We live in two worlds

God is Love

living in two worldsOne of the problems with our busy materialistic world is that we seem to get very little time to think more deeply about what is going on in our lives. Everyday is made up of all sorts of practical and physical activities. We go to the shops and buy food. We cook our meals and wash up. We clean the house and read the newspaper. We mow the lawn or put our feet up in front of the television. We go to work by car or bus or train and come back late and tired. So much can get crammed into one day that we begin to feel unable to cope or at the other end of the scale we may have so little we can do that we feel lonely and cut off from the world around. If we are blessed with all our senses we can see the world around us, we can hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it. And particularly during the spring, when all sorts of flowers are coming into bloom, the physical world around us offers a wonderful array of stimulants for our senses. And we mustn’t forget our interactions with other people: a wave across the street, a smile to a passer-by, a chat over coffee, a lengthy phone call, a letter or text message from a friend, a kind word or a loving kiss. There is so much going on in our physical world that it is not surprising that many people live as though there is nothing else – that everything that goes on in our lives can be explained in physical terms.

But is this really so?

roseImagine you are holding a fragrant rose in your hand. You see the wonderful colour and texture of the flower, you touch its soft and smooth petals and you smell its intoxicating fragrance. So far you have been involved in a physical way with this rose but how does it make you feel? Do you feel happier and a little brighter inside, does a smile come over your face, does it evoke distant memories, do you feel more peaceful, do you feel more loved or more loving? In a wonderful way that rose, out there in the physical world around us, has touched something deep inside you and you have responded.

This is just one example of the countless situations we can find ourselves in when we realise that there is something much deeper to our lives than our physical being. Whilst our lives appear dominated by the physical world around us there is another world within us of feeling and thought where our deepest experiences take place and where we develop our real character. It is our inner world where, for example,  we can feel deep joy when we are very close to someone we love and deep pain when we are separated.

Throughout the ages wise people have realised that we live in two worlds at the same time, a physical outer world and a deeper inner spiritual world. The problem is that we get so absorbed by the state of our physical outer world that we don’t spend enough time on the spiritual world within us. How many people, for example, struggling in a gym to improve their physical well-being, would spend just a little time on spiritual exercises to help them develop their inner world? Is this not a distorted view of our priorities?

Jesus highlighted the need to change our priorities in favour of the inner spiritual life when he said:

Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.   Luke 12:29-31 ESV

And the apostle Paul gave some insight into living in two worlds in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote

It [the resurrection body]  is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body …  It is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.
[1 Cor 15: 44,46 ESV]

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the visionary Jesuit priest, wrote in the 20th century:

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

George Harrison, the particularly spiritual member of the Beatles, echoed these words when he wrote:

Remember – we are not these bodies – just souls having a bodily experience.

Emanuel Swedenborg not only recognised that we are living in two worlds but also that when we die our real inner spiritual self goes on living:

As regards the soul, which – it is said – goes on living after death, it is nothing else than the actual person living in the body. That is, the soul is the person’s inner self acting in the world by means of the body and imparting life to the body. When his inner self is released from the body the person is called a spirit and then appears in a completely human form. Arcana Caelestia 6054

Should not our emphasis be on developing the quality of our inner life rather than worrying excessively as we do about our outer physical world?




Chapter IX. The Mind in Three Degrees. – Another View.


AMONG the passages illustrated by this diagram is the following from Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and concerning the Divine Wisdom,

“There are three degrees of altitude in every man from birth, and they may be opened successively; and so far as they are opened man is in the LORD and the LORD in him….”These three degrees of altitude are named natural, spiritual and celestial. When man is born he first comes into the natural degree, and this grows in him by continuity according to knowledges and according to the understanding acquired by them to the highest of understanding which is called the rational. Yet the second degree which is called spiritual is not hereby opened. The spiritual is opened by the love of uses from intellectuals, but by the spiritual love of uses, which love is love toward the neighbor. This degree likewise may grow by degrees of continuity to its highest, and it grows by the cognitions of truth and good, or by spiritual truths. Yet the third degree which is called celestial is not opened by these, but by the celestial love of use, which love is love to the LORD, and love to the LORD is nothing else than committing to life the precepts of the Word.

“.. When man puts off the natural degree, which he does when he dies, he comes into the degree which was opened in him in the world; into the spiritual, he in whom the spiritual degree was opened; into the celestial, he in whom the celestial degree was opened.”- DLW 236, 237, 238.

The degrees of altitude, celestial, spiritual and natural, mentioned in the passage above, are B C D. During life in the world D includes the natural body as well as the natural mind.

The degrees described in paragraph 256 of the same work, higher than the natural, are also two, as in the above extract. In the light of these statements consider the diagram. The two higher degrees are here equivalent to the whole spiritual mind, – B answering to the celestial kingdom, C to the spiritual. Below the spiritual mind is the natural D, called also the external, sometimes the lowest degree, including the material body during life in the world.

This diagram illustrates also True Christian Religion, 239. The statement in this number as in the extract above that the natural degree of the regenerate is put off by death, although involving the rejection of the material body, yet chiefly means the closure of the natural mind with an elevation of the consciousness into the spiritual or into the celestial of the internal mind, according to the degree of regeneration attained.

Elevation after death above the natural into any one of the higher degrees and thus into heaven can be predicated only of the regenerate; the unregenerate remain in the natural degree.

This diagram represents the internal mind in two planes, celestial and spiritual, the one including all that answers to the celestial kingdom of heaven, the other to the spiritual kingdom.


Chapter V. Will and Understanding. – Another View.

THIS diagram presents the will as a distinct faculty above the understanding, or, in simultaneous order, within the understanding. The will is called the celestial faculty and sometimes the celestial kingdom, and the understanding the spiritual; love is celestial, truth is spiritual. The will in every man and angel answers to the celestial kingdom of heaven, the understanding to the spiritual kingdom. (Consult Diagrams IX, X, XII.)

Considering the will as the highest and inmost degree and the understanding as the middle, the spiritual body D will be the lowest or outmost degree of the spirit. The spiritual body, however, is not another faculty, but merely an ultimate of the will and the understanding, so organized that by it the will and the understanding may enjoy outward sensation and give expression corresponding with affection and thought. In this view the mind constitutes the whole spirit of man, and the spirit is but an internal and an external will and understanding.

And as the material body is merely an intellectual and voluntary organism superadded for lowest and outmost sensation, perception and expression, it must be included when we say that the whole man is but an organic form of will and understanding. (DLW 358 to 432.)

Chapter IV. The Mind: – Its Two Faculties, Will and Understanding.

CONCERNING the “inmost” see Diagram III. Next below the inmost stands the mind which is composed of will and understanding B and C. They are above the spiritual body D, or within it, – above in successive order and within in simultaneous order.

The will is drawn in red because it is the receptacle and abode of love or good. The understanding is drawn in white because it is the receptacle and abode of wisdom or truth. See reason for this in “Colour in the Diagrams” page 11.

Below the mind stands the spiritual body D. This body being but a derivative ultimate and foundation of the mind, or in simultaneous order its envelop and containant, has a quality like that of the mind. The mind is both voluntary and intellectual, the voluntary is drawn in red, the intellectual in white. Hence the spiritual body (their complex in ultimates) is both red and white – red from the will and its affection, white from the understanding and thought. Hence also the rosy tint and lily white in the countenance of an angel, and the fire and light in the countenance and eyes of man. (DLW 369; CL 42, 384.)

The natural body E, the last in the series, is drawn in Colour moderately red and white for the same reason, and being an effect from the prior forms may be called the mind in its extreme organism. Hence the presence in the body of dual organs and parts, as two hemispheres of the brain, pairs of nerves, two eyes, two hands, two feet:- the right an ultimate of the will, the left of the understanding.

The spiritual body in form and quality is like the mind, being beautiful and lovely, and inwardly pure and orderly if the mind be so. So too the natural body has an inward quality or nature more or less like the mind and bespeaks its state.

With the adult sufficiently advanced in years the natural body becomes in quality more or less like the mind, pure in substance, orderly in texture and moral in tone with the regenerate, and the reverse with the wicked. (DLW 135 to 143, 420, 423; AC 6872, 5559, 5726.)

Were the natural body more plastic, as before the fall, and were it under no other spiritual influences than those of its own mind and the particular spirits conjunctively associated with that mind it would exhibit far more than now the state and features of the mind. Then the inward order and purity of the body of the good would well answer to the state of the will and understanding. This inward order and purity, however, might nor be observable, yet its external form and beauty would be manifest. It would be the same with the body of the evil, but opposite from an opposite state of the spirit.

Since the fall and especially in later ages the implasticity of the body impedes its full response.

But why are not the bodies of the wicked as much defiled and deformed with natural impurity and disease as their minds, with moral and spiritual impurity? Why are their bodies often beautiful and healthful? This is from a merciful provision for the security of Divine ends, one of which is that a general influx from heaven shall largely order and control the corporeals of man that they may not be controlled by an influx from the particular spirits attendant on him. Thus whatever of health or beauty appertains to the wicked, is due to a general heavenly influx directly into the exteriors of the natural body. We say exteriors of the body meaning its gross and solid parts, because in the case of the evil the vital fluids are always more or less defiled. (DLW 423.) Even when health and beauty are an inheritance they are maintained by this heavenly influx and were mostly of such origin in the ancestors. (AC 5862, 5990, 6192, 6211)

Concerning the hereditary state of the infantile body see Diagram XVIII.

The will and understanding are organic forms. (DLW 373.) Concerning these faculties in general, consult The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine, 28 to 33.

Immortal life – Not forever surely?

immortal life

There are two well-known hypotheses – death survival and immortal life. You may find the idea of living forever a bit daunting.

If you were to continue to exist, what you would be doing with yourself all that time? Actually, if true, it would be much more than a long time: it would be – well – forever!

Everything we do would get tiresome if done forever. Food and drink give less pleasure as we become satiated; travel, sport, parties, hobbies, and work become irksome if we do nothing else. The mind boggles at the very concept of immortal life that goes on forever.

immortal lifeTimelessness

From a mystical perspective, immortal life is timeless existence. Something of this consciousness can be experienced now. When you are enjoying life, or absorbed in some activity, then subjective time ceases to matter. It is really only when you are faced with the world’s daily requirements and deadlines that time starts to impact.

People, in this life who feel energised, enthused, and satisfied, are turned on by something deeply meaningful for them. They don’t get bored and time doesn’t drag. What absorbs them, they would happily do forever.

I would suggest whether anyone experiences lasting satisfaction depends on their inner attitude: what mind-set they adopt when dealing with others and engaging in things.

foreverSelf-orientation forever

The basic message of all faith traditions is that there is immortal life  – that we do live forever. Also they all say that deep and lasting happiness comes from learning to stop putting oneself first.

This central idea can be seen in much sacred writing and the books written by many spiritual teachers – when they talk about mindfully living in the present, reducing craving, living ethically, and cultivating love and gratitude. Personal fulfilment is said to be found by making a difference in the lives of others.

And so I would like to suggest a deep sense of meaning comes from thinking about people and community. We can contrast the attitude of ‘what’s in it for me’ with the attitude of ‘thinking of the needs of others’. The latter is all about providing something good by serving a useful function.

My research on midlife adults has shown that the majority of people are more than willing to sacrifice their own happiness to work on behalf of a larger cause. (Susan Whitbourne, psychologist, 2010)

immortal lifeUseful function

In this world putting others before oneself involves finding a useful function in whatever organisation you work for. It could be a charitable, commercial, private or public body.

Perhaps you are like the hands and arms of the corporate body doing the spade work and getting your hands dirty, in the coal face, on the factory floor. Or perhaps you are at the head of the establishment, a director or senior manager taking executive decisions, planning strategy and setting policies. Or maybe you work in public relations and marketing as the face of what the public sees of the company by developing the brand and publicising the added value.

foreverBodily functions

Just as we each can have a place in a corporate body, so we can each have a unique place in immortal life in what has been called the ‘universal human body’.

This isn’t conceived as just the small body of a committee or organisation but the whole body of humanity of good people. Together this huge number of people can be visualised as a universal human form. Just as each part of the physical body is needed so each person in the whole universal human form has a place to play.

So one can learn about what meaningful roles one can find that go beyond time and place, by thinking about the useful functions of each part of the human body – heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, stomach, blood vessels etc. Just as there are countless operations and tasks for all the parts of the body, so there are many and diverse roles for us all to uniquely take. Each different responsibility is a needed part of the whole.

In thinking about a timeless function in immortal life, one can get a clue by considering one’s part played in the body of people to which one belongs in this world – whether it be a small social or work group, or an organisation.

Are you the eye, the nose, the ear of your group or organisation? Maybe you can recognise yourself and others you know in the following?


Are you the eye? These people see what others miss. They have intelligent understanding and illuminating insight that sheds light on some matter about which others are in the dark. They can see through appearances to comprehend the true essence of some difficulty or issue.


Or are you the nose? Having a good nose for something is the ability to sense what’s going on that is not immediately obvious. Perhaps something that smells fishy. Following one’s nose is smelling out what is good and bad. In other words having a quick general intuition about what is happening.


Is your part to play through learning by listening to and then heeding what you are told? Simply carrying out instructions can be crucial when expert advice is needed. Not everyone pays attention. There’s none so deaf as those who will not hear.


Or maybe you are the tongue that tastes? Sometimes it is important to find out what something is really like. If you don’t taste it how will you know you won’t like it? This can be important when people are exposed to deceit. Lies will leave a bad taste in the mouth.


Or are you the skin? The skin interfaces with the environment. Some people interface with the social environment. They keep the social cogs well oiled by making the effort to keep in touch with others.


Or perhaps you are the heart? Having a heart-felt interest is at the very centre of wanting a fulfilling role. The risk of course in caring is a broken heart when that concern is rejected.


Instead you could be the lungs. Without the lungs the body cannot breathe. Those with energy and creative ideas are always going to be needed to breathe new life in to something. Their ideas are needed to prevent a flagging project from dying away.


Or even the womb? The womb protects and nurtures the fragile foetus. One can sense the tender love of young children that some people have.

immortal lifeBodily systems

And these are just a few examples. There are actually numerous parts of each of several bodily systems –, digestive/excretory, muscular/skeletal, nervous/hormonal, reproductive, and circulatory/respiratory etc.

foreverBody of Christ

Paul writes about idea of a universal human form in terms of what he calls the body of Christ:
“Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, so in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others.” (Romans 12:4-5)

This notion is in line with the mystical idea of the presence of the infinite Source of compassion and wisdom in our finite being.

The challenge of immortal life

The idea of living forever challenges us to imagine life beyond the limitations imposed by living in a material world; constraints, for example, of money, geography, and education. It takes us beyond the specific economic, legal and social conditions in which we live our ordinary lives. Thinking about immortal life gets to the nub of what is spiritually involved in finding fulfilment because it raises our consciousness above mere worldly considerations. The idea of a universal human form shows the way all good people complement each other in their individual roles.

What timeless role in immortal life do you feel called for? Where do you fit into the concept of a universal human form?

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems


Do you wish to honour the body of Christ?

Do you wish to honour the body of christ?  Do not ignore him when he is naked. Do not pay him homage in the temple clad in silk, only then to neglect him outside where he is cold and ill-clad. He who said: “This is my body” is the same who said: “You saw me hungry and you gave me no food”, and “Whatever you did to the least of my brothers you did also to me”… What good is it if the Eucharistic table is overloaded with golden chalices when your brother is dying of hunger? Start by satisfying his hunger and then what is left you may adorn the altar as well


Helping Others is Good for You

The website inCharacter.org has an interview with Dr. Stephen G. Post, author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving, and president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. (Call me a cynic, but the name “Institute for Research on Unlimited Love” does not instil in me a lot of confidence; it sounds like a hippie farm or a horrific Orwellian government office.)  An excerpt:

IC: What about altruism and longevity?

POST: A remarkable fact is that giving, even in later years, can delay death. The impact of giving is just as significant as not smoking and avoiding obesity. A 2005 study conducted by Alex Harris and Carl Thoresen of Stanford University found that frequent volunteering is strongly linked to later mortality. Called the Longitudinal Study on Aging, it followed more than 7,500 older people for six years. Volunteering was a powerful protector of mental and physical health. Another study, a 1992 survey of older people by Neal Krause of the University of Michigan found that helping others lowers depression. Krause found that, for older men, ten years of volunteering can dramatically slash mortality rates. Another researcher, Doug Oman and his colleagues did a study involving 2,025 older residents of California and found that those who volunteered had a 44 percent reduction in mortality-and those who volunteered for two or more organizations had an astonishing 63 percent lower mortality rate than non-volunteers. If you are an older adult, I have one recommendation: volunteer!

I like that research like this is being done.  As with any study like this you have to be careful not to mistake correlation with causation, but I would guess that these studies at least attempted to control for this, and I would guess that there is SOME element of volunteerism actually causing longer life.  Serving others – performing a use for society – gives a person purpose and a drive to keep living.

Studies like this – and like the marriage study I blogged about a few months ago – have helped me understand a passage from Conjugial Love that confused me the first time I read it.  Conjugial Love n. 130 says,

In brief summary, [wisdom of life] is this: to flee evils because they are harmful to the soul, harmful to the civil state, and harmful to the body, and to do good things because they are of benefit to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body.

The soul and the civil state made sense – the body, not so much.  But more and more research confirms this: things like anger and deceit are harmful to the body, whereas things like doing good are beneficial to the body.  Research like this contributes directly to “wisdom of life” in that it shows just how evil is bad for the body and good is good for it.

That said, it seems like there must be a point where over-volunteering becomes a health risk, rather than a benefit.  I’ve talked to several people who have had doctors tell them that for the sake of their health, they have to stop doing so much.  And I think over-volunteering is often tied with the falsity that we have to do enough good works to merit heaven (Swedenborg has a great description of people in the spiritual world who fell into this fallacy in Arcana Coelestia n. 1110).  I’d like to see research into where that healthy balance is and how people can find it.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/ac/index.htm (Arcana Coelestia)

(http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/cjl/index.htm (Conjugial love)

Fruits of Faith and Capability of Receiving it in the Other Life

Fruits of Faith and Capability of Receiving it in the Other Life

The fruits of faith are none other than a life according to the precepts of faith. A life according to these precepts is therefore saving; but not faith without the life. For a man carries all the states of his life with him after death, so that he is such as his character had been in the body. For exam­ple, he who had despised others in comparison with himself in the life of the body, in the other life also despises others in comparison with himself; he who had indulged in hatred to his neighbour in the life of the body, bears hatred to his neighbour in the other life also; he who had dealt deceitfully with his associates in the life of the body, is deceitful to his associates also in the other life; and so on. Every one retains in the other life the nature he had acquired in the life of the body; and it is known that the nature cannot be put away, and that if put away nothing of life would remain. Hence it is that only works of charity are mentioned by the Lord; for he who is in works of charity, or what is the same, in the life of faith, has the capability of receiving faith, if not in the body yet in the other life; but he who is not in works of charity, or in the life of faith, has by no means any capability of receiving faith, either in the body or in the other life. For evil never har­monizes with truth, but the one rejects the other; and if they who are in evil speak truths they say them from the mouth; and not from the heart. And so evil and truth are very far apart. (AC n. 4663)