5. Seeing and Hearing
"I don't see," I say, when perhaps it is broad daylight and my eyes are wide open. Some one by a word or action "throws light" on the subject— "Ah, now I see." "Let me see," I say, when I stop to consider. We speak of the "out-look " or the "prospect," without reference to the natural landscape. People "see in different lights;" they "look from different points of view." One person habitually "takes a dark view" of things; another "looks on the bright side." No two people have exactly the same "views." Explain some new thing to a variety of people — savages, children, and intelligent men: why do they not all see with equal quickness and clearness? Because their ability to see is not equal, and, as we say, every one must "see with his own eyes." Recognizing variety in people's mental eyes, we say of one that he is a "clearsighted" business man or statesman. One policy is "short-sighted" and another "far-sighted " or "far-seeing." And we all know what it is to be "blind" to our own interests, or to our faults. We may have our "eyes opened" to something to which we have been "blind;" or we may obstinately "close our eyes" to it. " None are so blind as they who will not see." So we could multiply phrases which refer to seeing with "the mind's eye."
Have we another name for this faculty of mental sight? "I don't see," means what? "I don't understand." The understanding is the spiritual eye. (A. C. 4403-4420; D. L. W. 96.) When one is mentally "far-sighted," his understanding is clear and far-reaching; when "short-sighted," his understanding is limited and prefers a little temporary advantage to a greater final good. When one is in "a blind rage," his understanding is for the time obscured by his passion. The delicate structure of the eye, and the complex process by which we see, are the exact counterpart of the still more delicate spiritual activities which enable us to understand.
The understanding not only is like the natural eye, but is very closely connected with it. The understanding is always busy gathering in ideas which enable the mind to think. The natural eye is a kind of appendage of the understanding, given to the understanding as a means of extending its sight out into the material world, to gather in for the thought the beautiful natural images with which the Lord surrounds us. In itself the natural eye cannot see, any more than a pair of spectacles, but the understanding sees through it; it finds the eye an obedient servant, by whose help it gathers for the mind the wonderful images of nature. (A. C. 1806, 1954.) The understanding also returns through the eyes its sparkle of intelligence or its blank look of perplexity. (A. E. 37; A. C. 4407.) This close relation we describe in one word by saying that the eye corresponds to the understanding. Both the natural eye and the understanding, each on its plane, are meant in the words, "The light of the body is the eye; if therefore thine eye be single, thy whole body shall be full of right. But if thine eye be evil, thy whole body shall be full of darkness." (matt. vi. 22, 23; A. E. 1081, 152.)
The common perception of this correspondence shows us at once what people mean when they speak of the mind's eye. It also helps us to know the meaning of passages in the Bible which speak of seeing, or of blindness, or of the restoring of sight. To see, spiritually, is to understand. The most precious sight is understanding of truth about the Lord and heaven and good life. The saddest kind of blindness is inability to see these truths. This sight and this blindness the Bible tells us of in its inner meaning. (A. E. 152; A. R. 48.)
The Lord said of the Pharisees, "They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch." (matt. xv. 14.) Did He mean that they were physically blind? or that, although they had the Word, they understood nothing of its real truth, but taught false rules of life, which were received by people no more intelligent than themselves? (A. E. 537; A. R. 914.) When the disciples presently asked Him the meaning of a parable, He said, "Are ye also without understanding?" (matt. xv. 16.) Long before it had been said, "His watchmen are blind; they are all ignorant; . . . they are shepherds that cannot understand." (isa. lvi. 10, 11; A. R. 210; A. E. 239.)
Another prediction the Lord applied to the Pharisees: "In them is fulfilled the prophecy of Esaias, which saith, By hearing ye shall hear, and shall not understand; and seeing ye shall see, and shall not perceive; for this people's heart is waxed gross, and their ears are dull of hearing, and their eyes they have closed; lest at any time they should see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and should understand with their heart, and should be converted, and I should heal them." (matt. xiii. 14, 15; isa. vi. 9, 10.) Were there people who saw the Lord with their natural eyes, the Pharisees among them, who failed to recognize Him as the very God of heaven among men, and who understood almost nothing of the meaning of His parables? It was better that they should not understand, than that they should understand only to turn back and mix what was holy with evil. (A. C. 301-307; D. P. 231; H. H. 353; S. S. 60.)
What is the meaning of the prayer, "Open thou mine eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of thy law"? (Ps. cxix. 18.) When a blind man stood before the Lord in Jericho, and in answer to His question, "What wilt thou that I shall do unto thee? " said, "Lord, that I might receive my sight," what spiritual need of human minds did he typify? And when the Lord said to him, "Receive thy sight," what spiritual work did He show His power and His desire to do for men? (Luke xviii. 41, 42.) Does not this blind man picture those in the darkness of ignorance who yet desire to understand? The Lord delights to teach such and to give them the power to understand. (A. C. 6990; A. E. 239.) As we read carefully the beautiful account in John, of the Lord's healing of a blind man, we see that the Lord at the same time gave the man physical sight and opened his understanding to believe in Him. "Why, herein is a marvellous thing," the poor man said to the Jews, "that ye know not from whence he is, and yet he hath opened mine eyes." (john ix. 30; A. E. 239.) The Lord healed many who were blind, as a sign of His power and His desire to give men a true understanding of heavenly things. For the same reason it was said in prophecy of Him, that He should "open the blind eyes." (isa. xlii. 7.) "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened." (isa. xxxv. 5.) "The lord openeth the eyes of the blind." (Ps. cxlvi. 8; A. E. 239; A. C. 2383; A. R. 210.)
The Lord can give the power to understand heavenly things only to those who keep His commandments; for they are the true laws of life, and enable us to see all things in their true relations. "It shall come to pass if thou wilt not hearken unto the voice of the lord thy God, to observe to do all his commandments and his statutes, . . . the lord shall smite thee with madness, and blindness, and astonishment of heart; and thou shalt grope at noonday as the blind gropeth in darkness." (Deut. xxviii. 15, 28, 29; A. E. 239.) But, "The entrance of thy words giveth light; it giveth understanding unto the simple." (Ps. cxix. 97-100, 130.) "The commandment of the lord is pure, enlightening the eyes." (Ps. xix. 8.)
"Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, and considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? . . . First cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye." (matt. vii. 3-5.) What can be meant by a mote in our brother's eye? Some fault of character, you say. But more exactly, what is his eye? His understanding. And a mote in his eye is some error in his understanding. Are we often critical of such errors? Do we sometimes try with much excitement of feeling to set them right? And what effect has this excitement upon our own understanding? This or some other blinding evil is the beam which distorts our view far worse than the small error did our brother's, and destroys our ability to help him to see truly. (A. E. 746; A. C. 9051.)
"And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee; it is better for thee to enter into life with one eye, rather than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire." (matt. xviii. 9, v. 29.) Besides other Chapters which these words contain, they are a warning to put out of our minds at once all thoughts that lead to what is wrong. (A. E. 600, 152.) "Ye have heard that it hath been said, An eye for an eye." (matt. v. 38; exod. xxi. 24.) This law given to the Jews teaches the unchangable spiritual truth, that an attempt to distort another's understanding, reacts upon ourselves and destroys our own power to understand truly. (A. E. 556; A. C. 8223.) "Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way." (Deut. xxvii. 18; lev. xix. 14.) Is it not a warning of the danger to ourselves if we wilfully mislead those who are ignorant and trust us for guidance? (A. R. 210.)
What is the meaning of looking to the Lord? or of lifting up the eyes to Him? "Mine eyes are ever toward the lord." (Ps. xxv. 15.) "Unto thee lift I up mine eyes, O thou that dwellest in the heavens. Behold as the eyes of servants look unto the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden unto the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us." (Ps. cxxiii. i, 2.) "I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills." (Ps. cxxi. 1.) We lift our eyes spiritually when we lift our thought and direct it to heavenly subjects and to the Lord. (A. C. 2789.)
And when we read, "The eyes of the lord are upon the righteous" (Ps. xxxiv. 15); "The lord looketh from heaven; he beholdeth all the sons of men" (Ps. xxxiii. 13); "His eyes behold, his eyelids try, the children of men" (Ps. xi. 4); it means that the Lord's Divine thought is turned towards us, that He knows all our life and provides for every need. (A. E. 68, 152.)
Hearing is in many respects like seeing, and it corresponds to a spiritual faculty, closely related to the understanding. We shall be able however to see a difference between the two. It is interesting first to learn that while the eyes communicate directly with that part of the brain which is the seat of thought, the ears have also close connection with the part of the brain where feelings dwell, so that while sight is the servant of thought, sound touches directly both the thought and the feeling. (A. C. 3869, 5077; A. E. 14; H. H. 271.)
One may convey a clear idea by a letter or a picture, but how much better his feeling is expressed in his voice!
We recognize this fact when we tell a child to "listen" to his mother's instructions; for we mean not simply that he shall understand them, but that he shall take them to heart and obey them. (A. C. 4653.) So too the Lord bids us hearken to His voice and to His commandments. (isa. xlviii. 18.) He means that we shall take them to heart and obey them. (A.C. 2542; A. E. 365.) "Hear, O Israel," introduces the first of all commandments; " Hear, O Israel, and observe to do." (deut. vi. 4, 3; A. C. 396.) When the Lord gives us commandments, it is not enough to answer, I see; but we must say, "All that the lord our God shall speak . . . we will hear and do." (deut. v. 27.) "Speak, lord, for thy servant heareth." (1 sam. Hi. 9.) I see, means that I understand in an intellectual way; I hear, means that I take it to heart and am resolved to obey. "The Lord god hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back." (isa. l. 5; A. C. 3869.)
Often when the Lord had been teaching, He said, "Who hath ears to hear, let him hear." (matt. xiii. 43.) And in the Revelation the charge to each of the seven churches includes the words, "He that hath an ear, let him hear what the spirit saith unto the churches." (rev. ii. 7.) It means that so far as we are able it is our duty to understand the Lord's message, and obey it. (A. C. 2542; A. E. 108; A. R. 87.)
Many who heard the Lord's voice, in a deeper sense did not hear, for "their ears were dull of hearing, and their eyes they had closed." (matt. xiii. 14-16; isa. vi. 9, 10.) That their eyes were closed means, as we have seen, that they did not intellectually understand; but that their ears were dull of hearing, means that they did not take His words to heart with desire to obey them. (A. C. 3863, 9311.) How often the blind and the deaf are mentioned together! and always with this different shade of meaning. "Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf shall be unstopped." (isa. xxxv. 5; A. C. 6989.)
We see also what spiritual infirmity is typified by the deafness which the Lord healed. "And they bring unto him one that was deaf, and had an impediment in his speech; and they beseech him to put his hand upon him. . . . And straightway his ears were opened, and the string of his tongue was loosed, and he spake plain. . . . He maketh both the deaf to hear, and the dumb to speak." (mark vii. 32-37.) This deaf man represents those who do not obey because they have not been taught what to do. The healing shows the Lord's desire to teach such persons and inspire them with willingness to obey. (A. E. 455; A. C. 9311.) Remember how on that last night in Gethsemane, Peter drew a sword and "smote a servant of the high priest, and cut off his right ear. And Jesus answered and said, Suffer ye thus far. And he touched his ear and healed him." (luke xxii. 50, 51.) It shows how ready we are to accuse and condemn those who do not obey the Lord; but the Lord does not condemn, He tries with loving kindness to teach men and to lead them to obedience. (A. C. 2799, 10-130)
We know now the difference between, I see, and, I hear. There is the same difference in meaning when we speak of the Lord as seeing us or as hearing us. We think of the Lord's knowledge of all our ways when we say that He sees us. We think also of His "love and pity" for us, when we say that He hears us. "The eyes of the lord are upon the righteous, and his ears are open unto their cry." (Ps. xxxiv. 15; A. C. 3869, 3954.)