Loving Children for Heaven

An unexpected area that offers fertile ground for unifying science with religion is to be found from some relatively recent discoveries in neuroscience concerning the importance of love. Unlike the cerebrum, the cerebellum can continue to create new neurons within a child’s early life. The surprising stimulus that triggers the formation of these new neuron’s in a child is parental hugging, rocking, being picked up, and other forms of physical closeness including being fussed over.

So, as the cerebellum develops it can continue to form new connections with the emotional centers of the Limbic system, which in turn, promote alertness in the thinking brain or cerebrum of the child. Parental love therefore has a big effect on a child’s learning abilities and his or her curiosity of the world by implanting the affection for acquiring knowledge. While I am a Christian I was delighted to learn that in Hinduism a mother is called a child’s first guru. This is because they understood that love first opens the mind to learn.

Scientists believe that an infant deprived of the warmth and physical closeness of parental intimacy will suffer improper emotional development and reduced cell connections, which can lead to dysfunctional and anti-social behavior. But I want to return to the positive side of things, where parental love can help God’s ultimate goal of taking a child’s mind beyond normal worldly development and intellectual curiosity.

Eighteenth Century scientist and theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg learned from his deep spiritual experiences that hugging and the warmth of physical closeness could also play a crucial role in the inner growth and spiritual development of a child. He discovered that God carefully protects and stores these precious moments of innocent love and peace deep within the involuntary and unconscious mind (cerebellum) of the child. Swedenborg called these stored feelings remains, because they remain protected from the developing cerebrum which is influenced by the allurements of the world.

These remains are re-activated later by God where they can be used as a foundation or matrix for further spiritual growth. This divine operation is felt in an individual as a new yearning for something greater than the physical world of the senses can offer. Its commencement is represented in the Genesis story of Holy Scripture by the passage, “And the earth was without form, and void; and darkness was upon the face of the deep, And the spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters” (Gen. 1:2). God’s moving in this deep darkness represents the stirring up of the remains within the depths of the unconscious mind, which then bubbles up into the emotional centers of the Limbic system until it becomes a new conscious striving in the cerebrum.

The Genesis story, when translated into its higher quantum vocabulary, actually addresses our spiritual re-creation or epigenesis and the seven stages that mark our return to innocence and peace (and God’s rest). Do you believe that the Holy Word can contain a multi-leveled quantum vocabulary capable of communicating God’s infinite wisdom?


The Second Coming

By every indication, the New Testament seems to suggest that the Lord’s Second Coming was close at hand. Scripture even mentions this happening within the same generation of those who heard Jesus speak. Now, two millennia later, the Lord still has not delivered on His promise of returning. Or did He?

Scripture makes it quite clear that the great battle between the armies of the great red Dragon and Michael during the end times will take place in heaven (Rev. 12:7). The Lord also makes it clear that when He makes His return, people will be unable to point to any particular location when He states: “Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you” (Luke, 17:21).

The Second Coming is not a physical event (nor does God kick ass).

So, if there is something truly new to be revealed by God’s Revelation it is that all the spectacular events of the Apocalypse occur within our innermost being and spirit. This is not the view of Christian orthodoxy, which remains in obscurity to a potentially new paradigm shift. The quality of a church is based on its understanding of the Lord’s Word. Therefore, the Lord’s “coming with clouds,” means to break through this obscurity with new and deeper teachings pertaining to His Word.

Scripture is a multidimensional document and contains a quantum vocabulary of discrete and more expanded meanings. The Holy Word contains deeper narratives concerning our spiritual predicament and the way to make our inner world a heavenly abode for the Lord.

The first coming of the Lord is physical. The second is psychical, through a real inner awakening of a higher cognitive function. First we see, next we understand.

The Second Coming can happen to each of us at different times. That is how the Lord can promise His return within a generation, that is, within a person’s lifetime and “make all things anew.” But one risks a personal upheaval (psycho-earthquakes) to his or her current worldview. Armageddon represents our personal resistance to this new dispensation from the Creator.

These ideas are based on the remarkable writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, an eighteenth century scientist, philosopher, mystic and theologian.

Did I cause interesting new synapses in your brain or just step on your toes?

How bad a person am I?

How bad am IYou may feel undeserving of any happy destiny because you are fundamentally not okay with yourself. Well, for all I know you might well be consumed by a huge ego, be selfish, vain, bitchy, resentful, etc.  But I would like to ask how do we really know when we are basically bad? That would be quite a big conclusion to carry around on one’s shoulders. Here are four questions that might help your spiritual self-assessment.

1.      How judgmental are you about yourself?

You may not be as bad as you think if you have been focusing on or exaggerating the negative side and ignoring or minimising the positive.

“For all right judgment of any man or things it is useful, nay, essential, to see his good qualities before pronouncing on his bad.” (Thomas Carlyle)

We may be quick to pin labels on people. That’s why the tabloid newspapers sell so well. But being judgmental about oneself is a similar attitude. One can search out for and exaggerate one’s own defects just as easily as finding fault in others. Seeing oneself just in terms of one’s negative characteristics means forgetting such positives as one’s generosity of spirit or one’s desire to better understand the deeper side of life.

2.      Are you biased by an illusion of condemnation?

In many mythological, folklore and religious traditions, hell is a place of damnation i.e. eternal torture and punishment for bad conduct during life on earth. Even today we are influenced by this tradition. Condemnation of others can be paralleled by self-condemnation. The persecutory notion that bad people deserve to suffer is mirrored by the guilty idea that I, who am bad, deserve to suffer.

A very different view of hell however shows up the illusion of self-condemnation.  It is Emanuel Swedenborg’s teaching that in the next life no-one suffers punishment for any past misdeeds however wicked the person committed in the world. According to this view, what punishments do occur do not go on continually for ever because they are not retributions for wrongdoing committed on earth, but rather disciplinary reactions to minimise and deter criminal acts that selfish and cruel people commit in hell. Thus punishments in hell cease when external order has been restored.

From a similar spiritual perspective, it could be said that a loving attitude towards oneself would means cutting out all on-going guilt or self-punishment for any past bad conduct. In evaluating our  character we  shouldn’t be biased by any desire to condemn ourselves for past conduct however bad it was. A sense of self-acceptance is part of the healing process.

Easier said than done you might think. And so those drawn to religion hope they can find a sense of divine forgiveness to compensate for their difficulty in self-acceptance.

3.      Are you being premature in trying to reach any firm conclusions about yourself?

I guess we are all a bit of a mixture of good and bad.

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Sometimes we obey the law and behave ethically out of love for doing what is good and right for its own sake. Other times we only do what is good out of self-interest and would behave badly if we thought we could get away with it.

Psychological theories of personal development tend to focus on the notion of integration. Disparate personal fragments in our make up slowly begin to harmonise as our character is formed. My take on this is to say that the process is either one of regeneration or degeneration; spiritual growth or spiritual decline. I believe that over a life-time we gradually are forming for ourselves an all-pervading motivation for something good or something bad and are integrating all subsidiary compatible desires and discarding all incompatible ones.

However, according to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, this process of integration is not complete in this life: the values that deep down influence our hearts do not always come to the surface and unrelated feeling, pretentiousness  and difficulty co-exist and are manifest in different situations.

He says it is only at some point in the next life that we do eventually fully get in touch with our true self (what he calls our ruling love) when the spirit of who we are slowly begins to really show and the process of separating disparate elements can be accomplished.

 “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2)

Swedenborg’s evidence for his position was his own experience. Subjectively he was able to become conscious of an invisible realm in which his spirit existed and that as part of his journey within a spirit world he encountered both angelic people and also some very unpleasant individuals. Many of the self-centred spirit people wanted to be obeyed and praised and were quick to feel slighted feeling various shades of contempt, vengefulness, nastiness and cruelty. The caring unselfish ones however had the opposite feelings.

4.      To what extent does your bad side now rule your life?

Does your greed, vengefulness, or being unfaithful to your partner, amount to a spontaneous unconsidered urge? One view these days is that behaving badly is nothing much more than making an impulsive mistake through ignorance of what being good involves; not realising the consequences. On the other hand mistakes can somehow get intentionally repeated.

“To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character.” (Dale Turner)

I would suggest giving in to some bad impulse is one thing. Worse than this is deliberately intending to do something bad when knowing it is wrong in one’s heart such as using trickery and deceit, having contempt for others, etc Worst still is habitually delighting in such wrong-doing and looking for reasons to justify such behaviour. Worst of all is fully convincing oneself that such things are allowable and smart.

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

What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?

Self-prideA bit of self-pride seems part of the positive trait of self-esteem.

Possible danger of self-pride

Yet we speak of pride before a fall. The story of Icarus is about a young man’s attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. In flying too high he is often seen as possessing overconfident arrogance. The proverb ‘Pride goes before a fall’ seems apt, implying suffering for those too cocky for their own good.

On the other hand, sounding superior and important are favoured traits in today’s tough competitive economic climate.  Even if you are not in business, you need to market your work skills in order to keep your own job or get another one.

“At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” (Muhammad Ali)

And it is said that it can become counter-productive to be modest because you may not be taken seriously.

So is it really true that you will be like Icarus and suffer in some way as a result of being full of yourself and your ability? What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?

Noticing the sacred in others rather than self-pride in oneself

In his book Essential Spirituality, Roger Walsh writes about noticing the sacred in other people.

He tells a story about an old woman sitting by the roadside outside her town who was approached by a traveller who asked “What kinds of people live in this town?”

“What were the people like in your home town?” queried the old woman.

“Oh, they were terrible!” fumed the traveller. “Liars, cheats, incompetents, you couldn’t trust any of them. I was glad to leave.”

“You’ll find the people in this town just the same.” Responded the old woman.

Not long afterwards, she was approached by a second traveller who also questioned her about the people in the town.

“”What were the people like in your home town?” she asked.

“Oh, they were wonderful!” exclaimed the traveller. “Fine, honest, hard-working, it was a privilege to be with them. I was so sorry to leave.”

“You’ll find the people in this town just the same. “responded the old woman.

So, how you see others and what you say about them reveals more about yourself than about them. You don’t want to seem to be a know-it-all full of self-pride who fails to notice the value in others. Few people want to appear big-headed about their own abilities at the cost of the abilities of others. Moreover, seeing what is valuable about others helps you be honest with yourself about your own limitations even when this is uncomfortable.

Seeing the sacred in life itself

Spiritually-minded people acknowledge a source of deeper energy and wisdom beyond their own mind. They ask how can one not feel humbled by the wonders of the universe, or when seeing the power of altruistic love manifest in the most extreme circumstances. We are so often exposed to the scientific view, of an evolution without purpose and a universe as a meaningless machine, that no transcendent sacred force — whatever we want to call it — is allowed to exist.

But then we are pulled up short by tantalizing glimpses, of a mysterious quality within nature — perhaps triggered by a beautiful sunset, the wisdom of birds and animals, or the vastness of space — glimpses that offer a truly awe-inspiring experience of something beyond oneself.   At such moments the mundane world is transfigured.

Such experiences, can lead to acknowledging a higher good and truth that exists beyond your own ability, and which is the source of inspiration for human effort. In this way of thinking, the focus is not on the strengths of humanity but on the strengths of the Divine presence within the human soul and accepting one’s dependence on this presence for finding tolerance, patience, and other virtue. Not, as do some Christians, in sanctimoniously promoting themselves as Godly and thus betraying a self-pride in being better than others. Instead, by genuinely bowing down to an origin of all that is good, the individual does not feel empty but full.

“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” (Blaise Pascal)

Neither need one indulge in self-abasement as do some believers but rather celebrate one’s ability to be uplifted and share the spiritual power available: not in denying the inner strength in oneself but rather in recognising that it is received from a higher Divine source. A bit of self-pride might not be an appropriate attitude for those with this kind of true humility.

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