Patience – how to feel less frustrated?

patienceYou wait for the mouse but it doesn’t appear. You make a phone call but there is no answer. You’ve hurt your foot and can’t get on with some activity. It seems that having to suffer some delay, difficulty or discomfort is a common event in everyday life. Who doesn’t feel irritated by the frustrations of life? When in the grip of such emotion it is easy to lash out, to put others on the defensive and make the situation worse. How can you avoid feeling frustrated? Here are some tips for transforming aggravation into patience.

Remembering the benefits of patience

Gardening teaches the benefits of patience. You plant something and it can take a year to flower or longer for a tiny seed to grow into a tree.

If you are prepared to calmly wait instead of trying to grab what you want, you will be investing quality time in something without giving up or giving in. Having patience avoids  the stress of getting all steamed up over things you cannot change. When you can stay calm, centred and not acting rashly out of frustration, all areas of your emotional life are likely to improve.

Patience from reflection

Reflecting on the possible causes of delays and frustrations can help you to understand why things are likely to take longer than you had expected. In this way you can avoid jumping to unwarranted conclusions and challenge your fanciful imagination. This means you are making a conscious choice to become clearly aware of your hasty guess e.g. that someone intended to cause you grief. Then you can assess the likelihood of it really being true. Such reflection can help induce a state of patience.

Patience from looking

When you are obliged to wait for what you want, why not look for something in the present moment experience that might arouse your interest. Like empathising with an overwrought shop assistant. Seeing things from someone else’s perspective can only reduce one’s own sense of grievance. Perhaps you can find something pleasing that you hadn’t noticed at first. Looking for the good in a situation instead of being preoccupied with the bad. This is an example of an attitude of mindfulness i.e. living in the moment and being awake to experience.

Patience from not justifying impatience

It can feel unfair if you are told to have patience and to accept a delay. After all it wasn’t your fault that you have been blocked. It seems unreasonable that you shouldn’t push to get what you need. This impatient attitude is seeing patience as equivalent to passive resignation. Seeing patience as apathetically giving into difficulty that instead should be seen as a challenge. You want to override whatever is stopping you moving forward. So you might agree with Ambrose Bierce who once said that ‘patience is a minor form of despair, disguised as a virtue’. Or with Kin Hubbard who said that ‘lack of pep is often mistaken for patience’.

But aren’t many hindrances just beyond our ability to control? You cannot alter some things in life – such as bad weather or a general economic recession. Okay, it may be true that there is something one can alter to make some progress. But jumping the queue or trying to rush things may be bad for someone else and possibly counterproductive for you. Is this really what you want? One of my favourite sayings is ‘You can only do what you can do.’ I would suggest patience doesn’t make anyone a doormat. In order to follow one’s principles, one cannot immediately expect to get one’s own way all the time.

All this amounts to examining your ways of thinking. This often will show how it is the mind that is the cause of discomfort, not the outer circumstances. What is crucial is the choice one makes when faced with any particular situation. You either wait on the phone listening to music or you phone back at a less busy time. In other words a feeling of impatience is a habitual response to an external trigger – a response that could be different.

Patience from honesty

Try answering these questions. ‘What are you impatient for?’ and ‘Why the hurry?’ Is it to do with pursuing something really worthwhile or is it something that can wait. Are you really desperate for that bit of information to satisfy what may turn out to be idle curiosity, or that food snack to remove pangs of hunger, or that way out of a social obligation so that you can get on with what we want to do.

“You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.” (Franklin P. Jones)

Aren’t we all prone to wanting immediate gratification? Learn to recognise the impulse ‘I want it now, and later simply will not do.’ And then consider an alternative way of thinking.

Patience from a considering religious perspectives

Sacred writing encourages patience in the context of inner conflict and temptation. For example in the Bible, the book of Revelation offers hope to those with patience suffering persecution for the sake of what they believe to be good and true. How tempting it must be to give up one’s principles because of the ridicule and contempt of others for what one holds dear.

One such principle is that of trust in a divine power who provides for one’s eternal needs even if temporal ones are frustrated.

According to this view, patience comes from a deep attitude of contentment with life as it is. I would suggest that this inner patience comes easily to people when they allow themselves to be led by the lessons of life rather than indignantly dwelling on the unsatisfied desires of ego. When you don’t get what you want, are you willing to patiently acquiesce to the providential flow of life?

“We could never learn to be brave and patient, if there were only joy in the world.” (Helen Keller)

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands (http://spiritualquestions.org.uk/2012/10/heart-head-hands-ebook/)

Patience – how to find it?

Had some of the less successful dualists of Europe three centuries ago been less impetuous, they might have a lived a longer life. The role of men acting as their seconds was to urge them to have some patience in resolving their dispute and to wait a while longer before starting the violence. Often such was the passion for defending ‘honour’, the good advice was to no avail.

patienceWe no longer fight duels. But how many of us could find more patience when stuck in a traffic jam, confronted by a rude customer we should be serving, or being faced with delay due to a queue going through airport security? We do tend to want immediate pleasure and get tense waiting for appetite to be satisfied, for boredom to be reduced, or for any frustrated desire to be met.

Psychologists have known for a long time about the power of ‘immediacy of reward’. When given a choice, all animals, humans included, are inclined to favour short term rewards over long term rewards even when the latter involve greater benefits. We often want something now and having it later is no good.

The effects of not having patience can be increased heart rate and bodily tension and of course the accumulative result is mental stress. If you get upset when things don’t work out for you straight away then getting angry can make the situation worse. How then can you learn to calmly endure hardship? How to find a way to wait longer for what you want without blowing a fuse?

Realistic expectations and patience

Studies have found that these days online users are no longer patient after as little as two seconds while waiting for a video to start playing. Users who are connected to the internet  at faster speeds have less patience than their counterparts connected at slower speeds. This suggests a link between patience and the expectation of when we are likely to get what we want.

We assume things and people ought to behave the way we think they should behave. That person at the head of the queue should not be engaging in small talk with the cashier. But people often don’t live up to our expectations.

If we are unrealistically optimistic in when we expect something then we are more likely to feel frustrated and so less likely to remain calm. Conversely, if we were to have lower expectations then perhaps we would be more patient whilst waiting. It helps to expect occasional delay, difficulty, or annoyance in life.

Distraction and a patience

It also helps to be get things into perspective. For example when eating alone at a restaurant and waiting for longer than usual for food to arrive, your mind may be focused on the appearance of the waiter. If so you are probably not feeling patience. You could try to distract yourself with something else to think about that actively engages your mind. For example noticing anything that is interesting, pleasing or good in the situation around you. Or reflecting on something positive and hopeful in your life. Make it something vitally interesting in order to lend it the power to tear yourself away from your preoccupation with what is frustrating you.

Time passes much more quickly when we are creatively absorbed in something and much more slowly when we are not. Thinking about a matter more important than what we are wanting at that moment helps you also to recognise that what you had been waiting for isn’t crucial to your happiness. Is it really the end of the world if you cannot make the beginning of the meeting because of the heavy traffic or the absence of a parking space near your destination? These considerations may help to calm the sense of urgency you felt about obtaining something straight away.

Spirituality and patience

Sleepwalking through life means behaving like a robot in the sense of acting in line with habits, and automatic thoughts. This often results in a lack of patience when things don’t go right. On the other hand a mindfulness practice is to make a conscious choice and effort to pay attention to everything that is going on in consciousness. Is your mind calm or agitated? Is your body relaxed or tensed? This awareness includes recognising any lack of fortitude.

All the faith traditions hold patience as a virtue. In Buddhism, being patient is the ability to control one’s emotions even when being criticized or attacked.

In Judaism patience reflects a contented attitude to life and good sense rather than folly.

In Islam it is believed that patience is part of the natural flow of life – needed for waiting for the harvest. To patiently endure calamity and suffering is to be closer to Allah.

Swedenborg and patience

Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg has something to say about patience. His view is that with all the frustrations, set backs and hardships of life no-one can find a deep sense of patience in their own strength alone.

However, he writes that we can endure the temporary trials of life with a more patient attitude when we have a deep trust in a higher providence: this is can be thought of as a reliance on a universal spiritual force that has the power and foresight to provide what we need; the priority of this divine providence is said to be to satisfy not so much our immediate needs which often are temporary ones but rather those spiritual needs that we will continue to have in the long term – needs for example for belonging, loving relationship, and meaningful role.

Thus what counts for Swedenborg is our hope and trust in this image of the Divine Source: an image that is lovingly active in providing for us all – if we co-operate in the process. I only hope I can remember to try to open myself to this sphere of contentment when  tempted next by impatience.

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

The Seventh Day

Practices of Peace week 7

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – March 16, 2014

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen 2:1-3)

For the past 6 weeks we have been looking at the days of creation as found in the book of Genesis. Through this careful study it has become quite clear that these passages do not and are not intended to speak about the creation of the natural world. They are the states of the development of the human mind. The wonderful thing is that because the story itself is written in the form of a parable, there are all kinds of valid ways to interpret and use this information. It’s a wonderful way to describe the steps of awakening intelligence in a new-born. It can also be used to describe the states that the Lord Himself went through when He was born into the world. Or, as we have been focussing on here, the seven days can speak of the seven successive states that each one of us goes through when we tackle some evil that we find within ourselves and try to remove it with the Lord’s help.

Today we are talking about the seventh day, a day of rest and reflection. It’s like hiking to the top of a mountain. There are a number of different kinds of challenges to face along the way. You have to look at the weather and make the decision to go or not go. You have to make sure you are wearing the right clothes and have the proper supplies. There will be steep portions, streams to cross, and long, grinding ascents. But once at the top, the first thing that most people do is turn around and look back to see just how far they’ve come. And that is what the seventh day is about. You have decided to tackle a spiritual task. There have been a variety of challenges along the way, but now you are coming to the end and beginning to feel the delights that the Lord provides. It’s time to look back, remember the obstacles overcome, and rejoice in the accomplishment.

With that in mind, let’s review the steps.

  1. Awakening – light shines for the first time
    1. (Gen 1:1-5) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. {2} The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. {3} Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. {4} And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. {5} God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
    2. AC 7. The first state is the state which precedes, both the state existing from earliest childhood onwards and that existing immediately before regeneration; and it is called a void, emptiness, and thick darkness. And the first movement, which is the Lord’s mercy, is ‘the Spirit of God hovering over the face1 of the waters’.
    3. In this first stage, before the light hits, we grope in darkness. We might be thinking only about ourselves, our possessions, our need to be respected. Since we are unaware of the real, spiritual world within everything, our life is “empty, dark and void.” The change begins when we start to acknowledge a higher power, something more than the shallow life we’ve been living. This is like a light dawning.
  2. Distinguishing – Waters above from waters below.
    1. (Gen 1:6-8) Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” {7} Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. {8} And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
    2. AC 8. The second state is when a distinction is made between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are man’s own. Those which are the Lord’s are called in the Word ‘remnants’, and here they are chiefly the cognitions of faith which a person has learned since he was a small child. These are stored away and do not come out into the open until he reaches this state. Nowadays this state rarely occurs without temptation, misfortune, and sorrow, which lead to the inactivity and so to speak the death of bodily and worldly concerns – the things which are man’s own. In this way what belongs to the external man is segregated from what belongs to the internal. Within the internal are the remnants, stored away by the Lord until this time and for this purpose.
    3. Once we have become aware that that there is a higher authority, we begin to try to distinguish between what’s really important and what isn’t. But because we don’t worry about these things when everything is going well, these two first phases come about in times of trouble. Hardship or heartache washes away shallow concerns. We see a separation between the things that do and don’t matter. Most importantly we begin to see that the truths that the Lord provides in the Word are on a high level while the knowledges provided by the sense and other people are far below.
  3. Cultivating – Tender plants grow
    1. (Gen 1:9-13) Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. {10} And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. {11} Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. {12} And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {13} So the evening and the morning were the third day.
    2. AC 9. The third state is one of repentance, a state in which he speaks piously and devoutly from the internal man and brings forth goods, like charitable acts which are nevertheless inanimate since he imagines that they originate in himself. They are called a tender plant, then a seed-bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.
    3. When we have distinguished what’s important from what isn’t, the “soil” of our mind is ready to hear the truth, and a tender, more compassionate side of us can begin to take root. We have come to a point where we know that the Lord wants us to be kind and helpful to others, but it’s difficult at first. It’s hard to get started, and there’s a lot of merit mixed in. But, with practice and effort, the grass becomes the tree bringing forth good fruit. Still, it’s an effort of truth, not yet of love. We do it because we know we ought to, not yet because we love doing it. So more steps are still needed.
  4. Navigating – Sun, moon and stars placed in the sky for light
    1. (Gen 1:14-19) Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; {15} “and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. {16} Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. {17} God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, {18} and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. {19} So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
    2. AC 10. The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.
    3. The more we practice changing our removing evils and doing the opposite goods, the easier it becomes. Our principles become clearer – they are like the sun and moon, the “lights” that lead us. The “sun” of love stirs us to care, while the “moon” is a picture of our faith, constantly varying as we experiment and make attempts, just as the light of the moon varies during the month. But the sun, the Lord’s love, is always there, constant. And, as we move forward and begin doing things not for our own sake, or because we think we ought to, but because it’s what the Lord wants us to do, everything we do begins to be filled with spiritual light and heat.
  5. Speaking – fish swim and birds fly
    1. (Gen 1:20-23) Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” {21} So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {22} And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” {23} So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
    2. AC 11. The fifth state is when he speaks from faith and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good. What he brings forth at this point are animate and are called the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.2
    3. In this stage, the things we do or say have new energy and life because we no longer take credit for them. We become stronger advocates for what we know is true, and we feel more love for others because we are putting ourselves in the stream of Providence. We begin to have a sense or perception that God is working through us, and we can share in His love.
  6. Loving – Humans are created in the image of God
    1. (Gen 1:24-31) Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. {25} And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {26} Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” {27} So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. {28} Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” {29} And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. {30} “Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. {31} Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
    2. AC 12. The sixth state is when he utters truths and performs good deeds from faith and consequently from love. What he brings forth at this point are called a living creature and a beast. And because at this point he starts to act from faith and also simultaneously from love, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image. The spiritual life of that man finds its delight in, and is sustained by, the things which are associated with cognitions of faith and with charitable acts, which are called his food; and his natural life finds its delight in, and is sustained by, those which belong to the body and the senses. The latter give rise to conflict until love rules and he becomes a celestial man.

      AC 13. Not all people who are being regenerated reach this state. Some, indeed the majority nowadays, reach only the first. Some reach merely the second, others the third, fourth, or fifth. Seldom do any reach the sixth, and hardly anybody at all reaches the seventh (which is the celestial man).

      AC 62. The stages and states of the regeneration of man – both of mankind and of the individual person – divide into six and are called the days of his creation. Gradually from being no man at all, he first becomes something, though only little, then something more, until the sixth day is reached, when he becomes ‘an image’.

    3. Finally, we not only say what we mean, we also act on our beliefs, from a loving frame of mind. In this stage, we fully embrace our spiritual heritage as men and women created in the image of God. Literally a “new chapter” begins here. The six days of creation take up the first chapter of Genesis. The seventh day begins the second chapter. The sixth day is a picture of someone reaching a pretty advanced spiritual state – not all of us will reach this during our lives in the world, but it is held out to us as a possibility. At the end of this state, the Spiritual Man is complete.
  7. Resting – No more work, “There is peace “
    1. (Gen 2:1-3) Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
    2. AC 73. Verse 1 deals next with the man who from being dead has already progressed to being spiritual, and from being spiritual now progresses to being celestial.

      AC 74. The celestial man is the seventh day on which the Lord rests, verses 2, 3.

    3. There are two creations stories in Genesis, one following another. That there are two indicates that they are not meant to be taken as scientific. The first is the creation of the spiritual man in six days followed by a day of rest. Once that is complete, the next stage, if possible, is to create the celestial man. This is described in the story of the garden of Eden in Genesis 2.

The word “Sabbath” is from the Hebrew for “rest,” and it represents both the rest that comes to people when they finally conquer in temptations and the state of rest for the Lord that comes when He is finished fighting the hells for the people who have been in temptation. This is why, when the six days of creation represent our combats with evils, it is said that on the seventh day, the Lord rested. It is because it is the Lord who actually fights for us in the combats of temptation, although it seems to us that we are fighting for ourselves.

The Sabbath comes at the end of the battle, and it is a state of rest for those weary from the battle. It is also the state of peace and rest that comes to those who are victorious in their battles, have driven the enemy away, and have restored order into their lives. The Sabbath represents the state of peace and happiness that the Lord gives to people after good and truth have been conjoined in their minds by means of the combats of temptation. In regard to the Sabbath, the Word teaches that there are only two states for mankind: the first is a state of truth alone, where there is combat while the will and the understanding are not as one — the person knows one thing but wills to do another. The second state is a state of peace that follows the combat when the will and the understanding are in accord, the one part willing what the other part now knows with a certainty to be true.3

We’ve reached the top. It’s time to look around and enjoy the view of where we’ve been. We can sit down, break out lunch, and just enjoy that we have reached a difficult goal. All the while knowing that later we’ll have to go down to our home and that there will be other mountains to climb. But not for a while. Amen

First Lesson: (Luke 6:1-11)

Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. {2} And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” {3} But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: {4} “how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” {5} And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” {6} Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. {7} So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. {8} But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. {9} Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” {10} And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. {11} But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Second Lesson: AC 81

The subject in [Genesis] chapter [2] is the celestial man; in the previous chapter it was the spiritual man who progressed to being spiritual from having been a dead man. But since people nowadays do not know what the celestial man is, and scarcely know what the spiritual man is or what the dead man is, let the nature of each one be presented briefly, in order that it may be known how they differ.

First. The dead man acknowledges no other truth or good than that belonging to the body and the world. This he also worships. The spiritual man acknowledges spiritual and celestial truth and good. But he does so not so much from love as from faith, which is also the basis of his actions. The celestial man believes and perceives spiritual and celestial truth and good, and does not acknowledge any other faith than that which stems from love, which is also the basis of his actions.

Second. The dead man has solely the life of the body and of the world as his ends in view. He does not know what eternal life is, or what the Lord is. Or if he does know, he does not believe. The spiritual man has eternal life, and therefore the Lord, as his ends in view. The celestial man has the Lord and therefore His kingdom and eternal life as his ends in view.

Third. The dead man when involved in conflict nearly always gives in. And when there is no conflict evils and falsities reign supreme within him, making him their slave. His bonds are external ones, such as fear of the law, loss of life, wealth, profits, and reputation on account of these. The spiritual man is involved in conflict, but he always conquers. The bonds which restrain him are internal, and are called the bonds of conscience. The celestial man is not involved in conflict. If evils and falsities assail him, he treats them with contempt, and is therefore called a conqueror. No visible bonds restrict him, for he is a free man. His bonds, which are not visible, are perceptions of good and truth.

 

1lit. The faces

2lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

3See AC 9431

The Fifth Day

 


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, March 2, 2014

AC (Elliott) n. 39. Verse 20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth creeping things, living creatures; and let birds fly above the earth, upon the face1 of the expanse of the heavens.

  1. Last week we talked about how the turmoil and conflict come to an end when the person begins to acquire internal truths and to live from their internal man. Because the person begins to think and act from wisdom, and seeks to do things that are genuinely useful, the deeds are called in the Word the tender plant, the seed bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.
    1. But even though these deeds are genuinely good deeds, the person in the third state hasn’t yet come to see that the Lord is the source of all love and faith, and while the person thinks that these good deeds originate in themselves, that they are the cause of them, they remain “inanimate” rather than truly living. But the person is heading in the right direction.
    2. There’s been “light” since the first day. Every person, from childhood through early adulthood, is gifted with the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, and with feelings of contentment and happiness when they do the right thing. But as we navigate the shoals of adult life we are faced with temptations and challenges. If, during the course of these, we turn to the Lord through prayer and study of the Word, all the while trying to do the right thing, the fourth state will come. The light will dawn. We’ll have that “aha” moment when it starts to come together for us. We’ll feel that love from the Lord in ourselves, and we’ll see situations anew, from the light in our internal mind that comes from heaven.
      1. It doesn’t come without work, but it is the goal that the Lord has been leading us to all along.
      2. And with it comes the promise of even greater enlightenment and even greater usefulness in the states to follow.
  2. For the first four days, we’ve been talking about states and experiences that most people have. The first four states are more common, and because they tend to relate to things of the natural world, they can be illustrated in ways that most people would recognize.
    1. Most adults have figured out that we need to be kind to others, and we’ve figured out that there are things we can do that are genuinely useful that benefit other, and at the same time benefit ourselves. We have learned how to work together with our spouse.
    2. It doesn’t mean that we do these things all the time, but successful adults have figured out most of these things. It’s part of normal growth and fitting in with the other adults in the world around us.
    3. But, as the Word points out, the goods that are done at this point are as much from enlightened self-interest as they are from spiritual causes. That’s why the Arcana says that they are “inanimate” because they do not flow from the Lord.
    4. In order to make this next step in our regeneration, in order to move from the fourth to the fifth day, each person has to make a difficult jump to a new way of thinking.
      1. There needs to be a humble recognition that good comes from the Lord, not from ourselves. We need to acknowledge that the good that we do is from the Lord through us.
    5. AC 39. After the great lights have been kindled and lodged in the internal man, from which the external man receives its light, a person starts to live for the first time. Till then he can hardly be said to have lived, for he had imagined that the good he had done he had done from himself, and the truth he had uttered he had spoken from himself. And since man functioning from himself is dead – there being nothing in him that is not evil and false – therefore whatever he brings forth from himself is not living. So true is this that of himself he is incapable of doing any good deed that is in itself good….

      [2] Nevertheless when the Lord is revitalizing a person, or regenerating him, He does allow him, to begin with, to imagine that good and truth originate in himself, for at that point a person cannot grasp anything else, or be led to believe and finally perceive, that all good and truth come from the Lord alone…. But once he has been brought to life by love and faith and believes that the Lord is at work in every good deed he does and in every truth he utters, he is compared first to creeping things from the water and to birds which fly above the earth, and then to beasts, all of which are animate and are called ‘living creatures’.

      1. The problem for us is that when we read the story of creation, we can see that there is a distinct, obvious difference between the various plants that were created on the 4th day, and the birds and fishes that are created on the 5th. Both are useful and alive, but animals are distinctly more alive than plants.
      2. But when we look at our own lives, or perhaps at the lives of the people who are close to us, we can easily see the good deed that are performed, the acts of love. What we cannot see is whether they are motivated by enlightened self-interest (natural motives) or the more regenerate state of obedience to the Lord’s will (spiritual motives). If we cannot perceive the difference in ourselves, we certainly cannot know the difference in others!
      3. So, what are we to do? We know how the Lord wants us to act, we know that the Lord wants us to be motivated by getting ourselves into the stream of His Providence, of becoming instruments of His peace. We need to be conscious of that goal as we ponder the various decisions we have to make in life. Don’t examine things to the point of being unable to act at all from uncertainty about motives, but consciously choose to think about what we say in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done.” What is the Lord’s will in the particular circumstance in which we find ourselves?
    6. Why is it so important to make this jump?
      1. AC (Elliott) n. 41. Anything that is man’s own has no life in it; and when depicted visually it looks like something hard as a bone and black. But anything that comes from the Lord does contain life. It has that which is spiritual and celestial within it, and when depicted visually it looks human and alive. It is perhaps incredible, but nevertheless absolutely true, that every expression, every idea, and every least thought of an angelic spirit is alive. In even the most detailed areas of his thought there is an affection that comes from the Lord, who is life itself. Consequently all that derives from the Lord has life within it, for it contains faith in Him, and is here meant by ‘a living creature’. It then has the outward appearance of a body, meant here by that which is moving, or creeping. To [people in the world] these matters remain arcana, but since the subject here is the living and moving creature, they ought at least to be mentioned here.
  3. Let’s take a moment and look at these living things that the Lord promises will be His gifts when we enter the state represented by the 5th day of creation.
  4. AC (Elliott) n. 42. Verse 21 And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that creeps, which the waters produced abundantly according to their kinds; and all winged birds according to their kinds; and God saw that it was good. As has been stated, ‘fish’ means facts, here facts quickened and brought to life through faith from the Lord.
    1. When you think of this it helps to avoid thinking of a single fish that you’ve pulled out of the lake, or maybe one that’s being served to you for dinner. Instead, think about one of those nature specials you see on TV (or the movies) where a diver takes a good camera into clear water with good lighting and captures a whole school of fish swimming together, darting this way and that, thousands of beautiful fish turning and moving as one.
      1. This is a better picture of how a whole lot of related facts create a much larger whole, a level of understanding that has life in it. It’s made up of individual facts, but when taken together the whole is greater than the parts. Or, as the Writings say, they are “quickened” and “come to life” through faith in the Lord.
      2. Faith in the Lord? It’s that humility of spirit spoken of above where the person in the 5th state humbly submits to the Lord’s will, and adjusts his thoughts and actions accordingly. Thus, they come to life.
    2. AC 42 (continued) ‘Sea monsters’ means those facts’ general sources, below which and from which details derive. Nothing whatever exists in the universe that does not depend on some general source for its commencement and continuance. In the Prophets sea monsters or whales are mentioned several times, and in those places they mean those general sources of facts….
      1. The traditional translation here would be “great sea creatures” but the underlying Hebrew word could mean a “crocodile” or a “whale” or a “dragon.”
      2. Based on the internal sense of the passage, it seems that however we translate it, it should be something large and single so that it compares to the school of fish described above. It represents the large, general concept that forms the basis for the facts.
        1. Love your neighbour” could be the “sea monster”, and all the various ways that we can be loving towards the neighbour are the school of fish.
    3. Even though we may not really be able to feel this change of state as something distinct and obvious, yet it is a promise that we can look forward to.
    4. Perhaps it’s one of those things that can only be seen in hindsight, that is, after we have come into this state we can look back on previous states and see how things are different, how spiritual things have become more important than natural ones, and the sense that spiritual blessings are multiplying.
    5. AC (Elliott) n. 43. Verse 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas; and let birds be multiplied upon the earth. Everything that has life in it from the Lord is fruitful and multiplies without limit. This does not happen during a person’s lifetime, but in the next life it does so to an astonishing extent. In the Word ‘to be fruitful’ has reference to matters of love, while ‘to multiply’ has reference to matters of faith. The fruit of love contains the seed by which it multiplies itself to so great an extent. The Lord’s blessing also means, in the Word, fruitfulness and multiplication, for they are the outcome of that blessing.
    6. Verse 23 And there was evening, and there was morning, a fifth day.
    7. And so we see that in the fifth state the person who is regenerating moves from someone who is only acting from natural causes to one who begins to think about the Lord’s truth from the Word and makes a sincere effort to bring those truths to life in the things that he does for others. And, just as fish and birds are more “alive” than plants, so the things that the person does are more alive for they have the Lord’s own truth within them.
    8. But another step remains. While the person is now acting and living from faith in the Lord, another thing needs to be added, to be able to do these things from the good that is in the new will given to him by the Lord. This sixth state of regeneration, the 6th day of creation, will be the topic of the sermon next week.
    9. AC (Elliott) n. 48. From these considerations it is now clear that the fifth state is one in which a person speaks from faith which is part of the understanding and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good; and that what he produces at that point are the animate things called ‘the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.2

      It is also clear that the sixth state exists when he utters truths and performs good deeds from faith which is part of the understanding and so from love which is part of the will. What he produces at that point is called a living creature and a beast. And because at that point he begins to act both from faith and from love simultaneously, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image; and this is dealt with next. Amen.

First Lesson: Luke 18:15-19

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. Amen.

Second Lesson: AC 10-11

AC (Elliott) n. 10 The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.

AC (Elliott) n. 11 The fifth state is when he speaks from faith and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good. What he brings forth at this point are animate and are called the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.3 Amen.

 

1lit. the faces

2lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

  1. 3lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

Stress – How to find lasting relief?

stressDo you hear yourself saying I don’t have the time – to do all my job requires, spend quality time with the children, to relax with my partner, fix the car, weed the flower bed and mow the lawn, etc.

Feeling under pressure most of the time is not good for your health. If you are feeling hassled by life, with people, who you would normally expect to cope with, getting on your nerves, the strains on you will be beginning to show; nervous tension, sleeping poorly, or getting more than an ordinary amount of headache, upset stomach, back pain, and short illnesses.

As everyone knows reducing stress in your life can make you a happier and healthier person. But what to do about it to get lasting relief?

There are plenty of remedies for stress around.

The trouble is many of the usual ways of coping with stress are just illusory solutions, such as being distracted by an exotic holiday location, or relying on alcohol or medication to calm you down: these can only provide temporary relief.

Some remedies like regular physical exercise and healthy eating are more helpful in the longer run: also taking regular rest breaks, reducing the number of activities in an over-busy schedule and learning better how to relax.

However, there is likely to be resistance to these things built into your way of thinking. You resort to comfort eating, feel too weary to go for that brisk walk, feel you can’t spare time from work. Perhaps you just feel too tense to attempt to relax properly.

Work-related stress

One way continuing stress shows up is depressed mood. A study published by the American Medical Association, estimated that ‘depression’ costs American employers $44 billion in lost productivity every year.

A survey reported by CFO magazine for corporate financial executives summarised the reasons why high achieving employees quit their jobs. Out of the five potential causes cited by HR professionals that top-performing employees would leave, not one of the reasons included stress. However, when asked privately the employees reported work-related stress as the number one factor for leaving a company. What makes this misunderstanding even more startling is that those same HR professionals acknowledged that workers have been working longer hours than normal for the past three years – and will most likely continue the overworked pace for the next three years. We might speculate that this is due to the recession although these days long hours seem to be built into the industrial climate in America and some other capitalist countries. We might ask about the emotional state of those employees still in their jobs working in such a culture? Such a pace of work doesn’t seem sustainable. Why don’t they leave too for less demanding work? Why can’t some people just say ‘no’ to unreasonable demands made on them?

The cause of stress is partly within ourselves

People seem to vary as to how much stress they can deal with before reaching their own breaking point. The cause of stress is something outside of oneself but don’t some of us also add to the load that life weighs down on us by having unrealistic hopes and fears? Excessive demands are a bad thing, but often they come from yourself. Being on the go all the time and you may become exhausted. Expect to get promoted and you may feel more held back and agitated if you are not. Look forward with certainty to having a child and you may feel more disappointment if you do not get pregnant.

I would suggest what is required is an expansion of our focus to include not only the problem but also what is most meaningful and valuable in our lives. And I believe this is how spiritual teachings can help: they oblige us to reflect on how our feelings are affected by our beliefs about how things should be.

The stress of being alone

In his book Adrift: Seventy-six Days Lost at Sea, Steven Callahan describes how when he was sailing across the Atlantic alone, his boat struck something and sank. He was set adrift on a rubber life raft struggling to survive.

“Deprivation seems a strange sort of gift. I find food in a couple hours of fishing each day, and I seek shelter in a rubber tent. How unnecessarily complicated my past life seems. For the first time, I clearly see a vast difference between human needs and human wants. Before this voyage, I always had what I needed — food, shelter, clothing, and companionship — yet I was often dissatisfied when I didn’t get everything I wanted, when people didn’t meet my expectations, when a goal was thwarted, or when I couldn’t acquire some material goody. My plight has given me a strange kind of wealth, the most important kind. I value each moment that is not spent in pain, desperation, hunger, thirst, or loneliness.”

A Buddhist perspective on stress

From a Buddhist perspective the problem of stress is to do with an attachment to something. If you are feeling impatient and frustrated and want something in a hurry, what idea are you clinging on to? It is likely to include the word ‘must’. “I must have more money”, or “more success”, or “immediate gratification”, or “more appreciation”. “I must be right.” “Must get my own way.”

Confusing what one must have with what one needs.

A Swedenborgian perspective on stress

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, peace and contentment (the opposites of stress and tension) are spiritual qualities: and you will be disappointed in so far as you prioritise the things of the world rather than the things of the spirit. In other words, if you have a mainly self-centred way of looking at things and place materialistic goals at the centre of your life – looking first towards excessive consumption, social status and bodily pleasure – then anxiety is inevitable.

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

Praying – Can it reduce anxiety?

Constant worry and anxiety, which occurs for no apparent reason, interferes with day-to-day life. Sufferers are desperate to experience peace of mind and free themselves from the power of their condition.

Meditation can greatly help. By concentrating on one thing and neglecting all the unruly thoughts that come into the mind, many have found that meditating gradually enables them to find freedom from the hold of negative feelings.

The trouble is that those with a high degree of anxiety are the ones who find the discipline of meditation the most difficult to master. The intrusive worries feel too strong to ignore.

“In meditation, the source of strength is one’s self. When one prays, he goes to a source of strength greater than his own.” (Chinese leader, Chiang Kai-shek)

Praying

Perhaps praying is a less difficult option than meditation even if you have no clear religious belief.  The spiritually orientated could focus the mind on a higher power beyond themselves which might be hoped to actually do something to make things better; such as the idea of Mother Nature, the prayingCreative Life Force, or the Universal Mind. Religious believers focus their thoughts on their image of God, which for many Christians is the human form of Christ.

“The sovereign cure for worry is prayer.” (psychologist, William James)

So what does praying involve? Isn’t it just another form of self-reflection, or meditation?

Self-reflection

Yes, in so far as praying in private includes sharing one’s concerns then it does involve an element of self-reflection. Some people allocate some spare time in the evening to write a private journal describing the difficulties and delights of their day. Others have the habit of going on an evening stroll mulling over events in a leisurely manner. Usually there is an inner concern, a question, or a problem one is pondering.

It is easier to reflect on what threatened your well-being when you are no longer face to face with the people and events which triggered your anxiety. In a reflective state of mind you can start to put into words what you are assuming rather than being carried around by one stray image or feeling after the other. In this way you gain some understanding. This is also part of talking therapy. The counsellor helps anxious people enter into a self-reflective state of mind so they can talk about their feelings and experiences and hear themselves talking about them thus starting to gain self-insight.

Praying to a Divine Counsellor

Praying can be thought of as connecting with and listening to a Divine Counsellor whilst sharing one’s personal concerns.

“Prayer is simply talking to God like a friend and should be the easiest thing we do each day.” (author & speaker, Joyce Meyer)

Praying can lead Christian believers to think about their lives in a different way by ‘putting on the mind of Christ’. In other words they feel that seeing their own fears and worries in the light of their image of what is truly wise and compassionate takes them out of themselves and raises their spirit to a higher level.

The way people in distress see their relationships with the human face of God can be a great source of comfort and strength to them. In their darkest hours many of them are sustained by their belief that they are loved by the source of all that is good and all will be well.

Isn’t praying simply a self-serving superstition?

“No god ever gave any man anything, nor ever answered any prayer at any time – nor ever will.” (atheist activist, Madalyn Murray O’Hair)

Yes, I believe praying can be self-serving in which case I do not think it is likely to be helpful. To give God a list of one’s requests sounds a bit like children making out a Christmas gift list for Father Christmas to bring down the chimney.

Roman prayers and sacrifices were often envisioned as legal bargains between deity and worshipper. A modern equivalent of this might be promising to donate money to charity only if God takes away one’s problems.

“The man who prays is the one who thinks that god has arranged matters all wrong, but who also thinks that he can instruct god how to put them right.” (journalist, Christopher Hitchens)

It is tempting to use prayer as a complaints desk – to pray expressing dissatisfaction, finding fault with others or accusing God of ignoring one’s predicament.

Who hasn’t at one time or other not tried to use prayer as a way of justifying one’s actions or claims?

Can praying for release from anxiety actually work?

My first response to this question is to say that if you don’t ask then you don’t get: why wouldn’t you chance your arm for something you are desperate to attain. Yet, in the Lord’s Prayer we are asking to let God’s will be done. Praying for what I want can be seen as an exercise in the exploration of my desire in the presence of God.

Perhaps there is something more important in ourselves that needs to change before we can be allowed to find peace and calm.

“The function of prayer is not to influence God, but rather to change the nature of the one who prays.” (philosopher, Søren Kierkegaard)

Praying provides us with an opportunity to explore our desires and to probe beneath the surface. Underneath most desire is the ‘little me’ wanting what I want – attention, security, appreciation, getting my own way, social status, money, and so on. Maybe anxiety is associated with a threat to these cravings. In other words the thought pops into my head as I’m praying that there might be some meaning to my suffering. It is not being permitted without good reason.

Consequently, I believe it is a mistake to see prayer as a quick fix for personal problems that avoids the slow, hard work involved in personal healing and growth.

Much better to be praying for guidance. You might find that if an answer comes, the time and place it comes is unexpected.

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

“The 4th Day”

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – February 23, 2014

AC (Elliott) n. 30 Verses 14-17 And God said, Let there be lights in the expanse of the heavens, to make a distinction between the day and the night; and they will be for signs, and for set times, and for days and years. And they will be for lights in the expanse of the heavens, to give light upon the earth; and it was so. And God made the two great lights, the greater light to have dominion over the day, and the lesser light to have dominion over the night; and the stars. And God set them in the expanse of the heavens to give light upon the earth.

  1. As has been pointed out before in this series, the story of Creation as told in the book of Genesis is not intended to be a scientific explanation of how the universe came into existence.

    1. That’s something that the Lord left to us to discover for ourselves.

    2. The Word, while based in stories about people and events in the world, is really about our spiritual lives. The 7 days are 7 states of creation of the human mind – or they could also be seen as 7 states of the recreation or regeneration of the human mind.

    3. Actually, this should be pretty obvious, even to the casual reader of Scripture, with or without the Writings to help.

      1. For example, there’s not one story of creation, but two. The 7 days that we’re studying now, and the story of the garden of Eden that follows immediately after it. So if there are two completely different versions of creation, one following the other, they are probably not meant to be taken literally.

      2. Then there’s the problem presented by the events of the 4th day. If you’ll recall, light was created on the first day, but the sun moon and stars are not created until the 4th day.

    4. So then, what do the sun, moon, and stars mean in the context of our spiritual life and our preparation for the life of heaven?

  2. Arcana Coelestia 30 says, “No one can have an adequate understanding of what ‘the great lights’ are unless he knows what the underlying essence of faith is and how it develops in people who are being created anew. The very essence and life of faith is the Lord alone. In fact it is impossible for anyone who does not believe in the Lord to have life, as He Himself has said in John, He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not believe in the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God will rest upon him. John 3:36.”

    1. We can’t understand the meaning of the “great lights” unless we first understand the underlying essence of faith and how it develops in people who are being regenerated, or being created anew.

    2. So, what we’re really talking about here is our own mental and spiritual states as they develop and change during the course of our lives in the world.

    3. And it’s important that we see and understand the fundamental truth that faith is not something that arises within us, that has its origin with us. Faith is a gift from the Lord, and we need to recognize that in order to have true faith there first needs to be a recognition that there is a power outside of us that gives us life, and that creative power is the Lord.

      1. We can’t have a true, living faith in ourselves, so it has to be in someone or something outside of ourselves, and that someone is the Lord. As we read in AC 30, “The very essence and life of faith is the Lord alone.”

    4. AC (Elliott) n. 31 That ‘the great lights’ mean love and faith, and are also mentioned as the sun, the moon, and the stars, is clear….

    5. An interesting thing about the New Church is that although we have a huge amount of doctrine to draw on, sometimes so much that people think that’s all we have, most of that doctrine actually talks about the love that underlies it all.

    6. The 4th day is a case in point.

      1. It’s all about the creation of objects that are related to light – which is most cases in the Word corresponds to some form of truth.

      2. However, in this case, we find that the “great light”, or the sun, actually corresponds to love because of its warmth and inherent life-giving characteristics.

      3. It’s also interesting to think about from the point of view of natural science. The sun, representing love, is a source of both heat and light. The moon, representing faith, does not produce any light of it’s own. When the moon is full, we are seeing the light of the sun reflected from it’s surface. When the moon is new and we can see it’s shape only faintly, what we are seeing is light from the sun reflecting off the earth, hitting the moon, and reflecting back to us.

      4. The sun is the active, living force, while the moon is only passive, reflecting back what comes from another.

    7. So we see that although the two great lights are so closely related that they are given a singular noun in scripture to show that they are as one, still they are distinctly different.

      1. So with love and faith. Love is living and warm. Our faith is then a reflection of our love.

      2. However, this is not something that happens right away, it comes on the 4th day, that is, the 4 step of our progress through the states of regeneration.

    8. As we read in the lessons in AC 6 – 10

      1. The first state is called a void or emptiness because it represents that time in our lives from infancy until such time as we begin making rational choices and taking control of our spiritual lives.

      2. The second state is when, for the first time, a person begins to run into issues, temptations, sorrows, and misfortunes.

        1. This is the time of life that we sometimes call the “Ishmael rational.” There’s a lot of truth, but not much wisdom, so there are conflicts with other people, poor decisions and their consequences, and a great deal of important lessons being learned.

        2. At this point, since there is not yet any real wisdom to draw on, the Lord provides “remnants” or affections based on happy experiences in childhood to provide guidance and support.

      3. In the third state, the turmoil and conflict of the second state comes to an end when the person begins to acquire internal truths and to live from their internal man. Because the person begin to think and act from wisdom, and seeks to do things that are genuinely useful, the deeds are called in the Word the tender plant, the seed bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.

        1. But even though these deeds are genuinely good deeds, the person in the third state hasn’t yet come to see that the Lord is the source of all love and faith, and while the person thinks that these good deeds originate in themselves, that they are the cause of them, they remain “inanimate” rather than truly living. But the person is heading in the right direction.

      4. There’s been light since the first day. Every person, from childhood through early adulthood, is gifted with the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, and with feelings of contentment and happiness when they do the right thing. They come without effort, and are part of the package, so to speak. But as we navigate the shoals of adult life we are faced with temptations and challenges. If, during the course of these, we turn to the Lord through prayer and study of the Word, all the while trying to do the right thing, the fourth state will come. The light will dawn. We’ll have that “aha” moment when it starts to come together for us. We’ll feel that love from the Lord in ourselves, and we’ll see situations anew, from the light in our internal mind that comes from heaven.

        1. It doesn’t come without work, but it is the goal that the Lord has been leading us to all along.

        2. And with it comes the promise of even greater enlightenment and even greater usefulness in the states to follow. Amen.

First Lesson: Matthew 17:1-13

Now after six days Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother, led them up on a high mountain by themselves; and He was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and His clothes became as white as the light. And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. Then Peter answered and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good for us to be here; if You wish, let us make here three tabernacles: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!” And when the disciples heard it, they fell on their faces and were greatly afraid. But Jesus came and touched them and said, “Arise, and do not be afraid.” When they had lifted up their eyes, they saw no one but Jesus only. Now as they came down from the mountain, Jesus commanded them, saying, “Tell the vision to no one until the Son of Man is risen from the dead.” And His disciples asked Him, saying, “Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?” Jesus answered and said to them, “Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands.”
Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist.

Second Lesson: AC 6 – 10

AC (Elliott) n. 6 CONTENTS

The six days or periods of time, which are so many consecutive states in man’s regeneration, are in general as follows:

AC (Elliott) n. 7 The first state is the state which precedes, both the state existing from earliest childhood onwards and that existing immediately before regeneration; and it is called a void, emptiness, and thick darkness. And the first movement, which is the Lord’s mercy, is ‘the Spirit of God hovering over the face* of the waters’.

* lit. The faces

AC (Elliott) n. 8 The second state is when a distinction is made between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are man’s own. Those which are the Lord’s are called in the Word ‘remnants’, and here they are chiefly the cognitions of faith which a person has learned since he was a small child. These are stored away and do not come out into the open until he reaches this state. Nowadays this state rarely occurs without temptation, misfortune, and sorrow, which lead to the inactivity and so to speak the death of bodily and worldly concerns – the things which are man’s own. In this way what belongs to the external man is segregated from what belongs to the internal. Within the internal are the remnants, stored away by the Lord until this time and for this purpose.

AC (Elliott) n. 9 The third state is one of repentance, a state in which he speaks piously and devoutly from the internal man and brings forth goods, like charitable acts which are nevertheless inanimate since he imagines that they originate in himself. They are called a tender plant, then a seed-bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.

AC (Elliott) n. 10 The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.

The Parable of the Sower

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – January 5, 2014

Behold! A Sower went forth to sow. (MAT 13:1)

  1. The Word is like a man clothed
    1. Prophets, Old Testament are like heavy clothing
    2. New Testament parables are like the face and hands
    3. Rules developed from the Science of Correspondences are the same, but interpretation varies.
      1. From minister to minister
      2. From time to time – as you progress through life you have different questions, you view the world through a different set of lenses, you have acquired wisdom and experience.
      3. Your understanding will be influenced by the affections which are with you at the time, or the circumstances that inspired you to ask the question and look to a particular text.
      4. In Genesis, it tells how the Lord put an angel to guard the entrance to the Garden of Eden. He was armed with a two-edged sword.
        1. The two-edged sword stands for the freedom to interpret according to spiritual laws.
        2. Provided that the approach is from the affirmative principle. That is, the student humbly approaches the Word to discover what it has to say, willing to be lead by the Lord’s truth.
        3. The internal sense is not served by those who seek to confirm what they already believe by seeking out passages that can be constructed into an argument.
  2. The parable of the sower is very well known. Partly because it is simple and clear, and partly because the Lord Himself interprets it for the disciples – so we really know what He meant by the parable, and that helps us to confidently seek meaning from the other parables.
    1. Behold, a sower went out to sow.
      1. The Sower = the Lord
      2. The Seed = the Word
        1. seed = Word of the Lord, thus truth. (AC 3310)
        2. The Word = the Lord’s Doctrine. (AC 1288)
        3. the Word = truth Divine (evident without explanation) (AC 9987)
        4. Field into which the seed was to be cast = The life of an individual.
        5. Field = Good of life in which faith is implanted, that is, spiritual truths which are of the church. (AC 3310)
    2. And as he sowed, some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds came and devoured them.
      1. The “wayside” refers to the path beside the ploughed and prepared field. It would be earth, packed hard from the passage of many feet, so the seeds would like exposed and be eaten by birds and other animals.
      2. Hard way = falsity (AC 3310)
      3. Hard way = those who have confirmed falsities in themselves. (AC 5096)
      4. seed in the way = with those who do not care for truth. (Life 90)
      5. Devoured by the fowls of the air
        1. fowls = falsities; fantasies and false persuasions (AC 778).
      6. By the way side is represented those that hear the Word, but succumb to the devil (or Satan), and turn away.
      7. Why ‘devil’ is used in Luke, ‘Satan’ in Mark: because seed that fell upon the way = truth from the Word that is received in the memory only and not in the life, and as this is taken away by both evil and falsity, therefore both ‘devil’ and ‘Satan’ are mentioned. (AE 740)
    3. Some fell on stony places, where they did not have much earth; and they immediately sprang up because they had no depth of earth. But when the sun was up they were scorched, and because they had no root they withered away.
      1. These are they who receive the Word with joy, but fall away in time of temptation because they have no root.
      2. Hard rock = persuasion, when a person is persuaded to do something because through a presentation of facts that may leave some important fact out, or exaggerate certain aspects. It makes it hard to get to the truth of the matter and do the right thing. (AC 5096)
      3. Stony place = truth that has no root in good. (AC 3310), or those who care for truth, but not interiorly. (Life 90)
      4. To have no root in themselves = to have no charity, for charity is faith rooted, and they who have not the support of this root will yield in temptation. (AC 1846)
    4. And some fell among thorns, and the thorns sprang up and choked them.
      1. These are they who hear the Word, but are choked by the cares and riches of the world, which turn them aside, and they bring no fruit to perfection.
        1. Cares – people who are so worried and anxious about the things going on in their life that they believe they don’t have time for one more thing, for worship, for prayer, for reading the Word. It’s an aspect of the love of self.
        2. It also shows up in our concern for the riches of the world, for acquiring and playing with our various things. Again, when we regard our own things – be they cares or possessions – as more important than spiritual things, it’s the love of self. And that blocks out the Lord and the Word, chokes them to death.
      2. Thorns = evils. (AC 3310)
        1. falsities which confirm the things of the world and pleasures (AC 9144)
    5. But others fell on good ground and yielded a crop: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty
      1. These are they who hear the Word, and having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.
      2. Good ground = those who love truths that are in the Word from the Lord, and do them from Him…. in these the “seed” takes root in the spiritual mind. (Life 90)
      3. Good ground = men conjoined to the Lord by receiving truths that make him spiritual. (AE 239)
      4. Springs up, Bears fruit 100, 60, 30 fold
        1. 30 = full of remains, somewhat of combat.
        2. 30 = 5 X 6; five = somewhat, six = combat
        3. 30 = 3 X 10; three = full, ten = remains
        4. 6 = 2 X 3; therefore what is full and all, because 2 = marriage of good and truth, and 3 = what is full and all. (AR 610)
        5. 60 = full of remains, because a multiple of 10.
        6. Hundred fold = what is full. (AC 2636)
        7. 100 = full of remains, because a multiple of 10. (AC 5335)
        8. fruits = goods done out of charity (AC 934)
        9. In summary: to bring forth fruit in patience = to do truths and goods even when living amidst falsities and evils, that is, among those who are in falsities and evils. (AE 813)
  3. The whole parable is used as an example of the doctrine of genuine truth from the Lord in the Word that truth must be lived. (AE 250; 785)
    1. Faith is formed by man’s living according to truths. (TCR 347)
    2. Charity is merely a fleeting mental abstraction unless, whenever possible, it is expressed in works. (TCR 375, 376, 483)
    3. He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.

First Lesson: MAT 13:10-23

And the disciples came and said to Him, “Why do You speak to them in parables?” He answered and said to them, “Because it has been given to you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. For whoever has, to him more will be given, and he will have abundance; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. Therefore I speak to them in parables, because seeing they do not see, and hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand. And in them the prophecy of Isaiah is fulfilled, which says: ‘ Hearing you will hear and shall not understand, And seeing you will see and not perceive; For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, And their eyes they have closed, Lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.’ But blessed are your eyes for they see, and your ears for they hear; for assuredly, I say to you that many prophets and righteous men desired to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. Therefore hear the parable of the sower: When anyone hears the word of the kingdom, and does not understand it, then the wicked one comes and snatches away what was sown in his heart. This is he who received seed by the wayside. But he who received the seed on stony places, this is he who hears the word and immediately receives it with joy; yet he has no root in himself, but endures only for a while. For when tribulation or persecution arises because of the word, immediately he stumbles. Now he who received seed among the thorns is he who hears the word, and the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches choke the word, and he becomes unfruitful. But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.”

Second Lesson: AC 6053

From all this it is evident that nothing is known about the soul, and this is the reason why all that has been asserted on the subject is conjectural. And as in this way men could have no idea about the soul, very many have not been able to avoid the belief that the soul is a mere vital thing that is dissipated when the body dies. And this is the reason why the learned have less belief in the life after death than the simple; and because they do not believe in it, neither can they believe in the things which belong to that life, which are the heavenly and spiritual things of faith and love. This also appears from the Lord’s words in Matthew:

Thou hast hid these things from the wise and intelligent, and hast revealed them unto babes (Matt 11:25).

And again:

Seeing they see not, and hearing they hear not, neither do they understand (Matt. 13:13).

For the simple have no such thoughts about the soul; but believe that they will have after death; in which simple faith, unknown to them, there is hidden the belief that they will live there as men, will see angels, will speak with them, and will enjoy happiness.

Third Lesson: Life 90

It is truth that is meant by the seed in the field … The sower here is the Lord, and the seed is His Word, thus truth; the seed by the wayside is with those who do [not] care about truth; and the seed upon stony places is with those who care for truth, but not for its own sake, and thus not interiorly. The seed among thorns is with those who are in the lusts of evil; but the seed in the good ground is with those who from the Lord love the truths which are in the Word, and who from Him practices them, and thus bring forth fruit. That this is the meaning of these things is evident from the Lord’s explanation of them, Matthew xiii 19-23; Mark iv 14-20; and Luke viii 11-15.

From these considerations it is clear that the truth of the Word cannot take root with those who do not care about truth; nor with those who love truth outwardly but not inwardly; nor with those who are in the lusts of evil; but with those in whom the lusts of evil have been dispersed by the Lord. With these the seed, that is, truth, becomes rooted in their spiritual mind….

 

Every Please -STOP -Listen Up

Don't Label My Kid! (Or Me!) Coaching-Counseling- Consulting

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TJ-Don’t Label My Kid!- Message to my crew. These Little Ladies Are Mine. Boys are up and out. When I look at them I thank God I even get to hold them. It should not be.

This post is about giving many others a chance to watch their babies grow up. Not many would have made it through what I did, and I believe the purpose for this was to make some changes so others could not suffer through certain things that can kill. So please take this to heart and lets do this thing. I don’t get to make the plans or set dates, but I am pretty sure this is an appointment we all need to be at. Thanks for taking a few out to read and do what you can. .. You may make it possible for a guy like me to be smiling down at his…

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Guilt — Why won’t it go away?

guiltWho hasn’t done something that they believe they should not have done? Kicked the cat? Stolen stationary from the office? Disclosed what a friend confided? Or whatever? Nobody is perfect, we all make mistakes, and do something wrong. And so from time to time you are likely to experience a feeling of guilt.

It may not have been such a terrible thing you did. But what if you feel bad and it keeps playing on your conscience? Why won’t the feeling of guilt go away?

As a child Catherine got ticked off a lot by strict parents. And as an adult she tended to dwell on the judgments about her of others. Sadly, she became one of those people who are quick to feel guilt over the smallest thing they do wrong if it goes against the expectations of other people. A sensitive conscience can easily become overburdened at times. What I call phoney guilt seems to come about from the assumption that what you feel must be true: so if you feel guilty, then you must be guilty!

“True guilt is guilt at the obligation one owes to oneself to be oneself. False guilt is guilt felt at not being what other people feel one ought to be.” (R. D. Laing)

I would distinguish Catherine’s false guilt with a true guilt arising from a healthy conscience of someone whose guilt feelings arise from an awareness of having acted against their own principles. Much beneficial counselling has been conducted with the Catherine’s of this world, helping such clients to stop taking to heart unfair criticism. But what use is that approach with those of us who are facing reasonable censure and who can easily distinguish successfully between appropriate and inappropriate guilt? What if you have actually done something wrong and can’t forget it because you know in your heart you have gone against your own rules?

I would like to suggest a few reasons why you might not be able to rid yourself of realistic guilt.

Making a glib acknowledgment of guilt

You may come to realise that there are some people you do not respect and some close relationships you have not cherished. Perhaps you were rude or neglectful on one or two occasions. Apologising for mistakes like this can easily trip off the tongue.

You may have felt badly at the time, but if you haven’t accepted in your heart the need to change, it is only too easy to forget you had previously glibly acknowledged the error. But then something or someone later will likely remind you of your fault.

Using escapism from guilt

If you have done something seriously wrong, and do not deal with this then to escape from emotional pain you may have fallen into some kind of addiction, escapism or other risk taking behaviour. Unfortunately, such action can cause you more guilty feelings if as a result you do harm to others for example hurting your loved ones by excessive alcohol consumption or obliging them to rescue you from difficult circumstances you have created for yourself.

Using excuses for guilt

It is comfortable to rely on such excuses as `I didn’t mean it’, `It was an accident’, `I couldn’t help it’, and `I followed an irresistible impulse’.

For one kind of person a tempting way to respond to guilt is to blame the victim. “She caused my sexual aggression by making herself too attractive.” “Of course I’m going to nick his things if he can’t be bothered to lock them up properly.” Naturally, this doesn’t work either, as sooner or latter, the wrong-doer will be reminded of the misdeed when common sense prevails.

Confessing guilt to an unsympathetic person

Many alcoholics can only confess the mess they are in to fellow problem drinkers: such people will be in the same boat and can be expected to be sympathetic. People with emotional problems find it easier to confess weaknesses and failings to a counsellor they feel is showing unconditional warmth.

On the contrary, try talking about things you feel guilty about to someone who is unsympathetic and you won’t get very far. And even if you do persevere you are likely to take on board their judgmental attitude towards yourself.

Sometimes people yearn for God’s forgiveness but cannot experience this because they believe in a judgmental God. Unless your idea of God is one of love and compassion, I believe you are not going to feel any sense of forgiveness if you were to risk confessional prayer. In fact, if you pray to a harsh idea of God you may even end up beating yourself up even more as a “sinner who deserves punishment.”

Conclusion

“Hard though it may be to accept, remember that guilt is sometimes a friendly internal voice reminding you that you’re messing up.” (Marge Kennedy)

The way I see it is the emotional discomfort of guilt is like the physical pain of a flame. The pain will soon go away after you remove your hand from the flame.  Guilt likewise serves to teach us where we are going wrong. I don’t think guilt is meant to last. Once it has served its friendly purpose it is no longer needed.

Surely, those religious people are mistaken who happen to believe that you just need to ask for forgiveness and you are forgiven? No, something more is needed. Only, when you have a genuine remorse for your misdeed, a desire not to repeat it, and an interest in making amends, only then do I believe that it is possible for your guilt to set aside by a compassionate God.

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

I can’t help how I feel — can I?

How I feel
Nicholas Parsons

Do you ever say to yourself  “I can’t help how I feel.”

Part of the humour of the long running radio show Just a Minute is the mocking of its chairman Nicholas Parsons. When panellist Graham Norton was given the topic ‘Freudian slips’ he talked about ‘man love’ revealing his ‘gruntaffilic attraction to Parsons’ and saying ‘I can’t help those feelings.’ In other words “I can’t help how I feel.” Whereupon Paul Merton gets a big laugh by buzzing and shouting ‘Try!’ In other words try to feel differently. But can one really change how one feels?

Norton’s sentiment reminded me of the Hey Stephen song:

“Cause I can’t help it if you look like an angel
Can’t help it if I wanna kiss you in the rain so
Come feel this magic I’ve been feeling since I met you
Can’t help it if there’s no one else
Mmm, I can’t help myself ”
(Taylor Swift)

It got me thinking about my own feelings. Is it possible for me to feel differently about certain things, people, situations? Emotions I take for granted seem to be naturally part of me and always will be. But do I have to feel so irritated by certain people who cause me discomfort? Do I have to feel so attached to my favourite food? Or feel so lazy when obliged to go somewhere.

Is it possible to alter our feelings, in the sense of making ourselves stop feeling negative or stop enjoying those things we believe to be unhelpful or even just down-right wrong?

Assuming our feelings are inevitable

You might be thinking ‘Of course my feelings are part of me — feeling angry, happy, displeased, turned on, sad whatever.  I need to be myself and that means keeping in touch with what I like and not being afraid to express these feelings. Isn’t that what honest living is all about?’

“Never apologize for showing your feelings. When you do, you are apologizing for the truth.” (José N. Harris)

Well okay I can buy into authenticity and being a real person in your own right and not just a conformist. But what if some of your desires are bad? What if some of your emotions are harmful? Have you no capability of changing how you are to become a better person? No ability to change what you like and want?

Don’t we learn to appreciate and enjoy things which at first are daunting and unattractive. Which beer drinkers enjoyed their very first glass of bitter? Is it not an acquired taste?

My thought can affect how I feel

You might suppose that it would be only natural to feel angry if insulted, hurt if injured, or despair if all hope is removed.  However one Nazi concentration camp inmate refused to accept that feelings were automatically determined by his situation and instead tried to change the way he felt.

“When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.” (Viktor Frankl)

Psychological therapists work with intractable patients trying to make them stop loving the socially awkward things they love. The basis of cognitive therapy is the idea that harmony is the normal state of consciousness; that the mind is inclined towards congruity between thinking and emotion. We defend what we enjoy with all sorts of justifications. We find reasons for what we want to believe. The mind seems to be built that way. When feeling and thinking are no longer in harmony, we suffer discomfort, and anxiety.

So therapists challenge people’s mistaken ways of thinking to encourage the development of sensible thoughts because they have found that new feelings emerge that match the new thoughts. For example realising when there is no real danger in a specific situation, the client starts to feel calm rather than afraid: appreciating that there is no evidence of a partner’s infidelity, the client feels less uptight rather than seething with jealousy.

Awareness of social ideals

Spiritually aware people tend also to want to promote change. They want to encourage a feeling of protectiveness towards the environment, sympathy towards third world suffering, a feeling of togetherness to overcome the challenge of multicultural tension. Understanding the ideals could mean feeling a new frustration and anger with the current state of things, finding new hopes and gaining new excitement and delight in progress made. Then one could find that the old feelings of cynical resignation, negativity and disinterest were never inevitable feelings.

Awareness of personal responsibility for how I feel

Likewise gaining an understanding of the ideal self can lead to personal change. New feelings can develop whilst pursuing self-improvement. It is one thing to face in a new direction but another to set off with a will. This idea of personal choice is quite contentious because of the many factors scientists have discovered that seem to reduce our freedom: one’s individual genetic constitution, the effects of family upbringing, social pressures towards cultural norms, lack of economic opportunities etc. However, I do believe that whatever one’s situation it is possible to find the necessary courage and determination to refuse to allow setbacks to put you down, and that by examining one’s attitude one can start to feel differently about life’s frustrations.

I would suggest that to change the way you feel means first challenging the habits of thought which maintained the old feelings. For example if angry you might believe you have lost your temper. An alternative attitude is that temper isn’t something you lose: it’s something you decide to throw away.

In other words you might stop blaming things that you suppose make you feel you do — stress, tiredness, external events, natural urges and instead you could focus on your inner vision and responsibility for how you are in yourself.

I would say that you don’t have to spend time stewing in your sense of hurt or feeling hard done by. Those feelings will never go away unless you turn your back on them.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

The Flight into Egypt

 

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – December 29, 2013

When Israel was a child then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt (HOS. 11:1)

  1. During the Christmas season we’ve been looking at the main elements of the story, assembling elements from Matthew and Luke into a chronological order.
    1. An angel visits Zacharias to announce the birth of John the Baptist
    2. An angel visits Mary to invite her to become the mother of the Messiah.
    3. An angel visits Joseph to reassure him that Mary has not taken up with another man, but that the child she is carrying is “of the Holy Spirit.” A better man than most, he accepts this explanation and protects Mary and the child.
    4. Mary and Joseph travel to Bethlehem, where the child is born in a stable.
    5. An angel announces the birth to the shepherds, who rush to find the baby wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger.
    6. At 8 days of age He was taken to Jerusalem and presented in the temple – as was described in the children’s talk.
    7. Mary and Joseph find a house. Perhaps they intended to stay in Bethlehem permanently, or perhaps they intended to stay only until the baby was old enough to travel. In either case, this is where the wise men, guided by an angel that appeared to them as a star, found the family and gave Him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
    8. An angel appears to the wise men and warns them to avoid Herod, so they go home “another way.”
    9. An angel warns Mary and Joseph of Herod’s anger, so they take the baby and flee into Egypt – setting the stage for the fulfilment of the prophesy in Hosea which is our text.
      1. (Mat 2:13-23) Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” {14} When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, {15} and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.”
    10. Herod, in an effort to remove what he perceives as a rival, orders all the male children in Bethlehem under 2 years of age murdered, fulfilling yet another prophecy.
      1. {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry;
    11. Herod shows his murderous intent
      1. and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: {18} “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.”
      2. The destruction of innocence. When the love of self becomes so strong that it cannot tolerate even the idea of following the Lord’s leading.
    12. Finally, an angel tells Mary and Joseph that it is safe for them to return to Israel, and the prophecy that the Lord would be “called out of Egypt” is fulfilled as they travel back to Nazareth.
      1. {19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” {21} Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel.
    13. The final time Joseph is warned by “God”! This results in him turning aside from wherever he was planning on going to Nazareth. Maybe they had talked about using this trip as a chance to move away from Nazareth? After all, Mary’s reputation was in question, and it was known to be a rough part of the country. Maybe they were heading back to Bethlehem? All this is speculation, based on the following where it says they were “turned aside” and ended up in Nazareth – which just happens to fulfil the prophecies.
      1. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. {23} And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.”
    14. Nothing more is recorded of their activities until they travel to Jerusalem when Jesus is twelve years old.
  2. Now that we’ve looked at the big picture, let’s focus on the flight to Egypt.
    1. Ancient Egypt has captured our imagination as a special place throughout recorded history.
      1. The Pyramid of Giza, the oldest and largest of the three great pyramids, is a huge technical achievement and as such represents both academic knowledge and technical knowledge, as well as the wealth to support these kind of endeavours.
      2. The Pyramids were already 500 years old when Abraham visited Egypt.
      3. The Pyramids were 1000 years old when Joseph ruled Egypt.
      4. When the Lord was in Egypt, they were 2500 years old.
      5. Then there are things like the Hieroglyphics and the Library in Alexandria.
      6. Put these things all together and you should get a sense of a place where there has been a high level of culture and learning for a long time, a place that is a living symbol of the sum total of human knowledge.
    2. Because people have associated Egypt with knowledge for so long, in the Word it represents the sum total of natural knowledge.
      1. In Genesis, Abraham represents the Lord. The internal sense of Abraham’s journeys tells us about the succession of states as the mind of the infant Jesus developed. And that’s why Abraham travelled to Egypt – to represent that part of the Lord’s life where He was learning natural truths about the world around Him.
      2. The travels of Isaac, Jacob, and the sons of Jacob to Egypt also represent aspects of this central truth: The Lord Himself, and each one of us, needs to go to “Egypt” as a part of our development. We need to acquire natural truths from studying the world around us, and use them to build a foundation upon which the rational and spiritual degrees of the mind can eventually be built.
    3. But we have to be careful. “Egypt” can be a very attractive place. We can become so fond of the truths of the natural world, and the power that mastery of them can bring, that we get stuck there.
      1. This can affect us in a variety of ways.
        1. An academic who gets so involved with the minutia of his subject that he views everything in terms of his narrow view (and yes, this can affect theologians).
        2. Commercial media. Newspapers, magazines, television, the Internet – all these things are presenting information with the intent of getting your attention, giving you what you want, and drawing you in so you will see the ads that pay the bills. If it were food, it would be sugary snacks instead of a balanced diet.
        3. A person who is fearful about the whole idea of death and the afterlife, and who instead clings to the natural world as if not thinking about it will make it all just go away.
    4. Just as the sons of Israel were eventually made slaves in Egypt, we can get so caught up in the truths of the natural world that we don’t ever raise our thoughts to things higher, to the meaning and purpose behind all these things.
      1. The children of Israel were stuck in Egypt for 400 years, and would have stayed there forever had not the Lord sent Moses (representing the Word) to lead them out.
      2. That they were slaves for 400 years is important, because it tells us that to get out of this state will be difficult. It will be a test or trial or temptation (signified by 40) multiplied by 10.
  3. Moses led the great Exodus from Egypt at the Lord’s command. Moses didn’t want to do it. He tried to argue his way out of it. Even when he was successful in getting them out of Egypt, the next 40 years were full of battles, hardships, and complaining. But, he did it because the Lord asked him to do it, and in the long run it led to the greater good for the whole nation.
    1. Mary and Joseph probably could have settled there in safety and peace. Joseph could prosper as a carpenter anywhere. But God Himself spoke to Joseph and told him to take Mary and the child and go back to Israel, to get out of Egypt.
    2. The lesson should be clear that the Lord wants us to hear the same message.
      1. Everyone of us needs to spend some time in Egypt. We need to spend time in school studying the things that the natural world can teach us.
      2. But as much fun as it is, we are not to overstay our time in Egypt. The Lord calls to us from the Word with higher truths that can rest securely on the natural truths and take us to new heights of understanding and usefulness.
      3. And, like the children of Israel following Moses, we are allowed to “borrow” from the Egyptians. There are many things that are useful to know, that support our spiritual goals, and we can bring those along without harm.
    3. Let us then step back and look at the course of our lives from this perspective.
      1. Look for the useful things learned from the natural world and borrow them so that they can serve as a support for higher things.
      2. Along the way, there will be temptations and battles. The evil spirits and your own hereditary inclinations will try to get you to turn back, to return to the “flesh pots” of Egypt. A life without risk, but of slavery. We need to fight those enemies of our spiritual life until they are dead, and we are free to travel to out true spiritual home.

MAT 2{19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” {21} Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. Amen.

First Lesson: Mat 2:13-23

Now when they had departed, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, flee to Egypt, and stay there until I bring you word; for Herod will seek the young Child to destroy Him.” {14} When he arose, he took the young Child and His mother by night and departed for Egypt, {15} and was there until the death of Herod, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying, “Out of Egypt I called My Son.” {16} Then Herod, when he saw that he was deceived by the wise men, was exceedingly angry; and he sent forth and put to death all the male children who were in Bethlehem and in all its districts, from two years old and under, according to the time which he had determined from the wise men. {17} Then was fulfilled what was spoken by Jeremiah the prophet, saying: {18} “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation, weeping, and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted, Because they are no more.” {19} But when Herod was dead, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, {20} saying, “Arise, take the young Child and His mother, and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the young Child’s life are dead.” {21} Then he arose, took the young Child and His mother, and came into the land of Israel. {22} But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea instead of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there. And being warned by God in a dream, he turned aside into the region of Galilee. {23} And he came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, “He shall be called a Nazarene.” Amen

Second Lesson: AC 1462:6

That the Lord when an infant was brought into Egypt, signified the same that is here signified by Abram; and it took place for the additional reason that He might fulfil all the things that had been represented concerning Him. In the inmost sense the migration of Jacob and his sons into Egypt represented the first instruction of the Lord in knowledges from the Word, as is also manifest from the following passages. It is said of the Lord in Matthew:

An angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream, saying, Arise, and take the young child and His mother, and flee into Egypt, and be thou there until I tell thee. And he arose and took the young child and His mother by night, and departed into Egypt, and was there until the death of Herod; that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Out of Egypt have I called My son (Matt. 2:13-15, 19-21);

concerning which it is said in Hosea:

When Israel was a child then I loved him, and called My son out of Egypt (HOS. 11:1). Amen.

 

“Primogeniture”

Path of Integrity week 7

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – Nov. 4, 2012

  1. We are now coming to the end of our series on Joseph.
    1. We have followed Joseph’s life story from the time he was the youth who was regarded with jealousy by his 10 older brothers because he was so obviously favoured by their father through his time as a slave in the house of Potiphar and his time as a prisoner, until he rose to be second in power in Egypt only to Pharaoh himself.
    2. We have followed the story of his family through the grief of separation, to the initial tentative contacts, to a full revelation and reconciliation.
    3. As one would expect, at the end of the story, when people have completed their journey of life, and done so with integrity, it is reasonable to expect that there will be spiritual blessings.
    4. Up until this point in the historical narrative, the main focus has been on the relationship between Joseph and his 10 older brothers. Benjamin says nothing in all this, even though the story revolves around whether he is with his father, the 10 brothers, or Joseph. Now that the issue of who gets Benjamin has been resolved – since the family is together, everyone has him for the moment – we can look at the concluding message.
    5. When the 10 brothers return at the end of their second trip to Egypt with the news that not only is Benjamin safe, but Joseph has been found alive, Jacob is overcome with shock and joy. Further, he learns that he and the whole family has been invited to move to Egypt where there is safety and food.
    6. Once in Egypt, Jacob discovers that not only is Joseph not dead, but he has produced grandsons that he can bless!
      1. Jacob is old and blind, so Joseph brings his two sons to Jacob and arranges them so that the Manasseh, the elder son will be touched by Jacob’s right hand.
      2. Jacob crosses his hands, conferring the blessing of the firstborn on the younger son, Ephraim.
      3. Joseph, probably thinking that his elderly father is confused, tries to correct what he considers to be a mistake, and is reprimanded by Jacob. Manasseh will indeed have an important place and be a blessing, but the greater role has been reserved for Ephraim.
  2. So what’s going on here?
    1. This story is the Lord’s way of giving an answer to a question that people have been debating in the church for thousands of years – which comes first, faith or charity?
    2. It may not seem to be an important question, yet it comes up over and over again in the stories of the Word.
      1. AC 367 That charity is the “brother” of faith is evident to everyone from the nature or essence of faith. This brotherhood was represented by Esau and Jacob, and was the ground of their dispute about the birthright and the consequent dominion. It was also represented by Pharez and Zarah, the sons of Tamar by Judah (Gen. 38:28, 29, 30); and by Ephraim and Manasseh (Gen. 48:13, 14); and in both of these, as well as in other similar cases, there is a dispute about the primogeniture and the consequent dominion.
        1. Cain and Abel
        2. Esau and Jacob
            1. Jacob himself received the blessing of the firstborn although he was the 2nd.
        3. Tamar’s twins Pharez and Zarah
            1. Culturally, the issue of who was so important that the firstborn that the midwife was prepared with red thread to mark the first born child when twins were expected!
        4. Final plague in Egypt, the death of the firstborn
          1. Here, because it was a spiritual church where faith was in the first place, and it was a fallen church so it was actually falsity that was in the first place, it was judged – or brought to an end – by having those falsities removed.
        5. Manasseh and Ephraim
    3. There is a progression in our own lives, and in a parallel way in the development of the Lord’s church over the generations. When we (and the church) are young, we see things in terms of truth – because we as yet have very little in the way of true charity.
      1. It’s only later, as we gain experience and begin to bring our lives into order and put the truth into life and become forms of charity that we begin to see the importance of charity.
      2. So the appearance is that faith is the firstborn, and that charity only comes later.
        1. So, the child that represents faith is born first. In the Joseph story, that is Manasseh.
        2. But when it comes time for the blessing, it is the child that represent charity that gets the blessing of the firstborn.
    4. Or another way to put it is that charity is first in end, not in time.
      1. When we think about it from the natural mind which is in time and space, we see what come first in time.
      2. When we think about it from the mind that is uplifted into spiritual things by doing what is good, we think apart from time and space and rather see it in terms of ends – and so Charity is seen to be first in importance.
  3. AC 4925:7 points out that the Lord alone is the firstborn, because He is the source of all good, and all truth is derived from that good.
    1. It all starts with the Lord.
      1. He wants us to live in charity like the angels, so when we are born He gives everyone the ability to be affected by truth.
        1. Or, what we call “an affection for truth” which is a kind of love, or good.
      2. Because of that affection for truth, we can then acquire facts about the world and heaven. We look at them, and fit them into the puzzle of our lives in different ways using our rational minds to weigh the consequences, and eventually come up with a faith that works for us.
      3. As that faith is growing, if we are doing it right, we are learning by doing, see which of those truths of faith give us delight when we live them – and in the process we become forms of charity (angels).
      4. These new delights then give us new insights in how to do things even better, and we acquire new truths of faith.
      5. Which lead to new forms of charity and the delights that accompany them.
      6. Which lead to new forms of faith.
      7. And so on to eternity. Amen.

First Lesson: GEN 48:15-22

15 And he blessed Joseph, and said: “ God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac walked, The God who has fed me all my life long to this day,

16 The Angel who has redeemed me from all evil, Bless the lads; Let my name be named upon them, And the name of my fathers Abraham and Isaac; And let them grow into a multitude in the midst of the earth.”

17 Now when Joseph saw that his father laid his right hand on the head of Ephraim, it displeased him; so he took hold of his father’s hand to remove it from Ephraim’s head to Manasseh’s head.

18 And Joseph said to his father, “Not so, my father, for this one is the firstborn; put your right hand on his head.”

19 But his father refused and said, “I know, my son, I know. He also shall become a people, and he also shall be great; but truly his younger brother shall be greater than he, and his descendants shall become a multitude of nations.”

20 So he blessed them that day, saying, “By you Israel will bless, saying, ‘May God make you as Ephraim and as Manasseh!’ “ And thus he set Ephraim before Manasseh.

21 Then Israel said to Joseph, “Behold, I am dying, but God will be with you and bring you back to the land of your fathers.

22 Moreover I have given to you one portion above your brothers, which I took from the hand of the Amorite with my sword and my bow.”

Second Lesson: TCR 336

From the wisdom of the ancients came forth this tenet, that the universe and each and all things therein relate to good and truth; and thus that all things pertaining to the church relate to love or charity and faith, since everything that flows forth from love or charity is called good, and everything that flows forth from faith is called true. Since then charity and faith are distinguishably two, and yet make one in man, that he may be a man of the church, that is, that the church may be in him, it was a matter of controversy and dispute among the ancients, which one of the two should be first, and which therefore is by right to be called the firstborn. Some of them said that truth is first and consequently faith; and some good, and consequently charity. For they saw that immediately after birth man learns to talk and think, and is thereby perfected in understanding, which is done by means of knowledges, and by this means he learns and understands what is true; and afterwards by means of this he learns and understands what is good; consequently, that he first learns what faith is, and afterward what charity is. Those who so comprehended this subject, supposed that the truth of faith was the firstborn, and that good of charity was born afterwards; for which reason they gave to faith the eminence and prerogative of primogeniture. But those who so reasoned overwhelmed their own understandings with such a multitude of arguments in favor of faith, as not to see that faith is not faith unless it is conjoined with charity, and that charity is not charity unless conjoined with faith, and thus that they make one, and if not so conjoined, neither of them is anything in the church. That they do completely make one, will be shown in what follows.

[2] But in these prefatory remarks I will show briefly how or in what respect they make one; for this is important as throwing some light on what follows. Faith, by which is also meant truth, is first in time; while charity, by which is also meant good, is first in end; and that which is first in end, is actually first, because it is primary, therefore also it is the firstborn, while that which is first in time, is not actually first, but only apparently so. But to make this understood, it shall be illustrated by comparisons with the building of a temple, and of a house, the laying out of a garden, and the preparation of a field. In the building of a temple, the first thing in time is to lay the foundation, erect the walls and put on the roof; then to put in the altar and rear the pulpit; while the first thing in end is the worship of God therein, for the sake of which the preceding work is done. In the building of a house, the first thing in time is to build its outside parts, and also to furnish it with various articles of necessity; while the first thing in end is a suitable dwelling for the man and the others who are to constitute his household. In the laying out of a garden, the first thing in time is to level the ground, prepare the soil, and plant trees in it and sow in it the seeds of such things as will be of use; while the first thing in end is the use of its products. In the preparation of a field, the first thing in time is to smooth, plough and harrow it, and then to sow it; while the first thing in end is the crop; thus again, use. From these comparisons anyone may conclude what is essentially first. Does not everyone who wishes to build a temple or a house, or to lay out a garden, or cultivate a field, first intend some use? And does he not continually keep this in his mind and meditate upon it while he is procuring the means to it? We therefore conclude that the truth of faith is first in time, but that the good of charity is first in end; and that this latter, because it is primary, is actually the firstborn in the mind.

 

Heal distress — Can spiritual practices help?

 

healAccording to established research, one in four of us experience some form of mild mental health difficulty each year. Even if you do not suffer – what the medics call – identifiable psychiatric morbidity – nevertheless you still may feel bad; fed up, irritable, worried or distressed. In which case, if you are to be calm, contented and fulfilled, something needs to inwardly change. You may wonder if your spirit needs to heal, then can spiritual practices be of benefit?

Going on a retreat to heal distress

When life gets too stressful then you probably start looking at holiday brochures. If you can afford it getting away to some lovely place for couple of weeks, can be very attractive. A holiday allows us to escape from the responsibilities of home and work. Beautiful and inspiring settings may bring harmony into one’s life. When we get a rest from the ordinary strains of living, we may become emotionally refreshed.

A spiritual retreat may help one reconnect with one’s inner life, one’s hopes and aspirations, values and principles. The religious person may use some of the time to engage in self reflection and prayer with the aim of reconnecting with God.

Practising meditation to heal distress

Meditation is passively observing our experiences simply as mental events without personal attachment to them; trying to focus attention and suspend judgement whilst maintaining objectivity. A huge challenge I believe if you are suffering more than a mild degree of anxiety or depression.

However it is possible with repeated practice to learn to focus  the mind and emotionally distance oneself from random thoughts and feelings. It needs self-discipline to sit down quietly staying focused on one thing at a time: not easy with a mind that is easily distracted by fearful thoughts and is prone to wander off into fantasy.

I would suggest that from a religious perspective, meditation —  say on the words of sacred scripture — brings about calm because it involves transcending self-orientated concerns, opening up an inert life force, and gaining spiritual awareness of the Divine.

Adopting an attitude of mindfulness to heal distress

Those who advocate an attitude of mindfulness in the hum-drum of ordinary situations, claim it can bring about a greater attention to reality. This means being in the moment and getting absorbed in the here and now. For example being aware of one’s surroundings; listening more fully to what others are saying.

With this attitude of mind it is said we become less occupied by mistakes of the past and worries about the future for we see things as they are rather than in terms of our desires and fears.

Being mindful of habitual ways of thinking is central to a well researched form of therapy known as cognitive-behavioural therapy.  Individuals with self-defeating and irrational thoughts, are helped to create and focus instead on constructive realistic ways of thinking. Focusing on how things really are means facing reality instead of fighting the experience of trying to make it something else.

From a religious perspective, being in the moment brings about a consciousness of what is called the eternal now. This is an illuminating perception that transcends time-bound concerns. It flows from a Divine Mind which is both present within and also beyond time and place.

Christians believe in this Holy Spirit of God whose presence many say they feel when sitting in silence to create a space in the heart for Him to find a home in.

They say, when you turn to this source, the Divine can flow more consciously into your  experiences of life and you feel uplifted, creative, illuminated. When the love of self no longer rules your heart, then you  rise above your worries concerning the transient things of the world.

Confessing guilty feelings to heal distress

Many distressed people are able gain self-insights and begin to acknowledge their guilty feelings with a non-judgmental counsellor. This confession would be meaningless without a degree of self-examination. It is all about searching one’s heart to discover any repeated desires that infringe one’s own principles — one’s own conscience of what is right and wrong in human conduct.

Would it not be nice if we could just change our bad feelings simply by better understanding them? Just having clearest self insight? However, according to the spiritual philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg, to heal the understanding with its thoughts and insights, is to heal a person only outwardly. What needs also to change is the inward aspect of the individual — what is felt, wanted and chosen. Therapy for the understanding alone would be like palliative healing, failing to touch the inner malignity.

Psychotherapists talk about resistance by the patient to making personal change because of self-insights that remain only on an intellectual level. Emotional acceptance of what change is needed is more of a wrench than mere acknowledgment because it means real acceptance of the consequences of giving up old ways, old pleasures and old attitudes.

One religious view is that unless we have a change of heart, we can easily retract something that we had only acknowledged in the mind the previous day. We may have recognised where we are going wrong but what is crucially important is an emotional acceptance of a way forward. Religion and psychotherapy are about personal change if they are about anything. The challenge of both is accepting a need to change.

From a modern Christian perspective, repentance is to do with wanting to change from ways of living that are recognised as self-defeating and unworthy.

Just as many alcoholics attending Alcoholics Anonymous may believe that they cannot cure themselves without surrendering to a higher power to help them conquer the demon drink, so religious people believe that it is God who heals the spirit, and it is the gift of healing that can transform the persons life and character through a process known as salvation. For them healing of the spirit takes place through a humble turning to God in prayer.

“Pythagoras said that … if the healing art is most Divine, it must occupy itself with the soul as well as with the body; for no creature can be sound so long as the higher part of it is sickly.” (Apollonius of Tyrana – Greek philosopher)

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

Sympathy – Can I feel more warmth to others?

sympathyIf there were no such thing as sympathy for the plight of others, then indeed the world would be a sorry place. In public life there would be no social harmony: at the workplace no cooperation: and within the home no loving kindness.

On the other hand you might wonder whether sympathy is always a good thing. How realistic is it to try to be on good terms with everybody? Should we try to sympathise with the criminal as well as the victim, the swindler as well as the honest trader, the reckless driver as well as the casualty? To answer this I would suggest it is possible to have sympathy for an individual yet feel harshly about any bad actions that person wants to do.

Without this distinction I believe we can do harm by acting with sympathy. Examples of this might be giving in to a child’s demand for a inappropriate toy, or donating money to a poor person who wants to buy drugs, or voting for government handouts where there is no attempt to distinguish between those who want to remain dependent on benefits and those who are genuinely seeking gainful employment.

Can sympathy be learned?

With some people, feeling warm and having sympathy, seems to come more naturally than with others. What if you are a suspicious kind of person, who is a bit sceptical about other people’s motives? Or someone who sees yourself as tough-minded with a competitive disposition more interested in winning rather than cooperating? Or perhaps you like to keep yourself to yourself and are not interested in other people and do not find being friendly comes easy? If so, you may be wondering whether it is actually possible to learn to feel more sympathy. How could anyone find more patience when someone gives them aggravation and how find more concern for the demands of an angry person?

Moving house

This is a bit of a jokey suggestion but it might help you to become more willing to care about and help your neighbours if you were to live in a smaller community where you meet people on a regular basis. If you live in an urban environment people are less likely to know each other.  In the United States we find such well-known expressions as “Southern hospitality” and “Minnesota nice” in those rural states away from the East and West coasts. Researchers actually found that people in the West, Midwest and South do tend to have higher average scores on agreeableness than people living in other regions of the United States.

Acting with sympathy

It is obvious that the way we feel affects the way we act. But in cognitive-behaviour-therapy it has been found that this can also work the other way around. Sometimes how we behave influences our feelings. You can learn to feel more sympathy by acting in a sympathetic manner. The way this works might be to do with the positive responses we get back from our own actions. For example it so happens that agreeable people who are more sensitive to the needs and perspectives of others, are less likely to suffer from social rejection. Children who are less disruptive, less aggressive and more skilled at entering playgroups are more likely to gain acceptance by their peers. It is easier to acquire sympathy for others who are friendly towards you.

Argumentativeness and feeling sympathy

One obstacle that hinders learning to feel sympathy is wanting to win an argument at all costs. It is not easy to see any merit in the other fellow’s point of view if you are focused entirely on your own line of reasoning. You can hope to sympathise a little bit with what he or she is feeling if you are prepared to pause and put into words what you think is being said to you. Likewise when you are tempted to feel anger in a conflict situation, then counting to ten, and consciously avoiding any coercive tactics, can help you discover possible constructive ways forward that involve sympathy and cooperation rather than rudeness and fighting.

Practising helping others

The more we help others the more we discover what their needs are. Only when we empathise with their predicament can we hope to feel sympathy. I imagine that most people are more likely to want to help their own kith and kin and part of this is probably because they’re more aware of the needs of those whom they regularly see. How much more sympathetic can we be when we become even more familiar with what other people’s needs are.

Challenging hostile thoughts

I would suggest it is impossible to feel sympathy and hostile at the same time. One way forward is to notice why you have resentment or antagonism. Is this possibly due to social prejudice against a member of a stigmatised group, or because you are jumping to conclusions about someone because they are so different from yourself? Like the individual who is uncouth rather than refined, dishevelled rather than tidy, quarrelsome rather than amiable.

By questioning the reasons for one’s attitude, it is possible to moderate negative feelings. Wanting to condemn someone means we are blinded by the bad and failing to notice the good in them and surely this judgmental attitude is an obstacle to feeling sympathy.

Sympathy as an aspect of spirituality

Feelings of sympathy may be skin deep. Having some degree of sympathy for one’s partner may be an advantageous expediency that suits one’s own needs e.g. when married partners have some sympathy for each other because they want to stay together mainly for the sake of the children or because they cannot afford to live apart.  I think similar reasons for feeling sympathy applies to other ordinary familiar contexts. But you have to start somewhere and I would claim that further cultivating a generosity of spirit is essential for spiritual growth.

“To desire and expect nothing for oneself and to have profound sympathy for others is genuine holiness”. (Ivan Turgenev)

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