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The Spiritual Meanings of the Word of God in the Old and New Testaments

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The Human Understanding – A Refining Vessel

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From True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

A man’s knowledge of God is his mirror of God, and that those who know nothing about God do not see God in a mirror with its face toward them, but in a mirror with its back toward them; and as this is covered with quicksilver, or some dark paste; it does not reflect the image but extinguishes it.

Faith in God enters into man through a prior way, which is from the soul into the higher parts of the understanding; while knowledges about God enter through a posterior way, because they are drawn from the revealed Word by the understanding, through the bodily senses; and these inflowings meet midway in the understanding; and there natural faith, which is merely persuasion, becomes spiritual, which is real acknowledgment. Thus the human understanding is like a refining vessel, in which this transmutation is effected.

(True Christian Religion 11:3)
April 20, 2017

How Spiritual Growth Makes You More You

Swedenborg Foundation

Are we all fundamentally one with the Divine? In our last post, we explored the idea that our sense of being separate from God is just an illusion—a necessary illusion, because without it we would never be able to live and grow as individuals here on earth. This idea has parallels in other religious traditions, especially Buddhism and Hinduism. But then Emanuel Swedenborg’s philosophy takes a sharp turn. Rather than arguing that our sense of individuality is something that disappears if we become enlightened, he writes that by growing closer to God, we become more and more distinctly ourselves.


How does that work? It’s bound up in two key concepts from Swedenborg’s writings: love and freedom.

Love, he tells us, is a fundamental part of who we are. This is true on a number of levels; but for the purpose of spiritual growth, Swedenborg says that the types of things we love define everything about us. When we value other people and do what we can to help them and to care for those who need it, such actions are motivated by good kinds of love—love for the divine and love for our neighbor. When we put ourselves first and focus on increasing our personal wealth, fame, and influence no matter what the cost, such actions come from bad kinds of love—love of self and love of the world. (For more on this, see True Christianity §§394–396.)

As human beings, we’re a mix of different types of love, some selfish and some selfless. But Swedenborg also says that part of spiritual growth is making a conscious choice: either embrace and justify our questionable actions or reject temptations when they arise and work to become better people. The more we make those decisions, the more we move in one direction or the other, toward heaven or toward hell. Eventually, a ruling or dominant love emerges—the core value that drives all of our actions.

That’s where freedom comes in. As human beings, we have the free will to decide our path in life, and Swedenborg would add that no one could truly become either good or evil without the ability to choose between the two. But freedom isn’t just the path to determining what kind of people we are; it’s also the result of expressing our deepest convictions. If a person loves helping others, then volunteering in community service—like a soup kitchen or a park cleanup—feels like freedom. If a person loves making money, then being forced to do volunteer work feels like a burdensome obligation. Same actions, different loves, and a different sense of what it means to be either free or constrained.

To sum up the above, what we love is the core of our identity, and being able to do what we love gives us a sense of ultimate freedom. With that in mind, here’s what Swedenborg says about the way our identity changes (and doesn’t!) as we grow spiritually:

Now since anything we do freely seems to be our own because it comes from our love (acting from our love is acting freely, as already noted), it follows that union with the Lord makes us feel that we have freedom and therefore identity; and the closer our union with the Lord, the greater our freedom and our identity. The reason our identity seems clearer is that divine love by its very nature wants to give what it has to others, which means to us on earth and to angels. All spiritual love is like this; divine love most of all. (Divine Providence §43)

When our love is directed outward, toward doing good in the world, then that’s a heavenly love—the kind of love that draws us closer to God. Swedenborg would say that spiritual progress is about working toward an increasingly heavenly state of being in which we have a greater and greater love for all living beings. But he emphasizes that even though the love feels like it’s coming from inside us, it isn’t. It’s God’s love flowing through us.

If it’s true that what we love is bound up in our identity, or our sense of self, then allowing God’s love to flow through us unites us with the divine. We become a tiny reflection of God. When we then act according to that love, we experience it as total freedom, because we now have the ability to do what brings us the greatest possible joy. And being free to act exactly as we wish—to express our inner self—also gives us a greater sense of who we are. That’s how spiritual growth makes each of us more perfectly ourselves.

Swedenborg also describes an infinite variety in the types of love that people can possess, so that each good person makes the whole of heaven (and the communities of good people on earth) more beautiful:

Not the smallest difference exists that is not fitted into its exact place in the overall plan. In this way it can unite with all the other pieces in perfect concord to form a common whole, and the common whole can contribute to unity among the individual pieces. Thus everything combines for the happiness of the whole (rising from the individuals’ happiness) and for the individuals’ happiness (rising from the happiness of the whole). (Secrets of Heaven §684)

What kind of love do you bring to the world?


For more on the idea of self in spiritual growth, check out “The Infinite in You,” an episode of our weekly webcast Swedenborg and Life, or read a recap here.

Read more about God and the idea of self (or proprium in the Latin) in our blog post “Does God Have an Ego?” or get the big picture on Swedenborg’s techniques for spiritual growth in our free e-book download Regeneration: Spiritual Growth and How It Works.

Being born again?

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A marvel in nature: a fern unfolds.

Beginning a new life is – in some ways – the ONE spiritual topic that people have to get right.

In John, there’s the famous statement by Jesus: “Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” (John 3:3).

What does Jesus mean? He’s saying that we all need to – with the Lord’s help – stop doing evil things, and start doing good things. When we do that, we are essentially being reborn spiritually.

Some Christian churches teach that this process of rebirth happens at the moment that we accept Jesus Christ has our personal savior; other churches teach that it happens little by little, over time, as we root out bad habit and bad thought patterns, and develop good ones.

There’s much more that could be said on this topic, but… one thing that we’ve encountered recently that will be of interest to many Bible readers is the “Begin a New Life” workshop developed by Rev. Mark Pendleton, in Illinois, USA.

It’s easy to want to change your life, but it’s not easy to actually do it. Mark has developed – during many years as a pastor – a universal, faith-based program that helps you make and sustain any life change that you want or need to make—one or two changes at a time.

Here’s what he says about it: “It doesn’t matter how big or small the change is, this program can help. As you go through the program for different issues in your life, your life is steadily, even miraculously transformed—from outside in, and inside out. You grow in personal clarity and power to choose, and you rise to new levels of hope and promise that are meaningful and real.”

One inspirational passage that helps drive the first step in the program is found in Psalms 139:23-24.

This link will take you to the home page for this program:

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Serenity prayer

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
Enjoying one moment at a time;
Accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
Taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
Trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
That I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
Forever in the next.

–Reinhold Niebuhr

Posted on15th October 2010CategoriesPoetry, ReligionTags,, ,  Leave a comment

The walrus is Paul!

I am not referring to one of the Beatles. The gentleman I am referring to is the so-called “apostle” Paul, whose original name was Saul.

Paul is the walrus because he is the odd man out, and for several interesting reasons. One of which is that he was not a part of the Lord’s inner circle. Paul was not a part of the Lord’s original twelve apostles and plays no foundational role in the Holy City, the New Jerusalem.

“And the wall of the city had twelve foundations, and in them the names of the twelve apostles of the Lamb.” (Rev. 21:14)

So Paul is most definitely the walrus when it comes to the Second Coming or having special authority, even though many theologians put his importance above that of the other twelve.

According to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, Paul’s writings are not a part of the inspired Word of God, either.

While Paul’s work was important to spreading the Christian movement abroad and he is now the “go-to” guy for fine-tuning Christian doctrine, his actual writings came from his own prudence and subjective estimation of things. His writings were not Sacred in and of themselves.

The reason why Swedenborg came to this conclusion is that Paul’s writings did not contain the deeper, sacred meanings that are contained within God’s true Holy Word. Remember, that the canonical Bible consists of stories that were decided upon by the judgment of finite human minds. Some of their choices were correct, and some were incorrect.

In other words, not all the stories in Scripture represent God’s true Holy Word. (See my post entitled “God’s Holy Word vs. The Canonical Bible.”) Since I have addressed the topic of higher meaning within the stories of Scripture in dozens of earlier posts, it would be too tedious to address this enormous topic here and now. Rather, I would like to address more urgent issues – a misfortunate outcome of Paul’s writings.

Paul is the walrus because he did not make it clear enough to his readers that LOVE trumps both FAITH and HOPE. Today much of the Christian Church is misguided because of a misinterpretation of Paul’s words “that man is justified by faith without the works of the law.” (Romans 3:28)

Swedenborg points out that Paul was not trying to tell people that they were no longer responsible to the Lord’s commandments, but that they no longer had to follow the numerous tenets of Mosaic law, such as circumcision or the law of the red heifer.

The Lord made it quite clear that one was to “love God” and “love the neighbor.” These are the two great commandments upon which all divine law hangs.

“He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me . . . and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him, and will make my abode with him.” (John 14:21, 23)

Furthermore, in Revelation 20:13 it states: “and they were judged every man according to their works.” So even after the Lord’s dying on the cross and His resurrection, He still demands more than “mind faith,” but faith put into action (which is love).

Paul supports this: “For not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified.” (Romans 2:13)

Merit, is not sought by those who sincerely place loving God and the neighbor above themselves. This is what makes good works selfless and truly spiritual.

So the doctrine of justification by faith alone is bogus. And, because of that, much of orthodox Christianity has become the walrus as well. (No wonder it has been like pulling teeth to convince people that Sacred Scripture also contains higher levels of meaning.)

Posted on November 17, 2008by thegodguy

Posted in god, Inner growth, Life after death, love, Reality, religion, spirituality, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 21 Comments

God; love; kindness; and world religions.

Christianity has not cornered the market on love. God’s love permeates all religions.

Love-and-world-religionsWhen Jesus came on earth He embodied love in a way that can transform anyone who follows the Way He taught.

Here are a selection of quotations that remind us of the love that is central to Jesus’ teaching and also show that this theme is found in other world religions.

“Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.”
–1 John 4: 7-8 “

Of how great importance it is to have a just (or proper) idea of God may appear from the consideration that the idea of God forms the inmost of thought with all who have any religion.”
–Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Love and Wisdom 13

“Love is the mystery of divine revelations! Love is the effulgent manifestation! Love is the spiritual fulfillment! Love is the light of the Kingdom! Love is the breath of the Holy Spirit inspired into the human spirit! Love is the cause of the manifestation of the Truth (God) in the phenomenal world! Love is the necessary tie proceeding from the realities of things through divine creation!”
–`Abdu’l-Bahá, Tablets of `Abdu’l-Bahá v3[1]

“[Allah] is the Forgiving and Loving.”
–Qur’an 85:14

“Jehovah God is Love itself and Wisdom itself, or Good itself and Truth itself.”
–Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christian Religion 3

“Be fearless and pure; never waver in your determination or your dedication to the spiritual life. Give freely. Be self-controlled, sincere, truthful, loving, and full of the desire to serve….Learn to be detached and to take joy in renunciation. Do not get angry or harm any living creature, but be compassionate and gentle; show good will to all. Cultivate vigor, patience, will, purity; avoid malice and pride. Then, you will achieve your destiny.”
–Bhagavad Gita

“O give thanks to the Lord of lords, for his steadfast love endures forever.”
–Psalm 139:3

“Where love is, there God is also.”
–Mohandas Gandhi

“All major religious traditions carry basically the same message, that is love, compassion and forgiveness. The important thing is they should be part of our daily lives.”
–Dalai Lama

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