Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg introduced a very strange concept into human psychology and spiritual themes. He stated that the Lord God implanted within each of us a place for spiritual truths and affections to flow into our lives. He called this plane the remains.
These noble influences are implanted from Above during the time of our childhood innocence. Only when in a state of innocence can one receive these heavenly gifts.
But as a child loses his or her innocence and learns pretense from others in the world, this innocent plane of consciousness gets shut off and covered over. It gets covered over by the mask that pretense and falsity creates—automatically forming our habitual thoughts and worldly intentions.
We now believe—from repetition becoming second nature—that this “mask” is who we really are.
But the mask represents a more limited expression of who we really are, and as such, we become equally limited in our perceptions of reality, including the flow of time. So time speeds up from our subjective viewpoint!
The speeding up of our sense of the flow of time is actual evidence that we have forsaken our God-given and cosmic duty.
This is one of the most important spiritual topics I have ever come across and it would take a book to really explain adequately. Hmmm…
The above phase is taken from Emanuel Swedenborg’s Apocalypse Explained (246).
Yet elsewhere, Swedenborg insists that God’s truths cannot be instilled (acquired) into one’s inner life without temptations.
So what gives here?
According to Swedenborg, the Lord God uses every circumstance wisely (and providentially) to promote His heavenly trajectories. This means allowing infernal spirits (from hell) to reprove and chasten—that is, to challenge any genuinely spiritual idea in a person’s memory.
(Even noble ideas must go deeper than a person’s memory function in order to be appropriated. But such a temptation to make this happen is not permitted among those with wrongly oriented hearts.)
The resulting conflict (and friction) between opposing influences forges particular notions to form an eternal belief system within one’s inner (spiritual) organic fabric. In this way God uses evil to help in the process of spiritual transformation because evil is then used as an important passive principle to allow Truth to become organically fixed (qualified) deeply into the human spirit.
Gushiness, chumminess and worldly affirmations are manifestations of lazy worshippers choosing not to enter into this humbling process and self-conflict.
Most people feel loved (and affirmed) when others show them kindness. This is because most people are treated like crap most of the time.
But how does one come upon deep, sincere, spiritual love when one is calmed only by the affirmation and attention of others? In Holy Scripture, we are warned against seeking the praise of mere mortal men (and women).
This becomes a difficulty in spiritual transformation since God wants to remove us from any self-centeredness that thrives on affirmation from others. So what kind of affirmation are we really seeking—that we are wonderful, precious beings (in spite of ourselves)?
When we pray to God, we usually ask that situations go in the direction that pleases us most. But God does things that will best promote His heavenly intentions—including showing up our false self-image and worldly affections (in fact, the Second Coming will be to destroy our false self-images and deluded self-worth).
Kindness can be external and internal. When we seek affirmation (in church or anywhere else) of our supposed self-worth, we forget there is a difference.
God’s heavenly angels have their focus on others—not on themselves.
Emotions can run high in the debate between religion and science. Just take a look at the high-profile campaign in the United States to teach ‘Intelligent Design’ in schools. But is conflict inevitable because both sides are showing blind faith in their own version of reality?
Blind faith of scientists who deny a purposive life source
Despite the victory of Darwinism over creationism, it is hard to see how adaption from something like a single cell through natural selection can give an account for the development of human self-reflection, courage, honesty, ethical insight, ideology, altruism, and resistance to temptation. This is not to deny the truth about the facts of nature that science can reveal. But should we not also acknowledge the deeper side of human life revealed inwardly to those of a spiritual bent. To my mind, human consciousness derives from the human soul absent in other forms of life.
Those who believe that the origin of human existence is a spiritual Life Source are aware however that science firmly favours Darwin’s evolutionary theory, which is based on natural selection and chance factors in reproduction. Survival of the fittest means all human beings together with all animal life have descended from some one primordial form. Science it seems has no room for spiritual ideas such as a purposeful human creation.
Blind faith of creationists
The Darwinian view has easily seen off the creationists, who to my mind have failed
to notice the allegorical nature of the Genesis story. By this I mean that the story of the beginning of the world and the Garden of Eden is not a physics and biology lesson but rather a psycho-spiritual one.
Some modern theologians see the first few chapters in Genesis as a symbolic representation of the origin and dynamic development of the human psyche and
its consciousness in relation to its Source; an ageless model of each of us created in the image and likeness of God. Thus arguably the Garden of Eden is a picture of the state of trust in and obedience to God and the fall of humanity into reliance on self-intelligence and self-orientation.
To my way of thinking the Bible as a whole, if inwardly understood, shows the spiritual journey of humanity returning to a state of innocence. We have a tree of life in the first book Genesis and in the last book Revelation, both I think representing the reality seen through the depths of one’s spirit. Understanding about life
According to this view trust in the Source is not one based on ignorance but is one with rational understanding — no blind faith but rather a realistic perception about meaning and purpose that takes into account all our understanding about life as a whole.
More people these days are rejecting the blind faith of religion expressed in traditional superstitions and unreasonable dogmas. People are more likely to want their spiritual intuition to be confirmed by rational discussion. Only the creationist will assume scripture is always literally true. I am arguing that people want answers to life’s issues informed by scientific education and the reasoning of common sense, as well as by spiritual knowledge and insight.
When theological doctrines such as creationism are seen to lack realistic sense, then I guess religion will start to be side-lined by those who use their rational minds.
Blind faith in scientific theories limited by naturalistic assumptions
I notice that likewise some scientists claim that random processes created human
life rather than any creative design. Is this not because there can be no scientific instruments to observe purpose and meaning? And because science is limited by its assumption that knowledge is limited to natural things like fossils and genes? I can’t imagine how there might be any scientific proof that science is the only means of acquiring valid knowledge.
Likewise when scientific theoretical concepts appear unlinked to the results of research then even to scientists they will seem more like fantasy than reality.
I wonder if you would agree with the following statement? In its naturalistic explanations and focus on the question ‘how?’ science deals with the level of thinking of the external rational mind, whereas, religion, with its focus on meaning and the question ‘why?’, appeals to the inner rational mind.
In other words when rationally presented, perhaps both science and religion are useful for communicating different aspects of human knowledge and understanding: science for the outer, time-related, natural life and religion for the inner timeless spiritual life.
Blind faith due to arrogance
Does trouble not arise when some theologians or some scientists believe they know it all? Religion got it wrong in the past about the earth being at the centre of the solar system and today creationists claim the world was made in seven days despite all the evidence of science to the contrary.
“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Galileo Galilei (1600–1670)
“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Albert Einstein (1879–1955)
Scientists as much as religious people can fall into the trap of blind faith.
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
by Stanislav Grof, Suny Series in Transpersonal and Humanistic Psychology, State University of New York Press. 2000. ISBN 0 7914 4622
This book is about modern consciousness research. It is written by one of the founders of transpersonal psychology and covers his ideas regarding non-ordinary states of consciousness. His term for these is ‘holotropic’ experience which signifies ‘moving towards wholeness.’
His discussion draws on for example such fascinating human states of consciousness as past-life experiences, peak experiences, communication with spirit guides and channelling, near-death experiences, crises of shamans like witch-doctors, states of possession, and awakening of Kundalini. He also reports findings from his original research into ‘psychedelic therapy’ and ‘holotropic breathwork’.
One critic has commented ‘If more psychiatrists could be persuaded that human consciousness transcends the limitations of the physical brain and instead is but an aspect of what may best be described as ‘cosmic consciousness,’ we could not only expect treatment modalities to change, but we could also anticipate the possibility of culture-wide rethinking … about the nature of personhood.’
Grof was formerly Chief of Psychiatric Research at the Maryland Psychiatric Research Centre and Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
He claims that many mental states that modern psychiatry considers pathological and treats with suppressive medication are instead psychospiritual crises that have a healing and transformative potential.
He worked with his wife Christina for many years inducing and supporting holotropic states of consciousness with emotionally troubled people. They used a combination of accelerated breathing, evocative music and a technique of bodywork claimed to release blocked physical and emotional energy. Grof suggests that this approach brings together and integrates various elements from ancient and aboriginal traditions, Eastern spiritual philosophies and Western depth psychology.
People vary as to how they respond to the holotropic sessions. Some remain quiet and still whilst reporting later they were having profound inner experiences. Others are agitated perhaps showing violent shaking and complex movements. One can observe a wide range of emotions. People appear to relive traumatic memories. But Grof argues this is not a case of re-traumatisation. They are no longer experiencing the event as a child. Now they can analyse and evaluate the memory with therapeutic support from a mature adult perspective.
It is claimed that the therapeutic results of holotropic breathwork have been dramatically and meaningfully connected with specific experiences in the sessions. Grof says that they have seen over the years numerous instances when participants were able to breakout of depression that had lasted several years, overcome various phobias, free themselves from irrational feelings, and radically improve their self-confidence and self-esteem.
Also observed has been the disappearance of severe psychosomatic pains such as migraine headaches. It is also claimed that this therapy leads to large improvements of physical conditions that in medical textbooks are described as organic diseases such as chronic infections.
‘In holotropic states, consciousness is changed qualitatively in a very profound and fundamental way…. We typically remain fully orientated in terms of space and time and do not completely lose touch with everyday reality. At the same time our field of consciousness is invaded from contents from other dimensions of existence in a way that can be very intense and even overwhelming. We thus experience simultaneously two very different realities, having each foot in a different world.’
He goes on to say that holotropic states are characterised by dramatic perceptual changes in all sensory areas. When we close our eyes we may see images drawn from personal history or visions portraying plants or animals, scenes from nature, or of the universe. We may be experiencing realms of archetypal beings and mythological regions. And even when we open our eyes, our perception of our surroundings can be illusively transformed by vivid projections of this unconscious material. Various sounds, physical sensations, smells and tastes may also be involved.
He also describes emotions characteristic of these states. Feelings can be very intense. They may range from ecstatic rapture, content and peacefulness, to terror, murderous anger, utter despair, or consuming guilt. Such states of mind seem to match either the celestial paradises or hellish realms described in sacred scriptures of the world’s religions.
He reports that, in these non-ordinary states of consciousness, we may not be able to rely on our judgment of everyday practical matters but we can be flooded by remarkable valid information on a variety of subjects as well as deep insights concerning our personal history, unconscious dynamics, and life problems. He writes that we can also “experience extraordinary revelations concerning various aspects of nature and of the cosmos that by a wide margin transcends our educational and intellectual background.”
Finally he comments that the most interesting insights that become available revolve around philosophical, metaphysical and spiritual issues. And so he thinks heloptropic states of consciousness facilitate deep personality changes and spiritual opening. He believes that systematic disciplined self-exploration using helotropic states in a good setting sooner or later tends to take the form of a deep philosophical and spiritual quest.
‘I have seen on numerous occasions that people, whose primary interest in psychedelic sessions or in holotropic breathwork was therapeutic, professional or artistic, suddenly started asking the most fundamental questions about existence when their inner process reached the transpersonal level.’
He argues that experiences of this kind are the main source of mythologies, philosophies and religious systems describing the spiritual nature of existence.
‘They are the key for understanding the ritual and spiritual life of humanity from shamanism and sacred ceremonies of aboriginal tribes to the great religions of the world.’
Over 200 years before Grof’s book, another explorer of consciousness was the 18th century spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, who meticulously reported what he found. He discovered that his own holotropic experiences also showed that the spiritual dimension of reality can come across in a way that is as convincing as our daily familiarity with the material world.
An early step in his case towards a full state of awareness of what he termed ‘the spiritual world’ was apparently seeing things with his inner vision simultaneously with natural sight. Then came the perception of smells and still later the hearing of the speech of whom he called spirits. Finally there was complete perception of his presence in the spiritual world. He said he was awake to his physical surroundings on earth but was also aware of being part of the other dimension in which he saw, heard, spoke and acted.
The wakefulness of spirit came to appear to him to be exactly the same as bodily wakefulness. At first this perception was probably only occasional. And to start with he was a passive witness of events in the spiritual realm rather than someone interacting with them. However after his full admission he was to make the amazing claim that he was active in both worlds at the same time for the best part of the last 27 years of his life. He reported conversations with both good and bad spirits.
Swedenborg found that the spiritual world mirrors the spiritual state of people. Likewise, as Grof says, ‘Artists do not limit their topics to those that are beautiful, ethical and uplifting. They portray any aspects of life that can render interesting images.’ Beauty can be found where people are caring and considerate; ugliness where people are resentful or spiteful.
Grof’s book is entitled Psychology of the Future. Swedenborg’s spiritual world reflects not just our inner spirit now but also the future realm we will fully experience as an afterlife following our bodily death. Swedenborg says that in what part of the spiritual world we feel at home depends on the state of our inner character. That applies now as well after our bodily death. According to his spiritual philosophy we form our own inner character not from what we do but from why we do things. Our inner motivation counts towards our destiny.
Grof has a chapter about our reunion with the divine source. How it is fraught with many hardships, risks and challenges. What he says about organised religion could have also come from Swedenborg’s pen. Grof writes :
‘The dogmas and activities of mainstream religions tend to obscure the fact that the only place where true spirituality can be found is inside the psyche of each of us. At its worst organised religion can actually function as a grave impediment for any serious spiritual search, rather than an institution that can help us connect with the divine. By denigrating its members, it makes it difficult to believe that the divine is within them. It might also cultivate in the followers the false belief that regular attendance of formal divine service, prayer, and financial contributions to the church are adequate and sufficient spiritual activity.’
As Swedenborg would say – it is not what we do or what we believe but why we do it and believe it that matters. For it is our inner life that is reflected in our spiritual realm. And so the celestial part of the spiritual world where lived good-hearted people appeared to him as beautiful as the physical world but with nothing of its menace. He reports that true happiness can be found there – not in lazy self-indulgence but in useful active lives of kindness. The hellish part is just the opposite. No friendship can be found there because those in this negative state of spirit are too self-concerned to want to share with or put any trust in others.
For Grof – unlike Swedenborg – holotropic experiences are not unequivocal proof of survival of consciousness after death. However, he points out that according to Western neuroscience, consciousness is a product of the physiological processes in the brain, and thus critically dependent on the body. Very few people, including most scientists, realise that we have no proof that consciousness is actually produced by the brain and that we do not even have a remote notion of how something like consciousness could possibly happen in terms of physical matter.
‘In spite of it, this basic metaphysical assumption remains one of the leading myths of Western materialist science and has profound influence on our entire society.’
Whilst remaining an agnostic about what happens after death, Grof is absolutely clear that none of the interpretations based on careful study of altered states of consciousness are compatible with the monistic materialistic worldview of Western science. At the same time he acknowledges that a belief in survival and karma will have a profound impact on our behaviour. He quotes Plato as saying that disconcern for the postmortem consequences of one’s deeds would be a ‘boon to the wicked.’
As some modern authors have emphasised massive avoidance and even emotional denial of death leads to social pathologies that have dangerous consequences for humanity. Grof writes that modern consciousness research certainly supports this point of view.
Grof has an encyclopaedic knowledge of the transpersonal world and it shows. However the reader should be warned about a tendency towards repetition. Many scientists will probably feel he has over-stated his case. Nevertheless I warmly recommend this book and give it a five star rating.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
If we were to cultivate the habit of positive thinking, I feel it could transform our world.
To me, finding a reconciliation for all our past suffering and pain, anger and rage means that we would not be risking the chance of spoiling the future by staying locked in the past.
I believe there are no rigid route maps in life for us to follow. Are we not all on unique journeys? And so is it not best to have faith in your chosen direction and do the best that you possibly can?
There is a lot to be said for neither wasting your time nor depleting your energy over things you cannot possibly change. Instead, why not switch your focus to the things you can affect, the things that can make a difference to your life, and others?
If you think your health is the most important thing you will want to nurture and cherish it. It’s the agent /medium that you have to get through this beautiful life.
I feel it is good to always give some of our income, as much as we can, to a favourite charity. People need hope and support in their lives and arguably one’s gift would be a definite contribution to this goal.
I would suggest that one should never undervalue the power of a kind word or deed which has the potential to reap the richest of rewards.
Who would disagree that without love we have nothing? And that love is the only thing that makes our lives meaningful and valuable and if love is not present in our life then we must seek it out.
I tell myself to be kind to everyone – this is a spiritual practice that must be carried out with determination and resolve.
Adversity visits everyone and I think it is our duty is to analyze it, understand it and learn from it. Then we can let go and move forward in a new life.
I enjoy good humour because there is nothing so nourishing for the mind and body as laughter.
We do not have to be constantly seeking to be right for is there not a deep humility to be sought in letting go of this pride?
Many find time for rest and relaxation. They realise it’s important to strive for the things they believe in but this can only really be sustained in the long run if they take time out to recharge their batteries.
The unexpected, the unpredictable always surfaces in our lives so perhaps we need to get used to this reality. However, with an open heart and reflective mind we can still move forward positively and this will always bring comfort.
Why not slow down your life for a better life?
I would suggest life can be reinvigorated by always being open to making new friends.
Rather than criticising others I believe it is best to try to understand their point of view, even if it clashes with yours. This way you will save energy to undertake better things.
Bringing reconciliation and resolution to any broken relationships helps to stop the past festering within us.
Never taking anything for granted make sense to me because I believe everything is a gift, even our pain which tells us we are alive.
Is all the behaviour we find objectionable in others, at the deepest level, not really a plea to be understood?
I believe that purifying the mind, in an ongoing act of forgiveness and compassion is an act of worship.