The Deep Science of Scripture

While not the Orthodox view, there has been a strong Christian tradition of biblical interpretation that goes beyond the literal sense of its words. I have maintained through various posts that to truly understand the significance of the covenant with God, the literal sense of Holy Scripture is never adequate (and often divisive as the numerous Christian denominations attest to).

Paul explained in the Corinthians: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives Life.”  (2 Corinthians 3:6)

Later, Origen and Augustine spoke of being inspired by Christ to an understanding of the hidden content in the Holy Word. In spite of this Orthodox Christianity choose to embrace only a literal interpretation of scripture.

Thankfully, Emanuel Swedenborg entered the scene. He not only revived the idea of hidden content, he took it even further. As a result he has given to humankind the most systematic approach to a multi-layered exegesis (exposition) of the Sacred Word.

This hidden content is evidenced by the Lord’s exclusive use of parable (stories that don’t express literal, historical fact but contain eternal truth on a deeper level). This is why it is stated in the New Testament that:

He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

If the words of scripture were only meant to be taken literally (the sense of the letter), then such a divine jolt by the Lord to the cognitive function His disciples would not have been necessary. So there must be more to God’s revealed wisdom then meets the eye.

Swedenborg claimed that the literal sense of scripture served as a foundation upon which more elevated meanings rested. Above the lower, literal level is a spiritual level, which conveys the inner story that each one of us experiences on our spiritual journey. The Lord actually provides evidence that biblical events are meant to represent events that are to take place within human hearts and minds. The big clue is given when he responds to the demands of the Pharisees to tell them when God’s kingdom will come.

“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).

So the Lord is giving a powerful hint to the Pharisees that the coming of the kingdom will not be a physical event. The coming of the kingdom is also identified with the Lord’s Second Coming in Revelation. So the New Jerusalem will be a new dwelling place in our hearts and minds for the Lord. This Holy City represents a new teaching descending from heaven.

The third or highest level of meaning in Scripture deals with high Christology. In other words, interpretation now regards the events in Scripture as dealing solely with the Lord. This includes events in the Old Testament. The Lord also alludes to this highest level of interpretation on His walk to Emmaus when He reveals to his disciples new things about the Sacred Word.

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:27).

What possible way could the story of Moses address Christology, that is, have something to do with the interpretation of the person and work of Christ unless it contained a more elevated meaning? The Lord is now making these higher-level meanings available to the world.

So what does all this deep theology have to do with science?

In quantum physics the deeper you look at the fabric of reality, the more topologically astounding and active things get. Scripture also becomes more intricate and dynamic at its deeper levels of meaning. In the same way quantum events become more expanded, non-local, and act like non-physical waves, biblical events can also take on more expanded and non-physical meanings (so the laws of physics have their origins in spiritual patterning principles).

For instance, the word “light” can be taken beyond its literal meaning to represent the higher, non-physical meaning of “understanding.” That is why the Lord is described as the “light and the way” and that His life was the “light of men.” The Lord influences human minds in the same way light influences our physical eyes. When He opens our minds to understand Scripture, it is to reveal its hidden content.

Each and every word in Sacred Scripture offers a similar metaphysical interpretation (but not every story in the canonical Bible is the true Word of God – see my post entitled “God’s Holy Word vs. the Canonical Bible”).

These are just some of the topics I will be addressing in my next book, Proving God, which seeks to unify science and theology. This unity is not achievable without having access to the hidden content of the Sacred Word

Posted on June 8, 2008by thegodguy

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jesus said

jesus said; i have cast fire on the world, and see, i guard it until the world is afire… the truth has to appear only once in one single mind, for it to be impossible for anything ever to prevenByOGixJIMAA0ly0t it from spreading universally and setting everthing ablaze. a lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is putting on its shoes.. there is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few christians, scorned and oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trails with a fierce tenacity multiplying quietly, building order while there enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known, caesar and christ had met in the arena, and christ had won.

Beliefs of ancient Egypt about death?

ancient EgyptThe ancient Egypt Book of the Dead is a collection of funerary instructions placed in coffins and sarcophagi in order to prepare the soul of the deceased for the afterlife and judgment. The scenes are dramatically presented in pictures and words.  A Swedenborgian view, of how natural things correspond to spiritual matters, suggests that the instructions of ancient Egypt are based on a clear understanding of psychological progression of the soul from the outer, or physical world, to the first experiences in the inner, spiritual world. Each individual has to give an account of his character and is assessed by independent judges seen as various gods.

One papyrus shows 42 deities and the soul has to address each one by name and make a negative confession relating to various wrong-doings.

O Far-strider … I have done no falsehood

O Fire-embracer … I have not robbed.

O Double Lion … I have not destroyed food supplies.

O You whose face is behind … I have not misconducted myself or abused a boy

O You of the darkness … I have not been quarrelsome.

The judgment is made more awesome because behind the petitioner stands a monster, called Ammit, which will swallow the guilty immediately.

Let us consider this ritual of ancient Egypt in detail. If we contemplated our own death, how many of us could truthfully answer 42 separate judges and say, “I have not been loud-mouthed.” nor committed any other contraventions of right conduct? Recent research into Near Death Experiences shows that many have experienced similar evaluation in which they saw a play-back of whole periods of their life and felt they were assessing its quality, wasted opportunities or some meanness. They were not condemned, but clearly, someone was alongside witnessing their reactions.

It is perhaps easy to smile at the monster Ammit since if a person fails the first test and is swallowed up, is that the end of judgment? The human mind is more complicated and exists on different levels and has many talents which can be used for doing good or harm. Each one has to be assessed separately. Let us take as an example a frequent social evil in our society — vandalism. If the mind is challenged by an unbroken window or a fence and needs to smash it, then something is seriously wrong. Perhaps the people of ancient Egypt  were more honest during their rituals and put the blame where it belongs as they laid bare the whole mind for assessment, noting which parts of it had been corrupted with its health taken away and harmony destroyed. The mind which can only find its delight in destroying, even in killing, is clearly in a very serious state. It has been devoured by a terrifying monster.

The Christian scripture is just as uncompromising about such assessment which is generally called ‘judgment’. In the words of Christ:

There is nothing covered that will not be revealed, nor hidden that will not be known. Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. (Luke 12: 2-3)

The focus of the ancient Egypt ceremony was the weighing of the heart. During embalming, the internal organs were removed from the body and preserved separately in jars. The heart was judged by itself on the scales against Maat, the goddess of Righteousness or Truth. She was represented as a female body, but instead of a head often had a white feather. Her small figurine stood on the scales weighing the heart of the deceased, or she was represented by her symbol, the white feather. Feathers, especially wing feathers, enable birds to fly and to have a wider view of the world below. Similarly, truth elevates our thoughts to give us what we already call ‘a birds eye view.’ The goddess of truth represents the desire for truth which gives us the ability of discernment and separation between truth and falsity.

However, the heart itself can be said to have its own specific importance since it had always been seen as the seat of the emotions, and so it corresponds to our affections. Too often we think that our love is merely a temporary feeling. The ancients had greater respect for the ‘heart’. The idea is that in our love lies the primary seat of our personality. Swedenborg put it very forcefully:

A person’s life really is his love, and the nature of his love determines the nature of his life, and in fact the whole person. But it is the dominant or ruling love which makes the person….  It is the characteristic of a dominant love that it is loved above all else. What a person loves above all else is constantly present in his thoughts, because it is in his will, and constitutes the very essence of his life…Everyone’s sense of pleasure, bliss and happiness comes from his dominant love, and is dependent on this. (TCR 399)

This is an fairly new concept. Love is seen as the very dynamic of our life, of our vital energy and heat. When we love we grow warm in our body. There is a correspondence between the two. When we lack any desire, we grow cold and lack vitality. According to Swedenborg what we mainly love is also the key to our judgment and character. Each person needs to act honestly. ‘What is it that I love more than anything? What is it for which I am prepared to pay any price, make any sacrifice?’ Unless we have understood that much, we cannot know what is going on in our mind.

We can only marvel at the high degree of perception about the working of the mind revealed in ancient sacred texts.

Adapted from material by Christopher Hasler first published by the Swedenborg Movement

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


Manipulative people – How to cope with them?

manipulative people
Manipulative people

Some people are just harder to get on with than others. Obvious examples are manipulative people who are highly strung and aggressive. They may need spiritual healing, but what do we need? What is the secret to avoiding unpleasant scenes with manilpulative people who cause us a bit of grief from time to time?

Perception of manipulative people

A clue can be found in the study of social perception. Research psychologist Daniel T. Gilbert, University of Texas at Austin has pointed out: “We may strive to see others as they really are, but all too often the charlatan wins our praise and the altruist our scorn. Juries misjudge defendants, voters misjudge candidates, lovers misjudge each other.”

Social psychologists have researched the way we see others in terms of attribution theory. This is studying how people make inferences about the causes of a person’s actions. One thing they have observed is how our expectations about how other people will behave can distort our interpretations. We may assume that the little old lady who bumps into us at the supermarket is someone with unintended poor balance whereas the tattooed hooded youth might be thought to be trying to pick our pockets. Mistaken perception of manipulative people can thus arise from social stereotypes, such as race, sex and age.

Less well known is discrimination on the basis of our beliefs about human personality. We say “You can’t judge a book by its cover.” Yet how many of us expect quiet people also ‘to be shy’, or that colleagues who argue with us ‘are conceited about their own ideas’ or that the critical relative is ‘of course an interfering nosey-parker’? Making these assumptions leads us blithely to continue to reduce our interaction with apparently manipulative people and so we do not really get to know them. But sooner or later this tactic fails and tension and misunderstanding creates a sharp word, an unnecessary argument or even a full-blown row.

Dispositional bias and manipulative people

Many of us suppose that individual personality is something one cannot do much about; and that a person who behaves and speaks in a certain way in one situation, will likely do the same in other contexts, ‘for they cannot alter their real personality’. Psychologists call this ‘dispositional bias’. That we have this bias might become clearer when we reflect carefully.

It seems that an apparently shy worker can be quite chatty with fellow staff when not feeling inhibited by the presence of an intimidating boss. An apparently argumentative neighbor can discuss issues calmly when not confronted by someone who has a dogmatic style of saying things. A seemingly critical and interfering mother-in-law may not act like this at all in the homes of her other grandchildren to whom she is given ready access. We might sum up these examples of apparently manipulative people by saying that as well as having individual traits, a person behaves differently according to various role obligations and social pressures. 

Cultural differences in seeing manipulative people

Interestingly, social psychology is unearthing cultural differences in ‘dispositional bias’. For example research reported by Richard Nisbett and colleagues at the University of Michegan found that Asians such as Hindus in India tend to describe their acquaintances in terms of roles, social identities and occupations, whereas Americans are more likely to speak in terms of personality traits.

Similarly, when describing themselves, another Asian group, the Japanese, also use phrases such as, ‘I am a student at a university,’ or refer to specific contexts, ‘I am one who plays football on Friday nights.’ In contrast, Americans generally are inclined to see themselves in terms of abstract personality e.g. ‘I am curious,’ or ‘I am sincere.’ It sounds like spotting the ideas we carry around in our heads regarding others, is the secret to dealing better with apparently manipulative people. For such ideas lead us to jump to conclusions about others.

Perhaps what counts is not being taken in by how things seem on the surface. Was this what Christ was talking about when he said

Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment” (John 7:24)?

Yet some would argue that making a right judgment is being judgmental because it involves assessing someone other than oneself. Didn’t Christ also say

“Do not judge, and you will not be judged. Do not condemn, and you will not be condemned” (Luke 6:37)?

Making a correct assessment of manipulative people

Perhaps it is actually both possible and desirable to form a rational judgment; discriminating between different attitudes and interests without at the same time judging the person’s inner character. This is what juries in criminal courts are supposed to do – discriminating on the basis of actual behavior rather than prejudice. Manipulative people may get angry when they feel threatened and become easy to chat to when not.

The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg encourages us to look for the good in people as a way of finding a heavenly state of mind in ourselves. In other words we can minimize out irritation or indignation and find a more relaxed attitude to those we previously judged negatively by making the effort to finding positive sides to their character.

One example of a positive side to some people who upset us is a state of inner peace that they might possess. Have we ever noticed the contentment in someone enjoying a walk in natural surroundings communing with nature. Perhaps this is the same person with whom we are having difficulties in the work setting. We may well tend to overestimate personal causes of socially undesirable behavior in others but this bias in our assumptions is neither inevitable nor uncontrollable.

Of course some people are members of the awkward mob no matter where they are; not everyone having much of a positive side we can feel good about. But noticing how an irritating person behaves in other situations may be the secret to not jumping to conclusions about their personality. If so, seeing them in a different light, can reduce our ‘dispositional bias’; it can mean we no longer always attribute everyone’s tiresome behavior in our presence to some negative general trait of character. In this way we have some hope of giving ourselves a better chance of getting on better with them.

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

Christmas spirit – How do I foster it?

Christmas spiritYou want to experience the Christmas spirit but you feel uneasy. You will be with the relatives and in-laws, whom perhaps you don’t often see, and you want it to go well without too much family drama. But you know you will be spending a lot of time with perhaps a person or two you can find irritating or with whom you don’t particularly get on. If seems that there is always someone who never likes the present you buy, the food you cook or the family game you suggest.

There may be disagreement over what to watch on television. Embarrassing questions may be asked and unresolved issues touched on. If some one has a dig, it is so easy to take the bait and get upset with people on top of each other. You may even sometimes wonder whether you can survive Christmas with the relatives.

Yet the Christmas spirit is supposed to be about generosity and warmth, for family togetherness, children and fun. How can we foster that Christmas spirit in the face of our unease? Here are some suggestions.

  • If the strain is beginning to tell, why not take some time out for yourself. Think of some reason to leave the company for a while if someone is really getting under your skin — going for a short walk “to clear the head after too much to drink”, going into the kitchen “to do the washing up”, going upstairs “to check on the children.”
  • You might be able to suggest a change of scene for at least some of the family group e.g. going out to a football match or the pub for those who might enjoy this. It could distract people from what had been going on.
  •  You might try taking a step back from the emotional atmosphere around you.  Adopt passive observation rather than active participation. Observe what is going on as if you are watching a television drama. In this way you can achieve a degree of emotional distance from the person who is irritating you and feel less involved in any arguments.
  •  In these days of ready expression of personal feeling we tend to say ‘Let it all hang out.‘ The idea of suppressing our feelings is not what we are supposed to do. The old Victorian saying ‘Least said, soonest mended,‘ has gone out of common use. But perhaps its time has come again. When feeling provoked, why not try counting to ten  before rising to the bait? Instead of immediately saying what is on your mind, you could ask yourself whether a social occasion such as a special family occasion is really the time and place to have a row about something that is under the surface and not going to be resolved easily. Ask yourself whether speaking your mind would really help clear the air rather than make something bigger than it need be and add ammunition for future tension. Then you can choose between saying nothing or asserting your viewpoint (quietly and with respect for the other person’s perspective).
  •  Don’t allow someone sulking or getting overexcited to spoil your own good time. Even when they are boring or annoying you, try to appreciate the presence of people with whom you have ties of family identity and common interest. It is easier to overlook someone’s negative side when you can see their good points; easier to have fun when you are in good humour. In other words why not enjoy what you can in making the most of the situation you find yourself in?

I believe if you think ahead about possible choices and then at the time choose the wisest one for any given situation, it should be possible to rise above family difficulties and foster a Christmas spirit.

From a deeper perspective, this means letting the ordinary attachments of what has been called the ‘little self’ to die. The ‘little self’s’ ordinary attachment is to receiving attention, praise, or pleasure at the expense of the needs of the social context. I would suggest that only when the ‘little self’ dies can the ‘higher self’ become fully alive. Only when you let your selfish cravings die will the Christmas spirit or Christ’s spirit become incarnate within you.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

How do we stop life drifting by?

longer version

Some people drift aimlessly through life reacting to events and never making things happen for themselves. spiritually adrift However, whatever the personal problem, it is often necessary for us to take the initiative in doing something about it, rather than letting things drift. Otherwise, it is only when some crisis occurs that eventually the situation forces us to make decisions about say a job, home, or even a close relationship. Better to prevent difficulties getting out of hand than allow circumstances no longer under our control to push us into a corner.
Often and in various ways we may slide into letting life around us govern how we think and behave – in a way that enables us to blame ‘it’ if ever we feel criticised.  So it tends to be “someone else’s fault – not mine!” But spiritual healing may be needed.
Perhaps we are willing to be of help to others even when it is an inconvenience. It is good to be selfless and charitable. However, do we sometimes allow others to exploit our better nature? One sign of this is if we were to feel fed up with the way others take advantage of us or feel quietly resentful when sidelined, or put on.
It is not necessarily the fault of the other person. We may be adding to our troubles by the way we regularly give in to what someone wants. At times perhaps even acting like a doormat for them to wipe their feet on. Like when we find ourselves meekly submitting to what our family and friends demand; limply agreeing to go where someone asks us to go and doing whatever they suggest. We do not have a sense of our true selves because we are too busy meeting others expectations. Without thinking we fall in with what they say.
Adolf Hitler once said:

“What luck for the rulers that men do not think.”

Why would anyone be so daft as constantly to do things that another person wants instead of thinking through their own views? It may be because we value ourselves less than we value others. This might show in conversation: “I’m sure you’re right.” “I’ll leave that up to you.” Some of us believe ourselves to be happy if we relate to others in this way but without our realising there is an inner assumption that what we want does not count, or that we do not really matter. Thinking so little of ourselves, the idea that we have any choice does not occur to us; in other words, tamely trying to please for fear of someone disliking us. We keep striving for the unobtainable, not realising that we can never gain everybody’s approval.

Inner Freedom
Just as we may need to be less passive with other people, so we also may need to learn to take the initiative in relation to ourselves. Having a healthy relationship with others also means having a healthy relationship with oneself.
In psychotherapy it is generally accepted that if patients persist in blaming some other person or thing for their problems of living, then no real therapy is possible. A therapist may ask such an individual whose partner keeps running him or her down or using violence why not do something about it like insisting on a trial separation to bring the other person to their senses. In not accepting the responsibility for the way they live their lives, they cannot start to take hold of their own self and destiny. Thus for such people any personal growth is delayed.
The trouble is that many people are told that they are not at liberty to change their ways and that human freedom is questionable. For example, psychoanalysis – a branch of psychotherapy that follows the writings of Sigmund Freud – says we are not free because we are unaware of our unconscious complexes. Moreover, many behaviourists argue that our freedom is illusory because we are conditioned by the world around us e.g. the rewards and punishments in the family or the workplace, that shape our attitudes and life choices.
There is some – albeit – limited truth in these viewpoints. None of us is free to change our inherited disposition and the home environment when we were young. Because of differences in for example types of temperament and parental attitudes, we need to individually travel on our own unique spiritual journey. How the individual develops will be limited according to his or her makeup and life circumstances. We start at different places. The role models to whom we happen to be exposed affect how we mature.

Both nature and nurture will both influence our development and affect in what ways we need to change and the opportunities for so doing. They will affect what lessons in life we may learn. You cannot so easily learn French without a foreign language teacher. However, you do not need special learning if French is your native tongue. In one sense, the whole of the explanatory findings of psychology studied as a science demonstrate the restrictions on, and handicaps to, our individual freedom. These could be for example from:
· Our beliefs and attitudes acquired conforming to the cultural norms of home and society
· Our levels of self-esteem and self-confidence due to the behaviour of others
· Our levels of talent and ability, emotional stability and physical strength, due to inherited constitution.

Our social, financial and physical circumstances affect the opportunities around us for personal growth. According to the situations they find themselves in, people vary in what they are obliged to do and thus what social roles others expect of them. The need for earned income, family home-making, care for sick and elderly, supervision of children, etc. will vary from one person and circumstance to another.
These are clear physical, economic, legal, social and moral limits as well as psychological restrictions on our freedom to do certain things and act in certain ways. There may be very real boundaries to what we can do in any set of circumstances.
Despite all these factors apparently determining our behaviour, we actually feel individually free to choose what we do and make up our own minds about things – including whether to believe that we are free to make up our own minds! In other words, we all tend to believe in our own free will.
Isaac Bashevis Singer once said:

“You must believe in free will; there is no choice”
This may seem like a paradox! However, unless we are free to reflect on things our thinking would lack any discernment. Many people recognize that being human, we do have many private choices in life; whether to try to read this book or give up thinking about what it says; whether to go along with the crowd or to do our own thing; whether to choose worldly or spiritual values. We may make decisions using so-called `enlightened self-interest’ or alternatively ethical ideas like what is fair or sincere. We can choose to travel on one road or on another.

“No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money.”
(Matt 6:24)

“One is the road to wealth, another the road that leads to Nirvana.”
(Dhammapada, 75. Buddhist tradition)

Psychotherapists who take an existential approach to therapy tend to believe that whatever the particular types of theoretical formulation, techniques employed and therapist’s personal style of conducting treatment, the client will only benefit if also the therapy influences the person’s will. The therapist can neither create nor infuse the individual  with a new will, but the therapist can help the patient to liberate will – to remove encumbrances from the bound, stifled will.
Although our choices may sometimes need to remain hidden until outward circumstances change, inwardly we are in a state of balance between for example  optimism and pessimism or honesty and self-deception, Which we turn to is our own choice.
Swedenborg’s view is that this balance is a state of equilibrium between good and bad influences on us from inside our minds. We have the option of directing ourselves towards higher or lower things. By deciding between two different ideas, or plans of action, we express our essential awareness of ourselves as an individual.
Yet, in so far as some of our attitudes are unconscious or conditioned then we are not free to tackle them. With increasing frequency, patients seek professional help with vague, ill-defined complaints. A first session may be finished with no clear picture of the patient’s problem. The fact that the patient cannot define the problem is the actual problem.
Psychotherapy and personal counselling can help throw light on these hidden processes. For example, the overweight person may feel anxious about leaving food on the plate because of parental disapproval concerning waste when the individual was a child. Arguably, clearer self-insight actually increases our inner freedom.

And in my experience if I asked patients about the aspects of therapy that they found particularly useful, they often cite the discovery and assumption of personal responsibility. However, readiness to accept responsibility varies considerably. For some individuals it is extraordinarily difficult and this issue is the main task of psychotherapy; once they assume responsibility they give spiritual healing a chance, and therapeutic change almost happens automatically without much further effort for the therapist.

Rationality and Freedom
I am suggesting we each have two spiritual faculties, which make us human. The first of these is the ability to think for ourselves; being able to see things in a rational way from a higher perspective. This could mean for example seeing some family squabble in a rational way without one side or the other unduly swaying us emotionally.
With reasoning comes increased freedom – the second faculty. Only when we are able to see things from a rational perspective do we become free to choose between more than one viewpoint.
It is when we appreciate what a newspaper article is really about, that we can then freely choose whether to read it to the end. We use our head to think about what the writer is saying and our hands to turn the pages. However, we also need a heartfelt interest in the truth about the subject if we are to really learn anything from the printed words. Otherwise, our response to it is just going through the motions based on a reflex habit. Then we may go to the shop, buy the newspaper and return home, settling down in the chair and reading whatever is written because this is what we do everyday.
Likewise, only when we really think about the consequences of a crowd’s behaviour, can we then freely decide whether to join in. The emotion of the moment may capture us. Everybody is shouting the same thing and focusing their attention on the same place. Therefore, we feel ourselves drawn to conform to what everybody is doing and saying. Yet, we are rational human beings. We can transcend the social pressure by using our ability to think about what is right in the situation. Is the crowd doing something in accord with what we value? What is the truth of the matter? In other words as Christ says “the truth will set you free.” Otherwise, we are simply reacting to the pressure of habit or social conformity.
Humanistic psychology is an approach in psychology that focuses on how people fulfil their individual potentials as a way of overcoming personal problems. Human freedom is said to be real, and must be consciously acknowledged, exercised and experienced for any authentic human existence. In other words a person within certain limits, may become whatever he wills to become. We can all choose to develop any aspect of our makeup that we please. The explorer has opted to develop his or her curious and adventurous spirit. Couples, in deciding on parenthood, have decided to focus on their caring and nurturing side. Conscientious objectors and protestors have chosen to act on principles and ideals learned in youth despite the risks involved. To my way of thinking, the opening up of the higher mind widens our inner freedom. This means seeing things from a higher perspective and acting on these insights. Until this happens I would argue, we will simply follow our natural tendencies and conditioning along the lines the psychoanalysts and behaviourists have indicated.
We can also point to the importance of wise teaching by parents in the formation of the higher mind in the child. They brought us up with good ideas that initially develop this level of mind. The spiritually minded think of those early beginnings as the foundation for the building of conscience – through which an inner light can allow us to see when we are going wrong. I believe it is divinely inspired into the hearts and minds of those who want to follow what is right and good.
It is for instance when we believe that people should keep to the civil and criminal law because it is based on principles of justice and social order. Another example is the belief that doctors, architects and other occupational groups should follow their codes of practice and professional ethics because these derive from the value of high standards of work done for the benefit of clients. Essentially a true conscience includes a caring attitude to others, tolerance of their imperfections and following what is right in life.
I believe a higher self within us is our link with the bright light of divine inspiration. This is the source of our understanding of rational considerations and spiritual principles. These create new horizons and new ways forward. All of us can actually hope to achieve this. If we do not pursue this path, our bodily-centred illusions will limit us. Such an illusion for example is the fallacy that the route to happiness is to `eat, drink and be merry’.  Actually, experience teaches us that such activities, of themselves, can bring no lasting contentment beyond the pleasure of the moment unless life also consists of things of the spirit – such as quality time with others or the deeper satisfaction that comes from being part of useful activity. Bodily-centred illusions come from the mere appearance of things according to the senses of the body uninspired by higher meaning.

Playing Life’s Cards
As we gain a reasonable appreciation of our own character, we then become free to choose whether to leave behind our personal hang-ups and instead develop our natural talents and personal potential. Such self-insight usually happens in counselling and psychotherapy.
A form of psychotherapy known as Reality Therapy, assumes that people develop psychiatric problems because of an inability to fulfil their needs and that fulfilling needs means taking on an attitude of responsibility for others as well as self. If a cure is to be effected the patient must be involved with other people or at least with one other person. Therefore, one cannot completely lock up oneself in oneself and one’s own needs if therapy is to make any progress.
Yet, most of us do not need professional help. We can all choose to make better use of the opportunities that life presents to us. The more we put into the things we do the more we are likely to get back – whether it is an occupational training course, a friendship, or a business.
Personal responsibility comes from our freedom to react to what life throws at us in the way we choose. In other words, it is not the hand of cards that life deals us that determine our destiny but rather the way we play those cards. We are responsible for whether we take hold of life or not.
A man sat in a bar in New York. He was homeless, friendless and penniless having pawned or sold everything he owned for alcohol. He had not eaten for four days. He sat there thinking. He had often said that he would never let himself be cornered and when the time came, he would find a home at the bottom of the river. However, he was too ill to walk even a quarter of the way to the river. As he sat there thinking, he seemed to feel some uplifting presence. He did not know what it was. He walked up to the bar and pounded it with his fist making the glasses rattle. Those who stood by drinking looked on with scornful curiosity. He said he would never take another drink. However, the thought immediately came that if he wanted to keep this promise he had better go and get himself locked up. Therefore, that is exactly what he did. He went to the nearest police station and the officer placed him in a narrow cell. He said it seemed as though all the demons that could find room came in that place with him. However, he prayed to his God and, although he did not feel any great help, carried on praying. When finally released he found his way to his brother’s house where he was looked after. The next day he went to a local outdoor religious meeting and with great difficulty made his way to the space near the platform. There was a huge conflict going on within him but as he listened to the testimony of other alcoholics, he made up his mind that he would grasp the nettle and completely give up drink with help from a higher power. He promised God that if he were to take away his appetite for strong drink he would work for him all his life. The man’s name was S. H. Hadley who became an active and useful helper of alcoholics in America.

Taking the Bull by the Horns
Not all of us get ourselves into such dire straights but at some point in our lives, we all need to change something important. Human nature being what it is – a mixture of positive and negative traits – there are things in all of us that we need to face up to. The bad habits, attitudes and desires that we have confirmed in our daily living for which we are culpable. For no one else but us has chosen to remain in our negative patterns of behaviour. These elements of our heart, head and hands need reversing if we are to grow in maturity and spirituality. It is not enough to acknowledge our difficulties and opportunities; not sufficient to see things in rational light. We also need to accept in our hearts that personal amendment is necessary if we are to find personal growth. This means paying attention to the issues and making a conscious effort with clear intention to change.
In other words, an act of will freely made is required. The spirit of truth will hold us responsible for how we act. When we better understand the problems we are causing ourselves and our families, we may then either do nothing about it or we may actually then resolve to change for example, our addiction to work, our avoidance of some personal issue or our emotional dependence on some particular person etc. We need to make a decision to take hold of our life rather than drift on as before. If psychotherapy is about anything, it is about personal change and spiritual healing. The same goes for religious affiliation. It applies to all of us. It means acknowledging the truth about something, resolving to do something about it and then acting. Our destiny is in our own hands – whether we stay sober, put our financial affairs into good order, are fair and honest in our dealings with others, or change our passive attitude to life. Reaping as one sows is the law of karma.
“Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows”
(Galatians 6:7)

“Whoever has qualities is the doer of deeds that bring recompense; and of such action surely he experiences the consequence.”
(Svetasvatara Upanishad, v, 7. – Hindu tradition)

Transpersonal psychology is a new approach in psychology that is interested in aspects of people that go beyond ordinary experience to matters of ultimate meaning studying for example meditative and mystical experiences. Man books by writers in this field echo the idea of a mature stage of human growth when we start to take responsibility for our own development. Just a few or many may achieve this but, although individual transformation is necessary, it is an opportunity open to all. They say it involves pain and discomfort. This is because it means questioning all the roles one has been playing. Yet, there is more to us than just the roles we play. We are not just a spouse, member of an occupational group, or sportsperson. If we identify solely with our role, we risk an identity crisis if we are compelled to lose it for example when our circumstances change and our role is no longer needed or viable.
Many therapists, who are concerned with their clients’ well-being, try to help them to explore and work through any inner conflicts between different roles or feelings about which they were often not fully aware e.g. between being a parent and a worker, or between a fear of, and desire for, an intimate close relationship. In this way, the various parts of the personality can start to work in greater harmony together.
Psychologists often mention the notion of integration as a help to understanding personal growth. The various diverse desires, fears, ideas, hopes and aspirations become compatible with each other as the individual starts to resolve conflicts, choose priorities and find over-arching values. However to find this level of integration of the various sides to our makeup requires not just our hearts and minds but also bodily actions to be in harmony.
Taking the bull by the horns seems scary at first. After all it is easy to imagine the bull may turn round and gore us to death. But if we take courage we find that it is not so dangerous as we thought. We may have had no suspicion that there was any courage within us to be found. Yet my experience with many anxious clients shows that courage arises within when they started to take responsibility for their own development; rather than passively allowing themselves to be swayed this way and that by the events of our lives; rather than complacently drifting through life. Having the deeply human faculties of reason and freedom, we can all take the initiative in creating our own world; not the world that society has tried to pre-ordain for us but rather the unique world of experience that we want for ourselves. That way we find our true self.

“Everyone has what is truly human from rationality, in that he can see and know, if he will, what is true and what is good, and also that he can from liberty will, think, speak and do it.”
(Swedenborg. Divine Providence section 227:5)

Extracted from the book Heart, Head & Hands