I've been putting off writing up this episode because I feel like the topic is too big. I like how they dealt with it in this episode. There is some neat imagery trying to represent the inconceivable edge of our dimension. The issue is the nature of the space our physical world lives in. Picard sums it up by saying that thought is the basis of reality. It's that idea that I want to talk about.
Even that phrase makes the point I think this episode is exploring, that our reality is but a sub-set of a larger one. If anything except for the reality itself is the basis for our own, then there is something else out there, by default bigger and more powerful than anything we have observed in our physical world. In the Star Trek universe, that something out there is thought itself. I immediately thought of the mind of God. His thoughts are the basis of reality.
There are any number of new discoveries in quantum physics that just continue to tell us that where we live is small and weird compared to the something greater beyond. There is a lot of interesting stuff to read about here, but I don't really want to start down that rabbit hole. Khouse.org has some great articles (here's one to get you started) that will have you up all night googling things like planck length and Berry Setterfield. I 'll leave that to you. I'll follow you down that rabbit hole if anyone is interested enough to make a comment.
What I'm most interested in is the boundary between this world and the next. In Christian circles we usually describe these two places as the “physical world” and the “spiritual world.” But I don't think these two categories describe the situation accurately. In this “two worlds” model, the only ones stuck in the smaller reality are humans, and we only cross over when we die (and sometimes we get right up next to the fence when we ALMOST die. But that's another article). The spirit world is a wispy, cloudy, bright place where angels and God and every dead human get to float around for eternity in their smokey, insubstantial bodies. I don't think this is what the Bible teaches at all, but it's a folk theology that has a pretty strong toe-hold in the christian community.
I think this idea has the entire situation upside-down. I touched on this in my comments about The Lonely Among Us. The more I understand about the nature of reality, the more I'm compelled to move the boundary between the physical world and the spirit world to the very edges of heaven. I think the best place for this divider is simply between God and his creation. Two groups: Creator and Created. That means we get angels and heaven on our side, in the physical world. God created a perfect world which was then broken somehow by an angel and his cronies who fell (don't know exactly when, but I tend to believe it was after the last day of creation and before the Fall of man), and then further by Adam and Eve when they sinned. This action split the natural world in to two sub-groups: natural and super natural. The point is that God is still outside of both.
All that to say how I think our understanding of physical vs. spiritual is a bit off. Because there is a veil of mystery to the spirit world, we tend to give it spookie, insubstantial qualities like a ghost having a vapory body that you can walk right through because it's only sort of there. But I think it's us who have the vapory bodies. Just look at what we're made of: atoms. They're basically empty space surrounded by electrically charged particles. This entire realm is made like that. That's why Jesus, after his resurrection when he was in his new body, could disappear and walk through walls. He was more solid than the world he was ministering to! But he was still physical. He ate food, and his disciples were able to touch him.
This should re-assure us, and inspire us to pursue God with all our heart. I hope the more we understand this world we live in, especially as we understand that how it works is a mystery, the more we can pray for Jesus to come restore it and rescue us from this body of destruction.
For now we see in a mirror in a riddle, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 1 Corinthians 13:13
Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear. Hebrews 11:3
For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers[spiritual entities]: all things were created by him, and for him: And he is before all things, and by him all things [are] held together. Colossians 1:16,17