The Visible and the Invisible Worlds
I admire a big tree full of red pomegranates that hang like Christmas tree balls. I know that just below it there’s another “subterranean tree” sustaining it. Less impressive to the human eye, colorless, invisible – the roots.
I sit on a bench on a busy street and observe the passersby. I don’t focus on their clothes or try to imagine their naked bodies. With X-ray vision, I see their hearts pumping blood, their lungs inhaling air, their kidneys filtering internal juices. I don’t see lean human bodies, but bones and sinew and blood.
I look at the moon and stars. I think of how they remain in their orbits. I suddenly see in my mind’s eye Newton’s and Einstein’s laws – numbers and symbols and equations.
I listen to a Bach concerto. I stop following the music and dissect the process: there are sheets of music and violin strings and metal wind tubes and sound waves moving through the air and an ear drum that translates all of this into music.
I read a poem. It talks about objects and people and situations of this world. But it transports me to another world where these things obtain another meaning and create another world – the same world that gave rise to the poem. An invisible world.
Everything we see, every natural or manmade object, every natural phenomenon, every animal and human activity, every event in the universe has an invisible substratum that sustains it. A substratum that nourishes, guides, informs. This invisible entity is as vast as (often much vaster than) the visible elements it springs forth.
The tree roots sustain the tree above. The internal organs sustain the fleshy body. The physical forces governed by mathematical laws sustain the galaxies. The abstract relations of harmony sustain our art and music. Every higher human activity – our philosophy, psychology, poetry and art, the principles of our ethics and human conduct – is sustained by our mind.
Wherever we look, whatever we explore, we discover one universal truth:
Everything visible is sustained by something invisible.
Yet we are the only creatures who have the ability to somehow discover and “see” this invisible world – or rather worlds, because there are many. We need only dig a few inches below the ground to discover the tree’s vast roots. We need only dissect or use sensors to see one’s heart and lungs. We need only study the visible motion of planets and stars to discover the equations that govern their motions. And even if we can never truly see with our eyes the physical laws, nor the laws of harmony, nor the laws of our thought, we may still come to know of their existence in some indirect way.
It is because we discover much of what is hidden that many deny the very existence of the invisible world. If we can dig, dissect, explore our world and ourselves to find what is hidden, they say, then whatever we discover ceases to be part of the invisible. The invisible is not truly invisible. It is simply that part of the visible that for some reason or another was not visible to us because of our limited capacity or obstructed vision. The “invisible world,” they claim, is only so in as much and for as long as we fail to see it.
Such an assertion may at first seem quite simple and rational. Yet upon closer analysis, it is incorrect. For even after these invisible worlds in all the aforementioned fields become discovered, examined, and known, they still remain part of the invisible: the tree roots studied by specialized botanists are still the invisible to us part of the tree. Our internal organs, even after the doctors (who spend fifteen years exploring this vast, almost infinite microcosm) cut us open and study them, function without us seeing them or being constantly aware of them, and without us having to know how they do so. The overwhelming majority of people will leave this world without ever having seen their pancreas or liver and without ever having known how all of their inner parts coordinate harmoniously to sustain their body. Furthermore, it is not just that the tree roots are invisible to us because they are below the earth, or that our internal organs are unseen because they are covered by our skin. They are invisible because they were meant to be invisible! The tree roots that sustain the tree that creates blossoms and fruit, and the organs that sustain our body, which creates buildings and machines and ideas, must be invisible in order to properly bring forth their visible elements and perform their functions.
This simple truth becomes even clearer when we examine the most invisible entities of all, the strange entities that took thousands of years of human civilization to discover: the laws of nature. The mathematical laws of physics that rule the cosmos do not pop up in the visible universe. These too were meant to be invisible. Each time an apple falls on the ground, we don’t see Newton’s gravitational formula hovering by the tree trunk; each time a supernova explodes, we don’t see Einstein’s equations flashing about in some corner of the universe!
Behind the movements of every visible object, animate or inanimate, there are invisible physical laws of motion and thermodynamics, chemical laws of reactions and interactions, biological laws of reproduction and evolution, mental laws of mathematics, logic, reasoning. Yet these laws, which our investigative spirit has discovered, are not part of the visible world – they exist in some other domain. The invisible could never sustain the visible if it were not of a different substance and quality, and if it did not inhabit another sphere of being. It is exactly because these invisible laws direct and govern all movements without themselves being part of them, i.e., without themselves residing within the visible, that they sustain the latter. It is the invisibility of these laws that makes them effective.
Because we never think of the tree roots when we enjoy the cherry blossoms, nor think of our beloved’s spleen when we embrace her, nor of the law of gravity every time we trip and fall, we may go about our daily lives remaining in complete ignorance of the invisible world. We accept the reality of the invisible world a hundred times a day, we converse with it, we occasionally study it, but we rarely if ever become aware of the huge role it plays in our life. Yet its reality is a fact, hidden in plain sight.
We could divide the invisible worlds into two broad categories: the physical or material (that “reside,” so to speak, in the physical world and are made of matter), and the ones that exist in our consciousness. The tree roots and our internal organs belong to the first category. The mental, emotional, psychological, and spiritual invisibles belong to the second: our ideas that inform our arts and sciences, our emotions that guide our actions, the unconscious workings that lie behind our motives are all part of our nonmaterial makeup. They may have visible effects in the physical world, yet they do not reside in the physical world. Love may become true love when it expresses itself in acts of love, but we all accept that the source of love is neither physical (probably it is not even emotional!) nor does it reside in any way or form in the visible world. Similarly, our Will expresses itself in willful acts, but it is invisible, and its nature, even after 5,000 years of civilization, still remains uncharted and mysterious.
As for the other invisible world, that of the laws of nature, there have been many philosophical discussions as to whether they are discovered by our mental faculties or whether they reside in the physical world. Maybe they do reside in both, since once we formulate these laws mentally/mathematically, we can then use them to predict the motion and interaction of matter – be it the orbits of planets, the functioning of motor engines, or the weather. If the laws of nature were only mental, they would never have had any correspondence with our material world. Still, if it were not for man to discover them in his consciousness, there would never have appeared in the universe buildings and engines, music and art, computers and spaceships.
We need not go further into such philosophical discussions. It is sufficient to acknowledge that in both the physical and the mental worlds, we have not ceased to discover more invisibles. Just as we keep on discovering new insects and plants, and new types of subatomic particles as well as stars, we also keep discovering new invisible laws of physics and biology and new abstract ideas that expand our understanding of the world and ourselves.
It is in this latter field, which we may roughly call the field of Consciousness studies, that the greatest breakthroughs are now happening. Up until the end of the nineteenth century, we didn’t even know of the existence of the Unconscious lying “beneath” our consciousness. Even after a century and a half of its exploration – spearheaded by von Hartmann, Freud, and Jung – this invisible world has barely been charted. Similarly, the Superconscious, that part which lies not below but above consciousness and which was first studied in ancient times by Hindu and Buddhist mystics and philosophers, is only now being systematically examined. The first major explorations began only a century ago by the Indian mystic-philospher Sri Aurobindo, who created the first map of this new territory. According to him, there are five higher levels above our ordinary consciousness: Higher Mind, Illumined Mind, Intuitive Mind, Overmind, and Supermind. This is just a small glimpse of this field of strange new invisibles waiting to be discovered.
We must also be open to the possibility of the existence of completely new invisible worlds and phenomena that partake of both the material and mental worlds. There is now overwhelming evidence that such phenomena, studied foremostly by parapsychologists, do actually exist. When the field of Parapsychology becomes (hopefully soon) a respected scientific-philosophical discipline and tens of thousands of researchers are devoted to its study, new fascinating worlds will be revealed, which will help advance our human civilization to new levels.
And I’m certain that once we enter this new path of exploration, we may be able to tackle, in a more systematic and methodical way, the greatest of all mysteries: For if the general law is that every visible thing is sustained by something invisible, is it a big step to assume that the totality of all Existence must also obey this ubiquitous internal law of itself? And that behind the whole visible universe, seen as a singular entity in itself, there lies an invisible substratum that sustains it?
We may then one day be able to proclaim with complete assuredness that, verily:
An invisible Existence sustains the visible world.