The Wolf Shall Dwell With The Lamb

If the Lord God takes personal interest in our lives and is most concerned with our eternal salvation, then what positive news can Isaiah 11:6 have for us?

The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the kid; and the calf, and the young lion, and fatling together, and a little child shall lead them.

This scenario presents us with a beautiful image of peace. Here, both gentle and ferocious animals alike come together and, like household pets, allow themselves to be led by a small child. Does this mean we can take comfort that a time will come when wolves, leopards, and lions will lose their appetite for fresh meat?

Or is something deeper being expressed here? Wouldn’t this biblical passage have greater relevancy if God were using it as a lesson for acquiring that same wonderful state of peace in our own lives?

The Lord states that we must become like little children to enter heaven. We usually associate childhood with a state of INNOCENCE. The idea of adults becoming like a small child can, therefore, easily be interpreted as a return to innocence.

The quality of innocence certainly makes sense as a requirement for heaven.

So are the words of Isaiah telling us that a return to innocence will actually allow us to lead wolves, lambs, leopards, kids, calves and lions to live in peaceful coexistence? That wouldn’t make sense, at least not literally. We would we be putting our lives in terrible danger for trying such a stunt with wild animals, innocence or not.

If a child represents innocence (and not an actual child) then maybe all these opposing creatures are also to be interpreted as representing qualities of our inner nature – like the opposing and conflicting desires and intentions of our heart. With a little introspection it can be easily seen how our negative emotions can prey upon, rip apart, and devour our more gentle dispositions.

This is why when humans act unkindly or treat others with cruelty, they are often referred to as acting like “animals” and “beasts.” God is simply using this same metaphor in Isaiah.

Returning to innocence requires that we adjust our anger, temper our tempers, and remove hurtful intentions. The effort and practice of gaining control over our “inner world” is what leads to our emotional balance, which ultimately leads to inner peace.

Religion was given to humankind as God’s wise strategy for helping us achieve that inner balance and promote our return to innocence. When we follow God’s tenets and commandments our “wildness” is tamed and a heaven forms within us.

It has been a major theme in many of my posts that God’s Holy Word contains deeper meanings. When we are able to unlock these meanings everything becomes instantly more relevant to our lives. I have offered Isaiah 11:6 as one simple demonstration.

One of the main criticisms of the post-modern world is the belief that many passages in Scripture have no relevance in today’s complicated world.

Certainly an all-wise God would have foreseen such an outcome and engineered the Holy Word to be able to respond to all challenges of its authority and eternal relevance.

Heaven is not someplace you go to. It is something you become.

Website: http://www.provinggod.com

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End of the world – What does it mean?

end of the worldIn recent times there have been huge changes to the social climate and attitudes in Britain, even over the course of a generation or two. We now live in a world of instant  communication, sexual freedom, consumerism, environmentalism, multiculturalism, and the cult of celebrity. These developments certainly mean it is the end of the world that our parents and grandparents knew.

So the question arises should the phrase ‘the end of the world’ be understood in this symbolic sense rather than as some actual physical event?

End of the world and personal communication

It has been said that our economic and social relationships with others have been less visible and less interrelated in morally meaningful ways than was the case in the past. If so, perhaps it is because most of us in the industrialized West live in large urban areas not even knowing many of our neighbours and having little or no sense of local community. In addition, it may be because commercial companies have got too big to act in humane ways. Another factor put forward is our use of technology such as television and the internet that encourages our isolation and even anonymity.

End of the world of Christendom

With the demise of Christendom in England, along with its traditional social norms of how to behave, people are now beset with a confusing wide range of beliefs, ideals and values. You often hear someone say something along the lines of “That may be right for you but it is not right for me.” There seems to be a greater freedom these days to develop one’s own lifestyle and think what one wants.

End of the world and spiritual famine

I would suggest the common attitude seems to dismiss any notion that there are any transcendent universal principles. However this results in a danger of materialism and spiritual famine.  One sign of this is seeing the acquisition of material possessions as the key to the good life: an attitude that, I believe, adds considerably to emotional distress. Another sign, I think is the vast gulf between the rich and the poor, even within the same country, and the attitude that this is not such a bad thing.

I would suggest another sign is the damage to committed loving relationships where sexual intimacy is commonly shown in television and film drama as a casual affair.

Another sign is a public that avidly reads and watches a mass media which superficially focuses so much on image and fame and the personal lives of the stars. We are quick to put them on pedestals and even more spellbound when they topple back down to earth.

End of the world of shared understanding

What hope is there for discerning what is false from what is true in a world lacking any deep sense of shared meaning and clear direction?

There are a myriad of different and sometimes incompatible worldviews on offer: examples that come to mind include humanism, atheism, mysticism, neo-paganism, spiritualism, and materialistic science, not to mention the world’s main religious traditions. They can’t all be right, but I suspect each has something valid to bring to the table even if I believe it is mixed up with mistaken notions. And so many people understandably tend to adopt a ‘pick and mix’ approach in relation to these systems of thought.

Leading contemporary writers have discarded or reinterpreted so many a traditional dogma, that used to be thought to be set in stone, but now is seen as a social construct, no longer relevant to today’s needs. As a consequence, personal experience and emotion are more important to people these days than rational discourse for guiding their lives. Yet at the same time at the back of some of our minds there might be a doubt that we are simply basing our eclectic choices on some strong sentiment that lacks a cohesive framework of rational thought.

End of the world of a distorted God

I believe what has been lost is a rationally coherent religious understanding of the Divine source of the universe and our place in it. I would suggest our error prone human nature is in danger of floundering without deep understanding of how such a higher power can be present in the bewildering flood of difficulties and emotions that can surround us. I would argue that when the going really gets tough no matter what our spiritual insights are, without such a beacon of light, darkness and confusion can easily arise.

In the eighteenth century Emanuel Swedenborg was impressed with the purity and genuineness of the earliest phase of the Christian church. And even today I would say there are many individuals who have found a deep spirituality and sense of communion with the Divine through their Christian faith. However, Swedenborg equated a decline of Christianity with the later formulation of its dogmatic creeds; these he said distorted the original faith.

One example of several false teachings he criticized was the idea of a God condemning non-believers to eternal damnation regardless of how they had lived their lives. Another was the idea of a God who wanted a scapegoat as the crucified Christ for the bad behaviour of the world.

Swedenborg’s explanation of the end of the world

Swedenborg thought one reason for distortions of the original Christian message had been a focus on the literal sense of the letter of the Bible without much deeper understanding of its inner truth. Another reason was the hypocrisy amongst its leaders who wanted to use religion for gaining power over people.

Not surprisingly, most of us in Britain have turned our backs on church-going, seeing Christians as having only simplistic and illogical religious explanations of the Bible. Scripture has come to be seen as outmoded and irrelevant to contemporary life.

Is this not the end of the world of religion as we knew it in the West?

I would say yes and as a result we have been experiencing a time of materialism and spiritual famine.

But wasn’t that ‘end of the world’ a necessary step? First the mind needs to cleared of distorted ideas about the Divine. Only then can there be a new freedom of thinking for those on a genuine spiritual quest.

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

Do spiritual symbols mean anything today?

One example of a spiritual symbol is the image of a tree of life.  This is a universal symbol – appearing in ancient wisdom. We find it across cultures, religions and mythology. It turns up as the Yggdrasil (the world tree) of Norse religion, as part of the Jewish Kabbalah and as an Armenian religious symbol, to mention just a few examples.

What does the Tree of life mean to us now?

The Tree of Life appears in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and also the last – the book of Revelation. At the beginning and the end. It’s almost as if it’s the framework into which the rest of the Bible fits.

We find the Tree of Life at the beginning at the centre of a garden and at the end at the centre of a holy city that descends from heaven. Swedenborg’s interpretation of this spiritual symbolism helps me relate to this; it reflects my changing relationship with the Divine; it is different at the beginning from what it becomes or grows into at the end.

For me, the bits in-between are a depiction of my spiritual wanderings and challenges to reach a spiritual maturity; a deeper connection with my experience of what is spiritual and a living relationship with the Divine Creator.

What is the beginning of our life like?

God has no beginning but we as his finite creations definitely do begin at a point in time. Our beginnings start in an experience of unity and connection, in the oneness of the Divine, yet it is necessary for us to develop into conscious independent individuals in order to choose to return to the forgotten, lost unity and connection of the One Life that creates, loves and sustains us.

This wonderful unity and connection with all that is living, I see in the beautiful Garden of Eden. This undoubtedly idyllic and innocent picture relates to what we experience in the infancy of our spiritual life. It is in the centre of this Garden where we discover or experience the Tree of Life.

Trees are powerful symbols of enduring, substantial mental and spiritual attitudes.
For me, the Tree of Life symbolises the perception that we are all united and connected by the Creative Love that gives life to all. To have this at the centre of one’s life is to perceive that the One Life can be experienced in many facets in other people and the world of nature; the One in the many.

What is the journey through life like?

Another tree appears in the Garden – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and this is very attractive to us. What sort of perception do we gain from eating its fruit? Its presence gives us a choice; do we decide what is good and true for ourselves or depend purely on it being revealed to us by God? We have minds of our own; surely we can decide for ourselves what we should do?

It is almost inevitable that we turn away from dependence on the Divine to choose and develop our own sense of identity, our ego. Life is then identified as being in the separate individual, myself, because that is what I experience. Therefore I no longer wish to be a part of the Garden of Eden experience which is about being receptive and dependant on Divine revelation.

So I embark on a long spiritual journey passing thought many trials and challenges in order to learn about myself and be self-sufficient.

A part of this quest for enlightenment is expressed in the following quotation from an article in Chrysalis magazine entitled Odyssey by David Garrett:

The loneliness of “coming to oneself” is acutely painful. At some point, in a mysterious way, the seeker dares to consider the possibility that the loneliness and the failure are because the quest was attempted entirely by his own efforts….For the first time, the seeker becomes experientially aware of an inner source that is deeper and more resourceful than the ego. As he/she turns to it, the feeling of being stuck recedes. The cold and barren world tingles and warms. The inner earth sprouts green shoots. Each time she/he consciously relates to the inner wise one, life quickens. When he /she ignores it, vitality ceases.

What is the end of my life like?

There is the possibility of discovering afresh the ‘tree of life’ perception in one’s spiritual maturity – but not in a garden. Now it is at the centre of a city. The Holy City at the end of the Bible is always descending from heaven, therefore I am once again open to Divine revelation coming from a God-given rationality, structured yet full of vitality and dynamism. This is an integration of all that has previously taken place in my experience and comes from heart, mind and service to others.

At the end of the journey one can re-discover what had been lost, and make one’s way back to the beginning to the Tree of Life – but it is different yet paradoxically the same. Perhaps what is to be discovered is always the same, eternal and enduring, but the change has taken place in oneself. This reminds me of the T.S. Eliot poem, Four Quartets, as follows;

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of the earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well….

Copyright 2010 Helen Brown

Bible images – How to understand?

Sacred writing is also full of story, parable, prophetic vision and poetry, much of which is rich in imagery expressing, many would say, a sublime message. For example would you accept that the creation legend and its Bible images about the world being made in seven days is really allegory and not meant to be taken literally? The same might be said concerning the visions reported with all their bizarre figures and scenes.

It is widely assumed that the interpretation of metaphor is an individual matter and that one person will understand the significance of a visual picture in a different way from another. That what is true for you is not true for me.

Furthermore, it is also thought that the meaning of an image say in one book of the Bible is not likely to be the same as its use elsewhere: that where Bible images are used, their symbolic meaning appears to differ from passage to passage.

Swedenborg’s idea about Bible images

I would like to offer you for your consideration an alternative idea. This comes from the 18th century theologian Emanuel Swedenborg who held that all the content of divine revelation including images and stories in the Bible, not only reflect a deeper significance – one that is relevant to our personal daily life – but that across all the books of the Word of God there is actually a consistent symbolic language. In other words that each literally understood thing that appears in the Word corresponds in a consistent way to something spiritual.

There is only time now to give one example. However, in my reading of the biblical content, I have experienced a consistency in the deeper meaning of each of a wide range of things such as types of animal, mineral, plant, astronomical feature etc. I would like to illustrate this consistency in relation to images of height.

Bible images of height

Bible images

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help!” (Psalm 121:1)

Our source of inspiration is said to be the hills above us.

Bible images“As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” (Isaiah 55:9)

The space above the earth is associated with God’s manner of living and ideas that are said to be above mere mortal ones.

Bible images“Whoever takes refuge in me will inherit the land and possess my holy mountain.” (Isaiah 57:13)

Again what is high denotes what is holy

Apparent inconsistent Bible images

It might be objected that sometimes a mountain or hill doesn’t suggest what is our source of inspiration, higher thought, or holiness at all.

“Every mountain and hill shall be made low” (Isaiah 40:4) Are the mountains to be made low? Yes I would say so. But only if we recognise that what is being exalted is not God and the presence of the divine within us but rather its opposite. What is the opposite? Is it not the pride of ego, exalting oneself?

I would say this interpretation becomes more apparent when we consider the valleys which will be raised up high. These might be said to stand for those people who are humble in heart and so who are not too proud to acknowledge the source of what is good and true as coming from outside of themselves.

Bible images

“You have put me in the lowest pit, in the darkest depths.” (Psalm 88:6)

If what is low is distant from what is high and thus from what is Divine, then why would God put me so low as to be beneath the ground? From one perspective to be so low is to turn away from a divinely inspired way of living, as when one feels dissatisfied with life from being self-centred. But in an opposite sense I’m thinking of the pit of despair when one focuses on the hope of divine rescue – sadly a necessary attitude which we need to work through when we lose our moral and spiritual way in life. We sometimes need to learn that trusting mainly in one’s own strength or the things of the world is to no avail and that all that is good really comes from the Divine. This is a painful lesson for many but one God sees we may need if we are to find salvation.

Bible images – summary

I would suggest that sacred writing will not give glib answers and superficial understanding. In his idea of correspondences, Swedenborg claims that the significance of a biblical image can have one of two opposite meanings according to the passage in question. There is still a consistency here – just one that is not apparent until we recognise which sense is being revealed.

Positive sense Opposite negative sense
Elevation of mountain or hill Inspiration of higher thought Pride of self-exaltation
Lowness of valley or pit Humble acknowledgement of Divine Source Dissatisfaction arising from self-centredness

 

Considering whether the imagery is to be understood in a positive or negative sense will stretch our minds and require reading in a deeply reflective manner.

The doctrine of correspondences is no easy cook-book of symbol interpretation. Whether a positive or negative meaning is present, still requires our effort to find the truth.

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Posted on12th February 2015CategoriesLatest post, Meaning of life, SymbolismTags, , , ,

What can plants teach us?

Spiritual lessons in plantsThe closer we look at the structure of even ‘simple’ plants the more we can begin to see of the way each petal or leaf is formed in a particular shape, has colours, layers and textures which suit it perfectly. Florists work with this variety to create their arrangements; a garden designer applies their knowledge on a different scale but with an understanding of how the complete effect will look.

Christ spoke about the lily and highlighted the splendid intricacies we overlook so frequently, but his message reaches deeper and he reminded people that they can trust God to know their needs and provide for them, rather than worrying themselves unnecessarily.

The ‘green shoots of recovery’ may be the sort of phrase that crops up on the news bulletins but that idea of things having to start small and vulnerable before maturing and getting properly established is a sound principle. It applies to our spiritual growth, our journey towards better states as the ‘good’ habits we desire and work towards become more and more settled in our life and routine.

The idea of our life as a place where things grow and flourish (both ‘good’ and ‘bad’) is something we tend to find manageable as an idea. Have you ever considered the detail of each little part, of how beautiful and intricate aspects of our heavenly life really can be?

We can see and respond to the kindness and thoughtfulness of someone else – the beauty of that little green shoot in their life has enhanced our day too. Maybe we have been helped by something as fleeting as a smile or a kind word, perhaps the gift of someone’s time and attention has been a benefit to our situation today?

These apparently small and everyday generosities have more of an impact than we often realise. Perhaps it does us good to take time and really think about the things we are growing in the fertile ground that is our own life. The simplest of heavenly things bring a growing hint of the inner development of angelic beauty and disposition which can’t be bought.  Likewise, no amount of money or fine clothes can disguise a life without some loveliness at its heart.

The Bible continually refers to the natural world in ways that can lead us into more spiritual considerations; everyday concepts around growth of crops can easily link us to more profound levels of thought as we understand the implications of the ‘good’ wheat and the ‘bad’ weeds and thorns which spoil the crop for example.

Consider the lilies, how they grow, they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these..………..Luke 12:27

Seeing the spiritual lilies in bloom, the little but exquisitely beautiful results of what is grounded in love, really make a difference to life and enhances the world for us all.

Based on material by Christine Bank

Consciousness and Scripture

Human consciousness is multiplexed. For instance, we can see the world we live in. Physical sight represents just one kind of awareness. We also can internalize and store these observations in our memory as mental ideas, where from a higher frame of reference we can survey them and detect novel relationships. This kind of “seeing” represents imaginary sight, which leads to ingenuity and inventiveness.

We can also collect all the things we have imagined, and from an even higher frame of reference, find even newer relationships where ideas become objects of reasoning, that is, objects of truth and falsity. This kind of “seeing” is called rationality and judgment.

These distinct cognitive functions of consciousness are inadequate for verifying either the inerrancy or divine authority of Sacred Scripture. As evidence, these levels of ordinary human consciousness have given rise to an intense conflict of biblical interpretation among the faithful and also to serious-thinking skeptics who put their faith solely in moral autonomy.

There is need for a genuinely inclusive, unified approach to the systematic exposition of Christian doctrine derived from Scripture that makes sense in our post-modern and scientific culture. However, a new theological consensus will not come from the scholarship of men and women, but can only come from new Divine revelation concerning Scripture.

We need divine instruction on how to gain an even higher frame of reference for evaluating the Holy Word. This is the purpose of the Lord’s Second Coming – to help us connect to a higher and untapped level of consciousness by providing a “vertical” interpretation of the narratives in Scripture. These vertical interpretations transcend human subjectivity (and its abuses) as well as historical criticism because the events described in Scripture are raised to more elevated meanings, which have more potency and relevance to our lives.

Scripture is a multi-leveled deposit of Divine revelation, accommodating the Creator’s Infinite Wisdom to different levels of human consciousness. The good news is that it is now permitted for each of us to have access to these deeper spiritual levels of truth that previously were only available to the prophets. It is only through these deeper levels shining through, that the literal words in Scripture are turned into gems and gain translucency. But you have to want it. You will have to want the Lord to “make all things anew.”

The Lord’s Second Coming on earth is taking place NOW – one person at a time! The world can change only when people change. We are God’s instruments for change.

Do you think this change can be forced on anyone?

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God’s Holy Word vs. the Canonical Bible

During Emanuel Swedenborg’s extensive explorations of the spiritual world, he learned first hand that the Lord’s Holy Word contained discrete levels of meaning. These higher levels of divine revelation transcend the ideological abuse of literal interpretations of Scripture in many church traditions. They also allow the Lord to reveal deeper truths in ways that are accommodated to the cognitive levels of humankind and angels alike.

Terrestrial humans will have these interior levels of meaning opened up to them as a part of the Lord’s Second Coming, which represents the consummation of Christian orthodoxy and the establishment of a New Church on earth based on doctrines that will allow the mysteries of faith to be explored rationally.

The descent of the Holy City, The New Jerusalem, represents a new dispensation descending from the Lord out of heaven. The battle of Armageddon will be a battle over the acceptance or rejection of these new revelations.

Biblical stories that do not contain these special inner narratives are the writings of men, and while they may contain helpful messages, they are not the Sacred Word of the Lord God. Below is a list of biblical stories separated into columns representing the inspired Word of God and the spiritual writings of men.

The Sacred Word (Old Testament)

Genesis
Exodus
Leviticus
Numbers
Deuteronomy
Joshua
Judges
1 Samuel
2 Samuel
1 Kings
2 Kings
Psalms of David
Isaiah
Jeremiah
Lamentations
Ezekiel
Daniel
Hosea
Joel
Amos
Obadiah
Jonah
Micah
Nahum
Habakkuk
Zephaniah
Haggai
Zechariah
Malachi

Not The Sacred Word (Old Testament)

Ruth
1 Chronicles
2 Chronicles
Ezra
Nehemiah
Esther
Job
Proverbs
Ecclesiastes
Song of Solomon

The Sacred Word (New Testament)

Matthew
Mark
Luke
John
Revelation

Not The Sacred Word (New Testament)

Acts
Romans
1 Corinthians
2 Corinthians
Galatians
Ephesians
Philippians
Colossians
1 Thessalonians
2 Thessalonians
1 Timothy
2 Timothy
Titus
Philemon
Hebrews
James
1 Peter
2 Peter
1 John
2 John
3 John
Jude

How else can the authority of the Holy Word be established other than by showing it to be a unique and multi-leveled deposit of divine revelation? I have passed this information along to you so that you can begin to experience the true nature of an eschatological tremor.

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