Bible stories unlocked

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Is the Bible literally true?

Cut off my right hand?

“If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to be thrown into hell. And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. It is better for you to lose one part of your body than for your whole body to go into hell.” (Matthew 5:29-30)

Can my eye cause me to sin? Am I actually supposed to gouge out my eye or cut off my hand if I want to stop sinning? The Writings for the New Church explain that these instructions are not meant literally: “The ‘eye’ represents in the spiritual sense everything belonging to the understanding and to thought, and the ‘right hand’ everything belonging to the will and to affection, it is evident that ‘if your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out’ represents that if one thinks evil, the evil must be rejected from the thought; also ‘if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off’ represents that if evil is willed the evil of the will must be cast out. For the eye itself cannot cause sin, nor can the right hand, but the thought of the understanding and the affection of the will, to which they correspond, can.” (Apocalypse Explained §600:8)

Is Jesus coming in the clouds?

“Men will see the Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory. And He will send His angels and gather His elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens.” (Mark 13:26-27)

Will this really happen on earth? When? This passage refers not to an anticipated event, but an event that has occurred on a spiritual level: “By ‘the clouds of heaven’ in which He is to come, nothing else is meant but the Word in its literal sense (which sometimes hides/obscures the true meaning such as a cloud obscures the sun); and by ‘the glory’ in which they will see Him, the Word in its spiritual sense (in which all is revealed)” (Apocalypse Revealed §24). The Writings for the New Church give us the spiritual sense of the Word, which descends through the clouds, and then the literal sense becomes accessible and applicable.

Did a flood cover the earth?

“Noah was six hundred years old when the floodwaters were on the earth. So Noah, with his sons, his wife, and his sons’ wives, went into the ark because of the waters of the flood…and it came to pass after seven days that the waters of the flood were on the earth. The windows of heaven were opened. And the rain was on the earth forty days and forty nights.” (Genesis 7:6-12)

The story of Noah and the flood is not a literal story about life being wiped off the earth, but rather a story that represents the personal struggle and temptation that each of us faces in life—and the ways we can protect ourselves in these times of spiritual trials. The book Secrets of Heaven explains the inner meaning of this story: the ark that Noah, his family, and the animals go into for protection from the flood represents the church that carries us through hard times (§639). “By the ‘flood of waters’ is signified the beginning of temptation” (§739-740). The flood represents the temptations that come in life and threaten to wipe out everything good if we give in to them. It is further explained that “‘Noah went into the ark, from before the waters of the flood’ signifies that he was protected in temptation.” In the story Noah’s wife, his sons, and his sons’ wives came with him into the ark because they represent the resources Noah had to help him resist temptations. Noah’s wife represents goods, his sons represent truths, and his sons’ wives represent truths that are connected to goods (§742). We can see that while the story seems literally impossible it stands for something very real in our lives—turning to the church and the goods and truths that sustain us when we are faced with temptation.

by Abigail Echols,
from an article from New Church Connection

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“God is one, and He is the Creator of all things and the Preserver of all things; so He is God of heaven and God of the earth.”

Arcana Coelestia 10815

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This video is a product of the Swedenborg Foundation. Follow these links for further information and other videos: http://www.youtube.com/user/offTheLeftEye and http://www.Swedenborg.com

 

We all have a pretty clear idea of what “natural” means – it includes anything having to do with nature, the physical reality we live in, and extends to the impulses we have that arise from the natural world. So it’s natural for the sun to shine, for water to flow and for plants to grow. It’s natural for us to want food, water and shelter. And it’s natural for us to want want sex, wealth, children, respect, control over ourselves and even control over others – all things that serve the natural goals of surviving and passing on our genetics. In the modern world that extends to desires for success in our jobs, for physical attractiveness, for the ability to compete for a respected place in the world, and other basic urges.

If you think about it, most of those urges are ones shared by animals, and those that aren’t are extensions of desires animals do have. For instance, an animal would not desire a promotion at work, but they do desire enhanced social status and access to resources, which is a more general expression of the same thing.

That’s one way Swedenborg uses the term “natural” – it distinguishes the physical reality we’re aware of from the spiritual reality we’re not aware of. And he says that within that physical reality, we are pretty close to being animals, driven by basic urges and instinct. But Swedenborg also says that the human mind is a spiritual organ, that within our minds we can rise above nature to see things in spiritual light. That’s how we can perceive a better possibility for ourselves as spiritual beings, and can decide to act contrary to our urges and instincts in pursuit of more exalted goals – things that animals can’t do.

But Swedenborg also uses the word “natural” to identify the lowest level of spiritual reality, and the lowest level of heaven. Angels of the natural heaven love to understand what the Lord wants and to do it, and love each other equally to themselves. Their orientation is toward outward action, putting deeper ideas from other sources into play. The same could be said of the natural level we all have in our minds: That’s where the deeper spiritual concepts get translated into specific ideas that can be put into action. It’s also where gather natural knowledge – scientific knowledge and other ideas arising from the natural world – so that it can be used in our spiritual thoughts.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

http://www.biblemeanings.info/

Do All Dogs Go to Heaven?

Swedenborg Foundation

dog_heaven

What does Swedenborg say about animals in the afterlife? Will people be reunited with beloved pets after they die? Is there a doggie heaven with unlimited treats and squirrels to chase?

Swedenborg sees a clear spiritual difference between humans and animals. Here’s how he describes it:

“People who have convinced themselves [that we will not continue to live as spirits after death] tend to think that animals live and sense just the way we do, so that they too have a spiritual nature like ours; yet this dies along with their bodies. However, the spiritual nature of animals is not the same as ours. We have an inmost nature that animals do not, a nature into which the Divine flows and which it raises toward itself, in this way uniting us to itself. So we, unlike animals, can think about God and about divine matters of heaven and the church. We can love God because of these matters and by engaging with them; and so be united to him; and anything that can be united to the Divine cannot be destroyed. Anything that cannot be united to the Divine, though, does disintegrate.” (Heaven and Hell #435)

A major theme in Swedenborg’s writings is that our spiritual destiny is a matter of choice. We have to first understand the difference between good and evil, and then make a conscious choice when confronted with a moral dilemma, not just once but over and over throughout our lives. It’s the cumulative result of all of our choices that determines where we go after we die. (For more on this, see Swedenborg’s book Divine Providence, especially sections 71-99.)

Animals don’t have the capacity to make that type of conscious choice. For example, if a delivery person walks onto someone’s lawn and is bitten by a dog, was that a rational decision on the dog’s part? Did it watch the person coming and think, “Is biting this person the right thing to do? What are the potential consequences of my actions? Is this violence truly necessary?” Probably not, right? Swedenborg would say that a person has to be at least capable of asking those questions in order to be spiritually responsible for his or her actions. If we didn’t have the awareness of right and wrong that allows us to be spiritual people, then we couldn’t enter the afterlife.

So, do all dogs go to heaven? Swedenborg would say no. In heaven, he says, the animals are actually correspondences: like everything in the environment of the afterlife, they represent spiritual principles at work and can appear or disappear depending on the needs of the moment. If a person does see a dog in heaven, for example, it means that someone nearby—maybe even in the physical world—is experiencing a desire to express spiritual truths; it doesn’t mean that a particular dog has made the transition from the physical world to the afterlife.

But, he adds, none of this means that animals on earth can’t also reflect the divine.

Everything in the universe, Swedenborg tells us, was created and is sustained by a living energy that emanates from the Divine. He describes that energy as pure love and wisdom, and when he talks about the way it enters into and affects us, he uses the term influx. Animals experience influx too, but in a different way.* When a bird cares for its chicks, for example, or a dog acts to protect its human companions, those animals are expressing divine love unconsciously, in a purely natural way.

So if you’ve ever felt the unceasing, faithful, pure love of an animal, you know their purpose. Their existence allows us to experience the Divine.

 


* See, for example, Secrets of Heaven #5850 on the difference between human and animal influx:
“There is a general and a particular influence exerted by the Lord through the spiritual world on recipients of that influence in the natural world. The general influence is exerted on recipients that follow the code ordained for them; the particular influence is exerted on recipients that do not.Animals of every kind live by the code ordained by their nature, so a general influence is exerted on them. Their adherence to that code can be seen in the fact that they are born with everything they need. They do not need instruction in order to enter on their role.
We human beings, on the other hand, do not live by the code ordained for us or by any law of that code, so a particular influence is exerted on us. That is, we have with us angels and spirits through whom the influence is exerted. If we did not, we would hurl ourselves into every kind of wickedness and quickly plunge headlong into the deepest hell. The spirits and angels bring us under the Lord’s control and guidance.
If we followed the code we were created to live by, we would love our neighbor as ourselves and in fact more than ourselves. That is what angels do. Instead we love only ourselves and the world. We hate our fellow human beings except to the extent that they encourage our domineering ways and give us worldly blessings. Since our lives go directly against the heavenly pattern, then, the Lord governs us through individual spirits and angels.”

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

The Science Of Correspondence

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[Home] [DICTIONARY] [HEAVEN] [EARTH] [DIVINE HUMAN] [THE WORD] [PLACES] [PERSONS] [ANIMALS] [PLANTS] [MINERALS] [NUMBERS]
RELIGION SCIENCE PHILOSOPHY PSYCHOLOGY
CELESTIAL HEAVEN
Good | Love
Love of God
REALITY
Energy / Freedom
6-D Unified Field
PURPOSES
Good Intentions
Substance
CELESTIAL
CONSCIOUSNESS

Innocence | Peace
SPIRITUAL HEAVEN
Truth | Wisdom
Love of Neighbor
POSSIBILITY
Law / Force / Propensities
5-D Harmonic States
CAUSES
Eternal Truths / Rational Ideals
Form / Structure
COSMIC
CONSCIOUSNESS

Unselfishness
NATURAL HEAVEN
Faith | Charity
Love of Uses
ACTUALITY
Time / Cycles / Waves
4-D Spirit
USES
Useful Actions / Meaningful Events
Process
SELF
CONSCIOUSNESS

Conscience
WORLD OF SPIRITS
Free Choice
Lower Earth / The Pit
MATERIALITY
Space / Mass
DNA / EARTHS
EFFECTS
MATTER
Earth
EGO
CONSCIOUSNESS
Persona
HELLS
Love of Abuses
MOLECULES / PLANETS ABUSES
Useless Actions / Events
SUBCONSCIOUS
Shadow
FALSITY
Love of the World
ATOMS / STARS IRRATIONALITY
Fantasies / Vanities
UNCONSCIOUS
EVIL
Love of Self
QUANTA / GALAXIES
Electro-Magnetism
Radiation-Gravitation
MISCHIEF
Hatred / Greed / Lust
DARKNESS

…all things of nature, and likewise of the human body, and also every single particular in them,
correspond to spiritual things. Hitherto, however, it has not been known
what correspondence is, although in the most ancient times this was very well known;
for the science of correspondences was then the science of sciences…
— Emanuel Swedenborg  DSS 20.

…he who grasps the idea of correspondence in its amazing sweep, and sees its infinite bearings,
will find not only in the Bible a new revelation, but the whole outward world will be changed.
Nature will become a sublime poem. Mountains and valleys, trees and forests, rivers and lakes,
and all living and moving things, will be words and letters full of heav­enly import, he will live
and move in a new earth, and beneath new heavens. Every object he beholds will re­mind him
of something spiritual. Earth will wear new charms, for all its forms of beauty are but the
counterpart of things that exist beneath the sun of a higher sky. — W. F. Evans

I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.
Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth : . . .
and he will show you things to come. — JOHN xvi. 12, 13.

… The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say,
Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.
— Luke 17:20,21

… But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says YHVH:
I will put my law in their inward parts, and in their heart will I write it; and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people: and they shall teach no more everyone their neighbor,
and every man his brother, saying, Know YHVH;
for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says YHVH:
for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I remember no more.
— Jeremiah 31

I have been instructed that the men of the Most Ancient Church (The Golden Age)
were of a genius so heavenly that they spoke with angels of heaven,
and that they were able to speak with them by means of correspondences.
From this the state of their wisdom was rendered such that whatever they saw in this world
they thought about not only in a natural way, but spiritually also at the same time,
so that they thought unitedly with angels.  — Emanuel Swedenborg DSS 21.

The church in specific is where the Word is and where the Lord is known because of it,
so it is where divine truths from it have been revealed from heaven.
The Lord’s Church exists throughout the whole world with all people who live in good according to their religions.
All people who live in good according to their religions and acknowledge
something divine are accepted by the Lord, wherever they are. — Emanuel Swedenborg HH 308

…truths with man are what pray, and man is continually in such prayers when he lives according to truths.
— Emanuel Swedenborg AE 493

…good is the essence of truth, and truth is the form of good, and without form there can be no quality.
— Emanuel Swedenborg TCR 753.

The words of the Lord are pure words: as silver tried in a furnace of earth, purified seven times.
— Psalms 12.6.

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Animals – Can they teach us spiritual lessons?

animalsWith the improvements in technology, close up and dramatic footage of behaviour of animals has become a top focus for television documentary programmes.

Behaviour of animals

We are amazed by the myriads of flying starlings forming beautiful patterns like clouds in the evening sky, the protection and encouragement of its cub by the polar bear, and the behaviour of sting ray fish as they appear to fly above the water to help in the hunting of their prey.

All this fascinating information stimulates the question about what such creatures might be able to teach us about our own lives.

animal

We see a brave lion caught on film with a huge roar as it fearlessly challenges a vicious looking crocodile at the water’s edge, successfully protecting the lioness and cubs and we wonder what reserves of courage we could call on to face the adversities in human life?

Similes for animals

Is it anthropomorphic to notice when someone is happy as a lark, busy as a bee, gentle as a lamb, slippery as an eel, proud as a peacock, sly as a fox, as angry as a hornet, slow as a snail, strong as an ox, or as stubborn as a mule? Or is it just recognizing that nature can mirror what we might find in ourselves if we were to look a little more closely?

Animals and correspondence

This idea of correspondence between the natural and the spiritual is an important part of Emanuel Swedenborg’s philosophy. The medieval alchemists put it this way:

“As above, so below; as below, so above”

And in their book Soul Symbols, Helen Newton and Becky Jarratt show how we can learn much about the human spirit by watching what nature is teaching us.  Images of animals have a symbolic value in that they bring something about what it is to be human  into ordinary awareness. They provide meaning and enrich our understanding of humanity.

Two perspectives on images of animals

The authors point out this works in two ways. They distinguish between two perspectives. Depending on one’s state of mind, one can perceive a symbol such as an animal, in terms of soul perspective or in terms of ego perspective.

The soul perspective derives from a transcendent reality and gives us a higher wisdom. The ego perspective however comes from our inevitable sense of separateness from the creative source of life, a state of mind that falls into illusions about what is good and true to suit our own individual needs.

animalsSnakes

How might these ideas apply to different animals? Take snakes. The gliding, insinuating motion of a snake is of course due to the fact that it has no feet. The point that it is in close contact with the ground doesn’t suggest a higher state of mind but rather an external one. From an ego perspective one might say the snake symbolises an orientation towards the world and enjoyment of the senses — pleasant taste, smell, sound, sight and touch. Physical pleasure is good, but it is important to notice when something spiritual is missing.

We should not trust our senses, which can give us a distorted view of reality, but should look to our ‘inner code’ for guidance.” (Helen Newton and Becky Jarratt)

From a soul perspective on the snake, one might say the senses are our point of contact with the world, and their enjoyments enable us to live wisely in the world. The sense of feeling warns us to avoid extreme heat and cold and other dangers, and to preserve healthful conditions. The sense of taste when unperverted and wisely educated is a guide in choosing wholesome food.

“I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes  and as innocent as doves.” (Matthew 10:15-17)

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

Posted on18th September 2013CategoriesMeaning of life, Symbolism

What can I learn from nature?

natureNature is a wonderful thing. Individuals and governments are committed to showing more respect for the environment rather than carelessly destroying it. Concern about the sustainability of the planet and its protection is a contemporary attitude that is becoming quite common. I feel it reflects a spiritual sensitivity to the goodness of the unspoilt natural world.

Nature is familiar and easily described, yet somehow it can evoke something less obvious and difficult to express in words; something mysterious and on a different level. Who hasn’t at one time or another not felt inspired by the beauty of a mountain vista, a seascape or a rainbow full of startling colour? Who has not felt at peace contemplating cattle quietly grazing, being cheered by the sound of birdsong heard in the morning, or being enraptured by the scent of the pinewood in summer?  Has nature anything more specific to teach you?

“Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal and transformation in ourlives.” (Mary Ann Brussat)

In general animals are well known for the way they protect and nurture their offspring, their practical good sense in the way they adapt to their habitat, and their ability to live in the moment. All spiritual qualities. But can we learn any specific lessons from different species? Has the fox or the snake something particular to teach us?  Or is this just being anthropomorphic and attributing to animals human characteristics like in Aesop’s fables?

I would suggest to learn from nature requires an objective attitude of mind — a willingness to look deeply into what is really there as opposed to taking on board the stereotypes learned from childhood.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)

Nature of eagles

These birds soar high in the sky on widespread powerful wings and see with sharp sightedness what is far below. I can see a picture of the human mind here. Isn’t an eagle’s perception one of a higher quality than the ordinary way of seeing things? Like uplifted thinking that searches out what is difficult to see when you are immersed in the mundane world of daily concerns. According to this viewpoint your mind is capable of soaring high to see life from a higher perspective.

Nature of lambs

Here we find gentle playful trusting creatures, who reveal a joy of contentment and peacefulness. Such innocence is unselfconscious and unsullied by any thought of anything harmful or bad.  Is this not a picture of the innocence of the Divine source of all that is good deeply present within your soul?

Negative characteristics of nature

The more you know about animals, the more you also notice their negative sides. Eagles are far seeing so that they can feed — predators which swoop down and carry off lambs. According to one theory this mixture of negative and positive is an additional pointer to the spiritual. It’s author, Emanuel Swedenborg, in his notion of ‘correspondences’, maintains that the natural world is both positive and negative because it is a reflection of human inner character, human beings having both good and bad elements to their conduct. For him, the positive is the higher reality of the divine perspective: on the other hand the negative is the lower perspective of egoism inverting and corrupting what is from the divine. Thus where some animals show a negative characteristic, this also alerts us to the spiritual factor again — but this time in terms of its opposite.

Nature of pigs

Pigs are highly social animals. Properly kept they are a clean and attractive and can be quite intelligent. A pig will forage all the time, endlessly searching for something more to consume.  For me this conjures up a picture of consumerism. People who allow themselves to become fixated on getting more and more things — money, clothes, gizmos, food, the latest fashion accessory etc. Pigs also have a reputation for gluttony and dirtiness. It is these latter qualities which provide the symbol of inner greed – the love of self that takes what it can get for itself searching out everything it can want.

Nature of donkeys

Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of “self preservation” than exhibited by horses. It is considerably more difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it perceives to be dangerous for whatever reason. However, once a person has earned their confidence they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable in work.

Cannot the donkey be seen as corresponding to a human natural way of thinking which can be argumentative and which would rather trust its own senses? I would suggest the donkey teaches us that such an attitude is capable of becoming trusting and obedient to a higher truth. Such an obedient understanding to deeper principles in people could carry us to a better way of living.

“The more humility we develop, the more signs of the Divine we can see around us and within us and the closer we grow to the deep joy and happiness to be experienced deep within our soul.” (from Soul Symbols by Helen Newton & Becky Jarratt)

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