Playing The Victim

The New Age - The Online Journal For The New Church in Australia and New Zealand

THE ONLINE JOURNAL FOR THE NEW CHURCH IN AUSTRALIA AND NEW ZEALAND

Playing The Victim

We all know that we live in a society of victims.

Everyone understands that rights go hand in hand with responsibilities. But as individuals, we are far more interested in our rights than we are in our responsibilities. We are happy to decry those who apparently impinge upon our rights, whilst ignoring our responsibilities. Litigation is a very real shadow over every form of useful endeavour in our world. The costs of insurance against such an event continues to become an ever-greater burden upon schools, churches, community groups, health providers, and businesses. And these are organisations who exist for our benefit.

If we are in circumstances that we can’t change and which we’ve had no influence over, then we really are victims. A few weeks ago I walked in on my daughter Ebony watching a real-life crime documentary about a double murder – husband and wife attacked and killed in their motel room, by another couple whom they did not know and had never met, who selected them at random for the pure pleasure of killing. They were victims in the truest sense.

But I’m not talking about them today. Neither am I talking about other people who play the blame game. I’m talking about me and you. I’m going to show that there are very few real victims among us. You may feel that you are, or have been, a victim at one time or another. You may feel challenged by some of this, and that is my intention. While I am not interested in what we can’t change, we often accept a great deal that we could influence and change, simply by believing ourselves victims. Let’s begin with …

Our Eternal Welfare.
In some Christian churches, there’s some cause for equivocation about our responsibility for our own salvation. After all, if one must verbally acknowledge the person of Jesus as Saviour in order to be saved, what happens with the countless number who never heard of Jesus, through being born on the wrong place at the wrong time?

But for the New Church, there is no such uncertainty. If we accept heaven and hell as the realities Swedenborg insists they are, no one can blame anyone else for their predicament. God does not condemn people to hell, people do that for themselves:

“Anyone who thinks rationally can realise that no one is born for hell – everyone is born for heaven. We ourselves are to blame if we arrive in hell …” (Heaven and Hell, paragraph 329)

In a very real way, I am master of my own destiny. Now, some might say that this is a denial of the power of God in an individual’s life, and a denial of our need of Him. But this is not the case. I am master of my own destiny only because He makes me so, as we read in Revelation:

“Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me.” (Revelation 3:20)

The possibility of heaven is a free gift from God, without whom I would have no hope of salvation. But in Swedenborg’s work, I learn that I am not specially chosen or privileged by this hope, it is a hope that is on offer to every person on this planet. Thereby, I can only hold myself responsible if I do not take it.

“The Lord never sends anyone to hell, but wishes to lead all away from hell; less still does He bring anyone into torment. But since an evil spirit rushes into it himself the Lord turns all the punishment and torment to good and to some use.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 696)

What about our thoughts?
In recent years, many people – of all faiths and none – have come to recognise that thoughts flow into us from a source outside of ourselves. The modern fascination with meditation, ACT (Acceptance and Commitment Therapy), and other psychologies have brought this idea firmly into the mainstream of contemporary thought. But it’s not new to readers of Swedenborg. Of course, then, the question is whether I might be regarded a victim of my thoughts:

“… when some people were shown convincingly that we do not think on our own but receive thoughts from others, …, in their wonderment they claimed that it meant that they were not to blame for doing evil …” (Divine Providence, paragraph 294)

It’s a fairly straightforward conclusion to come to, isn’t it? But Swedenborg continues:

“… If indeed everything a person thinks flows in from others, the fault does seem to lie with those from whom the thought originates. But still the fault itself lies with him who receives, for he accepts the thought as his own, nor does he know anything to the contrary, or want to know anything to the contrary. …” (Divine Providence, paragraph 294)

No, we are neither helpless nor blameless in the face of our mental life. Whilst we certainly may experience unwelcome and disturbing thoughts, we are not compelled to carry them out in any way. We have a choice.

Are we responsible for our actions?
Well, we generally understand that we are responsible for our actions. But we’re not good at applying it to ourselves! Under the law, we are held accountable for our actions irrespective of the circumstances which we might claim either caused or justified them.

Pam and I have recently completed a marriage course, using material from Alpha Course. Session 4 (entitled, The Power of Forgiveness), asks: “At times of disagreement, what words and phrases are you aware that you use, if any, that hurt your partner?” Yes, it does give space to identify what your partner does and says to hurt you, but the primary focus is upon one’s own behaviours. The focus is on my responsibilities not my rights! You see, if my actions are merely the result of my circumstances, then the same must also be true of my marriage partner. But as my actions then become my partner’s circumstances, thus prompting their actions, we would quickly find ourselves in a disintegrating cycle of chaos! The only way to prevent such a trend lies in taking responsibility for one’s own actions.

It is sobering to realise the many well documented cases of physical and sexual abuse in which abusers routinely blame their victims for their crime. The guilty focus their attention not upon their own culpability, but upon the perceived provocation of this they harmed. Intellectually, they make themselves the victim, mentally reversing reality. But they don’t do this because they’re peculiarly evil, they do it because they’re human! It is a tendency we must all guard against.

Surely, we are not to blame for our external circumstances?
Well, … maybe. It’s not as cut and dried as we like to think.

When Pam and I lived in Sydney, during the early years of our marriage, Pam spent time regularly on the road, frequently driving long distances to coastal and country New South Wales. On one occasion, as Pam was travelling down a fast country road, an elderly woman turned left in front of her, leaving no time for Pam to brake, and the two cars collided. Thankfully no-one was injured. In the aftermath, I remember talking to a friend of ours, a lawyer, who was assisting us with the insurance claim. I remember his comment: that every driver is regarded as sharing some responsibility, just for being on the road!

While on holiday earlier this year, Pam indulged her penchant for opportunity shops, and I accompanied her on one of these trips. As I needed something to read, I went and happily browsed the shelves of the secondhand books. One of the books I found was entitled, What If? Military historians imagine what might have been. Although I’m not really much into history, and especially not the history of war, the premise is an interesting one: how would the world be different if Hitler had won the Second World War, for example. The first chapter is on the defeat of the Assyrian army recorded in the Second book of Kings, chapter 17 to 19.

But I want to talk about Napoleon: what if he had won the battle of Waterloo? After all, the Duke of Wellington described it as, “the nearest run thing you ever saw in your life.”

“Napoleon dominated European and global affairs for more than a decade while leading France against a series of coalitions in the Napoleonic Wars. He won most of these wars and the vast majority of his battles, building a large empire that ruled over continental Europe before its final collapse in 1815. One of the greatest commanders in history, his wars and campaigns are studied at military schools worldwide.” (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Napoleon)

So, why did Napoleon fail? Was it pure chance? No. Granted, Napoleon may well have won at Waterloo, but it was only a matter of time before he had stretched his armies just that bit too thinly. Ambitious, and greedy for further conquests, the greatest obstacle to Napoleon’s success was his own character. Evil carries the seeds of its own destruction, and its own punishment.

“Every single thing in the next life is balanced in such a way that evil punishes itself. So evil carries its own punishment with it, as likewise does falsity which comes back on him in whom falsity dwells.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 696)

We have far more influence upon our circumstances than most of us realise. A change in our circumstances may be as simple as a fresh outlook and attitude. I was reading over Pam’s shoulder the other day, as she read a book on finances. Redundancy is never a pleasant experience, but the author suggested a new view of the situation, perhaps as an opportunity to kick-start a new business venture, and becoming your own boss.

There might be other, unexpected ways to influence our circumstances. I find that my immune system is boosted by regular exercise, a consequence I would never have foreseen a few years ago.

“For every smallest fraction of a moment of a person’s life entails a chain of consequences extending into eternity. Indeed every one is like a new beginning to those that follow, and so every single moment of the life both of his understanding and of his will is a new beginning.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 3854)

This teaching is both hopeful and convicting. It is hopeful because at any moment I can make a change for the better. It is convicting because I realise that I am living now with the consequences of my past.

At last, let me turn to our readings for today. They concern two kings of Israel, Saul and David. Both sin, and both are confronted by a prophet with the reality of their actions. But the contrast between their responses could’t be more different.

Saul (1 Samuel 13) is confronted by a vast Philistine army. He has waited seven days for Samuel to come and offer sacrifice before engaging in battle. But Samuel has not arrived, and the people are fearful and deserting. So, Saul panics, and performs the sacrifice himself, thus usurping the old priest’s place. No sooner is the deed done, than Samuel appears and almost without stopping for breathe, Saul is explaining himself: “… I felt compelled” (verses 11-12).

From his rooftop, David sees a woman bathing and initiates a long and tangled chain of events: an adulterous affair, a failed coverup, arranging the death of a man to take his wife. The prophet Nathan arrives and confronts the king, and his response is short and simple: “I have sinned”, and then he stands and faces the consequences (see 2 Samuel 11 & 12 [esp. 12:13]; Psalm 51). To our modern mind, Saul’s mistake was so much less serious than David’s. Saul has merely offered a sacrifice, whereas David has had a man killed. Yet the consequences are so much more serious for Saul – the loss of the kingdom! You see, the difference between a bad man and a good one is not that one sins and the other doesn’t. No, “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). The difference is whether we acknowledge that sin for what it is, and take responsibility for it, or whether we pretend to be victim of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, and seek to excuse our actions.

“Those who lead the life of faith repent daily. They pay attention to the evils present with them, acknowledge them, are on their guard against them, and implore the Lord for help. For by himself a person is constantly falling, but the Lord is constantly putting him on his feet again. By himself he falls whenever his mind desires something evil, but the Lord puts him on his feet again whenever he resists evil and therefore does not carry it out. This is the condition of all who are governed by good.” (Heavenly Secrets, paragraph 8391)

David Moffat

Practising awareness of the Divine

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Now that sounds unbearably pompous or over pious. But in fact it it is the name that the early Fathers of the Christian (yes there were also early Desert mothers too)  church gave to their meditation or prayer life.

The most well known was Anthony the Great, who moved to the desert in 270–271 and became known as both the father and founder of desert monasticism. The desert monastic communities that grew out of the informal gathering of hermit monks became the model for Christian Monasticism. The eastern monastic tradition at Mount Athos and the western Rule of St Benedict both were strongly influenced by the traditions that began in the desert. All of the monastic revivals of the Middle Ages looked to the desert for inspiration and guidance. Much of Eastern Christian spirituality, including the Hesychast movement, had its roots in the practices of the Desert Fathers. Even religious renewals such as the German evangelicals and Pietists in Pennsylvania, the Devotio Moderna movement, and the Methodist Revival in England are seen by modern scholars as being influenced by the Desert Fathers.

What was the attraction and how did such a spirituality survive so long and be seen as a valuable source by so many religious movements and bodies?

Well put simply the early fathers learned to sit in silence and create a space in the heart for the Holy Spirit, or God or whatever you believe in, to find a home in. When I used to commute from Kinston upon Thames to Waterloo and back each day on crowded and often smelly commuter trains I was able to use this simple technique to shut out the noise and rattle and crush and just begin to exist quietly in the eternal now of the spirit.

The Buddhists also do similar inner space creation. The way to empty the mind of the million and one thoughts that shout for our attention is to have a simple word or phrase we can silently murmur and use as a shield from the world.

I must be one of the worlds most impatient people yet I found after a few days I could alight from my train in a calm and tranquil state usually, not always but very often. Co-workers in the mornings noticed and the people I lived with certainly did too. I was calmer less argumentative and much nicer to be around.

Even now when my religious affiliation( as opposed to belief) is virtual non exist ant I still practice the awareness of the divine (or whatever). For such a small effort the result brings such great benefit. There are a few books and I know of some classes, but frankly if you can read and have patience to try, that is all you need. What word of phrase do I use? Well I took mine from the latin mass of Maundy Thursday because I liked the Taize hymn of the same name.

Ubi Caritas…or in it’s full name Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

But any phrase that is attractive and spirit centred works just as well. Come Holy Spirit, Jesus Love, I know a Quaker Lady who uses the words ‘Bright Crystal’. What works works.

I hope that anyone who feels anxious or uncertain or wants to reach out to the Divine might consider this ancient yet modern method.

I’ll just close by giving the translation of that hymn as I think is is so beautiful.

Copyright 2012 Edmund Preston.

Where charity and love are, God is there.
Christ’s love has gathered us into one.
Let us rejoice and be pleased in Him.
Let us fear, and let us love the living God.
And may we love each other with a sincere heart.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
As we are gathered into one body,
Beware, lest we be divided in mind.
Let evil impulses stop, let controversy cease,
And may Christ our God be in our midst.
Where charity and love are, God is there.
And may we with the saints also,
See Thy face in glory, O Christ our God:
The joy that is immense and good,
Unto the ages through infinite ages. Amen.

 

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on 23rd August 2012Categories Mystical experience, PoetryTags , , , , , , , , , ,  Leave a comment

Does prayer impact healing?

 

Does prayer impact healing

“I’m going in for an operation; pray for me.” “My mother is sick and they are not sure if she’s going to pull through. Would you please pray for her?”

What could be more natural than to ask for help from a loving God when we or someone we care for is in need, and especially when we we’d like to have some reassurance that we are not alone? It is frightening to face a threat to our health, and perhaps even more so to watch someone we love slide slowly downhill. So people reach out to the Lord, the one who can make a difference when no one else can. And we ask others to do so.

But does it do any good? It may make you feel better, but is it really a pain killer that simply numbs you to reality? Surely the Lord is doing all that can possibly be done for that person. How would the prayers of one human being sway the God of the universe to give someone more healing power, or more courage to pull through a hard healing process?

I’m going to assume that you believe that praying for others is a good idea. After all, in the Lord’s prayer we ask for all of us to receive blessings – “give us this day our daily bread … lead us not into temptation.” And the Lord tells us to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us (Matt 5:44). In New Church teaching that prayer means that we should “intercede” for them, meaning that we should seek to stand between them and the harm that is coming to them. (Apocalypse Explained # 644:23). Imagine a parent willing to stand in harm’s way to protect a child and you are picturing what interceding means. That’s a pretty clear message to pray for others, especially in their times of need.

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But what can we pray for? We know we can pray for spiritual well being; that’s obvious, and should be the main thing we pray for. The Lord is interested in things that last. Can we also pray for a new car? For a solution to a health crisis?

I would say that a prayer is as good as the intention of the person asking it. If you have a sincere desire for something good, your spirit will be open to the Lord’s purposes.

One way to ensure that we are open to the Lord’s way of doing things is to do what He did while on earth. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, “Father if it is possible let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). This, for me is the best answer. Pray for almost anything, but when you are done, turn it over to the Lord, telling Him, in so many words, that you trust His leading and providence.

Here’s a good reason to pray for people when they are in need: it works. Look at this famous study about prayer for others done by Randy Byrd: “In 1988, as a cardiologist at the UCSF Medical Center, his double-blind study of 393 cardiac patients showed that those prayed for by Christian prayer groups used in the study were five times less likely to require antibiotics, three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema, and, compared with the control group, fewer prayed-for patients died.”

The Christians in this study were simply given the first name and initial of the last name. They did not know the people, nor did any of the hospital workers know that the study was occurring. A similar study was carried out by Zvi Bentwich at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovor, Israel. In this study patients were not prayed for, but were given “healing intention” (meaning well-wishes) by volunteers.

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One interesting aspect of the research done of the effectiveness of prayer is that non-directed prayer – prayer that is simply opening ourselves up to the Lord without any goal in mind – seems to be somewhat more effective than directed prayer. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to end our prayers, as the Lord did, with “nevertheless, not as I will but as You will.”

People in the medical profession sometimes say, “God heals; the doctor sends the bill.” This is obviously true. Think about it this way: If you think of someone with love, your spirit is touching that person’s. If you pray, your spirit is open to the Lord’s presence in an unusually heightened way. If you pray for someone else, you share a bit of that connection with the Lord with that other person. If in some small way that presence of the Lord could help, it would be worth doing.

Prayer, in the end, is speaking with God. Its real aim is to change ourselves. It is turning to the source of life and hope. Whenever something that we value is threatened, we will benefit from turning to Him. His purposes are higher than ours and He will not always answer us in ways that we might like, but He will answer us. Our job it to turn to Him daily and especially when we are in need. And if we cultivate patterns of asking for His help we open ourselves up to the best chance of receiving the gifts He has to offer.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“The more closely you are connected to the Lord, the more distinctly you appear to yourself to be your own person, and yet the more clearly you recognize that you are the Lord’s.”

Divine Providence 42

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The Hypocrite

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There is never an hypocrite in the world that makes God, or Christ, or holiness, or his doing or receiving good in his station, relation, or generation his grand end, his highest end, his ultimate end of living in the world. Pleasures, profits, and honors are the hypocrite’s all, [which] he aims at in this world. They are his trinity, which he adores and serves and sacrificeth himself unto (1 John 2:16). An hypocrite’s ends are corrupt and selfish. God may possibly be at the higher end of his work, but self is at the further end; for he that was never truly cast out of himself, can have no higher end than himself. An hypocrite is all for his own glory: he acts for himself and from himself. “So I may have the profit, the credit, the glory, the applause, come of God’s glory what will!” This is the language of an unsound heart.

An hypocrite will seem to be very godly when he can make a gain of godliness. He will seem to be very holy when holiness is the way to outward greatness and happiness. But his religious wickedness will double-damn the hypocrite at last. Self-ends are the operative ingredients in all an hypocrite does….When hypocrites take up religion, it is only to serve their own turns, to bring about their own carnal ends. They serve not the Lord, but their own bellies (Romans 16:18; Philippians 3:19)….An hypocrite always makes himself the end of all his service; but let such hypocrites know, that though their profession be never so glorious and their duties never so abundant, yet their ends being selfish and carnal, all their pretensions and performances are but beautiful abominations in the sight of God.

An hypocrite has always a squint-eye, and squint-eyed aims and squint-eyed ends in all he does. Balaam spake very religiously, and he multiplied altars and sacrifices; but the thing he had in his eye was the wages of unrighteousness (Numbers 22:23; 2 Peter 2:15). Jehu destroyed bloody Ahab’s house, he executed the vengeance of God upon that wicked family; he readily, resolutely, and effectually destroyed all the worshippers of Baal, but his ends were to secure the kingdom to him and his (2 Kings 10). Ahab and the Ninevites fasted in sackcloth, but it was merely that they might not feel the heavy judgments that they feared would overtake them (1 Kings 21; Jonah 3). The Jews in Babylon fasted and mourned, and mourned and fasted seventy years, but it was more to get off their chains than their sins; it was more to be rid of their captivity than it was to be rid of their iniquity (Zechariah 7:5, 6)….It is the end that dignifies or debaseth the action, that rectifies it or adulterates it, that sets a crown of honor or a crown of shame upon the head of it. He that commonly, habitually, in all his duties and services, proposes to himself no higher ends than the praises of men or rewards of men, or the stopping the mouth of natural conscience, or only to avoid a smarting rod, or merely to secure himself from wrath to come, he is an hypocrite.

But now mark: a sincere Christian, if he prays or hears, or gives or fasts, or repents or obeys, God’s glory is the main end of all. The glory of God is his highest end, his ultimate end (Psalm 115:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:6). A sincere Christian can be content to be trampled upon and vilified, so God’s name be glorified. The bent of such a heart is for God and His glory; nothing but sincerity can carry a soul so high as in all acts natural, civil, and religious to intend God’s glory (Revelations 9:9-11). A sincere Christian ascribes the praise of all to God. He sets the crown on Christ’s head alone; he will set God upon the throne and make all things else His servants or His footstool (Romans 14:7, 8). All must bow the knee to God or be trodden in the dirt. He will love nothing, he will embrace nothing but what sets God higher or brings God nearer to his heart….He lives not to his own will, or lusts, or greatness, or glory in this world, but he lives to His glory, Whose glory is dearer to him than his own life (1 Corinthians 10:28; Revelation 12:11)….The daily language of sincere souls is this: “Not unto us, Lord, not unto us, Lord, but to thy name give glory” (Psalm 115:1).

Glory is God’s right, and He stands upon His right; and this the sincere Christian knows, and therefore he gives Him His right, he gives Him the honor and the glory that is due unto His name. But pray do not mistake me: I do not say that such as are really sincere do actually eye the glory of Christ in all their actions. Oh no! This is a happiness desirable on earth, but shall never be attained till we come to heaven. Bye and base ends and aims will be still ready to creep into the best hearts; but all sincere hearts sigh and groan under them. They complain to God of them…and it is the earnest desires and daily endeavors of their souls to be rid of them….But now take a sincere Christian in his ordinary, usual, and habitual course, and you shall find that his aims and ends in all his actions and undertakings are to glorify God, to exalt God, and to lift up God in the world….He that sets up the glory of God as his chief end will find that his chief end will by degrees eat out all low and base ends.

No hypocrite can live wholly and only upon the righteousness of Christ, the satisfaction of Christ, the merits of Christ for justification and salvation. The hypocritical scribes and Pharisees prayed, fasted, and kept the Sabbath and gave alms; and in this legal righteousness they rested and trusted (Matthew 6; Luke 18:11, 12). Ponder upon that in Revelation 3:16-18. Upon the performance of these and such like duties, they laid the weight of their souls and the stress of their salvation and so perished forever.

An hypocrite rests upon what he doth and never looks so high as the righteousness of Christ. He looks upon his duties as so much good moneys laid out for heaven. He weaves a web of righteousness to clothe himself withal. He never looks out for a more glorious righteousness to be justified by than his own, and so puts a slight upon the righteousness of Christ. “For they, being ignorant of God’s righteousness, and going about to establish their own righteousness, have not submitted themselves unto the righteousness of God” (Romans 10:3). The first step to salvation is to renounce our own righteousness. The next step is to embrace the righteousness of Christ, which is freely offered to sinners in the Gospel. But these things the hypocrite minds not, regards not. The righteousness of an hypocrite is not only imperfect, but impure—a rag, a filthy rag; and therefore he that rests upon such a righteousness must needs miscarry to all eternity (Isaiah 64:6). O sirs! Who will say that that man needs a savior, [who] can fly to heaven upon the wings of his own duties and services? If a man’s duties can pacify an infinite wrath and satisfy an infinite justice, then farewell Christ, and welcome duties.

He that rests upon anything in him or done by him, as a means to procure the favor of God or the salvation of his soul will put such a cheat upon himself as will undo him for ever. Non-submission to the righteousness of Christ keeps Christ and the hypocrite asunder. Christ will never love nor like to put the fine, clean, white linen of His own righteousness upon the old garment, the old rags of an hypocrite’s duties (Revelation 19:7, 8)….An hypocrite’s confidence in his own righteousness turns his righteousness into filthiness (Pro 21:27).

But now a sincere Christian, he renounces his own righteousness. He renounces all confidence in the flesh (Phi 3:3); he looks upon his own righteousness as dung, yea, as dogs’ meat, as some interpret the word in Philippians 3:8. He will say no more to his duties, to the works of his hands, “Ye are our gods” (Hosea 14:3). When they look upon the holiness of God’s nature, the righteousness of His government, the severity of His Law, the terror of His wrath, they see an absolute and indispensable necessity of a more glorious righteousness than their own to appear before God in. A sincere Christian sets the highest price and value upon the righteousness of Christ: “I will make mention of thy righteousness, even of thine only” (Psalm 71:16).

A sincere Christian rejoices in the righteousness of Christ above all: “I will greatly rejoice in the Lord, my soul shall be joyful in my God; for he hath clothed me with the garments of salvation, he hath covered me with the robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom decketh himself with ornaments, and as a bride adorneth herself with her jewels” (Isaiah 61:10)….Oh then, what matter of joy must it be to a sincere Christian to have the rich and royal garment of Christ’s righteousness cast upon him! (Isaiah 28:16). A sincere Christian rests on the righteousness of Christ as on a sure foundation: “Surely shall one say, In the Lord have I righteousness and strength” (Isaiah 45:24).

A sincere Christian looks upon the righteousness of Christ as that which renders him most splendid and glorious in the eyes of God: “And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith” (Philippians 3:9)….A sincere Christian looks upon the righteousness of Christ as his only security against wrath to come (1 Thessalonians 1:10). Wrath to come is the greatest wrath, wrath to come is the purest wrath, wrath to come is infinite wrath, wrath to come is everlasting wrath. Now the sincere Christian, he knows no way under heaven to secure himself from wrath to come, but by putting on the robe of Christ’s righteousness (Romans 13:14)….Well, for a close, remember this: there is never an hypocrite in the world that is more pleased, satisfied, delighted and contented with the righteousness of Christ, than with his own. Though an hypocrite may be much in duties, yet he never lives above his duties; he works for life, and he rests in his work, and this proves his mortal wound. But,

An hypocrite never embraces a whole Christ. He can never take up his full and everlasting rest, satisfaction, and content in the person of Christ, in the merits of Christ, in the enjoyment of Christ alone. No hypocrite did ever long and mourn after the enjoyment of Christ as the best thing in all the world. No hypocrite did ever prize Christ for a Sanctifier as well as a Savior. No hypocrite did ever look upon Christ or long for Christ to deliver him from the power of his sins, as much or as well as to deliver him from wrath to come. No hypocrite can really love the person of Christ or take satisfaction in the person of Christ. The rays and beams of Christ’s glory have never warmed his heart. He never knew what bosom communion with Christ meant (1 Thessalonians 1:10). An hypocrite may love to be healed by Christ, and to be pardoned by Christ, and to be saved by Christ; but he can never take any complacency in the Person of Christ. His heart never seriously works after union with Christ. The love of a sincere Christian runs much out to the Person of Christ. Heaven itself without Christ would be to such a soul but a poor thing, a low thing, a little thing, an uncomfortable thing, an empty thing. It is the Person of Christ that is the sparkling diamond in the ring of glory (Philippians 1:21; 3:7-10).

No hypocrite in the world is sincerely willing to receive Christ in all His office and to close with Him upon Gospel terms. The terms upon which God offers Christ in the Gospel are these, viz., that we shall accept of a whole Christ with a whole heart (Matthew 16:24).

Now, mark, a whole Christ includes all His offices; and a whole heart includes all our faculties. Christ as Mediator is King, Priest, and Prophet; and so God the Father in the Gospel offers Him. Salvation was too great and too glorious a work to be perfected and completed by any one office of Christ. Christ as a prophet instructs us, as a priest He redeems us and intercedes for us, and as a king, He sanctifies and saves us. The apostle hit it when he said, “Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption” (1 Corinthians 1:30). Consider Christ as our Prophet, and so He is made wisdom to us. Consider Him as our Priest, and so He is made righteousness and redemption to us. Consider Him as our King, and so He is made sanctification and holiness to us.

An hypocrite may be willing to embrace Christ as a priest to save him from wrath, from the curse, from hell, from everlasting burning, but he is never sincerely willing to embrace Christ as a prophet to teach and instruct him, and as a king to rule and reign over him. Many hypocrites may be willing to receive a Christ Jesus, [who] are not willing to receive a Lord Jesus. They may be willing to embrace a saving Christ, but they are not willing to embrace a ruling Christ, a commanding Christ: “This man shall not rule over us” (Luke 19:27)….”He came unto his own, and his own received him not” (John 1:11). An hypocrite is willing to receive Christ in one office, but not in every office; and this is that stumbling-stone at which hypocrites stumble and fall and are broken in pieces. Certainly Christ is as lovely and as comely, as desirable and delightful, as eminent and excellent in one office as He is in another; and therefore it is a just and righteous thing with God that hypocrites that won’t receive Him in every office should have no benefit by any one of His offices. Christ and His offices may be distinguished, but Christ and His offices can never be divided (1 Corinthians 1:13). Whilst many have been a-laboring to divide one office of Christ from another, they have wholly stripped themselves of any advantage or benefit by Christ.

Hypocrites love to share with Christ in His happiness, but they don’t love to share with Christ in His holiness. They are willing to be redeemed by Christ, but they are not cordially willing to submit to the laws and government of Christ. They are willing to be saved by His blood, but they are not willing to submit to His scepter. Hypocrites love the privileges of the Gospel, but they don’t love the services of the Gospel, especially those that are most inward and spiritual. But now a sincere Christian, he owns Christ in all His offices, he receives Christ in all His offices, and he closes with Christ in all His offices. He accepts of Him, not only as a Christ Jesus, but also as a Lord Jesus; he embraces Him, not only as a saving Christ, but also as a ruling Christ. The Colossians received Him as Christ Jesus the Lord (Colossians 2:6); they received a Lord Christ as well as a saving Christ; they received Christ as a king upon His throne, as well as a sacrifice upon His cross (2 Corinthians 4:5). God the Father in the Gospel tenders a whole Christ. We preach Christ Jesus the Lord; and accordingly, a sincere Christian receives a whole Christ, he receives Christ Jesus the Lord (Acts 5:31)….An hypocrite is all for a saving Christ, for a sin-pardoning Christ, for a soul-glorifying Christ, but regards not a ruling Christ, a reigning Christ, a commanding Christ, a sanctifying Christ; and this at last will prove his damning sin (John 3:19, 20).

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Can we believe the Bible?

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When the Lord speaks to us in His Word, infinite Divine truths are expressed in human terms that our simple brains can comprehend. The fact is that infinite truth can only be expressed to finite minds through analogy, comparisons,metaphors and parables. We cannot understand the infinite as it is in itself, but we can compare and contrast the infinite with finite things, seeing a reflection or image of the infinite in the allegories.

Does that mean that we can’t trust what the Bible says? No. We can trust the Bible. We can trust the Lord’s Word to reveal deep truths that will bring us closer to the Lord and closer to one another, but we don’t see those truths by staying on the surface. If you get a can of food from the store, it will have a label saying “peaches,” or “corn.” Most likely there will be a matching picture of peaches or corn on the label. Before you eat, you will have to open the can and take out the nourishment inside. The words and pictures are true because they correspond to what is inside, but if you never open up the can, or still worse if you open the can and keep it, throwing away the food, you will never get real nourishment from it, and the labels themselves become useless.

Scripture Points to Its Own Deeper Meaning

The literal meaning of Scripture is a container for the deeper meaning within, and just like a box that says “open here,” Scripture itself points the way to the deeper meaning. Jesus told His disciples that the Old Testament was about His own life:

“Beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27)

“He opened their understanding that they might comprehend the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45)

He compared Himself to the Manna from heaven (John 6:32), the brass serpent lifted up in the wilderness (John 3:14), Jonah and the whale (Matt 12:40), and the Temple in Jerusalem (John 2:19-22).

Furthermore, Jesus’ own words were symbolic. He told so many parables that it says “He didn’t speak to the people without a parable” (Matthew 13:34, Mark 4:34). Even alone with His disciples He said, “These things I have spoken to you in figurative language; but the time is coming when I will no longer speak to you in figurative language, but I will tell you plainly about the Father” (John 16:25).

Paul, too, warned us not to take everything literally: “We should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter” (Romans 7:6). “The letter kills, but the spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6). Early Christians learned that many of the earthly things described in the Old Testament were a “copy and shadow of heavenly things…symbolic for the present time” (Hebrews 8:5, 9:9, Colossians 2:16, 17).

We can see that there are many, many statements in the Bible itself that direct us to look for a deeper meaning. And on the other side, there is not a single passage anywhere in the Bible that directs us to take everything literally. There is nothing on the box that says, “Do not Open.”

Other Symbolic Stories

There are many stories that are made up in order to teach a deeper truth. The many parables in the Bible are examples. We find further familiar examples in Aesop’s fables. No one imagines that the Tortoise and Hare were literal animals that talked and raced against each other. They obviously represent types of people, or attitudes that people have. The story is not literally true, but conveys an essential truth: “Slow and steady wins the race.”

In the parable of Adam and Eve it is not a tortoise or hare that talks but a snake. Though the story says that the snake was just a beast of the field, no one takes this literally. Anyone can see that the snake was not a literal snake but a symbol of the devil, a personification of evil itself.

Another made up story is Pilgrim’s progress, a story about a man who happened to be named “Christian,” who has friends named “Pliable” and “Obstinate” and is on a journey from his hometown the “City of Destruction” through the “Slough of Despond” to the “Celestial City.” With names like these no one would suppose that it to be a literal story about an actual individual. It is clearly intended as a symbolic story about anyone who might happen to be a Christian.

Again, the ancient Greek myth about the love between Cupid and Psyche was never intended to be taken literally. Cupid means “Desire.” Even today Cupid is a common symbol of love. And Psyche means “Mind,” as in psychology. Cupid or Desire loves Psyche (Mind) but remains invisible to her. Only after going through many challenges can Mind be be married to Desire, and have a daughter named Pleasure (“Voluptas”). No one thinks these were literal people. In ancient times virtually all writing about deeper things was done through symbolic stories such as these.

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“The Lord’s Divine Providence is present within the smallest details of a person’s life.”

Arcana Coelestia 10774

 

7 Influx and Persuasion

Swedenborg Study.comOnline works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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7 Influx and Persuasion

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest . . .” Matthew 12:43

The Spiritual State of Christendom

It is revealed in the Writings that the first Christian Church, founded on the Gospels, has reached its consummation, judgment, and end.163 This pronouncement is not a judgment on individuals nor on specific societies in this world. But it is a Divine warning that religion has now reached the stage of decline predicted by the Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew—a state when, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”; a state when spiritual enlightenment and progress are generally impossible. This situation came about by degrees, because in the course of centuries the evils of men allowed false doctrines to creep in and be enthroned in Christendom: doctrines about three Divine persons which are but three gods, and about a vicarious atonement by Christ’s blood; doctrines about the Pope’s vicar-ship and of priestly powers to dispense salvation; doctrines about a salvation by faith without charity or change of life; doctrines which all pose as sacred mysteries into which the human understanding was forbidden to enter.

From early Christian times such falsities came to usurp the place of the Word through which communion with heaven can alone be effected. The serene light of Divine revelation was not allowed to shine in the minds of men. Its message of spiritual faith and charity was covered over with a contorting shroud of perversions. Human interpretations and pagan superstitions ruled in the church—falsities which became powerful tools for confirming ambition and cruelty and for attracting the presence and influx of evil spirits; until at last there were “no other than false churches”163b and communication with the heavens was cut off. In the spiritual world evil spirits came to dominate over the simple good among Christian souls, and the “last judgment” could no longer be delayed.

In the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg a new Divine revelation was provided which exposes and discredits the falsities which, like a leaven, had soured all the teachings of the New Testament. The modern world, since the last judgment, has little courage left to defend these false dogmas. Yet they are still accepted by untold millions and are officially taught in schools and seminaries of Christian sects. And where they are no longer insisted on, many new falsities and denials, worse than the old, have sprung up—and these tend to divert men’s minds from any acknowledgment of the Deity of Christ and the holiness of the Word of God.

Even while the Christian denominations grow in the number of their nominal adherents, the Christian Church has lost its living office to serve as a medium of conjunction with heaven; “remaining in its external worship, as the Jews do in theirs, in whose worship it is well known that there is nothing of charity and faith, that is, nothing of the church.”164 Like the unclean spirit of the parable, a falsity may return under the guise of seven others worse than itself; even as the theological dogma of predestination has come back to haunt us in the more formidable aspect of materialistic determinism. Whether still vindicating the age-worn creeds or whether preaching the social gospels of the humanists and vaguely advancing various opposing political cure-alls, the Christian Church has lost its central place in the spiritual world. Spirits come into the other life from Christendom as into a strange world for the life of which their doctrines have not prepared them.

So far as any one is still persuaded in the teachings of the old church, he will attract to himself the spirits who are in the same falsities or who can for the time adopt his beliefs and ideas. And there are multitudes of such spirits in the world of spirits even at this day. It is true that they are no longer permitted to establish powerful societies there, nor is any one spirit able to maintain himself in the “world of spirits” for more than about thirty years.165 Still, there have to be spirits of every religion and every general faith there, to minister to their like on earth. And this will be possible as long as men adhere to such beliefs on earth.166 If uncongenial spirits were associated with a man, he would fall into a state of continuous sadness and disquietude. If angels or spirits closely associated with a man as much as converse together about things contrary to man’s faith or life, such sadness would affect him even if he was then thinking about something utterly different.167

So far as a man’s mind is under the shadow of false persuasions his spiritual progress is delayed here on earth and spiritual illustration is denied him. Although the world of spirits is now ordered and purged so that the progress of spirits after their death is quickened—the evil being judged sooner than formerly and the good being instructed sooner— yet on earth the progress is halted so long as man is under the restraining pull of false doctrines. And it is only exceptionally that men can liberate their minds from false beliefs and come to embrace the truths of the Heavenly Doctrine.

The New Church on earth can therefore grow only very slowly, and then only from such as are “interiorly affected by truths,” thus from “such as have cultivated their intellectual faculty and have not destroyed it in themselves by the loves of self and the world.”168Natural affections for kindred and friends form strong bonds which are difficult to sever. Experience testifies that conversion into the New Church is usually made easier with a man who is being introduced into a new environment or comes into a radical change of state through which the spirits with him are also changed; as when he moves to a new city or country, or enters into the married state, or comes of age, or comes into an entirely new group of friends and acquaintances who believe in the Writings. The intermediation of friendship is also a common aid in such changes of state.

But the loosening of the hold of false doctrines and social bonds marks only an external phase of the process which leads to illustration and association with the New Heaven. The internal conjunction with heaven and the Lord is by means of the Word—the Word seen no longer through the veils of falsities, but as it is in itself.

There is no conjunction with heaven through the doctrine and faith of the old church. But among the simple and sincere in the Christian world there are vast numbers who read the Word without much reflection upon false doctrines, and who consequently find in it the simple directions for salvation —faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and charity to man. And these, through the Word, are conjoined interiorly with spirits who are being led towards the New Heaven. Indeed, in all religions there are those who are in such simple states—upon whom the false doctrines of their religiosities have only a superficial hold: who have shunned evils as sins and placed religious life, usefulness, and common-sense charity higher than “orthodoxy.” Such are interiorly joined to heavenly societies, more or less closely according to their states of innocence. They belong already to the invisible kingdom of God—that vast communion which is called in the Writings “the Church Universal.” These are, after death, led to their various heavens. And those among them who are moved by a spiritual affection of truth can be instructed in the Heavenly Doctrine and be more nearly associated with the New Christian Heaven. According to the increase of such spirits in the world of spirits, we are told, will the New Church on earth be increased: for such spirits are needed to predispose men of various religious affiliations to receive the truths of the second advent of the Lord.169

Spirits and their Use of Man’s Memory

The general rule that each man is attended by spirits of his own faith is based on certain laws governing the relationship of the two worlds. For these worlds are held apart so that the life of each may be free. As has already been pointed out, men would not be free if they were sensibly ruled by spirits or were conscious of their presence; and spirits would not be free to progress into interior states if they were aware of the men with whom they are or felt that they used the memory of someone else. And in order that the two worlds might be apart in appearance although mutually conjoined and dependent on each other in actual fact, it is necessary that spirits and men should live consciously on two different planes and in two different states or mental environments.

When a man becomes a spirit he leaves the material body with its sense organs which throughout life had enriched his corporeal memory with constantly new impressions and with knowledges about the ultimate things of the world. But it is ordained that the risen spirit must, as to his thought, be lifted out of his own corporeal memory, which then becomes quiescent and is put to sleep; even as happens with us when we “forget” or are not thinking actively about some former experience. The spirit retains his corporeal memory—and all that is in it. It remains—but is not active. It no longer plays any active role in his mental life. Unless Swedenborg happened to be able to supply such information from his own memory, the spirits with him did not even know what their names or rank had been in their bodily life! They had forgotten, and had no curiosity about it.170

The lulling of a spirit’s external natural memory is not sudden but gradual; yet it appears to be accomplished only a relatively few days after death.171 The Lord may indeed —by various guarded modes—re-awaken a spirit’s particular earthly experiences at least in part. But this is done only for the sake of some spiritual use to be served. In order to progress in his eternal development a spirit must be liberated from such memories and from the sphere of his own material ideas which are based on space and time and personal bias. If this is not done the spirit would be unable to enter into the spiritual ideas which are proper to the more brilliant and colorful mental life which he can enjoy after death.172

Terrible consequences would also threaten mankind if spirits could actively use their own external memory. Some spirits told Swedenborg that the human race would then be liable to perish.173For the man would then become aware of the spirits, and be unable to think from his own memory-experiences. The memory of the spirits would be confused with man’s own.174 At the very least man would suffer the not uncommon illusion that he had thought such things before, a sensation which has led some people to confirm themselves in the notion of reincarnation—the persuasion that they lived on earth before, perhaps centuries ago.175

Swedenborg makes the comment that the life of a spirit is happy, that is, happy compared to that of men, and his faculties of sensation and thought vastly more distinct and subtle.176 Man has to eke out his life of thought from a few very limited experiences and from knowledges gathered with great labor. Man’s affections are clothed with no great variety in his few knowledges and in his still more scanty words. His states often fail to mature or develop, because time and space cut them short. But spirits live an intenser life—for “a spirit no longer subsists on his own basis, but upon a common basis, which is the human race.”177

Indeed, “man is the ultimate of order . . . and all ideas, even those of spirits, are terminated in man’s memory.”178 The thoughts of spirits eventually terminate and come to rest in the material ideas, the objects and mental images, of the men with whom they are associated. The spirits select these ideas from men without any conscious effort, and each spirit may be associated with a great many men at the same time, to complete the terminations of his thought. We should not take this to mean that the spirit thinks with material ideas borrowed from men. Unless he belongs to a class of exceedingly gross spirits180 he thinks quite apart from space-time concepts, and takes the material ideas of man only as a sort of basic symbol for a field of abstract ideas upon which he loves to dwell.186 Yet without the basic ultimate of man’s thought, thus without the material ideas, spirits would lose the whole connective of their thought and almost of their consciousness. Swedenborg tells that when spirits were deprived of some such material idea as that of place, they seemed to lose all sense of where they were and promptly vanished from the sight of other spirits. And they felt as if they had lost their feet.181

The reality, to spirits, of such material ideas, is illustrated by the fact that spirits after death inhabit such cities and places as they had frequented before death: but these cities are purely spiritual, and thus are based on general states of mind. They are not exactly like the corresponding cities in this world, but resemble them, especially as to the streets and well known public squares. They are of spiritual origin. The houses therein are “not built as in the world, but rise up in a moment, created by the Lord.”182 Yet they are usually quite permanent, and their inhabitants are at home in them for long periods. If spirits leave the city for good, their houses also disappear. Swedenborg gives in his journal the following interesting information “concerning cities in the afterlife and concerning the Providence of the Lord in preserving them”:

“There appear to spirits cities similar to the cities in the world—a London, an Amsterdam, a Stockholm, and so on. The reason for this is that every man has with himself spirits who are in the other life, and these possess the interiors of the man, thus all things of his memory. They do not, indeed, see the world through his eyes, but still they are inwardly in it from his ideas. Hence the ideas of similar houses, buildings, and streets of the cities appear as if they were the places themselves. . . . Hence it is that spirits who are with the men of some one city have the idea of the same city.”183

This throws considerable light on the teaching that “the angelic mansions are indeed in heaven, and to appearance separate from the abodes in which men are. And yet they are with man, in his affections of good and truth.”184 This is said of the angels, however. And angels do not dwell, as spirits do, in the material ideas with men, but in more interior things. Yet the terminations of the spiritual world are in the ultimates of man’s life. It is true that “angels and spirits are entirely above or outside of nature, and in their own world which is under another sun.” But it is an error to think of the spiritual world from appearances, as if it were in natural space, and to imagine angels and spirits as dwelling in the interiors of nature, in the ether or on the stars, or far away from men. Where there is no space, there is no distance. The kingdom of God is within you. “The spiritual world is where man is and in no wise apart from him.”185

The spirits who are with man live in a real world of spiritual substance, but the ultimates of this substantial world around them is somehow built up from the spiritual forms of ideas taken from men. The ultimates of the spiritual world lodge in the natural minds of men, while the interiors of men’s minds are formed from the spiritual world and according to its states and its inhabitants. And in this whole space-less spiritual world, it is the Lord alone who builds and creates.

The spirits with a man think spiritually,186 and generally do not take the material ideas of his thought as standing for material objects, but as foci and basic symbols for a field of abstract ideas upon which they dwell. The man, on the other hand, is only vaguely aware of these clustering associations of ideas which the spirits take up with delight as a part of their own thoughts, imagining that it is all from themselves. For spirits do not reflect on the sources of their thoughts. But the use of these inner fields of suggestion with man—by spirits who connect them with meanings, allusions, and values never guessed by man—enriches man’s thought with a sense of pleasure; so that he actually partakes of the delight which spirits have in his meagre ideas. And the result is that he is thus confirmed in the sphere of ideas in which he is.

Angels when they are present with a man are especially able to widen his ideas and insinuate a sense of interior value, profounder meaning, and greater delight into them. When angels inflow, the Arcana tells us, “it is not an influx of such thoughts as the man then has, but it is according to correspondences; for the angels are thinking spiritually whereas the man perceives this naturally. . . . When a man speaks of bread . . . the thought of the angels is about the goods of love. . . . Objects such as a man sees with his eyes do not appear before the spirits who are with the man, neither are words heard such as the man hears with the ear, but such as the man is thinking. . . . When the angels inflow, they adjoin affections also, and the very affections contain innumerable things within them. But of these countless things only a few are received by the man—in fact only those which are applicable to the things which are already in the memory. The remaining things of the angelic influx pass around and as it were enfold them.”187

Spirits Confirm Man’s Persuasions

This brings us back to the important principle that spirits cannot infuse new persuasions, new truths or new falsities, into the mind of a man.188 No angels from the New Heaven (for instance) can possibly inflow into the minds of mortals and change their faith, remove their falsities, and introduce truths in their place. Such angels can act only into men who have something of faith from the Heavenly Doctrine in their mind; and the effect of their presence is one of confirming them in the truths which they have already seen. This was no doubt implied by Swedenborg when he wrote to Doctor Beyer about the publication of the True Christian Religion: “I am certain of this, that after the appearance of the book referred to, the Lord our Savior will operate both mediately and immediately towards the establishment throughout the whole of Christendom of a New Church based on this ‘theology.’ The New Heaven will . . . very soon be completed . . .” (April 30, 1771).189 The Lord acts immediately from the Writings, and —so far as these are received—He acts mediately through the New Heaven.

Spirits have two kinds of life—the life of persuasion and the life of cupidity. When a spirit is in his persuasions, or in the thought from some faith which he has confirmed, he excites for his own use endless confirmations from the memory of the man with whom he is, and this without man knowing or feeling it. The spirit, since he cannot use his own corporeal memory,190 puts on the man’s knowledges, beliefs, and preconceptions, and assumes the man’s experience to be his own.191 Swedenborg was often astounded at the incredible wealth of ideas and arguments which were thus brought up.192 Things about which the spirit himself had never had any previous knowledge were at once arrayed with familiar skill and prudence, cunning and astuteness, as if by instinct !193 This has the tendency to confirm the man in his principles, by increasing his satisfaction with his own opinions. Normally, a spirit can never contradict a man! If this should occur, exceptionally, as it did with Swedenborg, spirit and man would become conscious of each other.

If a man should change his persuasions, then other spirits quickly apply themselves to him. But man “is not easily brought to renounce a preconceived persuasion”; “wherefore it is good for a man not to be persuaded in falsities, but to be confirmed in truths.”194

Yet man’s mind, even when it is enlightened by a true religion, is a very complex thing which has murky corners into which his faith has never really penetrated. It has logic-proof compartments and unexplored jungles where his hereditary evils hold sway and various false views, excuses, or stubborn reservations hold out against the faith which he professes. In such distant corners lie hidden all manner of inconsistencies from past states, undigested information and old prejudices bolstered by the pride of the proprium. With the regenerating man these old states are pushed to the sides more and more until they have little part in his mental life. But none the less they are easily observed by spirits who are in the same kind of rebellious falsities and who eagerly seize upon them as inviting fields of confirmation.195 Thus the man may be thrown into spheres of doubt and obscurity, and so far as his faith in truths is from the heart he will then suffer anxiety and temptation.

Doubts are of Providence permitted. Certain intellectual spirits who were prone to reflect and to be stuck in doubts, complained that faith—the persuasion of faith—could not be given one in a moment. But it was pointed out to them that man’s states are continually changing. What is clearly seen in one state may become doubtful later on. A sudden persuasion may satisfy one state, but it would not be adequate to answer all the questions of the next state.196 Faith takes root by degrees and grows in process of time under the Lord’s direction, like the mustard seed of the parable. And there is also another reason why “it is according to the laws of order that no one ought to be persuaded about truth in a moment in such a way … as to leave no doubt whatever about it; for the truth which is so impressed becomes persuasive truth, and lacks any extension and also any yielding quality.”197 It becomes hard, bigotted, and not easily applicable to the diverse duties of life. Therefore, in the spiritual world, when a truth is being brought out before good spirits, a doubt—something opposite—is soon afterwards presented ; so that they might think about it and consider whether it is so and collect reasons for it, and so bring the truth into their minds rationally. Only so can the truth be seen in its varieties of forms and applications, and the real essential meaning discerned. And this is done by reflection. This spiritual law was signified in the Word by the notable mention that, after Aaron had cast his rod before Pharaoh and it had become a serpent, the magicians of Egypt did likewise with their enchantments.198 Still, Aaron’s rod swallowed up all the rest.

All those laws which govern the influx of the spheres of spirits into man’s mind, have a constant regard for man’s freedom of choice. Only that which is insinuated in full freedom remains deeply inscribed on man’s being. This is the reason why thought is not insinuated into man by any spirit. The spirit inflows with an affection, and it is only when this affection accords with man’s affection that it is received by man in his thought—his interior thought—and thus tends to confirm and extend that thought more widely and more profoundly.

The life of a spirit’s thought is based upon the general ideas which are with man as upon a soil or background. But it is also and equally true that man’s entire emotional life with all its affections, is derived solely from the spirits that are with him. Few realize how much we are placed under the control of spirits when we give way to emotional states; and how these cupidities may then enkindle all manner of persuasions and fantasies.

 

 

http://www.swedenborgstudy.com/index.html

New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.

 

 

Social responsibility – Importance of religion?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

We are each conscious of our own sensations, thoughts and feelings. My thoughts are my own thoughts and yours are yours. Having this sense of individual consciousness we each feel separate from others. I live from and for myself and you live from and for yourself. It has been suggested that this sense of individuality naturally results in self-orientation, and a consequent risk of falling into an illusion of self-sufficiency. The argument goes that the trouble with relying on oneself is this can result in egoism and a lack of social responsibility. But is this true?

Lack of social responsibility

I’m reminded of a story about a young man who left his family and friends to travel abroad alone. He asked his father for what he felt he deserved and thought he could be happy spending this money only on himself. He used up all his cash wasting it on trivia, mistakenly assuming this would make him happy.

He made himself destitute and suffered hardship. Only then did he realise his mistake in assuming one can be independent of other people in one’s life. He took this lesson on the chin and went home with his tail between his legs. Those familiar with the Gospels will recognise this parable about repentance and forgiveness. But is it not also about the need for community and a sense of social responsibility?

Personal rights and social responsibility

The young man in the story insisted on what he regarded as his rights and only later realised he had duties of social responsibility. This insight is echoed in the words of an American President.

social responsibility” We, the People, recognize that we have responsibilities as well as rights; that our destinies are bound together; that a freedom which only asks what’s in it for me, a freedom without a commitment to others, a freedom without love or charity or duty or patriotism, is unworthy of our founding ideals, and those who died in their defence.” (Barack Obama)

Difficulty exercising social responsibility

Obama’s sentiments are those with which most of us can readily agree. But how do we put them into action?

Many non-religious people see the importance of altruism and mutual interdependence rather than egoism and selfishness. Many atheists and agnostics value compassion and forgiveness.

“Be kind to people on the way up – you’ll meet them again on your way down.” (Jimmy Durante)

Nevertheless putting such principles into practice can be very hard. It is one thing to be interested in others and their needs when one can benefit oneself from any formed relationship. It is another thing to be genuinely caring when there is no chance of meeting someone again and no chance of getting anything back for oneself.

Religion and social responsibility

Being a member of many types of group such as one’s family, offers a sense of identity and encourages conformity to ethical conduct. This is also true for example for sports, professional, and political groups: I’m thinking of the ethics of sportsmanship and professional confidentiality. However, it might be argued that none of these groups provide the feeling of belonging & social responsibility one can gain through membership of a religious group. Such an association can provide its members with a notion of eternal group membership, and promote the highest principles of integrity and compassion.

Arguably it is religion – through its provision of community support and moral teachings –  that has the best claim to encourage us to learn about genuine care for others. It is Christian scripture that talks about ‘love to the neighbour’. And this idea of ‘neighbour’ is taken as more than the person who happens to reside next door. We are invited to sympathetically consider the needs not just of a person with whom we have daily contact but also those of our  community, country and for that matter the whole human race.

Religious groups provide a distinctive world-view. They do this through fostering transcendent experience linked to moral education & encouragement for forgiveness, self-control and service to others. I have been to several Christian churches which I have felt have succeeded to a large extent in fostering an atmosphere of friendly care and social responsibility. It doesn’t always happen, and small congregational  numbers can greatly reduce a church’s community presence. However, when a congregation is spiritually alive and strong, it is able to address the needs of lonely individuals as well those needing comfort and relief from distress.   It also offers hope in a God who is the source of love.

Conclusion about social responsibility

All good people, whatever their beliefs are united because there is an infinite creative force for all that is humane in the world. I believe this force is the underlying God of Love and Wisdom at work in the world who inspires mutual help and the spirit of care.

We all can have a connection with this Divine Humanity through connecting well with other people.

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/2015/09/social-responsibility-religion/

http://www.spiritualwisdom.org.uk/

Posted on3rd September 2015CategoriesEthics, Ethics & Politics, Latest postTags, , , , , ,  Leave a comment