Social Justice is not Spiritual or Eternal Justice

It is honorable to care for our neighbors—even on a global scale. It requires a good heart to be concerned for others. But is ensuring equal rights the same thing as everyone being assured of a roof over their heads, healthcare, and big screen TVs? Is our idea of equal rights the same thing that God thinks it is?

I agree that we should all pitch in to banish human suffering to make each others’ lives better and happier, but it seems that such moral and charitable efforts should not be focused solely on that which can rust, be stolen or eaten by moths.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19)

We do not live forever on this earth, in spite of modern medical advances, improved distribution of food or increased comfort and convenience from modern innovation. These worldly things are important in God’s creation—only as long as they are serviceable towards our living a heaven-bound life.

A government can legislate a level playing field for all its citizens yet not offer any help towards a person’s eternal wellbeing and soul. So in terms of truly living an “upwardly mobile” life, we can have all the creature comforts of this earth and enjoy great physical health but still be counted among the disabled, sick, homeless, oppressed, poor, starved and miserable!

Unlike worldly social justice, heaven is not an entitlement program. According to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, the concept of helping the downtrodden and less fortunate was looked at quite differently in more ancient civilizations. Instead, they understood whether a person was less fortunate or not from their spiritual situation. Here is a quote from Swedenborg:

The Ancient Church distinguished into classes the neighbor or neighbors toward whom they were to perform works of charity; and some they called “maimed,” some “lame,” some “blind,” and some “deaf,” meaning those who were spiritually so. Some also they called the “hungry,” the “thirsty,” “strangers,” the “naked,” the “sick,” the “captives;” and some “widows,” “orphans,” the “needy”, the “poor,” and the “miserable;” by whom they meant no other than those who were such as to truth and good, and who were to be suitably instructed, led on their way, and thus provided for as to their souls. (Arcana Coelestia, Vol. 6, n. 4302)

In fact, in order to get individuals re-focused towards spiritual matters and eternal life, God often will make use of misfortune, sorrow and human suffering ( Arcana Coelestia, Vol. 1, n. 8  )

Social justice is a hot topic right now. Tell me what you think.

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Anxiety – Can spiritual learning help reduce it?

anxiety
Nigella Lawson

 

Nigella Lawson is well known as a television cook who takes a relaxed and casual approach to cooking for her own pleasure.  However, it seems like most of us she is not immune from anxiety.

“At some stages of your life you will deal with things and at others you are overwhelmed with misery and anxiety.” (Nigella Lawson)

The trouble with anxiety is that there is usually no specific fear you can see to tackle; just a very alarming sense of danger or threat.

Some people are more vulnerable to anxiety – for example those who have had emotionally absent parents during childhood, who have an emotionally unstable temperament, or who have a currently stressful life-style.

However, anxiety is quite common. Many elderly people for example have anxiety about getting old, anxieties about health, mobility, access to facilities, and simple routine care and attention. and many younger people from time to time experience stress-related illness, bodily tension, worry, unease, even panic. Anxiety is so common a problem in fact that there just aren’t enough counsellors to go round to help us all feel better.

The question thus arises is there anything you can learn that will equip you to deal with life more calmly? Is there any spiritual knowledge that can effectively help reduce anxiety?

Jim’s anxiety

Jim’s problem of anxious worry concerned his sports injury. He was plagued with the idea that he was never going to recover full use of his arm. His thoughts about this kept going around in circles without getting anywhere. They kept him awake most of the night.

Jim is a young man. He said that his anxiety is worse in the morning or on weekends when he hadn’t so much to do. I do reckon that focusing on some useful activity does help distract one’s mind from one’s concerns.

“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”

Jim found it helped to talk to a friend who was sympathetic to how he felt and who tried to put things in perspective and to see things from a different angle. The trouble was Jim kept asking the same person over and over again for reassurance, which unfortunately was beginning to drive that person to distraction.

Distraction and ventilation can only postpone anxiety. The same goes for tablets from the doctor or for that matter any drug such as alcohol. Something more radical is needed.

Anxiety and CBT

Cognitive-behaviour therapists maintain that it is possible to change anxious habits of thought that adversely affect us. Once you bring such attitudes out into the open, you can examine them in the light of day and challenge them if unrealistic. Looking for more sensible ways of thinking it becomes possible to adopt a calmer attitude.

They thus encourage the anxious person to notice the illogical thoughts which accompany anxiety and discard them as mere habits of thought, which can be replaced by some rational common sense.

Anxiety and Swedenborg

An idea along these lines, but in my view a little more powerful, can be found in the books of the eighteenth century mystic and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg. He has given posterity a great deal of meticulously recorded information regarding what he claimed were his daily awareness of spirits inwardly present with him. He writes about certain spirits who he says he has seen and heard in a psychic way, and who, when present with him, were the source of an anxious state of mind.

“I have talked with them, they have been driven off and the anxiety has ceased, they have come back and the anxiety has returned, I have observed its increase and decrease as they drew near and moved away.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Anxiety and Buddhism

Professor David Loy whose studies in comparative philosophy and religion have been published widely, points out that Swedenborg’s startling and counter-intuitive idea – that we don’t really generate our own thoughts – is also found in Buddhism’s doctrine of ‘no self’ where it is said to be an illusion of self-hood.

“Since there has never been a self, only the illusion of self, the point of the Buddhist path is not to eliminate the self but forget oneself, which is accomplished by becoming so absorbed into one’s meditation exercise that one becomes it. For Swedenborg as much as the Buddhism, the path is letting go of oneself.” (David Loy)

For Swedenborg the reason for the illusion are spirits inflowing their thoughts and feelings into our consciousness. He is saying we don’t create our own thoughts because they come to us from elsewhere. A spirit is unconsciously present within our mind if it can harmonise with our desires: he or she secretly enters our way of thinking and is accepted by us as our own.  According to this view, the influence, of calming thoughts from angels and anxiety-laden thoughts from lower spirits, accounts for much of what we understand as our mental and emotional life.

In line with this way of thinking, as long as you identify with your anxiety-laden thoughts, then unfortunately you will continue to be under their control. The alternative is to be mindful of such anxious thoughts, learn to dis-identify with them, let go of them, neglect them, become unattached to them, and see them for what they are, the harmful fantasies of unwanted secret companions with whom you are free to distance your self.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotionconal problems

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The Word Made Flesh

The Word Made Flesh
A Sermon by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

Image result for the word made flesh

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we
beheld His glory” (John 1:14).

The Lord loves each of us and wants us to be as happy as we
can be to eternity. He loves us. He has loved every human being who
has lived in the past. He loves all the people who have yet to be born.
Love that is genuine has three qualities. We read in the Writings of
the New Church: “It is the essence of Love to love others outside of
one self, to desire to be one with them, and to render them blessed
from oneself.” (True Christian Religion 43)

God has this love in perfection at the very core of who He is. He
loves us so much that we’re told that no matter what we have done,
He cannot even look at us with a stern countenance. (True Christian
Religion 56e) There is a part of human nature that cannot possibly
believe that this is the case. Since it isn’t the way we react to people
when they’ve been destructive or just frustrating, it doesn’t make
sense to us that the Lord would have such a different reaction. The
only way we can easily imagine this perspective, before we’ve grown
spiritually to feel something of it ourselves, is to picture God as being
like a foolishly doting parent who will overlook or not recognize any
fault, forgive any transgression, and give in eventually to any request.
Such a parent is viewed by a child as a pushover and the child will
hold him or her in very low respect. A child who is unfortunate to grow
up with parenting like this will face a huge number of unnecessary
problems as he or she gets older. The child will tend to become adept
at being manipulative. He or she will tend to have trouble recognizing
that one’s own needs and wants need to be balanced or tempered by
those of people around oneself. If the child runs into an adult who
does present obstacles or boundaries to the child’s wishes, that child
can be furious or hurt by this intrusion. To the extent that the child
continues to believe that the foolish parent’s responses are the ways
things are supposed to be, he or she will be a danger to self and
others.

The Lord loves us perfectly and this love is expressed through
perfect wisdom. Wisdom is what gives form to love. A woman can
have a deep desire to bake a delicious meal for a friend, but if she is
too ignorant, too inexperienced in the kitchen she may instead
produce food that is nearly inedible. Desire or love by itself is blind.
The woman needs to know how to cook and what to cook if she
wants to achieve her goal of a delicious meal for a friend. When she
succeeds, at the core of her efforts will be her love, and this will be
guided each step of the way by an understanding of how to reach the
goal she seeks.

The opening sentences of the Gospel of John describe the
relationship of love and wisdom within the Lord, the infinite God from
eternity, the creator and sustainer of all life. These sentences use the
term “the Word.” It is a translation of the original Greek, logos. It
means the word by which inner thought is expressed or the inner
thought and reason itself. The Logos spoken of in the Gospel of John
is the infinite wisdom that gives form to the Divine Love. It is both one
with this love and can be thought of as a separate quality. All of
creation, whose goal is an expression of Divine love was guided by
this Logos or perfect wisdom.

So we read in the opening of this gospel: “In the beginning was
the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He
was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him,
and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John1:1-3)
The goal of creation was and is the fulfillment of the Divine love.
The first quality of which is that true love must have another or others
outside of self to love. Concerning this quality of the Lord we are told:
The first essential, which is to love others outside of one’s self, is
recognized in God’s love for the whole human race; and for its sake
God loves all things that He has created because they are means; for
when the end is loved the means also are loved. All human beings
and things in the universe are outside of God, because they are finite
and God is infinite. The love of God goes forth and extends not only
to good people and good things, but also to evil people and evil
things; consequently not only to the people and things in heaven but
also in hell, thus not only to Michael and Gabriel but also to the devil
and satan; for God is everywhere, and is from eternity to eternity the
same. He says also that “He makes the sun to rise on the good and
on the evil, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust.” (Matthew
5:45)

But the reason why evil people continue to be evil, and evil
things continue to be evil, lies in the subjects and objects themselves,
in that they do not receive the love of God as it is, and as it is in
mostly in them, but as they themselves are; in the same way as
thorns and thistles receive the heat of the sun and the rain of heaven.
(True Christian Religion 43)

Each of us is a focus of the Lord’s love. He has created us with
the goal and intention of serving us and bringing us joy. When we
think of the billions of human beings alive today in this world, it is
almost impossible to envision that the Lord views each of us as
individuals. We look at a forest of trees and can say I love every one
of the leaves in this forest, but we are speaking abstractly. But the
Lord is very different. He is our loving heavenly Father. Just as an
attentive parent sees each of his children as wonderfully unique
individuals, beloved each in their own right, needing a special kind of
parenting and guidance, experiencing his or her own joys and
challenges, so the Lord loves each of us as individuals. In fact, He
knows infinitely more about each of us than the most attentive parent
could ever know about a child. It is His joy to share in our lives.
But just having created “others” in existence isn’t enough to
fulfill true Love. The second quality of this love is described with these
words:

The second essential of the love of God, which is a desire to be
one with others, is recognized in His conjunction with the angelic
heaven, with the church on earth, with every one there, and with
every thing good and true that enters into and constitutes each
person and the church. Moreover, love viewed in itself is nothing but
an endeavor towards conjunction; therefore that this aim of the
essence of love might be realized each and every human being was
created by God into His own image and likeness, with which a
conjunction is possible. That the Divine love continually seeks
conjunction is evident from the Lord’s own words: That He wishes
them to be one, He in them and they in Him, and that the love of God
might be in them. (John 17:21-23, 26 and True Christian Religion 43)

“Love viewed in itself is nothing but an endeavor towards
conjunction.” What do these words mean? Specifically, what does
“conjunction” mean? It is a desire to share in common goals and
common understandings. It is a desire for a deep relationship of trust
and mutual goodwill. Conjunction or a deep relationship of love is
impossible without freedom to choose that relationship. Imagine the
child of very wealthy parents who feels lonely and is told, “Don’t
worry, we’ll pay someone to be your friend.” Or consider the boss
who suspects that the only reason an employee is so solicitous of his
ideas and welfare is the fear of being fired if they expressed their real
opinion. What kind of relationships would these be? Would they be
anything more than very superficial? Would there be anything more
than a temporary “oneness of purpose” so long as there was
payment or continuing fear of consequences for not going along.
There could be no real love or real conjunction in these cases. So
likewise, it is essential to the Lord that we be free to choose to love
what He loves, to accept His wisdom, or to reject them both. We can
choose to be with Him or choose to distance ourselves from His life.
But for us to choose a relationship of love with the Lord we
have to know of Him, His goals, and His thoughts. Otherwise we
would not know what we were choosing and not choosing. For this
reason, the Lord has made sure that everyone has the essential
knowledge of His qualities. Concerning this we read the following
from the book the Divine Providence, “Everyone acknowledges God
and is conjoined to Him according to the good of his life. All can have
a knowledge of God who know anything from religion….The general
principles of all religions by which everyone can be saved are: To
acknowledge God; and to refrain from doing evil because it is against
God. These are the two things which make religion to be religion. If
one of them is wanting it cannot be called religion, since to
acknowledge God and to do evil is a contradiction; so also is to do
good and yet not acknowledge God, for one is not possible without
the other. It has been provided by the Lord that almost everywhere
there should be some form of religion, and that in every religion there
should be these two principles; and it has also been provided by the
Lord that everyone who acknowledges God and refrains from doing
evil because it is against God should have a place in heaven.” (Divine
Providence 326:6,9)

The Lord has worked to make sure that the essential
knowledge for salvation has been available to all people. But He also
wants more than just the essential. He has provided that there be
specific revelation to form a church of human beings that could know
Him more clearly and worship Him as He truly is. For this reason the
Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings of the New
Church have been revealed. By itself written revelation describing
what we are to do would not have been enough. It was essential that
the Lord, the infinite God and Creator, be born into this world and
make His essential Humanity visible and knowable to us. Mere words
would not have done it. And so we read in the Gospel of John: “And
the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His
glory.” (John 1:14) The Advent of the otherwise invisible and
unknowable Infinite Creator into this world is the event that we will
celebrate on December 25th. Christmas is the celebration of the
Lord’s birth into this world as a human being who we can see in our
mind’s eye. We can read of how He taught, healed, lived, allowed
Himself to be put to death, and rose as our Savior and Redeemer.
Without this clear example we would not be able to freely follow Him
and freely love Him. He would be too distant and unknowable to us.
The final fulfillment of true love is shown in its third quality.
The third essential of the love of God, which is to render others
blessed from Himself, is recognized in eternal life, which Is the
endless blessedness, happiness, and joy that God gives to those who
receive into themselves His love. For as God is love itself, so is He
blessedness itself; for all love breathes forth delight from itself, and
the Divine love breathes forth blessedness itself, happiness, and joy
to eternity. Thus God from Himself renders the angels blessed, and
people after death; and this He does by conjunction with them. (True
Christian Religion 43)

If we are to receive these blessings of happiness and peace,
we must be joined in a deep relationship of love with the Lord. We
must freely choose to turn to His Word, learn what it teaches, and
consciously compel ourselves to think, speak, and live better than we
naturally incline to. We must turn to the Lord in prayer asking for His
help and guidance. Gradually He will help us to recognize His love
and His order more and more clearly. Gradually He will help us to
think and will more and more as He does. Gradually He will bring us
into a oneness with Him. If we cooperate with the Lord He will conjoin
us in heart, mind, and life with Him and from this conjunction comes
true happiness for us and for Him. This is the most wonderful gift
anyone could ever receive.
Amen.
Lessons: Isaiah 40:9-11, John 1:1-5, 14, 13:15, True Christian
Religion 339:1-2

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Heaven and Hell 15 

John Chapter 1

JOHN 1      Other translations  –  next  –  meaning  –  John  –  BM Home  –  Full Page

Chapter 1 THE INTERNAL SENSE.
  1. IN the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with god, and god was the Word.
  2. The same was in the beginning with god,
THAT the lord, as to his Divine Human [principle], which is divine truth, existed from eternity, in undivided union with the divine good, which is jehovah, verses 1, 2.
  1. All things were made by Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
That by divine truth from the lord was effected the all of creation, both natural and spiritual, thus the production of the all of outward nature, and likewise the regeneration of man, and the establishment of the church, vs 3.
  1. In him was life, and the life was the light of men.
That divine truth is always in union with divine love, and by virtue of that union is the source of all wisdom, intelligence, and rationality, amongst mankind, vs 4.
  1. And the light shines in darkness, and the darkness comprehended it not.
But that mankind had so immersed themselves in external and natural things, and thus in false principles, that they no longer acknowledged divine truth, vs 5.
  1. There was a man sent from god, whose name was John.
  2. He came for a witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him.
  3. He was not the light, but that he might bear witness of the light.
  4. [That] was the true light, which enlightens every man that comes into the world.
That divine truth has its appointed representatives here on earth, amongst those who are principled in charity and faith, whose office it is to testify concerning the lord’s Divine Humanity, and thus to lead mankind to acknowledge and receive it, as the only source of all wisdom, intelligence, and rationality, vs 6, 7, 8, 9.
  1. He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
  2. He came to his own, and his own received him not.
  3. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of god, to them who believe in his name.
  4. Who were born, not of bloods, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of god.
That the lord, by his divine truth, or the Word, was present with the Jewish church, but that he was not in general known and acknowledged, yet that all, who did know and acknowledge him, were made regenerate, and thus delivered from the guilt of doing violence to charity, and of profaning truth, being cleansed from all the principles of evil and error, vs 10, 11, 12, 13.
  1. And the Word was made flesh, and tabernacled amongst us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the Only-begotten of the father, full of grace and truth.
That the lord, by assuming the human nature, and thus becoming a man, made himself divine truth in ultimates, as he had before been divine truth in first principles, and thus gained fuller access to man, by imparting a fuller measure of his divine love and wisdom, vs 14.
  1. John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that comes after me, was before me, because he was prior to me.
  2. And of his fullness have we all received, and grace for grace.
  3. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by jesus christ.
Therefore all, who are principled in charity and faith, acknowledge from the heart, that the lord in his Divine Humanity is the eternal god, and that all good and truth are from him, and that he came into the world to open those interior things of his Word, for the benefit of mankind, vs 15, 16, 17.
  1. No one has seen god at any time; the Only-begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the father, he has brought him forth to view.
They acknowledge also, that no right apprehension can be had of the invisible jehovah, but by or through the visible humanity, which he assumed and glorified for that purpose, vs 18.
  1. And this is the witness of John, when the Jews sent from Jerusalem priests and Levites to ask him, Who are you?
  2. And he confessed, and denied not, and confessed, I am not the christ.
  3. And they asked him, What then? Art you Elias? And he says, I am not. Art you the Prophet? And he answered, No.
  4. Then they said to him, Who are you? that we may give an answer to them who went us: What say you of yourself?
  5. He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the lord, as said Esaias the prophet.
Thus they testify concerning themselves, to those of the perverted church who are inquisitive about them, that they possess no truth or good of themselves, but only from the Word, and that from the Word all in the vastated church are admonished to prepare themselves to receive the lord in his divine humanity, vs 19, 20, 21, 22, 23.
  1. And they who were sent were of the Pharisees.
  2. And they asked him, and said to him, Why baptizest you then, if you are not the christ, nor Elias, nor the Prophet?
  3. John answered them, saying, I baptize with water, but there stands one in the midst of you, whom you know not.
They testify further, that they can teach only external truth, but that the truth itself is the lord as to his Divine Humanity, who is yet unacknowledged, although he is the very central life of all truths, vs 24, 25, 26.
  1. He it is who, coming after me, was before me, whose shoe’s latchet I am not worthy to unloose.
And has thus pre-eminence over all, since the lowest order of internal truth is above the highest of what is external, vs 27.
  1. These things were done in Bethabara, beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
  2. On the morrow John sees jesus coming to him, and says, Behold the Lamb of god who takes away the sin of the world!
Such is the testimony of external truth, derived from the letter of the Word, which testimony presently conducts to a view of internal truth as it is in connection with the lord’s Divine Humanity, by virtue of which internal truth confession is made that the lord in his Divine Humanity is the purest innocence, and that human disorder can never be removed, only so far as that innocence is implanted in human minds, vs 28, 29.
  1. He it is of whom I said, After me comes a man, who was before me; for he was prior to me.
  2. And I knew him not, but that he should be made manifest to Israel, on which account I am come baptizing with water.
Confession is further made from internal truth, that the lord, in his Divine Humanity, is the eternal god, and that all good and truth are from him, and that he is to be made known to the church by the teaching of external truth from the Word, vs 30, 31.
  1. And John bare witness, saying, I saw the Spirit descending as a dove from heaven, and it abode upon him.
  2. And I knew him not, but he who sent me to baptize with water said to me, On whom you shall see the Spirit descending, and abiding upon him, he it is who baptizeth with the Holy Spirit.
  3. And I saw and bare witness, that he is the Son of god.
Which truth testifies, that all the good and truth of faith, thus all purification and regeneration, are from the Divine Humanity of the lord, and that consequently all internal truth is from the same source, vs 32, 33, 34, 35.
  1. Again on the morrow, John stood and two of his disciples.
  2. And looking upon jesus as he walked, he says, Behold the Lamb of god !
  3. And the two disciples heard him speaking, and they followed jesus.
That they who are principled in charity, and in the faith of charity, have their spiritual sight opened to behold and to confess the lord in his Divine Humanity, whom therefore they immediately acknowledge and obey as the only god, vs 35, 36, 37.
    1. But jesus turning, and seeing them following, says to them, What seek you? They said to him, Rabbi, (which is to say, being interpreted, Master) where abide you ?

  1. He says to them, Come and see. They came and saw where he abode, and remained with him that day, and it was about the tenth hour.
And being led by an internal dictate in their own minds to explore and examine the end of all truth, or knowledge, they are led further to inquire after the good of love and charity, to which all truth and knowledge point, and thus attain conjunction with the lord in that good, vs 38, 39.
  1. Andrew the brother of Simon Peter, was one of the two disciples who heard from John, and followed him.
  2. He first finds his own brother Simon, and says to him, We have found the Messiah,—which is, being interpreted, the christ.
  3. And he led him to jesus, and jesus looking on him, said, You are Simon the son of Jona: You shall be called Cephas, which is, bring interpreted, a stone, (or Peter.)
That they who are principled in the good of charity instruct those who are principled in the good of faith, concerning the lord in his Divine Humanity, and thus conduct them to the incarnate god, by whom they are taught that they, who are principled in truth derived from good, ought to attach themselves to divine truth, or to truth proceeding from, and in conjunction with, the lord’s Divine Humanity, vs 40, 41, 42.
  1. On the morrow, jesus willed to go forth into Galilee, and he finds Philip, and says to him, Follow me.
  2. But Philip was from Bethsaida, of the city of Andrewand Peter.
  3. Philip finds Nathaniel, and says to him, We have found him of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets did write, jesus the son of Joseph of Nazareth.
That they of the church, who are principled in intelligence, are next instructed to acknowledge all intelligence to be derived from the lord’s Divine Humanity, and that when they are so instructed, they again instruct those who are principled in charity and its faith, that the lord is manifested in his Divine Humanity, as was predicted, vs 43, 44, 45.
  1. And Nathaniel said to him, Can any good thing be from Nazareth? Philip says to him, Come and see.
  2. jesus saw Nathaniel coming to him, and says of him, Behold, truly an Israelite, in whom is no guile.
  3. Nathaniel says to him, Whence know you me? jesus answered, and said to him, Before that Philip called you, when you were under the fig-tree, I saw you.
  4. Nathaniel answered, and says to him, Rabbi, You are the Son of god, you are the King of Israel!
Which instruction is received with doubt, until conviction is worked of the divine wisdom of that humanity, by the distinction which it makes between spiritual good and natural good, and by setting the former above the latter, vs 46, 47, 48, 49.
  1. jesus answered, and said to him, Because I said to you, I saw you under the fig-tree, believe you? You shall see greater things than these.
  2. And he says to him, Verily, verily, I say to you, now on you shall see heaven open, and the angels of god ascending and descending upon the Son of Man.
That this distinction, however, does not produce a conviction equal to that which arises in the course of regeneration, when the internal man is opened to see the several orders of truth in their connection with their divine source, by virtue of which man’s ascent to god is first effected, and afterwards the descent of god to man, vs 50, 51.

http://www.biblemeanings.info/Bible/john.html

THE

GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN,

Translated from the Greek,

AND

ILLUSTRATED BY EXTRACTS

FROM THE

THEOLOGICAL WRITINGS OF THAT EMINENT SERVANT OF THE LORD,

THE

HON. EMANUEL SWEDENBORG,

TOGETHER WITH

NOTES & OBSERVATIONS OF THE TRANSLATOR ANNEXED TO EACH CHAPTER.

BY THE REV. J. CLOWES, M.A.

RECTOR OF ST. JOHN’S CHURCH, MANCHESTER, AND FELLOW OF TRINITY COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE.

” Whoso readeth, let him understand.”—Matt. xxiv. 15.

 

Second Edition.

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MDCCCXXXVIII.

Playing The Victim

The New Age - The Online Journal For The New Church in Australia and New Zealand

THE ONLINE JOURNAL FOR THE NEW CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

Playing The Victim

We all know that we live in a society of victims.

Everyone understands that rights go hand in hand with responsibilities. But as individuals, we are far more interested in our rights than we are in our responsibilities. We are happy to decry those who apparently impinge upon our rights, whilst ignoring our responsibilities. Litigation is a very real shadow over every form of useful endeavour in our world. The costs of insurance against such an event continues to become an ever-greater burden upon schools, churches, community groups, health providers, and businesses. And these are organisations who exist for our benefit.

If we are in circumstances that we can’t change and which we’ve had no influence over, then we really are victims. A few weeks ago I walked in on my daughter Ebony watching a real-life crime documentary about a double murder – husband and wife attacked and killed in their motel room, by another couple whom they did not know and had never met, who selected them at random for the pure pleasure of killing. They were victims in the truest sense.

But I’m not talking about them today. Neither am I talking about other people who play the blame game. I’m talking about me and you. I’m going to show that there are very few real victims among us. You may feel that you are, or have been, a victim at one time or another. You may feel challenged by some of this, and that is my intention. While I am not interested in what we can’t change, we often accept a great deal that we could influence and change, simply by believing ourselves victims. Let’s begin with …

Our Eternal Welfare.
In some Christian churches, there’s some cause for equivocation about our responsibility for our own salvation. After all, if one must verbally acknowledge the person of Jesus as Saviour in order to be saved, what happens with the countless number who never heard of Jesus, through being born on the wrong place at the wrong time?

But for the New Church, there is no such uncertainty. If we accept heaven and hell as the realities Swedenborg insists they are, no one can blame anyone else for their predicament. God does not condemn people to hell, people do that for themselves:

“Anyone who thinks rationally can realise that no one is born for hell – everyone is born for heaven. We ourselves are to blame if we arrive in hell …” (Heaven and Hell, paragraph 329)

In a very real way, I am master of my own destiny. Now, some might say that this is a denial of the power of God in an individual’s life, and a denial of our need of Him. But this is not the case. I am master of my own destiny only because He makes me so, as we read in Revelation:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

The possibility of heaven is a free gift from God, without whom I would have no hope of salvation. But in Swedenborg’s work, I learn that I am not specially chosen or privileged by this hope, it is a hope that is on offer to every person on this planet. Thereby, I can only hold myself responsible if I do not take it.

“The Lord never sends anyone to hell, but wishes to lead all away from hell; less still does He bring anyone into torment. But since an evil spirit rushes into it himself the Lord turns all the punishment and torment to good and to some use.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 696)

What about our thoughts?
In recent years, many people – of all faiths and none – have come to recognise that thoughts flow into us from a source outside of ourselves. The modern fascination with meditation, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and other psychologies have brought this idea firmly into the mainstream of contemporary thought. But it’s not new to readers of Swedenborg. Of course, then, the question is whether I might be regarded a victim of my thoughts:

“… when some people were shown convincingly that we do not think on our own but receive thoughts from others, …, in their wonderment they claimed that it meant that they were not to blame for doing evil …” (Divine Providence, paragraph 294)

It’s a fairly straightforward conclusion to come to, isn’t it? But Swedenborg continues:

“… If indeed everything a person thinks flows in from others, the fault does seem to lie with those from whom the thought originates. But still the fault itself lies with him who receives, for he accepts the thought as his own, nor does he know anything to the contrary, or want to know anything to the contrary. …” (Divine Providence, paragraph 294)

No, we are neither helpless nor blameless in the face of our mental life. Whilst we certainly may experience unwelcome and disturbing thoughts, we are not compelled to carry them out in any way. We have a choice.

Are we responsible for our actions?
Well, we generally understand that we are responsible for our actions. But we’re not good at applying it to ourselves! Under the law, we are held accountable for our actions irrespective of the circumstances which we might claim either caused or justified them.

Pam and I have recently completed a marriage course, using material from Alpha Course. Session 4 (entitled, The Power of Forgiveness), asks: “At times of disagreement, what words and phrases are you aware that you use, if any, that hurt your partner?” Yes, it does give space to identify what your partner does and says to hurt you, but the primary focus is upon one’s own behaviours. The focus is on my responsibilities not my rights! You see, if my actions are merely the result of my circumstances, then the same must also be true of my marriage partner. But as my actions then become my partner’s circumstances, thus prompting their actions, we would quickly find ourselves in a disintegrating cycle of chaos! The only way to prevent such a trend lies in taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

It is sobering to realise the many well documented cases of physical and sexual abuse in which abusers routinely blame their victims for their crime. The guilty focus their attention not upon their own culpability, but upon the perceived provocation of this they harmed. Intellectually, they make themselves the victim, mentally reversing reality. But they don’t do this because they’re peculiarly evil, they do it because they’re human! It is a tendency we must all guard against.

Surely, we are not to blame for our external circumstances?
Well, … maybe. It’s not as cut and dried as we like to think.

When Pam and I lived in Sydney, during the early years of our marriage, Pam spent time regularly on the road, frequently driving long distances to coastal and country New South Wales. On one occasion, as Pam was travelling down a fast country road, an elderly woman turned left in front of her, leaving no time for Pam to brake, and the two cars collided. Thankfully no-one was injured. In the aftermath, I remember talking to a friend of ours, a lawyer, who was assisting us with the insurance claim. I remember his comment: that every driver is regarded as sharing some responsibility, just for being on the road!

While on holiday earlier this year, Pam indulged her penchant for opportunity shops, and I accompanied her on one of these trips. As I needed something to read, I went and happily browsed the shelves of the secondhand books. One of the books I found was entitled, What If? Military historians imagine what might have been. Although I’m not really much into history, and especially not the history of war, the premise is an interesting one: how would the world be different if Hitler had won the Second World War, for example. The first chapter is on the defeat of the Assyrian army recorded in the Second book of Kings, chapter 17 to 19.

But I want to talk about Napoleon: what if he had won the battle of Waterloo? After all, the Duke of Wellington described it as, “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”

“Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon)

So, why did Napoleon fail? Was it pure chance? No. Granted, Napoleon may well have won at Waterloo, but it was only a matter of time before he had stretched his armies just that bit too thinly. Ambitious, and greedy for further conquests, the greatest obstacle to Napoleon’s success was his own character. Evil carries the seeds of its own destruction, and its own punishment.

“Every single thing in the next life is balanced in such a way that evil punishes itself. So evil carries its own punishment with it, as likewise does falsity which comes back on him in whom falsity dwells.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 696)

We have far more influence upon our circumstances than most of us realise. A change in our circumstances may be as simple as a fresh outlook and attitude. I was reading over Pam’s shoulder the other day, as she read a book on finances. Redundancy is never a pleasant experience, but the author suggested a new view of the situation, perhaps as an opportunity to kick-start a new business venture, and becoming your own boss.

There might be other, unexpected ways to influence our circumstances. I find that my immune system is boosted by regular exercise, a consequence I would never have foreseen a few years ago.

“For every smallest fraction of a moment of a person’s life entails a chain of consequences extending into eternity. Indeed every one is like a new beginning to those that follow, and so every single moment of the life both of his understanding and of his will is a new beginning.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 3854)

This teaching is both hopeful and convicting. It is hopeful because at any moment I can make a change for the better. It is convicting because I realise that I am living now with the consequences of my past.

At last, let me turn to our readings for today. They concern two kings of Israel, Saul and David. Both sin, and both are confronted by a prophet with the reality of their actions. But the contrast between their responses could’t be more different.

Saul (1 Samuel 13) is confronted by a vast Philistine army. He has waited seven days for Samuel to come and offer sacrifice before engaging in battle. But Samuel has not arrived, and the people are fearful and deserting. So, Saul panics, and performs the sacrifice himself, thus usurping the old priest’s place. No sooner is the deed done, than Samuel appears and almost without stopping for breathe, Saul is explaining himself: “… I felt compelled” (verses 11-12).

From his rooftop, David sees a woman bathing and initiates a long and tangled chain of events: an adulterous affair, a failed coverup, arranging the death of a man to take his wife. The prophet Nathan arrives and confronts the king, and his response is short and simple: “I have sinned”, and then he stands and faces the consequences (see 2 Samuel 11 & 12 [esp. 12:13]; Psalm 51). To our modern mind, Saul’s mistake was so much less serious than David’s. Saul has merely offered a sacrifice, whereas David has had a man killed. Yet the consequences are so much more serious for Saul – the loss of the kingdom! You see, the difference between a bad man and a good one is not that one sins and the other doesn’t. No, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The difference is whether we acknowledge that sin for what it is, and take responsibility for it, or whether we pretend to be victim of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and seek to excuse our actions.

“Those who lead the life of faith repent daily. They pay attention to the evils present with them, acknowledge them, are on their guard against them, and implore the Lord for help. For by himself a person is constantly falling, but the Lord is constantly putting him on his feet again. By himself he falls whenever his mind desires something evil, but the Lord puts him on his feet again whenever he resists evil and therefore does not carry it out. This is the condition of all who are governed by good.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 8391)

David Moffat

Dream sleep — How to understand it?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

dreamPeople have random eye movements under closed eyelids (REM) from time to time when they are asleep and if wakened at these times they report  dreaming. In this way sleep researchers found that most people dream for about a fifth of their sleeping time. A person of age seventy-five will not only have  slept twenty-five years, but will have spent five years dreaming! We need this  for, if deprived of REM sleep for a while, we become disturbed and even psychotic. Although occasionally there is speech in dreams, it is mostly composed of dramatic visual representations. There are no proven scientific theories to explain the experience. So why is it important? How can we understand it?

Why your dream is not easy to understand

Clinical psychologist Wilson Van Dusen, wrote that dreams tend to deal with a wide range of present-life concerns of the person. The precise meaning of any one  however is unclear, even though it makes use of people, situations and objects familiar to the sleeper.

Because of familiarity with the content, it isn’t immediately apparent that the dream uses things and people in a symbolic manner. In this way whilst getting an inkling of what is going on — we are protected from a blunt expression of those inner concerns and desires we would rather keep from daytime awareness.

Dreaming is thus a personal process that need to be understood in a personal way. And so a book offering a general meaning of dream symbols is probably not valid.

If you haven’t worked with your own dreams, they can easily seem to be a mishmash of elements into which one could read almost anything.

How to understand a dream

  • When you next wake up after the dream, jot down a phrase or two about it in order to jog your memory later.
  • The next day try to get back into the dream, reliving it. Slowly tell the dream to yourself. What were you feeling at different points. Ask yourself, ‘What did it feel like when …. ?’ ‘How is that like my life?’
  • Pretend to be a person you dreamed of, and tell the dream story from this perspective. You may get clues as to what the individual figure represents in you.
  • Assume everything in the dream is you. Your most conscious day-time  feelings and thoughts are shown by you in the dream. Less conscious aspects are represented by others eg one’s future potential, choice points, what is hoped for. See what you associate with each person, place or thing in the dream.
  • Summarise the dream and listen to the summary for its meaning.
  • Reflect a little on the rest of the dream’s connections during the day and you may find the remaining meanings.
  • The only valid interpretation of a dream is that which you, the dreamer, give to it.

Revelatory nature of dreams

In using images in a symbolic way it is as if the dream is allowing you, the dreamer, to remain in freedom to listen or ignore its message. If your dream simply said you boast too much or waste too much money, it would not only would be a distressing insult but one you could not fail to see. Instead it offers an intriguing drama you can try to remember and work out only if you wish.

Carl Gustav Jung suggested that dreams come from a level more objective than one’s subjective point of view. Dream images are not from the dreamer’s usual subjective sphere of thought and language. It is as if what the dream is saying goes beyond our daytime conscious understanding to reveal something true about the inner quality of our life. It possesses a higher wisdom and knowledge about all our memories, hopes and fears.

The reality of our inner mind

In his books The Natural Depth In Man and The Presence Of Other Worlds, Van Dusen gives a clear picture of the hidden reality of our inner world. His understanding not only comes from his own experience as a psychotherapist working with his patients dreams but also his study of Eastern and Western philosophy, particularly the extraordinary insights and often frightening experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg. Van Dusen concludes that in a wide range of states of consciousness (including that of dreaming) an inner world is revealed as precisely Swedenborg describes.

This is a hidden realm of spirit which will become fully conscious to us all following our bodily death: a spiritual world which permeates all our human minds, whilst we still live on earth, with inflow of high and low desires, pure and corrupt thoughts, as well as beneficial and harmful impulses; an influx of good and bad influences that are perfectly balanced to preserve our inner human freedom.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on18th December 2012CategoriesConsciousness, Spirit awarenessTags, , , , , , , , ,, , , , Leave a comment

Love and Judgment

Love and Judgment

A Sermon By Rev. Mike Gladish

A Big Spiritual Dilemma

Image result for love and judgement

As we prepare to celebrate the birth of Christ each year we are confronted with the age old problem of reconciling two apparently contradictory principles: love and judgment. “For God so loved the world,” we read, “that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yet Jesus Himself said “For judgment I have come into the world…” (John 9:39). “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth” (John 18:37).

What a curious fact. We normally think of God Himself as somehow requiring judgment, and Jesus as the loving Savior. But truth is the standard of judgment, and it does tend to condemn, since no one is perfect, indeed “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). So if Jesus came to teach the truth and to judge, how are we saved?

Most Christians say that we are saved by faith in the “fact” that He suffered and died on our behalf, offering Himself as a sacrifice to atone for the sins of the whole human race (past, present and future). The idea is that in confronting the evils and falsities of the world He became a “lightning rod” for all the hatred of the world, and that by suffering on our behalf He relieved us of any need to suffer. In classic Christian theology this is called the “vicarious atonement.”

But this makes the love of God rather demanding, don’t you think? – that He should require a Divinely human sacrifice to move Him to pity and forgiveness? Indeed, it seems rather pagan, doesn’t it? One gets the sense of an angry, jealous God demanding payment for the sins of the world and being appeased only by the brutal murder of His own Son. What kind of love is this, and what kind of judgment?

Unconditional Love?

What a contrast this is from all the talk we hear today about “unconditional love,” that is, love that requires nothing but accepts all

people without qualification. We hear it everywhere! “God loves me just as I am.” And it’s TRUE! But does He love the WAY we are? Note the Gospel is ALL about the need to change, beginning with the first words of Jesus’ public ministry, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

So how can we understand God’s love? And how can we reconcile that love with what He does require?

Here’s a simple answer: God’s love is such that He wants to make us happy to eternity (True Christian Religion 43). You can’t ask for much more than that.

But in order to be happy we have to live in harmony and co-operation with the laws of order. Who could possibly imagine that God would love our misery or our mistakes, our selfishness or our stupidity? No, it is because He loves us that He wants us NOT to be miserable, selfish or stupid. And this love is unconditional, but it requires wisdom, or judgment to be effective.

So getting back to Christmas, we can think of it this way: – God in His Infinite love says to Himself, “My people are miserable, what can I do to make them happy?” And from His infinite wisdom He replies, “I must go down there and show them how to find happiness; I must not force them, but teach them, and show them, so that they have a choice and can turn their lives around.”

The Real Nature of Judgment, or Conditions for Salvation

There are two words in the Gospels for judgment. One refers to condemnation and the other to the concept of discernment, or prudence. The Lord in the Gospels clearly spoke of both, but when He taught He did not do so with any intention to condemn but rather “that the world through Him might be saved” (John 3:17). And here’s the key: – not saved by His sacrificial death on the cross, but saved by the freedom that His teaching and a proper discernment of the truth provides (John 8:32) so that we can enjoy an orderly, fulfilling spiritual life.

And this freedom implies decisions, judgments that we must make. For example, there is no doubt that we should love all people, even as our heavenly Father loves all people, “making His sun to shine on the evil and on the good… sending rain on the just and on the unjust”

(Matthew 5:45), but we cannot love their evil or their falsity or their confusion or their grief. We cannot love it and we cannot confirm it or support it. Thus we cannot show our love for all people in the same way. Neither could the Lord, which is why He condemned the scribes and Pharisees even though presumably He loved them too.

And He said, “If your brother sins against you, rebuke him; and if he repents, forgive him” (Luke 17:3-4). Note, “If he repents.” The same message is clear in the parable of the prodigal son: his father had compassion on him when he repented and came home (Luke 15:11-32). To do otherwise would be to support the disorder, and that is NOT truly loving. So we have the teaching that “Christian prudence demands that a person’s life should be carefully checked, and charity exercised accordingly” (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 85).

But again, back to Christmas.

There is an appearance in the literal stories in the Gospels that God sent His Son as someone separate from Himself into the world, “that the world through Him [not the Father] might be saved.” But the truth is that God, being pure, unconditional love in its very essence, provided for the salvation of the world by clothing HIMSELF in the human form AS Jesus Christ so that He could teach the truth with love and so remove all the obstacles to a life of faith.

This is why, in perhaps the most famous Advent prophecy of all, we read, “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given… and His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6). Note, He is all of these in ONE person.

This is why Jesus Himself said, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30); “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

But how could the Infinite be contained in a finite body? And who looked after the rest of the universe while it was so contained? We might as well ask how the mind can look after the body while its thoughts are focused on one small thing. The fact is, the infinite is not contained or limited in any way, but it does manifest itself in a focused way in the love and wisdom of Christ.

The Dilemma Solved

So we see that the story of Christmas is not the story of God demanding any thing, least of all a human sacrifice. It is the story of love providing the wisdom necessary for us to take responsibility, to make good judgments, and to keep His commandments for our own sake, indeed, for our eternal welfare.

So it is the story of love and wisdom working together, as they always do, and working in this case in a human form for all to see and understand.

“I have come,” Jesus said, “as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness” (John 12:46). And “He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12).

So, may this and “all your Christmases be bright” with the light of His love and wisdom!

https://newchurch.org/

Daily Inspiration

“A person is entirely the same character as their love.”

Arcana Coelestia 6872