Meditation: Veils and Worlds

This is traditionally the time when we anticipate the “opening of the veil”: which is a time when we can better share our energies with our friends and family who have passed to that “other world”. While this explanation serves the many who celebrate this type of ritual, there are rationalists who find all this “veil” and “other world” talk very “woo”. Perhaps some among us here find some inner conflict between their rationalist selves and their desire to connect with their ancestors.

Allow me to help.

You live in a dreamworld. All the time. Let me demonstrate.

Your eyes, even if they work as well as they could, only really focus on a tiny diameter of the world ahead, and yet everything in the world appears to be generally present. If you look at a glass, and look away, then look at the glass again – it appears the same because it’s mostly what you remember it being the last time you really looked at it. But even when you’re not looking at the glass directly, you know that it’s there.

There’s a significant function of your brain devoted to the maintenance of a dream world in which you seem to see and hear and speak and touch, but all of it is entirely generated by the brain itself, without any external inputs. That exact same mechanism is used to generate what you think of as your “awake” state. It tracks things in your environment, so when you go to look for something – you look for it in your “virtual” space to know where to look in real life. If the object in real life isn’t where you expected, it’s something of a shock because your expectation was formed by a previous viewing of that object in that space. 

You’re never really “here”. You’re always in your virtual space, your imagined reality. It’s exactly what you think it should be, and it’s remarkably impervious to external inputs. What is “real”? What is the world of “the living”? We’re each running our personal stage play about the world around us and run up enormous conflicts when our imaginary worlds conflict. With a lot of reading and meditation and human interaction, you can start to see the defects in your internal model, and sometimes modify the model. But this is really the best we can do toward a truer alignment between our inner worlds and the physical world we share. We can’t know any better the real nature of the physical world around us. We are asleep, even when we are awake.

If there were a time of year in which the veils between our inner worlds could be dropped and we could better understand each other, it would be an enormous boost for human civilization.

We have stories from peoples in all times and places who place the spirits of the dead in worlds accessible to us. They are near, present, conscious, and attentive to us when we can make the connection between our worlds and theirs, as so many cultures attest. Stuck as we are within our own heads, we can no more disprove the existence of these other worlds than we can prove the existence of ours. Are they completely removed to another universe? Are they present with us now, just not perceptible as they had once been? These questions are irrelevant when we know how to connect with those we love. Perhaps simply being able to understand the possibility of such a connection is what enables us to make one.

We may say they are dead because they no longer interact with us on the physical plane, but our virtual worlds are full of such rich memories, so many stories, the sounds of remembered voices, the smells that invoke happy times and places, and the rawness in our heart in their absence. Our internal worlds never let them go. Samhain is a time when we can let ourselves see past our own limitations, across time and space, to be, once again, with those we love, those we cherish, those we feel connected to. With our yearnings we reach out beyond the world we know to reach them. 

We perform these rituals in order to soothe our hearts and release that energy of love and hope and worry that we continue to generate. In so doing, this energy goes to those we love; is sent as a message to them that they can hear and feel and that this warms them in some way. Our memory of them, our desires to be near them, keeps their spirits alive. By reaching out with our hearts to them, we honor how their sacred light has illuminated our paths in life.

These words were spoken by me as part of a Samhain celebration at UU Church in Eugene, October 31st, 2023.


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