Beyond the Veil – What is it Like
There is an inherent struggle that occurs when people attempt to express their interactions with heaven. Often times they use words or phrases like “as if”, “kinda like” or “similar to but not really”. In conjunction to those phrases they try to articulate how they “just don’t have words to express it”.
To those who have experienced similar interactions, those phrases almost serve as “code words”. The individuals who have shared a similar experience understand the complexities and the limitations of trying to express their exposure to heaven, such as how it felt, how it sounded, what it looked like, smelled like, tasted like, etc.
Making it more of a struggle is their desire to not be misunderstood. Unfortunately, misunderstandings almost seem to be a fundamental component to sharing these experiences. Speaking vaguely, or at least perceived to be speaking vaguely, allows the listener to “fill in the blanks” with their own thoughts and understandings. This allowance can be inhibiting to the progress of the listener. But, when prompted to share, regardless of the possible misunderstandings and the inevitable struggle to express adequately, they share with a hope that others will receive through a source higher than their present selves. The hope is that a more pure source can perhaps articulate to the heart what the ears and mind are hearing.
But what of the audience. What of the individual listening who desires to receive further light and knowledge but believes that thus far their own interactions with heaven have been limited and or perhaps non-existent. What of the individual who hears words or phrases that they can only understand to be vague, secretive, dodgy and maybe even dismissive. What are they to understand regarding someones testimony.
Clearly there is a higher source that is required to facilitate the communication of such testimonies. There is a more pure method of communication than speech and audible perception. There are methods of expression and perception so intimate and encompassing that we may call them communion. There is a method of delivery and reception so pure that nothing is lost in translation.
My hope is that this higher source will communicate with those who desire more, and will transmit nourishment to a seed worthy of growing. My hope is that this source will pierce the heart of those who yet lack the desire, affording a seed the space and soil needed to grow.
I hope that these words will help to remove unbelief, as it pertains to the veil, and in its place establish a belief that is true and valuable. A correct enough belief that can be accompanied with hope and the appropriate action so that further light and knowledge can be obtained.
A question that I want to explore is not “how to pierce the veil” but rather “what is it like once the veil is pierced”. Both of these questions have a few things in common. One of those commonalities is that their answers require an understanding about what the veil is.
There is a veil that prevents us from “seeing”. This veil is also capable of limiting our other senses but the sense probably most commonly associated in our thoughts regarding the veil is sight. However, that is only a small fraction of what the veil effects. There is a veil of unbelief (believing something that is not true) that causes our hearts to be hard, blinds our minds and prevents the revelation and remembrance of marvelous things that have been hid.
Behold, when ye shall rend that veil of unbelief which doth cause you to remain in your awful state of wickedness, and hardness of heart, and blindness of mind, then shall the great and marvelous things which have been hid up from the foundation of the world from you… (Ether 4:15)
We could focus on the veil specifically here but I think it would be valuable to look at something else. Keep in mind that the individuals who wrote the scriptures are those who have had these experiences. They are experiencing what was described above. They are going through the struggle of not having the words to adequately express that which they do not want to be misunderstood. They believe that what they are saying is valuable. Because of this, I find it intriguing to look at the words they used to describe.
In this particular verse the author has provided descriptions that are commonly viewed as abstract or poetic. For instance, “hardness of heart”. From a logical stand point, that doesn’t make a whole lot of sense but when we allow ourselves to read those words as poetic, we grasp the meaning. The phrase requires an “abstract” processing by the audience in order to understand or relate. So does the phrase “blindness of mind”.
We are well aware that “blindness” is a condition associated with sight. Here the author has associated “blindness” with the mind. This association is made when speaking about the effects of the veil.
Remember the position of the individual who is sharing. They desire to express adequately and in a way that alleviates misunderstanding. That principle is what makes this so interesting. If that is truly the desire of the author, why use words and thoughts that require an abstract processing by the audience. It would seem that such a method would result in creating the very thing the author wants to avoid. But this is the type of communication we observe over and over again throughout the scriptures. It seems like a faulty method, however it is done this way for a reason. That reason is the veil itself. The veil limits our perceptions.
We define our reality by what we perceive through our senses. The senses that we commonly rely on are hearing – sight – smell – taste – touch. These are sometimes referred to as the “traditional” senses. We also use “non-traditional” senses such as balance – gravity – the relative position of our body parts – pain not associated with touch – hunger. Another sense is our perception of time. Without perceiving time I think we would not be able to experience the other senses in the way that we do and that is cause for pondering because “time is only measured unto men” (Alma 40:8).
These are the senses that we humans typical use to define our reality but there are senses that we typically don’t have. For instance, echolocation. Bats determine their orientation to other objects through reflected sound. Another is electroreception. Some fish have the ability to sense changes in electrical fields. Some birds have directional awareness, magnetoception, which allows them to detect their direction. Animals experience a different reality than we do. They are in our world… but they are not necessarily of our world.
There are other senses as well. All these senses allow the individual to perceive what is around them and help them to define and experience their reality. For many of us, we desire further light and knowledge. We desire further experience. We desire regular, consistent interactions with heaven. In some ways, we desire a different reality than the one we are familiar with. We desire “heaven on earth”.
Heaven operates through connections and relationships which are far too complex for our limited senses to comprehend. I know this through experience which came after following the pattern illustrated by those individuals some consider to be spiritual giants. That pattern is desire – belief – faith – knowledge (experience).
The things of heaven are not limited to our typical understanding of our senses. Because of this I believe it is valuable for us to not rely on our traditional senses to experience the things of heaven. We somehow need to expand our ability to experience.
We read about individuals who have experiences that are so profound and complex when attempted to express through the descriptions of traditional senses that they have to mingle and reference the senses in a way that does not seem logical. For instance, tasting “of the goodness of Jesus” or tasting love.
And I, being fifteen years of age and being somewhat of a sober mind, therefore I was visited of the Lord, and tasted and knew of the goodness of Jesus. (Mormon 1:15)
Isn’t it interesting, the idea of “tasted and knew of the goodness”? Notice that this occurred during a visit. The veil was parted or lifted and during that time there was a form of synesthesia.
Synesthesia is the name of a “condition” in which one sense is perceived as if by another sense. For example, the sense of sound is perceived through a color. Or maybe a person hears a book close and they “see” the color blue. Or maybe a person touches a flower and “hears” the sound of a symphony.
There are many different forms of synesthesia. I encourage you to look into them and listen to how people who have this condition try to explain what it is. Here is one example.
Notice how she says “…as someone who has synesthesia, I have no idea how to put this thing into words. Whenever I try to talk about it, I get so frustrated because there is nobody to put this very abstract thing that exists in my brain into this literal thing. It doesn’t translate.
This is a reflection of what someone feels like who is trying to share the things of heaven. It is difficult to put into words. It doesn’t translate.
The things of heaven are often experienced through a synergy of multiple senses. Not an experience where the senses work individually but together, such as watching a movie and hearing the sound. But rather an experience where there isn’t a distinction between the two. Sight is amplified. Hearing is amplified. But they are “merged”. It is as if the sense of time vanishes and in vanishing the senses are allowed to be molded into one majestic perception. There is a unity experienced that causes the individual who experienced such a thing to believe as though that “reality” is more real than the reality they come back to after the experience has ended. Once the experience has ended, they “fall” as it were, to a “natural state”. Left to very limited senses. Thus a limited perception resulting in a limited reality.
Moses had an experience when he was “caught up into an exceedingly high mountain” that illustrates well this “fall” and coming back experience. Read about it in Moses 1. But before getting into Moses “coming back”, lets look at Nephi. These two experiences have something in common at the very beginning.
For it came to pass after I had desired to know the things that my father had seen, and believing that the Lord was able to make them known unto me, as I sat pondering in mine heart I was caught away in the Spirit of the Lord, yea, into an exceedingly high mountain, which I never had before seen, and upon which I never had before set my foot. (1 Nephi 11:1)
There are a few things to notice here. The first one I want to point out is how Nephi was caught away in the spirit into an “exceedingly high mountain”. This is worth noting because Moses was also caught up to such a mountain.
The second thing to notice is that Nephi describes the pondering to be done in the heart, not the mind. Is this simply an exaggeration or a poetic way to say “deep pondering” or is it something more? If it is something more, maybe there is more to understand about this experience than traditionally thought. Maybe “caught away” means something more. Maybe, as the account continues, “exceedingly high mountain” means more than a mountain that is very high.
Back to Moses.
The words of God, which he spake unto Moses at a time when Moses was caught up into an exceedingly high mountain… (Moses 1:1)
Like Nephi, Moses was “caught up”. This isn’t the same as simply hanging out on top of a mountain. Nephi used the phrase “caught away in the spirit of the Lord”. “IN” the spirit of the Lord. Not “by” the spirit of the Lord.
Shift your mind to that “abstract” way of processing. Don’t read this and apply the traditional understanding to the senses. Doing so will greatly limit what both of these experiences are attempting to share.
So Moses is caught up. The veil is lifted. In this “lifted” state, senses begin to intertwine. Even though we read words like “see”, “looked”, “hear”, we need to recognize that those words mean more than their traditional definition. Other words mean different things as well. Words like “talked”, “walked” and so forth.
Remember Paul to the Corinthians? Paul says regarding an experience he had, “whether in the body, or out of the body, I cannot tell”. He also speaks about someone who he knew that was “caught up” into paradise. These experiences occur in such a way as to be so spiritual that they are physical… and so physical that they are spiritual. A synergy of the senses unable to be comprehended or described through individual senses acting alone.
But, as we see throughout the scriptures, those who make contact with heaven desire to share when and as they are able.
And it came to pass that Moses looked, and beheld the world upon which he was created; and Moses beheld the world and the ends thereof, and all the children of men which are, and which were created; of the same he greatly marveled and wondered.
And the presence of God withdrew from Moses, that his glory was not upon Moses; and Moses was left unto himself. And as he was left unto himself, he fell unto the earth.
And it came to pass that it was for the space of many hours before Moses did again receive his natural strength like unto man; and he said unto himself: Now, for this cause I know that man is nothing, which thing I never had supposed. (Moses 1:8-10)
Moses greatly marveled while caught up into this place. The veil was lifted and God’s glory was upon Moses for a time. Once the glory withdrew Moses fell to the earth only to receive his natural strength after many hours. At this point Moses recognizes the limitations of “man”. The limitations are such that “man is nothing”.
Moses goes on to express how he had “seen” but not with natural eyes. Something greater. Something purer.
But now mine own eyes have beheld God; but not my natural, but my spiritual eyes, for my natural eyes could not have beheld; for I should have withered and died in his presence; but his glory was upon me; and I beheld his face, for I was transfigured before him. (Moses 1:11)
In the scriptures you can find experiences where things occur that are beyond the traditional definition of the senses. This type of thing is noticed when watching for words or phrases like “as if”, “caught up”, “carried away”. When a phrase like that is used, the adjective is attempting to describe something beyond the traditional meaning. Here are a few examples to ponder on:
And it came to pass that there came a voice unto them, yea, a pleasant voice, as if it were a whisper, saying: (Helaman 5:46)
And now, when they heard this they cast up their eyes as if to behold from whence the voice came; and behold, they saw the heavens open; and angels came down out of heaven and ministered unto them. (Helaman 5:48)
Maybe the “as if” in these two versus means what is traditionally thought and perhaps I am looking into things that are not there. But then again, maybe there are things there that are traditionally not seen.
I once heard that “different results require a different approach” – something I think is valuable to keep in mind.
Another “as if”.
And it came to pass that there came a voice as if it were above the cloud of darkness, saying: Repent ye, repent ye, and seek no more to destroy my servants whom I have sent unto you to declare good tidings.
And it came to pass when they heard this voice, and beheld that it was not a voice of thunder, neither was it a voice of a great tumultuous noise, but behold, it was a still voice of perfect mildness, as if it had been a whisper, and it did pierce even to the very soul— (Helaman 5:29-30)
A whisper above the clouds that did pierce the very soul. Think about that. Can you hear a whisper that comes from above the clouds? Sometimes I can’t even hear a plan flying over head, let alone a whisper. How about piercing. That is a feeling. A very distinct feeling. It is usually cased by a material object. I say “usually” because whispers are not material objects… or are they?
There is no such thing as immaterial matter. All spirit is matter, but it is more fine or pure, and can only be discerned by purer eyes;
We cannot see it; but when our bodies are purified we shall see that it is all matter. (D&C 131:7-8)
What does it mean to discern by “purer eyes”? Could it be similar to synesthesia? Is synesthesia or the different forms of synesthesia senses that are more pure?
We will see that “it is all matter”. Whispers can pierce through souls. Two things which are not traditionally treated as if they are matter. They are and they can be seen with purer eyes and heard with purer ears. This reminds me of these two scriptures (and many like them):
And then shall they rejoice; for they shall know that it is a blessing unto them from the hand of God; and their scales of darkness shall begin to fall from their eyes… (2 Nephi 30:6)
And he said unto them, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. (Mark 4:9)
Sometimes this principle of senses crossing each other and there being no such thing as immaterial matter help deliver as well as preserve sacred meanings and truths.
And after this manner do they bear record: The eye hath never seen, neither hath the ear heard, before, so great and marvelous things as we saw and heard Jesus speak unto the Father; (3 Nephi 17:16)
We do not necessarily hear the things of heaven with our ears. We do not see the things of heaven with our eyes. Not only that, but we can’t even adequately describe the interactions with heaven.
And no tongue can speak, neither can there be written by any man, neither can the hearts of men conceive so great and marvelous things as we both saw and heard Jesus speak; and no one can conceive of the joy which filled our souls at the time we heard him pray for us unto the Father. (3 Nephi 17:17)
The different spheres we occupy have different laws and truths. These laws and truths are experienced through different senses or a non-traditional use of different senses. This sometimes makes it “unlawful” for individuals to share what has been experienced. It is not a matter of getting in trouble if the experience is shared, it is a matter of not fitting or conforming to the laws of that sphere. And if it is not in conformance with the laws of that sphere, it is not aligned with the truths of that sphere.
And it came to pass that the disciples whom Jesus had chosen began from that time forth to baptize and to teach as many as did come unto them; and as many as were baptized in the name of Jesus were filled with the Holy Ghost.
And many of them saw and heard unspeakable things, which are not lawful to be written. (3 Nephi 26-17-18)
These things are often “unspeakable”. Often if we take the time to inquire individuals who have claimed to have “seen” Christ or have been “introduced” to God we will hear a phrase similar to “in or out of the body I know not”. It is difficult to describe what it means to be carried away unto an exceedingly high mountain. It is difficult to express what it means to have the eyes of our understanding opened. It is practically impossible to describe the taste of love, let alone infinite love. These things are unspeakable but well understood by those who have experienced them.
Those who have attempted to record their experiences in the scriptures have done so knowing full well that they would be misunderstood. This is why they plead with us to not put our trust in the arm of flesh, not to put our trust in man… but rather to seek for ourselves. Experience this “transfiguration” and synergy of senses beyond the veil.
When you do, you too will have no idea how to put this thing into words.