There’s a ton of science fiction out there that loves to play with our perceptions of reality…like the ending sequence of Men In Black with the world being on a marble that a giant alien is playing with, or later looking out of the locker door at a giant bus station. Its interesting to give ourselves some mental gymnastics with the concept, but at the end of the day, most of us who consider ourselves reasonable will laugh it off.
In the last week, I’ve been led to do some spiritual gymnastics with the concept, though. Our world and environments are so observable, so testable. We’re obsessed with what we can measure and analyze in our industrialized culture…which leads to the Tillichian explanation that our cultural angst results in the fact that we cannot reconcile our more abstract spiritual life with our touchable physical environment.
But what if, as Lewis claims, the spiritual environment is actually much more real?
We tend to not be able to see past our stuff because we’ve deified science, which is so horribly limited, and so we can’t see past what we can touch, taste, and test. We’ve even attempted to reduce the spiritual abstract to a science with this sketchy little endeavor called theology. Similarly, we’ve reduced the complexity of the human intelligence and soul to the science of psychology. Both sciences are useful to a point, but somewhere we’ve made them their own point…sort of like doing art for art’s sake. When that happens, we’ve missed the point. We can’t simply analyze people or God, we must enter relationships with them if we are to know them. We can’t hold them at arms’ length and claim any accurate knowledge or experience. We do well to claim that in the midst of them.
I’ve become strikingly convinced in the last week that what we see as tangible is only a frame of reference, a perception. What we physically interact with is only a result of the vastly larger spiritual realm we’ve convinced ourselves into thinking is much smaller than it is, or even secondary. Or, in the cases of some, even non-existent. Ask anyone who has encountered a ghost, or an angel. They’ll happily tell you the spiritual realm exists. Its just that our analytical, scientific little minds can’t perceive it.
Tillich would say that this is where the artist is superior, because they are almost always separated from mathematical formulae. I don’t think it is a case of superiority, or that the awareness of the spiritual falls to the artist alone. I think a bit of open-mindedness and introspection would lead most of us there. And, once we arrived, I imagine our lives would be irrevocably altered.
Perhaps, though, this is why many never make the leap.