The Two Spheres of Action
The ancient Gnostics used to say that there is both an inner and an outer aspect to things. They called the outer aspect the "visible" world or the "seen" world, and they called the inner aspect the "invisible" world or "unseen," "hidden" world.
If in this terminology you hear an echo with early Christian theology, that's because there is one. The first Christians were Jews, of course, soon followed by Gnostic Greeks, who had always appreciated the ancient Hebrew scriptures like the Creation Story, which they viewed as sacred myth - important for its MEANING but not necessarily literally true. The fourth Gospel (probably the oldest) is essentially a Gnostic work and is very different from the other three (synoptic) Gospels.
A simple, well known example of "the two worlds" is a tennis match. In the 1970's, W. Timothy Gallwey wrote a monumental book entitled The Inner Game of Tennis that addresses the inner aspect of game and how we learn to play it.
The Gnostics said that everything happening in the outer, or visible, world has an impact on the inner, hidden world. They recognized two spheres of action - an outer (material/physical) sphere and an inner (moral/metaphysical) sphere.
Well, they were just stating the obvious, weren't they? For example, let's say you're my doubles partner and you score for us with a great shot. I give you a little head pat - literally (if you're a child) or verbally (if you're an adult).
To all outward appearances, that was a friendly act on my part.
But it wasn't friendly at all, was it? In the moral sphere of action it was a blow. In was an act of condescension. That patronizing little head pat was a put down. It It diminished you with respect to me.
It was an act of narcissism.
So, you need a real partner. Someone on YOUR side. Not someone pretending to be an ally and actually working against you.
In fact, I am more of an adversary than the players on the other team. Unlike them, however, I'm a snake about it.
Which is why in war they take prisoners and shoot traitors.
So, everyone is well aware of the two worlds. Even little children. Notice how by the age of three they are acting out in ways that have moral implications. They haven't learned any subtlety yet, so you can't miss it. For example, they stick their noses up in the air to signify that their little playmate is beneath their notice. They demand attention to signify that they are important - and you'd better not forget that, Mother! They refuse to share, and if they're the biggest kid in the room, all the toys get piled up behind them in a corner so that none of the other kids can have any.
It all has moral implications. It all is an act of value judgement.
Yet people act as though they are unaware of this dimension in the actions of themselves or others. Go figure.
The ancient Gnostics ran into this obtuseness as well. People's eyes glazed. They got all fuzzy looking as though they couldn't understand what the Gnostics were talking about. They saw a journal of the first six days, not a lesson about willfully believing lies and playing God/Judge in the Creation Story. They saw a miracle, not the old bartender's trick of making (out) water to be wine for the drinking crowd at a wedding who certainly needed no more alcohol at that point. They just couldn't see that their patronizing little head pat was NOT a friendly act.
I get a kick a out of the ancient Gnostics. Like Jesus of Nazareth, they never argued with the willfully blind and obtuse. "So, you have eyes but do not see? Okay."
Hence the play on words like "hidden" and "unseen" and "invisible." Some folks see, and some folks don't.
I appreciate a sense of humor like that wherever I find it.
Narcissists operate in this inner world, the moral sphere of action, mainly. This doesn't mean that their abuse doesn't often include physical abuse or other crimes. But they don't do things they think they can't get away with. So most of the time their abuse is couched between the lines. It is emotional and psychological abuse.
It's sneakier. They can get away with it. Much of it they can get away with even before bystanders. Because the bystanders go willfully blind and get all fuzzy looking if you try to tell them that that patronizing little head pat was an act of moral abuse, not an act of affection.
This is where the whole world shares some of the blame. The bystanders permit it by making nothing of it. So, that narcissist may take a sledge hammer to your self esteem in front of God and everybody without anyone crying "Foul!" But if he took a sledge hammer to your old beater, they'd say he damaged something valuable and therefore was liable to pay for repairing it.
So, any material thing that you can put a price on is more valuable than you, right? Bashing it counts; bashing you - the inner you, the person inside you - is equivalent to bashing a bug = no harm done. Right?
Wrong. Very wrong. Very, very wrong.