An incomplete metaphor

gm-monarch-hatchingout_24312_600x450One of the most familiar metaphors used to depict human spiritual growth is that of a lowly caterpillar transforming into a beautiful butterfly.

While it is true that we all can manifest greater beauty in our lives, it is wrong to assume that the process itself is a painless and purely beautiful experience. The caterpillar doesn’t just grow colorful wings—it completely dies (in the tomb of its cocoon)!

This death must be included in the metaphor and is more challenging and painful than one might expect, because it deals with some old principles that we are usually slow to let go of—like our own self-importance.

But real beauty always deals with those who have chosen to live for the sake of others by making themselves to be less important. Unfortunately, we remain as caterpillars if we help others without acquiring genuine innocence, that is, to increase our status, reputation or bank accounts through the art of pretense.

It is genuine innocence that is hard to come by and its beauty only appears after the death of our “caterpillar” or “old self.”

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The Divine Rope-a-Dope

With Easter approaching I was inspired to share a new “detail” with my readers concerning what the Lord actually accomplished on earth by his life and death. His coming into the world involved a most unique strategy that is not to be found among any of the current Christine dogmas.

Some students of the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg have humorously described the Lord’s strategy of coming into the world for the sake of human salvation as the divine “rope-a-dope.”

This cosmic maneuver by the Lord in fighting evil and falsity cannot be fully appreciated unless one realizes that most of the drama in the Lord’s struggles on earth took place behind the scenes. In fact, the real blow-by-blow action took place not on earth but in the spiritual world.

Without understanding this important detail, the real dynamics behind the Lord’s glorification will continue to elude current Christian theology.

What is not taken into account is that God’s sustaining influence (creatio continua) must pass through the spiritual world (top-down causation) before reaching the physical world. This means that God’s love and living force is actually intercepted by both the angels and devils in the a priori realm of heaven and hell, before reaching us humans in the form of various compulsions or noble strivings. (Just block out the world from your mind for a moment and you will notice the constant “chatter” taking place in your head.)

The Lord God wisely uses this situation to protect human free will, which is a gift from divine love. Free will is meaningless without real choices. But there must be a careful balance between these opposing influences or things will go haywire.

When evil is favored over good in the world, it will have an enormous effect on the populations of Hell as people die and take their proclivities with them. This puts human freedom in jeopardy.

At the time of the Lord’s arrival on earth this was the case and things were cosmically stacked against humans. What is not well understood by Christian orthodoxy is that Jesus was Jehovah in the flesh! The reason why the Creator and Lord of heaven came into the world was that nothing finite (like the hells) could engage the Infinite in a fight. By being born of a human female, and putting on a finite body of flesh and bones, the Lord provided the hells with a finite medium for combat. In other words, the Lord could suffer all the weaknesses of the flesh.

So, the hells were tricked into a fight with God, which they could not resist.

This spiritual combat is only alluded to in the literal narrative of Scripture (as when the Lord is tempted by Satan in the wilderness). But translated into its highest quantum vocabulary, all the events in the Sacred Word actually represent the step-by-step process by which the Lord conquered Hell’s influence (and made the Word flesh).

With every victory over temptation the Lord removed the human traits derived from his mother while making His human increasingly divine. This is why he never calls Mary “mother.” The removal of His mother’s genetic and human contributions consisted of profound humiliation before the Father.

Hell’s devious temptations consisted of influencing the Lord to resist humiliation in favor of dominance over others and to come under the intoxicating power of self-love. This combat was more subtle than evil simply attacking good. It included something much more sinister – flattery. But as the Lord defeated temptations of every kind, even his flesh was made fully divine. Glorification was a process by which the Lord became fully united with the Father from top to bottom (His heavenly essence became one with His human).

The Lord did NOT save humankind through the passion of the cross. This was his final and most severe temptation. Even more intense than the physical pain of crucifixion the Lord had to suffer the emotional pain of being rejected, compounded with the natural human urge to come off the cross and compel the world to worship Him and acknowledge His self-importance.

So, if the Lord had come down from the cross and not suffered total humiliation, the hells would have been victorious.

What the Lord did accomplish during his life on earth was to subjugate the Hells so that human free will could be preserved, keeping the door open for salvation.

In a future post I will address what making flesh “divine” means in terms of the laws of the universe. It has everything to do with my thesis that Love is the ultimate science.

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Consciousness and Scripture

Human consciousness is multiplexed. For instance, we can see the world we live in. Physical sight represents just one kind of awareness. We also can internalize and store these observations in our memory as mental ideas, where from a higher frame of reference we can survey them and detect novel relationships. This kind of “seeing” represents imaginary sight, which leads to ingenuity and inventiveness.

We can also collect all the things we have imagined, and from an even higher frame of reference, find even newer relationships where ideas become objects of reasoning, that is, objects of truth and falsity. This kind of “seeing” is called rationality and judgment.

These distinct cognitive functions of consciousness are inadequate for verifying either the inerrancy or divine authority of Sacred Scripture. As evidence, these levels of ordinary human consciousness have given rise to an intense conflict of biblical interpretation among the faithful and also to serious-thinking skeptics who put their faith solely in moral autonomy.

There is need for a genuinely inclusive, unified approach to the systematic exposition of Christian doctrine derived from Scripture that makes sense in our post-modern and scientific culture. However, a new theological consensus will not come from the scholarship of men and women, but can only come from new Divine revelation concerning Scripture.

We need divine instruction on how to gain an even higher frame of reference for evaluating the Holy Word. This is the purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming – to help us connect to a higher and untapped level of consciousness by providing a “vertical” interpretation of the narratives in Scripture. These vertical interpretations transcend human subjectivity (and its abuses) as well as historical criticism because the events described in Scripture are raised to more elevated meanings, which have more potency and relevance to our lives.

Scripture is a multi-leveled deposit of Divine revelation, accommodating the Creator’s Infinite Wisdom to different levels of human consciousness. The good news is that it is now permitted for each of us to have access to these deeper spiritual levels of truth that previously were only available to the prophets. It is only through these deeper levels shining through, that the literal words in Scripture are turned into gems and gain translucency. But you have to want it. You will have to want the Lord to “make all things anew.”

The Lord’s Second Coming on earth is taking place NOW – one person at a time! The world can change only when people change. We are God’s instruments for change.

Do you think this change can be forced on anyone?

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Mental health – Same as spiritual health?

For over thirty years I worked as a psychological therapist in the British National Health Service. I helped patients start to manage and deal with their mental health problems. The service expected me to discharge each case as soon as possible so I could see the next patient on the long public waiting list. Following treatment, the individual received no further active professional help. All I did were follow-ups to check on progress.

Many who had finished therapy had successfully started to better deal with past traumatic experiences, long-term negative situations, and current stressful difficulties. They had become free of their worst symptoms of mental ill-health.

Mental health

However, despite their improvements, I believed many of the discharged patients would have benefited from further help. The condition of mental health is not just the absence of mental health problems.

Mental health is usually seen as a state of subjective well-being. A satisfactory adjustment to personal circumstances and a resilience in facing life’s demands. Some definitions also include personal competence, a balance of autonomy and dependence, and reaching one’s potentials. In other words ‘the capacity to work and to love’ as said by Sigmund Freud.

Spiritual terminology

mental health
Professor Julie Exline

Actually, recent research by Julie Exline, at Western Reserve University, has found that people who more fully embrace struggles with fundamental beliefs and values report better mental health than those who don’t. She identified this in spiritual terms.

“Regular spiritual avoidance can make it difficult to identify, work toward or experience the qualities that lend a sense of purpose to life” (Julie Exline)

In other words, help is needed for people fearful of confronting the tensions and conflicts brought on by existential concerns—the “big questions” of life.

However, in mental health circles at the time I was working, there was still an attitude of negativity or indifference towards spirituality and religion. I am pleased that in more recent times this is slowly changing. There is now much more openness and positive attention given. Hence psychotherapists, at least in North America, are now encouraged to be more active in stimulating patients, if they wish, to explore the spiritual dimension in their lives.

But do the words ‘mental’ and ‘spiritual’ mean different things? Are ‘mental health’ and ‘spiritual health’ not the same? Does spirituality really add an extra dimension?

Transpersonal psychology

mental health
Dr. Steve Taylor

Transpersonal psychologist Steve Taylor studies:

“Experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos”. (R. Walsh, and F. Vaughan)

Taylor has written about an inner suffering of the mind he calls ‘psychological discord’. It is when we have a sense of loneliness, foreboding, dissatisfaction, boredom. I would say you don’t have to have a mental-health problem to experience this emptiness within yourself.

Effects of psychological discord

As a result of this inner disharmony, we want to be taken out of ourselves, to compensate for our dissatisfaction and discord. We seek to defend our fragile ego and build it up. So we react angrily to anyone causing us offence. Or we might put a lot of energy into acquiring material things, social status, power or fame.

We want to latch our attention on to something external to our own discord. So we are also prone to frequently use electronic gadgets to engage in unnecessary activity such as accessing social media, games, television. We spend this time in a passive state where there is no real challenge and we don’t have to engage our deeper nature.

Also we fall into daydreaming or rumination about the past or future rather than being mindful of the present moment. Part of our minds are elsewhere rather than being alive to opportunities for living life to the full. Often we aren’t even properly present to the people we meet throughout the day. Not giving our full attention when we talk to them.

Cause of psychological discord

Taylor says that this state of inner disharmony and discord is normal. We need to learn to inwardly grow as people to transcend it. He attributes it to what he calls a common condition of ‘humania’. This is defined as one of isolation, and incompleteness inherent in our superficial sense of self-hood. He contrasts this sense of ‘I’ with a different state of consciousness he calls the ‘witnessing self’ which is more fundamental.

This concept of ‘humania’ is not so very different from the concept of ‘proprium’ written about by the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. For him, this is the non-spiritual awareness we have of being a separate, self-contained individual with a mind and body of our own quite apart from other people, the world around us and our divine Source.

“By proprium no one understands anything else than that he lives from himself, and consequently thinks and wills from himself.”(Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)

Spiritual health

Instead of operating at the level of lower ego or propium, people, have traditionally understood spiritual health to refer to a higher consciousness of ennobling thoughts. It is to do with contentment and peacefulness. Experiencing generosity and a joy of doing good service for others, living ethically, and rising above the natural desires and attachments of the material plane.

Scholars interpret most of the sacred writings of the world’s great religions as referring to an enlightened understanding of life and liberation from wayward motives. Many writers refer to spiritual health as death of an old ‘false self’ and uncovering of one’s ‘true Self’.

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Immortal life – Not forever surely?

immortal life

There are two well-known hypotheses – death survival and immortal life. You may find the idea of living forever a bit daunting.

If you were to continue to exist, what you would be doing with yourself all that time? Actually, if true, it would be much more than a long time: it would be – well – forever!

Everything we do would get tiresome if done forever. Food and drink give less pleasure as we become satiated; travel, sport, parties, hobbies, and work become irksome if we do nothing else. The mind boggles at the very concept of immortal life that goes on forever.

immortal lifeTimelessness

From a mystical perspective, immortal life is timeless existence. Something of this consciousness can be experienced now. When you are enjoying life, or absorbed in some activity, then subjective time ceases to matter. It is really only when you are faced with the world’s daily requirements and deadlines that time starts to impact.

People, in this life who feel energised, enthused, and satisfied, are turned on by something deeply meaningful for them. They don’t get bored and time doesn’t drag. What absorbs them, they would happily do forever.

I would suggest whether anyone experiences lasting satisfaction depends on their inner attitude: what mind-set they adopt when dealing with others and engaging in things.

foreverSelf-orientation forever

The basic message of all faith traditions is that there is immortal life  – that we do live forever. Also they all say that deep and lasting happiness comes from learning to stop putting oneself first.

This central idea can be seen in much sacred writing and the books written by many spiritual teachers – when they talk about mindfully living in the present, reducing craving, living ethically, and cultivating love and gratitude. Personal fulfilment is said to be found by making a difference in the lives of others.

And so I would like to suggest a deep sense of meaning comes from thinking about people and community. We can contrast the attitude of ‘what’s in it for me’ with the attitude of ‘thinking of the needs of others’. The latter is all about providing something good by serving a useful function.

My research on midlife adults has shown that the majority of people are more than willing to sacrifice their own happiness to work on behalf of a larger cause. (Susan Whitbourne, psychologist, 2010)

immortal lifeUseful function

In this world putting others before oneself involves finding a useful function in whatever organisation you work for. It could be a charitable, commercial, private or public body.

Perhaps you are like the hands and arms of the corporate body doing the spade work and getting your hands dirty, in the coal face, on the factory floor. Or perhaps you are at the head of the establishment, a director or senior manager taking executive decisions, planning strategy and setting policies. Or maybe you work in public relations and marketing as the face of what the public sees of the company by developing the brand and publicising the added value.

foreverBodily functions

Just as we each can have a place in a corporate body, so we can each have a unique place in immortal life in what has been called the ‘universal human body’.

This isn’t conceived as just the small body of a committee or organisation but the whole body of humanity of good people. Together this huge number of people can be visualised as a universal human form. Just as each part of the physical body is needed so each person in the whole universal human form has a place to play.

So one can learn about what meaningful roles one can find that go beyond time and place, by thinking about the useful functions of each part of the human body – heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, blood vessels etc. Just as there are countless operations and tasks for all the parts of the body, so there are many and diverse roles for us all to uniquely take. Each different responsibility is a needed part of the whole.

In thinking about a timeless function in immortal life, one can get a clue by considering one’s part played in the body of people to which one belongs in this world – whether it be a small social or work group, or an organisation.

Are you the eye, the nose, the ear of your group or organisation? Maybe you can recognise yourself and others you know in the following?


Are you the eye? These people see what others miss. They have intelligent understanding and illuminating insight that sheds light on some matter about which others are in the dark. They can see through appearances to comprehend the true essence of some difficulty or issue.


Or are you the nose? Having a good nose for something is the ability to sense what’s going on that is not immediately obvious. Perhaps something that smells fishy. Following one’s nose is smelling out what is good and bad. In other words having a quick general intuition about what is happening.


Is your part to play through learning by listening to and then heeding what you are told? Simply carrying out instructions can be crucial when expert advice is needed. Not everyone pays attention. There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear.


Or maybe you are the tongue that tastes? Sometimes it is important to find out what something is really like. If you don’t taste it how will you know you won’t like it? This can be important when people are exposed to deceit. Lies will leave a bad taste in the mouth.


Or are you the skin? The skin interfaces with the environment. Some people interface with the social environment. They keep the social cogs well oiled by making the effort to keep in touch with others.


Or perhaps you are the heart? Having a heart-felt interest is at the very centre of wanting a fulfilling role. The risk of course in caring is a broken heart when that concern is rejected.


Instead you could be the lungs. Without the lungs the body cannot breathe. Those with energy and creative ideas are always going to be needed to breathe new life in to something. Their ideas are needed to prevent a flagging project from dying away.


Or even the womb? The womb protects and nurtures the fragile foetus. One can sense the tender love of young children that some people have.

immortal lifeBodily systems

And these are just a few examples. There are actually numerous parts of each of several bodily systems –, digestive/excretory, muscular/skeletal, nervous/hormonal, reproductive, and circulatory/respiratory etc.

foreverBody of Christ

Paul writes about idea of a universal human form in terms of what he calls the body of Christ:
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)

This notion is in line with the mystical idea of the presence of the infinite Source of compassion and wisdom in our finite being.

The challenge of immortal life

The idea of living forever challenges us to imagine life beyond the limitations imposed by living in a material world; constraints, for example, of money, geography, and education. It takes us beyond the specific economic, legal and social conditions in which we live our ordinary lives. Thinking about immortal life gets to the nub of what is spiritually involved in finding fulfilment because it raises our consciousness above mere worldly considerations. The idea of a universal human form shows the way all good people complement each other in their individual roles.

What timeless role in immortal life do you feel called for? Where do you fit into the concept of a universal human form?

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems