Act As If.

Act As If…

Posted: 02 May 2014 04:00 AM PDT

What does acting have to do with your spiritual life? With the ways the Lord asks us to interact with other people? Drawing on her personal and work experience Justine links three acting fundamentals and New Church teachings to help us understand how we live life from the Lord as if of ourselves -Editor.

The particular details of faith on man’s part are:
1. God is one, in whom is the Divine Trinity, and He is the Lord God the Savior Jesus Christ.

2. Faith leading to salvation is believing in him.

3. Evil actions must not be done because they are the work of the devil and come from him.

4. Good actions must be done because they are the work of God and come from Him.

5. A person must perform these actions as if they were his own, but he must believe they come from the Lord working in him and through him. (True Christian Religion 3, emphasis added)

Human reason may, if it will, perceive and conclude from many things in the world that there is a God, and that He is one. This truth may be confirmed by innumerable testimonies from the visible world; for the universe is like a stage on which are continually being exhibited evidences that there is a God, and that He is one. (True Christian Religion 12)
When teaching a theatre workshop, I often prompt my students to walk around the room and explore how different character types, emotions, and environments affect their movement. There are countless directives to try; act as if you are happy, sad, angry, old, young, cold, or hot. The possibilities of this simple “act as if…” prompt are limitless. We can “act as if…” almost anything using only our bodies, voices, and imaginations—three fundamental acting tools that we all carry with us in everything we do.

The “act as if…” concept extends beyond the realm of traditional theatre. We are often asked to “act as if…” in our daily lives—act as if you are in a good mood when you’re really not. Act as if you’re not sick so you can go to work. Act as if you are sick so you don’t have to go to work. Think about warm places to ward off a winter chill. Walk a mile in someone else’s shoes. Ask yourself, “What would Jesus do?” These are just a few examples of “acting as ifs” that pepper everyday existence. We are constantly called upon to act in some form or fashion and some instances are easier than others.

In reflecting on my work as a theatre practitioner, I’ve come to appreciate the role that acting plays in our spiritual lives. There is an entire chapter of Married Love dedicated to acting as if… . In “Reasons in Marriage for Apparent Love, Friendship and Favor” (Married Love 271-291), we are taught about the merits of acting warmly toward our spouses when we are in fact feeling coldness towards them. Even as a newly married woman, I have observed the truth in this. While suppressing true feelings to the point of bursting is never healthy, it is almost always better to take a deep breath and react to a situation with patience rather than unleash our icy frustration. Sure, we might feel truly upset, but truth alone is never what we need. Truth needs love to temper it and that’s why we have to act with the warmth of love even at times when we might not really feel the truth of it. Besides, a moment or even many moments of upset only mask the deeper truth—I always love my spouse, even if it drives me crazy when he leaves the bathroom light on.

Of course, this need to act with warmth in times of coldness applies to relationships outside of marriage as well. We are told to always love our neighbors—family members, friends, strangers, enemies –regardless of how we might feel in a given moment or situation. This is no easy task. Lucky for us, the love contribution is only part of the equation.

The beginning of True Christian Religion (TCR) outlines the fundamentals of faith and states that we must perform good actions as if those actions belong to us, but of course, all good things really come from the Lord (TCR 3). In other words, the ultimate “act as if” directive comes from the Lord. He wants us to do good deeds to one another as if we are capable of loving that selflessly on our own. Furthermore, we are told that,

“God loves each and every human being; and because He cannot do good to them directly, but only indirectly by means of other people, He therefore breathes into people His love (True Christian Religion 457).”
This means that part of our role in this world is to be actors for the Lord. We are meant to carry out the acts of love that the Lord cannot perform directly without infringing on our free will.

Ultimately, our acting here is preparation for the most important role any of us could hope to play. We are angels in training. Even if we aren’t feeling particularly angelic in a given moment, the Lord calls upon us to act with as much love as we can muster (from Him) towards our neighbors and in everything we do. By exercising our acting abilities, we are serving the Lord. This world provides an excellent stage for us to practice actions that can be the “evidences that there is a God, and that He is one.”

The next time you feel grouchy towards someone else, try using the three actors’ tools that are inherent in each of us: our bodies, voices, and imaginations. We can use our imaginations to remind ourselves what it’s like to be pleasant even if we’re not feeling it. We can loosen our fists and relax our mouths into a smile. We can erase any harshness from our tone and then, with the Lord’s help, act out His will.

Justine Buss
Justine lives with her husband, Jared, in Bryn Athyn, PA. She works as a theatre teaching artist, creating and leading theatre, acting, and improvisation workshops for young people in the Philadelphia area. In addition to teaching, Justine serves as the president of Bryn Athyn Community Theater and enjoys being a member of the Bryn Athyn Cathedral choir. If it has to do with performance, odds are she is or wants to be involved!


Equilibrium between Heaven and Hell

Equilibrium between Heaven and Hell

Hell in like manner with heaven is distinguished into societies, and also into as many societies as heaven; for every society in heaven has a society opposite to it in hell, and this for the sake of equilibrium. But the societies in hell are distinct according to evils and the falsities from them, because the societies in heaven are distinct according to goods and the truths therefrom. That to every good there is an opposite evil, and to every truth an opposite falsity, may be known from the fact that there is nothing without a relation to its opposite; and that from the opposite its quality is cognized, and in what degree it is; and that hence comes all perception and sensation. The Lord continually provides that every society of heaven has its opposite in a society of hell, and that there is an equilibrium between them. (HH n. 541)

The equilibrium between the heavens and the hells is diminished and increases according to the number of those who enter heaven ‘and who enter hell, which amounts to many thousands daily. But no angel can know and perceive this, and regulate and equalize the balance, but the Lord alone. For the Divine proceeding from the Lord is omnipresent, and everywhere observes which way there is any preponderance; whereas an angel only sees what is near himself, and has not even a perception within him of what is doing in his own society.

How all things are ordered in the heavens and in the hells, that all and each of those who are there may be in their equilibrium, may in some measure appear from what has been said and shown respecting the heavens and the hells; namely, that all the societies of heaven are distinct in the most perfect order, according to goods and their genera and species; and all the societies of hell, according to evils and the genera and species of them; and that beneath every society of heaven there is • a society of hell corresponding by opposition, from which opposite correspondence equilibrium results. It is therefore continually provided of the Lord that no infernal society beneath a heavenly society shall prevail; and as soon as it begins to prevail it is restrained by various means, and reduced to a just ratio for equilibrium. (ibid. n. 593, 594)

Freedom of the Infernals

I have listened to evil spirits who inwardly were devils, and who in the world rejected the truths of heaven and the church; when the affection for knowing, in which every man is from childhood, was excited in them, by the glory that like the brightness of a fire surrounds every love, they could perceive arcana of angelic wisdom equally as well as good spirits, who inwardly were angels. Nay, the diabolical spirits declared that they could indeed will and act according to them, but that they will not. When told that they might will them if only they would shun evils as sins, they said they could do that also, but that they will not. Whence it was evident that the wicked equally with the good have the faculty which is called liberty. Let any one consult himself, and he will observe that it is so. (DLW n. 266)

Evil Spirits are restrained from plunging into greater Depths of Evil than they had reached in the World

After death a man who is in evil is no longer capable of being reformed; and, lest he should have communication with some society of heaven, all truth and good is taken away from him, [See Vastation, p. 601] and he therefore remains in evil and falsity; which evil and falsity increase there according to the faculty of receiving them which he has acquired to himself in the world. But yet he is not permitted to go beyond the limits acquired. (AC n. 6977)

It was perceived that the moment a spirit rushes or endeavours to rush beyond those things which he has by actuality acquired to himself in life, that is to say, into greater evils, he instantly incurs punishment, that he may not acquire more evil to himself by actuality in the other life. (S. D. n. 4055)

If evil spirits do any evil in the world of spirits beyond what they have been imbued with by their life in the world, punishers are instantly at hand, and chastise them just according to the degree that they overstep [this limit]; for it is a law in the other life, that no one must become worse than he had been in the world. Those that are punished are entirely ignorant whence these chastisers know that the evil is beyond what they have been imbued with. But they are informed that such is the order in the other life that evil itself has the punishment within it, so that the evil of a deed is entirely conjoined with the evil of the punishment; that is, that its punishment is in the evil itself; and therefore that it is according to order that recompensers be instantly at hand. Thus it is when evil spirits do evil in the world of spirits. But in his own hell one chastises another, according to the evil with which they were actually imbued in the world; for this evil they carry with them into the other life. (AC n. 6559)

The Deadly Sphere of Hell

It has been given me sometimes to perceive the sphere of falsity from evil flowing from hell. It was like a perpetual effort to destroy all good and truth, combined with anger, and as it were fury, because it could not. The effort was especially to destroy and annihilate the Divinity of the Lord; and this, because all good and truth are from Him. But a sphere from heaven was perceived, of truth from good, by which the fury of the effort ascending from hell was restrained. Hence there was an equilibrium. This sphere from heaven was perceived to be from the Lord alone, although it appeared to be from the angels in heaven. That it was perceived to be from the Lord alone, and not from the angels, was because every angel in heaven acknowledges that nothing of good and truth is from himself, but that all is from the Lord.

In the spiritual world all power is of truth from good, and there is no power at all in falsity from evil; because the Divine itself in heaven is Divine good and Divine truth, and all power is from the Divine…. Hence it is that in heaven is all power, and in hell none. (HH n. 538, 539)

Appearance, Situation and Plurality of the Hells

Appearance, Situation and Plurality of the Hells

The hells do not appear, because they are closed, but only the entrances, which are called gates,—when they are opened to let in other similar spirits. All the gates to the hells open from the world of spirits, and none from heaven.

The hells are everywhere, both under mountains, hills, and rocks, and under plains and valleys. The apertures or gates to the hells that are under the mountains, hills, and rocks, appear to the sight as holes and clefts of rocks; some stretching wide and large, some strait and narrow, some rugged. They all when looked into appear dark and gloomy, but the infernal spirits that are within them are in a light of similar quality to that from a fire of coals. Their eyes are accommodated to the reception of that light; and this by reason of the fact that while they lived in the world they were in thick darkness as to Divine truths, in consequence of denying them, and in light as it were in respect to falsities, through affirming them,—whereby the sight of their eyes was thus formed. Hence also it is that the light of heaven is thick darkness to them; and therefore when they come out of their dens they see nothing.

The apertures or gates to the hells that are beneath the plains and valleys appear in different forms to the sight; some, like those that are beneath the mountains, hills, and rocks; some as dens and caverns; some as great chasms and gulfs; some as bogs; and some as stagnant lakes of water. All are entirely covered, nor are they opened except when evil spirits from the world of spirits are cast into them; and when they are opened there is an exhalation from them, either like that of fire and smoke, such as appears in the air from a conflagration, or like a flame without smoke, or like soot such as comes from a chimney on fire, or like a mist and dense cloud. I have heard that the infernal spirits do not see these things, and are not sensible of them, because when they are in them they are as it were in their own atmosphere, and thus in the delight of their life; and this for the reason that these things correspond to the evils and falsities in which they are; namely, fire to hatred and revenge; smoke and soot to the falsities therefrom; flame to the evils of the love of self; and mist and dense cloud to the falsities from them.

It has also been granted me to look into the hells, and see what is the character of them within. For when it is the Lord’s good pleasure a spirit or angel who is above may penetrate by sight into the depths beneath, and explore their character, notwithstanding the coverings. Thus too has it been permitted me to look into them. Some hells appeared to the sight as holes and caves in rocks extending inwards, .and thence also obliquely or perpendicularly into an abyss. Some hells appeared to the sight like dens and caverns, such as are inhabited by the wild beast in a forest; some like vaulted caverns and subterraneous passages, such as there are in mines, with caves in the direction of lower parts. Most of the hells are threefold. The higher appear within in thick darkness, because inhabited by those who are in falsities of evil; and the lower appear fiery, because inhabited by those who are in evils themselves. For thick darkness corresponds to the falsities of evil, and fire to the evils themselves; for they who have acted from evil interiorly are in deeper hells; and they who have done the same exteriorly, that is from falsities of evil, are in those that are less deep. In some hells there is an appearance as of the ruins of houses and cities .after a fire, in which ruins the infernal spirits dwell, and conceal themselves. In the milder hells there is an appearance as of rude cottages, in some cases contiguous in the form of a city, with lanes and streets. Within the houses are infernal spirits, where there are continual quarrels, enmities, fightings, and violence; in the streets and lanes are robberies and plunderings. In some of the hells there are nothing but brothels, which are disgusting to the sight, full of every kind of filth and excrement. There are also dark forests, in which infernal spirits roam like wild beasts, and where likewise there are subterraneous caves into which they flee who are pursued by others. There are deserts too, where all is barren and sandy, and where in some places there are rugged rocks in which there are caverns, and in some places huts. Such as have suffered the extremity [of punishment] are cast out of the hells into these desert places; especially those who in the world had been more cunning than others in plotting and devising deceptions and intrigues. Their last condition is such a life. (HH n. 583-586)

The hells are innumerable, near to and remote from one another according to the differences of evils, general, specific and particular. There are likewise hells beneath hells. There are communications of some [with others] by passages, and there are communications of more [with others] by exhalations, and this exactly according to the affinities of one genius and one species of evil with others. How great is the number of the hells it has been given me to know from the fact that there are hells under every mountain, hill, and rock, and also under every plain and valley [in the spiritual world], and that they extend themselves in length, breadth, and depth beneath them. In a word, the whole heaven, and the whole world of spirits, are as it were excavated beneath, and under-them there is a continuous hell. (ibid. n. 588)

The Use and Effect of Punishments in Hell

The Use and Effect of Punishments in Hell

The Lord never casts any one into hell, but would lead all out of hell; still less does He occasion torment. But as an evil spirit himself rushes into it, the Lord turns all his punishment and torment to good, and to some use. There can never be any punishment but with the Lord there is an end to use in it, for the Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of ends and uses. But the uses which infernal spirits are able to perform are of the basest kind. When they are in these uses they are not so much in torment. But as soon as the use ceases they are remitted into hell. (AC n. 696)

The reason why torments are permitted in the hells by the Lord is, that evils cannot be restrained and subdued otherwise. The fear of punishment is the only means of checking and subduing them, and thus of keeping the infernal crew in restraint. There is no other means. For without the fear of punishment and torment evil would burst forth into madness, and the whole would be scattered, as a kingdom on earth where there is no law and no punishment. (HH n. 581)

While man lives in the world he is continually kept in such a state that he can be reformed, if only of free choice he desists from evils But the state of the wicked in the other life is such that as to his interiors he can no longer be amended, [See p. 582] but only as to his exteriors, that is to say, by fear of punishment which when he has frequently suffered he at length abstains,—not of free choice, but by compulsion, his lust to do evil remaining; which lust is held in check, as was said, by fears, which compel, and are the means of an external amendment. (AC n. 6977)

The Torments and Punishments of Hell

The Torments and Punishments of Hell

Infernal torments are not, as some suppose, the stings of conscience; for they who are in hell have no conscience, and therefore cannot be so tormented. For such as had conscience are. .among the blessed. (AC n. 965)

As love to the Lord and towards the neighbour, together with the joy and happiness therefrom, constitute heaven; so hatred against the Lord and the neighbour, together with the punishment and torment therefrom, constitute hell. (ibid. n. 693)

The torment does not arise from grief on account of the evil they have done, but from the fact that they cannot do evil; for this is the delight of their life. For when they do evil to others in hell they are punished and tormented by those to whom they do it. They do evil to each other especially from the lust of dominion, and of subjugating others for the sake of it; which is done, if they do not suffer themselves to be subjugated to another,—by a thousand modes of punishment and torment. But the dominion which they continually aim at there, is in a perpetual state of vicissitude; and thus they who had punished -and tormented others are in their turn punished and tormented by others; and this until at length such ardour abates, from fear of punishment. (ibid. n. 8232)

The hells have such form and order induced upon them by the Lord that all are held in restraint, and bound by the lusts and fantasies in which their veriest life consists; and as this life is [spiritual] death, it becomes changed into torments, which are so dreadful that they cannot be described. For the veriest delight of their life consists in their ability to punish, torture, and torment each other; which they do by means of artifices altogether unknown in the world, whereby they excite exquisitely painful sensations, just as if they were in the body, and dire and horrible fantasies, as well as extreme alarm and terror; and by many such means. The diabolical crew perceive so great pleasure in this that were it possible for them infinitely to increase and extend these pangs and torments, yet they would not be satisfied, but would burn with the desire to eternity. The Lord, however, frustrates their efforts, and mitigates the torment they inflict.

Such is the equilibrium of all and every thing in the other life that wickedness punishes itself, so that in evil is the punishment of evil, and falsity returns upon him who is in falsity. Every one therefore brings the punishment and torment upon himself, and then rushes among the diabolical crew which inflict such punishment. (ibid. n. 695, 696)

The wicked are not punished in the other life until their evils have reached their utmost; and this in general, and in particular. For such is the equilibrium in the other life that evil punishes itself, or that the wicked run into the punishment of their evil but only when their evil has attained its utmost. Every evil has its limit, though it is different with each individual. This limit they are not permitted to pass; and when a wicked spirit does pass it he plunges himself into punishment. (ibid. n. 1857)

The Profound Wickedness and Nefarious Arts of Infernal Spirits

The Profound Wickedness and Nefarious Arts of Infernal Spirits

In the same degree that there is wisdom and intelligence among the angels, there is also wickedness and cunning among infernal spirits…. In the life of the body the evil in the spirit of a man was under the restraints which are imposed upon every man by the law, by his love of gain, of honour, and the fear of losing them; and therefore the evil of the spirit could not then break forth and manifest itself, as it was in itself. Besides, the evil in the spirit of a man then also lay wrapped up and veiled in the outward probity, sincerity, justice, and affection for truth and good, which such a man manifested and feigned for the sake of the world. The evil lay so concealed and in such obscurity under these semblances, that he scarcely knew himself that his spirit contained so much wickedness and craft, and that therefore in himself he was such a devil as he becomes after death, when his spirit comes into itself and into his own nature. Such wickedness then manifests itself as exceeds all belief. There are thousands of evils which then burst forth from evil itself; among which are even such as no words of any language can express. It has been given me to know and also to apperceive their nature by much experience for it has been granted me by the Lord to be in the spiritual world as to the spirit, and at the same time in the natural world as to the body. This I can testify, that their wickedness is so great that it is scarcely possible to describe even a thousandth part of it; and also that if the Lord did not protect man he could never be rescued from hell.

The worst of all are those who have been in evils from self-love, and who at the same time, in their interior selves, have acted from deceit; for deceit enters more deeply than any other evil into the thoughts and intentions, and infects them with poison, and so destroys all the spiritual life of a man. Most of these are in the hells behind, and are called genii; and their delight there is to make themselves invisible and flit about others like phantoms, secretly infusing evils into them, which they spread around like the charms of the viper. These are more direfully tormented than others. And those who were not deceitful, and not so eaten up with malignant cunning, and yet were in evils from self-love, are also in the hells behind, but not in so deep hells. But those who have been in evils from the love of the world are in the hells in front, and are called spirits. They are not in such evils, that is not in such hatreds and vindictiveness, as those who are in evils from the love of self; consequently they have not such profound wickedness and cunning. Their hells are therefore more mild. (HH n. 577, 578)

The nature of the wickedness of infernal spirits is evident from their nefarious arts, which are so many that to enumerate them would fill a volume, and to describe them, many volumes. These arts are almost all unknown in the world. One kind relates to the abuse of correspondences; another, to abuses of the ultimates of Divine order; a third, to the communication and influx of thoughts and affections, by conversions, by searching looks, and by other spirits distant from themselves, and by emissaries from themselves; a fourth relate to operations by means of fantasies; a fifth, to a certain casting themselves out beyond themselves, and consequent presence elsewhere than where they are in the body: a sixth, to pretences, persuasions, and lies. Into these arts the spirit of a wicked man comes of itself, when released from the body; for they are inherent in the nature of its evil, in which it then is. By these arts they torment each other in the hells. But as all of these arts, except those that are effected by pretences, persuasions, and lies, are unknown in the world, I will not here describe them specifically, both because they would not be comprehended, and because they are abominable. (ibid. n. 580)