Depth Perception

vladimirskaya (1)One of the great blessings of the human brain can be found in its ability to take two things and make them one. We have two eyes, which means they necessarily see things differently. Look at the world with one eye open and switch to the other eye. Things appear to move. Viewing the world through one eye also makes things appear somewhat “flat.” The wonder of “stereo-scopic vision” (seeing through two eyes) lies within our brain. The brain takes two different sights and reconciles them, combining them in such a way that a new picture emerges, one that includes a perception of depth. O Lord, how marvelous are Thy works!

The fathers describe two other ways of seeing the world – or perhaps we could describe them as ways in which we process what we see: mind and heart. General human experience in the modern world concentrates on the mind’s sight. The mind judges, compares, weighs, measures, etc. It is tremendously useful and necessary to our existence. The mind not only sees, it sees itself seeing. The heart sees in a distinctly different manner. It does not judge. It does not compare. It does not distance itself in space or time. It experiences no desire and does not defend or justify itself.

Most of our lives we see “out of one eye.” The mind is the dominant mode through which we manage our lives and see the world. We judge our circumstances and consider our options. We pay attention to cause and effect and give thought to consequences. Some do a better job of this than others. The sight of one eye is easily damaged and distorted.

No one sees the world entirely through the heart: we are not meant to. The mind is the gift of God and is meant to play its part in our lives. But seeing only through the mind’s eye, our vision lacks depth. We fail to see beauty and perceive the importance of the moment and its irreplaceable value. In lacking depth, we fail to see relationships, judging all things as in competition.

The sight of the body is stereoscopic, created for a wholeness of vision that does what no single eye can do. The sight of the soul is stereoscopic as well, requiring the fullness of its capacities in order to rightly see the world and the hand of God. O Lord, how marvelous are Thy works!



  1. Thanks for this Father. I needed it. I need to be in the moment. Forgive me for not being there.

  2. Thank you Father Stephen. I felt like I was reading my very favourite Psalm 8 in a new form…!

  3. Several years back there was a documentary of tv made by Australian group that focused on the mind of the heart. It was an excellent documentary and I do not know if it is still available online.

  4. Davidp
    A great difficulty in the matter is that ultimately the heart reveals itself to the heart. By grace, we are able to be “enticed” beyond the mind – to step outside of it (or however that would be described), and enter the heart. It begins with “eros,” a desire for the something more, the something Beautiful.

    But as soon as that journey is undertaken, it becomes more and more difficult to address from platforms such as this (or even tv, etc.). Because, ultimately, the primary platform is Liturgy, prayer, fasting, repentance, almsgiving. And all of that in the context of the true and living Church.

  5. How true, Fr. Stephen.

    I sense that once this journey is complete, there will be no more words. Or rather, just one Word.

    And it will be more than enough. Our hearts will overflow…

  6. What a great point you make here. And your comment above about Liturgy being the primary platform from which this is experienced and understood rings so true.

  7. Father thank you for yet another beautiful reflection. I especially love the way the icon of Panayia is presented to speak of the mind and heart.

  8. Panayiota,
    well spotted! Elder Sophrony used to say that the slight tilt of the head we see in the icons of the Holy Trinity (Rublieuv’s for instance) or that of the Panayia, or of angels is clearly indicative of the mind in heart.

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