Happiness and fulfillment – a spiritual perspective

Are you satisfied with your life?

Or does life sometimes seem unfair? Everyone wants to be happy. But how do you find happiness and contentment?

Happiness and fulfillment – a spiritual perspective

What makes a person happy?

Is it different for each person? Obtaining some new material thing can bring at least some temporary joy; so too can accomplishing some strived-for milestone. Some people feel that having money and success in their job brings happiness. But does it last? We have merely to look at the countless rich people who feel something is still lacking to see that this isn’t the answer. And conversely, we can look at countless people struggling in third world countries who are at peace and happy in their lot. People want to feel that they are relevant; that they have a purpose. How do you do that? Can you find happiness?

New Church theology says that it is actually quite simple. The doctrine of use (or usefulness, or service) tells us that it is important to be useful, to be of service to others, and that this is the key to true happiness.

“The only source of anyone’s true happiness is doing something useful.” (True Christian Religion 735:5)

“[Heavenly joy] is the delight found in doing something useful for ourselves or for others.” (True Christian Religion 734:3)

“God created the universe so that usefulness could exist… Because we, the human race, are the principal reason for creation, it follows that absolutely everything else was created for our sake.” (True Christian Religion 67)

God creates each one of us to be an instrument of His love. When we live useful and productive lives for the sake of others, the love of God passes through us to them, and their lives are impacted for good. At the same time, we experience the happiness and delight that are associated with being of use.

This is not to say that riches or material things are bad in and of themselves, just that these are not what make a person happy over the long term; certainly not in life after death. Christ said:

“‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” (Matthew 22:37-40)

So He tells us that the two most important things are to love God and love the neighbor. When we love the neighbor we want to be of service to others; we want to be useful. And when we are helping others, we are helping God and loving God (see the parable in Matthew 25:31-46, “I was hungry and you gave Me food…). Christ said these were the most important commandments because He knew that service and usefulness are what bring happiness, both in this life and the next!

Have you noticed that it is not at all unusual for elderly people to lose their zest for life, to become depressed? Certainly, there can be many reasons for this: infirmity and losing their friends or spouse can be key contributors. But a major reason is feeling the loss of usefulness; feeling that they have nothing left to give; feeling that they have lost relevance. This feeling of a loss of usefulness can also sometimes be seen after a person retires from their work, or has been injured.

It’s important to realize that service and usefulness come in many forms. Some forms of use require strenuous work, or lots of time, or lots of money. But service doesn’t necessarily mean going out of your way to do good. Just having a good attitude in your daily work, or being nice to someone, smiling at them, can mean more than you could imagine to those around you. For other people, usefulness outside their vocation brings them fulfillment. Everyone has gifts which they can volunteer to others. Listening compassionately to a person’s problems will mean so much to them. Look for ways to be of service to others. It may well be hard at first, but it can become a habit, and make a real difference in your life. Give it a try!

More passages about happiness

“Since the angels who are in heaven are in goodness from the Lord, they desire nothing more than to perform useful services. These bring delight to their life, and it is according to useful services that they enjoy bliss and happiness.” (Secrets of Heaven 6073:2)

“Loving the Lord and our neighbor is being of service.” (Heaven and Hell 112)

“All the happiness angels have is found in service, derives from service, and is proportional to service.” (Heaven and Hell 403)

“[The Lord] gives those who are performing useful functions a love for being useful, and also a reward for being useful, which is inner bliss; and this inner bliss is eternal happiness.” (True Christian Religion 736:3)

“We are born for no purpose but to be useful to the community we live in and to our neighbor as long as we are alive in the world, and to serve at the Lord’s good pleasure in the other world.” (Secrets of Heaven 1103:2)

“Life holds no joy unless it is active. Angelic life consists in usefulness and acts of neighborly kindness.” (Secrets of Heaven 454)

https://newchurch.org/

Goodness

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The Lord, in His essence, is love itself, perfect and infinite. From that love His entire focus and effort is on loving us and making us happy – which can only be done to its fullness if we freely choose to accept His love and be conjoined with Him.

To that end, we also have the capacity to love – we can allow that conjunction to happen by receiving the Lord’s love and returning it, and the way we do that is by aligning our loves with the Lord’s. Obviously the Lord is infinite and perfect and we are finite and imperfect, but we can work to love as He loves, and closer we get the more we are “good” – the more we will desire to be good, delight in what is good, actually do what is good, and live in peace, harmony and joy both in this life and in heaven.

Achieving that, of course, is not a matter of saying a little prayer and being changed, and it’s not a matter of simply deciding or force of will. As anyone who has mooned over an unrequited romance knows, our loves are simply not changed that easily, and indeed seem largely out of our control.

Consider, for instance: Say you are in desperate need of money, and see a man drop his wallet as he climbs into an expensive car and drives away. You pick up the wallet, and find several thousand dollars there. The fact is, at that moment you (unless you are a better person than 99.9 percent of us) really really want to keep that money. You might not do it. You know what’s right, and you may well make yourself do what’s right. But you can’t just change that “want” and make it go away. You don’t have that kind of control.

So how can we actually become good? The answer is what the Writings refer to generically as “truth.” From the time we are small children we are constantly learning what’s right and wrong and being forced to apply that knowledge. Over time those ideas get deeper – from “don’t hit other children!” to “you need to think about what makes other people happy” to “love your neighbor as yourself” – but they all to some extent run contrary to what we want. Consider that wallet: The reason most of us would call the guy and give him his money is that we know it’s the right thing to do, even though it’s not really what we want to do.

If you think about it, those truths – those ideas of right and wrong – come into use from the outside, and sort of work their way from outer layers of our minds (“don’t hit other children!”) to deeper, more thoughtful ones (“love your neighbor as yourself”). The Writings tell us that even as we are absorbing truth from the outside, the Lord is secretly planting desires for good in our souls, in the inmost levels that we’re not even aware of. Among the most important of these desires is, in fact, the desire for truth, which urges us to gather and accept that truth coming to us from the outside.

As we build that storehouse of knowledge, we come to the key decision point (or a lifelong series of decision points, really). We can decide to embrace that truth, to determine for ourselves that we want to do what’s right because it is right. Or we can ignore it and wallow in our base desires.

If we do the former – determine to follow what’s true – that truth crosses from the exterior parts of our mind to more interior ones. And in the more interior areas it can mix with the desires for good the Lord has hidden away there.

And then what happens? The Writings have some beautiful passages about how good loves truth, how it will seek it and embrace it, fill it with life and make it its own. This is a little hard to imagine, but consider falling in love with someone. Don’t you want to know everything about him or her? Don’t you want to know every little thing that makes him or her happy so you can provide it? Your desire to love embraces truth so it can put love into action. Much the same happens with the desires for good inside us and the attendent truths – the good desires seek the real truths, the ones that fit, and make them their own.

This does not, of course, happen all at once in every aspect of our being. It is the work of a lifetime and entails many battles with the evil desires that pollute our souls. But the process can be increasingly joyful, and the end result is spectacular – eventually the desires for good will be so empowered that they can actually take the lead role and extend out to the outermost parts of our minds. In that state we no longer even want what’s wrong; our joy of life is in doing what’s good. This, of course, is the state that angels enjoy in heaven.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

Are Ghosts Real?

Swedenborg Foundation

Tales of ghostly encounters range from creepy stories of haunted spaces to uplifting meetings with loved ones who have passed on. As someone who spent years writing about his experiences in the spiritual world, Emanuel Swedenborg had a lot to say about people who have crossed over. But what about encounters with spirits in this world?

blog_ghost

First, a quick detour into terminology. Swedenborg uses the term spirit (Latin spiritus) to refer to the soul or consciousness of a human being that continues to live on in the spiritual world after the physical body stops working. (In this footnote: what Swedenborg means when he says ghost.) He says that the only inhabitants of the spiritual world are human beings: every angel in heaven and every devil in hell used to be a person living on earth. In the spiritual world they might be transformed so that they are indescribably beautiful (in the case of angels) or twisted and bestial (in the case of evil spirits), but at their core, they’re still people.

Is it possible for those people to communicate with us here on earth? Yes, Swedenborg says. In fact, he says that every person living on earth is already in contact with angels and evil spirits, even if we don’t realize it. The influence most often comes in the form of a stray thought or impulse disguised as our own inner voice—a little psychic push toward good or evil rather than a being appearing out of nowhere and talking to us.

Outright communication with spirits, he adds, is both rare and potentially dangerous. He describes the spiritual world as a reality that is so close to our own that the two essentially coexist on different planes. Just as we are very rarely aware of the other side, the other side is often not aware of us. This protects us from evil spirits, whom Swedenborg describes as utterly malicious beings who will sometimes pretend to be familiar figures or good spirits to cause us harm. Even though Swedenborg himself talks about crossing from one world to the next and conversing with both angels and evil spirits, he warns others against trying the same thing because of those very dangers. (See Heaven and Hell #249 for the dangers of evil spirits and this interesting passage from True Christianity for more on the separation between the two planes).

Unfortunately, the same separation between physical and spiritual that protects us might also prevent good spirits from contacting us. For more, see “Why Don’t Those Who’ve Died Communicate With Us More?” from our weekly webcast Swedenborg and Life.

So, to go back to the question that kicked off this article, are ghosts real? Swedenborg would likely say yes—as long as you’re talking about the spirit of someone who’s crossed over to the other side. While he described good and evil spirits as having the ability to sometimes come back from the spiritual world and influence us, he also says that after death everyone makes the transition to the spiritual world, so there’s no such thing as a “lost soul” who is unable to cross over to the afterlife.

However, Swedenborg was also a scientist by training, so he might also point out that sometimes our eyes and ears can fool us. Sometimes we experience things that seem to have a supernatural origin that was caused by something mundane in our own world.

Swedenborg also said often that the Divine—in whatever form and by whatever name you might call it—is stronger than any evil influence out there. At times when he felt besieged by evil spirits, he knew he could pray for help and protection, and he would encourage anybody in this world to do the same if they experience something frightening, which is a very likely scenario around this time of year. Happy Halloween!

_____

Footnote: Swedenborg wrote in Latin, and he consistently used the word spiritus(spirit) to talk about people who had crossed over. However, there were places where he uses words like larva, umbra, and the Greek phantasma, all of which we would translate ghost. When he uses these terms, he’s often contrasting our preconceptions about what it means to be dead with what it’s actually like to be on the other side—alive, vibrant, and still learning and progressing toward a much more spiritual state. So for Swedenborg, a “ghost” is something unreal or less than human—like an illusion, we might see it, but it has no substance or spiritual reality. back

References in this post:

Heaven and Hell #249

Talking with spirits is rarely allowed nowadays, though, because it is dangerous. The spirits then actually know that they are with us, which otherwise they would not; and evil spirits harbor a murderous hatred for us and crave nothing less than our total destruction, body and soul. This is what actually goes on in people who regularly lose themselves in delusions, even to the point that they lose touch with the pleasures appropriate to their natural person.

There are some people who lead solitary lives who sometimes hear spirits talking with them without risk; but the Lord keeps these spirits a little space away so that they do not know they are with these individuals. Most spirits, you see, are not aware that there is any other world than the one they are living in or therefore that there are people anywhere else. So we are not allowed to talk back to them, since if we did, they would know.

People who are constantly thinking about religious matters, so wrapped up in them that they practically see them within themselves, also begin to hear spirits talking with them. This is because when we voluntarily get wrapped up in religious matters, no matter what kind, without the interruption of various useful activities in the [external] world, these matters enter into us very deeply and take substance there so that they occupy our whole spirit, move into the spiritual world, and affect spirits there. However, people like this are visionaries or fanatics, and no matter what spirit they hear, they believe it is the Holy Spirit, even though the spirits they hear are fanatical. Spirits like this see false things as true; and because they see them as true they convince themselves and also convince people into whom they flow. Further, since spirits like this who command obedience have also begun to urge people to do evil things, they have gradually been moved away. Fanatical spirits can be differentiated from other spirits by the fact that they believe they are the Holy Spirit and that what they are saying is divine. They do not harm us, because we offer them divine worship. back

True Christianity, “Author’s Index of Memorable Occurrences,” #280

People who are in the spiritual world cannot appear to people who are in the physical world, and neither can people in the physical world appear to people in the spiritual world. Therefore spirits and angels cannot appear to people, and people cannot appear to spirits and angels. This is due to the difference between what is spiritual and what is earthly, or, to put it another way, the difference between what is substantial and what is material. It is because of this that spirits and angels have completely different language, different writing, and different thinking than people do. . . .

They also think things that are beyond an earthly person’s comprehension. The reason behind these differences is that spirits and angels are at the level of primary structures, whereas people in the world are in derivations from them. To put it another way, spirits and angels live among primary things that act as causes of secondary things; people live among these secondary things. back

Why are bad things permitted to happen?

The Lord’s governance of all people is called His Divine Providence.

There is nothing that happens outside of the care of the Lord and His providence. This does not mean that the Lord wills evil things to happen. The Lord is continually providing for all that is good and true and useful to effect us and inspire us. His will is only that good things happen. However, He also created people to be free. Therefore people make choices that are merely somewhat good, or partially good and sometimes downright evil and wrong. The Lord is present with people in these choices trying to bend them to a lesser evil or even to what is good. He will never exert His influence to the point where someone’s will is broken or pushed beyond their own free choice. We are also told that the Lord will only permit evil to happen if good may come from it. For example, we can see in the death of an individual how often it will impact people for good; by either inspiring others to change their lives, or live more spiritually, or some such thing. When evil things happen the Lord is there permitting it (not willing or desiring it to happen), providing that good might come from the choices made.

When it is said that God permits, this does not mean that He wills, but that He cannot avert on account of the end, which is salvation. Whatever is done for the sake of the end, namely, salvation, is according to the laws of the Divine Providence. (Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 234)

We will be effected by our heredity that is passed on from our parents and ancestors, our environment, our experiences, and our ruling or dominant love. We are created to have free choice so it is completely up to us what we choose to do and what we choose to love. The Lord knows what we are going to choose but that doesn’t mean He is deciding for us. It means that He can allow for, and provide for, our choices.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“The doing of a good deed flows from the desiring of it. In ancient times, deed and will were made one… for pretense did not exist at all.”

Arcana Coelestia 363

Father – is he uniquely important?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

fatherTraditionally, the father has been the bread-winner for the family. These days, however, many women have well-paid jobs in the professions and business. The two sexes are said to be equal, and the ‘new man’ as a father is supposed to reduce his time at work so as to be as actively involved as the mother – not just in domestic chores – but also in time spent with the children, and in thinking about their health and schooling.

Does the gender of the parents matter?

However in doing more of what mothers have traditionally done, some men are beginning to wonder if there is any unique role for a father that can be valued. As the mother goes out to work, the father is no longer the sole or sometimes even main family bread-winner.

A lead article in the Journal of Marriage and Family concludes “The gender of parents only matters in ways that don’t matter.” This assumes there is nothing that a father brings to the table of parenting that is not easily replicated by the mother. Is a father then not distinctly needed other than as an additional parent?

The father in animal studies

In fish, reptiles and in many species of mammals, there is seen little or no paternal role in caring for offspring. It is the females who must do all the work of caring for the young. For example a male bear leaves the female shortly after mating and will kill and sometimes eat any bear cub he comes across, even if the cub is his. Bear mothers spend much of their cubs’ early life protecting them from males. Domesticated dogs are not monogamous with their mates and show little interest in their pups.

On the other hand there are some animals where the fathers take a paternal caring role with their young. A male wolf helps feed, protect, and play with his pups and is the one who does most of the hunting for the young when the mother is securing the newborn pups. Most male waterfowl are very protective in raising their offspring, sharing scout duties with the female. Examples are geese, swans and gulls and a few species of duck. When the families of most of these waterfowls travel, they usually go in a line and the fathers are usually the ones guarding the offspring at the end of the line while the mothers lead the way.

In animal studies, whether the parents are monogamous seems to be a crucial factor in the involvement of the adult male in the young.

The love of a mother

In humans, from the child’s conception, the mother is the parent who nourishes the baby and forms the primary attachment which is continued as the infant grows and experiences her affectionate nurturing care. And so she is likely to be the major caregiver of the children, even if she herself is employed to a larger or smaller extent in the labour force. According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, the love of children directly affects women because of the linkage of a deeper monogamous affection he called conjugial love with the female sex.

In recent years social science studies have been showing the benefits on children of healthy father-child relationships for example higher self-esteem, increased curiosity, greater empathy.

Why should this be the case? Is it because two parents are better than one? Or is it because each sex has something special to offer to child raising?

The mother is usually more affectionate and closer to children whereas the father tends to be more emotionally distant. Some men will drift and muddle through their home life, others make every effort to be a thoughtful and loving parent giving time for play, and keeping an eye on the child’s well being.

Swedenborgian view of gender

For Swedenborg the male mind is more prone to understanding and the female to feeling and thus a father  has a tendency to see things from a broader perspective. If there is something in this, then in so far as a father is interested in his children’s welfare, can he not offer a distinctive good sense? For example as a result of his male approach to life children may be more interested about the world around them and develop greater problem solving skills.

A father’s influence on the children may be indirect as often the mother has more contact with them. Nevertheless her loving care and way of dealing with the child may possibly be influenced after discussing common concerns with her partner and getting his views on wider issues.

Does a good father not also combine with his partner to contribute to the caring and moral atmosphere in the home? If so he is likely to want to explore and share good ideas of relevance to the child’s developing understanding. Arguably, in the fatherly role, a man can be instrumental in fostering ethical principles and ideas about the meaning of life that remain unconscious within the child as he or she developments into adulthood.

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on8th October 2014CategoriesMeaning of life, Other aspects of meaningTags, , , ,  Leave a comment

CONCERNING THE DIVINE HUMAN OF THE LORD

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

CONCERNING THE DIVINE HUMAN OF THE LORD
THAT IN HEAVEN IT IS EVERYWHERE ACKNOWLEDGED

Selection from
THE SPIRITUAL DIARY

OF
EMANUEL SWEDENBORG

BEING THE RECORD DURING TWENTY YEARS OF HIS SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE

     Every man whatever, who has not destroyed his rational mind and no longer receives therein the heavenly influx, and, so, [every man] who does not acknowledge nature as God, has the idea of a human concerning the Divine. This was attested, through much experience, by those in the other life. This Divine Human is nowhere else than in the Lord. Let who pleases think where else the Divine Human could be. The Lord also plainly teaches that He who sees Him sees the Father, and that He is in the Father and the Father in Him and that the Father and He are one. The learned do not know what the soul is; whether it is anything, or whether only a vital [spark], or whether it is the cogitative [function] in a sort of trial [condition]; whether it is there in the body, or elsewhere; when, yet, the soul is the man himself, and wholly in a human form, and the body is adjoined thereto (everywhere according to its functions in a gross world. Hence are the vagaries of the learned. The simple, on the other hand, know that their soul is in the body; consequently, they have no doubts about a life after death).

     Another thing is, that the thoughts and wisdom of the angels are according to the form of heaven, and their affections according to the changes of state there; for, were not the form of heaven perfect, no one could think, still less be wise, because every thought has extension into the societies of another heaven, [these societies] being arranged according to the form of heaven. The form of heaven, in general, relates to man; for it corresponds to each thing with man, as has been shown; [to wit], ((that, first, all things of the whole body, from the highest to the lowest and from the inmost to the outmost, are organic forms, completely [adapted] for the reception of the life of faith from love; and so much as there is of Divine love in man from God, so far are his organs receptions of life, consequently, so far are they living. This is most perfectly the case in the Lord, inasmuch as the Divine Love Itself which was the Esse of His life, formed the body after its likeness, thus to its reception, even to such a degree as that all the [organs] should be forms of Divine Love; and, since the body was made Divine they are the Divine Love. Nothing there is closed, as infinites; but all things are formed according to the idea of an infinite heaven. [It was also shown] that, in the generating of men, there is a likeness of the father, from the conception from the father, thus from the soul, which is the esse of life; this [esse] imparts its own to the body, and makes it a likeness of itself; for the body is the existere of life from the esse of life. Second, that men are not aware that the whole body is the form of its love – which is known in the heavens. Nor do they know how the Lord, although a man and not a spirit, entered through closed doors. Third, that there is not one God when there are three persons. Fourth, that men say that He is omnipresent, even as to the human, as in the Holy Supper. Fifth, they believe that they shall rise as to the body; for they know nothing as to what quality those in the other life are, to wit, in a body and in all things of the body. They do not know what the soul is, and what the body!)) That the Divine is Human in heaven, is a fundamental of wisdom, because of thought; for [that] idea is the primitive one of the universal heaven. Wherefore he who is not in it cannot be in angelic wisdom. Hence, also, it is evident, that the Lord as to the Divine Human is the all of heaven and the all of the wisdom of the angels there.

     It shall be added, in the third place, that the Divine in heaven must have been the Divine Human, before the Coming of the Lord – as is clear from correspondences; wherefore, everything proceeding from the Divine was then in the Human form, so that that form must have been the existere of Infinite Love from the esse of love; and, because it was of love, and the Divine is the Infinite of power, or omnipotence, therefore it also follows, necessarily, that, at length, it so came to pass that it [the Divine] put on the human, actually. These things are written by influx out of heaven, from the wisdom of the angels there.

     By means of the Divine Human of the Lord order was restored even to the ultimate of life, which is the sensual; for successive Divine order perished in ultimates, thus the Divine in the ultimate: this has been restored by the Lord, so that thus the Divine could reach even to that. When I spoke with the angels, I perceived, from their inflowing idea, that there never could have been a Divine creating all things, unless it were a one – not divided into three equal essences, but into three successive essences, which are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these in one Person. It was also perceived that the Divine Itself, which is the first essence, must have been Man in endeavor, or in course of becoming – fieri – whence it was as it were man, thus man reflexively; and that the second essence is Man born, and essentially from the first; and the third essence in successive order, is Man proceeding, which is the whole heaven; and, if it is named, it may be called the Holy Spirit, since it is from the Lord there, and in the Church thence. It may also be confirmed from the fact that the body is the existere of life from the soul, which is the esse of life – as is done among spirits. It may be confirmed from the creed of Athanasius. Those from the Christian world who, from principles taken up and confirmed in the world, deny the Lord, have scarcely any life; they are completely silly.

http://lastchurch.blogspot.ca/

(Emanuel Swedenborg’s Spiritual Diary 4844 – 4847)


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Uses

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By Mr. Joseph S. David

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Women in the Wheat Fields, by Charles Caryl Coleman

Uses are the tangible, expressed forms of love to the neighbor. We can think of things we might do to help a neighbor, and we can want to do something to help, but it’s not until we deploy the thoughts and act on our will, that we actually perform a use.

Doing actual useful service completes the trilogy of end, cause, and effect, the action being the effect. Furthermore, we are taught in the doctrines of the New Church that the primary theater for charity is not the giving of alms to various people or causes, though that is important, but to do the job or fill out the office we are in honestly, justly, and industriously as best we can, not because it helps us but because it helps the common good. And because this is what the Lord requires of us.

Heaven is called a kingdom of uses because all angels are busy doing a useful task every day, and angels love it so, because these tasks are perfectly suited to the angel doing them, allowing each angel to delight in what he is doing every day to his or her heart’s content.

One of the key descriptions of heaven in the doctrines is that of a single grand human being, not because of shape but because of function. Modern science has learned a lot about the human body. We can know that we are made up of billions of different kinds of cells, brain cells, muscle cells, bone cells, and on and on, and that all these cells are busy little shops, taking in raw materials from the blood and turning out products the body needs and sending them around. We can see that each cell in our body is analogous to a society of angels, as we are told that there are societies in the provinces of all parts of the body performing the spiritual correspondent of what the various body parts do in an anatomic or physiologic way. So just as our cells all perform uses in our body to keep the whole body healthy and active, so do all angelic societies, and within those individual angels. Thus heaven can continue to exist, grow and perform its uses toward those of us still down here in the material world.

A similar kind of picture, though in a more imperfect way, shows how a political entity, a country, or state, or city can operate with all the various jobs contributing to a vibrant commonwealth, with people trading goods and services and doing all the things that make a community live. But it works better when all the citizens are led internally by love to the neighbor rather than love of self.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 454, 997, 4222, 4984, 7038; Divine Love and Wisdom 65, 213, 297; Heaven and Hell 64, 387, 403; Heaven and Hell 517 [2])

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What a Bad Apple Can Teach You About Happiness

Swedenborg Foundation

by Hanna HyattNot much is worse than a bad batch of fruit. An apple can look all delightful and ready to be eaten on the outside, but on the inside it can be a mealy and squishy surprise. An avocado can look like it’s going to be the best thing to happen to the world of guacamole, but on the inside it can be all brown and rotten.

. . . bad apples . . .

. . . bad avocados . . .

What makes these things so bad? Sure, a fruity disappointment is one thing, but human beings are so quick to describe something as bad. From a theological standpoint, what makes something “bad”?

Everyone has ideas about the difference between a bad thing and a good thing. Emanuel Swedenborg discusses this often in his theological works, where he talks about the impact of God’s love and how people can feel heavenly happiness in their own lives. But before things can go from bad to good, he says, we have to understand what makes those two things different from a spiritual perspective.

Can an Apple Be Bad?

blog_badapples

To be truly “bad,” Swedenborg says that beings must be free and able to choose rationally between things that will make them happy in good ways or bad ways. In this scenario, “bad” refers to things that are harmful to those around us (in Swedenborg’s theology, this is what evil means), but that we choose anyhow because it benefits us personally: selfishness, greed, riches—any love that serves the self more than other people.

Objects, however, can’t make that choice. A knife is great while it’s serving a constructive purpose. But when it’s used to harm someone, it is an awful weapon. Swedenborg says that objects cannot be inherently good or bad—they are good or bad depending on how people use them. People are the only things that can be good or bad, depending on the choices they make freely. Someone must decide, without being forced one way or another, to use something for good or bad ends—to either serve selfish loves or serve heavenly and neighbor-loving ones.

“Why, then, ‘tis none to you, for there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” — William Shakespeare, Hamlet

“Bad Dog!” — Can Dogs be Bad?

Anyone who comes into contact with dogs knows that they make their own decisions—what their owner wants is not always as important as their own instincts. They see a squirrel, and they choose to either run after it and risk their fate to an owner-enforced consequence, or stay and miss the chance to catch that darn squirrel.

However, when a dog jumps up on the counter to eat some fresh-from-the-oven chicken pot pies (or twelve chocolate cupcakes, from personal experience), it’s hard to blame the cute little beast that just had a hankering for some food. Why is it so hard to blame them? Swedenborg writes that in order for one to truly be free to make a choice, they must also be rational.

Rationality is an important concept—it means that people are able to weigh decisions, looking at cost vs. benefit, taking in long-term effects, looking at impact on other areas of life, and being able to be more objective and look at the whole picture rather than just a snapshot. This is why some teenagers seem to make bad decisions. (“Don’t they ever think about the consequences of their decisions?!” says every parent in the history of teenagers.) People have to grow into their ability to consider options objectively and make decisions rationally. This is also why it’s hard to blame dogs for their decisions—they don’t have that rational, considerate type of brain.

Swedenborg asserts that human adults are the only beings that can look at situations and make entirely free and rational decisions. And even adults aren’t always reliable in the rational decisions department—look at most reality TV shows, where the rational brain tends to take a backseat to emotional outbursts. People are only human—prone to mistakes and assumptions. Dogs are not only not human, but tend to be prone to decisions that hurt the people (or squirrels) around them. They aren’t “bad,” just accident-prone, because they lack the rationality to make clear decisions.

“He’s the Bad Guy!” — What about People?

Humans: This is the hardest part, because it involves freedom, rationality, self-awareness, choice, and perspective.

To figure out if a choice is working toward bad things or good things, Swedenborg says that human beings must look at the effects of a decision on their life and the lives of the individuals around them. This means that if someone’s goal is to get their own way in everything, their version of happiness would be to control or manipulate others, to advance their careers at the expense of others, to make money without worrying about the effects their business decisions will have on others. Swedenborg would call these hellish types of happiness.

Now, Swedenborg recommends personal goals that lead toward heaven, as the negative goals lead more toward separation from God and heavenly joy. If someone’s goal is to be “good,” they have to look at the decisions they make and see if the effects are good—does the decision make other people happy? Does it make people happy in good ways, positive ways that lead toward that heavenly happiness we talked about earlier? Does it add positive things to life, or does it tear down positive things?

Whether we chose the negative ends or the positive ones, the cycle is a never-ending one of regeneration—looking for truth, bringing that truth into our life, deciding what our goals are, and making decisions that lead toward those goals. This involves lots of rational ideas, like self-examination and looking at the true happiness of the people around us. No easy task!

However, Swedenborg states again and again that this hard process has the potential for so much love and happiness. People are able to be much happier because they can choose with freedom and rationality and continue to build on their choices to grow closer and closer to God. They can grow to have more and more heavenly happiness (or evil delight), which means they have the potential to be united with the Lord.

Looking back, it’s easy to see that:

  1. Apples can’t be happy. They have no choice.
  2. Dogs can be happy, but they can’t rationally choose it. Happiness is a thing that happens to them, not a thing they create.
  3. People create happiness through freedom and rational decisions, leading them on a path towards their goals.
Apples don’t have the happiness that dogs have. Dogs, as great as they are, don’t have the same happiness that people have. People have the ability to be good or bad because they can choose it, freely and rationally.

Does God withdraw from us and test us?

The answer is, “no.” God never withdraws from us – He is always present and loving us. We are however, left in freedom and we can use that freedom to turn away from the Lord if we choose. The Writings for the New Church also teach that when we are going through temptation that the Lord draws even closer to us, but that it can feel like He’s farther away. This is because the closer the Lord is to us, the more freedom we are in, and the more it feels like we are doing things on our own. The bottom line is that God is all loving and ever present. He doesn’t choose to leave us or back away.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Love and wisdom, apart from usefulness, are only imaginary things. That is, they do not become real unless they are used.”

Apocalypse Revealed 875

https://newchurch.org/

Biblical Science vs. Reductionism

Traditional science has worked under the assumption that reality can be reduced to smaller and simpler elementary parts. This is called reductionism.

However, some pioneering thinkers have taken the view that nature is complex even on its most fundamental levels. Physicist David Bohm believed that quantum entities contained subtle and complex inner structure.

Theologically speaking, if the universe was created by an Infinite God, then it must have had its beginning in unfathomable complexity.

This raises an interesting question. If the Word, which existed before creation was God, and all things in the created world came from the Word (John 1:1-3), does Scripture contain a pre-space and non-physical substrate that is infinitely complex?

Like science, traditional theology believes that the biblical stories are reducible to the simple meaning of its words. But, if the Holy Word was communicated to the human race from God in heaven, shouldn’t its stories contain deeper and more complex ideas?

This is exactly what scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg actually discovered. The Holy Word, like the physical world it generated, contained a similar patterning principle and template, whereby the deeper one probes, the more wonderful the spiritual message becomes – gaining new powers of abstraction until its message finally transcends the comprehension of mortal men and women.

Angels can grasp these more intricately beautiful teachings woven into Scripture, but its deeper levels of God’s truth and divine wisdom ultimately transcend angelic comprehension as well. Angels call the Holy Word “the great deep.”

Swedenborg suggested, that because all earthly men and women are interiorly spiritual beings, they too possess the higher levels of mind that angels enjoy. But these higher cognitive functions only represent latent powers, which need to be opened up through a willingness to learn deeper spiritual truths and a commitment to spend some effort on training the mind to think in new ways.

Swedenborg labored nearly thirty years of his life to help people acquire this deeper knowledge through extraordinary books that challenge and exercise the mind to distill higher meaning from mundane language. If this interests you I recommend that you contact the Swedenborg Foundation and order Vol.1 of Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia (Secrets of Heaven).

It is a wonderful opportunity to make your life more valuable to the Lord God in heaven and to humanity on earth.

Posted on January 8, 2009by thegodguy

Posted in god, Inner growth, metaphysics, Reality, religion, science, spirituality, symbolism, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Share ideas – How to talk about beliefs.

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

It might be tempting to keep quiet about what you really believe or hide behind a book that gives your view rather than talking about it yourself; especially if you are afraid if you share ideas they might be discarded or even trampled on.

But don’t we each have some sort of responsibility for freely offering a word of wisdom freely received?

I would argue that it’s only when we share ideas and beliefs that we can build deeper relationship. But how many of us fail to do this, preferring to say the comfortable thing, and conform to what we assume is expected? Conversations that touch on important issues really give satisfaction; one soul has touched another.

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” (Rollo May)

Perhaps you are reticent to share ideas about your hopes, values and convictions. Do you  avoid any honest talk about politics and religion, or quickly pass over difficult subjects like the meaning of death or human suffering, or your personal aims in life. Is this because you have little to say or are unhappy about being your real self?

“There are some people who have the quality of richness and joy in them and they communicate it to everything they touch. It is first of all a physical quality; then it is a quality of the spirit.” (Tom Wolfe)

Here are some suggestions about how to share ideas.

1. Be clear about what you would want to say if you had the chance. One possible reason why you might sometimes gloss over matters, is you haven’t thought through your ideas; have not understood what is important to you about your beliefs; or are not yet clear about what ideas you want to share.

“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.” (Epictetus)

2. Find an appropriate person to speak with. You cannot expect to share ideas  about the local football team with someone who is bored by sport. Nor can you expect to talk about your spiritual beliefs with someone who is disinterested in the deeper aspects of life.

3. Even then you cannot just launch into a topic out of the blue. Only by listening carefully, will you be in a position to show the relevance of what you want to say to the other person, beginning where they are at. This means being sensitive and aware of the other person’s feelings.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others” (Tony Robbins)

4. I would advise not tackling a passionately held attitude head on. It will get you nowhere. Only by listening can you learn what switches someone off or where to tread carefully. One would walk warily around certain topics where the other person has strong feelings. Raising a certain topic like gay marriage, re-incarnation, vegetarianism, human suffering may feel like walking over broken eggs.

Instead try to share ideas by testifying to our own experiences and thoughts and their relevance to the person’s situation and practical issues.

5. Share ideas by offering your views for consideration rather than telling someone in an authoritative way what to think. This means asserting your thoughts without dominating; listening to the other person’s attitude even when they don’t oppose you.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” (Peter Drucker)

6. Wait for the right time to mention what you have in mind; looking for opportunities to steer the conversation towards the topic that interests you

7. Share ideas by keeping to the point.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” (Hans Hofmann)

8. Share ideas by using words in common parlance avoiding jargon or terminology with socially unacceptable connotations. When talking with someone you don’t know too well from a different background it is important to check out any misunderstanding of words with a specialised meaning that do crop up.

When it comes to deeper ideas, any language can be inadequate especially when you are trying to express the inexpressible. For example if you want to share your spiritual beliefs then be wary about the way the word ‘God’ is used. Some people have rightly rejected a distorted image of God. Nevertheless they may still have a feeling that there is an underlying divine source of what is good and true in life.

share ideas9. Use effective and socially acceptable non-verbal behaviour; for example the right tone and loudness of voice, eye-contact, body posture.

10. Only suggest an idea if it might lead to something useful for the other person. There is a chance that what you want to say is not needed by a particular individual.

11. Don’t assume listeners will agree that what is said is self-evident. Nothing can be more annoying than for someone to share ideas by telling us what to think as if they must be right. It sounds arrogant and dogmatic.

Better to say “This is my opinion; here is my experience and evidence; look for yourself and decide.”

12. Don’t voice your opinion as a way of winning an argument and getting the better of someone. People use their inner freedom to search for meaningful notions because they love what makes sense. We should encourage such people to exercise their freedom to rationally weigh up our beliefs. We cannot assume everyone we speak with is able to intuitively perceive the truth of what we say. After all we may be wrong.

13. Welcome questioning of what you say.

“A powerful idea communicates some of its strength to him who challenges it.” (Marcel Proust)

Look upon a conversation as a two way process. You can learn from the other person and hopefully they can learn from you.

Swedenborg

Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that we never achieve truth as it is in itself, but that all of our insights are only approximations to genuine truth, mere appearances of what is true adapted to human understanding. In communicating with people we need to accommodate our message to where each is coming from in terms of the appearances and illusions they have. And to share ideas with them we need to listen to what they have to say in terms of our own misapprehensions.

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

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on13th August 2013CategoriesMeaning of life, Other aspects of meaningLeave a comment

Only One Fountain of Life

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeFrom Heaven and Hell ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without Me, ye can do nothing. John 15:4, 5.

… from that one fountain of life, which is the Lord, nothing proceeds except Divine Good and Divine Truth which affect each one in accordance with the reception. Those who receive them in faith and life find heaven in them, but those who reject and suffocate them turn them into hell, for they turn good into evil and truth into falsity, thus life into death. The fact also that everything of life is from the Lord … all things in the universe have reference to good and truth – the life of a man’s will, which is the life of his love, relating to good, and the life of a man’s understanding, which is the life of his faith, relating to truth. Therefore, since everything good and true comes from above, it follows that so does everything of life.

This being the belief of the angels, they refuse all thanks for the good that they do and are indignant and withdraw if anyone attributes good to them. They are astonished that anyone believes that he is wise from himself or does good from himself. Doing good for one’s own sake they do not call good because it is from self; but doing good for the sake of good, they call good from the Divine, and they say it is this good that makes heaven because this Good is the Lord.

Such spirits as have confirmed themselves during their life in the world in the belief that the good that they do and the truth that they believe are from themselves or are appropriated to them as their own – which is the belief of all who attach merit to good actions and claim righteousness to themselves – are not received into heaven. The angels avoid them, regarding them as stupid and as thieves, stupid because they continually have themselves in view and not the Divine, thieves because they would take away from the Lord that which is His. These are opposed to the faith of heaven that the Divine of the Lord present with the angels makes heaven.

(Heaven and Hell 9-11)
April 26, 2017

Will and Understanding

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

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As human beings, we get stuck all the time in conflicts between what we want and what we know. We want to eat that extra piece of pie, but we know over-eating is bad for us. We want to just keep the extra groceries the cashier missed when he was scanning items, but we know it wouldn’t be honest. We’re flattered when the cute new co-worker acts flirtatious, but we know we shouldn’t even play around with anything that could cause us to think outside of marriage.

So the idea that there’s part of us that wants and feels and another part that thinks and knows is not exactly new. But according to Swedenborg, those two parts of us are extremely important, both reflecting the essential duality of the Lord and also making it possible for us to accept the Lord’s love and go to heaven.

That all starts – as everything in Swedenborg does – with the idea that the Lord is love itself, perfect, all-powerful and infinite. That love takes form as wisdom itself, and through His wisdom the Lord can pour His love out on all of us constantly, expressed as ideas that we can grasp and use. So love is the Lord’s “wanting, feeling” part and wisdom is His “thinking, knowing” part.

The Lord’s deepest desire is for us to open our wanting, feeling part – which Swedenborg calls “the will” — to His love, and to opening our thinking, knowing part – which Swedenborg calls “the understanding” – to His wisdom. That way He can fill us with life and be conjoined to us, bringing us all joy and delight in heaven.

But the Lord also created us to be free, and the only way to do that was to open our wills to evil loves as well as good ones. That’s why we are, from our beginnings, so beset by the desire to be selfish, to be greedy, to look out for ourselves and please ourselves above all else.

But the Lord also gave us a mechanism to overcome that selfishness. Our understanding – our ability to think – operates separately from our will. That means we can use our understanding to gather ideas about what is right and good and loving, and can force ourselves to act on them even though they run contrary to our desires. This is, in fact, the great task we face in life.

What the Lord promises, though, is this: If we do that work from a desire to be good people, He will step in and slowly start removing our evil loves so that His perfect love can flow in. It’s a long process – lifelong, actually – but the results are priceless. When our will is cleared of evil and becomes a receptacle for the Lord, then our understanding becomes wisdom and our will becomes love. Then, instead of acting from what we know and over-riding what we want, we can act from love, with the love given form through wisdom. That is the life of angels, and the life of heaven.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

(References: Arcana Coelestia 7179; Divine Love 18; Divine Love and Wisdom 399; True Christian Religion 397)

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Why Swedenborg Says You Don’t Have to Be Christian to Be Good

Swedenborg Foundation

By Karin Alfelt Childs

No bones about it: Emanuel Swedenborg was a Christian. He states in his books that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God and that Jesus Christ is the one who saves people and brings them to heaven. Swedenborg also wrote that people do not have to be part of the earthly Christian belief system to go to heaven. How do we reconcile these two seemingly opposite statements?

The important thing, from Swedenborg’s perspective, is to be someone who inwardly follows Christ, not outwardly. Someone can belong to the Christian religion and profess a belief in Jesus Christ and yet live in a way that’s totally contrary to Christ’s teachings. Those people, Swedenborg tells us, cannot get into heaven. That is why Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

blog_christian

On the other hand, there can be people who have been born into a religion that worships the Divine by a different name, or who have become so turned off by hypocrisy in the earthly Christian religion that they cannot find God there. But such people can nevertheless be living in the way Christ taught us to live: by loving God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:36–40); by refraining from judging others (Matthew 7:1–5); by resisting evil in their actions, thoughts, and feelings (John 8:34, Matthew 5:22); by working out their differences with others before coming before God (Matthew 5:24); by treating others the way they themselves would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), etc. Regardless of their outer, earthly beliefs, they are inward followers of Christ, and after death they will recognize the Lord as the one they have been following all along. Swedenborg’s experiences led him to understand that when the Bible talks about the “name” of Jesus Christ, it means the quality or character of Christ. That is what we must follow in order to be able to recognize the Lord after death.

That’s why on earth, we should be paying attention not to someone’s outer belief system, but rather to the kind of life they are leading. This is what is looked at by the Lord and the angels after death, says Swedenborg, and this is supported by others who have had spiritual or mystical experiences. For example, in Lance Richardson’s near-death experience story “The Message” he also describes good people from many different earthly faith traditions having no problem with recognizing the loving presence of the Lord after death. The variety in earthly religion is something that the Lord is pleased with, because the Lord’s love is not petty and exclusive, wanting people to “get it exactly right.” If so, none of us could make it! In fact, Swedenborg saw many Christians in the afterlife unable to get into heaven because they were so sure they already “had it right” that they were unable to open their minds to learn the ways in which they were mistaken about God (which, of course, can happen in any religious belief system).

Swedenborg tells us that God looks at the heart, the intent, the effort. The Lord’s love is big and all-encompassing and all-inclusive. The Lord wants people to be able to follow whatever earthly religion suits them best as being a tool for forging a relationship with God, according to background, circumstances, and disposition. Christ is not the exclusive character that he is often made out to be. Christ is the embodiment of God’s love for the whole human race.

http://www.swedenborg.com/

Personal crisis and spiritual growth

Each of us has faced, or will face, a personal crisis in some form during the course of our lives.

For some of us, it occurs when young, with the loss of a parent or other childhood trauma. For others, crisis comes in adult life. The precipitating event can be compared to the wake of a large ship that passes a little boat. The peaceful waters that were taken for granted now churn with trouble, threatening to overturn our lives.

Personal crisis and spiritual growth

 A crisis is simply defined as a time of intense difficulty or danger, when important decisions are made which may determine the outcome of everything that follows. It is a time when we may feel extremely alone, and ask ourselves: Will my life ever be the same? How will I handle the things I must do? Is there any hope for me in this situation?

The New Church has many hopeful and comforting teachings that support and comfort those in crisis.

One is everything happens for a reason. God does not will anything bad to happen to anyone, but permits a crisis to occur when He knows for certain that good things will come to each and every person who is involved. We may not understand this noble truth in a time of crisis or temptation, but we are taught that even the most difficult experiences in life can lead to spiritual growth. The work Divine Providence says in our darkest hours, when we feel most alone, the Lord is nearest to us, encouraging us to hold our course toward what is right.

Another teaching is we are born for a purpose that extends beyond our life in this world, for our life continues after death in a similar fashion as we lived in the world.

Our life after death is enhanced greatly according to the spiritual attributes that we acquire, attributes such as patience, compassion and the ability to love others. Our life on earth can be thought of as a training-ground, where we have the chance to become more spiritual people.

Human suffering and crisis is not in any way part of the Divine plan. In the midst of it, we have the ability to respond according to spiritual principles of love, loyalty and compassion toward others. We can also find solace and faith in a God who cares for us even when it seems we are most alone. These spiritual principles are the very agents of our spiritual growth and rebirth, and in the big picture, the transformation of the world into a better place for all mankind.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Charity is like springtime or summertime warmth, which makes grain, grasses, and trees grow. Without charity, or spiritual warmth, nothing grows.”

Arcana Coelestia 1016:2