Sunday, January 17, 2010

The Invisible World

If you are going to believe anything, believe there is more to you than meets the eye. If you are going to believe anything else, believe that there is more to everyone and everything than meets the eye. It all starts with the presumption of The More, The Invisible, The Unknown, The More. The fundamental spiritual assumption is that the visible world rests on the invisible world. If you aren’t willing to make that assumption, there is, for you, no such thing as spirituality. All that is real and true is material, physical, logical, rational, concrete, actual, tangible, measureable, weighable, countable, objective and verifiable. Spiritual is immaterial, “of the spirit,” beyond the physical senses, a world apart from the world of ordinary, apparent reality. So, if you think there is more to it all than meets the eye, you belong here. If you don’t, you’re welcome, of course, to stay, but why?

The work of the church as it ought to be is the work of connecting its members with the unknown, invisible, world, with The More than meets the eye. Faith is actually trust that the invisible world, The More, exists and can be approached, apprehended, intuited, experienced, expressed and incarnated within the visible world of ordinary, apparent, reality. This kind of trust, the willingness to trust ourselves to the truth of the invisible world, is the only kind of faith we need to have. Everything flows from there.

Spiritual reality has a physical dimension. Physical reality has a spiritual dimension. There is a point, on the boundary between yin and yang, between spiritual and physical, at which both are one. If you experience the purely physical at a sufficient depth of awareness and appreciation, a doorway opens, a threshold is crossed, and you are awash in the spiritual. And, on the other hand, if you meditate in the darkness to a sufficient depth of spiritual realization, you will have to give that sense of The More some manner of actual, tangible, concrete physical expression in your life. The one calls forth the other. Neither exists apart from the other. Both are functions of reality becoming real through our experience, through our conscious awareness. We see, say, sing the universe into being. Where would either world be without our awareness of both?

We are the bridge between worlds, connecting worlds, blessing worlds, and we, in turn, are graced and blessed by our association with each. Or, we have the potential of being so blessed. It’s realization depends upon our willing, conscious, participation in the process of bridging the worlds. This process requires us to represent the physical world to the spiritual, and the spiritual to the physical. We translate, interpret, and accommodate each world within and unto the other. For instance, we understand that each world comprehends time differently. In the physical world, time is linear and sequential in a way that can be scheduled and planned. In the spiritual world, time is pregnant with meaning and wonder but the when of birth is “in its own time,” and impossible to pinpoint beyond “in the fullness of time,” or, “when the time is right.”

We have to appreciate the differences between the world of spirit and the world of matter in order to bridge the worlds and represent one to the other. We can deepen our awareness of the differences between the worlds by looking at the research being done in the area of the left and right hemispheres of the brain. If we think of the right side of the brain as being the spiritual hemisphere, and the left side of the brain as being the physical hemisphere, we will have a metaphor for how the two worlds compare and relate to one another.

Critical to our relationship with each world, to our ability to bridge the worlds, is the realization that there is nothing in it for us. We, as a species, have the age-old idea that the spiritual world is ours to plunder and pillage to benefit our life in the physical world. We think that once we learn the secret of access, within the spiritual world lie the keys to the kingdom and that, by becoming spiritual, we will have the wisdom and insight necessary to manage our affairs in the physical world to our maximum advantage. Or, we have the other idea. We think that by subjecting ourselves to the power and control of the spiritual world, by being spiritual and pure, aloof, and unscathed by the sinful “world of the flesh,” we will be kept safe until the day of resurrection when we will rise with the saints in light and be accorded royal robes and high places in the kingdom of heaven, and enjoy eternal life there to our maximum advantage. Either way, it’s the same deal. We think the spiritual world exists for our enjoyment, benefit, and glory. The truth is that is not so.

We are the bridge between worlds, the boundary between yin and yang. As such, it is our place to collaborate and cooperate with each world for the good of both. We compensate for and counteract the deficiencies of the one with the strengths of the other and so make peace between the two. We live within both worlds for the sake of each and work for the reconciliation of one with the other. We do that by perceiving, engaging and incarnating spiritual reality within the world of physical reality. There is no advantage, no benefit, no immunity, no special treatment for those who take up the work of being citizens of both worlds. What we get for our trouble is an interesting and meaningful life.

Jesus was recognized by the centurion as the son of God. The disciples understood him to be the Anointed one of God. He was hailed as Messiah (Christ): The One Who Makes God Known. This is living as a citizen of both worlds, so that those who see us see the spiritual through the physical. Now, we only come close to this in our best moments on our best days, but we all have given the world a glimpse of grace, and mercy, and peace. We have shown what we are capable of. And, of course, we have shown what we are also capable of! We have been as petty as we have been gallant, as mean-spirited as we have been gracious, as snarly and rude as we have been kind and generous. We are, indeed, citizens of both worlds, exhibiting the qualities of each in a tangled mass that makes more for confusion than for fusion, more for chaos than for peace. Our work is cut out for us.

The work is that of becoming conscious of who we are and what is ours to do, and being intentional about doing it. That work involves us in learning all we can of the invisible world in order to be agents, envoys, of that world within the visible world of normal, apparent, reality. In this endeavor, research into the right hemisphere of the brain can help us access the spiritual world. Intuition, instinct, resonance, synchronicity, numinous awareness, dreams, symbols, Freudian slips, and the like are “thin places” where the invisible world can be apprehended if not studied. We become students of these things in order to know as much as we can know of the invisible and unknown.

Okay, whoa, time to stop. Time to say right out loud that no arena of human endeavor is more replete with charlatans, swindlers, imposters, liars, cheats, cranks, creeps and ne’er-do-wells than the invisible world. Here, we move into the area of metaphysics, cosmology, parapsychology, astrology, and la-la-everything. We’re swamped, stampeded, bowled-over and undone by the kooky hoards. We don’t have a chance. This is why Orthodoxy is so comforting. There, lines have been drawn between revealed truth and speculative thrill seeking. The church of our experience may not have been all that welcoming of new ideas, but at least there were standards in place and the people were all normal. We can’t get very far from that without reaching an edge we don’t want to step over. How can we talk about knowing the invisible and unknown world without risking the loss of all bearings and coming out, if we come out at all, wearing crystals and chewing peyote?

So, here’s the first rule: Don’t take anyone’s word for anything ever, including mine. I trust Carl Jung because of his training and his experience with the unconscious world of so many people over the course of his life. He put his theories forward as theories, not facts, and he doesn’t stand to gain anything personally from our allegiance or interest. But. He said no one knows what they don’t know. Bear that in mind. And don’t take anyone’s word for anything ever when they are talking about what cannot be seen, or known.

Here’s the second rule: Question everything (Also known as: “Let the buyer beware!”). This is an area of complete and total speculation. No one knows what is unknown! No one sees what is invisible! Do not believe anything you hear! Critique! Critique! Critique! But, here is where it gets interesting. The third rule is: Keep an open mind! Be interested, alert, awake! Wonder a lot! You will find yourself on paths you can’t begin to imagine, in places you could never predict, doing things you could not have foreseen. All because you know you can’t know what you don’t know, trust yourself to the unseen, unknown, invisible world, and allow yourself to be led without a map or a compass along the way. Amen! May it be so!

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