, in spite of the protests of those who either do not see or simply have not seen yet.
Some would say, “I saw a frog.” Others would say, “I saw breasts.” Others might say, “I saw a house,” and others, “I saw what looked like random shapes and patterns.” Of course that’s what’s actually there. So the person who gives what seems to be the least clear description may be telling you most accurately what is actually there.
But what would you make of someone who refused to even try to see?
Perhaps someone has it on good authority that not everyone can see, and that reports on what is in there are diverse, so therefore the conclusion is that there are only meaningless dots on the picture and don’t even try to see further. Seeing what’s in there requires not only looking, but looking PAST and BEYOND – looking in a way that is so different from how you usually look that it might take you ten minutes, or twenty minutes, or an hour of looking before the picture emerges. If after ten minutes you say there is nothing, you are wrong. If after twenty minutes you say there is nothing, you are wrong. If you stare for ten days straight and say there’s nothing, you are wrong. If you NEVER see it, and maintain that it cannot be seen, you are wrong. Others have seen it.
My point is that there’s something there that can be seen, but there are conditions for seeing it:
- Someone must believe there is in fact more to be seen than what is immediate. Without this belief, the person will not only not bother, but will probably be critical of those who try to see. Until a person looks for himself, all he/she has is the testimony of others that there is in fact something to see that goes beyond appearances.
- Someone must want to see the hidden picture. Without the desire, they will never take the time to try.
- Someone must then actually make a decision to invest the time to stand in front of the picture. Stopping and taking the time to see what, on report, is actually there.
- This one’s huge. Someone must next be willing to learn to “see” in a very different way. Typically we see by looking straight at things, and the straighter on we look the more seeable something is. This is exactly the opposite and the harder you try to see in the usual way, the longer the deeper picture will elude you.
- Once one is willing to learn to see, one must keep at it. Typically the pictures take a while to emerge and the “seer” can kind of lose them as his eyes adjust to a new way of seeing, but with patience most people can learn to truly see what is in there.
The person who stands in front of the stereogram, using the way of seeing that he has always used, will never see what is in there no matter how many questions he asks or how hard he tries. However stereograms are made, they are simply of the nature that you have to “look at it” differently. Refusal and unwillingness to do this says nothing about whether or not something is actually in there to be seen. And of course, the effort to see can be very frustrating and some who might be able to see with enough time will give up before the picture ever emerges and will go through life declaring that they’re one of the people who simply can’t see those images. Others will experience great frustration but exercise great patience and eventually reap the reward of seeing. When they do, they will be able to share the wonder of that 3D image only with others who have seen it, because the experience is so unique that the richness of those pictures can never really be described to those who have not seen, regardless of the reason.
The same is true with the spiritual world. If you do not want there to be a God, you will simply never take the time to see, or train yourself in the new way of seeing that is necessary in order for you to see what many others do in fact know is there. Of course simply wanting there to be a God is not sufficient evidence that there actually is one, but it is the necessary condition for being able to ever see him if there is. Then, once one has seen, one knows.
Here’s what we know beyond doubt. Millions of people claim there is a richer, spiritual world beyond the physical one, and there are many different descriptions of what that world actually contains. Some try hard to see and don’t. Others could but never try. Some will not make the very subtle perceptual shifts that are required in order to learn to see in new ways and will then insist that those who do see are deluded.
I think I have provided here a clear demonstration, based in plainly physical things, of how the spiritual world can be accessible to human beings, as well as accounted for how people could see the same thing in different ways and why there might be different accounts of the same thing, while also accounting for the fact that people have various levels of faith (the ability to “see” in that different way), as well as no faith at all. I think I have even offered an explanation for why those who are least able to describe what they have seen might actually apprehend the reality of the image the best.
I hope this has been a helpful way of explaining the spiritual perspective itself, based on something you can see in the physical world. I have also tried to work in my opinion that this is not magic or miracle, but is simply the nature of spirit and the way the universe is actually arranged.