The Reality of the Spiritual
What is real? What is imagination? Can imagination be real?
by DORLE FITSCH
In the Western world we are trained to ignore the supernatural. The Enlightenment produced the dominant rational view that only what is experienced with our bodily senses is “real.” Sometimes this is reduced even further to a few senses (the others being easy to trick) — we mainly believe what we see with our eyes and feel with our hands. Regarding how things work on this earth, a “sense” for the spiritual world is not readily apparent in Western thinking. The supernatural is relegated to fiction in film, literature and games.
Children are not aware of this rational worldview when they are small and that is why they act outside of it. I didn’t know it as a child. I saw things that should not be “real.” Let me share a few experiences.
A Child’s Supernatural Experiences
I don’t come from a typical Christian background. My parents liked to go to church for a while, but stopped when we moved to a different place. I only decided for Christ about 10 years ago, in my early twenties.
Though I wasn’t a Christian growing up, I still remember encounters with angels when I was between two and seven years old. I can recall a few and I am sure there were more. Of course I also saw bad spirits, mostly in dreams, that felt extremely real. Because I was so small, I didn’t know how to handle them, and my parents didn’t know how to help me. Encounters with angels were great though and I felt safe. The problem were the other spirits.
For me it was never a question of whether God was real. I knew it, and I was also sure that he was good. The spiritual was kind of normal for me, though I didn’t see spirits or angels all the time. I just knew they were there. Sometimes I got a glimpse of them.
When I was four years old, I once saw hands that seemed to be made of light waving at me to move in a different direction than I intended to. I had been searching for Christmas presents, though I knew it was not okay. I remember laughing when I saw the hands and I changed my direction. Later, I told my dad I saw an angel. He gave me a look that betrayed his thoughts — he assumed I was making it up. I remember him searching for the right words so that he wouldn’t hurt me. It was then that I knew I couldn’t tell him about these things.
Another angelic encounter was at night. I woke up because I needed to use the bathroom. When I came back and climbed up the ladder to my bunk bed, I was so tired that I fell asleep on the ladder. In danger of falling, I felt a large, warm presence put me the rest of the way up the ladder and into my bed. I was in that state between dreaming and wakefulness, but suddenly came awake. Though I didn’t see anything, this invisible being was big, much bigger than my dad. My dad, though tall, would have been too small to lay me in bed that way.
Others saw the same things!
Although over time it seemed I lost the ability to see spiritual beings, I do remember seeing a very ugly one in my room in my teenage years. It was standing directly next to my bed and I could see its gruesome details three-dimensionally. I was so scared I thought I would die! I remember praying to God for protection, because he was the only one I felt had the power to help me. Nobody had ever told me that Christianity wasn’t about a book, the idea “that there might be God” or rules, but instead about a relationship with God. Though I knew God was real, I didn’t have a clue about what Jesus did for me. What I do know is that God protected me that night.
Why I tell you this story is because I had a little flashback about it later while watching the first Lord of the Rings film. The orcs looked exactly like the ugly creature I had seen in my room. I remember sitting in the cinema in shock, not knowing how to deal with it or how to explain to my friends what was going on. Apparently someone had seen the same creature in even more detail than I had! It seems to me that whoever had the idea for the figure of the orcs took it right from seeing it in the spiritual realm to portraying it on the screen.
When confronted with the supernatural
Those “monsters” kids fear are hiding in their bedroom are more real than most parents want to admit. At the same time, the good beings, angels — and I’m sure other spiritual creatures we don’t even know of yet — are real as well. Yet children do notice at some point that grown-ups won’t believe them. The power of influence means that children tend to eventually follow the model of their parents and stop seeing in the supernatural as well.
But, whether we are aware of it or not, the spiritual realm is real.
Since we are beings with a body, a soul and a spirit (1 Thess. 5:23), we live in three different realms at the same time: the physical, the psychological and the spiritual. They are closely connected, even intertwined. If we don’t consider them, we ignore important things. For example, if someone lives surrounded by constant stressors (the psychological realm), depending on how they are wired they will eventually get physical symptoms like headaches, stomach-aches, backaches, fatigue, high blood-pressure and so on. The actual cause for the stress can even be found in the spiritual realm. Therefore it makes sense to consider all three realms as working together.
Telling our children to “stop imagining nonsense” when they share about angels or monsters won’t make the things they see go away. I dare say that we only stop moving in the spirit and seeing spiritual things because we were taught by grown-ups that “It isn’t real,” or worse, “It could be of the devil.”
If you feel this has happened to you, a good first step is to forgive the persons who modeled this to you. Let go of the lie that the supernatural is not real and spiritual beings are just imagination. Replace it with the truth:
The supernatural realm is as real as the physical realm, or probably more so. We can’t even see everything in the physical, yet we still give thanks for oxygen! The realms themselves are neutral. Bad things can happen in the physical realm as well as good things. It is no different with the spiritual and the psychological realm. The question for all three realms is, how do we position ourselves and use what we have to move in a way that suits God, who is love?
I understand that one can feel insecure when approached by a prophetic person talking about a spiritual journey. How do we know it’s not made up or simply wild fantasy? We don’t, if we don’t ask the Holy Spirit for confirmation and trust him, even if he says this person didn’t make it up. We are even supposed to test it according to 1Thess. 5:19–21. These things can be real, and it would help if we accept it as a possibility and additionally test it in the spirit.
If the spiritual realm is real, how do we step into it?
Since we are already spiritual beings, we can’t “step into” the spiritual realm. We are already there. It’s only that we need to become aware of it. The place where we see supernatural things (often without realising it), is our imagination. The imagination and its use is often underestimated. We can use it for good and bad things.
We actively enter the supernatural realm by using our imagination. We could, for example, take some quiet time and think about heaven. Imagine taking a walk there. Exercises like this make us inwardly aware of God’s kingdom. God can use this to show us things. It could happen that certain things pop up as impressions in our mind. We could start asking questions, like “God, what do you want to show me? What is this about?” and simply be open for impulses.
Sometimes, because our thoughts are not used to trust our imagination regarding the spiritual, we wonder,
“Is that me, or God?”
While I do understand this question, at the same time it does interrupt the flow and makes it harder to hear from God. I would suggest that you first put this question aside and trust according to Hebrews 8:10–11:
…placing my laws in their minds, I will inscribe them upon their hearts, and I will be God for them and they will be a people for me. And by no means shall they give instruction — each to his neighbor and each to his brother — saying, “Know the Lord,” because all will know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
It might also help to remember that Jesus said his new commandment for us is love (John 13:34). This too is now written on our hearts. The more we get to know God in close relationship, the easier we recognise him via our heart.
When I do this, I often get a sense of being one with God, a sense of belonging, a deep peace and an inner joy. The parable of the sheep who recognise the voice of the shepherd speaks of the fact that we intuitively know the voice of the one we can trust (John 10: 1–30). Let us therefore lay aside doubt for a moment and get into a flow by using our imagination to take a walk in heaven. Take some time. It is more than worth it.
What you receive, perceive and think about during that time, write it down as thoroughly as possible. Write down how you felt and what you connect with in the things you “saw”. When this is done, you can test it based on solid criteria. I would also suggest talking with a friend who has a healthy relationship with God about what you experienced. This can be fun for the both of you and helps quicken the process of digging deeper into the spiritual realm.
In the links below, Andrew Wommack explains more about how we can use imagination. His approach is more of a general kind, but I found it very helpful as a foundation to move further into the spiritual.
Let me close with a definition by Kris Vallotton:
“Spiritual Intelligence is the ability to discern, perceive and judge the spiritual dimensions that are at work in and around you and manage this realm towards a positive outcome.”
I think this is very important to every Christian, no matter how prophetic you perceive yourself to be. Let’s move in this direction. In the spiritual realm there are keys to be found that can change the world into a better place.