I like to speculate on possible spiritual implications of ideas I find in other fields. So when I started reading about the findings of Neurotheological studies (described in “Barriers in the Mind”), I started wondering “what if...?”
What if ... when we lower our mental barriers, when we shut down our perception of spacial distinctions, we gain access to a spiritual dimension? Physics tells us that there are four dimensions: width, height, depth, and time. What if there is another that overlays these? Something that is either outside time, or encompasses time? That is actually how many define Eternity.
So, then, what if we have an inherent perception of that dimension? What if we have a special sense, like hearing or taste or scent, that lets us perceive things of that spiritual dimension. What would we call that? What would it be like?
Okay, I confess. I don’t really think this is entirely speculative. These definitions address experiences that I have had that do not fit strictly logical, scientifically observable occurences.
There have been times when I have intuited something about another person, something that I could not possibly know through direct observation or mere psychological understanding. The only way I have been able to explain or understand it for myself has been that I have a perception of something on a spiritual level.
Several years ago, I was at a retreat with a fellowship group I belong to. On the Saturday of the retreat, a couple arrived who had been absent for many months prior. They had a young, growing family, and so had not been able to attend the regular meetings. But they made an effort to get to the retreat, even if it meant arriving halfway into the weekend. I happened to observe the husband from across the dining hall (they arrived during lunch). Something caught my attention. When he was talking with others (including his wife), his face was lively and he was obviously enjoying the moment. But when the attention of those around him went elsewhere for a moment, something happened. Some minute falling of the expression. It was not very much at all. And yet, I had a very strong sense that something very heavy and dark was weighing on him.
I was conscious of it all afternoon. That evening, the fellowship broke up into small groups for discussion and prayer. And I happened to be in the same small group as this couple. The discussion of the topic went well. And then the circle prayed together. I had had this continuing sense of something weighing on my friend, but still hadn’t had a chance to actually talk to him about it, to ask about it.
So there I was praying with one part of my mind, while the other part was going “I have to talk to him when we’re done.” Being in the prayerful state, I was even more conscious of the darkness clinging to my friend. Suddenly, I realized a very simple thing. We don’t really have to know every little detail when we’re praying for others. All we have to do is be open, and whole-heartedly seeking the Lord’s presence.
So, when my turn to pray aloud came round, I said something to the effect of “Lord, I know that something is weighing heavily on Jay. And You also know what it is. Lift up his heart and let him know that he does not need to face it alone.”
When our prayers ended and we looked at each other, he was staring at me with a sort of astonishment. His wife looked at him, and asked “What she prayed, was she right?” He said yes. He had a concern about his family that he had not spoken of, not even to his wife. (And yes, the prayer did have a positive effect for him.)
I’ve often thought about this occasion. Because the amount of knowledge I have of his condition seemed very disproportionate for the objective observation of a slightly fallen expression. I’ve come to the conclusion that we let down mental barriers around those we genuinely care about. We don’t make a distinction between where we end spiritually and someone else begins. And so we are more sensitive to their spiritual state, as I was with my friend Jay.
I sometimes wonder what would happen if we could achieve this state more often. If we reached out with a sixth sense into that fifth dimension. What might we learn? What might our prayers bring?