Discovering the True Significance of Mary Magdalene: An Easter Surprise

Swedenborg Foundation

 

By Soni Soneson Werner, Associate Professor Emerita of Psychology at Bryn Athyn College

 

“Mary Reaching for His Garment” by Soni Soneson Werner

With Easter Sunday soon upon us, my thoughts turn to the role and nature of Mary Magdalene in the gospel Easter story. In modern times, she has emerged as one of the most intriguing figures in the New Testament. When my interest in Mary Magdalene piqued years ago, I began collecting and critically analyzing evidence about whom she really was. I have gone to France, England, and Israel in search of stories about her and have found illustrations in stained glass, architecture, statues, paintings, and mosaics.[1] I have reviewed literature from both ancient and modern theological scholars and have studied contemporary Broadway plays, novels, and movies that engage Mary Magdalene in some way. I visited two chapels where their followers were worshipping her relics. At this point in my quest, I have come to the conclusion that she has been misrepresented by the conventional Christian traditions, by French politicians, and by artists. People have rewritten her story to fulfill their own needs and desires.

For my reading of Mary Magdalene, I look to Emanuel Swedenborg, who provides clues about her significance that are more profound than what is said about her by any of the other legends. First, let’s review what is not in Swedenborg’s works about Mary Magdalene. There is nothing about her:

  1. sex life as an adulterer or prostitute;
  2. using the ointment from the alabaster jar;
  3. being married to Jesus or being pregnant;
  4. traveling to France to spread the good news;
  5. being a saint;
  6. representing a divine feminine spirit;
  7. holding a red egg when preaching;
  8. being represented by a rose or “V”;
  9. relics being involved in spiritual practices; and
  10. in relationship to the Holy Grail.[2]

Swedenborg’s works focus on the events of Easter morning and furnish an internal sense of the importance of Mary Magdalene’s role. In the four canonical Gospels, we find stories in the plain sense of the text that describe aspects of her Easter role:

  1. Coming to find Jesus in the burial tomb/sepulcher;
  2. Seeing brightly clothed angels at the tomb;
  3. Talking to the angels and Jesus (who had not yet ascended);
  4. Witnessing the earthquake.
  5. Going to tell others the good news.

Swedenborg provides an interpretation of these remarkable events that I have not found anywhere else in either scholarly or popular literature about Mary Magdalene. Throughout his works, Swedenborg’s approach is to describe the internal sense of the biblical stories. For instance, that Mary came to the tomb (sepulcher) and “met brightly clothed angels” corresponds to her spiritual sight being opened by God. At that moment, she was ready to receive and perceive the deeper truths being shown to her:

That . . . angels appeared clothed in garments is evident from [those] who sat at the Lord’s sepulcher, and were seen in shining white garments by Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of James . . . and especially is the same thing evident from the Lord himself when seen in his glory by Peter, James, and John, in that his [clothing] was then white and glistering, and was like the light . . . by which [clothing] there was also represented the Divine spiritual, that is, the Divine truth which is from him. (Arcana Coelestia §9814:2)[3]

The earthquake Mary beheld refers to an enormous change that was about to happen in the state of the church and to the fact that Christianity was being born with the new awareness of the afterlife as demonstrated by Jesus’s ascension:

Concerning the earthquake which took place when the angel descended and rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulcher, it is thus stated:When “Mary Magdalene came and the other Mary to see the sepulcher; and, behold, there was a great earthquake; for the angel of the Lord descended from heaven, and came and rolled away the stone from the mouth, and sat upon it” (Matt. xxviii. 1, 2). Those earthquakes took place to indicate that the state of the church was then being changed; for the Lord, by His last temptation, which He sustained in Gethsemane and upon the cross, conquered the hells, and reduced to order all things there and in the heavens, and also glorified His Human, that is, made it Divine. (Apocalypse Explained §400:14)

That Mary met Jesus as he was ascending and was instructed not to touch him signifies that she was brought into the spiritual understanding that Jesus’s human aspect was being united with his divine aspect and was becoming the Divine Human:

In heaven, by [the Lord’s] death and burial, are not meant death and burial, but the purification of His Human, and glorification. That this is the case, the Lord taught by the comparison with wheat falling into the earth, which must die, in order that it may bear fruit. The same is also involved in what the Lord said to Mary Magdalene:“Touch me not, for I am not yet ascended to my Father” (John xx. 17).By ascending to His Father, is meant the [union] of His Human with His Divine, the human from the mother being completely rejected. (Apocalypse Explained §899:14)

The unity of the triune God lies in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ. There is only one God, and Mary felt confident in this truth and that he was the promised Messiah.
Then Mary was urged to tell what she had seen to the Lord’s brethren, signifying that she must go back to all of his followers and tell them what happened so that she might encourage goodness in everyone she met:

Jesus said to Mary, “Go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend to my Father” ([John] xx. 17). Similarly here the disciples are called brethren, because the disciples, equally as brethren, signify all those of His church who are in the good of charity. (Apocalypse Explained §746:8)

What an astounding significance for the role, nature, and purpose of Mary Magdalene in the biblical narrative![4] In my search to better understand Mary Magdalene, I have sorted through many of the resources and in turn have come to appreciate the following:

  1. the Eastern Orthodox Church, which never followed along with other traditions that conflated the name of Mary Magdalene with unnamed sinful women;
  2. the artists of the Medieval and Renaissance eras who created remarkable images of the Easter story;
  3. scholars, such as Karen King (see Suggested Readings, below), who have analyzed the non-canonical Gospels that mention Mary Magdalene;
  4. the Russian Romanov family, who built my favorite Magdalene shrine in Jerusalem;
  5. Swedenborg, who provided readers with a powerful and penetrating spiritual interpretation of the Easter story; and
  6. Mary Magdalene, herself, who bravely followed Jesus and spoke up even when it was against the custom of the times for women to have a voice regarding spiritual matters.

If we sort through the legends, conflations of characters, politics of religion, and fanciful tales, we are left with the simple essence of Mary’s role in the Easter story. Then, if we consider the internal sense of those powerful, biblical accounts of her experiences (based on the writings of Swedenborg), we are given a great gift: the chance to vicariously sense the Lord Jesus Christ ascending to heaven and urging us to share the Easter story. Both men and women have been writing and speaking about this story for centuries; but I am particularly appreciative of Mary Magdalene, who found her voice and blazed the trail for female scholars like myself.

[1] For a more in-depth summary of this pilgrimage, see my book entitled Searching for Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action.

[2] Soni Werner, Searching for Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action (Rochester, MI: Fountain Publishing, 2011), 81.
[3] Secrets of Heaven is the New Century Edition translation of Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia.
[4] Werner, 180. See also Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia §§720, 5063, 6472, 9263; Apocalypse Explained §§198, 586; Conjugial Love §100; Heaven and Hell §257; True Christianity §§443, 508.

Suggested Readings

Currie, Susannah. “Mary Magdalene, companion of the Lord.” Unpublished manuscript (see http://www.bridgewaternewchurch.org).

Ehrman, Bart D. Truth and Fiction in The Da Vinci Code: A Historian Reveals What We Really Know about Jesus, Mary Magdalene, and Constantine. NY: Oxford University Press, 2004.

Haskins, Susan. Mary Magdalen: Myth and Metaphor. NY: Riverhead Books, 1995.

The Holy Bible: Matthew 28:1–10; Mark 15:1–11; Luke 24: 1–11; John 20:1–18. 

King, Karen L. The Gospel of Mary of Magdala: Jesus and the First Woman Apostle. Santa Rosa, CA: Polebridge Press, 2003.

Swedenborg, Emanuel. Apocalypse ExplainedWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1997.

_____. Arcana CoelestiaWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1997.

_____. Charity: The Practice of Neighborliness. West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1995.

_____. Conjugial LoveWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 1998.

_____. Heaven and HellWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2010.

_____. True ChristianityWest Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation, 2010.

Werner, Soni. Searching for Mary Magdalene: Her Story of Awareness, Acceptance, and Action. Rochester, MI: Fountain Publishing. 2011.

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Read more posts from the Scholars on Swedenborg series >

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What happened, with the birth, life, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth? Was he the Messiah, the Christ, whose coming was prophesied many times in the Old Testament? In the Christian religion, we believe that he was. In New Christian thought, we emphasize that this miracle was that God took on a human form, being born as a baby to Mary, a virgin, in Bethlehem.

We believe that Jesus grew, learned, and prepared himself to teach, and heal, and inspire people in such a powerful way that the course of human history would change. He performed miracles here, while he lived on earth. After his crucifixion and resurrection, he was seen several times by his followers, whose spiritual eyes were opened.

In his lifetime, battling the power of hell, he opened the way for the new truths that he taught – loving the Lord, and the neighbor, and about repentance, and reformation, and forgiveness, and rebirth. These truths formed the basis of Christianity, which grew from its inception in Jerusalem and Galilee, to spread throughout many parts of the world.

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Is the Nicene Creed Biblical? Does the Nicene Creed define True Christianity?

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A Divine Revelation of True Christianity based on the revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg. See The complete works of Emanuel Swedenborg, and come join us in the community of the New Jerusalem

Is the Nicene Creed Biblical? Does the Nicene Creed define True Christianity?

The Nicene Creed, a creed invented by men in the fourth century, is taken by the majority to be considered the foundation of Christianity. It constantly comes up to define who is Christian and who is not, and one can see its influence in most Christian churches when they define their belief in God as “three persons.” However, it was completely unknown for the first three centuries of Christianity. Historians who study early Christianity will divide it into two periods: ante-Nicene and post-Nicene. The reason: the Nicene Creed changed and altered the original truth of Christianity. Today, people just follow it without question.

But what if it was found that the Nicene Creed was not based on scripture? If it is found to be against scripture, then the Nicene Creed is not only not Biblical, but it is also not Christian.

There are two kinds of people: those who follow religious authority without question, and those who question what they have been taught to see if it is true or not. The majority follow authority without question. But Jesus warned us against the traditions and doctrines of men:

Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition? (Mat. 15:3)

So for the sake of your tradition you have made void the word of God. (Mat. 15:6)

You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men. (Mark 7:8)

So let us take a close look at the Nicene Creed. There are two main variants, the original from 325 A.D., and a later version called the Niceno-Constantinopolitan Creed from 381 A.D. Is it Biblical or not? Is it a tradition of men that has made void the word of God? Let’s take a look.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A SON OF GOD BORN FROM ETERNITY?

Most people assume that the Nicene Creed defines Christianity as it always was. But this is not true. For the first time, the Nicene Creed defined a Son of God born from eternity, always existing. This was done to combat the Arian heresy, which declared that Jesus was some created being or angel who once did not exist. However to combat Arianism, they invented something new: a Son of God born from eternity. Here is the exact wording:

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made

Key words here are “begotten, not made.” The creed of 381 A.D. goes further:

“And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds (æons), Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made

This doctrine, a Son of God that is begotten from eternity, but not made, is not only inherently contradictory but is also a new doctrine. Such a concept was unknown to the Apostolic Church. That it was unknown, can be seen from the Apostle’s Creed which predates the Nicene Creed. In fact, the Nicene Creed is a modified version of the Apostle’s Creed (see The Nicene Creed: a distorted version of the Apostle’s Creed), which says this:

“I believe in God the Father almighty; and in Christ Jesus His only Son, our Lord, Who was born from the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary

The Apostle’s Creed states the Son of God was not begotten from eternity, but rather was begotten in time to the virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit. And to be more clear, the gospel of Luke states that the Son of God is the human born to the virgin Mary:

“The Holy Spirit shall come upon you, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow you: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of you shall be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

The Son of God thus came into existence for the first time with the virgin birth of Mary. Jesus had no human father, and is thus known as the Son of God. In the gospel of John, the Son of God is described as the “Word made flesh”

And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth. (John 1:14)

The Word of God made flesh is the Son of God, born in time, to the virgin Mary. This is the exact OPPOSITE of the Nicene Creed which makes the illogical statement of “begotten, not made.”

That the Son of God is the human born in time to the v declared by the apostle Paul:

Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared [to be] the Son of God with power (Rom. 1:3-4)

And again:

But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law (Gal. 4:4)

The Son of God was the human that was born to Mary in time, thus Paul says the Son of God was “made of a woman, made under the law.” Again, this is the exact OPPOSITE of what the Nicene Creed says, which makes the inherently illogical statement of “begotten, not made.” Whereas before God spoke by prophets, it was not until Jesus came that God spoke to us through his human form, the Son:

God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, Has in these last days spoken unto us by his Son (Heb. 1:1-2)

Moreover, we have this prophecy from the Old Testament:

I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. (Ps. 2:7)

This is a prophecy of the virgin birth of Jesus the Son of God (Acts 13:33, Heb. 1:5). Again it says “this day” and “begotten” – referencing the virgin birth in time. There is no such thing as a Son of God born from eternity, this is a false invention of the Nicene Creed which was invented to combat Arianism.

If, however, one understands that the human form, the incarnation, was begotten, and the soul of Jesus was Divine and thus not created, one can arrive at a true understanding of the incarnation.

JESUS HAD A PRE-EXISTENCE AS JEHOVAH

So once it is seen that the Son of God is the human born in time to the virgin Mary, some may then reject it because Jesus definitely stated he had a pre-existence before his human incarnation:

And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed. (John 17:5)

So does this mean that the Son is a “second person” that made a descent to become incarnate? No it does not, in his pre-existent form, Jesus was simply the Word of God:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. (John 1:1-3)

The Word of God, known to the Greeks as the Logos, is the Divine Truth that emanates from Divine Love. There is one Divine Being who is Divine Love and Divine Truth, who made a descent into human form as to the Divine Truth that emanates from Divine Love. This Divine Love and Divine truth corresponds to the will and understanding in each person, for we are made in His image (see God is Divine Love and Divine Truth).

So who is Jesus Christ?  He declares who he is in the gospel of John:

Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. (John 8:58-59)

The reason why the Jews picked up stones to stone Jesus is he was identifying himself with none other than Jehovah, which we know from this passage:

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.”1  And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” (Ex. 3:14-15)

In other words, Jesus is Jehovah Himself. More precisely, Jesus is Jehovah in human form. It is the human form, the Word made flesh, which is the Son of God. The Father is to the Son as the soul is to the body in Jesus Christ. That is why Jesus said the Father is in him, and he who has seen him has seen the Father.

The final objection one may bring: why is Jesus described at sitting at the right hand of the Father, as also described in the Nicene Creed of 381 A.D.? This is a figure of speeach which means all power, or omnipotence from the Divine. See The Spiritual Symbolism of the Right Hand.

THE HUMAN FORM IS THE SON OF GOD

The Nicene Creed was created in order to fight against the Arian heresy which declared Jesus was a created being separate from God. But in so doing, the Nicene Creed perverted true Christianity by postulating a Son of God born from eternity, “begotten not made.”

It is the human born to the virgin Mary which is the Son of God, and Jesus later revealed that he is Jehovah in human form. This human form was initially inferior to God and subject to temptation like all of us, but upon the resurrection the human was made one with the Father, a Divine Human. The Divine Human is the Son of God. With the creation of the Nicene Creed, endless theological disputes resulted. In the end, many were deceived to declare that Jesus has two natures, the Divine and the human. And this fit the political goal of Papal Rome who falsely declared the Pope to be the “Vicar of Christ.” The truth of the matter is that Jesus gradually put off the human from the mother, and was transformed into a Divine Human.

WHY THE DIVINE HUMAN IS CENTRAL TO TRUE CHRISTIANITY
That Jehovah would become incarnate in human form, and make the human Divine, is the central message in all of scripture. By inventing a Son born from eternity, the Nicene Creed lost sight of the original Son of God: the Word made flesh, born in time. It is the union of the Divine with the human form by which salvation was effected. And this is declared by Jesus himself:

Sanctify them through thy truth: thy word is truth. As thou hast sent me into the world, even so have I also sent them into the world. And for their sakes I sanctify myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. (John 17:17-19)

This shows that the Word of God is indeed the Divine Truth (see God is Divine Love and Divine Truth). To “sanctify” is cleanse onself from evil and falsehood through the truth. But notice this: Jesus says he must sanctify himself. Jesus could be tempted by all of hell from the imperfect human form he inherited from his human mother Mary. In this manner, a spiritual warfare arose between Jehovah and all of hell, it is through the human form that Jesus could be tempted. It is in this way that he “bore our sins.” By making his human form Divine upon the resurrection, the Lord could reach all humanity that had been cut off from heaven through the Holy Spirit.
This salvation from Jesus Christ is available to all who decide to shun evils as sins, and to walk down the path of repentance.
That the human form was made Divine, or one with the Father, is shown from Jesus’ statement after the resurrection:

All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. (Matt. 28:18)

This is not power being handed from one person to another, but rather, the human form was made Divine. God now had an external form by which He could reach all humanity through the Holy Spirit which proceeds from his human form. That the human form was made Divine is also declared by Paul:

God was manifest in the flesh, made righteous in the Spirit (1 Tim. 3:16)

Peter has a similar statement:

For Christ also suffered  once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit (1 Pet. 3:18).

Both passages contain the same word for “righteous.” But Jesus could not suffer for our sins unless he had inherited a body that had sinful tendencies from Mary. This he completely resisted until he made the external human form Divine. The Divine Human also explains the central ritual of Christianity: the Eucharist, or Communion, in which all of the church partake in the body and blood of Jesus Christ. This obviously does not mean the literal body and blood of Jesus Christ, but rather, we partake of Jesus inasmuch as we receive good and truth from Him (see The Symbolism of Communion and Salvation by Blood).

That the human born to the virgin Mary in time is in fact the Son of God, can be seen from the epistles to John. In these epistles, the apostle John fought against a form of Gnosticism which declared that Jesus was never born in the flesh with a human body:

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (1 John 4:2-3)

Again:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. (2 John 1:7)

The flesh, or the human form, is in fact the Son of God, and was made Divine upon the resurrection.

WHY THE NICENE CREED IS ERRONEOUS

In true Christianity, there is one God who is one personal being, who became incarnate in human form, and this human form was united with His Divinity. The Nicene Creed created a Son of God that was begotten from eternity yet not made, which not only is a self-contradictory statement, but it creates a second person. The true Trinity resides in the soul, body and spirit of Jesus Christ, there is no such thing as three persons.

The Nicene Creed also adds the phrase “light of light, and God of God” and this kind of statement is nowhere found in scripture.  I won’t even attempt to analyze it as its meaning is not clear.  Why not use scripture:

With the Nicene Creed, a false theology then developed. It leads to several falsehoods which pervades the theology of modern Christianity.

  • It was by making the human form Divine that salvation for humanity was effected. This is why the resurrection was a necessity. Without knowledge of the Divine Human, which is the Son of God, a new theology later developed in the west known as “vicarious atonement” or “substitutionary sacrifice,” which no theologian can logically explain.
  • The Nicene Creed forces one to create a second person from eternity, which is a falsehood. It leads to dividing God into three persons, each of them god, thus hidden within the facade of modern Christianity is a form of tritheism.
  • Many who pray the Lord’s prayer, when praying to the Father, pray to Him as another person bypassing Jesus Christ, without realizing prayers should be directed to Jesus Christ alone, for he is the Father in human form, the visible image of the invisible God.
  • As the theology is not based on scripture, nor on rational logic, much of theology became enshrouded in the “mysteries of faith” a form of blind belief, in which rational thinking is suspended (see Truth by Religious Tradition & Authority vs. Spiritual Truth).
  • In the modern age, in which the public is no longer blinded by religious authority, an irrational theology leads many to a loss of faith, to a form of atheistic naturalism.
From the Nicene Creed the anonymous Athanasian Creed later arose in the west. To see a corrected version of the Athanasian Creed which removes the falsehood of the Nicene Creed, see The Corrected New Athanasian Creed.

CHURCHES SHOULD RE-EXAMINE FALSE TRADITIONS

Hopefully this will lead some to re-examine the false traditions of men which Jesus warned against. Practically every church will list “three persons” as the top thing of what they believe in, which is an erroneous assumption invented by the Nicene Creed.

All should examine if the Nicene Creed is Biblical, instead of using the Nicene Creed to evaluate if one is Christian or not. Because if the Nicene Creed is in itself not Biblical, it in itself does not define true Christianity, and in fact perverts it. If however, one understands that Jehovah was begotten in time in human form, but as to the soul is Divine and not created, one can arrive at a true understanding of Christianity. And this would mean there is a need for true Christianity to be restored to its original form, by acknowledging God as one personal Divine being: Jesus as Jehovah in human form.

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

John at Patmos

Once upon a time the Apostle John found himself on the island of Patmos. Geographically, this island could be said to be located in the middle of two great civilizations—east and west.

But John also found himself in an unusual but similar mental place as well. He was meditating equally with both hemispheres of his brain. He needed all his brainpower to make sense out of the things he had personally witnessed and was told by his Lord Jesus Christ.

He was aware that as one of the Lord’s twelve disciples and closest followers he had received special teachings, teachings that were not given to the multitudes. Because of this intimate relationship, He was given deeper insights into the Lord’s parables. He had witnessed the Lord’s transfiguration at the top of a mountain. He saw the Lord perform miracles. He had personally witnessed the empty tomb. He also traveled with the Lord on the four-hour journey to Emmaus—after the crucifixion.

But even these amazing things were not the full reason for his amazement.

In each case the Lord had taken his brain to places where human feet could not go. It was as though the Lord was concerned with opening the minds of his disciples to new revelations. These revelations challenged the worldly belief that the Scriptures referred to mere physical events. John had experienced rarified moments where his mind caught glimpses of the Lord as the Word Incarnate, and not simply as a combative Messiah sent to squash Roman oppression. The stories contained in the books of Moses and the Prophets miraculously conveyed special details of the Lord’s life and His more important divine combat over the spiritual oppression that was taking place within the souls of men and women.

At these special meditative times, John no longer felt that he was in his physical body. He experienced this wonderful elevation of his mind when he walked up the steps to the second floor of the room in which the Lord had His Last Supper. It was as though the Lord was cleverly using the physical world to convey symbolic and spiritual meaning! He marveled that humankind was not ready for such a deep and unexpected teaching. And he himself, like the other disciples, did not fully grasp the full significance of all this. Many of the Lord’s teachings about the Holy Word and the heavenly kingdom were still obscure and remote to his normal way of thinking.

John now turned his attention and meditative power to the Lord’s words that some of his disciples would see the Kingdom of Heaven before their deaths. John wondered about this. Suddenly he felt his mind elevated from the physical world and was now in his spirit. In this state of heart and mind the obscure ideas he had about Holy Scripture became like clouds forming above his spirit. These were the same clouds that appeared to him after he, Peter and James saw Jesus transfigured atop a mountain.

Suddenly, with the eyes of his spirit, John saw Jesus appearing out of the clouds of his mental obscurity. He had witnessed the first coming of the Lord with his physical eyes. Now he was witnessing the Lord’s Second Coming with his spiritual eyes. The Lord now was about to give John an inside look at the deepest heavenly secrets contained within Scripture. This deeper look was the real revelation behind what John had witnessed and was told to write on a scroll.

Now let us fast-forward two thousand years.

Today, Jesus is also returning to clear up the clouds of mental obscurity for all those individuals who are willing, like John, to be taught new things. But such an earth shaking (paradigm changing) “event” will require humility, sincerity and an openness of the human spirit to learn from and experience the truly miraculous.

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Just how tolerant should I try to be?

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tolerantThe British live in a curiously tolerant country – one which allows a range of values, views about life, and philosophical and political belief. But one thing for which people are not tolerant is intolerance! For example an intolerant attitude towards diversity is associated in the public mind with being discriminatory, moralistic and rejecting.

And so to criticise the sex industry runs the risk of condemning prostitutes. To complain about levels of immigration is to be thought of as racist. To argue against the introduction of gay marriage is seen as homophobia.

Judgmental attitude

In one sense this idea of being tolerant is not new. Jesus Christ could be said to have exemplified it by spending time with those whose lifestyles were outside the accepted morality of his day, the tax collectors, and so on. His tolerant conduct illustrates the idea of accepting others for what they are rather than acting with social prejudice.

‘Do not judge, or you too will be judged.’ (Matt 7:1)

But ‘turning the other cheek’ and treating people who offend our values and susceptibilities with forbearance and indulgence sometimes feels a step too far. For example the value of peace and quiet in one’s neighbourhood may suit some but others may prefer a livelier scene with loud music blaring from the local pub or party goers having a good time in the street.

Limits to being tolerant

Are there no limits to being tolerant? When we stop and reflect then of course we realise there must be limits if society is to hold together. If the police in a neighbourhood tolerated robbery and violence without any attempt to arrest criminals, then chaos would ensue. Any political authority tolerating such a state of affairs would stand accused of a complete lack of compassion for the plight of innocent victims.

However there are numerous occasions when no law is broken yet those with views about what is right and wrong feel that being tolerant can merge into permissiveness or naivety. Some people want to stand up for what they feel is right but can be accused of intolerance when they do so.

How tolerant should we be of unsolicited telephone calls from call centres trying to sell unwanted things, of cyclists riding on busy pavements endangering parents with small children, of intimidating groups of youths hanging around street corners, of a sports crowd using foul language in the presence of children, or of an old driver slowly driving along a single lane road holding up a long line of traffic.

Voicing criticism

I would suggest it is possible to stand up for what one believes by voicing criticism provided this is done in a social skilled manner. Knowing how to differentiate between the behaviour one wants to complain about and the person who is giving offence is part of the answer. It is a real challenge is to try to recognize one’s unsympathetic and over-critical mindset and learn to tolerate people who anger you by disliking what they do rather than the people themselves.

But how is criticism expressed? When someone gets on their high horse their criticism sounds like they are putting down the other person. This is the mark of an intolerant attitude. Some of us are better than others in voicing criticism using wit and good humour without appearing to dominate.

Charitable attitude

I believe the core of an intolerant attitude is an uncharitable attitude. This can be recognised as a narrow mind and unsympathetic feeling. It is shown by jumping to conclusions about someone because of a desire to find fault: not bothering to look for mitigating circumstances that could partly excuse someone’s actions: and failing to look for the good rather than the bad in the person about whom you are prejudiced.

There probably is not much more likely to cause intolerant anger than matters of religious belief. Witness the hatred and violence of two branches of Christianity in 17th century England. And so I was delighted when holidaying in Monmouthshire recently to came across a beautiful small Moravian chapel near Tintern Abbey which had a notice saying

“In things essential – unity,
In non-essentials – liberty
In all things — charity”

It is charitable to remember that what appears to be right to you may be seen differently by others. And that by allowing others to do things of which you disapprove doesn’t mean you are saying they are acting in line with what you want and think is right.

I would ike to say a charitable attitude is no use if exercised unwisely. What behaviour in others to tolerate depends on one’s good sense as well as one’s charitable attitude. If this is true then don’t give a drunk money to spend on booze: don’t tolerate abusive behaviour from a family member: don’t allow the children to manipulate you.

Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

 

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

Posted on9th August 2012CategoriesEthics, Interpersonal EthicsTags, , , , ,, , , , ,, , , , ,  Leave a comment

The Importance Of Obstacles

One of the flaws in much of modern religious thought is to approach God as someone who can make our lives easier. Therefore, the ecclesiastical crowd makes every effort to offer comfort to those individuals experiencing a bumpy road—as if God is to be petitioned and expected to remove any discomfort, suffering or personal tragedy we face.

While I do not demean empathy and kindness, much of my experience with organized religion shows a prevailing attitude to overlook the holiness and spiritual necessity of “bad crap” in our lives. Yes, holiness!

Actually, “bad crap” plays a sacred role in the Trinitarian doctrine of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. To understand this we need the help of scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg because this topic embraces both physics and theology.

In physics, all energy and action is under law. Laws in the universe provide the constraints (resistance), which define the parameters and the quality of a particular force. Without constraints and obstacles the quality and measurement of an action cannot be known. There are three essentials to manifestation: 1) initiating force, 2) resisting force and 3) reconciling force (which gives us an observable and measured outcome).

This universal law in nature has its origins in the dynamical relationships of the Holy Trinity. God the “Father” represents initiating force. The “Son” represents resistance. And, the Holy Spirit is the kinetic outcome of the two.

It is beyond the scope of this short blog to prove Swedenborg’s theology that Jesus was Jehovah in the flesh, however, the prevailing idea that God is three Persons can still offer us valuable insights into the holiness and importance that “s_ _t happens.” (See my blog post titled “Three Gods or One God?”).

The purpose of Jesus coming into the world was to “do the will of the Father.” So Jehovah God represents the initiating force. Because Jesus was given a human body of flesh (with all its hereditary compulsions) and the inertia of physical matter, He had to overcome real “earthly” resistance to divine and heavenly dictates. That Jesus felt abandoned at times and showed fear were clear indications of His real battle with a finite and flawed human nature. By overcoming His human nature He conquered all human sin (resistance) and made His material body perfectly Divine and Holy—that is why there was an empty tomb.

The Lord conquered all sin but did not remove it. We must (on our own finite scale) go through a similar process by imploring the Lord’s help in identifying our own personal flaws and the power to overcome them. Swedenborg insisted that salvation could not lawfully take place without overcoming resistance, which in spiritual jargon is called temptation and misfortune.

The process of salvation is not the enhancement of a positive state—it simply leads us to a positive state. Affliction and temptation are the holy means by which God helps us to arrive at innocence and sincere goodness. Our negative side must be exposed and dealt with first. This determines the quality of our goodness.

Even those who have studied Swedenborg might argue that in his three-fold description of the Divine Trinity, the Father represented Divine Love, the Son represented the Divine Truth (He came into the world as the Truth) and the Holy Spirit represented the Divine Love coming forth through the Divine Truth.

How then does Truth serve as resistance to Love?

The answer is that Truth gives law and quality to Love. Truth is the form, constraint and parameter by which Love’s quality is put on display and measured. The Lord Jesus Christ put on display the quality of Divine Love towards the human race through His selfless sacrifice and servitude.

Jesus was Divine Truth because He gave form to Divine Love and made it visible and knowable.

http://www.provinggod.com

Posted in god, Inner growth, love, metaphysics, Reality, religion, science, spirituality, unity | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment
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The Christian Church

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Doug Webber
Spiritual Christianity for a New Age
New Jerusalem
Monotheistic Christianity of Love and Truth, based on scripture and the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. This is the New Church
The Second Coming takes place, when the Christian Church becomes entirely corrupted: “Nevertheless when the Son of man comes, shall he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8)
And it is here now:

“Because real Christianity is now beginning to dawn, and the Lord is now establishing the New Church meant by the New Jerusalem in the Apocalypse, wherein God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit are acknowledged as one because in one Person, it has pleased the Lord to reveal the spiritual sense of the Word in order that this church may come into the very use and benefit of the sacraments, Baptism and the Holy Supper; and this is done when men see with the eyes of their spirit, that is, with the understanding, the holiness concealed therein, and apply it to themselves by the means which the Lord has taught in His Word.” (True Christianity, n. 700)