Ten Questions About The Life After Death

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Ten Questions About The Life After Death

A lecture by The Rt. Rev. Philip N. Odhner,
based upon the teachings given through Emanuel Swedenborg.

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  • Is the spiritual world a real place? Are there lands and cities, mountains, oceans and forests there, as on this earth?
  • Does our personality survive the death of the natural body? Will we look the same in body and face? Will we have the same loves and thoughts?
  • Do we meet again those whom we have known and loved, our married partners, children, parents and friends?
  • Does marriage continue after death?
  • What is the form of society in the spiritual world?
  • Will we have occupations and employments there?
  • Are we judged there according to the quality of our life on earth?
  • Does everyone go to heaven?
  • Do we see God there?
  • How can we tell whether that which we hear about heaven is true?

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The knowledge of eternal life is most important to the good of religion with men. The question of whether there is a life after death, and of what quality is that life is one of vital concern to us, not only when we are confronted with the death of those whom we love or with our own death, but also in connection with our consideration of every problem of religion. Without a knowledge of eternal life we cannot possibly understand God’s purpose in creating us, and without this we cannot grasp the nature of His Love, nor the nature of His will with us. Ignorance of the spiritual world may lead men to the doubt and denial of all things spiritual, and thus leave our religion a mere materialistic, worldly thing, without reason and without life.

Emanuel Swedenborg, the Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian of the Eighteenth Century, stated that he was permitted by the Lord to be with the angels, and to speak with them as man with man, and that he was commissioned by the Lord to write down and publish the things thus revealed to him for the sake of mankind. To quote from the introduction of his work, “Heaven and Hell,” “The man of the Church at this day knows scarcely anything about heaven and hell, or about his life after death, although all things are set forth and described in the Word; yea, many even who have been born within the Church deny them, saying in their heart, ‘Who has come thence and told us?’ Lest therefore such a spirit of denial, which prevails especially with those who have much worldly wisdom, should also infect and corrupt the simple in heart and the simple in faith, it has been granted to me to associate with angels and to talk with them as man with man, and also to see the things which are in the heavens, and those which are in the hells, and this for thirteen years; also from what I have thus heard and seen I am now permitted to describe these, in the hope that ignorance may thus be enlightened, and unbelief dissipated.” (Heaven and Hell, no. l)

Because we believe that the wonderful things revealed about heaven and hell through Swedenborg constitute an entirely new basis for the thought of mankind in the understanding of spiritual things, we present here the answers given in his Writings to ten questions commonly asked about the life after death.

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1. Is the spiritual world a real world?

The spiritual world is a real world. By comparison with it, this world is relatively unreal. In the spiritual world there are all things that are in this world, and many more of which we are not conscious while we live here in the body. There are lands, and cities, forests, fields and oceans, as in this world. Everyone there has a body as in this world, with its five senses, and a mind, with its love and thought. The only difference is that the senses are keener after the death of the material body, the thought clearer, and the love more free.

So real is that world that if you were to die at this moment you would come into the consciousness of your spirit without noticing any difference in your surroundings. You would see the same room, the same city with its buildings. You would not realize in any way that you had passed into another world except that you would be surrounded by different people. Swedenborg relates that many men, on coining into the consciousness of the spirit, which takes place shortly after their death, refuse to believe that they are not still in the natural world before they have been instructed and shown by many wonderful experiments that this is indeed the case.

Many at this day think of angels and spirits as ghost-like creatures of no substance and form, as breaths of wind with no feeling or determined thought. This is because of the materialistic thought that prevails in the world, even in the churches, which supposes nothing to be real unless it is material, and unless it can be perceived through the senses of the physical body. Such people say that if there were a spiritual world, they could see it, and that surely by the aid of all our scientific instruments, by which we pierce into the inmost things of nature and by which we see into the farthest corners of the universe, we could detect some evidence of it.

The simplest reflection on the nature of your own spirit should be sufficient to dispel the fantasies of this materialistic thought. Consider for yourself, do you not live? Do you not have loves and thoughts? Are these not real things? The fact is that your love and thought are what direct your whole life, and that they are so real that nothing else can have any reality to you except that which touches or affects your love and thought. Can you mention anything that has any real meaning, apart from those things that enter and affect the love and thought of men? In a very true sense, love and its thought are the only real things to you. And yet has anyone ever seen love or thought with his eyes, or felt it with the hand? Can you measure them with a yardstick, or weigh them on scales? Has any microscope ever revealed any evidence of what they are in themselves? Or has any telescope revealed their presence in the far reaches of the universe? And yet would you say that for this reason they are not real, and that they have no substance and form?

The truth is that man’s spirit and all things of it have nothing in common with nature and the material world, except while the spirit lives in the natural body. It has a spiritual substance and form which are the verimost realities, and yet which are not material and therefore have not the properties of matter. It exists in a spiritual world of its own, apart from the spaces and times of the natural world. Many people ask, Where is heaven? To this the Lord replied, “The “kingdom of heaven is within you.” By this the Lord did not mean inside your body, in any spatial sense, but that the spiritual world is in the realm of your love and thought. These are spaceless, and yet they are within all natural things that have life. The spiritual world is therefore in and around us, as the reality which creates and brings forth all things in the natural world, just as our own spirit forms our body in the womb. When our body dies we come into the consciousness of that inner world. We do not fly off to some star at the end of the universe; we merely come into a consciousness of that which is within and above the material sphere. We then sense spiritual things even as the spirit in the body sensed natural things.

That the spiritual world is more real than the natural world can be seen from this, that in this world men can hide their real thoughts and feelings by means of the natural body and their material surroundings. They can pretend to be that which they are not, using natural things to mask their true character. So much is this so that we often hear people say that the whole world is nothing but a sham, most of the men in it being hypocrites to such an extent that You can’t count on their being what they appear to be. In the spiritual world this is not so. There the love and thought of men appear in their own true form. There is nothing with which to hide that form. Thus in the spiritual world things really are what they appear to be, whereas in this natural world they often are not what they appear to be. In this world a man may appear selfish when he is unselfish. He may appear old when in spirit he is young. He may appear generous when at heart he is a miser, and so on. In the spiritual world this is not so. The body and form of man in that world reflects in every detail the true character of his love and thought.

2. Does our personality survive the death of the body?

After death a man lives on in every respect the same as before except that he is no longer clothed with a material body, but lives in a spiritual body which is the true form of his love. Man retains everything of his love and its affections, every thing of his thought, everything of his memory. The whole of what we call his personality continues without the least change. Indeed the truth is that a man’s character there comes into its own, for there is much in our spirit which we cannot express in this world due to imperfections of the natural body, but the spiritual body is of living spiritual substance and not of dead material substance, and in it the love and thought of man are imaged forth perfectly. The face, the hands, everything of the spiritual body reveal to all the character of the man. Certain changes would be brought about in our external appearance because of this. Those of deformed body in this world would not so appear in the other world, since such deformity is of the material alone, and not of the spirit. Those who are old and worn out with age would appear once again young and beautiful, since age with its decrepitude and wrinkles are of the material body, and not of the spirit. On the other hand, those of a deformed spirit, those who are selfish and avaricious and cruel, would appear in the spiritual world as ugly and monstrous, thus as their true selves, no matter how young and beautiful they may have seemed here.

3. Do we meet again those whom we have known and loved?

Distance in the spiritual world is entirely according to the quality of a man’s love. Those are spiritually far from us whose loves are very different from our own, and those are near to us who have a similar love. From this law of the spiritual world we often speak in this life, saying that those we love are “very near” to us, and that those for whom we have no affection are remote from us. From this law of the spirit we can see that all who love each other meet in the life after death. Husbands and wives, children, parents, friends, all who love each other are re-united, and live together or near each other according to the nearness of their loves.

In heaven, however, only genuine loves survive. If we have loved someone here on a false basis, thinking them to be that which they are not, this is there made known and a consequent separation takes place. There are no natural relationships in the other life, but spiritual relationships, which arc those of love. A man then is not your brother because he had the same natural father and mother, but only if his love is of a similar quality. If there is a spiritual affinity as to love, then a natural brother is also your spiritual brother; if not, then a separation takes place, even as happens in this world between brothers who have nothing in common spiritually.

In a wide sense all in heaven are brothers, or sisters, since they all acknowledge the Lord as their common Father, but they are close or remote according to their loves. From this fact it also follows that the relationship of parents towards their children becomes a brotherly and sisterly relationship, and does not remain that of parents towards their children. This is in accord with the Lord’s words, “Call no man your father upon the earth; for one is your Father, which is in heaven.” (Matthew 23:9.) Still it is a spiritual as well as a natural law that children derive from their parents a similar genius and a similar love. For this reason it would follow that those who have been in this relation on earth would for the most part live near each other in the life after death, if their spiritual development has been similar.

The joy of the reunion in heaven of those who have loved each other on the earth is boundless, and can only be measured by their joy in continuing to live together in the perpetual growth of their love and friendship into eternity.

4. Does marriage continue after death?

The teaching of the Writings of Swedenborg is that the genuine love of one man and one wife is the most blessed and happy that God gives to human beings. This love is called Conjugial Love, and is an inmost union of the two in love and thought and in every word and deed. In all true marriages on earth something of this love is present, and such a marriage continues on into eternity and is the inmost source of all heavenly joy and happiness. Those marriages on earth in which there is nothing of this true love are of themselves dissolved at death, since such marriages have been of the body alone, and not of the spirit. In this case, if the husband and wife are such as can enter into heavenly society, that is, if they are nevertheless unselfish people who have love to God and love towards their neighbors, a suitable partner is found for each of them with whom they can receive Conjugial Love, and with whom they can live in increasing happiness into eternity. Here again the same law holds true, that a similar love unites, and a dissimilar love separates; but in the case of man and wife the love is not only similar, but it is one with them both.

The Lord said, “They who are held worthy to attain to another age and to the resurrection from the dead, neither marry nor are given in marriage; for they cannot die anymore.” This has been interpreted to mean that the angels are sexless, and that they do not live in a married state. But reflection will show that this teaching does not refer to the marriage of man and woman, but to the marriage of love and faith in each heart and mind. Otherwise, why should the words be added, “For they cannot die anymore”? It would make no sense to say this in connection with the marriage of man and woman. On the other hand the spiritual marriage of man’s love and faith in a good life is what brings him spiritual life. If this spiritual marriage has not taken place on earth, it cannot take place in heaven; and if it has taken place on earth, nothing can ever bring about its destruction in the life after death. Compare also the teachings in Genesis 5: 1, 2, “In the day that God created man in the likeness of God made He him; male and female created He them; and blessed them and called their name Adam.” Here it is evident that man and woman together are the likeness of God and His image. They together are as the Lord said, “one flesh,” and to think that they do not remain such after death is contrary to all the perception of those who are blessed with that true love which is called Conjugial.

Swedenborg testifies that all in the heavens live in the married state with that partner who is one with them in love.

5. What is the form of society in the spiritual world?

The teaching is that the angels for the most part live in societies, larger and smaller, corresponding to the cities and towns of this earth. Some also live apart, as it were in rural districts. Each society has its own form of government, just as each country in this world. The form of government is adapted to the genius of the people in those societies. But they are all alike in this, that the government is one of mutual love, and is administered through instruction. There is no necessity of compulsion since all in the heavens are in the love of the common good.

Wealth in heaven is measured only by the reception of wisdom from the Lord. This the angels receive each in accord with the use which he performs to his society. All their necessities, such as their spiritual food, clothing, and shelter, are given to them freely, in accordance with the needs of their functions and offices. There are rich and poor there, in the sense that some receive more of wisdom than others, and some perform more exalted uses than others. There is however no sense of proprietorship, as all acknowledge that what they have is from and of the Lord alone, and each one wills that all that is his should belong to everyone else. According to the teaching in the New Testament, the rulers consider themselves as the servants of all. All contribute to the common good, and receive the requirements of their happiness from the common good.

In this the form of heaven is as the form of the human body, in which each part contributes to the health of the whole, and each receives from the whole that which is necessary for its own good health. In fact the societies of heaven perform functions for each other corresponding in every way with the uses which the different parts of the body perform for each other. The whole of heaven is thus like one Grand Man, and is so seen by the Lord. This Grand Man may be called the Body of the Lord, in which He lives, and in which He rules as the soul of man lives and rules in his body.

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6. Do we have occupations and employments there?

Many people entertain the idea that heaven is a place of eternal rest, and by this they understand a place where men do no work, but sit around in eternal idleness. Nothing could be further from the truth. Every man was created to be of service to the human race. All joy and happiness which are genuine come to man from the performance of the service for which he was created. Even in this world we can see that a man who does nothing, who contributes nothing to the good of his fellow men, cannot be happy. In heaven everyone performs some function or office in accordance with his genius and abilities, and in the performance of this work lies all heavenly joy for him.

The teaching that heaven is a perpetual Sabbath does not mean that the angels do nothing but attend church services and sing hymns or play on harps. By the perpetual Sabbath is meant rest from the combat against the evils of their self-love. They do indeed glorify God, but this they do in the performance of their daily work. To glorify God means, “to bring forth the fruits of love; that is, faithfully, sincerely, and diligently to do the work of one’s own function, for this is of the love of God and of the love of the neighbor. And this is the bond of society and its good. By this God is glorified, and then by worship at stated times. Have you not read these words of the Lord, Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit, and ye shall become my disciples?” (Conjugial Love, no.9.)

7. Are we judged there according to the quality of our life on earth?

Every man is judged in the spiritual world according to the quality of his life on this earth for the reason that his love is according to his life, and all judgment in the spiritual world is according to the love. If the love is selfish, its quality is evil. If the love is unselfish, its quality is good. A man’s character takes on a certain fixation in his bodily life in this world, according to his free choice and determination in spiritual things. For this reason the essential quality and order of his loves is not changed by death. Nevertheless no man is to be judged by the external appearances of his quality in this life. It is his ruling love, his ruling motive, that determines a man’s true character, and this is not always seen in this life, but becomes evident in the life after death.

Although man’s essential character and ruling love remains the same after death, this does not mean that he does not progress. Every spirit progresses in the perfection of his life, increasing in knowledge, in wisdom, and in the extension of his .usefulness into eternity. This may be illustrated by the fact that as we progress in age in this world our loves, our essential character, become more and more fixed, but that we never cease to learn, and grow continually in wisdom of life.

8. Does everyone go to Heaven?

Every human being whatsoever that has been born into the world, even if he has lived but for a moment, is an immortal soul, and lives to eternity in the spiritual world. The question as to whether all in that spiritual world are in heaven, or whether some go to hell is clarified by this; that every man lives there in his own love, and if his love is unselfish, a love of God and the neighbor, he is in heaven, since heaven is made by those loves; if his love on the other hand is a selfish love, so that he loves self and the world above all things, then he is in hell, since those loves make hell, and are hell in themselves. The fire and brimstone of hell mentioned in the Bible are nothing more or less than the activity of the evil loves of self and the world and their enjoyments. Hell is then nothing more than a continuation of the life of the loves of self and the world with those who choose to remain in them during this life. It is not a place of torture or eternal punishment, but merely the fatuous life and happiness which are received by those who are ruled by those evil loves.

Every man, no matter what his religion may be, is brought into heaven and is instructed in such a way as to receive the truth according to his genius, if he lives according to his religion, and in some measure combats and overcomes the rule of his self-love.

9. Do we see God in the life after death?

The God of Heaven is the Lord Jesus Christ. There is no God beside Him. The minds of Christians have been confused by a misinterpretation of the teachings of the New Testament, to the effect that the Father and the Holy Spirit are different in person from the Lord. The true Christian teaching is that the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit are one in the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. As Paul said, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” (Col. 2:9.) The Father is the Lord’s soul, which is in Him as the soul is in man. The Son is the Human which the Lord assumed by birth in this world. The Holy Spirit is the Divine which proceeds from Him into the minds of all human beings, regenerating them and raising them to Himself in heaven. There are not three Divines, but one; nor three persons, but one, and that one is our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

The Lord appears in heaven at certain times before the eyes of the angels, and when He appears He is seen as He was in the world, of a like countenance and stature, His face”shining like the sun in its strength” as described by John in the Apocalypse (Apoc. 1:16.) But it must be known that the Lord is not among the angels as one of them, nor does He rule over them in person as a king of this world over his subjects. The Lord is with the angels as their life, as the Love and Wisdom of their will and understanding. He is thus most truly and intimately present in all their affections and thoughts, since these all are from Him, and are His; yea, it is He Himself in them. The angels also see the Lord represented outside of themselves as the sun of Heaven from which come their spiritual heat and light, which are their love and wisdom. The Lord is thus spiritually omnipresent with the angels as all that is good and true with them. So also He is present with the spirits of men while they live in this world. The angels thus see God in all that is good and true. But on occasion for the sake of special uses they see Him also in His Divine person.

10. How can we tell whether that which we hear about Heaven is true?

No one can scientifically prove or disprove anything that is said about the spiritual world, because that world lies entirely beyond the realm of merely physical demonstration. But if we believe in God we must also believe that He can give His creatures the ability to see what is true of the spirit, if they will to see it from Him. We believe what has been revealed through Swedenborg about the spiritual world because everything which he has written about it is in agreement with former revelations of the Word of God contained in the Bible. Also what is said in “Heaven and Hell” and in other theological works given to us through Swedenborg has the self evident authority of all that is Divinely true It is such as to bring order and light into our minds on this most vital subject when before there has been nothing but ignorance and confusion. Add to this that what is said is such as to appeal tosound reason with all men, and is in agreement with all rational thought concerning God and His purpose with men.

No man can believe anything unless there is within him an internal dictate that that thing is true, and unless he can see that it agrees with the Word of God or that it is the Word of God. If, in addition, a thing can be confirmed by his reason and by scientific observations that are seen to be in agreement with it, then that thing is not only seen to be true, but is firmly established as such in the mind. We believe that the revelations of the spiritual world given through Swedenborg more than meet all these requirements for full belief. We believe that ignorance and doubt with men can be entirely dispelled through that revelation, and that our life in this world can thus be given a meaning and a guidance that far exceeds anything that has ever been given to the human race before. We therefore urge you all to read and study “Heaven and Hell” and the other works of the Lord given through His Servant Emanuel Swedenborg.

http://www.swedenborgstudy.com/books/P.N.Odhner_Life-After-Death/index.html

  

 

The First And Second Death

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<< THE FIRST AND SECOND DEATH. >>

“And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of those that
kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.
But I will forewarn you who in ye shall fear : Fear him,
which after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell ; yea, I
say unto you. Fear him.”
—Luke xii. 4, 5.

THERE is no subject, it would seem, which would interest man so much as that great change in his existence which is called death, and yet there are few questions concerning which so little is known and so many errors prevail. The most common opinions concerning it are that it is a mystery, a terror and an agony ; that it was sent upon man as a punishment for disobedience, and that it is a standing monument of the Divine displeasure. Consequently, men almost universally shrink from it with horror, and to many it is the one dark cloud and terrible dread of life. Poets and orators and Christian teachers hold it up as the most awful calamity, and it is the severest punishment known to human laws. But much of the mystery and terror that invests it is due to entire misconceptions of its origin and nature, and these misconceptions seem to have their origin in confounding the two deaths and attributing to one the qualities that belong to the other. Men have attributed to natural death the pains and sufferings that belong only to spiritual death. Indeed, most men overlook the second death entirely, and, if they think of the subject at all, think only of natural death.

A careful examination of the Sacred Scriptures and enlightened reason will show us that natural death, by which we understand the separation of the soul from the body, was not sent upon man as a punishment for sin, but is an orderly step in the progress of his life. It was not this- death that came into the world by sin. If man had never sinned he would still have cast off his material body and passed on into the spiritual world.

We need go no further than the first intimations of death which we have in the Sacred Scriptures to learn that it was not natural death that came by sin. The warning given to Adam and Eve was, ‘* In the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.” (Gen. ii. 17.) But they did not die a natural death in that day. Either that was not the death referred to, therefore, or the warning was a false one. And this we cannot for a moment suppose. So when Moses said to the Israelites,” See, I have set before thee this day life and good, and death and evil” (Deut. xxx. 15), he cannot mean natural life and death, for if they had obeyed every one of his commandments they would not have lived forever in this world. The Lord also commanded Jeremiah to say to the Jews, “Thus saith the Lord: Behold, I set before you the way of life, and the way of death.” (Jer. xxi. 8.) In the Psalms also it is said, “Thou hast delivered my soul from death.” (Ps. Ivi. 13 ; cxvi. 8.)

The apostles also often speak of death in this sense. But what our Lord said to Martha is conclusive upon the subject, “Whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die.” (John xi. 26.) By this He could not mean natural death, for multitudes which no man can number have lived and believed in Him, and their bodies have returned to the dust from which they were formed. When the apostle says that death came by sin, and that death has passed upon all, for that all have sinned (Rom. v. 12), he evidently means the death of the soul. There is no evidence in the Bible that natural death was caused by sin. It is a mere human inference. It is no doubt true that much of the sickness and pain that generally precedes and attends our departure from this world is more or less remotely caused by sin, because evil desires and false principles lead to the violation of physical laws, to intemperance in eating and drinking, to anxieties and excitements and disorders of life. The average duration of human life in this world has without doubt also been much shortened by evil, for we know that the average duration of life increases as civilization advances and men become more observant of the laws of life. But there is no evidence that man would live forever in this world even if he lived a perfect life. Immortality in this world is certainly not taught in the Bible, and there are many rational considerations and inferences from the Sacred Scriptures that show conclusively that it is not according to the purposes of the Divine wisdom that man should live here forever.

So far as our knowledge extends, the existence of every living thing organized of matter is limited. It has laws of birth, growth, and decay. There is no exception. Every plant in the vegetable kingdom, for example, attains its growth and does not pass beyond a certain limit. It may remain stationary there for years, for centuries, and yet the moment it stands still it begins to decline, and eventually it will fall and perish. The same is true of the animal kingdom. There are no exceptions to the law. Now, it is worthy of notice that animals and vegetables have not sinned ; they live according to the true order of their creation. Man, as to his physical nature, is an animal, and the laws of his generation, development, and life are the same. There have been, and no doubt are still, multitudes of human beings who have lived in perfect health. And yet they grow old and die. Nor do they die of any disease ; when the body has done its work it shrivels and falls from the soul as the husk from the corn.

But again, so far as human observation extends, the development of organized beings and things proceeds by distinct steps, the prior acting as an instrument for the creation of the succeeding, and being left behind it in the ascent. In the vegetable kingdom, when the germ expands, the outer covering which contained it is thrown aside ; the blossom fades and perishes when the fruit is born and begins a distinct existence ; and again, the husk and chaff and rough covering which have served as a body and vessel and protection for the fine, fluent substances of the seed during its formation wither and die when the seed is ripe. The same order and method prevails in the animal kingdom. This is beautifully exemplified in insects. There are three distinct steps in insect life. A caterpillar is hatched from an egg then it becomes a chrysalis enclosed in a hard covering, and apparently almost lifeless, and then a moth or butterfly. During these metamorphoses, or changes of form, it never goes back and resumes its former state. The moth does not become a worm and the worm an egg. But it continually advances until it completes the cycle of its life, preparation being made in each state for the succeeding one.

Have these analogies and this method of the Divine wisdom, which is universal so far as we know, no significance ? So far as our observation extends, we find creation and life proceeding according to the same order and method in man as in all other creatures. Can we suppose that the order is reversed the moment we reach the limits of our own observation ? Man is a spiritual being. He has a spiritual body, for the apostle Paul declares, ” There is a spiritual body. ” Man has a nature of a degree distinctly higher than the animal, than any other created being. And is it not according to all the analogies of the Divine method of creating that man should attain his highest state by successive changes of state? continually throwing off and leaving behind those materials and instruments which have been used as means for its attainment ? If there is any force in reasoning from universal methods, I do not see how we can come to any other conclusion than that natural death is a step forward in life, if man has a distinctly spiritual nature, a spiritual body.

But if the laws of analogy did not point with sure indications to the great truth that natural death is only a step forward in life, we might infer it from the infinite nature of the Divine love and wisdom. Suppose it had been the original intention of the Creator that man should live immortal upon this earth, there must soon have been a limit to the number of human beings He could create ; for while man lives upon the earth clothed in a material body he must be fed with products from the earth, and even in the most perfect order of things the limits of its power to sustain human life must be reached ; and when that hmit is reached the whole order and nature of man must be changed. Society must to a great extent become stationary. No new elements could be constantly added to it ; no new varieties of character be constantly adding to its perfection. Conceive for a moment the earth to be crowded with a population to the full extent of its capacity to support life, and the same beings to dwell upon it forever, with no infancy, no childhood, no old age, nothing to call forth our sympathy, nothing to awaken fresh and lively hopes,—would not such a state be more like the dead level of a stagnant pool than the running stream of an ever-varying life? Would not some of the elements which seem most important and even essential to human happiness be wanting ? But suppose the earth to be filled with happy people. Could the comparatively few human beings the earth could sustain satisfy the infinite love of the Lord?

There is something of the infinite even in the material world. We see it in the variety which everywhere exists ; no two things or beings are alike. We see it in the tendency of every plant and animal to reproduction and multiplication. Can we for a moment suppose that man, who stands at the head of the Creator’s works, should be the only exception to this law? that while plants and animals are produced in endless variety in a circle of successive generations, man, who was created in the image and likeness of God, should soon reach the limit of his numbers, and beyond that limit could know no increase through the coming eternity ? How much grander the idea, and worthier of infinite love, and more in accordance with all we know of the Divine methods, that an endless succession of generations should be born upon the earth and transplanted into the heavens ! Thus human life upon the earth, instead of being the completed work of the Lord, is only its beginning. Earth is the nursery and seminary of heaven, where human souls capable of receiving the Divine life and reciprocating the Divine love, capable of loving and being loved, can be born with endless variety and number.

But again, if man was born to live forever in this world, what becomes of all the promised blessedness of heaven ? Are we not taught in the Sacred Scriptures, both by positive precept and inevitable inference, that heaven is a better and more perfect world than this? What becomes of the happiness which eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, nor heart conceived? Is heaven, the abode of the angels and the Lord, a mere refuge from this world? and does its principal excellence consist in the contrasts it furnishes to this life ? Would there have been no mansions in heaven for us if there had been no sin upon earth ? Would there have been no songs of joy there by human voices if there had been no wail of sorrow here ? Even upon the supposition that the angels are a race of beings distinct from men, would heaven be as perfect, would the angels be as happy in their bright abodes, without a constant accession of human beings from the earth to instruct and love ? If you insist that man was born to be immortal in this world, but that the happiness of heaven exceeds anything possible to this life, as the prevalent theology does, you admit that man has been a gainer by sin ; he has escaped from a world of material limitations and imperfections and gained entrance to one where all the conditions of his existence are perfect, where he can associate with angelic beings and enjoy a fulness and perfection of happiness impossible to this. If you admit that heaven would not be as perfect without a continual influx of life from this world, you admit that both angels and men are gainers by natural death.

Whatever view we take of the subject, then, I see but one escape from the inevitable conclusion that natural death has in itself no real terrors ; that it is an orderly step in man’s successive creation, and a part of the great original purpose of the Divine love and wisdom, according to which there is to be an endless succession of human souls created upon the earth, who, after passing through various stages here, are to find their final home in the spiritual world. I say I see but one escape from this conclusion, and that is in the admission that the spiritual world is not so real and perfect a world as this. And that admission involves so many and great absurdities, such an entire inversion of all the methods of the Divine order ; is so contrary to the whole tenor of the Word and subversive of the precious promises and immortal hopes it holds out to us, that it seems Impossible that any rational mind could entertain it for a moment. If the spiritual world is not the vain dream of an idle fancy ; if the Lord and the angels and the promises of heavenly blessedness are not fallacious hopes, then that change in our organization, that disrobing of the spirit by its resurrection from the material body, that escape from the imprisonment and bonds of the flesh, which men call death, has no real terror, and, instead of shrinking from it with horror, we ought to welcome it as our deliverer from bondage, as an introduction into life.

And without doubt we should regard death in this light if we had not invested it with terrors which belong to an entirely different subject, and lost air true idea of the nature and reality of the world to which it introduces us. Before man had so far receded from that world by a life of evil as almost to forget its existence, death had no terrors. It was the gate of entrance into a new life. He lay down to sleep with the delightful hope and perfect confidence that he would wake in a new world. Death was going home ; it was the conscious entrance into a higher state of being. It was the happy reunion with loved ones who had gone before. It was a step which brought him nearer to the Fountain of all life and the Author of all human blessedness. How could it be regarded with fear? How could the soul shrink from it with horror ? Suppose the chrysalis, imprisoned in that hard covering we may call its body, buried in the earth and limited to a bare existence, could have a perception of the change that is soon to take place in its state. It is soon to burst the gates of its present life and emerge into a new world of light and beauty. Instead of being buried in the dark earth, it is to soar aloft through the air, to bask in the light and warmth of the summer sun, to sport in joyous flights in happy bands, to feed upon the honeyed dews and the distilled sweets of flowers.

Do you think it would look forward to such a change with dread ? But the change from the chrysalis almost devoid of life, shut up in the dark, to the gay and beautiful insect is not so great as the change that takes place in man in his resurrection from the material body. This change, then, which men call death, this putting off of the material body, is not, cannot be, an interruption of the Divine plan, a thwarting of the Divine purposes of good towards His human children. It must be the fulfilment of those purposes. All Scripture properly understood, all right reason, teaches us that it must be so. To deny it is to plunge into inexplicable absurdities. But there is a death which we ought to fear, and from which we shall do well to shrink with horror, and that is spiritual death, sometimes called the “second death.” This death does not consist in a cessation of existence, nor in the departure from this world to the spiritual world, but in the inversion and destruction of the true order of man’s nature.

Man is said to be alive, in the Word, when he receives life from the Lord according to the original order and constitution of his nature. The Jews were promised life if they would obey the laws of the Lord. The whole Word is full of the same promises. ” If thou wilt enter into life,” said our Saviour, ”keep the commandments.” He came that men might have life. This was spiritual and not natural life. And the reason why life is promised on the condition of keeping the commandments, and often as a reward for keeping them, is because the commandments are the laws of life. The rewards are not arbitrarily given, but follow as a consequence, as the physician may promise health on the condition of our obeying the laws of physical life.

Man was created by infinite wisdom according to a certain order. By observing this order he would attain his life, a life ever increasing in fulness and degree. Any deviation from that order would be attended with some loss of life. It would prevent man from receiving life from the Lord in its fulness and perfection. The moment man violated a law of his spiritual nature he suffered some loss of spiritual capacity. Man began to die. This was the warning the Lord gave Adam and Eve, “In the day that thou eatest thereof, thou shalt surely die.” And the warning was not an idle one. They did die in the day, not the natural day of twenty-four hours, but in the state and according to the degree that they ate of the forbidden fruit, which was evil. And this is a universal law in all orders and degrees of the creation. When the laws of vegetable life are broken, the plant begins to die. When the laws of animal life, of man’s physical life, are violated, the animal and the body begin to die. Death follows as an inevitable consequence. It is not arbitrarily inflicted. As the soul is immortal, spiritual death is not the cessation of existence, but the loss of the soul’s ability to receive life from the Lord in true order. The substances which compose the soul cannot be dissipated as the material elements which compose plants, animals, and the material body can. Man as a spiritual being must continue to exist, but in a state of spiritual death.

There are two principal characteristics of this death worthy of our notice. First, it is a loss of life. Man was created by the Lord with the power of perpetual and indefinite advancement in his capacity to know and love and be happy. The more we learn, the more we are capable of learning. The more we love, the more we are capable of loving. The more we enjoy, the more we are capable of enjoying. So that the feeblest child upon the earth may ultimately pass beyond the present state of the highest angel. But spiritual death arrests this development. It closes up the higher degrees of man’s mind against Divine influences, and shuts out the light and life of heaven. His whole nature becomes stunted and dwarfed. He stops in the grand and endless career of life at the beginning, and loses all the glory and blessedness of the eternal future. And no finite mind can estimate that loss. Men are often inconsolable at the loss of property or office, on account of hinderance in some earthly career, but that is a mere nothing compared with his loss who dies at the beginning of life. How sad it is to see a blind child ! By the death of his eyes how much he has lost ! He must wander in darkness through the earth, comparatively helpless, for ten, twenty, fifty years, unconscious of its beauty of form and color, of the significance of expressive faces and gestures, of the changing glories of the seasons, of day and night, and the ever-shifting play of things by which the web of human life is woven. How great, how irreparable, how sad the loss ! And yet what is that compared with the loss of one’s spiritual sight? Nothing,—absolutely nothing ! One is the loss for a few years of the sight of earthly things, the other the loss to eternity of the inexpressible beauty and glory of heaven. This is but one of the senses.

Suppose you had held in your hand the first grain of wheat that was created. You planted it, and in time it just pushed its head above the ground, and there its progress is arrested. It remains a green blade, but becomes nothing more. What a loss to humanity ! Thousands of millions of acres, waving with golden harvests, the staff of life for thousands of generations, broken. It surpasses the power of the finite mind to conceive the loss to humanity, and yet that is nothing compared with what every soul will lose whose progress is arrested in the first beginning of life by spiritual death. ” What shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul ?”

You observe that I say nothing so far about pain and punishment, but speak merely of loss of attainment, of what man does not gain, of the endless and only less than infinite blessings the Lord intended for him which he fails to receive. And if he were to stop there, like the grain of wheat arrested in its growth, and suffer no pain, suffer nothing but the loss, can you conceive anything more terrible ? What a blasting of hopes ! What bankruptcy ! What eternal ruin ! Who would not fear a death which closes the gates of such hopes against us and bars us from the possession of such endless and ineffable joys ? But this is not all. By that inversion of life which we call spiritual death the soul comes into such a state of disorder and discord with the Fountain of life and with all outward things that it is filled with perpetual pain. It is not my purpose to describe the woes and agonies of the second death. We all know something of what they are, for there is not a sorrow or pain that afflicts human hearts that is not the effect of the second death. Count up your own sorrows, the pain from blasted hopes, the pangs of regret, the stings of remorse, the chafings from conflicting interests, the smarts of jealousy and shame, and the great shadow of fear that lies like a cloud upon all hearts ; measure the sum of human suffering in the hearts around you, and they will declare the awful consequences of this death in a language more forcible and eloquent than the painter’s colors or the writer’s words. Add to these, if you can, the future consequences of this death, the night that has no hope of a coming morning, the cup of misery that can never be drained, the feverish and tormenting desires that can never be appeased. Is there not reason in the Divine words, ” And I say unto you, my friends. Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do. But I will forewarn you whom ye shall fear : Fear him, who after he hath killed hath power to cast into hell. Yea, I say unto you. Fear him” !

Is there not every reason to fear this death ? Human language is totally inadequate to express its horrors. Human imagination cannot adequately conceive its awful terrors. You may fear it ; you ought to fear it; teach your children to fear it ; warn your friends and neighbors to fear it. It is the most terrible thing in the universe. And yet men do not fear it. They play and dance with it ; they crown it with roses, and sink willingly into its embrace. Gentle and timid women, who would scream at a harmless insect and fall into a swoon at the sight of blood, will gayly and boldly toy with death ; will greet it with gay laughter and song, and cherish it with its hideous deformities and the sting of its endless pain in the secret shrine of their hearts. And men who call themselves ruined if they lose money, who are ashamed of goodness and have not sufficient courage to say, I have done wrong, are bold enough to do the wrong.

I know of no illusion of evil so cunning and destructive to human souls as that which conceals the horrors of real death with deceptive and vain delights, and invests a mere step in life with all the horrors of death. How we mourn when a beloved one is translated ! We look at the body which is cast off, and our eyes are blinded with tears. But who weeps over the dead souls that fill our houses and throng our streets ? The stir and bustle and noisy activity that everywhere meet the eye and fall upon the ear are not the sounds of life. The shout and song that come from festive halls are not the sounds of living souls, but too often the wild, mad revelry of death. And the earth, this beautiful and glorious earth, created to be the birthplace of immortal souls and the sweet cradle of infancy, the nursery of heaven, has become a vast sepulchre, a dwelling for the dead, a grave in which human souls are buried.

We die spiritually before we do naturally. The death of the body only lifts the veil and reveals to us in clear light the death of the soul that already exists, and permits us to pass on to its full consequences. When the body has performed its use, it fades like the blossom, it withers and falls like the husk, and reveals the life or death that exists within. It does not cause it ; it does not add to it or subtract from it, any more than the removal of the chaff adds to or subtracts from the wheat. Let us not, then, confound these two things so entirely distinct and different, and live in constant dread of that death which is but an orderly step in life and a provision of infinite mercy, while we forget the real danger of our souls.

Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895

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When ‘Ends’ Conflict

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

… for the evil which is thought against anyone is intended; and as things alienated cannot intend good, it is therefore said that they intend nothing but evil. The case herein is this:

The man who has been alienated from good and truth intends nothing but evil, because he cannot intend good; and what he intends, reigns with him, and therefore is in all his thoughts, and in every least detail of him; for the intention or end is the veriest life of man, the end being his love, and the love being his life. And what is more, a man is exactly such as is the end with him, and such also is his image in the light of heaven; and — this may surprise you — such as is his image in general, such is the image of the least things of his will. Thus the whole man is such as his end is.

From this it is evident that the man who is an evil end cannot possibly be among those who are good ends; thus he who is in hell cannot possibly be in heaven; for the ends conflict, and the good ends prevail, because they are from the Divine. Hence also it is evident that they do not think truly who believe that everyone can be admitted into heaven from mercy alone; for if one who is an evil end comes into heaven, his life labors as with one who lies in the death agony, and he is direfully tortured; besides that in the light of heaven he appears as a devil. Hence it is evident that they who have been alienated from truth and good can think nothing but evil; and that this evil is in the least things of their thought and will is very manifest from the sphere which from afar exhales from such spirits, for their quality is thereby perceived. This sphere is like a spiritual evaporation from every detail of the life.

(Arcana Coelestia 6571)
June 13, 2017

14 Influx and Disease

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

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14 Influx and Disease

“Is it easier to say to one sick of the palsy, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk?” Mark 2:9

Order, Freedom, and the Permission of Evil

“Heaven keeps all things in connection and safety.” But “hell destroys and rends all things asunder.”351 This is the general truth from which the Arcana Coelestia proceeds to its teaching about the origin and nature of disease.

The societies of heaven receive from the Lord an influx of mutual love, which seeks to give happiness to others and allows freedom for the uses of others. Therefore there is a general influx from the Lord through the societies of heaven which maintains the order and health of human society and of the human body. By general influx, the human body is moulded into an organism which corresponds to all the uses of the Grand Man of heaven. Similarly, by general influx, a society is moulded into a replica of the human form. So far as a society is performing the uses of communal life, it is in the order of heaven, and in a noble form. So far as the human body is functioning, it has beauty and grace and nobility, even if man’s mind be perverted. For the Lord spreads the sunshine of health upon the evil and upon the good. Only upon the basis of a sound body can a sound mind be built. Only in states of health and rationality can man’s spiritual reformation proceed. The Lord exerts His providence to provide these ultimates of order for all men, because His primary gift to man—the freedom which makes of man a responsible human soul—can be exercised only where order exists.

But freedom would be but a name, if man could not at all reject or disturb the order which the Lord provides for him. Freedom implies that man can, if he will, disturb that order not only for himself, but for others! Freedom implies that man should be free not only to think and will against the order of God, but that he shall also feel able to carry his purposes into act and set up a plane of disorder in the world. In no other way could his free will be conveyed to the comprehension of others; in no other way could he invoke the cooperation or opposition of others, who, in their turn, are free to respond. Life would not be free if it were confined within the airtight space of one’s own intentions ! Man must be free to commit mistakes, to do actual evil, to spoil the handiwork of the Creator, and abuse His agencies.

When this occurs, and order has been disrupted, the general influx from heaven gives way so far as man insists. Fundamentally, and as to all His final purposes, the Lord alone rules the universe, which cannot be upset by fickle man. It is legitimate to inquire, how far evil can derange the ultimate order of life.

That it can do so in the realm of the mind, is of course plain to see. The two higher degrees of the mind of which we are not cognizant in this life, are indeed in the order of heaven.352 But the natural degree, or the “natural mind” in which man is conscious on earth, becomes perverted as to its thoughts and affections, as to its organic habits, its spontaneous reactions, and its reasonings. Indeed, by birth, or from heredity, the natural mind of present day man is utterly opposed to the gyre and flow of heaven. It is within the various degrees of that natural mind that the hells are formed.353 And for one’s salvation, that mind must be reformed and reconstructed into the order of heaven.

But perversions go further than the mind. The brain and the rest of the body can become disordered, and after death they actually disintegrate in the grave. Not only disease, but “death,” comes from “no other source than sin.”354 But let us here pause a moment to free our minds of several possible misunderstandings.

The Actuality of Evil and the Necessity of Death

Swedenborg did not belong to that school of so-called “idealists” which regards the body and the world of matter as mere projections of the mind. He believed in the reality of the natural world which he describes as existing independently of man or man’s thought. He states that man was created last of all—as the culmination of the organic kingdoms. There is therefore no kinship between the teaching of the Writings and that of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of “Christian Science”). It has recurrently been stated that “Christian Science” was partly derived from Swedenborg. And on the surface, we find a great many phrases and ideas in Science and Health which are obviously borrowed from the Writings. “The three great pioneers of mental-healing, Dr. Quimby, Dr. Evans, and Mrs. Eddy, were readers and students [?] of Swedenborg . . . but they were more influenced by Berkeley. . . . “355 As the late Rev. John Whitehead put it: “Many flowers have been culled from Swedenborg’s garden, but they have been transplanted without roots.” Both Swedenborg and Mrs. Eddy teach that the natural mind (or what she called the “mortal mind”) is the seat of evil and the origin of disease. But Swedenborg shows that the mind is a real organism of finite substances, both spiritual and natural, while Mrs. Eddy regarded her “mortal mind” as an illusion —as “nothing claiming to be something.” The body, to her, was merely an offspring of the delusions of mortal mind!

When the Writings state that death has no other origin than sin, the reference is presumably to death from disease. The language of Scripture alludes to the life of sin as the death of the soul. In the symbolic story of Genesis, death is said to have come upon man because of his eating of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”; which made him feel like a god who could decide for himself what was good and evil. This was the spiritual death which overcame the first race— those signified by “Adam”—who were of a “celestial” genius. And the Arcana Coelestia explains that the “antediluvians” who perished in the “Flood” meant some of their descendants who could not master their evil passions—with the physical result that they died of a species of suffocation.356

Thus the symbolic prediction became literally fulfilled. And the same still holds of death from disease. But in a wider sense, death antedates both disease and sin. Death, so regarded, is but a part of finite life. Our blood dies and is restored with each breath of the lungs. The cycles of finite things all end in a death of passivity. Endless successions of plants and animals lived and propagated and died before man’s advent on earth. And mankind, before its fall into sin, was not immune to bodily death. Eternally to live on earth could be no reward for virtue. The statement that death is from no other source than from sin, is therefore qualified by the explanation that “if man had lived the life of good … he would be without disease, and would only decline to extreme old age, even until he became a child again, but a wise child ; and when the body could no longer minister to his internal man or spirit, he would pass without disease out of his earthly body into a body such as the angels have. . . . “357 From this we judge that the absence of evil—actual or hereditary— creates a pre-disposition to health. It does not prevent physical death or the wear and tear upon bodily tissues. But it prevents what the Writings call “disease”—a word which we associate with a destructive influx and with states of pain and mental anguish.

A further word might be premised about the reason why evil, which is a mental state, is permitted to extend its influence into the body and the natural world. Evil that is hidden cannot be examined, shunned, and removed. Evil in the mind exists as a desire not only to think and intend, but also to do and speak. It goes out to change the state of others— forcibly to remould the world more nearly to one’s advantage, and to profit despite another’s hurt! Unless it be seen that such indeed is the effect of the evil state of mind, evil could never be recognized. Evil in a man harms uses—his own and those of others—harms his body and the bodies of others.

In an orderly life we see a balance of good uses—such as we observe in a healthy organism. But when evil and its bodily effects came into existence, one evil is used to counterbalance another. We see this in the constant warfare of insect-pests, in the neutralization of extremes, in the balanced germ-life of our own bodies. It is even suggested that evil men do not defeat the Divine government since “one is the remedy of the other, for evil is cured by evil.”358

On earth there is much grumbling against the Divine Providence because evils and bodily sufferings are permitted. Yet in the view of the angels, bodily sufferings are as nothing when the eternal welfare of a man is at stake. The use of pain—as a signal to man that his body is in disorder—is indispensable. Without pain, man could not be warned of his mistakes or recognize his dangers. Pain and disease are thus necessary as long as man governs himself by his fallible prudence. If one still led a spontaneous life in the order of his creation, and were governed by general influx, and thus lived a life of wise instincts, he would no doubt be less liable to mistakes and abuses, less liable to pain and disease; and the fulfilment of his goals might be far easier than today.

The general effect of the teachings of the Writings seems to be that the real origin of disease was evil and self-will. The insistence on breaking the rules of rational moderation, the indulgence to excess, the refusal to curb the appetites, have caused men to turn aside from the “tree of life” and to eat gluttonously of the fruit of knowledge which would make men as gods who determined for themselves what was good or evil for them.

We rightly call disease and its consequent pains evil, because they imply a partial defeat of the ends of life, for they disturb the uses of society. They pull the mind down and make one conscious of his body, which should serve—as it did in most ancient times—merely as an instrument whereby the soul may perform uses for the minds of others.

Evil spirits love material things and attach material values, material meanings, even to spiritual things. Therefore they seek to immerse man’s mind into his bodily life. They rejoice and are in their delights when they can induce man to reflect on his sensual pleasures or pains. Some spirits would indeed obsess man, if they could, and return into the body through men. Such, however, are now confined in their hells, i.e., they are not permitted near men. To cure them of their desire, certain punishing spirits are permitted to induce upon them the feeling that they, too, actually have a material body. And to spirits it is an inconceivable torture to feel themselves bound within an earthly body, for thus they can be subjected to all manner of tormenting fantasies.359

* * *

To assert that “every one draws disease upon himself from the evil of life” may seem a hard saying.360 We may readily admit that many diseases are obviously traceable to overindulgences, passions, or a useless, self-centered life. But there is some comfort in the further teaching of the Writings which shows that the real cause of disease lies in the other world— thus not necessarily in man’s own evils, but in the influx of the hells. “All the infernals induce diseases. … If infernals apply themselves, they induce diseases, and at last death.”361

The idea that illnesses come from the influence of evil spirits is regarded in the world as a superstition. And yet it must be admitted that all man’s passions and lusts are nothing but effects of the spirits whose invisible presence feeds our contrary moods. If disease comes from such a source, it can readily be understood why the miracles which the Lord performed on earth were chiefly works of healing. His mission was to restore order in the spiritual world. What He did on earth corresponded to His work of redeeming mankind from the dominion of evil spirits.362 He did not come to take away all sickness; but each of His miraculous cures marked a step in the battle against the hells—representing on earth what He was doing in the spiritual world. There were many sick and blind in those days, but only a relatively few were healed.363

Many of the early Christians believed that the Lord came to establish a kingdom of God on earth, in which evil would have no place, nor disease or death. Yet after nearly two thousand years have passed, illness and evil persist. But what the Lord came to do was done. This was the ordering of the spiritual world so that men might be free to choose between good and evil, and progress into heaven if they willed. A spiritual judgment was performed, and certain restraints were imposed on the hells. One of the results was, that the obsessing of man’s body by evil spirits was henceforth made impossible.364 Yet disease, and the consequences of disease, were not removed.

The spiritual law now operating is, that selected good spirits and evil spirits are allowed to inflow into men’s minds. The evil spirits thus stir up lusts and falsities, by particular influx, and man feels these changing states as his own. But, as was shown in chapter XIII, the body is governed by a general influx through the societies of the Grand Man of heaven. So far as spirits are performing uses in the Grand Man, so far their societies are assigned as media for the general influx of life into the various corresponding organs and parts of the human body. The influx takes place “into the use of the organ” and so into the organ itself.365 So far as man’s body is in functional order, so far it mirrors and receives the flux of corresponding spiritual uses which make up the Grand Man; and then evil spirits are entirely unable to cause any disorders in the body. “They are not permitted to inflow as far as into the solid things of the body,” thus not into tissues or organs. But if for any reason the order of the body is disturbed, then evil spirits—who are not within the Grand Man, but together compose an opposite spiritual form which might rather be called “the Grand Monstrosity”—are permitted to inflow into the disorder, or “into the unclean things which belong to disease.”366

(The precise meaning of these teachings may be somewhat debatable. In discussing the subject of disease, we are conscious of the imprudence of trespassing on alien ground; for it belongs to the medical profession to form a philosophy of disease and cure. Yet the doctrinal statements that will provide the principles for such a philosophy must be cited, since we set out to treat of the influence of spirits upon human states. Admittedly, in drawing out these statements, a certain personal perspective cannot be avoided).

Causes and Cures, Natural and Spiritual

“Only when a man falls into disease” can spirits inflow into his body, and then only “into those things in the man where the disease is” or “into such unclean things as belong to the disease.”366 What are these unclean things ? And how does a man “fall into disease” ?

That illnesses exist which flow directly from lusts and passions of the mind has already been mentioned.367 But we are also assured that “diseases do indeed exist from natural causes among men . . . but as soon as they exist, spirits flow thither which correspond to that disease.” Swedenborg continues : “For spirits who are in evil and falsity, produce precisely such things as are sensibly perceived in sicknesses, as I have plainly experienced . . . beyond all mistake. . . . Hence it is, since such spirits apply themselves there and aggravate the disease by their presence, that if they should be removed by the Lord, man would at once be restored; for there are evil and false spirits to whom correspond diseases and ailments of every kind.”368We presume that such a sudden restoral is possible only where no member is actually cut off.

Swedenborg himself seems to have been immune to any diseases which came from natural causes. For he adds: “But such a one who is as to the spirit in the other life, is immune so long as the Lord permits him to live in the world.”369 Certainly, his biographers agree that his health in later days was remarkable.

Why was this? Perhaps because natural causes do not appear as natural to one who is sensible of the spiritual realm ! At any rate, he continues: “But, because we do not believe spirits to be about us, all these things are ascribed to natural causes. Medicines help! But still more the Lord’s Providence—as people do confess. And, strange to say, sufferers pray to God that they may be restored, and declare that God has restored them; but still, when they are out of that state, every one of them ascribes [his cure] to nature !”370

If we analyze natural causes, they are bound to resolve into spiritual causes. Even an earthquake could not affect anyone unless a spiritual cause—a mental state—has led him to abide in the zone of danger. And in the spiritual world those causes which on earth seem utterly disconnected and beyond any visible law, may be seen to be marvelously dependent on spiritual laws of Divine foresight and permission.

Yet man on earth, not knowing these spiritual connections and interior causes, must act according to his own judgment and prudence. For Providence, in His leading of man, uses also man’s prudence. Disasters that appear to have natural causes, can be ameliorated—at least for the time—by natural remedies. “Medicines help!” “Diseases”—we read—”can be, and also ought to be cured by natural means, for the Providence of the Lord concurs with such means; and thus also man is the longer kept from faith in a Divine Providence in most particular things: for if man should believe this, and then deny it, he would profane a most sacred truth, which profanation is itself a most dreadful hell.”371

The fact that there are spiritual causes operating within disease, “does not prevent man’s being healed naturally, for the Divine Providence concurs with such means.”372 Even the Lord Himself, in one instance, used an external means of cure, when He made clay of His spittle and laid it on the blind man’s eyes. There is power in ultimates. For influx is according to the vessel that receives. A disorderly plane attracts evil influx. If the disorder is corrected, the forces of the general influx through heaven—which operate in unison with the soul’s healing power and creative, formative influx into the body—will again take charge and restore the broken tissues so far as is possible.

It is important to distinguish between a disorder in the body and the disease which may follow it. A small wound, accidentally incurred, will heal without difficulty if it be kept clean. It is only a wear in the tissues—such as occurs, in different fashion, again and again in normal life; and the formative powers of the soul immediately begin to weave new fibres, new cell-structures, to repair the damage. For the soul is as it were omniscient as to all that happens in its body, and continually creates new cells, and redistributes the functions of the body most wisely while healing is going on. The soul also unifies the action of all the cells and fibres and organs into a single whole. There is no break in what we have called “general influx.” But when decay and infection set in, then the “unclean things of the disease” also attract a corresponding influx from the spiritual world. For life is constantly present—it is never absent, knows no limitations of time or space. “The expanse of life … is not an extense, but is yet within the extense of the natural sun, and is with living subjects there according to reception, and reception is according to forms and states.”373According to the quality of the natural vessel, such is the quality of the influx. Heaven cannot inflow into the unclean things of disease. But the life-spheres of hell can and do, and they act therein negatively— to oppose the human form, which is in the order of heaven, and to shatter the harmony of its uses.

What occurs in man’s body in illness resembles what takes place in a man’s mind, which is subject to spiritual diseases. “The sins retained in an impenitent man may be compared to various diseases in him: unless medicines are brought to bear on them, and the malignities are thereby removed, the man dies.”374

This is more than a comparison. For the mind also is in the human form, and has its ailments, each of which corresponds to some bodily disease. The mind—we must remember—is a spiritual organism. And while we live on earth, our mind is enclosed within the tissues of our material body, so intimately that every state of the mind has an effect on the interiors of the body; and in turn the mind accommodates itself so closely to the state of the body, that it appears as if the body had an effect upon the mind.

Spiritual states—mental states—are actuated from the presence of spirits. These spirits do not see or know the man. They only see the knowledges of man’s memory, and think by their means just as if they were man. And when we say that evil spirits inflow or act upon the diseased things of the body, this is said according to the appearance. Spirits cannot “enter” man’s body, nor do they seem to themselves to do so. But when they act spiritually into evil ideas, fantasies, and emotions, and follow the “ways” of spiritual decay which correspond to opposites of the human body, then the sphere of these spirits causes a maladjustment of the currents regulating growth in the body.373 Swedenborg notes that with one like himself whose interiors were open to sense the spiritual environment, spirits who corresponded to various diseases actually produced—in different parts of his body—the symptoms and sensations of these diseases, and this on their first approach.376 He felt their operation within him in that way,377 yet his organic body was apparently not affected, for he was protected by the Lord.378 Until he became accustomed to it, the pain was often almost unbearable.379 At the same time the spiritual character and function of the spirits were manifested, and Swedenborg spoke to them and felt how they affected his thought and emotion.

It belongs to the various departments of medicine to determine what the influx of spirits effects in the bodies of men during disease. Some of these effects are well known. There may be a sudden multiplication of bacterial colonies. There may be the engendering of poisons that infect the fluids and retard or disturb the tissue processes. There may be misdirected or cancerous growths of certain tissues. There may be upsets of the body-tone and of the harmonious vibratory motions by which life in the body is sustained. There may be deficiencies of some of the simple elements or of the complex organic chemicals which food must contain to supply the cells and tissues with the means of growth and renewal. In many cases there occurs an abnormal rise or fall of the vital heat upon which the chemistry of the body depends for its balance.

Diseases are sometimes attended by the presence of bacteria—germs which multiply with incredible speed to generate poisons and to clog the tissues. The nature of such disease germs was not known in Swedenborg’s day and is therefore not directly discussed in the Writings. But it is clear that these invading micro-organisms are to be included with the “unclean things” of disease.380 For evil spirits can inflow only into organic receptacles which, while in the body, are in some way isolated from the soul’s control. It is important to note the teaching that medicines wisely administered can serve in the Divine providence as an effective means by which the ultimates of evil influx can be weakened, counteracted, or removed, so that the influx is diverted from the body. In extreme cases the surgeon’s scalpel must remove the disordered tissue to prevent the spread of the malignity. But such external remedies do not reach the inner causes of disease which will be further considered in our next chapter.

That the inmost soul has at its disposal many marvelous agencies in the body is obvious in all stages of the formation of the embryo and the growth of the body. The strange appearance of “anti-bodies” to counter disease germs in the blood stream is an example of how the balance of organic life is maintained as if by an omniscient government; as is also the dominant role played by the secretions of the endocrine glands. That this government is mediated by the spiritual world has been the theme of this book. But man’s mind is his own special spiritual world. And health and disease may both depend on his psychical states. The philosophy of disease and cure which will eventually take form among the people of the New Church must account first of all for the relation of the body to the mind, and thus to the spiritual world.

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

Life after death – What’s it like?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

life after death
Heaven & Hell by E. Swedenborg

In the post Is there an afterlife? I pointed to a similarity between Swedenborg’s reports of his mystical experiences of life after death and numerous accounts of the near death experience. There are also striking similarities between what various modern psychic mediums have said concerning a realm of spirits with Swedenborg’s writings. These similarities are as follows:

Similar account of life after death

A soul body exists; time means nothing; environment appears created by thought; we gravitate to the shared environment of like-minded spirits; there is a self-evaluation involving how we lived life on earth; one’s inner character does not change because of death; punishment is only part of a purification process; there is no procreation; there are useful occupational and similar interests, albeit at a higher level; there is an upper Astral akin to heaven; there is no pain or alarm during the dying process; and because of a similarity of experience to life, new arrivals do not at first notice they are dead.

One’s first experience of life after death

Swedenborg reports that after we awake in the spirit realm we may find ourselves in some kind of living environment – often one we have been familiar with on earth. This gradually changes, beginning more and more to reflect the quality of our own thoughts and feelings. It may be a room in a very beautiful house or an untidy shed. This very much sounds like a projection of our inner state so that what one sees in the spiritual world is a reflection of different aspects of one’s own actual character. As we are all different there are many kinds of living accommodation and environment.

Being oneself in one’s life after death

As I understand it, the spiritual world forces no one after bodily death to be something that he or she is not. When we are alive in the body on earth, our outer thoughts are busy when we are with other people or engaged in some action. However, our inner thoughts come from what we are really feeling when we are alone at home. The picture we are shown of the next life, is that the values that deep down rule our hearts come to the surface and unrelated feelings, pretences and difficulties become dormant. We each get more in touch with our true selves and all other spirits see the genuine nature of everyone’s character; whether this is selfish and destructive or caring and creative. In other words, our inner feelings and desires determine our destiny. You really are what you choose to be and pretending to be something other than what you really are becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.

I imagine the goodness or otherwise of your character would shine more clearly in the spirit realm than in our material world where people who do not know you well see only your outward persona and where your style of living is more apparent. This illumination is illustrated in near death experiences by the frequently mentioned encounter with a `being of light’ and of a life evaluation.

The ruling love emerges in the life after death

According to Swedenborg’s notion of a ‘ruling love’, we want one thing more than anything. It colours all our life. It could be for example a love of being useful, of the spiritual ideas we believe to be true, of having power over others, or of being popular and well liked. This is our underlying longing that is the essence of our true character. Many of our desires arise from this basic love. We are most likely to reveal our true selves by our actions when we do not think others are observing us.

“You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” (The Upanishads – Hindu tradition)

Avoidance of thinking about life after death

Whether or not we believe in life after death, we can all be afraid of death and dying to some extent. Perhaps we fear a lack of control over the process of deterioration that precedes death – whether it will involve pain or loss of dignity. But just as there can be no spring without the cold of winter that comes before it  – so the pain of suffering can be seen to precede the triumph of new life.

To my mind, death for me is eternity knocking at the door. Perhaps, an avoidance of thinking of life after death is due to realising that I am not living now, as I would want to live to eternity. The trouble is that often I am unwilling to allow what is bad in me to die. A reminder of the reality of death is a wake up call to discard the trivial and prioritise the significant. Now is the time to overcome estrangement and heal old wounds.

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

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

Posted on21st April 2011CategoriesConsciousness, Mystical experienceTags,, , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , , , Leave a comment

From Use, In Use, and For Use

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeFrom Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The Lord’s Omnipresence and Omniscience can be Comprehended

The omnipresence and omniscience of the Lord can be comprehended also from the creation of the universe; for the universe was so created by Him that He is in things first and in things last, in the center and in the circumferences, and that the things in which He is are uses. This can be seen to be true from the creation of the universe, from the life of man, and from the essence of uses.

The creation of the universe can be in no way so well understood as from types of it in the heavens. There creation is unceasing and instantaneous, for in the spiritual world lands exist in a moment, and upon them paradisal gardens, and in these trees full of fruits, also shrubs, flowers, and plants of every kind. When these are contemplated by one who is wise, they are found to be correspondences of the uses in which the angels are, to whom they are given as a reward. The angels, moreover, in accordance with their uses have houses given them, full of utensils and beautiful things according to uses; also garments according to their uses, and food that is esculent and palatable according to their uses, and delightful conversations, which also are uses because they are recreations. All these things are given them gratuitously, and yet on account of the uses they perform. In a word, the whole heaven is so full of uses that it may be called the very kingdom of uses.

Those, on the other hand, who perform no uses, are sent into the hells, where they are compelled by a judge to perform tasks; and if they refuse no food is given them and no clothing, nor any bed but the ground, and they are scoffed at by their companions as slaves are by their masters. The judge even permits them to be their bond servants, and if they entice others from their tasks they are severely punished. All this is done until they yield. But those who cannot be made to yield are cast out into deserts, where a morsel of bread is given them daily, and water to drink, and they dwell by themselves in huts or in caves; and because they perform no uses the land about them is so barren that a grassy sod is rarely seen upon it. In such deserts and hells I have seen many of noble descent, who in the world gave themselves up to idleness, or sought offices, the duties of which they discharged not for the sake of use but for honor and gain, which were the only uses regarded.

The uses performed in the heavens and the tasks done in the hells are in part like those done in the world, although for the most part they are spiritual uses, that cannot be described by any natural language, and (what I have often wondered at) do not fall into the ideas of natural thought. But this is generally the case with what is spiritual. In the unceasing and instantaneous creation of all things in the heavens there can be seen as in a type the creation of the universe with its globes, and that there is nothing created in these except for use, and in general, one kingdom of nature for another, the mineral kingdom for the vegetable, this for the animal, and both for the human race, that they may serve the Lord for performing uses to the neighbor.

From the life of man. When this is regarded from the creation of all things in it no part will be found that is not for use, not a fiber or minute vessel in the brains, in the organs of sense, in the muscles, or in any of the viscera of the thorax and the abdomen, or anywhere else, that is not for the sake of use in general and in particular, thus for the sake of the whole and of each thing connected with it, and not for its own sake. The greater forms, which are called members, sensories, muscles, and viscera, which are made up and organized from fibers and vessels, all are formed from use, in use, and for use, so that they may be simply called uses, of which the whole man is composed and formed. It is therefore clearly evident that they have no other origin and no other end than use.

That every man likewise was created and born for use is clearly evident from the use of all things in him, and from his state after death, when, if he performs no use, he is accounted so worthless that he is cast into infernal prisons or into desert places. That man is born to be a use is clear also from his life; for a man whose life is from a love of uses is wholly different from one whose life is from a love of idleness. By a life of idleness is meant a life made up of social interaction feasting, and entertainments. A life from the love of uses is a life of love of the public good and of love to the neighbor, and also a life of love to the Lord, for the Lord performs uses to man through man, consequently a life of the love of uses is the spiritual Divine life, and everyone who loves a good use and does it from a love for it is loved by the Lord, and is received with joy by the angels in heaven. But a life of the love of idleness is a life of the love of self and the world, and thus a merely natural life; and such a life does not hold the thoughts together, but diffuses them into every vain thing, and thereby turns man away from the delights of wisdom and immerses him in the delights of the body and of the world alone to which evils cling; therefore after death he is let down into the infernal society to which he has attached himself in the world, and is there compelled to work by force of hunger and lack of food. By uses in the heavens and on the earths are meant the ministries, functions, and pursuits of life, employments, various domestic tasks, occupations, consequently all things that are opposite to idleness and indolence.

From the essence of uses. The essence of uses is the public good. With the angels the public good in the most general sense means the good of the entire heaven, in a less general sense the good of the society, and in a particular sense the good of the fellow citizen. But with men the essence of uses in the most general sense is both the spiritual and the civil good of the whole human race, in a less general sense the good of the country, in a particular sense the good of a society, and in an individual sense the good of the fellow citizen; and as these goods constitute the essence of uses, love is their life, since all good is of love and the life is in the love. In this love is everyone who takes delight in the use he is in because of its usefulness, whether he is a king, a magistrate, a priest, a minister, a general, a merchant, or a workman. Everyone who takes delight in the use of his function because of its usefulness loves his country and fellow citizens; but he who does not take delight in it because of its usefulness, but does it solely for the sake of self, or solely for the sake of honor and wealth, does not in his heart love his country and fellow citizens, but only himself and the world. This is because no one can be kept by the Lord in love to the neighbor unless he is in some love for the public good; and no one can be in that love unless he is in the love of use for the sake of use, or in the love of use from use, thus from the Lord.

Since, then, each thing, and all things in the world were created in the beginning for use, and in man also all things were formed for use, and the Lord from creation regarded the whole human race as one man, in which each individual is likewise for use or is a use, and since the Lord Himself, as has been said above, is the life of that man, it is clear that the universe was so created that the Lord is in things first and in things last, also in the center and in the circumference, that is, in the midst of all, and that the things in which He is are uses. And from all this the Lord’s omnipresence and omniscience can be comprehended.

(Apocalypse Explained 1226)
June 3, 2017
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Changing lives: God is with us, taking care of us

“Ours is a journey for heaven, not for this earth. And mine has taught me that God is with us, taking care of us, and will sustain us even through the darkest times—and this he does through love.”

by Lisa Childs, transcribed and edited by Chelsea Odhner

“Ours is a journey for heaven, not for this earth. And mine has taught me that God is with us, taking care of us, and will sustain us even through the darkest times—and this he does through love.”

InJuly of 2009 we found out that my husband Garry had stage-four lung cancer. It had metastasized to his hip, there were twenty spots in his lungs, and it was also in his lymph system—a very grim picture.

Around the same time that we started chemotherapy for Garry, health problems for my eight-year-old twin children came to the surface. My daughter was diagnosed with asthma and my son was diagnosed as failing to thrive. My world was being totally flipped upside down.

I was determined to find some way to deal with the cancer, to fight it. That summer I happened to go to a lecture about a natural health center called the Well of Life Center. I was blown away by what I learned. It confirmed everything I had thought to be true about health, that God designed our bodies to be self-regulating and self-healing. God brought us to the Well of Life and gave me something to hold on to. It was a ray of hope for me.

We started our journey working against all odds. Lung cancer has a no cure prognosis. All four of us started going to the Well of Life and we changed our diets in many ways. I set up nutritional supplements for four people every day, different ones for each person, morning, noon, dinner, and night, but every time I did I said, “Thank you, God!” I felt like God was there in a tangible way, helping me by giving me something useful to do in my day to day life. He gave me a clear path. It was a lot of work, it was not easy, but I had direction, I believed in it, and I did it from love. That’s how I survived.

It worked! We had two years of incredible progress. My daughter’s asthma was healed and my son has gained fifteen pounds in three years. Even with Garry—for an entire year, even till he died, his lungs were clear, his hip was clear, and his lymph system was clear, and he had a good quality of life. We got so close to healing him and he did not suffer the death of someone with cancer in their lungs.

But they never scanned his brain. Lung cancer commonly spreads to the brain, but we did not know.

Near the end of the second year, Garry’s thirty-year-old daughter, Eva, was killed in a head-on car crash. Six days later, he started having a headache. Garry was always prone to headaches and he was grieving so we thought it was grief.

He went on with his headache for awhile. He didn’t tell me how bad it was. He got more and more tired and we kept thinking it was grief. Finally I said, “You need a break.” I told him, “You’re getting a scan in ten days. Your doctor talked about giving you a break from the chemotherapy. Why don’t we start the break now when we are on vacation?” He agreed and went off the chemo. We went to Virginia for a vacation and he started having problems. He looked to me to have Lyme symptoms and I gave him supplements to help with that.

Down in Virginia, we ended up having to take him to the ER on day six of our vacation. They did a CAT scan and found what looked to be brain cancer. They helicoptered him to another hospital for further diagnosis. There I was, watching my husband be flown away and I had to take the kids back to where we were staying, prepare for an overnight, and drive across the Skyline Drive to the hospital, not knowing what to expect when we got there. We got to the hospital and Garry was sitting in the ER waiting to be seen. They did an MRI but wouldn’t have the results soon. It was late and I had to get the kids to bed, so we sadly had to leave Garry a second time late at night. We drove to the condo (an hour and a half away). On that drive, I looked for God anywhere I could find him. We were crossing the Skyline Drive and there was the full moon. I felt like God was pouring his light on us in this dark moment.

The next morning we packed up the condo for leaving and went back to the hospital. It all seemed surreal. They gave us the results of the MRI and said, “You can take him home. We think he’ll be okay for the car ride, but if you have a problem go immediately to an ER.” By the time they could release him it was late for the five-hour drive home. So there I am, crossing the Skyline Drive again in the middle of a July night and there’s that full moon. Garry was lying in the back of the van sleeping and the kids eventually fell asleep as well. It was just me and the moon, and I felt like God came in and touched me. I looked at that moon the whole way back. It kept me going and it kept me focused. With two little kids and my husband in so much pain, I felt like I was all I had. The one place I could turn was to God. He brought me home that night. He also sent us two angels: our close friends and neighbors Lisa and Chris Knight were waiting for us to help us unpack in the middle of the night.

After we got back, the doctors said to him, “There’s nothing we can do for you, so we want to give you palliative treatment and do whole brain radiation.” The doctors would not listen to my concerns about Lyme disease and no biopsy was done that summer. At that point, I went to a really bad place for two days, a place of absolute despair, a place with no hope. After those two days, I said, “I can’t live my life in this state. I have to have hope.” I chose to live in hope and walked away from that dark state.

The radiation didn’t help but rather started damaging his brain. We were not allowed to go to Well of Life during radiation. Garry suffered tremendously. Then the third and last time we admitted Garry into the hospital they said, “He’s got more spots that are wrapped around his spinal cord. We can do whole back radiation, but we don’t think it’s worth it.” They said he only had a few weeks left. He actually only had about six days.

I realize now that I was dealing with circumstances I couldn’t change. His brain was deteriorating. But instead of giving up I kept trying to help in any way I could, even if that meant simply staying by his side, caring for him and loving him. God’s love also reached us through the many caring people that surrounded us.

Despite how hard it was, the love that we experienced together during that time was powerful. We were in a heavenly sphere even as we were going through all this hell. Just as God gave me the gift of the moon, he gave me this sphere during those last few weeks. I look back and I feel like God was there. During that time, I’d say, “I love you Garry,” and I’d go to kiss him and he’d kiss me back, even though he couldn’t say anything. He knew I was there with him. Our love transcended the moment, as it does to this day.

That last night, a family member was taking a turn staying by Garry’s side. I had a sense about it and said, “I need to sleep here tonight.” (A brother of Garry’s, Robin, had spelled for me one night so I could get some sleep.) The kids said, “If you’re going to be down here, we’re going to be down here!” So we went up and dragged another twin bed downstairs, and the three of us slept down with Garry. He was in his hospital bed. We said the Lord’s prayer and then the kids said, “I love you daddy,” and the one standing next to him said that at that moment he smiled. He could hear that. He didn’t respond to anything by that point, but he heard them and smiled. He died the next day.

It is a gift to have the belief that death is about the person transitioning to the next world. We knew he was being released from his body. He wasn’t just dying, he was going to the other world and we had this precious time to love him before he left.

I learned in the recent Journey program that you need to store up good things to help you with the bad, and I finally understand how those good things help sustain you so that you can handle all the hardship. The spiritual level, that heavenly sphere, was sustaining me through all the other struggles and challenges. Mentally I was frazzled, emotionally I was devastated, physically I was deteriorating, but spiritually I was thriving.

I realize now how this life is all about the other world. For a while Garry had resisted our dietary changes. Later, after attending a men’s gathering in Bryn Athyn, PA, a light switched on for him and he said, “I didn’t get it before. I’m totally committed now.” He made more changes in his lifestyle, and I thought to myself, “We have had more than six months of clean scans”—at that point—“He’s gotten so much healthier. He’s going to survive this!” And then all of sudden, he’s dead. I realize now that I thought his changing was to help his physical body live. Instead, it was a spiritual transformation he needed to go through on this earth, in preparation for his work in the other world. Only when you look at things from a spiritual perspective do they really make sense.

Ours is a journey for heaven, not for this earth. And mine has taught me that God is with us, taking care of us, and will sustain us even through the darkest times—and this he does through love.

Garry and Lisa are both 1972 Academy of the New Church graduates. Garry died Sept. 25, 2011, also father of: Norah (36), Amanda (30), and Adam (28). Lisa lives in Bryn Athyn with her twins, Ryan and Abigail who are currently in fifth grade. Lisa does part-time publication and marketing work for New Church organizations as she navigates the roles of being a single parent and leading her family through grief.

Full issue

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“We are, because God is.”

Divine Providence 46

Why Christianity?

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

Spiritual Topics

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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.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

We have freedom to choose

God is Love

I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. 
[Deuteronomy 30:19-20 ESV]

 

In the historical setting of the Old Testament this quotation from Deuteronomy comes just before Moses dies and his successor Joshua leads the Children of Israel across the Jordan into the Promised Land. It was a timely reminder to the people that they continued to have a choice – they could choose to follow the Lord and his way, holding fast to him, or to turn away from him – they had freedom to choose between life and death, blessing and curse.

Freedom to choose is something that we experience to varying degrees in every aspect of our lives – the freedom to choose where we live, what job we do, what food we eat, what clothes we wear and so much more. This freedom may seem an important aspect of our chosen life-style but what we choose as a result is really rather superficial compared to the fundamental and deeper spiritual freedom we have to make the choice between what is true and what is false, what is good and what is bad – to essentially choose to move closer to God or to move further away from God. This is the type of freedom to choose that is described in Deuteronomy 30:19-20. It is God given and maintained equally to all as part of our essential human nature.

In his book Heaven and Hell, Emanuel Swedenborg wrote the following about this type of freedom:

Essentially, spiritual equilibrium is freedom, because it is a balance between what is good and what is bad, and between what is true and what is false. All these are spiritual realities. Therefore, to want to do something good or something bad, and to think something true or something false, and to choose one over the other, is freedom. This freedom is given by the Lord to every human being, and is in no way removed from anyone.
[Heaven and Hell 597]

But we might ask Why does God gives us this freedom?

We can perhaps find an answer by thinking about the way a wise and loving parent treats their children. One of the hardest things such a parent has to do is to let their child make mistakes despite realising the probable pain and suffering that will ensue. Children have to grow and develop and make their own way in the world and not feel they are being manipulated or directed by their parents. They will make the right decisions and the wrong decisions and yet the loving parent has to stand back and not intervene. They just offer advice to their child as to what they should do and then leave their child the freedom to make up their own mind. The loving relationship of parent and child is similar to other loving relationships in that, paradoxically, the more freedom we give to those whom we love the greater and stronger is the love that is ultimately returned. Force someone to love you and no real mutual love develops. However, offering to love someone and leaving them the freedom to respond or not is a high risk and potentially painful strategy as most people find out at some stage in their lives when love is not returned.

God gives us the freedom to choose his way or to reject it because he wants to develop a relationship with each one of us based on mutual love not the relationship of a master to a servant but of friends, as Jesus makes clear in John’s gospel.

You are my friends if you do what I command you. No longer do I call you servants, for the servant does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you.
[John 15:14,15 ESV]

Jesus also talks about the mutual nature of the relationship he wishes us to enter into.

Remain in me and I in you. He who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit.
[John 15:4, 5 ESV]

And the mutual or reciprocal nature of this desired relationship is also mentioned in Revelation:

If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I shall come in to him, and dine with him, and he with me.
[Revelation 3:20 ESV]

Freedom to choose allows everybody the possibility of forming a link with God, holding fast to him and coming closer and closer to him or we can go in the other direction and break the link with God and move further and further away from him it is our choice.

Emanuel Swedenborg comments on this linking with God as follows:

The link between the Lord and a person is reciprocal; and it follows inevitably from this that a person ought to link himself with the Lord, so that the Lord may link himself with him. It also follows that the consequence would otherwise be not linking, but removal and separation, though this is not on the Lord’s part, but on a person’s. In order to make the link reciprocal, a person has been given freedom to choose, allowing him to set foot on the road to heaven, or the road to hell.
[True Christian Religion 371:2]

Swedenborg also refers to coming closer to God:

It is a law of the divine design that the closer and closer we come to God, which is something we have to do as if we were completely on our own, the closer and closer God comes to us.
[True Christian Religion 89]

In the gospels Jesus emphasises that He who remains in me, and I in him, bears much fruit. Some of the spiritual fruit to which he refers are listed in Galatians 5:22,23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control;

We have been given freedom to choose the Lord’s way or our own. But it is in choosing his way that we can begin to develop true spiritual fruits. Not only will this development bring us closer to the Lord and him to us but we will become truly spiritually free!

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free”. They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, You will become free?”
Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who practices sin is a slave to sin. The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever. So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.”
[John 8:31-36 ESV]

http://www.god-is-love.org.uk/

http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/index.htm

http://www.smallcanonsearch.org/

Prolonging life — How far should we go?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Prolonging lifeWhen you are young prolonging life seems a great idea. But when you get old things seem a bit different.

Emily aged 85 went into hospital. Her home is a nursing care home. She cannot support her own weight and needs a hoist and wheelchair to get her to the toilet and dining room. She is able to sit in an armchair and watches television. She has several diseases necessitating a good deal of staff time and medication. These are Alzheimer’s, rheumatoid arthritis, chronic pain, diabetes, and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. Her mood is okay and she is able to converse in a limited way with staff and her visitors.

Prolonging life of patients like Emily

However the quality of life changes when she gets a chest or urinary tract infection to which she is vulnerable. At these times she has breathing problems and becomes uncommunicative. These problems have resulted in several hospital admissions in recent months.  Only in hospital can adequate treatment be provided eg monitoring machines, scans, medical expertise on hand, adequate amounts of needed oxygen and so on. When in hospital at first she becomes agitated and more confused and then later fed up not being in her own room at the care home where she sees familiar faces.

The question arises: how many times should a very ill and infirm person near the end of life be given repeated inpatient episodes of hospital treatment. When is prolonging life inappropriate?

It used to be said that pneumonia was the old person’s friend because, although it resulted in death, it took away suffering caused by other serious ailments such as from advanced dementia, cancer, or kidney disease.

Even if physician assisted suicide and euthanasia are rejected, end-of-life care for elderly people with chronic diseases involves difficult clinical and ethical judgments. Such conditions won’t easily go away despite the best that medicine can offer. Palliative care means doctors and nurses do their best to reduce discomfort and pain and improve the quality of the patient’s life whether or not there is hope of a cure by other means.

Prolonging life within the context of professional ethics

Doctors and nurses practice within a framework of professional ethics for example principles of informed patient choice, maximising good, not causing harm, and providing what is thought the patient has a right to receive. All medical treatments involve risks and benefits. Health staff try to get the best balance between interventionist treatment that directly tackles disease and palliative care. These however have different goals and sometimes suggest opposing clinical plans.

Good end of life care means neither hastening death nor unnecessarily prolonging life. Unfortunately it seems that sometimes inevitably one of these consequences will result.

Should one decline to give emergency resuscitation to someone where no improvement in their suffering is likely to result from further living? Should hydration and nutrition not be forced via tubes into the body when the patient is unwilling to drink or eat? Should more effective higher levels of sedative be given to patients in pain although this increases the risk of death? This seems suspiciously like inappropriately prolonging life.

To my way of thinking, the trouble is health professionals are expected to try to cure us. Those health care staff practicing palliative care do not always receive support from family members, other healthcare professionals, or their social peers for their work to reduce suffering and follow patients’ wishes for end-of-life care.

Negative attitudes towards palliative care

N.E. Goldstein and colleagues did a survey and found that more than half of doctors who practice palliative care report that a patient’s family members, or another health care professional had characterized their work as being “euthanasia”, “murder”, or “killing” during the previous five years. And so I do wonder if inadvertently doctors err on the side of prolonging life unnecessarily for fear of being criticised for harming patients by not being interventionist.

They practice in a world where anxiety about death is common and where medicine cannot sanitize dying. Fear of death is pretty widespread and so no wonder it exerts a powerful effect on attitudes to end of life care. Does acceptance of death mean one is able to lean towards palliative care rather than towards interventionist treatment?

Psychological research has found that the fear of death is made up of a number of different fears. For example a study by James Diggory and Doreen Rothman found that the following are common fears about death in descending order of importance:

  • My death would cause grief to my relatives and friends
  • All my plans and projects would come to an end
  • The process of dying might be painful
  • I could no longer have any experiences
  • I would no longer be able to care for my dependents
  • I am afraid of what might happen to me if there is a life after death
  • I am afraid of what might happen to my body after death.

Understanding death

Emanuel Swedenborg has given a vivid account of life after death from his personal experiences in the eighteenth century. What he says is often echoed since in the accounts of mediums, those having near death experiences (NDE’s), and those receiving brief communications from the other side (ADC’s). All show a continuation of life similar to what we are familiar in the physical world, albeit in a world of spirit where one’s inner life of experience and character are more apparent.

There is plenty of information that can greatly reassure people if they would take the trouble to find out more. For example for ADC’s click here and for NDE’s click here.

Is difficulty in confronting attitudes to death in Western culture affecting the way hospitals actively treat elderly people with serious illness at the end of their useful life in the world?

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

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

Posted on29th November 2012CategoriesEthics, Ethics & LifeTags,, , , , , , , ,  Leave a comment

Euthanasia – good or bad?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

euthanasiaRecently one mother, Frances Inglis, has been jailed for life for murdering a son who was in a persistent vegetative state, and another mother, Kay Gilderdale was acquitted of the attempted murder of her daughter, whose suicide she assisted. What should we do about euthanasia done to relieve suffering? When the patient brings about his or her own death with the assistance of a physician, the term assisted suicide is often used instead.

Passive euthanasia entails the withholding of common treatments, such as antibiotics, necessary for the continuance of life. It can be misleading to use the term ‘euthanasia’ for the withholding of life-sustaining treatment or for the use of pain-relieving drugs which may also shorten life, because these may be both life choices if one seeks to enable a person to live as fully as possible even while dying. But active euthanasia is to choose death as an end, and that is a very different thing. It entails the use of lethal substances or forces to kill and is the most controversial means.

Some religious people condemn euthanasia as wrong. However, many reach no final conclusion although seeing several relevant spiritual perspectives.

Should the individual choice of euthanasia be respected?

We each have a human faculty of freedom and rationality. We expect people to exercise these in applying their values to the circumstances they find themselves in. Defending the innocent is justified when we risk our life taking responsibility for others safety. And so it is argued perhaps we should likewise take responsibility for ending our own suffering.

But having a responsibility to choose between what is good and bad doesn’t make our wrong choices right. We may have the freedom to think as we please, but this does not mean we should do so if our desires are against ethics and spiritual values.

Swedenborg pointed out that our rational good sense is reduced when we are ill and in pain. We may think we are making our own free choices but actually these may be subtly influenced by unconscious factors. Some terminally ill people, some deeply depressed, do believe that their choice of death is for the good of others. ‘They will be better off without me; I am such a burden to them.’ There may be many reasons behind such statements. They are most often the words of someone with misjudged feelings of low self-worth.

It might be asked did not Captain Oates ‘choose death’ when he walked from Scott’s tent into the Antarctic blizzard. Yes, in a sense he did, but not as an end. He chose to act in the way he did knowing that it involved death, and accepting his death as a means when there was no alternative – to help the safety of his fellow human beings. ‘Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends’ (John 15:13). The distinction here is between intention and foresight. Oates foresaw his  death: death was not his choice.

Should one be allowed euthanasia to escape intolerable pain and loss of independence?

We can imagine a rare situation of extreme suffering, such as the soldier in the burning gun turret who cannot be rescued, and whose agonizing death is unavoidable, for whom it may be judged that a merciful bullet is a gesture of care.

Those who are aware of their ethical responsibilities may be sympathetic to the idea that to prolong life uselessly is to undermine the independent moral status of a person. This is where it seems that personal qualities of rationality, freedom, self-possession and responsibility have become inactive and not given any dignity.

On the other hand when rationality has been taken away by pain or brain damage, the patient’s competence to volunteer their informed consent for euthanasia can be difficult to determine or even define. Mercy killing without the patient’s volunteering for this is even more controversial a step. The public’s trust in doctors’ and nurses’ duty to preserve life would be undermined if they were allowed to assist in mercy killing.

It goes against all human love to allow unnecessary suffering and this is an important factor for those who believe in Love and Light. On the other hand only such a Light  can know what is unnecessary suffering. Cannot we trust that intolerable pain will not be allowed by nature? Does it not provide the unconsciousness of concussion rather than our experience of something beyond which we can bear?

Is there any point in keeping someone alive past the point he or she can contribute to society?

For many being useful is the purpose of their lives. But how can one be sure anyone is no longer serving a useful role? For all we know in any given situation, a need for nursing care is a stimulus for others to learn better how to act in a selfless way and for the sufferer to see the affection and concern of close family members as they do what they can to help.

Euthanasia implies a right to die

One consideration for religious people is they did not create their life — it is from God their Creator. The life within them is not theirs to own and dispose of as they wish. It is God’s life in them. But more than a gift, life is a trust. Their life is on trust and they see themselves as stewards of this gift. To choose death, for the person of faith, therefore, is a denial that God is trusting that person with life. If life is a gift then we have no right to a life and so have no right to a death.

The question of euthanasia raises many spiritual issues.

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

 

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

Posted on14th February 2011CategoriesEthics, Ethics & LifeTags,, , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , , , ,  Leave a comment

Reincarnation – How plausible is it?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

reincarnationMore people in the West are becoming interested in the concept of reincarnation. They are attracted to the idea that the human spirit lives on beyond death. I suspect they have lost patience with two specific doctrines of traditional Christian religion.

Instead of reincarnation, final destiny according to actions in one life

The first of these is that one’s soul is judged to eternity on the basis of how one behaved in one’s short life on earth. Given the unequal range of hereditary and environmental influence, on the face of it, there seems to be too short a time in one life to provide sufficient opportunity for one’s destiny to be decided.

Instead of reincarnation, final destiny according to beliefs in one life

The second doctrine is that one can be judged as deserving eternal damnation because of lack of belief about Jesus Christ. It smacks of a God of condemnation rather than one of love. The first doctrine seems unjust and the second abhorrent.

Reincarnation as not a final judgment

In contrast, the Eastern religious idea of reincarnation is that the soul or spirit of a person returns to live in one or more new bodies, giving us more than one life-time to be purified of our weaknesses and failings.  It does seem more reasonable to suppose that a gradual improvement of the individual spirit takes place rather than a sudden change.

Swedenborg’s account of the spiritual world as an alternative to reincarnation

However, there is an alternative way of thinking to that of reincarnation that takes account of these problems. This is to do with Emanuel Swedenborg’s account of the spiritual world.

If you believe everything that is alive in the body belongs strictly to the soul (or spirit), then it follows that the spirit is the actual person. In line with this is the experience of Swedenborg that when a person’s body is separated from his spirit at death, he or she is still a person — still alive having a spirit body and retaining a complete personal memory.

This would mean the continuation of your personal identity in a spiritual world and thus no loss of your present personality in any new incarnations in the physical world. You wouldn’t have to keep repeating the whole process of childhood, teenage and adult mental and emotional growth.  Nor could you be blamed for any impairments or deformities as signs of past wrongdoing in a previous life which is a problem with the doctrine of reincarnation.

Swedenborg says he has psychically observed how individuals in the next life continue to spiritually develop; a growth that depends on the character they have formed on earth. This observation is in line with the idea of karma that what one does in this present life will have its effect in the next life: what we sow we will reap.

Retention of individuality

He indicates that after death spirit people retain their individuality and pass through stages something similar to what we might say are different kinds of psychotherapy. He claims this will involve you firstly in self-exploration: secondly in a stage where any attitudes, desires or habits of thought, that are out of line with your basic character, are removed: and thirdly in a situation where you will be able to learn more about spiritual life if you so wish. In other words, as long as you are genuinely sorry about your wrongdoings, these can be forgiven and set aside.

Phenomena apparently supporting reincarnation

One phenomenon, apparently supporting the conclusion that one has had a previous existence, is that of déjà vu – sometimes finding a place or person familiar although not actually previously seen and thus knowing what to expect. Another phenomenon that seems to support reincarnation is the memory of past life as revealed in regressive hypnosis.

My own view is we should try to distinguish between this evidence and its interpretation. I do believe these actually are evidence of past lives — but not the individual’s own past lives.

Swedenborg testifies from his psychic journeys that all spirits in the spirit world are men and women who once lived on our physical plane when they were in the body. I am persuaded by his experience that there is a psychic presence of these spirits of dead people with all of us on earth. It’s just that we cannot ordinarily see them.  I cannot see or hear them but I believe that their desires and thoughts come into my heart and mind; feelings and ideas that I mistakenly assume to be my own. Swedenborg says I am free to choose which one’s to ignore and which one’s to listen to and act on.

He writes that these spirits are normally not permitted to communicate from their own memories. However, for some reason, that admittedly is not clear to me, he says it does sometimes occur and, when it does the person recollects something he or she has never seen or heard.

So the explanation of the experience of past lives that I offer, is of an occasional overstepping of the boundaries by spirits associated with people leading them to believe they must have lived before.

Instead of thinking of reincarnation in terms of human souls reincarnating in new physical bodies, we could think of the Source of all life repeatedly reincarnating through each new created soul. We could also think of this Creative Source being reborn again and again within each person who is willing to receive the Divine inspiration during an eternal process of personal regeneration in this life continuing in a next world of spirit.

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

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

Posted on9th November 2011CategoriesMeaning of life, Other aspects of meaningTags, , , , , ,, , , ,, , , , , , ,, , , , , ,,  Leave a comment

What should we think about suicide?

by Rev. John Odhner

Suicide brings up a lot of pain and grief for those affected by it. There is usually anger, guilt and depression surrounding it, and the process of working through these feelings can take time. Unfortunately, these feelings are often compounded by expressions of criticism, judgment and blame. We think: “If only this person had behaved differently,” or, “That person should have done something sooner.” We may pass judgment on the person who commits suicide, or we may place the blame on family or friends. Either way, it puts an additional, unnecessary burden on people who are already burdened.

Some people say those who commit suicide cannot go to heaven, or will suffer terribly after death because of their crime. Perhaps this idea is intended as a deterrent to suicide. I think it actually is not an effective way to prevent suicide, since it can make a suicidal person feel even more unloved and distant from God.

I also believe it causes extra pain for the family and friends, who then have to deal with the thought that someone they love is headed for hell or suffering horrible punishments. They are already in a very painful situation, dealing with real hurts, and don’t need imaginary and hypothetical ones added. Furthermore, I believe it is wrong to pass such judgments on people, living or dead.

Suicide does not end our problems

Emanuel Swedenborg had the ability to be conscious in both the spiritual world and the natural world at the same time.  Because of this he was able to tell us what happened to people after their death, and also to see how people who have gone on to the spiritual world influence people who are still on earth. In Swedenborg’s unpublished diary we read what happened to a person who committed suicide:

A certain one in the life of the body had committed suicide by stabbing himself with a knife, having been driven to desperation through depression, to which he had been driven by diabolical spirits. He came to me complaining that he was being miserably treated by evil spirits, and said that he was among the furies who were continually provoking him. The place where he was, was in the lower earth, a little to the left. He also seemed to me to have a knife in his hand which he wanted to drive into his breast. He labored hard with that knife, wanting to throw it away from himself but without success. For whatever happens in the last hour of death remains for a long time before it disappears, as I was told. (Spiritual Diary 1336, 1337)

This shows us that whatever inner problems we have in this life we will generally have to face in the next life. If we look at this passage negatively, we might conclude that people who commit suicide will after death be tormented by evil spirits and will continue to have suicidal experiences. But before we make such generalizations, we should note that this passage is describing a particular person’s experience, and with other people suicide may have different effects.

We should also note that this person’s difficult time was temporary. He had to go through painful experiences in order to come into a better state. By struggling with the evil spirits who were attacking him, he could eventually overcome his depression and suicidal tendencies. What happens at the time of death is likely to have a big impact on a person’s subsequent thoughts and actions but this does not mean that all who commit suicide will respond in the same way. In fact, the next two passages indicate that this does not happen with every suicide.

Are people punished after death for suicide?

The fact is that no one is punished in the next life for deeds committed in this life. When people are drawn to suicide through evil that they have deliberately chosen, that evil will probably stay with them, and they will suffer as a result. But when the suicide is from pressures beyond their control (such as insanity), they will not suffer for it at all in the next life. The following passages do not speak specifically of suicide, but the connection is clear:

No one in the other world suffers punishment on account of the evils that he had done in this world, but only on account of the evils that he then does; although it amounts to the same . . . , since everyone after death returns into his own life and thus into like evils and the person continues the same as he had been in the life of the body. . . . But good spirits, although they had done evils in the world, are never punished, because their evils do not return. Moreover, I have learned that the evils they did were of a different kind or nature, not being done purposely in opposition to the truth, or from any other badness of heart than that which they received by inheritance from their parents, and that they were carried into this by a blind delight when they were in externals separate from internals. (Heaven and Hell 509; emphasis added)

But as regards good spirits, if perchance they speak or do evil, they are not punished, but pardoned, and also excused. For their end is not to speak or do evil, and they know that such things are excited in them by hell, so that they have not come to pass by their fault; and the same is also observed from their resistance, and afterward from their grief. (Arcana Coelestia 6559)

From this we can see that a person who is basically good who commits suicide will not be punished at all for this in the other life, because his or her intention in committing suicide is not to hurt other people.

Suicide permitted to protect a person’s soul

Another passage in Swedenborg’s private diary speaks of evil spirits who attempt to kill the people they are with:

It was told me they were such as had formerly [in their lifetime] slaughtered whole armies, as is recorded in the Scripture histories, having induced insanities upon them, for they rushed into the chambers of their brain, and then inspired such terror that one slew another. That they were able to strike such terror I was assured, but it is seldom done at the present day. It is extremely rare that the bonds are loosened to any of them at this day, and only takes place in the case of some one who is of such a quality that it were better that he should be permitted to perish as to his body than as to his soul, and in regard to whom, unless he perished bodily in this manner, by means of insanity and suicide, he could not well be prevented from perishing to eternity. (Spiritual Diary 1783; compare Arcana Coelestia 5717)

This passage also may not apply to every suicide, but like the first passage, it shows us that suicide can result from insanity induced by evil spirits. Perhaps more important here is the teaching that suicide is permitted in order to keep a person from perishing eternally . This is quite different from the teaching of some other religions: that people who commit suicide go to hell. The truth is that the Lord may allow people to commit suicide when He sees that it is the only way they can come into heaven.

As a confirmation of the fact that people who commit suicide can go to heaven, note that the Writings imply that Judas, who committed suicide, is now in heaven. (True Christian Religion 791, Matthew 27:5)

Swedenborg’s suicidal urges

Swedenborg himself had suicidal urges. He wrote: “I wanted to kill myself with a knife. This desire grew so strong that I hid the knife in my desk.” (Spiritual Diary 4530) This feeling was the result of a woman who had hated Swedenborg during her life in this world. She carried that hatred into the spiritual world and there she tried to get revenge by inspiring him to kill himself. Swedenborg also mentions spirits who apparently tried to make him step in front of a moving vehicle or jump off a bridge. (Spiritual Diary 253, 1043) This reminds me of the demon-possessed person who would throw himself into the fire or try to drown himself. (Matthew 17:15)

From this we can see how useless and even hurtful it can be to blame suicide on the individual who kills himself, or on the person’s family or friends. It’s possible that we are at fault for harboring evil desires that draw such evil spirits to us, but it could also be something that is completely out of our control and not at all our fault.

Better to die than to be drawn away from the Lord

I suspect that some people may commit suicide because they see their life headed in a bad direction and feel it would be better to die than to be drawn further along the path to hell. Consider this experience that Swedenborg relates:

When any wish to lead astray the spirits of that earth, and draw them away from faith in the Lord, or from humility toward Him, and from uprightness of life, they say that they wish to die. Then little knives are seen in their hands, by which they seem to wish to pierce their breasts. When they are asked why they do so, they say that they would rather die than be led away from the Lord. Sometimes the spirits of our earth laugh at these things, and infest them with questionings why they do so. But they answer that they know very well that they are not going to kill themselves, and that this is only an appearance proceeding from the will of their mind, showing that they would rather die than be drawn away from the worship of the Lord. (Arcana Coelestia 8950)

These spirits knew they would not kill themselves because they were already in the spiritual world, so they could not die. If they had been alive in the natural world, might they have possibly killed themselves? I don’t know, but I suspect a similar kind of motivation enters into some suicides in this world.

Giving up your life to find life

All of us, in order to come into heaven, must in some sense be willing to voluntarily give up our lives. We must be willing to give up the life of selfishness and materialism, which is the death of our selfish and worldly desires.

He who loves his life shall lose it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to eternal life. (John 12.25)

Whoever will save his life shall lose it: and whoever will lose his life for My sake shall find it. (Matthew 16:25, 10.39, Mark 8:35, Luke 9:24, 17:33)

If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his father, and mother, and wife, and children, and brothers, and sisters, yes, and his own soul also, he cannot be My disciple. (Luke 14:26)

And they loved not their soul unto death. (Revelation 12:11) This means they did not love themselves more than the Lord. “Loving their soul” means to love themselves and the world, for the soul means the person’s own life, which everyone has by birth, which is to love himself and the world above all things. Therefore “not loving his soul” means not to love himself and the world more than the Lord and the things which are the Lord’s. “Unto death,” means to be willing to die instead. Consequently it is to love the Lord above all things, and the neighbor as one’s self (Matthew 22:35-39) ; and to be willing to die rather than recede from those two loves. (Apocalypse Revealed 556)

Happy are the dead who die in the Lord … “the dead” mean those who afflicted their soul, crucified their flesh, and suffered temptations; . . . “and that they may rest from their labors,” means that those who are tempted will have peace in the Lord, . . . “Temptations” here mean spiritual temptations, which take place with those who have faith in the Lord and live according to His commandments, when they drive away the evil spirits that are with them, who act as one with their lusts. . . . The reason why they are meant by “the dead” who have afflicted their soul, crucified their flesh, and suffered temptations, is, because thereby they have caused their former life to die, and therefore are become as it were dead before the world. (Apocalypse Revealed 639)

I believe that sometimes suicide may involve letting go of and giving up our excessive interest in ourselves and in worldly things.

The Lord gave up His life voluntarily

Jesus said: “No one takes My life from Me, but I lay it down of Myself.” (John 10:18) The Writings say that it was through this the Human was united to the Divine:

It was not in respect to His Divine but in respect to His Human that the Lord suffered, and by this an inmost – thus complete – union was brought about. This may also be illustrated by the fact that when a person suffers physically his soul does not suffer, but only grieves; and after the victory God takes away this grief and wipes it away as one wipes away tears from the eyes. (True Christian Religion 126)

Biblical people who desired death

Besides Judas and Jesus, there are a number of other people in the Bible who expressed a desire to give up their lives. Saul saw that the Philistines were 340 new church life: july/august 2015 about to capture and kill him:

Then Saul said to his armor bearer, “Draw your sword, and thrust me through with it, lest these uncircumcised men come and thrust me through and abuse me.” But his armor bearer would not, for he was greatly afraid. Therefore Saul took a sword and fell on it. And when his armor bearer saw that Saul was dead, he also fell on his sword, and died with him. (1 Samuel 31:4)

The Writings say of this that the “uncircumcised” Philistines represent filthy, selfish, materialistic loves. (Arcana Coelestia 1197, 4462) Is it possible that a motive in suicide might be to avoid being captured by such desires?

Just before Samson brought the whole building down, killing the crowd of Philistines who held him captive, he said: “Let my life die with the Philistines.” (Judges 16:30) When Jesus spoke of His own coming death, Peter said: “I will lay down my life for You.” (John 13:37)  Jonah also expressed a desire to die:

“Therefore now, O Lord, I beseech You, take my life from me; for it is better for me to die than to live . . . “ And it came to pass, when the sun rose, that God prepared a strong east wind. And the sun beat on the head of Jonah, so that he fainted, and wished in himself to die. And he said, “It is better for me to die than to live.” (Jonah 4:3, 8, explained somewhat in Apocalypse Explained 401:36)

Elijah also wished to die when he was despairing about Israel’s rejection of the Lord:

Elijah requested for himself that he might die; and said, “It is enough. Now, O Lord, take away my life; for I am not better than my fathers.” (1 Kings 19:4)

Samson, Peter, Jonah and Elijah may have had rather selfish motives for wanting to die. For Samson it may have been revenge; for Peter, glory; for Jonah, self-centeredness. But on a deeper level these stories are all about the fact that temptation is a kind of spiritual death, and the selfishness in us must die in order for us to progress spiritually.

The heroism of giving up one’s life

Every act has its quality from the motivation. Suicide can be a very selfish act which shows complete disregard for other people. Yet giving up one’s own life is a heroic act if the purpose is to protect others. It is the ultimate expression of unselfish love.

Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)

If the country is threatened with ruin from an enemy or any other source, it is noble to die for it, and glorious for a soldier to shed his blood for it. (True Christian Religion 710)

In the other life all goods are immeasurably increased, and the life in the body is such that people can go no further than loving the neighbor as themselves, because they are in the things of the body, but when these are removed, the love becomes purer, and at last angelic, which consists in loving the neighbor more than themselves. The possibility of such love is evident from the married love that exists with some people, who would suffer death rather than let their married partner be injured. It is also evident from the love of parents for their children, in that a mother will endure starvation rather than see her infant hunger, and this is true even among birds and animals. It is likewise evident from true friendship, in that we will undergo perils for our friends. (Arcana Coelestia 548)

Suicide and heroism

When a person commits suicide as an escape, or worse, as a way of causing suffering to others, it is a selfish and cowardly act – just the opposite of heroism. Yet at times the line between heroism and suicide becomes blurred. It is the motive more than the action that makes the difference, and looking at others we see only the apparent motive. We may not know the real reason a person takes his or her own life.

If a person dies in battle, we assume the motives were noble, although the person could have been suicidal. For example, in the opening scene of Dances With Wolves , the soldier is depressed because he is about to have his leg amputated. He recklessly charges into the crossfire hoping to be killed, but other soldiers think he is bravely leading a charge. They follow him, and so his attempted suicide accidentally leads a charge which turns the tide of the battle. He gets decorated as a hero although he had no heroic intentions. In this case, what looked like heroism was actually an attempt at suicide.

It can also happen that a person may have heroic motives when all we see outwardly is an attempt at suicide. When a person commits suicide, we do not know what kind of battles he is going through, and what good reasons he may have for giving up his life. Perhaps what seems to us a selfish act is actually a heroic effort to give up selfishness. We cannot judge.

Broader teachings about death and evil

Some of Swedenborg’s teachings can help us understand suicide better even though they are not directed specifically at suicide. Rather than going into detail, I will very briefly mention a few specific examples:

Every evil is permitted for the sake of salvation. (Divine Providence 275)

Only that which is done from freedom according to the individual’s reason remains with the person. (Divine Providence 78)

The Divine Providence is in the smallest details of a person’s thoughts and affections, even if the person is evil. (Divine Providence 287)

There are evils we do that are not our fault, and ones that are our fault. (Arcana Coelestia 4171, 4172)

The Lord’s providence governs the time of a person’s death. (Spiritual Diary 5002, 5003)

Everyone is protected by angels during the process of death. (Heaven and Hell 449)

Swedenborg wrote so much about life and death that we will find many other teachings that may be helpful and comforting when we face death in any form. Here are just a few:

  • The Lord is infinitely loving, merciful and forgiving.
  • All our thoughts and feelings flow in from the spiritual world, and only the ones we come to love and approve of become a permanent part of our character.
  • Death is not the end of life, but a continuation of life, and we live in the spiritual world a life similar to the life we live here, with the difference that in heaven things are much closer to perfection.
  • The Lord wants everyone to go to heaven, and He always protects our freedom to choose heaven. Only people who genuinely prefer hell will go there.
  • Bad things we do out of ignorance or when we are overpowered by strong emotions are relatively easy to overcome, as long as we recognize that they are wrong.
  • People who are mentally ill are not free and rational, so they are not spiritually responsible for their behavior.
  • Everyone who dies before becoming an adult is taken directly to heaven to be raised by angels.

Each of these ideas could fill a chapter in a book, so there is much more that you can explore, question and grow from if you wish.

Summary

Suicide can leave us feeling that life is extremely confusing, complex and painful. It will often seem to make absolutely no sense at all. The teachings here will not take away all the pain, but they may bring a little clarity and comfort to people who have been faced with suicide. To summarize:

  • A person may take his or her own life for good reasons, bad reasons, or a mixture of both. We cannot judge the inner motivations involved in suicide, only the outward appearances. Sometimes what looks like suicide may have a heroic motive hidden inside.
  • The act of suicide is always wrong and painful. It is an evil which comes from hell, just like war and disease. But this does not mean that a person who commits suicide is evil. The person who commits suicide may be a victim of forces entirely beyond his or her control.
  • Suicide is caused by the influence of evil spirits who love to harm people. These spirits can cause suicidal compulsions and temporary insanity. The individuals involved may or may not be at fault in opening themselves up to evil spirits.
  • Suicide is permitted for the sake of eternal good that can come to those who are affected by it. Committing suicide does not prevent a person from entering heaven, and may in fact help keep a person out of hell. Good can also come from it to loved ones left behind.
  • The quality of our life after death is based more on how we live our life in this world than on how we die. A moment of death-bed repentance will not make an angel of someone who has enjoyed a life of evil. And one act of evil at the end of a person’s life, even committed deliberately, will not destroy all a person’s good loves and intentions.

The Lord is infinitely loving and merciful, both to those who feel that love and to those who feel isolated from it. All the evil that the Lord permits, and all the blessings He provides, come from that infinite mercy which is constantly seeking to lead each one of us to heaven as far as we are willing to go, each on the unique path that is best for us. Suicide can leave us feeling that life is extremely confusing, complex and painful. It will often seem to make absolutely no sense at all. The teachings here will not take away all the pain, but they may bring a little clarity and comfort to people who have been faced with suicide.

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Chapter XVIII. Man at Birth.

THIS diagram presents

The degrees that are composed of spiritual substances, all of which are from the father,

The parts which are organized of material substances and are from the mother,

The taint of hereditary evil from the father and mother respectively, and

The development of the degrees at birth. *

* note: For the name of each degree of the spiritual mind and each of the natural, see Diagram XIII; this applies to all subsequent diagrams.

Concerning what is from the father and what from the mother, we read-

“The soul which is from the father is the man himself and the body which is from the mother is not man in itself but from him and is only the clothing of the soul woven of such [materials].. are of the natural world. but the soul is of such [substances] as are in the spiritual world. Every 3 man after death lays aside the natural which he carried from his mother, and retains the spiritual which was from the father, together with a certain limbus [an envelop] of the purest [substances] of nature around it.”- TCR 103.

“The soul is from the father and the body from the mother; for the soul is in the seed of the father and is clothed with a body in the mother; or, what is the same, all the spiritual [organism] man has is from the father and all the material [organism] he has, from the mother.” TCR 92.

“There is a difference between what man receives from his father and what he receives from his mother. Man receives from his father all that is internal, his very soul or life is from the father; but he receives from his mother, all that is external. In a word, the interior man or the spirit is from the father but the exterior man or the body is from the mother.”-AC 1815.

“That the inmost of life, which is from the father, is continually flowing in and operating upon the external which is from the mother and endeavoring to make this like itself, even in the womb, may be manifest from sons in that they are born with the inclinations of the father, and sometimes grandchildren and great grandchildren with the inclinations of the grandfather, and the great grandfather; this is because the soul which is from the father continually wills to make the external which is from the mother like itself and an image of itself.” AC 6716

“Nothing is provided in the womb of the mother except a body conceived by and derived from the soul.”-TCR 167.

“Man is born spiritual as to his soul, and is clothed with a natural which makes his material body.”-TCR 583.

“The soul of man that lives after death is his spirit and this is in perfect form a man.”-.DLW 394.

“The mind of man is the man himself; for the first rudiments of the human form, or the human form itself with each and everything of it, is from the beginnings continued out of the brain through the nerves. This is the form into which man comes after death, and which is then called a spirit and an angel, and which is in all perfection a man, but spiritual: the material form, which is added and superinduced in the world, is not a human form from itself but from the former.” – DLW 388.

“The life of every man is from the father and only the clothing is put on in the mother, hence it is that every man has his name from the father and not from the mother.”-A.S. (N.Y. Ed., p. 45; London Ed., p. 52.)

“Since man is not life but a recipient of life it follows that the conception of man from his father is not a conception of life but only of’ the first and purest form receptive of life, to which as a stamen or beginning, substances and matters are successively added in the womb in forms adapted to the reception of life in their order and degree.” DLW 6.

Since the fall, man is the subject of hereditary evil. We read, –
“Man’s inmost [or spirit] is from the father, whereas the exteriors, or those parts which clothe that inmost, are from the mother; each, namely, what he derives from the father and the mother,

      is tainted with hereditary evil.”-AC

4963

      . (Also AC

1902

      ,

895

      .)

“All the evils which man derives from his parents, which are called hereditary evils, reside in his natural and sensual man but not in the spiritual.”-AE 543 [b].

“Man is born into evils of every kind from his parents and these reside in his natural man which of itself is diametrically opposed to the spiritual man” – TCR 574; (also AC 1902.)

The inmost A and the natural body E and F are the most developed at birth and are drawn large to indicate this. The spiritual mind B and the natural mind C are drawn small to indicate that at birth they are advanced but slightly beyond their rudimental state as at conception, requiring years for development to be effected by discrete degrees successively.

The extremes which are the inmost and the natural body are at birth very large in comparison with the intermediates B and C.

By the inmost as an active and the natural body as a reactive all the intermediate degrees are formed out and stored with remains during childhood and thus are prepared for reformation and regeneration in after years.

The whole natural body (all that the infant takes on from nature) consists, as said above, of the limbus and the gross body. The limbus is the higher and mental part and is retained after death, the gross body being rejected. (See Diagrams XV and XVI.)

The spiritual mind B is drawn in white to indicate its purity. There is no taint of ancestral evil in this mind of the child, as there was no evil in the spiritual mind of the father. Into this mind, which is in form or image a heaven, evil cannot enter; yet this mind may be closed and rendered almost inoperative by the reaction against it of the natural mind confirmed in evil as is the case with the wicked. (DLW 270, 261, 432; AE 176, 739.)

The natural mind is drawn dark to indicate the taint of hereditary evil from the father. (DLW 432, 270; D. W. in AE III, 4, and IV.)

The spiritual body being derived from the natural mind and as it were one with it, is also tainted with evil from the father and is drawn in dark to indicate this.

That the spiritual mind, the germ of which is from the father, is free from taint of evil and in heavenly form and order and that the natural mind, the germ of which is also from the father, is tainted since the fall, may be seen in Divine Love and Wisdom 432, and in Divine Wisdom (in AE ) III, 4.

The two higher degrees of “the little brain, in the order and form of heaven” (DLW 432) constitute the spiritual mind and are equivalent to the three planes of that mind (B in this diagram), and are the two degrees of the spiritual mind B in the 2nd form, which illustrates the degrees of the mind as presented inDivine Love and Wisdom 432 and DivineWisdom (in AE ) III,4. These numbers describe the rudiments of the spiritual and natural minds; the inmost A is not mentioned in them though its presence is implied. The two interior degrees in the order and form of heaven are the two degrees B in the 2nd form. The exterior degree which was in opposition to the form of heaven is the natural mind C in the 2nd form, and is equivalent to the three degrees of C in the first form. The natural mind like the other parts is variously described in the Writings-in one degree, in two and in three, according to the purpose in different passages.

The subject in Divine Love and Wisdom 432, and Divine Wisdom (in AE ) III, 4, is the primitive of man which is a spiritual substance not visible in natural light but only in spiritual and is the seed from the father by which conception takes place. The exterior degree mentioned therein does not include the limbus which is composed of natural substances but consists only of that part of the natural mind which is composed of spiritual substances. (See Chapter VIII.)

The inmost, the spiritual and the natural mind, and the spiritual body are formed of spiritual substances, as shown above, and in their strictly initial state as at conception are derived directly from the father, at which time the ultimate parts are more rudimental than the internal parts and especially more rudimental than the inmost or soul proper as this is the first form from which the others proceed.

This diagram shows the development reached at birth, not the form of the initial at conception. We have in part shown the quality of the paternal faculties at the period of birth by their quality at conception. During growth in the womb no change occurs in their hereditary quality though they undergo an important development which as to the spiritual body is very great, but as to the mental faculties less. Whatever growth occurs in these paternal faculties A B C D from conception to birth must be from an incorporation of spiritual substances; growth from natural substances occurs only in the parts from the mother which are the limbus and the gross body.

The evil from the mother inheres of course in the organism drawn directly from her, called in the whole the natural body. The inmost of this body consists of those purest substances of nature which compose the merest external of the natural mind (mentioned in DLW 257.) This is illustrated in Diagram XV at E. In this mental part from the mother the evil from her primarily inheres, tainting thence the gross body. This mental part is the limbus E E in this diagram. To indicate this taint of evil E and F are drawn in dark.

We have already shown, -That the natural mind consists of spiritual substance and at the same time of natural substance,That from its spiritual substance arises thought but not from its natural substance,That the spiritual substance is initially from the father and the natural substance at birth from the mother,That the natural substance appertaining to the mind constitutes after death the cutaneous envelop of the spiritual body,That by such envelop the spiritual body subsists, that is, is preserved permanently in form because the natural is the containing element.And that in the part of the natural mind composed of natural substances (the limbus in this diagram) and not in any part of the mind composed of spiritual substances, the taint of maternal evil resides.

To see that evil can inhere in these substances we must reflect that they are organized into a mental form constituting the merest external part of the natural mind conjoined to the spiritual part of it which spiritual part thinks and wills immediately within the natural, so that while this merest external is itself incapable of thought still it is the lowest and active seat of thought during life in the world. The thought is necessarily qualified by the state of this external, and is brought into act by the gross body. That evil does inhere in the part of the natural mind composed of natural substances (the maternal part) as well as in the part composed of spiritual substances, may be seen in Divine Love and Wisdom 270. This external is the seat of the external memory or memory of the body (AE 193[a]) both before and after death, though after death it is quiescent. This memory composed of material substances is usually called natural, exterior, or corporeal (as in HH 461; AC 2469-2494, and AE 569 [a], 832), but in Spiritual Diary 2752, it is called the outmost or material memory. When this memory quiesces after death, the internal memory formed of spiritual substances and appertaining to that part of the mind which is from the father comes into conscious activity.

This external from the mother is the residence of all impressions and knowledge received through the senses whether gained by physical and sensible experience or by instruction in science, morals and religion, and also the residence of all conscious emotions arising from within. In this part only can man by introspection become conscious of his evils and falsities for here only can they be distinctly perceived. This is that ultimate or external in which man is together with the LORD and wherein he must directly cooperate with the LORD; the LORD alone working in the interiors. (DP 119, 120.) What lies further in is not perceptible except by outflow into this plane: only in this outer plane can be clearly seen the light of spiritual truth, and distinctly felt the warmth of celestial love.

In this external part of the natural mind every maternal inclination whether evil or good has its primal abode. Here too reside all mental bias, faculty, disposition and ability, from the mother. These however are subject to more or less modification and even practical nullification from the various conditions of the gross body.

Not only does the body from the mother partake of her quality good or bad but there are always induced upon its interior and often upon its exteriors the quality and likeness of the father also. This is done in the construction of the body from the substances furnished by the mother during gestation. Results produced after birth are not here presented. The infusion of the father’s quality into this maternal structure is in part accomplished by the influence of the soul of the child which was from the father and consequently fully imbued with his quality. This soul sits mistress in the formation of that natural human which it is assuming from the mother and weaves more or less fully the materials furnished by her into its own form and quality. It is according to order that the active, here the spirit, shall form the reactive, here the body, as fully as may he after its own nature and gift it with its own quality that it may perform its intended use. This agrees with Arcana Coelestia AC 10125 where the meaning is not that the body is composed of spiritual substances from the soul but that the soul forms the natural substance from the mother into a body resembling itself (See also AC 6716, 10823; TCR 82, 103; DLW 388.)

According to the above order the spirit of the child first forms those purest substances of nature from the mother into the enveloping part or limbus of the natural mind, that it may use that covering as the lowest seat of its thought and the medium by which it may flow into the gross body; and it also forms this body of grosser and grossest substances of nature and places therein the five senses as organs for sensing the outer world, acquiring knowledge and expressing its own feeling and thought. Although the soul of the child measurably imparts its own quality to that natural external it does not remove the quality of the mother. (TCR 103; AC 6716.

We said the quality of the father is imparted to the body of the child chiefly by the child’s own soul, but the quality of the father is communicated to the body of the child by being first appropriated by the mother and by her transmitted to the child in the substances and forms furnished by her. In some cases (and there will be more as the Church advances) the father’s likeness flows in each globule of the mother’s nervous fluid and his image in every drop of her blood. Something of this exists in most instances if not in all. (Marriage page 9, item 22; Latin Edition, p 7. AE 1004.) Still whatever of paternal quality thus reaches the child’s body is first materialised and imparted as the mother’s also. Conversely, the father may appropriate the sphere of the mother and impart it as his own to the spirit of the child and thence to its body.

Errors Regarding the Child’s Inheritance from the Mother.BECAUSE the external acquired by the first rational is called the maternal rational it has been inferred that the rational as an organic faculty is from the mother. Not so. That faculty before regeneration, and with the LORD before Glorification, is called maternal in consequence of clothing itself with an external acquired by means of the maternal but not from it. Moreover the above inference conflicts with the teaching, “that all the spiritual which man has is from the father” (TCR 92 and 103) and that the maternal rational does not exist at birth but is acquired by instruction and sensuals of various kinds. (AC 1893-1895.)

In regard to the maternal rational (called the first rational and represented by Ishmael) it should be recollected that this rational is formed by truths obscured by appearances which appearances are to be dispersed during regeneration; this is the rejection of the maternal rational. From Arcana Coelestia AC 2654, 3207, 2557, we see that this rational is called maternal only because it is mediately, not directly, from the mother.

Another misconception is that because the child inherits somewhat of inclination and talent from the mother, it derives from her some part of its spiritual organism also. Not so. The child inherits no part of its spiritual organism from the mother. These maternal characteristics inhere in the mental part of the natural derived from the mother. (See Diagram XV.)

That the soul is from the father and the body from the mother rightly understood involves no disparagement of the functions of the mother. That no disparagement is involved appears from the following:

I. The maternal part of the natural mind is the seat of all the mental states inherited from the mother and is the seat of the natural memory (AE 193), and during life is the active seat of all the degrees derived from the father. Although this maternal part of the natural mind becomes quiescent after death it still servestwo great and indispensable uses to eternity. (1) It is an envelop of the spirit holding its structure in form and its state entire, thus preventing its disintegration through the volatility of its spiritual substances. (2) It preserves the state of man after death as determined by his ruling end, changeless to eternity, securing to the enduring heaven and preventing the evil from sinking good an ever into deeper hells.

II. Without the natural furnished by the mother there could be no propagation of the human race, thus no heaven of angels which is the Divine end of creation.

III. Although the spiritual faculties are not from the mother, they must for regeneration acquire an external, from various knowledges and truths, to embody themselves; and these are obtainable only by means of the natural from the mother.

Let no one then undervalue the function of the mother in comparison with that of the father, his impossible without hers, hers eternally conserving the fruit of h

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Chapter XVI. The Limbus Retained After Death

.

THIS diagram illustrates the limbus surrounding the whole spirit of man after death and serving as a cutaneous envelop to hold the spirit securely in form to eternity.

F is the gross material body now rejected, the spirit being separated from it and risen into conscious life in the spiritual world.

The natural or external memory of man in the world is seated in the limbus the extreme ultimate of the natural mind. This memory consisting of the states impressed upon the limbus during life in the world, remains after death but is quiescent.

If this diagram be taken to represent the whole angelic heaven, E is their aggregate limbus. Extending the view, E represents the limbus of the spirits of this earth and all earths in the universe regenerate or unregenerate.


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