“Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the light of the world: he that followeth me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life.” – John 8:12
The sight of the eye is regarded as the noblest of the senses. All our knowledge comes to us by means of the senses, and sight is the avenue through which knowledge is most easily and quickly attained, and through it also comes our delight in the beauty of nature and the faces of our friends.
There are two kinds of sight, an outer and an inner sight. Our light comes from the sun. Even at night the moon merely reflects the sun’s light. A little light comes from the stars which are huge suns many thousands of times further away from us than our own sun.
But the sun gives us no spiritual light. Animals see. Some have far keener vision than men, yet they cannot rise to a knowledge of God nor even to the enjoyment of the beauties of nature. They do not have that inner sight without which all nature is dark as to everything which is above itself.
The Lord says, “I am the light of the world.” The Lord is the Word, and came into the world as the Word made flesh. Take away from the human mind all that has ever been learned from the contents of the Bible – through its own pages or through the incorporation of its thoughts in literature and art – and the natural mind would be as dark and dreary as if the sun had been destroyed. Even our natural sight is dependent upon the mind or soul. When we speak of a person as shortsighted, we are not usually understood to refer to the sight of the body but to the lack of the power of calculation or provision for the future which is spoken of as “foresight.”
The material eyes reach a greater number of objects than any other of the sense organs, the range being both wider and higher, far transcending the ear and the senses of touch, taste, and smell. Touch must be within reach of the hands, but the eye beholds with ease distant constellations, traveling over millions of miles of space. And yet there are limits to sight, some things being too small and some too large to be taken in. And as some natural things are curtained from our view, so the spiritual world, from which we have our life and in which we are and live, is for the most part veiled from our every-day view and revealed only partially and occasionally when the Lord knows the revelation will help us to a better life, or when He sees that we can comprehend it rightly.
It is really this inner sight that causes the outer sight. Of itself the physical eye is powerless to see. We read in the work entitled Conjugial Love: “It is not the eye that sees, but the spirit,” and in the Arcana Coelestia: “The eye itself, properly speaking, is nothing but the sight of the spirit led out of doors.” And Jesus said, “If therefore the light that is in thee be darkness, how great is that darkness.”
There is a very wide difference in the capacity of men and women to see. There are those who “having eyes, see not,” as our Lord said. Others have a sight that ranges over the mere surface of things. Some entirely miss the soul of things, and everything has a soul. The depth of our vision is measured by our love, for it is our love that truly sees. If we are prejudiced, we can see but little. It is love that penetrates the deepest and knows most thoroughly. It was the disciple of love who knew Jesus best.
There are those for whom life passes by unnoticed. Life is crowded with deep values which many people do not see because they are engrossed with the material. The spiritual messages are there but not for them, because of their self-imposed limitations. If their eyes were only “single,” that is, clear, free from things that obstruct, their whole body would be full of light.
In the Scriptures we are told of those who had what is called “vision.” Peter had it when Jesus said to him, “Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven.” John had it when on the island of Patmos in the Aegean Sea heaven was opened to him. There is a faculty of sight which is able to discern principles which are at the center of every object and circumstance. There are treasures laid up for all of us which the Lord, when we have developed the capacity to see, will reveal to us. “The pure in heart shall see God.” As the Divine love is received in the heart, we shall be enabled to see, for only love has the eyes to behold love.
In a number of places the writings tell us that nothing is of more importance to a man than to know what is true. They tell us: “Nothing can be received from the Lord and from heaven by anyone who is not in truths.” It is by truth that we are enlightened. “Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.” It is a truth that if the eye is defective, everything that we see will be wrong as far as we are concerned. To the evil, when they are intromitted into the highest heaven where there is the greatest light, all appears darkness.
“If thine eye be single” – most people are born with good physical eyes, but the inner eyesight depends upon our spiritual development; so it is more liable to flaws than the eye of flesh. This explains the diversities of view which obtain on almost every question. People do not see alike. To some the Lord is a God of love, to others a God of wrath and vengeance, to others no God at all. One of the characteristics of our nature is that we may persuade ourselves to believe that what we want to think is true. Sight is a noble possession when it is single or candid. It is dangerous, however, attached to a faithless or discontented mind, because the mind warps the vision. With such the world is seen confused, irrational, or even hostile. “If the light that is within thee be darkness, how great is that darkness?” The fact is, things may always be seen truly by those enlightened by love to the Lord and to the neighbor, though never, of course, completely. No human capacity ever saw or ever will see the whole of any truth, but we are enabled to see more and more as we progress. Each person will see a little differently from every other, because we are different. And that is good. Truth is manifold and has many aspects, differences of opinion always unfolding something new. The old will be there also, not falsified but modified and enriched by new perceptions, becoming always more and more complete and beautiful.
We should use this inner sight as we would use our eyes, for seeing and finding a delight in what is true and beautiful and what is the true way of life. To see that a thing is true, to form an ideal of what it is to be honest or pure or righteous or charitable, and to hold before us such ideals as worthy of the deepest honor and the most devoted effort, to see the truth or the good in others, to look through mere appearances and to see the worth of some man’s character who may be outwardly unattractive, to see the essential good in his heart, to be able to discriminate, to see things in their right relationships and not be deceived by outward glamor or brilliance, to see the wisdom of that saying: “A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth” – to see these things clearly, to know their truth, is not this a kind of sight more marvelous than the sight of our natural eyes?
And do we see the truths of eternal life? Does the mind see and acknowledge the distinction between the life of the spirit and the life of the flesh? When we look into our souls, can we see something of the processes of the Divine love and wisdom by which the Lord is trying to lead us to know the truth and do the right? When we read the Bible, can we see something of the wisdom of God within it, that it is indeed “a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path?” And as we look at the life of the Lord as recorded in the Gospels, can we say from conviction: “Thou art the Way, the Truth, and the Life?”
The Bible says of some that they are spiritually blind. They do not see. Their indifference, their pride in their own opinions, their love of the world, or their errors of belief have so affected the finer things of their intelligence that they do not see. The eternal realities, the operation of the Divine providence daily acting upon them make no impression, they call forth no feeling of admiration or gratitude. The light shines, but the eyes of the spiritual mind are closed.
The office of the church is to assist in the regeneration of men and, as it is knowledge of the truth that is essential to regeneration, the first duty of the church is to treasure and teach the truths revealed to it.
May we be able to say: “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.”