When I was taking an undergraduate class in neuropsychology I did a research project where I went into the community and collected data from persons with a disability. The purpose of the research was to better understand how disability affects every day conscious experience. I decided to interview blind people about what it is like to dream.  The professor approved my project and a short while later I found a couple of willing participants through the national association for the blind.

As I interviewed the blind participants about their dream experiences I came to the realization that I probably should have selected another topic. Why? My interviewees and I could not come to an agreement on what it is like for a blind person to dream. It wasn’t that they didn’t dream; they did dream. It’s just that no matter how hard I tried, I could not capture the essence of their dreams. I could not understand what they were describing because I have never experienced being blind. I have not experienced the world the way they experienced it.

It’s nearly impossible to describe something to someone who has no experience with the sensory modality needed to experience the thing being described.  After a pleasant dining experience at a restaurant, I might describe a tasty meal you have never tried as being slightly sweet. Well that is not a problem for you because you’ve tasted sweet before. You can appreciate in some small way what the meal tastes like. But for someone who has never tasted food before, this sort of understanding would be impossible. For a person without taste buds, sweet might as well be nonexistent. In fact, if we all lacked taste buds, there would be no such thing as sweet in this world.

Now most people can taste just fine so we don’t hear denials about sweetness. But what if there was a sensory modality that many people had never experienced? If enough people had no experience with that sensory modality, there might very well be talk about that modality not existing. There is such a modality – spiritual experience.

Have you ever wondered why it is so difficult to convince an atheist that God lives? A believer may go on and on about spiritual experiences that tell him or her that God lives, but if the atheist has never had a spiritual manifestation, has never known what it is like to feel the Spirit, it is nearly impossible for the atheist to know what the believer is describing. In fact, without having had a similar experience, the atheist might deny the reality of the believer’s spiritual experiences. It is not that the atheist is being mean spirited or claiming that the believer is a liar. Rather, the atheist cannot grasp the concept of spiritual experience because he or she has never had one. In a way, to the atheist, such things do not exist.

Of course the first step in overcoming this spiritual ontological void is to basically say, “Gee, there are so many people out there claiming to have had spiritual experiences, they might be real. Perhaps I will humble myself, open my eyes so to speak, and seek out these experiences for myself.” This is exactly what is meant in religious terms as opening one’s eyes. In the scriptures, reference is made to “opening one’s eyes of understanding” that one may see and know. The concept of opening one’s eyes refers to discovering a whole new world of spirituality that one did not know existed by being humble and seeking out the spirit. Without humility and effort the atheist will remain blind to the world of spirituality and it will appear to him or her as though it does not exist.

The scriptures indentify certain persons who are at risk for remaining blind to the Spirit. They are the learned and those who think they are wise. These people are least likely to humble themselves and seek out the Spirit. Isn’t it interesting that among those whose claim to fame is knowing a lot about this or that, many do not know that the spiritual is real? I reality they don’t know as much as they think they know and they are less wise than they think.

Here’s to hoping that they open their eyes of understanding (Dave lifts his water cup into the air and then takes a sip).

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