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Blindsight
by Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover

Some people who have suffered neurological damage to the visual cortex manifest a condition known as "blindsight."  They are technically blind, in the sense that they cannot see or recognize objects in front of them.  However, they do show signs of being aware of the existence of those objects.  For example, if asked to take a guess and point at where they think the object might be, they invariably point in the right direction. 

The explanation behind this is that those with blindsight have eyes that function normally and can absorb images.  However, the center in the brain that is supposed to receive and decode those images is damaged, and thus they are unable to recognize objects.  Yet, the image does get processed in another region of the brain, which is beyond conscious recognition.  Thus, they are able to see but are unable to realize the fact that they are seeing.  Scientists have discovered that cognition is split.  That is, there are different regions in the brain responsible for various conscious functions. 

Today, we suffer from a similar cognitive dissonance with regard to our awareness of G-dliness.  Our conscious mind is unable to absorb the reality of G-d's existence.  Thus, many people deny being aware of G-d.  However, in an unconscious moment, or in a moment of such extreme stress that our normal cognition is silenced, we call out to G-d for help and guidance.  We have flashes of "blindsight," where we demonstrate that we are indeed aware of G-d's existence.

When Moshiach will come, our eyes of flesh and our physical brains will be able to apprehend the truth of G-d.  As R. Schneur Zalmen of Liadi writes in Tanya, "your teachers will no longer be concealed with a cloak, and your eyes will behold your teachers." 

In our time, prior to the coming of Moshiach, it takes great effort for us to understand G-d and feel how His existence is sustaining the universe, and that indeed, nothing exists other than Him.  The key to developing this awareness of G-d is through study of Chassidic teachings.   R. Schneur Zalmen of Liadi wrote a seminal work called Tanya, in which he condenses all the information we need to understand what the soul is, and how to get in touch with our true spiritual consciousness.  As R. Levi Yitzchok of Berditchev said upon reading the Tanya, "How did the author manage to convey such a great G-d in such a small book!"

Prof. Yirmiyahu Branover is chairman of the Center of Magnetohydrodynamic Studies and Training at Ben-Gurion University.

 

 


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