Spiritual Substance and Material Reality

Spiritual substance, in particular, is hard for our material minds to grasp. We’re so used to thinking of everything solid as being material, and of everything non-material (thoughts, feelings, etc.) as being wispy and insubstantial. But dreams show us a world that is non-material, and yet solid when we’re in it. Dreams are more like spiritual “movies,” so they’re not quite at the level of reality of being fully conscious in the spiritual world. But they do give us some inkling of its reality.

I recently watched the movie Matrix (the original one, on video, not the subsequent movies), and it plays with this idea of a whole different world that is non-material (in this case, a constructed reality piped directly into people’s brains), and yet very real for those in it. The funny thing is, while I was watching it, I was thinking of this world as the illusion, gripping and mesmerizing people with its sensory pleasures and material satisfactions, all while the people are completely unconscious of a world far more real than this one. Swedenborg interprets “sleeping” in the Bible as being unconscious of spiritual reality, and completely absorbed in material reality. And many prophets and mystics, including Swedenborg, speak of having their “eyes opened” when they see into the spiritual world.

In the movie Matrix the constructed world that people live in looks and feels exactly like the world we actually live in. The “real” world, on the other hand, is a dark, blasted, and destroyed place. I like Swedenborg’s vision better: of the real world (for those who choose heaven) as incomparably brighter and more living than this material world–which is a mere shadow of the greater spiritual realities.

There is also a reversal that takes place in the minds of those who are moving from being materialistic to being spiritually-minded. When we are materialistic, we think of the material world as the most real thing there is, and things get progressively more unreal to us as our thoughts move to spiritual things, and finally to God–whom we see as a non-existent illusion believed in only by simple-minded and gullible people.

But as we move away from materialism and toward spiritual life, our perceptions of reality are turned the other way, and we more and more begin to think of God as the ultimate reality, and spirit as the “real world” for human beings, while seeing the material world as relatively unreal, and its pleasures and privileges as temporary, and even as illusory compared to spiritual pleasures. Yes, this world is real. But the spiritual world is much more real, and God is the most real of all.

Copyright 2012 Lee Woofenden

Reprinted from Who Is The God Of Heaven website

Lee Woofenden is a pastor in New England and may be contacted through information@swedenborg.ca

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