We see and live based on our physical eyes. But what do we mean by seeing with “spiritual eyes”? What do our spiritual eyes see, and how can we improve our spiritual sight?
While we may highly value our physical sight, we often forget our spiritual sight — the power that helps us identify and understand both the spiritual conditions in the world around us, and the condition of our own soul.
I find the following image helpful when I explore the concept of spiritual eyes. The top layer of the picture represents the physical realm, the second layer represents the condition of our inner being, and the third layer represents the divine realm, from which the human soul receives spiritual power.
Using Our Spiritual Eyes to See Attachments
The physical world can affect our inner world though attachment. Attachment can be anything we cling to with our lower nature—our desires, illusions, and vain imaginations. Using our spiritual eyes, we can begin to find our attachments.
When we feel happy, we often don’t notice our attachments, represented in the picture as birds on strings. This doesn’t mean that the attachments aren’t there. It is like the strings the birds are attached to are loose. But when difficulty arises, the strings get tighter, and we can feel the tension from them. If we only focus on the birds — the problems we have — instead of our attachment to the birds, then we never realize that it’s the attachments that bother us, not the birds.
For example, there was a period when many things my daughter did bothered me a lot. I thought my irritation was caused by what she did. But when I looked deeper, I found that hidden under my irritation was a feeling of jealousy. But where did that jealousy come from? When I prayed for guidance and looked deeper, I discovered I was jealous of the different standards she and I had been held to. I connected my daughter’s actions (the bird) to how I was treated, then pulled the string and experienced negative emotions.
Baha’u’llah, the Manifestation of God of the day, wrote: “Thine eye is My trust, suffer not the dust of vain desires to becloud its luster. Thine ear is a sign of My bounty, let not the tumult of unseemly motives turn it away from My Word that encompasseth all creation. Thine heart is My treasury, allow not the treacherous hand of self to rob thee of the pearls which I have treasured therein. Thine hand is a symbol of My loving-kindness, hinder it not from holding fast unto My guarded and hidden Tablets.”
The light of our inner life shines to sustain us. It is like a mountain that can’t be seen because of the air pollution. When we remove the worldly dust of attachment, we can see the light clearly.
Using Our Spiritual Eyes to Grow
Uncovering attachments helps us see which spiritual qualities we need to cultivate. By recognizing the illusions I carried from childhood, and letting go of feelings of jealousy caused by these illusions, I freed myself from feelings of irritation. The more we practice using our insight to detach ourselves, the more we free ourselves from that bondage, and the more insight we gain to be able to observe our own spiritual growth.
Our inner being (the second layer in the picture) is like another world we can see with our inner eyes. When we can recognize it ourselves, we begin to see some of what God sees. Baha’u’llah wrote: “O Son of the Throne! Thy hearing is My hearing, hear thou therewith. Thy sight is My sight, do thou see therewith, that in thine inmost soul thou mayest testify unto My exalted sanctity, and I within Myself may bear witness unto an exalted station for thee.”
God is All-Knowing; He knows our condition and knows how to help us improve our condition. The more we ask for guidance, the more we can purify our heart and sharpen our inner vision to see the light from God.
With this understanding, we recognize which spiritual qualities we lack and which we need to cultivate. By cultivating spiritual qualities, we change the way we deal with situations — and this leads to new patterns of action and transformation in our life.