Can We See God?
In a word, no. Our human sight has a very limited range of visibility. But as devotees, we can begin to see God in other ways, merely by looking for Him in all that surrounds and permeates life as we know it: in things of beauty, in the people we love, even in the challenges we face.
Seeing God is more about inner awareness than a sensory experience, because God is formless, colorless, and invisible to the eye. To borrow a line from Gertrude Stein, “There is no there there.” How can you see a thing like that, a that is not a that? Clearly, you cannot.
Yet, within us is an aspect of that same formless, mystical essence, and it makes the experience of “seeing” God an actual possibility. We are each in eternal possession of an atman, the immortal soul, and when we are able to connect with it, God shows up! Not as a tangible experience, but as a knowing. Knowing God is what seeing Him is all about.
It seems fair to say that the purpose of human life is to reach that state of inner sight in which knowing God is an ongoing reality. This is what leads to our soul’s freedom from its body-mind consciousness. Needless to say, we are not yet there. It’s a quest of many lifetimes that has taken a very, very long time already!
This whole question of who and what we are is difficult to puzzle through. On the one hand, we have thoughts, perceptions, freedom of choice, visual input and a host of other sensations, which we lump into an overarching category called “our experience.” Our minds then segment this experience into a linear timeline, which we perceive as “one thing after another.” From when we are born to the day we die, every moment, and every event in that moment, is immediately succeeded by another. As long as we limit ourselves to a worldly perspective, there is no escape from this time-driven process that we regard as real.
To make this more agreeable, the reality we perceive has countless features on which we generally concur, and we give those features names and definitions to identify one from the next: hand, book, happy, sad, and so on. No one, I am sure, would confuse a hand with a book, or the difference between happy and sad. But every name and label we apply adds to our sense of separation. You and I and all the people and things we see as distinct, makes it hard to see the oneness of all that is, and thus impossible to see God from such a point of view.
Now, that is not to say that we should neglect our senses. We absolutely need them to optimize how we function in this world. We need them to get around, to gather food, raise our families, seek useful employment, care for our elders, etc. If the purpose of life is for us to transcend it, what’s that all about?
That question gets us into a whole study about the role of duality, the law of karma, the effect of having worldly attachments, likes and dislikes, and so on. first and foremost, we need to understand that the goal of this life is not in this life. The goal is for us to remember that we are infinitely more than what we perceive ourselves to be, and to act in accordance with that higher potential as we seek to attain it.
This is not easy to do. It reminds me of a quote by Gloria Steinem. We have all heard the axiom that the truth will set you free. She added a corollary: “The truth will set you free,” she said, “but first it will piss you off!”
We live in what is still a competitive world, and to get ahead in that world, most people think they have to play the game. They perceive that competition is a form of truth. But it is not, and it will not set you free. You cannot see or be with God if your ego is pushing you into that sort of existence. Jesus said that to see God, we must be pure in heart. He didn’t mean 80% pure, nor even 99%. Purity is 100%. That means no intrusive worldly desires, no external attachments, no tainted tendencies.
Now, that’s an extremely tall order, because here we are, trying to stay inward, yet contending with all those parts of the puzzle that appear to us as separate, getting yanked around by our litany of likes and dislikes, trying to figure out how in the world we can rise above these perceptions and become Self-realized. No wonder it takes so long!
The good news is, purity is a direction. If you’re only at 80%, strive for 81, and 81 will get you to 82. Look for God everywhere, not so much with your eyes, but with your heart and soul. The journey is one of inner joy, and when that joy becomes your motivation, it’s only a matter of time before God becomes visible to you in the essence of your being. This is our destiny, and the only thing keeping us from it is focusing with body and mind instead of heart and soul.
This life is a school, and for most of us the curriculum is less about learning than it is about unlearning. Our lack of contentment, and our lack of being able to see God, is due to habits and desires that we have been conditioned to have and to hold. They may have been acquired with good intentions, but we all know what is paved with those.
The good news is, we can change. We can. And the more we do, the more contented and closer to God we get. Our destiny is Self-realization. When is only a matter of how long we decide to take. Meanwhile, God is waiting to be seen.
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