End of the world – What does it mean?

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

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

End of the world and personal communication

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

End of the world of Christendom

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

End of the world and spiritual famine

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

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

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

End of the world of shared understanding

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

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

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

End of the world of a distorted God

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

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

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

Swedenborg’s explanation of the end of the world

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

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

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

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

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

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

SETTLE IN YOUR HEARTS

SETTLE IN YOUR HEARTS

A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. Rose

Preached in Bryn Athyn June 25, 1995

“Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist” (Luke 21:14,15).

The Lord said these things to followers who were later persecuted and brought before councils. Their accusers thought by confronting them they could weaken the cause of Christianity. But it turned out differently. Those confrontations became opportunities for the strengthening and growth of Christianity.

The boldness and eloquence of the disciples, although they were just fishermen, was nothing short of astonishing. Of one outspoken disciple it is said, “And they were not able to resist the wisdom and the Spirit by which he spoke” (Acts 6: 10). In the 4th chapter of Acts we read of two disciples who were confronted: “Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were uneducated and untrained men, they marvelled” (Acts 4:13). (King James Version says “unlearned and ignorant men.”) They had a boldness and assurance, and their answers were powerful.

They were somehow triumphant even when they were beaten and imprisoned, and in some cases put to death (see Luke 21:16). We will mention one example of that in a moment.

The text applies of course to us and, we might say, in a much less dramatic fashion. We will not likely be brought before courts and kings nor openly challenged and assailed by enemies.

But we do stand to be attacked by the enemies of our spiritual life. And the more we learn about the assaults of evil spirits on followers of the Lord, the more do we see that it too is dramatic and momentous. Falsities from hell itself assail the person who is being tempted, and the Writings say that to every falsity the hells inject, there is an answer from the Divine.

What we experience in temptation is anxiety, discouragement even to despair. We do not know that evil spirits from hell are fighting against us, nor do we know that the Lord is fighting for us, and the answers from the Divine to the false accusations and undermining thoughts do not come clearly to our consciousness. Here is what the Writings say: “As regards temptations … the hells fight against man, and the Lord for man; to every falsity the hells inject, there is an answer from the Divine …. The answer from the Divine flows into the internal or spiritual man … and in such a manner that it scarcely comes to the perception otherwise than as hope and consequent consolation, in which there are nevertheless innumerable things of which the man is ignorant” (AC 8159:3). (In that answer which we feel only as hope and comfort there are countless blessings that the person has no knowledge of” – new translation.)

Here is the context of the words of the text: “… they will lay their hands on you and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues and prisons, and you will be brought before kings and rulers for My name’s sake. But it will turn out for you an occasion for testimony. Therefore settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer; for I will give you a mouth and wisdom which all your adversaries will not be able to contradict or resist. … [N]ot a hair of your head shall be lost. In your patience possess your souls” (Luke 21:12-19).

The very first Christian to die for his beliefs found that the confrontation was indeed an occasion for testimony. He was falsely accused and brought before a council to answer. His eloquent speech takes up the whole of the 7th chapter of the book of Acts. It is said, “When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. … [T]hey cried out with a loud voice, stopped their ears, and ran at him with one accord and they cast them out of the city and stoned him” (Acts 7:54,57).

That speech which so affected them had begun thus: “… brethren … listen: the God of glory appeared to our father Abraham” and he told the story through Jacob, Joseph, Moses and Solomon, and when he was finished he gazed up into heaven and saw the glory of God. And as they rained stones on him he said, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’ and ‘Lord, do not charge them with this sin.’ And when he had said this he fell asleep” (Acts 7:2,59,60). It is said that those who looked at him “saw his face as the face of an angel” (Acts 6:15).

A radiant peace surrounded him. The Lord had promised that nothing would harm them. They were at peace even in death.

“Settle it in your hearts not to meditate beforehand on what you will answer.” Think deliberately about the future, and think of how not to think of the future. In one of the Lord’s parables a man is called foolish because he did not think ahead intelligently. “Foolish one, tonight your soul will be required of you, and then whose will those things be which you have provided?”

Oh, he had thought and meditated within himself about the future. But what was the level of his thinking? To quote the Gospel: “And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do? … I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater … And I will say to my soul, Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years …” (Luke 12:17-21).

He could look down the road years ahead. He could figure out what he was going to do, and what he was going to say, and God called him a fool. How does our future look to us? How much strength and endurance do you have for what lies in store for you? Can you handle what is yet to come? Do you have the wit? Will you have the wit to respond to what may come to pass?

We live in the illusion that our strength, our intelligence, our very life is from ourselves. How big is our reservoir of energy or endurance or prudence? Since it seems that life is our own, we think in terms of calling on our reserves. Once the disciples set off in a boat on a journey with the Lord. And it had slipped their mind that they should have stored some provision. To quote from the Gospel of Mark, “Now the disciples had forgotten to take bread, and they did not have more than one loaf with them in the boat” (8:14). That was what was on their mind, and the Lord said to them, “Why do you reason because you have no bread? Do you not yet perceive nor understand? … do you not remember? When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many baskets full of fragments did you take up? How is it that you do not understand?”

He got them to answer the question, and He could ask them on a much later occasion, “When I sent you without money bag, sack and sandals, did you lack anything? So they answered, Nothing” (Luke 22:35). Think of the uncertain times of youth that you have passed through. You made it through your teens. Has the Lord kept you safe thus far? Has He provided?

It is too bad that some people have concluded that it is virtuous not to make provision for the future. It’s understandable. The Lord has given us the message that He will provide. Seek the kingdom of God, and these things will be added to you. But the Writings say this does not mean we should not provide ourselves with food, clothing, “and even resources for the time to come; for it is not contrary to order for anyone to be provident for himself and his own.” The new translation speaks of “resources for the future; for it is not contrary to order to make provision for oneself and one’s dependents” (J. Elliott’s translation).

But there is the matter of putting trust in the Divine. Notice the verb tribuo, something you do. It is translated to “attribute” or to “ascribe.” See how it is used in this teaching about charity in a person engaged in business. “He thinks of the morrow, and yet does not think of it. He thinks of what should be done on the morrow, and how it should be done; and yet does not think of the morrow, because he ascribes the future to the Divine Providence and not to his own prudence.” And then it adds, “Even his prudence he ascribes to the Divine Providence” (Charity 167).

Does that fortunate person who ascribes the future to the Divine just do this at one point in life? Or is it not something to be done deliberately through the progressing stages of life?

Settle it in your hearts. Deliberately ascribe the future to the Lord’s Providence, and do so, if you can, until you can feel a sense of relief as if someone had removed a false burden from you.

Do not think of this merely as “either/or,” as if to say, either you trust in Divine Providence or you do not. It can be a quantitative thing. Some attribute a little bit to the Divine Providence and a lot to themselves (see AC 2694:2). The Writings use the phrase “the more”: the more they ascribe, the stronger or wiser they are (see AC 4932). In our lives we gradually come to ascribe more to the Lord and less to ourselves (see TCR 610 and 105).

The disciples were to learn that peace, the wonderful prize of peace, is to be found in the Lord Himself. He said, “These things I have spoken to you that in Me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation, but be of good cheer. I have overcome the world” (Luke 16e). En to cosmo thlipsin exete alla tharsete – In the world you will have affliction, trouble, but take heart. Have courage. I have defeated. I have conquered. I have overcome the world.

Our picture of the future can become less a matter of speculation and worry and more and more a picture of the Lord as one in whom to confide and one who grants peace. Peace has in it confidence in the Lord that He will provide, and that He leads to a good end. “When someone is in this faith, he is in peace, for he then fears nothing and no solicitude about future things disquiets him” (AC 8455).

We sometimes say that the future looks dark. And the unknown is a kind of darkness. But when we ascribe the future to the Lord, we may say at any time in history or at any stage of our life, that the future has light in it, being in the hands of Him who is the light of the world.

Settle it in your hearts anew today. Ascribe the future to the Lord. And He will give you what to think and do, and He will give you peace. Amen.

Lessons: Matt. 10:16-31, DP 179, AC 2493


Divine Providence 179

As a foreknowledge of future events destroys the human itself, which is to act from freedom according to reason, therefore it is not granted to anyone to know the future; but everyone is permitted to form conclusions concerning future events from the reason; hence reason with all that pertains to it enters into man’s life. It is on this account that a man does not know his lot after death, or know of any event before he is involved in it. For if he knew this, he would no longer think from his interior self how he should act or how he should live in order to meet the event, but he would only think from his exterior self that he was meeting it. Now this state closes the interiors of his mind in which the two faculties of his life, liberty and rationality, especially reside. A longing to know the future is innate with most people, but this longing derives its origin from the love of evil. It is therefore taken away from those who believe in the Divine Providence, and there is given them a trust that the Lord is disposing their lot. Consequently they do not desire to know it beforehand lest they should in any way set themselves against the Divine Providence. This the Lord teaches by many passages in Luke (12:14-48).

That this is a law of the Divine Providence may be confirmed by many things from the spiritual world. Most persons when they enter that world after death desire to know their lot. They are told that if they have lived well their lot is in heaven, and if they have lived wickedly it is in hell. But as all, even the wicked, fear hell, they ask what they should do and what they should believe to enter heaven. They are told that they may do and believe as they will, but that they should know that in hell, good is not done and truth is not believed, but only in heaven. To each one the answer is: “Seek out what is good and what is true; then think the truth and do the good, if you are able.” So in the spiritual world as in the natural world all are left to act from freedom according to reason; but as they have acted in this world so do they act in the spiritual world. His own life awaits everyone and consequently his own lot, for the lot pertains to the life.

Arcana Coelestia 2493

1 have spoken with the angels concerning the memory of things past, and the consequent anxiety regarding things to come; and I have been instructed that the more interior and perfect the angels are, the less do they care for past things, and the less do they think of things to come; and also that from this comes their happiness. They say that the Lord gives them every moment what to think, and this with blessedness and happiness; and that they are thus free from cares and anxieties. Also, that this was meant in the internal sense by the manna being received daily from heaven; and by the daily bread in the Lord’s Prayer; and likewise by the instruction not to be solicitous about what they should eat and drink, and wherewithal they should be clothed. But although the angels do not care for past things, and are not solicitous about things to come, they nevertheless have the most perfect recollection of past things, and the most perfect mental view of things to come; because in all their present there are both the past and the future. Thus they have a more perfect memory than can ever be thought of or expressed.

ANGELS

ANGELS

A Sermon by Rev. Ragnar BoyesenPreached in Freeport, Pennsylvania, in October 1985

The Heavenly Doctrines explain to us the nature of angels, their existence, occupations and how they came to be what they are. Only when the Heavenly Doctrines stood forth to describe spiritual reality was man able to know a coherent doctrine regarding their life.

In the Old Testament, for instance, we are told hardly anything concerning angels. It is true that the Lord promised to send His angel to Israel, and that the Jews learned to regard them as messengers from God. They were called “elohim” — the holy ones — or as it is put in Greek: angelos. The Hebrew expression “elohim” was used to refer to different messengers from God; therefore it is plural. Sometimes these were the prophets, the priests, or grand phenomena in nature, as, for instance, the pillar of light or the pillar of cloud seen by the Israelites in the desert as they were led out of Egypt. All of the signs, the wind, plagues done in the name of the Lord, were called elohim.

The most specific expression is “the angel of Jehovah”; such were identified as “sons of God,” with which the Jews ascribed qualities in themselves which made them believe that they were the chosen people of God. Angels therefore became messengers to them specially approved of by God. The most specific use of the name elohim revolves around the Lord Jesus Christ, the one who was to be the promised one, the King, the Messiah who would carry God’s message of universal salvation of the Jews. After the captivity in Babylon, the Jews developed a complicated angeology. Angels came to be ranged in seven ascending categories. In later contact with Hellenistic thought, it came to be thought that angels were not personal beings but rather emanations from God. Wherever there was a need for an angel it was created in an instant by God. Those of the Jews, however, who came to regard the Palestinian concept as the more correct one believed angels to be individual and personal, but eternal spirits created as such. Since they had been created before the earth existed, angels came to be otherworldly and different. As messengers of God, in time angels came to have less standing than the living Jews, who were the chosen people of God.

This concept of angels as a separate creation of God was imported into Christianity: they were especially created by God, and were to be called His holy family. Like the ancient Greek ideas of the fallibility of gods, the holy angels came to be seen capable of failure, expressed in the belief that one group of angels revolted against God, to go off and form hell. The struggle of good and evil came to be symbolized by the angels of light versus the angels of darkness.

Because the importation of Greek and Babylonian/Judaic thought into Christian thinking caused men to slowly lose sight of the need to prepare themselves to become angels, the Heavenly Doctrines were given to make clear to all who want to understand that angelhood is part of the Lord’s Divine plan for each of us.

But some will say, Why do we need to talk about angels, and all the vague notions of eternal life, when there is such a need for all churches to fight poverty, need, criminality and sickness? Why do we not concentrate on the world, here and now, on America today? Would it not be more New Church to ease the burdens people bear?

Indeed it would if we would remember the original meaning of the term angel: “a messenger from God.” If there is anything which we humans need in all situations of life it is to be reminded that we live in the world for a purpose beyond the world, and that the life we live in the world will be markedly qualified by the type of belief we have of a life to come.

If you think about it, you know so well how the world is filled with organizations to help the needy on the local, national and international levels. All these fight on the natural plane with the natural problems of people, and should rightly do so to enhance society. Yet who in the world is willing to fight for the alleviation of the spiritual problems of the world today? If it is true that God needs messengers to bring the good news from the spiritual world down to the natural world, is it not much more important in our day that there be true reporting on spiritual reality? Without tools the Lord cannot, work. We, as human beings still in the world, are His tools. We are the angelos He wants to send to our neighbors to reassure them that there are qualities which must come from God to each human being in order that we one day may come close to God. We are, therefore, in steady need of reminders of the Lord’s purpose in creation. He made man in His own image and likeness that man one day may be an angel. Every time we fasten our thoughts on eternity we are to remind ourselves and others that heaven is the ultimate home of every sincere man and woman.

We are reminded of the young man who wanted to be an angel and asked the Lord, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?” The Lord answered, “If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments” (Matt. 19:17).

Life, we are told in the Writings, is the Lord Himself (see AC 2628:5). The Lord as life is heaven, while the angels constitute heaven (see HH 7). Heaven is kept in order by the law that proceeds from the Lord, who is the inmost of heaven. The ten commandments, as we know them from the Old Testament, are the most concrete summary of these laws, and have sprung out of the heavenly law. “In heaven [the ten commandments] do not sound as they do on earth, for in the heavens they are in a spiritual form, but on the earth in a natural form” (AC 8862).

When these laws are earnestly taken into the life of a human on this earth, they will cause a mental crisis, where the powers of good and truth attempt to order the mind from within. The uproar caused by truth is actually proof that truth is working, and that selfish thoughts and expressions of will rebel against them. Our false plans and evil inclinations can only be seen in the true light of the spiritual world, brought to us through angels who want to help us. To be an angel, then, means to learn how to live according to the ten commandments, both in their external and internal application. By using these laws as the yardstick of our willingness to follow the Lord’s will, we can find greater love and wisdom as we clearly receive the help of angels who love to think of us as angels in the making. “To believe and think, as is the truth, that every good and truth is from the Lord and every evil and falsity from hell appears like an impossibility; and yet it is the truly human principle, and therefore truly angelic” (DP 321:4). In the world we believe for the most part that it would destroy our freedom to ascribe everything to the Lord, but the angels know better. “With every man, and with every angel,” the Arcana tells us, “even the most celestial [angel], that which is his own is nothing but falsity and evil. For it is known that the heavens are not clean before the Lord, and that all good and all truth are of the Lord alone. But so far as a man or an angel is capable of being perfected, so far of the Lord’s Divine mercy he is perfected, and receives, as it were, an understanding of truth and a will of good. But his having these is only an appearance” (AC 633).

It is common among humans in the world to believe that they have their own life, because they feel individually separated and master of their lives to some degree. But neither angels nor men actually have life in themselves, even if they feel life in themselves. If this life were their own possession, they would be gods. Our reading today made it clear that what is angelic in the heavens is the Divine love and the Divine wisdom. This Divine love and wisdom is called angelic when it is in angels (see DLW 114).

When this is said, we must also remind ourselves that it is impossible for man or angel to receive the Lord unless there is a feeling of self-life. To feel that life is one’s own is a true and necessary appearance. However, to confirm that we are indeed captains of our lives is harmful. We have but one source of life — the Lord. Yet we have only one feeling of life — as if life were in ourselves. If angels and men could not have this feeling of life in themselves as integral to what they think and do, they could not function. If this feeling of life in ourselves were not there, we would not be able to receive the inflowing life from the Lord. “Who can wish to love the Lord and his neighbor, and who can wish to be wise, without a sense and perception that what he loves, learns, and imbibes is, as it were, his own? Who otherwise can retain it in himself? If this were not so, the inflowing love and wisdom would have no abiding place, for it would flow through and not affect; thus an angel would not be an angel, nor would man be a man” (DLW 115).

What is important to note here is that the sensation that life is in man belongs to both men and angels, but that only angels, and men who are training to become angels, really can acknowledge that life is not their own but a gift to care for and cherish. In the same degree that people believe that love and wisdom really is a function of their own lives, as if it were their own possession, they arrest the love and wisdom, because in the same degree they are not angelic. Everyone who claims life to belong to himself as his own property denies that he lives from the Lord, and believes that he lives from himself. If we are to live from the Lord, we will gladly acknowledge His life as our life, and rejoice in this dependence as a son on his father.

Everyone who wants to be an angel is given the opportunity and the ability to answer the Lord’s Divine love. This ability does not belong to any angel or man, but is the Lord’s with him.

What, then, makes man separate and worthy of Divine attention? Divine Love and Wisdom answers: “In everything created by God there is reaction. In life alone there is action; reaction is caused by the action of life. Because reaction takes place when any created thing is acted upon, it appears as if it belonged to what is created. Thus in man it appears as if the reaction were his, because he has no other feeling than that life is his, when yet man is only a recipient of life. From this cause it is that man, by reason of his hereditary evil, reacts against God. But so far as man believes that all his life is from God, and that all good of life is from the action of God, and all evil of life from the reaction of man, so far his reaction comes to be from [God’s] action, and man acts with God as if from himself” (DLW 68 — emphasis added).

Man can never reach God from his own power. No angel of the heavens has been created in heaven for a life in heaven, but has first been a man with his own ability to react to the Lord. It is the will of the Lord that all human beings receive life both on the three degrees of natural life and the three degrees of spiritual life. Even as some believe that angels have more of the Divine in them than men on the earth, the reality is that the Lord is equally present with all men, wise or simple, but that how we receive the Lord makes all the difference. The difference is not in the Lord. He would have liked to make all men angels. The difference is in man — in his ability and willingness to follow Divine laws, and to make these laws his own with Divine aid. The greater this mutuality grows because of man’s striving to live according to Divine will, the greater the joy, beauty and expression of that Divine life, which when received by man or angel is called angelic.

 

“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things have I spoken to you that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:10, 11).

Amen.

 


Lessons: Matt. 19:16-30, DLW 114, 115

Divine Love and Wisdom

114. The Lord not only is in heaven, but also is heaven itself; for love and wisdom are what make the angel, and these two are the Lord’s in the angels; from which it follows that the Lord is heaven. For angels are not angels from what is their own; what is their own is altogether like what is man’s own, which is evil. An angel’s own is such because all angels were once men, and this own clings to the angels from their birth. It is only put aside, and so far as it is put aside the angels receive love and wisdom, that is, the Lord, in themselves. Anyone, if he will only elevate his understanding a little, can see that the Lord can dwell in angels only in what is His, that is, in what is His very own., which is love and wisdom, and not at all in the selfhood of angels, which is evil. From this it is that so far as evil is put away, so far the Lord is in them, and so far they are angels. The very angelic of heaven is love Divine and wisdom Divine. This Divine is called the angelic when it is in angels. From this, again, it is evident that angels are angels from the Lord, and not from themselves; consequently, the same is true of heaven.

115. But how the Lord is in an angel and an angel in the Lord cannot be comprehended unless the nature of their conjunction is known. Conjunction is of the Lord with the angel and of the angel with the Lord; conjunction, therefore, is reciprocal. On the part of the angel it is as follows. The angel, in like manner as man, has no other perception than that he is in love and wisdom from himself, consequently that love and wisdom are, as it were, his or her own. Unless he so perceived, there would be no conjunction, thus the Lord would not be in him, nor he in the Lord. Nor can it be possible for the Lord to be in any angel or man unless the one in whom the Lord is, with love and wisdom, has a perception and sense as if they were his. By this means the Lord is not only received but also, when received, is retained, and likewise loved in return. And by this, also, the angel is made wise and continues wise. Who can wish to love the Lord and his neighbor, and who can wish to be wise, without a sense and perception that what he loves, learns, and imbibes is, as it were, his own? Who otherwise can retain it in himself? If this were not so, the inflowing love and wisdom would have no abiding place, for it would flow through and not affect; thus an angel would not be an angel, nor would man be a man; he would be merely like something inanimate. From all this it can be seen that there must be an ability to reciprocate that there may be conjunction.

Compensation

Compensation

It is claimed for reincarnation that it explains our present experience and shows why we suffer or enjoy as we do. In suffering we are punished for wrongdoing in a past incarnation. In present well- being we are rewarded for bearing hardships.

The teaching implies that the poor must accept poverty and look for compensation, not in this present existence, but in a future incarnation. In fact, each incarnation is said to compensate for past ones. The rich man of today may return a thousand years from now in the dress of poverty. Someone who exploits others may return to earth and be exploited.

The law of retaliation has a prominent place in the theory. Even if we are completely unaware of wrongs done in a former incarnation, we will have to pay the bill. It seems to me that the payment can hardly be helpful or reforming if we have no idea what it is for. It is more likely to bring on bitterness and rebellion. In actual fact, we experience the consequences of our actions in the present life, and our wrongs are not held against us if we do not persist in them. The rigid caste system in India is supported by the widely accepted teaching of reincarnation. The person of low caste is told he must be content with his lot. His present position is attributed to his behavior in former incarnations, and he is taught that submission to an obviously bad condition will lead to a better position in a future incarnation.

Social change is impossible under the tyranny of this kind of belief. Indeed, the belief is fatalistic, and leads to tame resignation. It overlooks the saving power of the Lord, which is always at work and can set us free from the tyranny of circumstances if we cooperate with it.

Those who suggest that Christianity should adopt the teaching of reincarnation must hardly realize that they are advocating an impossible union. Christianity calls for change in the present, and newness of life here and now. It is concerned with present issues, dealing with things as they are. It

does not evade the urgent call of the present in speculating about remote causes.