Using its own reasoning, the earthly self has no way of knowing that God is the Absolute and the first and only thing that is called the intrinsic underlying reality and the intrinsic capacity to become manifest from which come all things that exist and take form. Under its own power of reasoning the earthly self cannot draw on anything other than what belongs to nature. Earthly things fit with the earthly self’s essence because from our infancy and childhood onward nothing but what is earthly comes into the self. Nevertheless, we were created to be spiritual as well as earthly, since we are going to live after death and will then be among spiritual people in their world. Therefore God has provided the Word.
In the Word God has revealed not only himself but also the existence of heaven and hell, and the fact that every single one of us is going to live in one or the other realm to eternity, each of us according to our life as well as our faith. God has also revealed in the Word that he is “I Am” or the underlying reality, and is the Absolute and the only one to exist in and of himself; he revealed therefore that he is the First or the Beginning from which all things come.
This revelation makes it possible for the earthly self to rise above nature, even above itself, and see what belongs in the realm of God. It appears to be far away. Yet God is actually close to each of us, for God is in us with his essence. Because he is, he is near to those who love him—people who live by his instructions and believe in him. In a sense they see him.
What else is faith except spiritually seeing what is real? And what else is living by God’s instructions except an actual acknowledgment that he is the source of salvation and eternal life?
But people whose faith is earthly and not spiritual and consists of mere factual knowledge, and who have an earthly but not a spiritual way of life, do indeed see God, but from far away, and then only when they talk about him.
Spiritual people compared to earthly ones are like people who are standing in broad daylight, seeing others near themselves and touching them, compared to people standing in a heavy fog that makes it difficult to tell whether the objects nearby are people or perhaps trees or rocks.
Spiritual people compared to earthly ones are like people in a town on a high mountain, walking around and talking to their friends in the town, compared to people who look down from that mountain and cannot make out whether they are seeing people or animals or statues below.
Spiritual people compared to earthly ones are also like people standing on a planet and seeing their friends and loved ones right there, compared to people looking at another planet through hand-held telescopes. People in the second group look at the planet and say they see people there, when in fact all they have is a vague impression of landmasses, like the moon’s lighter areas, and bodies of water, like the moon’s darker patches.
The same difference exists between people who are in faith and also live a life of goodwill, who see God and divine attributes that emanate from him in their mind, compared to those who have nothing more than knowledge about these things. This is the difference between spiritual and earthly people.
Those, however, who deny the divine holiness of the Word but still carry their religion around in a pack on their back do not see God at all. They only sound out the word God, not much differently from parrots.
from True Christianity, Volume 1, Section 22