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