animals and spiritual discipline

“I have always had a deep love for animals, and could never understand when others mistreated them, or were indifferent to them. I know I have often felt my spirit diminished by their indifference.

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Any spiritual discipline, in any tradition, invites us to open our hearts and minds. This invitation represents an on going exercise; the desire and attempt to open to others in our midst are the essence of the spiritual process.Animals can lead us spiritually in a variety of ways. They can teach us about death, participate in our social and moral development, enhance our physical and psychological well-being, and heighten our capacity to love and to experience joy.

john 16 the spirit of truth

John Cinspiring-4196hapter 16 the  literal sence of the word and  internal sence

                                        

  1. But I tell you the truth; it is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send him to you.
  2. And when he is come, he will reprove the world about sin, and about justice, and about judgement.
For truth, in its external manifestation, must apparently be taken away, to the intent that it may be received again internally, and by such internal manifestation may remove from man the powers of evil and error, and establish in him the heavenly powers of good and truth, vs 7, 8.
  1. About sin indeed, because they believe not in me.
  2. But about justice, because I go away to my father, and you see me no more.
  3. But about judgement, because the prince of this world is judged.
All which evil and error result from the non-acknowledgement of the lord’s divine humanity, whilst the glorification of this humanity, together with the subjugation of the powers of darkness, constitute the all of good and of truth, vs 9, 10, 11.
  1. I have yet many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now.
  2. But when he shall come, the Spirit of Truth, he will lead you into all truth; for he will not speak of himself, but whatever things he shall hear, [those] he will speak; and he will announce to you things to come.
Therefore a limit is set to the instruction of truth externally, but not to the reception of truth internally, because internal truth is in connection with divine good and truth, and thus leads man to depend on the lord in all states of life, vs 12, 13.
  1. He will glorify me for he shall receive of mine, and shall announce it to you.
  2. All things whatever the father has, are mine; therefore said I that he shall receive of mine, and shall announce to you.
  3. A little while, and you shall not see me; and again a little while, and you shall behold me, because I go away to the father.

26 But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send to you from the    father, the Spirit ofTruth, which proceeds from the father, he will testify of me.
27 And you also shall testify, because you are with me from the beginning.

For internal truth is the operation of the lord’s divine humanity, and thus the medium of communication with the divine truth in its union with the divine good, and therefore it succeeds the external manifestation of truth, vs 14, 15, 16.
Nevertheless the operation of the lord’s humanity, when fully united with the divinity, will prove to every believer that he is the only god by virtue of that union, and every true believer will also confirm this testimony, because he will perceive that all of regeneration from the first insemination of truth, is from that divine source, vs 26, 27

Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?

Do you wish to honour the body of christ?  Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then what is left you may adorn the altar as well

 

Addiction – A form of spiritual slavery?

Addiction means that when you crave something, you engage in habitual self-destructive activity driven by obsessive thought. This happens in drug dependency, alcoholism, compulsive gambling, and compulsive eating. We can extend this idea to include any activity that we have repeatedly failed to eliminate from our lives and that is detrimental to inner well-being – both our own and those around us. There are many hidden and subtle forms of addiction. We can become driven by a compulsion in just about any area of life. Examples include watching porn when you crave sexual excitement, verbal cruelty when you crave expressing resentment, or when you crave power or success at any cost.

External force in addiction

We subjectively sense these patterns of thought and behaviour as aspects of our own being. However they can also be seen as learned behaviours due to external events. For example if we receive abuse, we are likely to become abusive or associate ourselves with an abuser. If we experience sarcasm, we are likely to become sarcastic or associate with those who are. None of us can escape the results of negative life experience.

“We don’t want to eat that second piece of pie. We don’t want to snipe at our children or spouse with snide comments. We don’t want to work overtime every day, leaving us with no family time…. But these good impulses to escape the addiction are dwarfed by the power of the possessing forces.” (E. Kent Rogers, Co-Founder of the Loving Arms Mission)

addictionAnd so a key element of addictive craving is when one’s desire has become a slave to something external to oneself. If things have got as bad as this then it amounts to enslavement: a dependency which is often so subtle that we fail to distinguish our own will from that of the external force.

Steps to Freedom from addiction

According to this idea that external forces are wedded to one’s sense of self and will, there is no chance of getting rid of them without a great deal of help.

After many failed attempts to free yourself from your craving, you probably have come to realise that you have no power over your addiction. If your own will has been hijacked you have no chance of yourself of making any change.

According to the Twelve Steps Recovery Program, the first crucial step towards freedom is to admit you are powerless over the force of the addiction and that as a result your life has become unmanageable.

The divine spirit of healing for addiction

We need somehow to access something pretty powerful to rescue us from the habits which have taken over our life causing us such misery. This is where a spiritual approach may be said to come in. It encourages a belief that a power greater than oneself can restore one to sanity and asks us to decide to turn our will and our lives over to the care of what we understand to be the divine spirit of healing.

Lies in addiction

In his book “12 Miracles Of Spiritual Growth”, E. Kent Rogers suggests that the addictive force tells us lies in which we come to believe.

“I don’t have a problem”

“The addiction or habit is who I am”

“I can overpower the addiction on my own”

“I cannot change”

He points out that the lies can be seen to be unreasonable. The first two are mutually exclusive and the second two also contradict one another.

Alternative ways of thinking might be to say that you do have a problem in so far as you have given your life over to destructive forces within you, but you yourself are not the problem. Only with the help of the power of the divine spirit of healing which is greater than yourself, can you be set free.

Depiction of addiction

In the book, Rogers recounts the biblical story about a man called Legion, someone not in his right mind who lived alone among the tombs. He had often been chained hand and foot but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. Night and day he would cry out and, against his own will and better judgement, cut himself with stones. This man was enslaved to an evil force; a pawn to their destructive whims. There could be no better depiction of addiction as a living hell. When he saw Jesus Christ from a distance he ran and fell on his knees in front of him. And was healed of the evil spirits said to possess him.

In our current era, where scientific thought is the dominant way of thinking, it is difficult for us to relate to the idea of evil spirits, let alone demonic possession. However, are there not spirits of the past living within and animating us? Are these not the external forces that take over the will of the addict?

According to this way of thinking the spirits caused the man to abuse himself with stones even as he moaned and cried out in agony. Likewise, we moan with anguish as we watch ourselves sink further into self-destructive behaviour. Like Legion we live as if alone even when in the presence of others, feeling isolated from them and not making meaningful connections. Like Legion, who lived among the tombs, we also are amongst the dead in the sense that we when are possessed by addiction, we experience our own spiritual death and decay.

But like Legion, can we not find healing from spiritual slavery by asking for help from a divine healing power greater than ourselves?

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

Inspiring example of volunteers

volunteersIn article in the Telegraph newspaper Martin Lewis points out that over 15 million people in Britain volunteer at least once a month to help others in society. Requests to form a new charity are currently flowing into the offices of the Charity Commission at an average rate of 30 every single day.

Volunteers tackle homelessness, mentor disadvantaged young people from tough backgrounds, regenerate ancient woodland for use by the local community, drive patients to hospital appointments, provide support to relatives of people killed in car crashes, take the elderly and isolated on canal trips, help people on the streets late at night, offer support so those who are HIV positive can deal with their diagnosis and get back on their feet, find ways for visually impaired people to lead full and active lives, run community radio stations, provide additional support and comfort to local children living in poverty, help young people overcome reading difficulties, deliver companionship, healthy meals and stimulating activities to older people, provide expert medical support in an emergency until an ambulance arrives, crew a rescue hovercraft to save lives, intervene to stop violence by diffusing aggressive situations, help women to break free from street sex work and addiction, and provide free respite breaks for disadvantaged children from across the UK.

And these are just the tip of the iceberg. There is hardly an area of need in Britain that is not touched by some people giving their time and energy for the sake of others.

This community work can have a spiritual element of healing for those getting some help. But it also is a wonderful form of inner growth for those who offer their time. Give and you will receive.

Is all laughter healthy?

laughter

Who hasn’t responded with laughter to one of the most famous sketches in the history of British television comedy, the ‘Dead Parrot Sketch’ from Monty Python’s Flying Circus?

 

 well, one person comes to mind. A rival political party had adopted the image of a bird for its logo.  Margaret Thatcher’s speech writers encouraged her to quote from the dead parrot sketch to lampoon her rivals. This she did do at the party conference. But the story goes that she had been initially reluctant to use it because she just hadn’t found it funny.

The sketch illustrates one common element in comedy which is delight at feeling superior to others, like when we laugh at their misfortunes or shortcomings in contrast to ourselves — like seeing someone hoodwinked by a pet salesman.

The question arises whether laughing at the misfortunes of others is a good thing to do. Is all laughter healthy?

Benefits of laughter

“There’s nothing more contagious than the laughter of young children; it doesn’t even have to matter what they’re laughing about.” (Criss Jami)

So pity those without a sense of humour. For is not laughter the best medicine? It can trigger healthy physical changes in the body. It strengthens your immune system, boosts your energy, diminishes pain, and protects you from the damaging effects of stress.

Perhaps laughter has these benefits because it releases nervous energy. What better than to have a way of letting go of the tensions of daily living. Black humour amongst those professionals like the police and pathologists is largely unacceptable in other social contexts, because it considers human suffering as absurd rather than pitiable. Nevertheless, it serves to help deal with the gruesome and often ghastly side of life which can be too unpleasant to focus on and too terrible to talk about seriously.

When laughter is shared, it binds people together and increases happiness and intimacy. It reduces tensions of disagreement and growing conflict.

“It is impossible for you to be angry and laugh at the same time. Anger and laughter are mutually exclusive and you have the power to choose either.” (Wayne Dyer)

You also laugh the moment you realise the absurd incongruity in a situation. When what you expected is suddenly shifted with a changed perspective. Enjoying a sense of the ludicrous happens to the audience watching farce and what better theatre is there to induce a belly laugh.

Other humour

Seeing someone slip on a banana skin is an example of negative humour. Another example is mocking laughter deriding people you don’t like. I witnessed this sort of thing at a football match recently when fans chanted sexually crude insults at opposing supporters. You might laugh out loud at risqué jokes told in a club but not smile at them if heard in the home. People do vary as to what they feel are the boundaries of good taste and propriety and perhaps some of the fans would have felt uncomfortable if the abusive noisy hilarity were expressed outside of the stadium.

Where you draw the line, between poking fun at someone in a teasing sort of way and using humour to deride and ridicule, is difficult to say. Court jesters who earned their living making their royal employers laugh, by pointing out some home truths, were appreciated because they knew how to hide the truth with humour and how far to go without having their heads cut off. The comic who reflected a section of public opinion about a cowardly politician was on fairly safe ground when he asked if the person in question would “please come to lost property where his missing spine has been handed in.” You may notice I haven’t named the politician. Somehow I feel that would be a little spiteful or may be I am being too sensitive.

I’ve nothing against poking fun at people but I happen to think that how one does this is all important.

“Most comedy is based on getting a laugh at somebody else’s expense. And I find that that’s just a form of bullying in a major way. So I want to be an example that you can be funny and be kind, and make people laugh without hurting somebody else’s feelings.” (Ellen DeGeneres)

Scoffing, jeering, and using sarcastic put downs seem to me to be not a good thing to do.

“My pain may be the reason for somebody’s laugh.
But my laugh must never be the reason for somebody’s pain.”
(Charles Chaplin)

Is there not a crucial difference between laughing with someone and laughing at them? Sly smirks occur because people realise the social unacceptability of outright derisive laughter.

Emanuel Swedenborg suggests that the basis of laughing is liking what you see to be  true about something. And that this means laughter generally entails something that is not so good. I would interpret this to mean that there is an element of harsh judgment here either about ourselves or others.

“Very much is contained within laughter, for the most part something of contempt which, though it does not show itself, is nevertheless lying underneath.” (Swedenborg, AC 2216)

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