It seems like every year the news media presents us with shocking disclosures about political leaders, actors, athletes, and members of the clergy getting caught in scandal. These are often people of great accomplishments. Even great leaders, who have started important movements throughout history and whose personal sacrifices have benefited humankind, have succumbed to various personal indiscretions.
How is this possible? How can these transgressions happen, especially when many such individuals often expound noble behavior? They clearly have a sense of right and wrong.
The problem is not civility or morality. It is one’s spirituality. Misconduct is not simply a “slip” or a temporary mental state of bad judgment. It is the rejection of the concept of sin.
Many dynamic individuals may understand that certain behavior is immoral and loudly condemn such behavior as going against the public good. But if these things are not seen as sins, they remain soldering in the heart and are merely kept hidden from the world for the sake of reputation.
This is why Scripture warns us to “clean the inside of the cup” (Matthew 23:26). If something is not viewed as a sin, the inside of the cup remains as it is.
What is not usually taken into account is that humans have an inner and an outer reality. Humans are both physical and spiritual beings. But these two realities of our life can be completely separated from each other. We can be outwardly good but inwardly challenged. This leads to hypocrisy.
This inner deceit has led to a faulty reasoning of modernity which has adopted the life-slogan and inner conviction that, “something is wrong only if you get caught.” But how is it that such individuals can do great things for humanity and gain our deepest respect and praise?
Great things can be, and indeed are, accomplished by those who do not inspect their inner reality. In fact, they are often more motivated to accomplish great things which can benefit others than those of a more humble animus. The reason is quite simple. Such individuals are inwardly driven by the powerful principle of self-love and have pride from the glory of their own self-intelligence. So, in order to succeed and gain proper recognition, they push themselves more than others to accomplish great things.
The Lord God often makes wise use of those who are intoxicated by the power of self-love. For instance, various ego-centered individuals have been quite successful in spreading the Holy Word throughout the world by their immoderate passion for quoting scripture and speaking about God from the pulpit.
The problem is that while such individuals can be of real value to others, they shoot themselves in the foot. The spiritual world (heaven and hell) consists of the inner realities of people. That can be either a comforting or scary thought.
It is wrong to think we screw up because “to be human is to err.” We get our humanness from God and increase it through following spiritual tenets and the Commandments. God is always focused on our inner realities.
Do you think the concepts of “sin” and “evil” have relevancy in our post-modern world, or are they simply archaic terms used by the unenlightened?
Chapter Il. The Spirit Two-fold, Mind and Spiritual Body.
THE spirit consists of the mind and the spiritual body. The mind (a) is the higher and dominant part and is therefore the very man himself; the spiritual body (b) which is the lower part, being a derivative from the mind, is like the mind in form and quality.
The mind is the primal organism. The spiritual body is formed from it and is its organ of sense and instrument of action in the spiritual world. These together clothe themselves with the material body.
The mind being first in the order of creation and formed of purer spiritual substances is placed at the head of the successive series in this diagram and is drawn in white.
The spiritual body, formed of grosser spiritual substances and being lower in degree is drawn in dull white. Not only is the spiritual body the mind’s organ of sense and instrument of action in the spiritual world but it is also its containant, and is as necessary, to preserve it in form and function as are the solids of the material body to preserve its softer parts and its vital fluids.
When the mind, the spiritual body, and the natural body have been thus successively produced, they then subsist simultaneously one within another, – the highest in successive order becoming the central in simultaneous order and thus the essential organism and the first recipient of life in the series, while the lowest becomes the outmost, the containant and the preservative of those within. (AC 6465, 3739, 9211; CL 313, 314)
Things superior and inferior are the same as things interior and exterior; superior and inferior relating to the order of creation, interior and exterior to the order of preservation. (AC 3739, 3695, 5897, 6451 8603, 10099; AR 900.),
That the mind, the spiritual body, and the natural body are produced in successive order and sustained in simultaneous order, was shown above.
Conceive now the existence of these two orders in the work of regeneration and salvation.
Love and wisdom, good and truth, charity and faith are implanted in the mind as the first and fluent principles of the new. These are from “the breath of the LORD” and are breathed life into the mind in their initial forms when the LORD creates man anew in the womb of the Church his spiritual mother. And being too evanescent to abide in form without a firmer clothing than is supplied by the delicate substances of the mind, they descend into the spiritual body and take on therein a more ultimate form suited to sensation and action in the spiritual world; and descending a step lower, even into the material body, the very ultimate plane of human life, they there clothe themselves with a form suited to the natural world, and thus become fixed and enduring. The order has now become simultaneous. Within the renovated natural body exists the renovated spiritual body and within the spiritual body the central forces of the regenerate mind. Surveying this regenerate state from within out we behold love and wisdom in the mind their primal abode, love and wisdom clothed in their firmer organism in the spiritual body, and lastly love and wisdom embodied in fixed form in the very outmost degree such that it can and will preserve the interior and the inmost in form and order to eternity.
The reader should study well the nature and universality of these two orders of discrete degrees, that he may obtain a thorough and familiar comprehension of the structural philosophy of the spiritual and natural universe and especially of man and the heavens.
The disappointing terrorist attack of 9/11 was clearly not a blessing in disguise. Evil got its way and many people were very badly physically and emotionally hurt. Nor in any conceivable way can many a disappointing setback be described as a piece of good fortune even if tiny morsels of something positive might be salvaged from such events. On the other hand sometimes a personal trouble can have a unexpected opportunity for a helpful outcome. For example occasionally a bout of illness can help a patient re-appraise an unhealthy lifestyle. The difficulty is in recognising what might possibly be a blessing when your expectations are so severely dashed against the painful rocks of reality. Here are 5 questions that will help you look for any blessing in disguise after you suffer a disappointment.
Was the disappointment due to your unrealistic expectations?
Sometimes when you think life is predictable, the universe has other plans. You may be taken by surprise, if for some reason you complacently suppose calamity will always affect somebody else and not yourself. Yet people do get injured on the roads in large numbers. Nobody can tell what is around the corner. Who can say one won’t get run over by a bus tomorrow?
You may assume you always get your just deserts. Don’t we reap what we deserve? But actually this is may not be the case. A drunken driver or a badly maintained aircraft can be the sole cause of mayhem to innocent passengers.
Was the disappointment something of your own making?
Not everyone learns from their own mistakes. The painful inflamed tendon in my arm was frustrating as it forced me to rest and ration my work of splitting logs instead of overdoing it everyday. It was my wife, who rightly pointed out, that I needed to learn to pace myself in re-using muscles and tendons which have grown tight and weak due to under-use. Apparently it is a common problem for gardeners to rush out in the spring and strain their backs after a winter of inactivity.
Did the disappointment show greater effort was needed?
I got excessively cross with my young grandson who was refusing to abide by the rules of the board game we were playing. Sometimes adults forget just how noisy, untidy and demanding they themselves were when children. My emotionality spoiled what should have been a leisurely family occasion. I have now resolved to try harder to be more patient with the boy whilst still remaining firm about the rules.
“What keeps me going is a constant sense of disappointment with what I’ve already done.” (Robert Wyatt, rock musician)
If we see a setback as a challenge then it can be a stimulant for bigger effort.
Did the disappointment broaden your horizons?
Say you were to suffer a major misfortune such as losing your job through redundancy, or your spouse through marital breakdown or death. Then you would be faced with a huge challenge. Perhaps having to find a livelihood doing a different kind of work. Or having to cope as a single person with no partner to intimately support you face life. In either case you will probably be obliged to get out of your comfort zone: deal with new kinds of situation: learn new skills: meet new people.
“Disenchantment, whether it is a minor disappointment or a major shock, is the signal that things are moving into transition in our lives.” (William Throsby Bridges, senior military officer)
If you happened to have a tendency towards self-pity here is an opportunity to stop adopting the victim role. This role seeks to focus on blaming something or someone else for one’s troubles. If you are such a person you will have a chance to learn instead the role of the survivor and adopt the courage that is required to tackle the unknown and experience the new confidence that comes from success.
Did the disappointment mean you need to put your hope in something beyond yourself?
When you feel like you don’t have the physical, mental, or emotional strength to pull through, you are challenged to possibly put trust in something more than yourself – whatever that may be.
” As someone who has faced as much disappointment as most people, I’ve come to trust not that events will always unfold exactly as I want, but that I will be fine either way.” (Marianne Williamson, spiritual teacher)
This reminds me of the biblical story of Jonah. His conscience told him to go to do a job of work but he didn’t want to do it and so he journeyed in the opposite direction only to end up in the sea and swallowed by a whale. In his distress he called to his God for help, vowing to make amends for his disobedience. The whale vomited him safely on to dry land.
Conclusion on disappointment
I would suggest there is no such thing as bad luck. Facing and dealing with setbacks is a part of life for all of us.
If you will, you can choose to find only the negative in your disappointment.
“When disappointment festers in our soul, it leads to discouragement.” (Joyce Meyer, Christian speaker)
Or you can look for possible blessings in disguise.
“If we will be quiet and ready enough, we shall find compensation in every disappointment.” (Henry David Thoreau, transcendentalist poet)
Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher, claimed there is a loving Divine Providence, under whose rule, bad things are allowed to happen, if some lessons of life can result. According to this view, your time here on earth can teach you how to be more spiritually mature and thus experience a deeper long-lasting happiness.
“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.” (Martin Luther King, Jr., Christian activist)
Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Almost on a daily basis we watch television news and hear about civil war, terrorist activity, or political oppression going on in some part of the world. Atrocities cause immense human suffering whether it be due to the loss of home, community or livelihood, the sudden grief of family bereavement, or a state of terror regarding the possibility of imprisonment and torture.
Yet on a personal level are we not all disturbed at some time or other by some disappointment or difficulty even in ordinary civilised life where there is a state of peace? Suffering distress seems like an inevitable part of human existence. Who hasn’t experienced some degree of it? Whether it be as a victim of disease, injury, stress, poverty, unemployment, crime, etc.
What is your attitude concerning human suffering?
Perhaps you think that all suffering is a pointless waste of time and agree with Somerset Maugham who wrote that “suffering for the most part, makes men petty and vindictive.” and with William Butler Yeats who said “If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise.”
Or perhaps instead you feel that something good comes from human troubles and that every cloud has a silver lining. That for example Angelina Jolie was right to say that “without suffering we would never learn from our mistakes” and that as said by Victor Hugo “It is by suffering that human beings become angels”.
Suffering of Winston Churchill
Winston Churchill suffered from a lisp being unable to pronounce the letter “S.” He fought to overcome this but never quite succeeded; instead he gradually made it a distinctive part of his oratory, turning a liability to an asset.
A much worse form of suffering was the episodes of clinical depression he had throughout his life. He referred to his dark moods as his “Black Dog”. His parents were aristocrats: father a famous politician and mother an American socialite. He did not have a close relationship with them and was largely brought up by nannies and attending boarding schools. We might wonder whether his recurrent depressive episodes heightened his ability to realistically assess the threat that Germany posed? Was it because he had battled illness and despair during his whole life, that he could convey to others that despair could be overcome, even in the bleak period of 1940?
“We shall draw from the heart of suffering itself the means of inspiration and survival.” (Winston Churchill)
His persistence and optimism were able to lift up his nation despite his own suffering.
Suffering of Helen Keller
Helen Keller became both blind and deaf after suffering a nearly fatal illness at nineteen months of age. Seemingly sentenced to a life of isolation, Helen made a dramatic breakthrough at the age of six, when she learned to communicate with the help of her teacher, Annie Sullivan. Unlike many disabled people of her era, Helen refused to live in seclusion; instead, she achieved fame as a writer, humanitarian, and social activist.
In 1916, Peter Fagan was hired as a secretary to accompany Helen and her associates on their tour. Peter confessed his love for her and asked her to marry him. The press published a story about Helen’s engagement. Although Helen was 36 years old at the time, her family was very protective of her and disapproved of any romantic relationship. Several times, Peter attempted to reunite with Helen, but her family would not let him near her. Helen and Peter were never together again. Later in life, Helen described the relationship as her “little island of joy surrounded by dark waters.”
“Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Helen Keller)
Suffering of Khalil Gibran
Khalil Gibran is famous for his writing which is full of lyrical outpourings and expresses his deeply religious and mystical nature.
But neither was Khalil a stranger to personal suffering. His relationship with his father was difficult and often strained; not surprising as the father was a rough man with a bad temper, who alienated his wife and children. This autocratic, temperamental man was hostile to Kahlil’s artistic nature and was not a loving person.
Khalil experienced the social and cultural disruption of exile in America at a very young age when his mother took the children abroad to escape from poverty and feudal corruption. When he was aged nineteen years there was a further family tragedy when his sister, half brother and mother all died of tuberculosis. Further trouble came on his shoulders when aged 27 his lover decided not to marry him because of their race and age difference. Yet his take on suffering was positive.
“Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars.” (Khalil Gibran)
He suffered from failing health in his forties when he died of cancer of the liver.
Swedenborg on suffering
According to the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, pain, distress and other forms of suffering are often useful in obliging us to turn away from complacency, laziness, and self-centredness. It is only through making mistakes that some of us can learn some of the spiritual lessons of life.
This all ties in with Swedenborg’s concept of divine permission. According to this idea, it is a mistake to assume that whatever suffering God permits, he must cause. God can be compared to a loving parent who knows that as much as he wants to protect his children at all times, he cannot impose such total control that they are stifled and are not free to develop as individuals. Sadly, when humans make mistakes, which they often do, it means bringing suffering on themselves. The trick of course is to learn from the painful lessons of life.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems