The Source of Anxiety, Worry, and Depression

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 The Source of Anxiety, Worry, and Depression

Quoting from the Writings Sacred Scripture:

  • AC 759. That the “rain” here is temptation is evident from what has been said and shown above, concerning a “flood” and an “inundation;” and also from the signification of the “fountains of the deep were broken up” and the “cataracts of heaven were opened” as being temptations. (AC 759)
  • AC 760. That the “forty days and forty nights” signify its duration, was shown above, at verse 4. By “forty” as before said, is signified every duration of temptation, whether greater or less, and indeed severe temptation, which is of the things of the will.
  1. For by continual pleasures, and by the loves of self and of the world [ = the inherited character of our natural mind before it is reformed and regenerated ], consequently by the cupidities that are the connected activities of these loves, man has acquired a life for himself of such a kind that it is nothing but a life of such things. This life cannot possibly accord with heavenly life [ = the spiritual order in which our spiritual mind is through influx from the Spiritual Sun ]; for no one can love worldly [ = what is not yet regenerate, hence remains attached to our enjoyments of evil traits ] and heavenly things at the same time [ = the order of mental states in our natural mind when it is reformed and being regenerated ], seeing that to love worldly things is to look downward [ = towards the lower layer of the natural mind, which is corporeal or animal, and not rational or human ] , and to love heavenly things is to look upward [ = our study and knowledge of the correspondently sense of Sacred Scripture, i.e., theistic psychology ] .

Much less can anyone love himself and at the same time the neighbor, and still less the Lord.

  1. He who loves himself, hates all who do not render him service; so that the man who loves himself is very far from heavenly love and charity, which is to love the neighbor more than one’s self, and the Lord above all things. [ = for instance, to lower the volume on your radio or TV for the sake of the neighbors, and similar things that we do for the comfort of others rather than insisting on our comfort, etc. ]
  2. From this it is evident how far removed the life of man [ = unregenerated natural mind ] is from heavenly life [ = regenerated natural mind ] , and therefore he is regenerated by the Lord through temptations [ = once the person undergoes reformation as of self ], and is bent so as to bring him into agreement [ = when we use our knowledge of doctrine to resist spiritual temptations ].
  3. This is why such temptation is severe [ = experienced with strong emotional conflict, being pulled by the the love of enjoying evil traits and the love of becoming a heavenly person ], for it touches a man’s very life, assailing, destroying, and transforming it, and is therefore described by the words: “the fountains of the deep were broken up, and the cataracts of heaven were opened.” (AC 760)
  4. AC 761.That spiritual temptation in man [ = our conscious natural mind in daily life ] is a combat of the evil spirits with the angels who are with him [ = combats going on in our unconscious spiritual mind. The results of these unconscious combats determine by correspondence the emotional conflict we experience in our conscious natural mind ], and that this combat is commonly felt in his conscience, has been stated before, and concerning this combat it should also be known that angels continually protect man and avert the evils which evil spirits endeavor to do to him.
  5. They even protect what is false and evil in a man, for they know very well whence his falsities and evils come [ = those who have been regenerated and who are already present and conscious in the spiritual mind of the afterlife, can see and empirically observe how our unregenerate natural mind while we are still here on earth, is tied and influenced by those who are in the spiritual mind and in evil enjoyments ], namely, from evil spirits and genii. [ = these psychological, moral, and spiritual battles during temptations in our mind occur without us being consciously aware of the confrontations taking place in our spiritual mind ].
  6. Man does not produce anything false and evil from himself, but it is the evil spirits with him who produce it, and at the same time make the man believe that he does it of himself. Such is their malignity. [ = we are born with the enjoyments of evil traits that we inherit. It seems to us that those are our own traits and that we enjoy them. But they are not our own traits. We actually enjoy the traits of those with whom we are spiritually connected in our spiritual mind by mental inheritance. ]
  7. And what is more, at the moment when they are infusing and compelling this belief, they accuse and condemn him, as I can confirm from many experiences. [ = Swedenborg being conscious in his spiritual mind was able to observe the actions of the evil spirits who were connected to the individual by inheritance ].
  8. The man who has not faith in the Lord cannot be enlightened so as not to believe that he does evil of himself, and he therefore appropriates the evil to himself, and becomes like the evil spirits that are with him. Such is the case with man. As the angels know this, in the temptations of regeneration they protect also the falsities and evils of a man, for otherwise he would succumb. [ = there is a useful purpose prior to regeneration for having intermediate beliefs and doctrines, that are not yet genuine spiritual rational ].
  9. For there is nothing in a man [ = the inherited character of our natural mind before it is reformed and regenerated ] but evil and the falsity thence derived, so that he is a mere assemblage and compound of evils and their falsities. (AC
  10. AC 762. But spiritual temptations are little known at this day [ = prior to our reformation and regeneration ]. Nor are they permitted to such a degree as formerly, because man is not in the truth of faith, and would therefore succumb [ = to be in temptation without having the rational truths of doctrine to be able to resist ].
  11. In place of these temptations there are others, such as misfortunes, griefs, and anxieties, arising from natural and bodily causes, and also sicknesses and diseases of the body, which in a measure subdue and break up the life of a man’s pleasures and cupidities, and determine and uplift his thoughts to interior and religious subjects.
  12. But these are not spiritual temptations, which are experienced by those only who have received from the Lord [ = our doctrine of truth extracted from the correspondential sense of Sacred Scripture ] a conscience of truth and good. Conscience is itself the plane of temptations, wherein they operate. [ = people who do not have the opportunity or ability to study the correspondential sense of Sacred Scripture, nevertheless can accept influx into their conscience from the spiritual mind, and if they honor and obey their conscience, they are being regenerated and prepared for heavenly experiences in the afterlife of eternity ].
  1. Here is a passage from the Writings Sacred Scripture that discuss the role of the vertical community in experiencing anxiety:
    1. I have also been permitted to know the source of human anxiety, grief of mind (animus), and interior sadness, which is called melancholy. There are spirits not as yet in conjunction with hell, because they are in their first state; these will be described in the following pages where the world of spirits is dealt with. These spirits love things undigested and unprofitable, such as pertain to food becoming foul in the stomach. Consequently, they are present where such things are with man, because they find delight in them; and they talk there with one another from their own evil affection. The affection that is in their speech inflows from this source with man; and when this affection is the opposite of man’s affection it becomes in him sadness and melancholy anxiety; but when it is in agreement it becomes in him gladness and cheerfulness.
    2. These spirits appear near to the stomach, some to the left and some to the right of it, and some beneath and some above, also nearer and more remote, thus variously in accordance with the affections in which they are. That this is the source of anxiety of mind has been shown and proved to me by much experience. I have seen these spirits, I have heard them, I have felt the anxieties arising from them, I have talked with them; when they have been driven away the anxiety ceased; when they returned the anxiety returned; and I have noted the increase and decrease of it according to their approach and removal. From this, it has been made clear to me why some who do not know what conscience is, because they have no conscience, ascribe its pain to the stomach. (AC 299)
  2. Here you see Swedenborg’s empirical attitude and his attempt to use experimental manipulation as a way of confirming hypotheses. Note also that this was written some 200 years before the role of the stomach in anxiety was understood by modern medicine. Anxiety is frequently felt in the stomach due to the correspondential action between the stomach and the sensorimotor mind into which the spirits inflow who are delighted by the breakdown products in the stomach. In fact Swedenborg mapped out the relationship between every body part and the spirit societies that specialize in relating to each part of the body. The physiology and biochemistry of the physical body are so many detailed ways in which spirit societies communicate with the sensorimotor mind. The physiological operations are effects whose causes are the inflow of the various spirit societies.
  3. In the 1960s when I was teaching at the University of Illinois (Champaign-Urbana), one of my colleagues was the well known behaviorist Hobart Mower. He had been suffering from debilitating depression and anxiety for several years despite drug treatments. He then had an insight that reversed the Freudian idea that people feel anxiety in response to an overactive super-ego or conscience. Freud’s classic treatment consisted of trying to weaken the demands of the super-ego or of conscience to offer relief from guilt and anxiety leading to depression. But Mower discovered that the opposite was the case, namely, that instead of having an overactive conscience most people disregard their conscience in many situations and go ahead and do what they feel like at the moment. At the same time many people are oriented towards reducing guilt by weakening the power of one’s conscience. Mower started arguing that instead what we need to do is to strengthen our conscience so that we keep ourselves from violating its injunctions. He developed a new form of group therapy called “integrity groups” which I attended for two years. It is there that I learned that if I strengthen the voice of my conscience I can keep myself from acting against my principles and thus not run into guilt, anxiety, shame, or depression. I was greatly relieved.
  4. Here is a further description about the function of anxiety:
    1. With every man there are two spirits from hell, and two angels from heaven; for man being born in sins cannot possibly live unless on one side he communicates with hell, and on the other with heaven; all his life is thence. When man is grown up and begins to rule himself from himself, that is, when he seems to himself to will and to act from his own judgment, and to think and to conclude concerning the things of faith from his own understanding, if he then betakes himself to evils, the two spirits from hell draw near, and the two angels from heaven withdraw a little; but if he betakes himself to good, the two angels from heaven draw near, and the two spirits from hell are removed.
    2. [2] If therefore when a man betakes himself to evils, as is the case with many in youth, he feels any anxiety when he reflects upon his having done what is evil, it is a sign that he will still receive influx through the angels from heaven, and it is also a sign that he will afterward suffer himself to be reformed; but if when he reflects upon his having done what is evil, he has no anxious feeling, it is a sign that he is no longer willing to receive influx through the angels from heaven, and it is also a sign that he will not afterward suffer himself to be reformed. (AC 5470)
  5. You can see that anxiety is produced by conscience for the purpose of maintaining us in freedom of choice and reminding us of spiritual responsibility. We have the power to disregard or inhibit this built in effect. However it is clear that we will suffer negative consequences when we weaken the motivational force of conscience. If we kill or weaken our anxiety Freudian style, we lose the ability to benefit from positive spiritual influences and we fall into mental states that are negative, injurious, and self-defeating.
  6. Here is a similar paragraph discussing the source of anxiety:
    1. Since worrying about the future produces feelings of anxiety in a person, and since such spirits appear in the region of the stomach, feelings of anxiety therefore have a greater effect on the stomach than on all other internal organs. I have also been allowed to recognize how those anxious feelings have increased or diminished as those spirits have become present or been removed. I have noticed that some anxious feelings exist more internally, others more externally, some higher up, others lower down, depending on the differences in origin, derivation, and direction taken by such kinds of worry. Here also lies the reason why, when such feelings of anxiety take hold of the mind, the area around the stomach is tense and sometimes pain is felt there, and also why feelings of anxiety seem to surge up from there. The same also explains why, when a person ceases to worry about the future or when everything is turning out right for him so that he no longer fears any misfortune, the area around the stomach is free and relaxed, and he has the feeling of delight. (AC 5178)
  7. Anxiety is therefore “a natural effect in the body from a spiritual cause in the mind” (AC 7217). Anxiety is the resultant effect when an individual is deprived of spiritual heat (love) and spiritual light (truth). Such deprivation is self-initiated by ignoring conscience or principles of right living. When we obey conscience and our principles of doctrine for life we gain a new freedom and a new power which we have by virtue of the influx of good (spiritual heat) and truth (spiritual light) from the Spiritual Sun.
  8. Anxiety is a built in spiritual operation in our natural mind. There are hierarchies of anxiety caused by falsifying truths that flow in from the spiritual mind. All falsification or distortion of truth has consequences for the mind’s health and functioning. In non-theistic psychology we do not discuss “truth” in this way. Instead there is a tendency to avoid the concept of ‘absolute truth’ in favor of ‘relative truth.’ People associate the idea of absolute truth with dogma, not science. non-theistic science hates the idea of absolute truth while theistic science considers all Divine scientific revelations as absolute truth. The expression “absolute truth” is often invoked within the context of religious fundamentalism. Dogma however is not absolute truth because it comes not from sacred scripture but the incomplete wisdom and rationality of human beings who formulate dogma from sacred scripture. The dogma and the sacred scripture are as different as the number 1 is far apart from infinity.
  9. Because of dogma the concept of absolute truth has a bad reputation, but what people mean to reject is not absolute truth revealed by God but dogma invented by human beings misguided by their religious fervor. The fact is that everything God communicates to the human race in terms of revelation is absolute truth since it is Divine and God is absolutely perfect and infinite — omnipotent, omniscient, omnipresent, as defined by most dictionaries.
  10. Here is further evidence Swedenborg presents about types of anxiety:
    1. I have also noticed another kind of influx which does not take place through the spirits present with a person but through others who are sent out from some community in hell to the sphere emanating from that person’s life. They talk among themselves about the kinds of things that are unacceptable to the person, which results generally in a flowing into him of what is in many different ways troublesome, unpleasant, dejecting, and worrying. Such spirits have often been present with me, when I have experienced in the province of my stomach those who poured in feelings of anxiety – not that I knew where the feelings came from. Yet on every occasion I found out who they were, and then I heard them talking to one another about the kinds of things that were unacceptable to my affections. Avaricious spirits in the same region have sometimes been visible, though in a slightly higher position; they have poured in the kind of anxiety that results from concern for the future. I have also been allowed to rebuke those spirits and to tell them that they correlate with undigested food in the stomach which produces bad breath and so is nauseating. I have also seen them being driven away; and once they were driven away, anxiety completely disappeared. I have had this experience a number of times so that I could be quite certain that those spirits were the source of the trouble.
    2. [2] This is the kind of influx that takes place among those who for no good reason are anxious and depressed, and also among those who are undergoing spiritual temptation. During temptation however there is not only a general influx of such spirits but also a particular stirring up by spirits from hell of the evils the person has put into practice. ‘Those spirits also pervert and put a wrong interpretation on the forms of good that the angels use to fight with in temptation. A state such as this is what the person who is being regenerated enters by being let down into what is wholly his own. And this happens when he immerses himself too much in worldly and bodily interests and needs to be raised towards spiritual ones. (AC 6202)
  11. In otter words when spirits are in a situation to inflow into our spiritual body they do so and the resultant effect is felt as negative emotions. Note also that spirits who communicate with our spiritual body are able to perceive the content of our memories and affective inclinations. This is a common way spirits interact with each other. Swedenborg’s dual consciousness put him in the position of observing two interconnected events simultaneously, one spiritual and the other natural. The spiritual event was observing the spirits approaching his spiritual body and hearing what they were talking about. The natural event was the reaction he felt in his physical body, in this case the stomach. In this way he proved the effect of the spiritual mind over the physical body, an effect produced by correspondence. Furthermore, when they withdrew, the sensation of nausea from the stomach ceased instantly, but when they approached again, the sensation was back.
  12. From the next paragraph we can see that anxiety and worry are resultant emotions when the mind is “deprived of the affection of good and the thought of truth”: The more internal the love and truth, that is the more spiritual-rational they are, the greater the fear, anxiety, and worry at the thought of losing them:
    1. Those who cannot be reformed do not at all know what it is to grieve on account of being deprived of truths; for they suppose that no one can feel in the least anxious about such a thing. The only anxiety they believe to be possible is on account of being deprived of the goods of the body and the world; such as health, honors, reputation, wealth, and life. But they who can be reformed believe altogether differently: these are kept by the Divine-Human in the affection of good and in the thought of truth; and therefore they come into anxiety when deprived of this thought and affection.
    2. [2] It is known that all anxiety and grief arise from being deprived of the things with which we are affected, or which we love. They who are affected only with corporeal and worldly things, or who love such things only, grieve when they are deprived of them; but they who are affected with spiritual goods and truths and love them, grieve when they are deprived of them. Everyone’s life is nothing but affection or love. Hence it is evident what is the state of those who are desolated as to the goods and truths with which they are affected, or which they love, namely, that their state of grief is more severe, because more internal; and in the deprivation of good and truth they do not regard the death of the body, for which they do not care, but eternal death. (AC 2689)
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From depression can come spirituality and empathy

Curtis-Childs-depressionby Curtis Childs, as interviewed by Chelsea Odhner

I was raised in the New Church. Both of my parents are Swedenborgians. My education was split evenly, from elementary school through college, between Swedenborgian and non-Swedenborgian schools. I have been told that I talked and thought about religious ideas from a young age. I took it pretty seriously.

A good part of the way through my eighteenth year, I began a very distinct phase in my life. It was marked by the onset of major depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. I got overpowered by my internal world. This internal world was running everything in my life. It was horrible. I became unable to control what was going on in my mind. There was an immense gravity pulling me toward thinking about things that worried me. I would become trapped in looping thoughts and fears about a lot of things. This pattern hit its peak when I was about twenty-one or twenty-two. Eventually, I didn’t like Swedenborg’s teachings at all.

The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg became hazardous to my health for a little while. Swedenborg’s teachings are awesome, but I found that they have the potential to be a little bit dangerous because they can give your fears a lot of ammunition. If you are open to spiritual concepts and to thinking deeply, your fears can become cosmic. A lot of my fears had Swedenborgian elements to them. The worldview was imprinted on the inside of me, and my thoughts would use this against me. When I would read the Writings, I would get into a bad mood. It was my understanding of them. I would think that Swedenborg was saying one thing, when now I take that same thing to mean something entirely different. I developed fears around concepts that really shouldn’t exist. It got to the point that reading the Writings wasn’t doing me any good, so I stopped.

During this time, I began reading other sorts of spiritual literature, some along the new age route. I read about near death experiences, which had a deep affect on me. I see now that exploring beyond the Writings of Swedenborg allowed an important expansion to my spirituality.

The lowest period I had was at Bryn Athyn College of the New Church. I was overwhelmed. I quit school because I was so depressed. It was just so hard. I was still getting good grades, but I couldn’t handle it mentally and emotionally. I moved back to my home-town in Michigan. After some time off, I decided to enroll in the communication program at nearby Oakland University.

An incredibly valuable lesson I learned during this period was that I wasn’t going to cure depression through religious thinking. I had to get everything else straight. You can’t out-think bad nutrition; you can’t out-think lack of exercise. I used to think that everything that was going on inside of me was either emotional or spiritual. I didn’t understand that our physical health affects our brains as much as it does. Part of what brought me out of my depression was physical exercise and antidepressants. I also made use of energy medicine and talk-therapy. I came to understand that I had to take care of myself holistically.

I also attribute the lessening of my depression in large part to growing older. It just takes time. I’m twenty-six now, and in some respect, I feel like I’ve beaten the depression, in other ways I feel like it has just slowed down. One thing I learned is how powerless I am, and that led me back to a search for God.

Over the course of my time at Oakland University, I came back to Swedenborg’s Writings and they became the core of my worldview. On account of my familiarity with Swedenborg’s teachings, I found myself able to contribute a lot of positive ideas to the conversations that took place in my courses. Swedenborg’s worldview is really kind in its essence, and I liked having that attitude towards everything. I liked the sense of identity that it gave me. At Oakland University, I would share my Swedenborgian worldview, and I found that people felt fed by it. At some point, I remember having the realization that I liked reading Swedenborg’s works again. I began to understand his Writings at a level that I had never known before.

I’d say the core of my spirituality is a deep level of empathy towards humans that was built up in me in part during my depression. I gained it through suffering. I know what humans shouldn’t have to go through. As I read Swedenborg’s Writings, I found that his teachings never were discordant with the empathy I felt in my heart.

It’s ironic, because at one time the problems I had were rooted in Swedenborgian concepts. But now, it is through Swedenborg’s teachings that I’ve gained a perspective that frees me from all of my fears. The reality of what he’s describing is an environment that a lot of my fears can’t survive in. The vision that he casts of what is in store for us and what is operating on our deeper levels provides hope.

Out of so much chaos have also come many gifts. One is the inspiration I’ve been given to make short, Swedenborgian-based videos. I publish them on YouTube and have had overwhelmingly positive responses from watchers, even from people well outside of the Swedenborgian realm. I want to make it possible for others to experience the relief that comes when it turns out that something that has been haunting you isn’t true, or when you hear about a reality that puts your fears to rest and awakens your greatest hopes. I see my involvement in this work as a convergence of my innate human desire to not want others to suffer and my fascination with Swedenborg’s revelation.

My life has been so intense and miserable at times, but it has definitely softened up my will. I have had the mixed blessing of constantly being under assault internally. This experience has kept me vibrantly interested in spirituality and in God. It’s funny, but hell has added so much to my spirituality.


Curtis Childs is an active contributor to Kidslive at kidslive.newchurchlive.tv. You can check out some of his YouTube videos at www.youtube.com/user/offTheLeftEye.

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“Just as light devoid of warmth is totally unproductive, so is faith devoid of love.”

Arcana Coelestia 3146

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A Biblical remedy to depression

Most of us, at some point in our lives, spend some time in emotional drought.

We simply don’t feel joy. Perhaps the day-in, day-out routine of our lives feels mechanical and meaningless. Maybe our personal relationships seem dull and old. For some of us, this joyless state can last years, even a lifetime. The good news is that Jesus has the remedy to restore joy to our lives. This healing account (of a Samaritan Leper who praised God after his healing Luke 17:11-19) is about gratitude.

When we feel dead to the world, isolated and numb, we can receive Jesus’ healing by mirroring the actions of the Samaritan. We can get on our knees and thank Jesus. We can praise God with a loud voice for his overwhelming graciousness. Once we begin thanking him, we’ll soon see that there are not enough hours in a day to contain the thanks he deserves. Think of all we have been given! The very air that sustains us; the mournful beauty of a dove’s song; the spectacular, ever-changing canvas of the sky; the smiles of children; the love of a friend; the roof above us; the spiritual life we receive from God; rain on the windowpane; a pet cat; the Word of God through which we learn about and enter into relationships with our Lord. There is an infinite amount of thanks and praise we can give to Jesus, our Lord and God.

Even when we are numbed with depression or a sense of entitlement, we can force ourselves to kneel. We can force the mouth to pronounce thanks. We can do this every day. The miracle, of course, is that by going through these motions of gratitude, Jesus will begin to instill genuine gratitude into our hearts and minds. With the increasing sense of gratitude comes an increasing sense of joy. What at first felt like hollow lip service becomes filled with genuine depth and feeling. To help this occur, we must remember that in truth, we are undeserving citizens of God’s kingdom. We are foreigners, very fortunate to have been given the chance to live at all! As Dr. Seuss puts it in Happy Birthday to You! (1959): “Shout loud, ‘I am lucky to be what I am! Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!”

There are three critical elements in our healing from depression. The first is that we learn to spot our imagined entitlement to the pursuit of the five P’s (possessions, position, pleasures, prestige, and power). The second is to understand this entitlement as an indicator that we have fallen into the delusion of individual materialism and, accordingly, reorient ourselves to our true purpose, love for the well-being of all humanity. Finally, with a new orientation, we become willing to surrender those feelings to God and replace them with praise and gratitude. The mind abhors a vacuum. We cannot simply oust thoughts of entitlement without replacing them with an alternative. Praise is the alternative that Jesus prescribes in this healing.

Praise is a wonderful antidepressant. The more we practice, the more we feel the urge to praise. It is a positive, upward cycle of joy. When we feel unhappy, let that be a signal that it is time to praise and thank God for the incredible bounty we all have already been given. No matter what situation we may be facing; no matter what our life condition may be, here is room and time for praise.


Kent Rogers is co-founder of the Loving Arms Mission (www.lamchildren.org), a not-for-profit fundraising organization dedicated to creating and supporting New Church children’s homes.

“A Biblical Remedy to Depression” was originally published as chapter 8 “Healing from Lack of Joy” in 12 Miracles of Spiritual Growth: A Path of Healing from the Gospels by E. Kent Rogers (West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation Press, 2012) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Swedenborg Foundation.

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“Divine Providence has as its end in view a person’s eternal salvation, thus not their great happiness in the world, not – that is to say – wealthiness and eminence which people during their lifetime think real happiness consists in.”

Arcana Coelestia 6481

Dealing with depression

 by Rev. Clark Echols

Dealing with depressionSadness, like joy, anger and fear, is a normal human emotion. It is a gift from the Lord because it allows us to be conscious of who and what we love; we cannot experience love without feeling some sadness. People have noticed for millennia that going through periods of sadness or grief restores one’s mental, emotional, and spiritual balance.

However, sometimes a person is unable to manage his sadness on his own. Depression exists for many individuals, often brought on by a traumatic experience or a chemical imbalance in the brain. The medical community has helped by defining the disease of depression as a physical ailment that begins in the brain, and is felt in all parts of the body in a variety of ways.

In many cases, depression is caused when there is an interruption in either the brain’s production or reception of dopamine, the chemical that induces our feeling of joy.

There is a very real spiritual component to this ailment as well. As described in Divine Providence, “The state of the mind depends on that of the body. When the body is afflicted, the mind is as well, if only by being out of touch with the world” (142). It helps people to know that depression is a physical disease. It frees them from uselessly and harmfully blaming themselves for the ailment. It frees them to take a very wide view of what they can do to be cured. And it is quite common for depression to be cured if it can be attended to early in its appearance.

Therapists have a short, simple list of remedies for depression, although actually doing them requires more or less strength, courage and stamina depending on the severity of the illness. The list begins with physical behaviors – sleeping, eating and exercise in the right amounts in a structured routine. Then there is the mental skills – relaxation, focus, presence, attentiveness, which are grouped together as mindfulness practices. And finally, there is the spiritual component.

The spiritual component is not a physical discipline or a mental practice, although it needs to be expressed in our body and in our thought and feeling. An effective therapist will help the person identify their higher power, the Divine, God, or Lord as a loving, helpful, healing source of their life. And then the person seeks a spiritual sense of connection to their God. For instance, it is common for a person suffering depression to report that they feel forgotten by God.

The cure for depression involves all of these pieces. It is critical for there to be a stable, helpful relationship with God, a mindful way of thinking and feeling, and healthy behaviors. Each supports the other, and the cure is harder to achieve if one or more of them is not fully utilized by the person.

A typical scenario for a person is that they are traumatized by a loss. They can’t sleep, eat poorly, and don’t leave their bed, or at least their house, as much as a healthy person does. And then their thinking and feeling – the activity of their brains – is affected and they give a lot of time and energy to negative thoughts about themselves, their circumstances and the future (as distinct from sadness, anger or fear about these areas of their life). It is then that spirits associated with evil and false notions and desires are attracted to the person, and are able to attach themselves to the unconscious level of the person’s spirit.

The cure for depression can begin in any one of these aspects or as a combination. A person who has had a strong faith – a significant sense of dependence on God and appreciation of His presence in their lives – can be encouraged by a spiritual guide or therapist to be mindful of that faith, and can be instructed to use energy, thought and feeling, to create a sacred space where they can spend time in devotion. Perhaps they use Scripture, music, guided meditation or singing to bring the benefits of positive spirits into their unconscious. These spirits will restore the person’s balanced view of their life, and remind them of the inner strengths they have from their God.

A spouse or close family member can be with the person, and as they talk about the person’s thinking and feeling, they are able to reflect the function and dysfunctional patterns of thinking. The person can be alerted to the connection they maintain between negative thoughts and feelings by a person listening carefully.

A friend can take the person to, or bring in, a meal of good food, and go with them for a walk. Or if there is a form of recreation the person has loved, a companion in that activity can be encouraging.

The cure is achieved when the person’s spirit is fully engaged again in their thinking, feeling and acting. The person then not only feels connected to their God, but also to their community. They feel the fulfillment and joy of a life of usefulness, which is generated by an inner desire to love their God and do their neighbor good.


Clark Echols is a licensed counselor, and pastor of the Glendale New Church in Cincinnati, Ohio. For more information, visit www.clarkechols.com.

Full issue

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“Divine Providence has as its end in view a person’s eternal salvation, thus not their great happiness in the world, not – that is to say – wealthiness and eminence which people during their lifetime think real happiness consists in.”

Arcana Coelestia 6481

 

There Is Always a Blue Sky

Swedenborg Foundation

By Peter King

Depression is an illness, and we can try to treat it with medicine, with therapy, or with a combination of the two. Such approaches are all very useful, and I would never tell anyone suffering from depression not to take the pills prescribed to them or to see a properly qualified therapist. These things will only take us so far, though, because depression is as much a spiritual problem as it is a physical one. Depression principally affects the way we think and feel; and in consequence, it affects how we relate to others. We need more than pills; we need a source of spiritual medicine. I believe that I have found such a source in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.

I suffered from depression for more than fifteen years; and for most of that time, I did not hold out much hope that things for me and my family would improve. Depression ate away at my family life, my social life, my self-esteem, and my faith, leaving me with very little hope. But over the last year, I have come to realize that I can fight depression using the revelations of Swedenborg and as a result have begun to change. Swedenborg has given me the means to fight for my soul.

I have developed six simple statements that I use to fight off depression. I say these to myself constantly and use them to ward off the negative thoughts and sense of isolation that depression uses to trap me. These statements are entirely personal. If I am to change how I think and feel, they must be framed this way. But I hope that sharing them can help others fight for their souls as well.

1. I must face up to my problems and not hide from them.

For many years, I did not look at myself or examine what depression was doing to me. I would, in fact, refuse to do so, with the vain idea that if I ignored depression, then it might ignore me. But I now realize that I must do the exact opposite of this. I have to inspect my negative thoughts and ask myself what they are trying to get me to do. Just what are their motives and where do they come from? Are the thoughts trying to control me, dominate me, or coerce me into doing something that will harm me or others? If they are not helping me, then they are not what I want or need and I should reject them. These thoughts are not there for my own good but are simply there to further themselves at my expense.

Swedenborg showed me that I could not start to understand my situation unless I reflected upon myself. Once I did this, I began to notice things about myself that were hitherto secret or unknown. I became aware of myself in relation to what was around me.

Without reflection we know nothing, except that we are, and nothing else, not what we are. On the other hand, if we reflect upon ourself from [the viewpoint of] others, or allow others to reflect upon us, and to say what we are like, then for the first time we are able to know ourself. Otherwise we can never learn, but remain in our own illusions, and from them, reflect upon others. So one thinks truths are falsities, because one is judging from one’s illusions. For such as the starting-point is, such also is everything that follows. (Spiritual Experiences §734)

Without self-reflection, I would have continued with my illusions and misconceptions, using them as the basis for my relations with others. As a result of self-reflection, I have encouraged others to tell me how they see me and have begun to find that I can face the world as it really is.

I now see that I cannot ignore what depression is doing to me. It is only by looking at who I am that I can recognize its hold and then start to resist. I am no longer passive, and I now know that I must take responsibility; it is my fight.

2. I am neither my faults nor my virtues; I can choose my path.

The Lord does not condemn me. Like all of us, I am being prepared for heaven, and the only reason that I might not get there is because of my own actions. Swedenborg shows us that neither good nor evil comes from within but instead comes from outside of us; all that is good and true comes from heaven, and all that is false and evil comes from hell.

This is a tremendously liberating idea. It means that I do not have to accept depression, negative thoughts, or anxiety as things that are coming from within me. Even though I might have once believed them to be generated by me—that they are my thoughts—in truth, they are not. I now know that the negative thoughts that have dominated my headspace are not what I really am, so I can face these thoughts and call them out as the lies that they are. I see now that they are trying to control me and to harm me, but I don’t have to let them.

There are reflections of thought . . . for the most part having to do with one’s own affairs, or things that are to come . . . by which the longer one is held in them, the more one is infested by evil spirits. This is the cause of depressions with many. (Spiritual Experiences §§3624:2–3625)

3. Never forget that people love me and I love them.

When suffering from depression, I isolate myself and in turn feel completely alone. It is me against the world. But I am never really alone. The Lord is always with me; and the greater my need, the closer he is.

The Lord is present in us and with us throughout the whole world; and the reason for this is simply that the Lord is not in space. (Divine Love and Wisdom §10)

But I am also close to others who love me and whom I love. Depression brings with it self-pity and a refusal to accept responsibility. So what I do really does matter both to myself and to others. My choices matter, in terms of where I end up, but they also matter to those closest to me. Depression does not merely affect me, but it also impacts greatly on those I love. They bear the brunt of my anger and my moods. So, if I can change, I not only improve my own life but also improve the lives of those I love.

4. Depression is not me.

This is the single most important thing I have learned from Swedenborg. Depression is not who I am!

As mentioned above, Swedenborg tells us that all good and evil comes from outside of us. So just as I am neither my faults nor my virtues, I am not my depression. In fact, it is never my depression. What is pressing down on me is something from outside that is trying to affect the thoughts and feelings that I have.

Divine providence is in the smallest details of our thoughts and desires, which means that we cannot think or intend anything on our own. Everything we think and intend, and therefore everything we say and do, is the result of an inflow. If it is good, something is flowing in from heaven; if it is bad, something is flowing in from hell. (Divine Providence §287)

Depression does not come from within me, so it does not define me. Since I am separate from depression, it does not make me what I truly am. Understanding this idea puts depression on the outside and lets me think of myself as someone who can be free of it. I can be a caring and loving husband, father, and friend. I can take part in society and have a purpose in all that I do. I can be useful and free.

5. Depression is temporary; love is permanent.

Depression is a parasite. It seeks to feed off me, keeping me alive just so it can thrive at my expense. It leaves me debilitated, almost literally unable to move or to respond intelligently to others. But, when depression is not there, I am free to act, to care, and to love. This is how I really am; this is me.

Love is the opposite of depression: it is selfless. Unlike depression, love feeds me. Love is always there, and all I need to do is reach out for it. I try to remember that above the gray clouds, the sky is always blue.

The sky blue color is such as to contain good. (Spiritual Experiences Minor §4712)

Likewise, love is always there, if only I can see it.

6. Depression is weaker than me; I do not fear it.

As a parasite, depression needs me; it cannot live without me. Depression can only survive if I allow it to reside within me, but I do not have to let it do so.

Depression is negative and shallow, so it cannot offer us anything but despair. What I now know is that there is so much else beyond depression. There is always a blue sky; there is always love. I just have to remember it is there.

Love is our life. . . . We are wholly unaware that [love] is our very life—not just the general life of our whole body and of all our thoughts, but the life of their very least detail. (Divine Love and Wisdom §1)

These six statements are not a cure, and they will not necessarily make depression go away. But, for me at least, they provide a defense against it. Most of all, I know now what depression is, and it is much harder for me to be caught unawares. I know its shape and how it moves, and because of this, depression is diminished. I can see beyond it, and the sky is blue.

Peter King, PhD, is a reader in social thought at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK.

Read more posts from the Spirituality in Practice series >

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What should we think about suicide?

by Rev. John Odhner

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

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

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

Suicide does not end our problems

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

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

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

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

Are people punished after death for suicide?

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

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

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

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

Suicide permitted to protect a person’s soul

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

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

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

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

Swedenborg’s suicidal urges

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

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

Better to die than to be drawn away from the Lord

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

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

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

Giving up your life to find life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Lord gave up His life voluntarily

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

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

Biblical people who desired death

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The heroism of giving up one’s life

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

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

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

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

Suicide and heroism

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

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

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

Broader teachings about death and evil

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary

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

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

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

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Misfortune – Why does everything go wrong?

misfortuneMost people suffer at least one misfortune during a lifetime, but if you have been experiencing a series of things going wrong, — for example losing your career, partner, home, and social standing — then perhaps you should be asking if there is something going on here you really need to know more about?

No surprise then that you feel depressed. People who know you as a caring sensitive soul, feel there is no justice in life. Just how unlucky can one get?

Margaret’s story

Margaret was pleasant company and considerate. She had been brought up by strict parents who were somewhat critical and slow to give praise. Lacking self-confidence at school she tended to give in to the demands of others. She wanted to go into nursing but her father pressurised her into taking a job in administration at a large company. There she was conscientious and hardworking and not wasting her income: but still longed for a caring role with people.

Rather than looking around properly for the right man to share her life, she settled rather too soon on Adam. Although he was very polite and well turned out, he did like to get his own way. He sponged off her for money for betting even before their marriage. Adam wanted her to be at their home looking after him and their children. Two babies came along in quick succession before she was ready to decide about her career.

Later, Adam became an increasingly frequent gambler who wasted their money. He eventually became bankrupt in business and left her and the children to fend for themselves saying he could no  longer afford to contribute to the family. Even after they were separated, she gave him some of what little money she had managed to scrape by over the years to help pay his debts. By the end of their relationship she was penniless, tired and depressed, and no place to call her own.

Understanding Margaret’s misfortune

Why on earth did Margaret get involved with Adam in the first place? Surely it was obvious that this person was taking her for a ride. But of course it wasn’t always obvious to her.

Like many people with a poor view of themselves, Margaret was inclined to act as if she did not matter much; rarely asking for favours, or venturing to voice her opinions. Whilst sensitive to how others felt, she was blind to her own emotional needs. She allowed father, husband and others to influence her unduly. As a result she didn’t make wise decisions about important aspects of their own life. I think the roots of Margaret’s continued misfortune lay within herself.

“Misfortunes one can endure–they come from outside, they are accidents. But to suffer for one’s own faults–ah!–there is the sting of life.”
Oscar Wilde, Lady Windermere’s Fan

We might wonder if at the root of Margaret might be an unease about being alone, a  suspicion she might be unworthy of devotion, and an anxiety about being ignored?

Vulnerability to misfortune

I do wonder if Margaret typifies a certain type of person who is more likely to be a loser. I am suggesting that people at risk of multiple misfortune have her three traits:

1.      Unassertiveness,

2.      Low self-esteem,

3.      Sensitivity.

How the first of these causes things to go wrong is perhaps more easily seen: if you fail to stand up for yourself don’t be surprised if someone sooner or later takes advantage to your lasting cost.

But what of the other two traits?

Some one with low esteem reminds me of the joke about the guy who noticed an exclusive social club with many desirable features. When he had a chance to join, he turned it down saying that he wouldn’t want to join a club that would be prepared have him as a member! But feeling a low sense of worth is no laughing matter — it takes away self-confidence and is associated with depression.

Sensitivity to another person’s feelings can almost be experiencing such feelings as one’s own. Sure, since Carl Rogers championed empathy in counsellors, we have seen this as a desirable quality. But can’t it have its down side? Like when you so feel for somebody’s problems that you take them on as your own.

Need for truth and love

I’m not saying all suffering and misfortune is the fault of the sufferer. Far from it. But sometimes you can play a part in your own downfall. Breaking unfortunate patterns requires much reflection and resolve.

Once you bring the ways you inwardly think out into the open, you can examine them in the light of day and challenge them if unrealistic or self-defeating, and look to making some real changes in your behaviour.

There is a mistake in assuming your own opinions are less important than that of others. Only you can judge what is right for you but this does mean making a correct assessment based on inner rather external considerations.

“Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.”
(John 7:24)

This is where truth and love come in. Acknowledging the truth about one’s mistakes is surely the first step to better fortune.

Like seeing the error of running yourself down or of neglecting your own needs. How can you expect to be able to love others until you can first care for yourself?

“I hope that real love and truth are stronger in the end than any evil or misfortune in the world.” (Charles Dickens)

Yes I feel the way to avoid a string of misfortune is to recognise the mistakes one can make in life and do something about it.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems