Does the Immaterial World Exist?


imaginationAlthough there may be some who subscribe to the view that the physical, substantive world around us is just an illusion, it is probably safe to say that most of us would agree that the material world exists.  I believe it is generally apparent that we have bodies that take up space and we are surrounded by various objects that likewise exist in time and space.

But what about an immaterial world?  Is it possible that in addition to the domain of material “things” there also exists immaterial “things?”  That is, “things” that do not take up space and time or made up of matter.  And if so, how could we know that they are there if we cannot see, weigh, measure, or otherwise assess them?

Empirically speaking, it would be difficult to demonstrate that an immaterial world exists.  This is because empirical evidence is based on observation or experimentation.  Quite obviously, an immaterial “item” does not contain the properties necessary to observe or test.  However, that does not mean that an immaterial world cannot be verified.  It only means that the normative tools we use to measure and discover cannot be relied upon for tests that reach beyond their capabilities.  I believe that by the use of our reasoning skills, however, we can find that there is still good evidence leading us to the conclusion that an immaterial world does in fact exist.

First, there is the concept of “ideas.”  Ideas are something that most of us have.  This entire article began as an idea.  I thought about the subject matter and began to formulate a response congruent to the idea, which existed in my mind.  As I am writing this article, the concept that was an idea is beginning now to take shape in the form of words, which you are reading.

I believe that an idea is an immaterial thing. It cannot be observed, measured, or weighed.  Yet, we all know that they exist in reality.  We all have them every day.  However, some might argue that ideas are really just tiny electrons being fired in a recognizable pattern within the complex organ called the brain.  Although this may be true, I don’t believe that it can be demonstrated to be so.  We can strap wires to someone’s head and measure the electric impulses that are found. But what we can’t prove is whether the electrons caused the idea, or if the idea caused the impulses.  In either case, I believe an idea remains an immaterial “thing.”  This is because if we take apart a brain we cannot find any of the detailed ideas that existed in that brain.  For example, if someone imagines a picture of a house, that picture does not actually exist in the brain.

And what about love?  Is a mother’s love for her baby simply a surge of chemicals flowing through her body?  Again, one may try to argue that the chemicals have caused her to feel love her child. But, this cannot be proven.  Perhaps the love caused the chemicals?  And, what about those who choose to love when there are no feelings involved?  Perhaps one loves the unlovely, or, maybe one has a love even for their enemy?  This type of love is aroused in spite of the feelings.  What chemical causes that?

And what causes first responders to rush into a burning building while their instincts tell them to run out?  We pin medals on people who we think are brave and we accuse those who turn and run of cowardice.  Yet, how can cowardice be real if bravery does not really exist?  How can we say that someone was ‘not brave’ if in fact there is no such thing as bravery?

I believe that it is the testimony of the human experience that we not only believe that these elements exist in reality, but we depend upon their existence.  Yet, these necessary and familiar elements exist without material properties.

Finally, what about right and wrong?  Do they exist in reality?  Can we point to any action and say that it is objectively wrong?   For example, is it objectively wrong for a parent to starve and abuse a child?  Can we objectively say that a parent has the duty to provide care for their helpless child?  The obvious answer to both of these questions is ‘yes.’  This is because deep within us there is a recognition that right and wrong exist in reality. They cannot spring from within us or we could not know them objectively.  Rather, they must exist beyond and outside of us.  They exist if we are conscience of them or not.  They exist even if we agree with them or not.  Their presence is an undeniable testimony of the existence of an immaterial domain that has incredible influence over our lives.

Why is any of this important? I believe it is important because the existence of an immaterial world tells us that there is something beyond the natural, physical world in which we live.  It suggests that we may not be merely physical beings ourselves.  There may be something about us as humans that is non-material, which transcends the thinking done by our brains.

Even more important, I believe these evidences ultimately point to the existence of a Mind or Being in the universe that is immaterial and behind the immaterial “things” that we discover.  For, only a “Mind” would be behind such elements as love, bravery, and ideas.  This Mind must also be behind the objectively existing moral laws that we live by.  These evidences do not necessarily teach us all things about this Mind, but they reveal something of its existence to us and open doors to the larger possibilities of the world in which we live.

Dane Cramer is a backpacker, Christian blogger, jail chaplain, and author of two books: Romancing the Trail and The Nephilim: A Monster Among Us.



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