ARE YOU AFRAID?
|It is a strange fact that intelligent, able-bodied adults, perhaps with grown-up children of their own, can be haunted by nameless, irrational fears. My mother was afraid of spiders, and could tell at once when she walked into an empty room that there was a spider in a corner of the ceiling, nor could she remain in the room until we had ejected it. Other people have been afraid of rats, bats, cats. My own irrational fear was of dead animals and birds: I was quite incapable of taking a dead mouse off a trap. The cause of such fears might be revealed by psychoanalysis, but in practice they could probably be overcome by a direct confrontation with the object arousing the fear. My mother should have kept a tame spider, handled it, fed it and learned its habits. I should have been made to pluck and dissect a dead bird. We are afraid of the unknown; if it can be made familiar, the fear disappears.
There are other kinds of fear, equally irrational, which need to be taken more seriously as they interfere with a person’s work and life-style. I had a letter from a lady who was appealing for help as she was obsessed by fears: fear of being alone, fear of traveling by herself (she had to take a stiff drink before going to the supermarket!), fear of what others might be thinking of her, fear of doing the wrong thing when in company. Maybe she needed professional help, but I tried to give her some advice. She should confront her fears, as with the spiders and dead birds. She should verbalize what she thought she was afraid of: what might happen to her on her way to the supermarket, what people might be saying of her behind her back, what she might do wrong when in company; and write it all down on paper. When she saw it in writing it would seem so ridiculous that she might find herself able to master the fears. Or, alternatively, she could describe in words a highly successful journey to the shops, a happy evening spent on her own, a pleasant meeting with friends, and so on. Emotions are difficult to deal with unless they are intellectualized or attached to thoughts or expressed in words; you can face up to and handle the thoughts, and then hopefully the emotions will be seen for what they are and can be encouraged or rejected in a rational manner.
Take notice of your body as well. Before undertaking anything of which you are afraid, sit quietly and relax for a while. Or stand in front of an open window and breathe deeply. Put on some music with a good rhythm, and move every limb and muscle in time with the music, until all tensions are loosened. Doing this regularly will have a good therapeutic effect, especially if you can be thinking at the same time that the Lord’s life is flowing into you, strengthening and healing you. You are under His Divine protection, now and always.
Much of our nervousness, fear and insecurity are due to a lack of self-respect. Self-respect is not the same as self-love. Far from it! In fact, a lack of self-respect often shows itself as self-love! If you are doubtful about your own worth, you tend to push yourself forward and boast and brag, continually drawing attention to yourself; and this cuts you off from a healthy relationship with other people, and ultimately from God himself. Self-respect puts this right. I don’t mean the “stiff upper lip” sort of thing, supposed by foreigners to characterize Englishmen, but rather the capacity to be comfortable with oneself, to be well integrated and stable on one’s own two feet.
The Americans understand this better than the British. An American college girl wrote to us recently and said: “I am getting along fine here. I like myself. I like the way I relate to other people. I like my attitude to life.” Knowing the girl I am convinced that there was absolutely no boasting here. She had detached herself from herself, and was making an objective appraisal of herself. She loved herself in the same way that she loved her neighbours, which is precisely what Jesus said we were to do: “to love our neighbour as ourself.” She does not consider herself more important than other people, which would indeed be a foolish and dangerous attitude to take. But she accepts herself happily for what she is, without always trying to be something different.
After all, God made you, so you must be basically good! Think of some of the qualities you possess which are admirable (you must possess some such qualities — everybody does!). You will have some bad qualities too (everybody does!) and there are occasions when you should undergo a thorough self-examination of your evils, in order to overcome them; but if you are trying just now to deal with insecurity and irrational fears, don’t harp too much on the negative aspects of your character. Accentuate the positive! Think about yourself. You might have been brain damaged. People might have had to make allowances for you, and say: “Oh, poor dear, she can’t travel alone, she would lose her way, she would be knocked down crossing the road. Someone must go with her.” Then rejoice and thank the Lord it’s not like that at all! You are able-bodied and intelligent, and it’s you who should be helping others, not they helping you.
Many of our fears are due to emotional immaturity. When we are children and cannot control our environment, we have to put up various defenses. We build a wall around ourselves for protection. Then we grow older and become adult and no longer need that wall, but many of us still keep it there. We retain our fears, which were justified while we were children, but make no sense at all when we are earning our own living and taking our place in the world. We are eager to be well thought of by our age-group, and to be safe and inconspicuous — which was important when we were children, but not now. Stop living in a fantasy world of the past, and face up to reality!
So far I have been speaking of irrational fears. But there are other kinds of fear which come into a different category. Fears of accidents and sickness, fear of poverty, and, in some countries, fear of the secret police. These fears have substance, because people do suffer accidents and sickness and so on. The risk is always there; it may be our turn next. But if we follow our Lord’s advice and take each day as it comes, being not anxious for the morrow but trusting in the protection of His loving Providence, then our fears will disperse like the morning mist when the sun shines on it.
Strangely enough, those of a trustful disposition do tend to be safer than those who are always expecting disaster. There is a theological explanation for this. We are all of us exposed to influences from heaven and hell. By harbouring cheerful thoughts and hopeful attitudes of mind, we attract good spirits, and bring ourselves into a safe and healthful sphere. Even if troubles do come, we shall see them as a challenge: tough and rugged exercises for strengthening our fibre, and we get a sense of satisfaction from dealing with them. On the other hand, gloomy and anxious thoughts attract evil spirits who hate us and want to destroy us, bringing upon us the very situations we fear. “That which I greatly feared has come upon me,” said Job. Even if we succeed in avoiding physical disasters, we become spiritually sick.
Looking back over my own life, I am quite astonished at the remarkable way in which occurrences that seemed disastrous at the time have turned out to be for the best. I can now see the hand of Providence in everything that happened. Well, if the Lord has worked so wonderfully for me in the past (and other people say they have had the same experience), cannot we safely trust Him in the future? “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble. Therefore will not we fear, though the earth be removed and though the mountains be carried into the midst of the sea.” (Psalm 46: 1,2.)
Fear is not always for oneself; it can be for a loved one. A lady in South Africa told me how desperately frightened she used to be on behalf of her husband, when he was away on the many long car journeys he had to take alone, on bad roads through wild country without any possibility of telephone communication. She couldn’t sleep at nights when he was away, worrying about him; it was making her quite sick. Eventually she decided she must take herself in hand and confront her fears. She asked herself, “Suppose he does have an accident?” Then she tried to visualize in practical detail exactly what might happen, even to the possibility of his lying dead in a ditch. She was merciless with herself, bringing all her fears to the surface and dealing realistically with them. Her conclusion was that she could do nothing about it after he had left in the car, so it was useless to worry. What she could do was to live happily with him when he was with her at home! Having faced up to this, she put all these negative thoughts on one side, and concentrated her mind on visualizing a successful journey for him, and a joyous reunion when he returned home – which he invariably did!
There is nothing to fear in death. Emanuel Swedenborg gives a detailed and trustworthy account of every stage through which we shall pass at death and after; and to me it is a matter of excited anticipation — I can hardly wait to experience it! The actual process of dying may be physically painful, but in the vast majority of cases it is not so; it is like lying down to sleep when one is overcome with weariness, and just drifting off. Let us remember this instead of concentrating our imagination on the possibility of an agonised struggle. Even when a terminal illness is long, drawn out and painful, the pain will be psychosomatically increased by thinking of it with fear. People who die suddenly in accidents do not generally realize what has happened to them until someone in the spiritual world comes up and tells them they have crossed the frontier!
Fears? Quite unnecessary! If you know of anyone suffering from any such fears, talk to him and try to ease his mind. Contrary to appearances, we are living in a safe world, a safe universe, under the personal care of a loving God.
However, and in spite of all that has been said so far, there is a kind of fear which we ought to cultivate — the FEAR OF GOD. What? Are we to be afraid of our Father in heaven? Of course not. We can trust him absolutely. But remember: He is the Creator of the Universe as well as our Father. We should regard him with awe, reverence and wonder, not just casually as one would think of an equal. “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”
There is an element of fear in all love: a fear that you might do something foolish which would damage your relationship with the loved one, or hurt his or her feelings in some way. In your relationship with God, you are the inconstant one; His love is infinite and changeless. Protect your love. Watch it carefully. Do not let anything harm it. “Fear Him, ye saints, and you will then have nothing else to fear.” These two lines from the old hymn, based on Psalm 34:9, are the final word on the subject of fear.
Day: April 5, 2014
|We are often told that it is a Christian’s duty to Praise God; but the word “duty” is scarcely appropriate. Of course you get that among pagan chiefs. The Zulus have developed Praise Songs into a poetic art-form. The Zulu king used to employ and pay minstrels to sing his praises all day long. But is God like that? He who created the universe, and is spinning the planets and all the atoms of matter, who formed every one of us from the womb and every living creature . . . would his heart swell with pride because one of us sang his praise? He surely does not need praise and gratitude to satisfy his own ego! Nor would he require praise as a duty from anyone. He is not a Hitler who needs to have thousands of sycophants rhythmically repeating “Hail Jesus!” over and over again like robots!
Nevertheless we are told the Lord does want us to praise and thank Him. Why? Because by praising and thanking Him we put ourselves in a positive state of mind, so that we can receive more fully the blessings He has in store for us.
There is a difference between Praise and Thanksgiving. Thanksgiving presupposes something to be thankful for — it is a kind of return for favours received. But Praise presupposes nothing, except the worthiness of the person being praised. It is the emotional uplift gained from contemplating some wonderful and glorious Being in whose life-giving presence you wish to bask. Praise is thus on a deeper or higher level than thanksgiving. You thank God for what He does. You praise him for what He is.
And what is He? Well, He is infinite Love, Wisdom and Power, beyond all finite limitations. He is the primal Mover and Source of the whole created universe. But these are merely philosophical concepts, just “words” to most of us. I prefer to think of him as the glorified Lord Jesus Christ, who appeared to the three disciples on the Mount of Transfiguration, his garments white and glistening, his face shining as the noonday sun. He is looking straight into my eyes, holding out his arms in an attitude of affectionate welcome. The disciple John saw the Lord again on the Isle of Patmos, his face burning like molten copper and his eyes like flames of fire. These sublime visions, so impossible to describe in earthly language, were but visual projections of the infinite God, viewed in his creation; God himself is invisible, too glorious to be seen by anyone.
I have often heard it said by humanists: “You can’t honestly praise God, or even believe in God at all, when you see the mess the world is in!” But is it His world that is in a mess, or our world? Most of our troubles, I would say, are of our own making. The sceptic persists, “How about tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, plagues and famine, and the various disasters which insurance companies call ‘Acts of God’?” Most of these arise from the operation of natural laws — the shrinking of the surface of the globe as it cools; the rising of heated air, changing the atmospheric pressure; sun-spots, cosmic rays, and so on. Diseases are mostly caused by the multiplication of bacteria, which has its good side as well as its bad. God created nature, and established all its laws as they are. He might have done things differently, but in His infinite wisdom He produced the universe as we see it today, and it is truly a marvelous and beautiful piece of work. When man has tried to interfere with the balance of nature, the result has usually been disastrous!
I know I have not explained away all the problems, such as babies dying of cancer; nor is it satisfactory to say, “Let God’s will be done!” — as if it were God’s will that anyone should suffer! (What a blasphemous thought!) The fact is, there is another force in the universe, called HELL, which is working against God, producing a perpetual state of tension, in which good and evil can exist side by side. God did not create hell — except in the sense that He is the power-house that provides the energy misused by men for their own damnation. Man alone, going back to ancient times, is responsible for hell, that horrific reservoir of evils and falsities which continually overflows into the world. God allows or permits hell, out of respect for human freewill. Would you have it otherwise?
Maybe you do not think this is an adequate or satisfactory explanation of the existence of evil; well, we none of us know all the answers. There will always be an area of puzzlement. What I do know is that the more we worry about the negative aspects of life, the more they seem to become part of us; whereas, by turning away from the darkness and facing the Lord as the LIGHT, we bring the light into our lives and into our environment and situation. Beware of negative thoughts, and even more of negative speech, which has behind it the power of black magic.
To change from a pessimist to an optimist does not require a rational thought-process. You cannot prove the existence of God by any kind of logic or intellectual exercise. Faith in God must be an exercise of the heart, not of the head. It comes at a certain stage of spiritual maturity.
The prophet Habakkuk is the classical example of someone who had reached this stage of development. He lived surrounded by appalling scenes as the cruel Babylonian hordes swept through the land, killing and devouring everything, leaving behind them famine and pestilence. To add to the disaster, there had been a prolonged drought. Animals that survived the Babylonian invasion were dying of starvation; the fruit was withering on the trees and the wheat in the fields. Nothing much to praise God for, you would suppose! Yet Habakkuk, up there in his watchtower, struggling with his inner thoughts, worked his way through to a realization that God’s love was somehow behind and within even those terrible happenings which seemed to be bringing life as he knew it to an end. Suppose it did come to an end? After the end there would doubtless be another beginning; after the winter, a spring. Anyway, God was in ultimate control, and God was good, and God was to be praised. So the prophet voiced that glorious affirmation which has echoed down through the ages: “Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; although the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; although the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stall: YET WILL I REJOICE IN THE LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation!” (Habakkuk 3: 17,18)
He would persist in praising God, in spite of all. And in so doing, he achieved a closeness to God, opening his soul to receive a deeper blessing than could possibly have come from worldly affluence and prosperity. Praise for what God is, irrespective of what He may seem to be doing, introduces us at once into that sphere of holiness that is heaven.
The Psalms are full of such praise. In fact, the last five Psalms form a group called the “Hallelujah Psalms,” because each begins with the word Hallelujah, which is Hebrew for “Praise the Lord!” Music was involved to express the emotion of praise — trumpet, psaltery and cymbals, stringed instruments and organs. With choirs in the temple singing loudly and the orchestra playing most gloriously, the worshippers must have felt their hearts well-nigh bursting with love and joy. And if praise-songs were like that among ordinary mortals on earth, what must they be like in heaven? Handel claimed to have heard the Hallelujah Chorus with his spiritual ears while he was composing the Messiah, and I can believe him! Emanuel Swedenborg also heard what he called “Glorifications” in heaven, to such words as : “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for Him and He will save us. He is the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end, the first and the last; who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” This tremendous musical experience must have been the equivalent of the angelic chorus which sounded over the hills of Bethlehem two thousand years ago: “Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will towards men.”
Yes, the angels delight to glorify God, and we must feel the same way if we are in process of becoming angels, as we ought to be. Praise to the Lord is appropriate to our condition as children of God. It also definitely aids us in our regeneration. Like an airplane, it lifts us above the black lowering clouds which fill the sky, so that we can view the sparkling silver of the upper side. It puts our petty desires, doubts and frustrations in their proper perspective. Health-waves flow into us as we open our hearts inwards to the Lord; praise removes the blockages (those evil states for which we ourselves are responsible) enabling us to be filled with gifts and joys and beauties which are too wonderful to be expressed by mere thanks.
We cannot, of course, be praising God aloud all the time. In the spiritual world, if anyone feels moved about anything, especially the contemplation of any particular truth, he sings. The angels don’t need hymn-books, they just pour out the music as it fills their hearts. It is not like that with us on earth. We are limited here by our physical environment, even if we have good voices — which some of us don’t have! The point is, we should have an inner bent of mind towards praise to God. When things go badly, praise the Lord! When things go well, praise the Lord! Whether the day is bright or dull, sunny or cloudy, say: “This is the day the Lord has made, let us be glad and rejoice in it.” Cultivate a sense of nearness to God, even when all hell seems at work all around you, and you will experience an inner joy and peace which the world can neither give nor take away. “Praise the Lord, O my soul. While I live will I praise the Lord. I will sing praises unto my God while I have any being.”
A FREE OFFER
|A FREE OFFER|
|In newspapers and magazines and in many shop windows we see “Free Offers” of everything from food mixers to Caribbean cruises. Free coupons are given by which you can get certain articles at a reduced price (very acceptable in these inflationary times!) and trading stamps are offered as an incentive to buy at a particular store. You can get a toy or a tea set with so-many packet tops, and so on. The hope of getting something for nothing naturally appeals to us all, yet we know perfectly well that a free offer in most cases is only an advertising gimmick — a sprat to catch a mackerel. The advertisers have an ulterior motive; they want you to get involved with them, so that when you need to buy the product they sell, you will favour their brand over others. They are not philanthropists; they simply want to expand their trade and so make bigger profits.
However, within a family, or in the context of religion in its widest sense, you will sometimes get a genuine offer of “something for nothing.” This was supremely the case when Jesus said to the milling crowds in Galilee of old: “It is your father’s good pleasure to give you the Kingdom.” (Luke 12:32.) A free offer! Christianity is as simple as that!
Those people who were privileged to hear Jesus in the flesh must have been deeply impressed by the extreme simplicity of His new gospel. The traditional religion of the Jews was anything but simple. It was complicated and costly, in time, energy and money. Obedience to the precepts of the Mosaic Law was almost a full-time job, and these had been vastly added to by the “traditions of the elders.” Our Lord cleared the deck — sweeping these formalities aside. No wonder he was unpopular with the professional religious leaders of the day! If someone goes around telling people they don’t need an expert for a certain job but can do it themselves at home, and that most of what they were required to do in the past was quite unnecessary — naturally the experts get annoyed: which is exactly what happened when Jesus told the people they could worship God direct — “in spirit and in truth” — without necessarily attending the temple in Jerusalem, and without the expensive trimmings of religious observance required by the established Church.
Nor was it merely a simplification of ritual that Jesus effected. The change He introduced into the human situation was a deeper one. The way of life really was made easier by His coming into the world. Previously, the only way in which man could gain contact with God was by ritual or acted symbolism. But this method of approach, once so beautiful and effective, was becoming silted up with formalism. The channels were choked. The machinery of temple worship, which had originally been designed to bring men closer to God, was now actually blocking the way. And so, by Incarnation, God made a breakthrough. He took upon himself a human nature, and was born and grew up in Israel like any other man. This humanity, formed in a physical “mould” provided by Mary of Nazareth, he glorified and made Divine, uniting it with the Divinity of which it was begotten. He thereafter retained it as a permanent part of Himself — the DIVINE HUMANITY, by which He is now able to contact all of us on every plane of our lives. The awful, remote Jehovah of the Old Testament, whose Name could not even be uttered, has become the “God-with-us” of the New Testament, our intimate loving Father in heaven. All the animal sacrifices and rituals were thereafter abolished; they had become as obsolete as foot-messengers in the days of the telephone. (That’s an excellent analogy!) No longer did a professional priesthood need to mediate between man and God; the Divine had come down onto the human level as the man Jesus and was thus mediating himself to mankind. No longer was it necessary to address prayers to “Almighty God;” we can now speak direct to the Infinite Creator in and through our Lord Jesus Christ.
“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us . . . and to as many as received him He gave power to become sons of God, even to them that believe on His name: which were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh, nor the will of man, but of GOD.” By rebirth we become God’s children. I feel a thrill at the very thought of it! We can walk straight into God’s presence, without even making an appointment. To approach a Great King in his palace, a commoner has to go through a terrific rigmarole of protocol. But when the King happens to be your Father, there is no problem. You are ushered right into the royal Presence, and the King receives you with a loving welcome.
This idea that God could be approached as a FATHER was probably the point of our Lord’s teachings which would have stood out most vividly in the minds of His hearers; and indeed it is the core of Christianity. Everyone knows something of the relationship between father and child. There are tragic exceptions, child-bashing and so on, but we all know the peculiar and quite irrational love which, under natural conditions, parents feel for their offspring. Listen to a conversation between two mothers. One is telling an anecdote in praise of her child; the other is not listening but is waiting for an opportunity to interrupt with a much better story in praise of her own child. How we stick up for our offspring! The excuses we make for them when they go astray; the selfless interest we show in their affairs; the endless sacrifices which their upbringing entails . . . most parents would be willing to face starvation and death if necessary for the sake of their children, however undeserving those children might be.
Do you make your children earn the hospitality of your home? Of course not! What’s yours is theirs. When they grow up, they will probably leave you of their own accord — nor will you attempt to hold them back; but your door will always be open to them whenever they wish to return or pay you a visit. Whatever is good for them you will be only too willing to give them, to the limit of your resources and beyond. Why? Simply because they are your children! This illustrates in a crude way the Lord’s vastly more wonderful and selfless love for us who are his children. It is quite undeserved; there is no reason why the Lord should love us so. But his very essence is LOVE, and Love seeks to give itself out to the loved-ones without thought of recompense. “What man is there of you,” said Jesus, “who, if his son ask bread, will give him a stone? Or, if he ask fish, will he give him a serpent? If then you, with all your human imperfections, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good things to them that ask him?”
God is longing to give good things to His children — full measure, pressed down and running over; to all his children alike, without discrimination. With regard to my own children, I would be most upset if someone suggested that my wife and I had favoured one more than another. Parents have no favourites. If anything, they show their love most to the child who is most in need — the one with some physical, mental or emotional handicap, or the one who has gone wrong. Not the most deserving, but the most needy. So, when Jesus was on earth, it was to the weary and heavy-laden, the lonely outcast, the despised tax-gatherer, the fallen woman, even the thief on the cross . . . it was to such as these rather than to the righteous Pharisees and successful business men that He showed most tenderness. Why? Simply because they needed it and recognized their need. They asked Him for it.
“Ask, and you shall receive,” said Jesus. This was the one condition he laid down: we should feel our need and actually want what he is offering us. But if we do ask, in all sincerity, and ask in the Lord’s name (i.e., in line with His will), then no matter what the circumstances we shall at once be given the blessing. It is a FREE OFFER.
You may feel that such a doctrine makes things too simple. If all we have to do is to ask, why so much talk about the discipline of life, the self-sacrifice and self-denial, the need to shun evils and keep the commandments? The point here is that to “ask” in the sense implied means more than a mere verbal statement of what you think you want. You must really want it, deep down inside you, and be prepared to do something about it. People who are engrossed in the selfish pleasures of the world do not really want the blessings which the Lord is holding out to them. All this feverish worldly activity must be laid aside before they can honestly ask, seek and knock. Referring back to the “Free Gifts” offered in the magazines as an advertising ploy, even here the reader is expected to do something to show his bona fides — he must send in a coupon or think up a slogan or show some knowledge of the firm’s products. There has to be a kind of co-operation with the organizations giving the Free Offer.
Remember the parable of the Prodigal Son. So long as the young man was away in the far country wasting his substance with riotous living, he didn’t want anything to do with his father at home. His father would have given him whatever he wanted that was good, but the young man had other ideas! When he eventually changed his mind and decided to seek his father’s blessing, he had to give up his own life and make the long journey back home. When he reached there, he was received with joy — no punishment or recriminations, no demand for an explanation of his past behaviour; nothing but acceptance and a warm embrace.
The heavenly life is simple enough, but most of us are anything but simple. We need the blows of misfortune, the famine, the hunger, the humiliation, to compel us to “come to ourselves.” We need the hot fires of tragedy to melt us down to a homogeneous personality, capable of establishing a simple son or daughter relationship with our Father in heaven. Only then shall we be able to cooperate with him in the work of his estate, on earth or in heaven.
“Fear not, little flock,” said Jesus; “It is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom,” provided only that you are prepared to receive it as a gift. It cannot be received in any other way. It is not for sale at any price. The wealthiest man in the world cannot buy it, nor the holiest saint. It cannot be obtained by struggle and effort, nor can it be earned. But — as a gift it can be obtained at once by anyone who is not too proud to accept it.
This being too proud to accept gifts is a common failing in our culture, especially among respectable middle-class people. To receive seems to put us in an inferior position, and that we cannot tolerate. Our pride makes us feel we want to be at the giving end, not beholden to anyone for anything. But suppose the gift is marked: “From so-and-so, with love?” Won’t we damage the love if we reject the gift? What about our friend’s joy in giving? Do we want to spoil it for him? And if we are not prepared to receive from a friend, shall we be able to receive from the Lord? And if we cannot receive from God, we are utterly lost.
When you die and wake up on the other side, you are not going to be quizzed as to what church you belonged to, whether you were baptized or took Holy Communion, what your theological beliefs were, nor even what good works you performed. Instead you will find yourself surrounded by the powerful sphere of the Lord’s Divine mercy and grace. To this you will react, either by opening yourself joyfully to receive it and bask in it, or, on the other hand, by anxiously trying to escape from it, being embarrassed by it, running away from it as fast and as far as you can. You will be assured that the Lord loves you with infinite compassion, that He has already forgiven all your sins, and He desires only that you will live happily to eternity in one of the mansions of the “royal palace.” Will you accept this gladly, or will you feel like a fish out of water, gasping for breath in the refined atmosphere of heaven? I hope and pray that you and I will be able to relinquish our self-centred pride and let Him fill us with his joy and peace. The FREE OFFER is a genuine one without any strings attached. Take it and enjoy it — it is yours!
THE SPIRAL WAY
|THE SPIRAL WAY|
Have you ever been up a spiral staircase? Of course you have! — though it is really a helix, not a spiral. It goes round and round, and up and up. The spiral staircase is a very ancient architectural device; Abram probably used one in Ur of the Chaldees. They are to be found in all the old castles: you enter through a tiny door in pitch darkness, and go round and round till you come out on top. The advantage of this type of stairway is that it occupies very little room. It does not require a frame, and it can be built up on itself, as high as it is needed.
The most remarkable circular staircase I have ever seen was in a lighthouse on the Norfolk coast. It was like a great empty pepper pot. The steps were built against the inner wall in circles getting smaller and smaller towards the top. At first we didn’t seem to be making much headway, just going round and round. We started on the land side, then we were on the sea side, then back again on the land side; but, how much higher we were than when we began! We couldn’t have jumped that height, and we had no wings. The only way to make it was to press forward up the gentle slope and go all round and back again.
Life is a spiral stairway reaching from earth to heaven. Each time another year comes round we complete another circle. (Yes, and the circles seem to become smaller and smaller the higher up we get! It’s a sign of old age setting in.) You can’t climb straight up to heaven, nor can you fly there. The only way is to continue straight in front of you, meeting each day’s problems as they come, doing your job as well as you can, learning more about other people and trying to make them happy; also learning more about God and trying to please Him. Then, though you may seem to be back again where you were, you will actually be quite a big stage nearer heaven.
Upward progress does not depend upon spectacular developments. Most of us live fairly humdrum lives, and don’t seem to be getting anywhere in particular. Perhaps we envy the TV personalities, or people who make headlines in the newspaper; they seem to be achieving something. Yet, if you could read their thoughts, you would probably find they also were wondering, “Where are we going? What is the use of it all? What is life’s purpose?”
In the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg we are given a clear, positive and practical answer to this age-old question as to the ultimate goal of life. The Lord’s grand purpose in creation was to form a heaven of angels from the human race. We have been placed here in order that we may develop an angelic disposition which will fit us eventually for life in heaven. This world is a kind of College for Angelhood. We are experimenting here in order to determine the kind of life we shall live after death. Death does not produce any radical break in the continuous flow of man’s existence. The life of heaven closely resembles life here on earth, otherwise the earth-life would not be very useful or suitable as a preparation for it! For example, under the old idea that the angels occupy themselves to eternity playing harps, we should have to take more seriously the question of learning to play the harp while here on earth. Even the organ or flute would be a waste of effort: it would have to be the harp! Churches would raise funds to provide every member with a harp, and there would be practice periods every Sunday. But no! Swedenborg reports, from his thirty years’ experience of life in the other world, that the playing of harps is no more general there than it is here, and he personally got along all right without that particular skill! Only two basic skills are necessary in the future life (as, indeed, in this life also): firstly, to be able to live happily with other people; and secondly, to be able to live happily with God. In hell, where the drop-outs go, everyone acts entirely from love of self, seeking his own advantage in everything, trying to down everyone else; whereas in heaven (for which we are supposed to be preparing ourselves here on earth) everyone is motivated solely by love to the neighbour and love to the Lord.
To live in heaven should be our goal: what we should be working towards, and training ourselves for, during every moment of every day. We must master the procedure of being content and happy by giving ourselves out to others. Selfishness has to be vanquished and abandoned. To qualify for heaven we have to develop a heavenly nature in the here-and-now. That is what this earth-school has been established for. The Lord is the Head Master and he has the curriculum in hand, perfectly adapted to our needs. Our part is simply to do honestly and well each little lesson he sets before us, as we come to it.
Character is formed from thousands of choices, each perhaps negligible in itself. Habits strong enough to carry us to heaven or hell are established by continual, deliberate repetition of insignificant patterns of thought and will, over a period of time. Outstanding crises may hurry things up, but they are not essential to the procedure. The citadel of character is built of very small bricks, with only an occasional large block, these bricks being moulded during the innumerable contacts and reactions of ordinary home and business routine.
If you doubt whether trivialities will get you so far, consider the oak tree. Every year, sap goes up the trunk in spring, and comes down again in the autumn. There is an annual drudgery of buds, leaves, acorns, with nothing to show for it. But wait! Some of that sap is transformed into a thin film of wood. Year by year minute layers of new substance are deposited under the bark, and so the tree grows. Saw the trunk across, and you can count the number of years the tree has lived by the rings in the wood. The oak wood we so much prize, the iron-hard oak of which our fighting ships were made in days gone by, the beautiful material used by the mediaeval carver to decorate our great cathedrals — it is produced by the sum total of all those uneventful years’ labour in the forest: summer and winter, cold and heat, night and day. Wood can be created in no other way known to man or God.
Here I must pause, however, to point out that actions in themselves are not formative; they neither help nor hinder our spiritual growth. It is the motive behind the action which forms our character. A “good” action performed from a selfish or self-glorifying motive, may actually have a bad effect upon the doer, though being useful to someone else. Martha was doubtless making a delicious meal for Jesus, but her “much serving” failed to benefit her because she was resentful of Mary’s non-cooperation. I am appalled by the thought of the immense amount of wasted effort expended by every one of us in our industrialized culture, dashing back and forth on the same strip of our spiral stairway, going down just as likely as going up, being of “use.” On the other hand, someone in another culture (say, in Africa or India or South America) who seems to be just sitting around doing nothing — someone we tend to scorn for being lazy and ineffectual — may in fact be making more progress upwards than we ourselves, if he does what he does do from a more spiritual motivation. Of course we cannot judge; but the end result will show clearly after death. Think of all the things that made you so busy yesterday, or any other day. Did you benefit spiritually from them? Someone else benefited, probably, but did you? If not, they were a sheer waste of time and energy as far as you were concerned. They were noticed only by the Divine Schoolmaster to the extent to which they caused you to go up, or down, the spiral staircase.
And the wonderful thing is that almost anything you do CAN benefit you, if you do it from an unselfish motivation, or react to it aright. You have just as much opportunity to form an angelic character in the framework of your life as did the saints and martyrs in theirs. “The daily round, the common task, will furnish all we need to ask.” Dross is placed before us, and, with the magic wand of a cheerful, outgoing spirit, and a heart full of praise to the Lord, we can turn it into gold. It is really quite easy; there is nothing esoteric about it. Each step is well within our reach as we come to it. Unfortunately, of course, it is equally easy to go in the opposite direction! Little slips of character, little annoyances and resentments, little bits of boastful self-satisfaction and complacent scorn of others, can produce evil habits which become structured into our souls. How hard it is to get rid of them when once we have formed them! It is never impossible; while we live there is always the possibility of change for the better, but it becomes increasingly difficult as the years pass.
How about doing some stock-taking now, while you are thinking of it? Normally it is unhealthy to try to keep check of one’s spiritual progress — better just press forward, meeting each situation as it presents itself. But, once or twice a year, it is good to take a deep-down look at oneself, to see how one is getting on. Ask yourself: “Am I going in the right direction? Am I more mature spiritually than I was a year ago? Less self-centred, kinder, gentler, less touchy? Are my bad habits weaker than they were, and my good habits stronger? How is my prayer-life developing? Am I closer to my heavenly Father?” If you do not come out well in this self-examination, the matter is serious indeed, and you should make a determined effort at once to get your direction right — up the stairway instead of down.
Make big improvements in your life if you can; but attend also to the little things. It is our little everyday choices and attitudes that form us into angels of heaven or devils of hell. Make up your mind and determine that in future you will do at least one thing every day from the pure unselfish motive of love to the Lord and the neighbour. Then your life, instead of being a treadmill or a merry-go-round, will become a spiral stairway mounting upwards to the sky.
I spoke at the beginning of a lighthouse, but said nothing of the light at the top to which the stairway gives access. Jacob dreamed a dream at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-17) and saw a ladder, or stairway, set up on earth, its top reaching heaven; and the angels of God were ascending and descending. Above it stood the Lord Himself who is the Light of the world. May he bless you and guide you in all your ways, so that as days and weeks and months pass by you will ascend that stairway and draw nearer to him, and finally step out on top into the Light of Heaven.
HOPE AND DESPAIR
|HOPE AND DESPAIR|
The Poet Shelley, in “The Skylark,” states, as the main difference between human beings and skylarks, that:
In other words, we are humans because we are capable of longing and despair. I myself would rather turn the coin over and look at the other side, and say we are humans because we are capable of faith and hope! The point is that animals and birds are conscious on only one level — the life they are living NOW. Their present existence, with its varied sensations of pain and pleasure – that’s all there is for them. And, unfortunately, quite a few humans seem to be equally circumscribed, maintaining “This is all there is.” But truly human life is characterized by feelings which transcend the here and now: memories of the past and hopes of the future. Moreover, we have several levels of feelings, so that sadness and happiness can lie side by side, or one within the other. Sometimes when we think we are happy we realize afterwards that we were miserable; whereas, looking back on some dreadful situation, some major tragedy, we realize there was a kind of joy deep down within it all. That, I think, is what Shelley was referring to, and nobody has expressed the paradox more poignantly than he.
Hope and despair, those sensations which humans experience but animals and birds do not . . . we feel them most commonly while looking forward into the future. We hope for better times, yet despair that things will not get better but will probably get worse. The optimist is a cheerful fellow; he expects a regular improvement in everything. Evolution seems to bear him out: better and better forms developing as life proceeds. The pessimist scorns this facile view, and points out that any improvement is more than counterbalanced by a degeneration in other respects. “Anyway,” he says, “our bodies are growing older, and soon we shall become senile and die, and that will be the end.” Such an attitude of pessimism is inevitable if you don’t accept spiritual values. It is the corollary of the materialist viewpoint, and all sensitive people must come to it, even to despair, if they look only on the outer side of things. Hence the mood of alienation in the world today, especially among intellectuals. When I was young, atheism was fashionable and rather exciting. Science had taken the place of God. Science could do anything, achieve anything. Unlimited power was at man’s disposal to achieve his heart’s desire: the abolition of poverty, the conquest of disease, food for everybody, good housing in plenty, quick and easy transport from place to place, everybody able to visit any part of the world at will, and eventual journeys to the moon and planets. General prosperity, we were told, would bring wars to an end, and everybody would be noble and gentle, with “the flame of freedom in their souls and the light of science in their eyes.”
Alas, things have not worked out that way — not yet at any rate. The new powers released by science and technology have been used, not to abolish war, but to make it more horrendous. The industrial system which held out so much promise has polluted our streams and rivers, and poisoned the very air we breathe; and the greater personal freedom we all enjoy as a result of increased affluence has back-fired into permissive sex, drug addiction, assaults, hijacks, murders and bomb outrages. No wonder there has been in recent years a reaction of despair! Evolution, which proclaimed “better and better forms developing as life proceeds,” seems suddenly to have gone into reverse.
On the other hand, we can regard our present situation as nothing but teething troubles on a vast scale. Most of our disappointment is due to the slowness with which human nature adapts to the rapidly changing environment. It is like someone with a slum mentality suddenly being placed in a palace; it takes some time to adjust! People whose ancestors had to fight to survive, want to go on fighting in the same old way, although now there is enough of everything for everybody, needing only to be fairly distributed. National honour and aggrandisement, national jealousies, flag waving, foreign embassies and passport visas — all are out of date in this modern world. The only flag that makes sense is one I saw recently, with a picture of the world on it as seen by the astronauts from outer space!
They say “human nature doesn’t change” — well, it will have to change if the human race is to survive. And I am hopeful, because many of our young people seem to be making a clean break with the past, and are planning to use science as it should have been used all along: as an instrument for the liberation of the human spirit, not for selfish aggrandisement and the piling up of material wealth. The mistake of the old Secularists was to assume that human nature could be improved by affluence and power, which it cannot be. It can only be changed by a new kind of life from within. All improvement is basically spiritual. Why I am an optimist is because I believe that the Lord is at this very time bringing new spiritual forces to bear upon the situation. Science and technology cannot themselves enrich life . . . but the Lord can, using the tools of science which He himself has made available. The New Age now dawning has not been produced by the scientific discoveries, but the New Age has produced the scientific discoveries! The New Age is being produced by the Lord himself, at what we like to think of as his “Second Coming”.
As human beings, we are free to affirm or deny the influence of the Lord in worldly affairs. In other words, we are free to be optimists or pessimists. True optimism has nothing to do with the facile trust in evolution mentioned at the beginning of this chapter. Even the scientists themselves have ceased to be dogmatic on that point! True optimism is an affirmation of the Lord’s providential care of his creation; pessimism is a denial of it. Optimism is from heaven, pessimism from hell. Evil spirits are continually endeavouring to induce in us a state of despair by showing us a world without God — and it is indeed a sombre picture! At the same time they are telling us that it is all our fault, arousing in us feelings of hopelessness and guilt. What they want is to make men insane — and they have had a great deal of success in that direction! On the other hand, the angels are perpetually striving to raise us up out of those feelings of despair by showing us the presence of God deep down in everything — the “tranquil operation of the Divine Providence in every least particular, leading to the salvation of the human race.” Here we see the opposing viewpoints of optimism and pessimism on a deeper level, the ultimate sources of Hope and Despair. Hope is an inner conviction that God is in ultimate control of the universe, while despair is an inner denial of this.
Christianity is a religion of HOPE. Its declarations are creative and positive. Its emphasis is not on sin but on forgiveness — though of course it acknowledges the existence of sin and is fully aware of its dangers. Christianity stresses not punishment for guilt, but pardon and restitution; not condemnation, but mercy and grace. Not defeat, but victory. Not the temporal but the eternal. Not the shadow but the light.
Someone once said to me: “What’s the use of telling me I ought not to be depressed when I am depressed? Of course Hope is better than Despair, and I realize there is no logical reason why I should feel despair, but I do! How can I snap out of it?” Maybe a clue to this problem can be found in Paul’s first epistle to the Corinthians, chapter 13. “Now abides faith, hope and love, these three; but the greatest of these is love.” Obviously you cannot have faith without hope, or hope without faith. It is less obvious, but no less true, that you cannot have either faith or hope without love! Our confidence in the future, and our hope for eternity, is grounded in our acceptance of God as LOVE. And we cannot receive God’s love in ourselves unless we, in our small way, love one another.
If ever you are depressed and feel like despairing, don’t go and commit suicide (which won’t really help) but set out consciously and deliberately to show love for someone, even if only in some trifling way — preferably someone you dislike, someone you have quarrelled with, someone you are not on speaking terms with. This will lift you out of despair into a state of faith and hope, out of hell into heaven. Hope breaks up and disperses despair. It does not touch the details of thought — it leaves our thoughts just where they were; but it gives us an inner feeling of assurance that, despite all our thoughts to the contrary, God is in control and all will be well. This is HOPE, and it can only manifest itself in us through Love or Charity.
Today is the beginning of the rest of your life. There is great hope for each one of us individually. A wonderful future lies ahead of us, if we will only take it. You won’t be able to gather it all up at once — there’s too much of it. But you can begin to receive the good things it contains, here and now, and you can go on taking more and more of them every week, every day, as your capacity increases, as your love grows and deepens and becomes more active. Hope extends indefinitely into the future, and you can always be entering more fully into it. But you don’t even have to be looking into the future; you can have it in the present, side by side with whatever happens to be on your mind. On the external level you may be struggling with apparently overwhelming problems, but on the inner level you can be gloriously triumphant.
Think of the story of the Prodigal Son. What a distressing tale of failure for that poor deluded young man, with the ultimate humiliation of having to despair and go back home. But that was on the outer side. Inwardly his defeat was the greatest success story ever told! No, not the greatest. The greatest success story was of another young man — a village carpenter who threw up his work to become an itinerant preacher, and from an external point of view failed completely, so that his best friends forsook him, and he ended up with the fate of a common criminal; yet inwardly ascending on high, crowned with many crowns, merged with the Divine, taking upon himself all power in heaven and on earth. With such an example before us, of success in the midst of failure, how can we despair? We should rejoice even in our disappointments, knowing that seeming human failures can be the steps of a ladder leading up to the greatest success of all.
Memorabilia respecting the Divine Word in the Heavens
|Memorabilia respecting the Divine Word in the Heavens
That the Word in the letter conceals such sublime treasures within it, is often visibly shown to spirits or souls that come into the other life; and it has sometimes been granted me to be present when this was done…. A certain spirit came to me, not long after his departure from the body,—as I could infer from the fact that as yet he did not know that he was in the other life, but imagined he was still living in the world. Perceiving that he was given to study, I spoke with him about his studies. But he was suddenly carried up on high; at which, being surprised, I conjectured that he was one of those who aspire to exalted station,—for such are often elevated to a lofty position; or of those that imagine heaven is on high,–who likewise are taken up, that they may thus know that heaven is not above, but within. But I soon perceived that he was taken up to the angelic spirits who are before, a little to the right, at the first threshold of heaven. He afterwards spoke with me from there, saying that he saw sublimer things than human minds can anywise conceive. When this occurred I was reading the first chapter of Deuteronomy, about the Jewish people, how that some were sent to explore the land of Canaan and what was there. But as I was reading he said he perceived nothing of the sense of the letter, but the things which are in the spiritual sense, and that these were wonderful,—such as could not be described. This was at the first threshold of the heaven of angelic spirits. What would not be perceived then in that heaven itself! And what, in the heaven of Angels! …. After this, on two occasions, I saw others taken up among the angelic spirits in another heaven, and they talked with me from there. I was then reading the third chapter of Deuteronomy, from the beginning to the end. They said they were in the interior sense only of the Word, and earnestly declared that there is not even a point in which there is not a spiritual sense, most beautiful, coherent with all the rest; and that the names are significant. (AC n. 3473, 3474)
The Effects of Profanation
The Effects of Profanation
Divine truth cannot be profaned except by those who have first acknowledged it. For they first enter into truth by acknowledgment and belief, and so are initiated into it. When afterwards they recede from it there continually remains a vestige of it inwardly impressed, which is recalled at the same time with falsity and evil; and hence the truth, because it adheres to them, is profaned. They therefore with whom this is the case have continually within them that which condemns, thus their hell. For when the infernals approach towards the sphere where good and truth are, they instantly feel their hell; for they come into that which they hate, consequently into torment. They therefore who have profaned truth dwell continually with that which torments them; and this according to the degree of profanation. Because it is so it is most specially provided by the Lord that Divine good and truth shall not be profaned. And it is provided especially by this, that the man who is of such a character that he cannot but profane is withheld as far as possible from the acknowledgment and belief of truth and good; for, as was said, no one can profane but who has first acknowledged and believed. This was the reason why internal truths were not made known to the posterity of Jacob, the Israelites and Jews. Not even was it openly declared that there was any internal in man, and thus that there was any internal worship; and scarcely anything of a life after death, and of the Lord’s heavenly kingdom; or of the Messiah whom they expected. The reason was that they were of such a character that it was foreseen that if such truths had been revealed to them they could not but have profaned them; for they desired only earthly things. And because that generation was and also is of such a character, it is still permitted that they should be in a state of entire unbelief; for if they once acknowledged and afterwards receded, they could not but have induced upon themselves the most grievous of all hells. This also was the reason why the Lord did not come into the world and reveal the internal [truths] of the Word until there was no good at all, not even natural good, remaining with them. (AC n. 3398)
Ideas commingled by profanation remain associated, so that whenever a holy thought comes into the mind the profane idea connected with it also enters. The effect of which is that the man cannot be in any society but that of the damned. The association of ideas in the mind of every one is exquisitely perceived in the other life, even by spirits in the world of spirits, and much more so by angelic spirits; so that from a single idea they know the quality of a man. The separation of profane and holy ideas, when thus conjoined, cannot be effected except by such horrible infernal torment that if a man was aware of it he would guard himself against profanation as against hell itself. (ibid. n. 301)
By the Providence of the Lord care is taken lest man should be admitted into real acknowledgment and belief of heart farther than he can afterwards be kept in it, and this on account of the punishment of profanation, which in hell is most grievous. It is for this reason that so few at this day are permitted to believe from the heart that the good of love and charity is heaven in man, and that all the Divine is in the Lord; for men are in the life of evil. (ibid. . n. 2357)
The Lord does not admit man interiorly into the truths of wisdom and into the goods of love, except so far as man can be kept in them to the end of life. (DP n. 233)
They who know what the truth and good of faith is and yet do not in heart believe, as is the case with very many at this day, cannot profane; because the intellectual faculty does not receive and imbue itself therewith. (AC n. 4601)
Different Kinds and Degrees of Profanation
Different Kinds and Degrees of Profanation
Since by the profanation of what is holy is meant profanation by those who know the truths of faith and the goods of charity from the Word, and also in some manner acknowledge them, and not those who do not know them, nor those who from impiety entirely reject them, therefore what follows is said not of the latter but of the former. Their profanation is of many kinds, lighter, and more grievous; but they may be reduced to these seven.
The first kind of profanation is by those who jest from the Word and about the Word, or from the Divine things of the church, and about them. This is done by some from a depraved habit of taking names or forms of speech from the Word, and mixing them up with conversation scarcely becoming, and sometimes filthy; which cannot but be connected with some contempt for the Word. And yet in each and all things the Word is Divine and Holy; for every word therein conceals in its bosom something Divine, and thereby it has communication with heaven. But this kind of profanation is lighter or more grievous according to the acknowledgment of the holiness of the Word, and the unbecoming character of the discourse in which it is introduced by the jesters. (DP n. 231)
The second kind of profanation is by those who understand and acknowledge Divine truths, and yet live contrary to them. But they more lightly profane who only understand; and they more grievously who also acknowledge; for the understanding only teaches, scarcely otherwise than as a preacher, and of itself does not conjoin itself with the will; but acknowledgment conjoins itself, for nothing can be acknowledged but with the consent of the will. But this conjunction is various and according to the conjunction is the profanation when the life is contrary to the truths which are acknowledged. For example, if one acknowledges that revenge and hatred, adultery and fornication, fraud and deceit, blasphemy and lying, are sins against God, and yet commits them, he is in this more grievous kind of profanation; for the Lord says, “The servant which knoweth his Lord’s will, and doeth not His will, shall be beaten with many stripes” (Luke xii. 47). And again, “If ye were blind, ye would not have sin; but now ye say, We see, therefore your sin remaineth” (John ix. 41). But it is one thing to acknowledge appearances of truth, and another to acknowledge genuine truths. They that acknowledge genuine truths and yet do not live according to them, in the spiritual world appear without the light and heat of life in their voice and speech, as if they were mere inactivities.
The third kind of profanation is by those who apply the literal sense of the Word to confirm evil loves and false principles. The reason [why this is profanation] is, that the confirmation of falsity is the denial of the truth, and the confirmation of evil is the rejection of good; and the Word in its bosom is nothing but Divine truth and Divine good; and this in the ultimate sense which is the sense of the letter does not appear in genuine truths, except where it teaches about the Lord and the very way of salvation, but in truths clothed, which are called appearances of truth. This sense therefore can be wrested to confirm many kinds of heresies. But he who confirms evil loves does violence to Divine goods; and he who confirms false principles does violence to Divine truths. This violence is called the falsification of truth; and that the adulteration of good. Both are meant in the Word by blood; for a holy spiritual [principle] which is indeed the Spirit of Truth proceeding from the Lord, is within the least particulars of the literal sense of the Word. This holy [principle] is injured when the Word is falsified and adulterated that this is profanation is obvious.
The fourth kind of profanation is by those who utter pious and holy things with the mouth, and also simulate the affections of the love of them in tone and gesture, and yet in heart do not believe and love them. The most of these are hypocrites and Pharisees; from whom after death all truth and good is taken away, and then they are sent into outer darkness. Those of this kind who have confirmed themselves against the Divine and against the Word, and therefore also against the spiritual things of the Word, sit in that darkness mute, unable to speak; wishing to babble pious and holy things as in the world, but they cannot. For in the spiritual world every one is constrained to speak as he thinks; but the hypocrite wishes to speak otherwise than as he thinks. Hence arises an opposition in the mouth, from which it is that he can only mutter. But hypocrisies are lighter or more grievous according to confirmations against God and reasonings outwardly in favour of God.
The fifth kind of profanation is by those who attribute Divine things to themselves. It is they who are meant by Lucifer in Isaiah xiv. Lucifer there means Babylon, as may be seen from the 4th and 22nd verses of that chapter, where the lot of such also is described. The same are meant too by the whore sitting upon the scarlet beast, in the Apocalypse, xvii. Babylon and Chaldea are mentioned in many places in the Word; and by Babylon is there meant the profanation of good, and by Chaldea the profanation of truth; both with those who attribute to themselves things Divine.
The sixth kind of profanation is by those who acknowledge the Word, and yet deny the Divinity of the Lord. They are called in the world Socinians, and some of them Arians. The lot of both is that they invoke the Father and not the Lord, and continually pray the Father,—some indeed for the sake of the Son,—that they may be admitted into heaven, but in vain; even until they become without hope of salvation; and then they are let down into hell among those who deny God. It is they who are meant by those that blaspheme the Holy Spirit, to whom it would not be remitted in this age nor in that which is to come (Matt. xii. 32). The reason is that God is one in Person and in Essence, in whom is a Trinity, and that God is the Lord; and as the Lord is also heaven, and hence those who are in heaven are in the Lord, therefore they who deny the Divinity of the Lord cannot be admitted into heaven and be in the Lord.
The seventh kind of profanation is by those who first acknowledge Divine truths and live according to them, and afterwards recede from and deny them. This is the worst kind of profanation, for the reason that they so commingle holy things with profane that they cannot be separated; and yet they must be separated that they may be either in heaven or in hell; and because with them this cannot be done, all the intellectual and voluntary human is eradicated and they become no longer men, as was said before. Nearly the same takes place with those who in heart acknowledge the Divine things of the Word and of the church, and entirely immerse them in their proprium, which is the love of ruling over all things, of which much has been said before; for after death when they become spirits they will not be led by the Lord, but by themselves; and when the rein is given to their love they would not only rule over heaven, but even over the Lord. And because they cannot do this they deny the Lord, and become devils. (DP n. 231)
The Sin of Profaning the Word and the Holy Things of the Church
The Sin of Profaning the Word and the Holy Things of the Church
Profanation is the conjunction of Divine truth with falsities from evil; and that conjunction which is profanation does not exist with any but those who have first acknowledged those things which are of the church,—and especially who have acknowledged the Lord,—and afterwards deny them. For by the acknowledgment of the truths of the church, and of the Lord, communication with the heavens is effected, and at the same time the opening of the interiors of man towards heaven; and by denial afterwards a conjunction of the same with falsities from evil takes place. For all things which man acknowledges remain implanted, since nothing with man which has entered by acknowledgment perishes. The state of the man in whom there is profanation is, that he has communication with the heavens, and at the same time with the hells; by truths with the heavens, and by the falsities of evil with the hells. (AC n. 10,287)
Those who are within the church can form principles of falsity in opposition to the very truths of faith, and be imbued with them; but those who are without the church cannot do this, because they do not know the truths of faith. Thus the former can profane holy truths, while the latter cannot. (ibid. 2051)
The Lord by His Divine Providence continually watches and so disposes that evil may be by itself, and good by itself, and thus that they may be separated; but this cannot be effected if a man first acknowledges the truths of faith and lives according to them, and afterwards recedes from and denies them…Whatever a man thinks, speaks, and does from the will, is appropriated to him and remains…. Such things are each and all inscribed on his internal memory; and nothing is wanting. This memory is his book of life, which is opened after death, and according to which he is judged…. Good and evil moreover are separated by the Lord after death with those who are inwardly evil and outwardly good the good is taken away, and they are thus left to their evil. The reverse takes place with those who inwardly are good and outwardly like other men have sought after wealth, have striven for dignities, have found delight in various worldly things, and favoured some concupiscences. With these however good and evil were not mixed, but were separated as the internal and the external; thus in the external form they were like the evil in many things, yet not in the internal. On the other hand, the evil too, who in the.external form, in piety, in worship, in speech and actions, have appeared as if good, and yet in the internal form were evil,—with them also evil is separated from good. But with those who have first acknowledged the truths of faith and lived according to them, and have afterwards turned away from and rejected them, and especially if they have denied them, goods and evils are no longer separated, but mingled. For such a man has appropriated good to himself, and has also appropriated evil to himself, and so has conjoined and commingled them. He has so far commingled good and evil that they cannot be separated; and if evil cannot be separated from good and good from evil he can neither be in heaven nor in hell. Every man must be either in the one or in the other; he cannot be in both, for thus he would be sometimes in heaven, and sometimes in hell; and while in heaven he would act in favour of hell, and while in hell he would act in favour of heaven. He would thus destroy the life of all around him, heavenly life among the angels, and infernal life among the devils; whereby the life of every one would perish. For the life of every one must be his own; no one lives in another’s life, still less in an opposite one. Hence it is that with every man after death when he becomes a spirit or a spiritual man, the Lord separates good from evil, and evil from good; good from evil with those who inwardly are in evil, and evil, from good with those who inwardly are in good; which is according to His words, “To every one that hath, shall be given, and he shall have abundance, and from him that hath not shall be taken away even that he hath” (Matt. xiii. 12; xxv. 29; Mark iv. 25; Luke viii. 18; xix. 26). As good and evil must be separated in every man, and in such a man cannot be separated, therefore as to everything truly human he is destroyed. The truly human in every one exists from rationality; in that he can see and know, if he will, what is true and what is good; and also in that from liberty he can will, think, speak and do it. But this liberty with its rationality is destroyed with those who have commingled good and evil in themselves; for they cannot from good see evil, nor from evil recognize good, because [in them] they make one. They therefore have no longer rationality in capability or in power, nor consequently any liberty. For this reason they are like mere forms of fantastic delirium; and no more appear like men, but as bones with some covering of skin; and therefore when mentioned they are not called he or she, but it. Such a lot have they who in this manner commingle things holy with profane. But there are many kinds of profanation which are yet not of this character.
No man so profanes holy things who does not know them; for he who does not know them cannot acknowledge and then deny them. They therefore who are outside of the Christian world, and do not know anything about the Lord, and about redemption and salvation by Him, do not profane this holy truth when they do not receive it, nor even when they speak against it. Neither do the Jews themselves profane this holy truth, because from infancy they are not willing to receive and acknowledge it. It would be otherwise if they received and acknowledged and afterwards denied, which however is rarely done; although many of them outwardly acknowledge it and inwardly deny it, and are like hypocrites. But they profane holy things by commingling them with things profane who first receive and acknowledge, and afterwards turn away from and deny them. That they received and acknowledged in infancy and childhood is of no [such] effect,—every Christian does this,—because they do not then receive and acknowledge the things of faith and charity from any rationality and liberty, that is in the understanding from the will, but only from memory and from confidence in a superior; and if they live according to them it is from blind obedience. But when a man comes into the use of his rationality and liberty, which by degrees he does as he grows up and advances to maturity, if then he acknowledges truths and lives according to them and afterwards denies them, he mingles holy things with profane, and from a man becomes a monster, as described above. But if a man is in evil from the time when he comes into the exercise of his own rationality and liberty, that is until he comes to act of his own right in early manhood, and afterwards acknowledges the truths of faith and lives according to them, if only he then remains in them to the end of life he does not mingle them; for the Lord then separates the evils of his former life from the goods of his after life. This takes place with all who repent.
In the most general sense by profanation is meant all impiety; and therefore by profaners all the impious are meant who in heart deny God, the holiness of the Word, and therefore the spiritual things of the church which are the holy things themselves, of which they even speak impiously. But it is not these that are here treated of…. In the impious who deny the Divine and Divine things there is nothing holy which they can profane; they are profaners indeed, but yet not the profane.
The profanation of what is holy is meant in the second commandment of the decalogue by, Thou shalt not profane the name of thy God; and that there should not be profanation is meant in the Lord’s prayer by, Hallowed be Thy Name…. The name of God signifies God, with all the Divine that is in Him, and that proceeds from Him; and as the Word is the proceeding Divine that is the name of God; and as all the Divine things which are called the spiritual things of the church are from the Word, they also are the name of God. (DP n. 226.230)
Previous to the Word which now exists in the World there was a Word which is lost
Previous to the Word which now exists in the World there was a Word which is lost
It has been told me by the angels of heaven that there was a Word among the ancients written by pure correspondences, but that it was lost. And they said that this Word was still preserved among them; and was in use in that heaven, among the ancients with whom that Word existed when they were in the world. The ancients among whom that Word is still in use in heaven were in part from the land of Canaan and its confines, —Syria, Mesopotamia, Arabia, Chaldea, Assyria, Egypt, Zidon, Tyre, and Nineveh,—the inhabitants of all which kingdoms were in representative worship, and therefore in the knowledge of correspondences. The wisdom of those times was from that knowledge, and through that they had interior perception and communication with the heavens. Those who knew interiorly the correspondences of that Word were called wise and intelligent, and after that diviners and magi. But because that Word was full of such correspondences as remotely signified celestial and spiritual things, and therefore began to be falsified by many, by the Divine providence of the Lord in process of time it disappeared and was finally lost, and another Word was given written by correspondences less remote, and this through the prophets among the children of Israel. In this Word however many names of places are retained which were in the land of Canaan and round about in Asia, which signify similar things as in the ancient Word. It was for this reason that Abraham was commanded to go into that land, and that his posterity from Jacob were led into it.
It is evident too from Moses that there was a Word among the ancients, by whom it is mentioned and some quotation is made from it (Numb. xxi. 14, 15, 27-30); and that the historical parts of that Word were called the The Wars of Jehovah, and the prophetical parts Enunciations. From the historical parts of that Word Moses has quoted this: “Wherefore it is said in The book of the Wars of Jehovah, what He did in the Red Sea, and in the brooks of Arnon, and at the stream of the brooks that goeth down to the dwelling of Ar, and lieth, upon the border of Moab” (Numb. xxi. 14, 15). By the wars of Jehovah in that Word, as in ours, are meant and described the Lord’s conflicts with the hells and His victories over them when He should come into the world. The same conflicts are also meant and described in many places in the historical parts of our Word, as in the wars of Joshua with the nations of the land of Canaan, and in the wars of the judges and of the kings of Israel From the prophetical parts of that Word Moses has taken this passage:- “Wherefore say the Enunciators, Go unto Heshbon; let the city of Sihon be built and strengthened; for a fire is gone out of Heshbon, a flame from the city of Sihon; it hath consumed Ar of Moab, the possessors of the high places of Arnon. Woe unto thee, Moab! thou art undone, O people of Chemosh! He hath given his sons that escaped and his daughters into captivity unto Sihon, king of the Amorites; we have slain them with darts. Heshbon is perished even unto Dibon, and we have laid waste even unto Nophah, which reacheth unto Medebah” (Numb. xxi. 27-30). The translators render it, They that speak in Proverbs, but they should be called Enunciators, and their compositions Prophetical Enunciations; as it is evident from the signification of the word Moshalim in the Hebrew tongue that they were not merely Proverbs, but in truth Prophetical Enunciations; as in Numb. xxiii. 7, 18, xxiv. 3, 15, where it is said that Balaam uttered his. Enunciation, which was also a prophecy concerning the Lord. His enunciation is called Moshal, in the singular number. It may be added that the passages thence quoted by Moses are not proverbs but. prophecies. That that Word likewise was Divine or Divinely inspired is plain from a passage in Jeremiah, where we read nearly the same words: “A fire is gone forth out of Heshbon, and a flame from the midst of Sihon, and shall devour the corner of Moab, and the crown of the head of the sons of tumult. Woe be unto thee, O Moab! The people of Chemosh, perisheth, for thy sons are taken away into captivity and thy daughters into captivity” (xlviii. 45, 46). Besides these a prophetical book of the ancient Word is also mentioned by David and by Joshua, called The Book of Jasher, or the book of the Upright. By David: “David lamented over Saul and over Jonathan; also he bade them teach the children of Judah the bow: behold it is written in The Book of Jasher” (2 Sam. i. 17, 18). And by Joshua: Joshua said … Sun, stand thou still upon Gibeon, and thou moon in the valley of Ajalon; … is not this written in The Book of Jasher?” (Josh. x. 12, 13). Moreover, it was told me that the first seven chapters of Genesis are extant in that ancient Word, and that not the least word is wanting. (SS n. 102, 103)
That religion has existed from the most ancient times, and that the inhabitants of the globe everywhere know of God, with something about the life after death, has not been from themselves and from their own acuteness, but from the ancient Word mentioned above, and afterwards from the Israelitish Word. From these religious knowledge was diffused into the Indies and their islands; through Egypt and Ethiopia into the kingdoms of Africa; from the maritime parts of Asia into Greece; and from thence into Italy. But as the Word could not be written otherwise than by representatives,—which are such things in the world as correspond to and hence signify heavenly things,—therefore the religious truths of many nations were converted into idolatrous forms, and in Greece into fables; and the Divine attributes and qualities into as many gods, over which they placed one as supreme, whom they called Jove, from Jehovah. It is well known that they had a knowledge of paradise, of the flood, of the sacred fire, and of the four ages—from the first or golden age to the last or iron age—by which the four states of the church are signified in the Word, as in Daniel ii. 31-35. It is also known that the Mahomedan religion, which succeeded and destroyed the previous religions of many nations, was taken from the Word of both Testaments. (ibid.. n. 117)
Revelation and Inspiration
Revelation and Inspiration
All revelation is either from discourse with angels through whom the Lord speaks or from perception. It should be known that they who are in good and thence in truth, especially those that are in the good of love to the Lord, have revelation from perception; but those who are not in good and thence in truth, though they may indeed have revelations, yet not from perception, but by a living voice heard within them, thus by angels from the Lord. This revelation is external, but the former is internal. The angels, especially the celestial angels, have revelation from perception; and so had the men of the Most Ancient Church, and some also of the Ancient Church; but scarcely any one has this at the present day. But very many have had revelations from speech, without perception, even who have not been in good; likewise by visions, or by dreams. Such were most of the revelations of the prophets in the Jewish church; they heard a voice, saw a vision, or dreamed a dream. But as they had no perception the revelations were merely verbal or visual, without discernment of what they signified. For genuine perception comes through heaven from the Lord, and spiritually affects the intellectual faculty, and leads it perceptibly to think just as the thing really is, with an internal assent the source of which he is ignorant of. He supposes it is in itself, and that it flows from the connection of things; but it is a dictate through heaven from the Lord, flowing into the interiors of the thought, concerning such things as are above the natural and the sensual; that is concerning such things as are of the spiritual world, or heaven. From these statements it may be seen what revelation from perception is. (AC n. 5121)
I have been informed how the Lord spake with the prophets through whom the Word was given. He did not speak with them as with the ancients, by an influx into their interiors, but by spirits who were sent to them, whom the Lord filled with His aspect, and thus inspired the words which they dictated to the prophets; so that it was not influx but dictation. And as the words came forth immediately from the Lord they are therefore severally filled with the Divine, and contain within them an internal sense; which is such that the angels of heaven perceive them in a celestial and a spiritual sense, while men understand them in the natural sense. Thus has the Lord conjoined heaven and the world by means of the Word. It has also been shown me how spirits are filled with the Divine from the Lord by aspect. The spirit filled with the Divine from the Lord does not know but that he is the Lord, and that it is the Divine which speaks; and this so long as he is speaking. Afterwards he apperceives and acknowledges that he is a spirit, and that he did not speak from himself but from the Lord. It is because such was the state of the spirits who spoke with the prophets that it is even said by them, that Jehovah spake. The spirits also called themselves Jehovah, as may be seen not only from the prophetical, but also from the historical parts of the Word. (HH n. 254)
The Prophets wrote as the spirit from the Divine dictated for the very words which they wrote were uttered in their ears. (AC n. 7055)
It is known from the Word that there was an influx from the world of spirits and from heaven into the Prophets, partly by dreams, partly by visions, and partly by speech; and also with some into the speech itself, and into their very gestures, thus into those things which are of the body; and that then they did not speak from themselves nor act from themselves, but from the spirits which then occupied their body. Some of them then acted as if insane; as Saul, in that he lay naked others, in that they wounded themselves; others, in putting horns upon them; and many such things. (ibid. n. 6212)
The world, even the learned, have hitherto considered that the historical parts of the Word are only histories; and that they involve nothing more interior. And yet they say that every jot is Divinely inspired. But they mean nothing more by this than that these histories were revealed, and that something dogmatic applicable to the doctrine of faith may be deduced from them and be of use to those who teach and to those who learn; and that because they are Divinely inspired therefore they have a Divine power over their minds, and are effective of good beyond all other history. But the histories in themselves regarded effect little for the amendment of a man; and nothing for his eternal life. For in the other life the histories are passed into oblivion. For example, of what use would it be there to know that Hagar was a servant maid, and that she was given to Abram by Sarai? to know about Ishmael? or even about Abram? Nothing but the things which are of the Lord and which are from the Lord are necessary for souls, that they may enter into heaven, and rejoice in its joy, that is in eternal life. For these the Word exists; and these are what are contained in its interiors.
Inspiration implies that in the least particulars of the Word, as in the historical so in the other parts, there are celestial things which are of love or good, and spiritual things which are of faith or truth, and therefore things Divine. For what is inspired by the Lord descends from Him; and indeed through the angelic heaven, and so through the world of spirits down to man, to whom it is presented as it is in the letter. But it is entirely different in its first origin. In heaven there is no worldly history, but all is representative of things Divine; nor is anything else perceived there; as may be known, too, from the fact that the things which are there are ineffable. If therefore the historical particulars are not representative of things Divine and thus heavenly, they cannot be Divinely inspired. (ibid.. n. 1886, 1887)
Delightful Perception by Angels of the Internal Sense of the Word when devoutly read by Men
Delightful Perception by Angels of the Internal Sense of the Word when devoutly read by Men
When the Word of the Lord is read by a man who loves the Word and lives in charity, and even by a man who in simplicity of heart believes what is written, and has formed no principles contrary to the truth of faith which is in the internal sense, it is displayed by the Lord to the angels in such beauty and in such pleasantness—with representatives also, and this with ineffable variety according to their every state in which they then are—that they perceive the least particulars as it were to live. This is the life that is in the Word, and from which the Word had birth when it was sent down from heaven. From this cause the Word of the Lord is such that, though it appears rude in the letter yet within it are stored things spiritual and celestial, which are manifested before good spirits and angels when it is read by man. (AC n. 1767)
And especially when the Word is read by Children
It may seem a paradox, but yet it is most true, that the angels better and more fully understand the internal sense of the Word when little boys and girls read it, than when it is read by adults who are not in the faith of charity. The reason stated to me is, that little children are in a state of mutual love and innocence, so that their vessels are extremely tender, almost celestial, and merely faculties of reception, which therefore are capable of being disposed by the Lord,—although this does not come to their perception except by a certain delight according to their genius. It is said by the angels that the Word of the Lord is a dead letter, but that in reading it is vivified by the Lord according to the capability of every one, and that it becomes living according to the life of charity and the state of innocence, and this with endless variety. (AC n. 1776)
By means of the Word Light is communicated to the Nations out of the Church
There can be no conjunction with heaven unless there be somewhere on the earth a church where the Word is and where by means of it the Lord is known, for the Lord is God of heaven and earth, and without Him there is no salvation. It is sufficient that there be a church where the Word. is, though it consist of comparatively few. Through this the Lord is yet present everywhere in the whole earth, for thereby heaven is conjoined with the human race.
But it shall be explained how the presence and conjunction of the Lord and of heaven in every land is effected by means of the Word. The universal heaven before the Lord is as one man so likewise is the church. The church where the Word is read and where thereby the Lord is known is as the heart and as the lungs in that man the celestial kingdom as the heart, and the spiritual kingdom as the lungs. Just as from these two fountains of life in the human body all the other members and viscera subsist and live, so also do all those in every part of the world with whom there is a religion, and who worship one God and live a good life, and thereby are in that man, and belong to its members and viscera without the thorax, where the heart and lungs are, subsist and live from the conjunction of the Lord and heaven with the church by means of the Word. For the Word in the church, although it exists with few comparatively, is life from the Lord through heaven to all the rest; just as the life of the members and viscera of the whole body is from the heart and lungs. There is also a similar communication. This too is the reason why the Christians among whom the Word is read constitute the breast of that man. They are indeed in the centre of all; and around them are the Papists; and around these are the Mahomedans, who acknowledge the Lord as a very great prophet and as a son of God. After these come the Africans; and the nations and peoples in Asia and the Indies form the outermost circumference. Moreover, all who are in that man look towards the centre where Christians are.
The greatest light is in the centre, where the Christians are who are in possession of the Word; for the light in the heavens is Divine Truth proceeding from the Lord as the sun there; and because the Word is that Divine Truth the greatest light is with those who have the Word. From thence as from its centre it diffuses itself around to all the circumferences, even to the outermost; hence the enlightenment of the nations and peoples out of the church also is by means of the Word. (SS n. 104-106)
The same may be illustrated by this experience. There were with me certain African spirits from Abyssinia. On a certain occasion their ears were opened, that they might hear singing in some church in the world from a Psalm of David. They were affected by it with such delight that they joined their voices with those who sung. But presently their ears were closed, so that they could not hear anything from thence; and then they were affected with still greater delight because it was spiritual, and were at the same time filled with intelligence, for that psalm treated of the Lord and of redemption. The reason of their increased delight was, that communication was granted them with the society in heaven which was in conjunction with those who were singing that psalm in the world. From this and much other experience it was evident to me that there is communication, with the universal heaven through the Word. For this reason, by the Divine providence of the Lord, there is universal intercourse of the kingdoms of Europe—especially of those in which the Word is read—with the nations out of the church, n. 108).
From all this it may be seen that the Word which is in the church of the Reformed enlightens all nations and peoples through spiritual communication; and that it is provided of the Lord that there shall always be a church on earth where the Word is read and by means of it the Lord is known. When therefore the Word was almost rejected by the Papists, through the Divine providence of the Lord the Reformation took place, and the Word in consequence was again received; and also the Word is accounted holy by a celebrated nation among the Papists. (ibid. n. 110)
It has been granted me to know by much experience that man has communication with heaven by means of the Word. While I was reading the Word, from the first chapter of Isaiah to the last of Malachi, and the Psalms of David, it was given me to perceive clearly that each verse communicates with some society in heaven, and that thus the whole Word communicates with the universal heaven. (ibid. n. 113)