Spiritual Sight: How to See the Unseen
Soul growth is about developing a higher vision
In my last post, I have described Paul’s idea of a radical transformation, an all-encompassing orientation towards Christ, leading to a strengthening of one’s “spiritual sight”—or seeing the unseen—and ultimately, to participating in the kingdom of God.
I would like to elaborate a bit, specifically on the question: what exactly does “seeing the unseen,” or spiritual sight, entail?
Seeing the unseen means to gain a subtle “uplink” to the higher world, the world of Spirit, and to be able to discern the spiritual reality, the hidden meaning, behind the material world. This then leads to better decisions and actions—decisions based on “the things of God” as opposed to “the things of man,” as Mark’s Jesus expressed the Pauline teaching.
Now, part of this process is pretty straight-forward and can be expressed in modern terms: we need to learn as much as we can about the world, based on observation, life experience, and study. And this without blinking, for truth can be uncomfortable: we have our sacred cows, our ideologies, our obsessions, our blind spots, our temperaments, etc. Although we might never be able to move past those entirely in this life, at least we must get better at discerning certain unhealthy dynamics and reactions when faced with new observations, experiences, and knowledge.
Such knowledge, life experience, and self-mastery then allow us to recognize patterns and see clearer. For example, we might get better at setting priorities in our life, recognize who we should help and who we should better leave to their lessons, who has a negative impact on our soul and who lifts us up, how we can best put our individual talents to use, and so on.
But this process is not about deriving abstract laws from observable reality, or at least not only. Such abstractions can easily be misleading constructs of the human mind, sweeping generalizations based on hidden assumptions.
There is another dimension, perhaps quite literally, to “seeing the unseen:” the idea that there is another reality, one that is behind our material reality, and that it is this other reality we need to perceive and base our actions on, even while we live in our familiar material world. Think of Plato’s cave and other such analogies. Keep in mind though that such pictures are really metaphors: they describe the hidden reality, not the literal material reality. In the image of Plato’s cave, for instance, the point is not to literally crawl out of the cave; that is impossible as of yet in our material realm. The point is rather to gain a subtle uplink to the part of the world outside the cave that means well, that wants us to grow, to transform, until perhaps one day we might be ready to leave the cave entirely. (And help others doing the same, for the two go together.) This allows us to act in the cave according to the laws of the outside world, difficult as this may be, instead of getting caught up in cave-aspirations, cave-culture, cave-problems, cave-ideals, cave-activities, and cave-ideas.
Now, this doesn’t mean that cave-reality isn’t important: we can’t evade it, and part of the goal of “seeing the unseen” is mastering the cave-world (our material world). But there is the added element of faith in the principles and workings of the outside world, which we can subtly discern—through a glass darkly, in Paul’s words—via our uplink to the benevolent force outside (the “Christ spirit”).
However, the cave analogy goes only so far. The higher world is not just another material world—it is a world where things are experienced very differently. For example, time might work very differently. As is said in 2 Peter 3:1
But do not forget this one thing, dear friends: With the Lord a day is like a thousand years, and a thousand years are like a day.
This means that cause and effect, as well as time scales, might work very differently in the higher world. Even things like backwards causation might be possible—we don’t really know from our earthy perspective. But we need to keep it in mind on our path towards “seeing the unseen,” fueled by our “uplink” to Christ/Higher Goodness and faith that when we live and act in communion with Spirit, that All Will Be Good.
To illustrate this, let me refer to the beautifully written text by Mark Bisone, The Low Mass.
In it, Mark wonders about the magic of the old Catholic Low Mass, and the relationship between the ritual and our material world—specifically evil in our world.
He imagines a very poignant scene where a pair of TikTok addicted anti-Christians invade the beautiful Latin service to “give it to them” (in the name of liberation, of course), while filming the whole thing for some internet fame. The half-naked woman and her cameraman enter the service, go to the altar, and she starts twerking, while they blast loud disruptive music from their devices.
Mark wonders what should happen in his imaginary scenario2 if, instead of taking the bait, the priest and congregation just continued with the service, ignoring the “demonic” intrusion entirely—in the firm belief that the service is stronger, and that the evil forces don’t have any power over them; not even the power to make them angry.
Could it be that our pair of twerking TikTok addicts be so shocked by this that they would actually be compelled, by a powerful “spell,” to flee the scene? To run from the superior forces of God? And, on exiting the church, feel horrible?
My take on this is that such things are entirely possible, but in the spiritual realm. It is there, in the unseen world behind our material world, that such battles are ultimately fought, and won. But since the spiritual realm is so different from the material realm, these victories not necessarily manifest immediately here on earth.
I’m pretty sure that in Mark’s scenario, our twerking duo would still feel great about themselves and wouldn’t be compelled to run. They certainly wouldn’t feel terrible about their actions. True, the sovereign reaction by the congregation—refusing to be provoked—might be somewhat disappointing for them, and perhaps the duo gets bored more quickly and leaves them alone. But they would still have their TikTok video and feel gleeful about it all.
On the higher plane, outside Plato’s cave, things might be otherwise. A decisive battle has been won. But since that world is so different, with different time scales and different principles, the manifestation in the material realm might be very different, too. It might be possible, for example, that our duo feels unwell the day after, for no apparent reason, and gets into a fight. Or that this event ultimately leads to the twerker’s mental breakdown ten years down the line.
But even that might not happen. Punishment for transgressions against God, and spiritual victories, don’t necessarily translate to the material realm directly: it is very possible that our twerker not only feels good about herself after this episode, but actually thrives until an old age. But on a soul level, on the spiritual plane, she has lost everything. On her deathbed, the sudden realization about what she has allowed herself to become might hit her so hard as to literally smash her soul into a thousand pieces.
Or not. Maybe she won’t be punished at all; maybe she is just what she is. Maybe the spiritual victory of the congregation doesn’t punish her, but only helps them.
Which brings us to the positive achievements on the higher planes and the question about whether rituals such as the Latin mass have any positive “magical” power.
Again, we need to acknowledge that things work differently on the higher planes. Regularly going to a beautiful and uplifting Mass, in the right spirit of contemplation and orientation towards Christ, might not immediately work magic. But over a long time span it might transform one’s life in profound ways: towards a life lived according to spiritual principles, not material ones. Call it “magic” if you will, but not the kind that violates free will and satisfies our whims. But the kind that requires active contemplation and work, brings subtle results possibly only over long time spans: results that often cannot be measured, or even perceived, in purely material terms.
This also excludes any form of prosperity gospel or New Age “law of attraction” ideas. Mark’s Jesus couldn’t be clearer when he says to Peter: “Get behind me, Satan! For you are not setting your mind on the things of God, but on the things of man.” (Mark 8:33)
The principles of the unseen world are different: material riches are only relevant, and granted, if they serve growth in the spiritual, not the material sense.
But, you might ask, is magic as we normally think of it impossible? What about the so-called paranormal phenomena? I would suggest that such things are for the most part limit cases, exceptions, where the unseen world “crashes” into or collides with our material world. That is, in these instances, things exceptionally do manifest directly in interesting, often unpredictable ways. It is a sort of “punctuation” of the material realm by processes that are usually much subtler and much more stretched out over time. Thinking you can directly control such punctuations, such piercings of the veil, so to speak, is very dangerous: given how messed up we all are and how mixed our aspirations and intents still are, we might invite spiritual disaster. Still seeing and thinking in material terms, while trying to force the higher realms to satisfy our earthy wishes and desires, only brings the wrong kind of forces upon us.
The gospel of Mark is all about developing a subtle spiritual sight, and the consequences of failing to do so. I recommend (re)reading it in that light.3 Those who insist on a literal interpretation of the gospel, or indeed of any myths or allegories, commit the same error as those bystanders during Jesus’ crucifixion: for them, Jesus was just a dude dying on a cross. They even mocked him in typical materialist fashion: if you are such a great spiritual master, why don’t you just use your powers and free yourself? You can almost imagine a smirking Sam Harris among them. What they couldn’t see, and what interestingly, in Mark’s story, only the Roman centurion could see, is that in the story, Jesus' powers lie in the higher plane, not the material one. His status as Son of God can only be seen using spiritual sight. His defeat of evil takes place in the unseen world, even while in the material world he is dying just like any regular dude.
Seeing the unseen, or “walking according to the Spirit” in Paul’s words, is a subtle affair that requires everything from us: working on mind, emotions, body, soul, intuition to increase discernment and embark on a journey towards tuning into the benevolent side of creation. The battles won on that front, our victories, often cannot be seen from a purely materialist standpoint. They are won on the higher planes. But since our material world is ultimately derived from these higher planes, those victories do change our world, too. It’s just that to recognize those itself requires spiritual vision, since those changes can be unexpected, subtle, and hidden in a long process.
Let me close by providing a few tips for working on your spiritual vision, although such lists can obviously never capture the full depth of what amounts to a life-long struggle for learning and soul growth:
Don’t get hung up on the literal. Always ask what certain observations and texts might mean if we take them as allegories for what might be going on at the higher levels.
Accept different time scales. Part of getting out of the materialist mindset is developing patience and realizing that changes often play out over months, years, decades, or even millennia; and that cause and effect may lie very far apart time-wise. Things trickle through into our realm in interesting ways.
Don’t think you can (ab)use the higher realm for selfish, material purposes. The exchange of information with the higher world, the communion with Spirit in prayer or indeed daily life, is about developing spiritual vision, not about wishful thinking or conflating material purposes with spiritual ones.
Accept certain contradictions. They might be resolved eventually, but you often cannot resolve them immediately and need to live with them for a while longer. The urge to immediately eradicate every seeming contradiction can severely limit our vision—a vision that operates on a variety of approaches and perspectives simultaneously, guided by an internal compass in touch with the All.
Know that things happening in the material world are not always what they seem. Being in touch with our feelings, thoughts, and body, all of which, taken together, can open a subtle perception of the spiritual, can help us discern the deeper meaning behind events in our lives and the world. Don’t get too identified with any one such interpretation, though: not only might it turn out to be wrong, but sometimes things are just what they seem.
Be aware that certain dynamics and patterns might offer glimpses into the higher realms. Repeating negative patterns in our lives could mean that we need to adjust our outlook and thinking to better conform to truth on the higher plane; dynamics in our lives and on the world stage might reveal spiritual truth.
Don’t rush to conclusions; there are many traps on the way. It is advisable to practice “switching gears” and changing perspective before rushing to conclusions or develop rigid and fixed belief patterns. It is easy to lock yourself into a thought world that is only partially true, or even full of misunderstandings, which then derails you from the path.
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We need to be very careful with “Peter”—this text was likely written/redacted in order to attack Marcion, and perhaps, by proxy, Paul. But this particular passage rings true.
Not so imaginary, really. Yes, I’m looking at you, Pussy Riot.
I would stick to Mark—the later gospels very likely are embellishments with an anti-Pauline slant that try to “correct” Mark in the direction of a more material, earthy, “fleshly” theology.