Leaf of the Tree

Finding the Divine in the Details

Escaping the prison of our imagined past


Artichoke flower 131

Photo: Kathy Gilman

The spiritual nature has a value system that places priceless relationships above any object or hoped-for outcome. But the human nature, if left in charge, does not.

The sign that we’re in a situation that requires a shift from the eyes of our human nature to the vision of our spiritual one is when we find ourselves focusing on the imperfections of others to such an extent that we experience an increasing intensity of negative emotions that, in turn, causes deterioration in personal relationships.

The only escape from this vicious cycle is to change what we see, to elevate our perception, and to begin looking at others with the sin (imperfection)-covering eye of the spiritual nature.


Photo: Saffron Moser

The spiritual nature doesn’t dwell on perceived imperfections but instead seeks the missing spiritual attributes that the situation is calling for and creates an act of service designed to release those latent virtues, which exist within the heart of every soul. When that happens, the destructive negative emotions and imperfections begin to dissipate. They are, after all, merely perceptions and `decisions’ of the mind or human nature, and the resulting emotion is the energy of those thoughts in motion.

However, in the survival-motivated blind imitation that is the human nature’s customary behaviour, our mind and emotions can liken our current experience to one that has registered as negative in the past. In order to truly investigate the reality of the matter, we need the spiritual nature and its vision to come into the driver’s seat, to interrupt this reflexive imitating of what happened — or what we perceive to have happened — in the past. If we are unwilling to do this, we will remain prisoners of that past, and of what, in essence, is actually an imagined past, the perspective of the mind alone.

A sign that we’re progressing away from imitation towards investigation is that negative emotions we’ve experienced are replaced by positive ones, and there is also a noticeable improvement in the way we feel, and within the tone of our relationship  with others.


Excerpted from With Thine Own Eyes: Why Imitate the Past When We Can Investigate Reality?, from George Ronald Publisher:

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4 thoughts on “Escaping the prison of our imagined past

  1. Thank you for an illuminating and helpful post. I know from my own life and experience just how easy it is for the human nature to play the kind of trick that you describe and to override the spiritual nature.

    What to do to allow the spiritual nature to flourish? The spiritual disciplines of prayer, study, fasting, and looking to ‘Abdu’l-Bahá’s example – His ability to see the inner reality of all those He met and to live a life of intense service.

  2. I was just thinking this morning about Abdu’l Baha’s example and how I wanted to impress this on my son when I visit him in Latvia in a few weeks….

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