The ancient philosophers argued about how we see things. There are two major theories: in order to see something, the light from the object comes toward us and we receive it, or our eyes emit the ‘light’ of vision, which goes out to meet objects. order to see something, the light from the object comes toward us and we receive it...

Today, empirical evidence proves that sense-objects are received in your brain. As you look at something, for example, the words on this screen, rays of light pass from the screen to your eyes, and these register as an inverted image of the page in your retina. Light-sensitive cells then cause impulses to pass through your optic nerve, leading to complex electrochemical patterns in your brain, which you finally interpret as a page with words on it. This is a one-way path, from the object to the subject.

One thing still remains a mystery in this process. Why do we see the image of the page in front of us ‘outside’ of us, when the image is actually appearing within us, or within our brain?

If one were perceiving accurately, perhaps it would be more natural to say, ‘I am seeing a page in my mind,’ rather than ‘I am seeing a page two feet away from my face.’ Only our projection of the image outward onto an assumed ‘outside’ world makes objects appear outside of ourselves.

Therefore, in a sense, while light is received by our eyes and nervous system, we can also argue that we project or ‘emit’ the light of vision outward. Our minds extend to the outside world, so-to-speak.

Taking this idea further, we enter the realm of basic quantum theory, in which the observer is understood to affect the observed. Biologists and theorists discuss another mystery: some people can accurately sense when an unseen person is staring at them. Here, not only does a ‘seer’ affect the seen, but a ‘seer’ ‘out there’ can seem to affect us ‘in here’. This is the amazing power of ‘seeing’.

...the way we see affects the things we are viewing!

According to the deep teachings of Torah, the way we see affects the things we are viewing! For example, someone with pure intention creates a positive energy when looking at something, and the opposite holds true as well. Our vision emits subtle vibrations into the universe and towards the object/person we are viewing.

* * *

In the Torah portion of Shelach, we read about Moshe sending the twelve scouts, the leaders of the tribes of Israel, from their encampment in the desert to observe the land of Israel.

The Torah reading begins with the words,
"G‑d spoke to Moshe saying. Send out men and they shall observe the Land which I am giving to the children of Israel". (Num. 13:1-2)

Moshe himself instructs the spies to:
"see what the land is like". (verse 18) Their task is to see the land.

The common misconception is that they were told to be spies. But looking at the verse carefully, they were not sent to spy and figure out the best possible way to conquer the land; they were merely asked to observe.

Moshe sends them to see the land, on a deeper level, not only to see for themselves the goodness of the land, but to actually effect through their seeing, a positive elevation of the land. In this way they would ‘acquire’ the land, it would become theirs and transformed into a holy land.

Coming back to the story of the twelve scouts and its unfortunate ending, we find that ten of the twelve scouts failed in their mission. They returned with a negative report;
"We saw there the giants and we were in our own eyes as grasshoppers, and so were we in their eyes". (verse 33)

They had no real way of knowing how they were perceived in the eyes of the natives, however, since in their own view they were unfit and not ready to enter the land, they therefore assumed that that was the reality, the natives were 'giants' and they were mere 'grasshoppers.' They looked from a perspective of negativity, not wanting and desiring to enter the land, and therefore the land was negative and impossible to enter and inhabit.

...we perceive things the way we are.

We don’t see things the way they are, rather, we perceive things the way we are.

The ten spies were pessimistic about entering the land of Israel. They had other motives, wishing to remain spiritually sheltered in the desert and led by Moshe and therefore went in with a negative and self-defeating attitude, and created a negative reality for themselves and the people.

In contrast, the other two spies, Joshua and Caleb, understood the inherent benefit of inhabiting the land of Israel and appreciated it as the gift that it was. They were passionate and excited about Israel and so, even though the land they observed was the same as the other scouts, the land they ‘saw’ was completely different. The message they came back with was, "We should go up and take possession of the land, for we can certainly do it". (verse 30)

This created a reality in which they truly were able to conquer. In fact, it was Joshua, the scout who saw the land in a positive light, who was empowered to finally lead the nation into their land.

* * *

Here we see an example that we can choose the things we see! [Indeed, this is a commandment from the Torah! And its source verse is in this same weekly reading (see Num. 15:39, end) which we invoke daily in the 3rd paragraph of the Shema Yisrael prayer — Ed.]

...when a person sees something deeply, it becomes a part of him...

If we understand deeply that what we see is a reflection of who we are and how we are choosing to perceive, we can then choose to perceive in a positive and uplifting manner. Thus, we must be careful how we view things, or interpret them, as our very ‘seeing’ affects the quality of that thing. Also, we should always be conscious that when a person sees something deeply, it becomes a part of him, and thereby choose to create a better reality for ourselves with positive vision.

When we immediately see something as negative, we need to go back into ourselves, where the light is being absorbed, and change the refraction. If we can imagine something as being wonderful and positive, we can see it that way, and when we see it that way - it becomes that way.

When we view an event or a person in a positive light, we actually create positive energy which changes the very nature of that event or person.

[Adapted from an article on // Subscriptions to Rabbi Pinson’s innovative insights are available there.]