Dream sleep — How to understand it?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

dreamPeople have random eye movements under closed eyelids (REM) from time to time when they are asleep and if wakened at these times they report  dreaming. In this way sleep researchers found that most people dream for about a fifth of their sleeping time. A person of age seventy-five will not only have  slept twenty-five years, but will have spent five years dreaming! We need this  for, if deprived of REM sleep for a while, we become disturbed and even psychotic. Although occasionally there is speech in dreams, it is mostly composed of dramatic visual representations. There are no proven scientific theories to explain the experience. So why is it important? How can we understand it?

Why your dream is not easy to understand

Clinical psychologist Wilson Van Dusen, wrote that dreams tend to deal with a wide range of present-life concerns of the person. The precise meaning of any one  however is unclear, even though it makes use of people, situations and objects familiar to the sleeper.

Because of familiarity with the content, it isn’t immediately apparent that the dream uses things and people in a symbolic manner. In this way whilst getting an inkling of what is going on — we are protected from a blunt expression of those inner concerns and desires we would rather keep from daytime awareness.

Dreaming is thus a personal process that need to be understood in a personal way. And so a book offering a general meaning of dream symbols is probably not valid.

If you haven’t worked with your own dreams, they can easily seem to be a mishmash of elements into which one could read almost anything.

How to understand a dream

  • When you next wake up after the dream, jot down a phrase or two about it in order to jog your memory later.
  • The next day try to get back into the dream, reliving it. Slowly tell the dream to yourself. What were you feeling at different points. Ask yourself, ‘What did it feel like when …. ?’ ‘How is that like my life?’
  • Pretend to be a person you dreamed of, and tell the dream story from this perspective. You may get clues as to what the individual figure represents in you.
  • Assume everything in the dream is you. Your most conscious day-time  feelings and thoughts are shown by you in the dream. Less conscious aspects are represented by others eg one’s future potential, choice points, what is hoped for. See what you associate with each person, place or thing in the dream.
  • Summarise the dream and listen to the summary for its meaning.
  • Reflect a little on the rest of the dream’s connections during the day and you may find the remaining meanings.
  • The only valid interpretation of a dream is that which you, the dreamer, give to it.

Revelatory nature of dreams

In using images in a symbolic way it is as if the dream is allowing you, the dreamer, to remain in freedom to listen or ignore its message. If your dream simply said you boast too much or waste too much money, it would not only would be a distressing insult but one you could not fail to see. Instead it offers an intriguing drama you can try to remember and work out only if you wish.

Carl Gustav Jung suggested that dreams come from a level more objective than one’s subjective point of view. Dream images are not from the dreamer’s usual subjective sphere of thought and language. It is as if what the dream is saying goes beyond our daytime conscious understanding to reveal something true about the inner quality of our life. It possesses a higher wisdom and knowledge about all our memories, hopes and fears.

The reality of our inner mind

In his books The Natural Depth In Man and The Presence Of Other Worlds, Van Dusen gives a clear picture of the hidden reality of our inner world. His understanding not only comes from his own experience as a psychotherapist working with his patients dreams but also his study of Eastern and Western philosophy, particularly the extraordinary insights and often frightening experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg. Van Dusen concludes that in a wide range of states of consciousness (including that of dreaming) an inner world is revealed as precisely Swedenborg describes.

This is a hidden realm of spirit which will become fully conscious to us all following our bodily death: a spiritual world which permeates all our human minds, whilst we still live on earth, with inflow of high and low desires, pure and corrupt thoughts, as well as beneficial and harmful impulses; an influx of good and bad influences that are perfectly balanced to preserve our inner human freedom.

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

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

Posted on18th December 2012CategoriesConsciousness, Spirit awarenessTags, , , , , , , , ,, , , , Leave a comment

Tell the future – Is this possible?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

tell the futureOne perfectly natural desire is to want to tell the future. We pick up our ears when we hear of foretold events. Who would not want a few days foreknowledge of the stock market for example?

Swedenborg could tell the future

A few incidents in the life of Emanuel Swedenborg suggest he had precognition.

Swedenborg wrote to John Wesley accurately predicting the time of his own death. The clinical psychologist Wilson van Dusen describes other examples of his psychic powers. (Chapter 7 Presence of Other Worlds).

Yet Swedenborg himself considered his gift of being able to tell the future of remarkable little importance and we are reliant more on the reports of others amazed at this phenomena than from his own pen. More common today is the idea that a dream — which usually portraits unconscious central life concerns in a symbolic way — can be precognitive by representing their future implications.

Some of Swedenborg’s dreams tell the future

Some of the dreams of Emanuel Swedenborg have been called precognitive. His Journal of Dreams is probably the oldest and longest series of recorded dreams in existence. It reports dreams and visions occurring in a critical formative period in the life of this gifted scholar. His dreams tended to be symbolic although he did venture his own interpretations.

“That which had been represented to me in a dream some days before happened to me; for in one day I was exposed to two deadly perils; this indeed happened to me, so that had not God then been my protector, I should have given away my life in two places. The particulars I will not describe.” (Dream 200)

In another dream he described dining with a priest and taking away from the table two silver cups. These he said symbolized what he had learned about the spiritual life. He wasn’t giving credit to himself for this valuable knowledge.

“I learned much about spiritual things; which is meant by the silver cups which I wished to send back to the priest; that is to say, to the glory of God I would again give to the church universal in some manner.”(Dream 63)

The dream was revealing something about his future role as a theologian. At that time he was far from knowing he would later produce 33 volumes of theology.

He described how he saw the church of the Moravian Brethren in a previous dream recognizing it when he came upon it in real life.

“Their church was represented to me three months before, just as I have since seen it, and all there were clad like priests.” (Dream 202)

How can anyone tell the future if it hasn’t yet happened?

The way I see it is that dreams show our unconscious feelings and insights. The event depicted in a dream sometimes actually takes place.  If things in a dream later turn out as predicted, had this been inevitable all along? Or do they actually happen in waking consciousness because a dream message, such as an unconsciously expressed warning, went unheeded?

Parapsychological research (reported by Harvey Irwin and Caroline Watt) has unearthed some instances in which the event not only was avoided or prevented but seemed bound to have occurred had the person perceiving the future not intervened.

Boundary between the material and psychic realms

For many people, God, alone can tell the future. If so, perhaps God might see fit to tell the future  to a person. Also possibly anyone who feels close to God may be more intuitively in tune with what the divine foresees. Is there a boundary between our wanting to tell the future and the higher knowledge of the spiritual world which transcends space and time?  I agree with the view that these worlds were meant to be separate. Only for special reasons can the knowledge of one show in the other.

Swedenborg’s views on future knowledge.

In general Swedenborg himself felt knowledge of the future would threaten one’s  humanity. He said the essence of being human is to be able to act from freedom according to reason. He argued as follows: if each of us knew for certain what will happen then we would no longer think interiorly how we should act or how we  should live: our rationality and liberty would be diminished; rationality to understand what is right and good and liberty to think what is right and do what is good if we are able.

So for him in order to have happiness we must not know what the future holds. It would involve many things which would upset us. Religious people tend to believe that true happiness comes from trusting that God looks ahead and provides for one’s timeless spiritual needs.

“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6)

For those of faith, the future will be happy if they go with the flow trusting in the stream of providence.

“Every smallest fraction of a moment of a person’s life entails a chain of consequences extending into eternity. Indeed every one is like a new beginning to those that follow, and so every single moment of the life both of his understanding and of his will is a new beginning. And since the Lord foresaw from eternity what man was going to be like in the future and even into eternity it is clear that providence is present in the smallest individual things.

(Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia section 3854)

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

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

13th July 2011CategoriesConsciousness, Mystical experienceTags, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,, , Leave a comment

12 Dreams

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

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12 Dreams

“So He giveth His beloved in sleep.” Psalm 127:2

The Blessing of Sleep

The stream of man’s conscious life is intermittent, broken by recurring lapses into the unconscious state of sleep, from which he wakens with a new vigor of mind and body, in a new state and with a new start. The state of yesterday is still with us in the morning, as a memory that calls to us for a resumption of our duties or our routine; but it does not bind us entirely. Much is happily forgotten, and the thought of the burden and the heat of yesterday is not so oppressively present. Gradually we pick up the threads of former thoughts, discarding much that is unimportant.

It might seem as if our life was cut up into disjointed segments by these periods of sleep. But nothing is lost from our mind. The stream of consciousness has simply found rest in a limpid pool where its waters are clarified for its further progress. It is the conscious mind—the self-directed thought —that is affected by the apparent death of sleep. “Love does not sleep,” we read in the Arcana Coelestia.283The affections, the subconscious yearnings, instincts, and delights of the will provide a continuity of the whole personality. Man wakes the same man. And through the miracle of memory he has still at his disposal all his past experience and knowledge.

The function of sleep is so important that even the angels, in their evening states, find comfort and refreshment in slumher. For their bodies and their minds—though both spiritual —are yet finite, and all finite things have limits of endurance.

Man’s body, during the day, is largely governed by the caprice of his own will, by his voluntary decisions, which are not always rational. If man could know the exact degree of strain which each part of his body could bear without injury, he might avoid some of the abuses to which he actually exposes his organism. But even so there would be need for relaxation of body and brain and for a restoral of equilibrium after every sustained exertion.

In his philosophical works, Swedenborg offers an explanation of the physiology of sleep. He states that man’s conscious will (or voluntary) resides in the cerebrum or anterior part of the brain, and that deliberate action is initiated from the “cortical glands” there. These brain-cells, by extending fibres, govern all the muscles of the limbs and of the skeletal frame, and force the body into motion and position. The cerebellum or hind-brain, on the other hand, has control of all the viscera and their internal workings, quite independently of man’s will and unbeknown to his consciousness. The cerebellum also causes “antagonistic” muscles to counterpoise, makes smooth the workings of the muscles controlled by the cerebrum, and restores the natural equilibrium of forces which the conscious will has disturbed. In wakefulness, the cerebellum is relatively overruled and not active to its fullest extent. But in sleep, which comes over a man when the abused fibres of body and brain are no longer responsive to his will, the little cells of the cerebrum become relaxed. They are then isolated from the continual stream of subtle nourishment which is offered them through the arteries; so that they no longer receive the “purer blood” which they otherwise renovate and propel into the fibres. They continue indeed to receive, for their own future need, constant supplies of what Swedenborg calls “etherial chyle” through the “corporeal fibres”; and the inmost circulation of the “spirituous fluid”— the soul’s own vice-regent—continues as before. But the connections between the various glands and between the cortex and the body, are temporarily broken. And thus there are but slight muscular motions and no voluntary action. Sensations cannot reach the seat of consciousness, and the sceptre of the body is handed over to the cerebellum.284

In sleep, therefore, the soul, acting through the cerebellum, restores the order of nature. Acting by involuntary fibres it mends the broken or strained tissues, reestablishes a balance in the metabolism of the cells of the whole body, and improves the spontaneity of the various organs.285

The Arcana states that “the cerebellum is awake in time of sleep when the cerebrum slumbers.”286 “The Lord guards man with most especial care during his sleep,” for without sleep “the human race would perish.” In sleep, the Lord Himself watches even over His enemies and does them good.287 He loves all, and “He giveth His beloved in sleep.”288

Sleep bears a certain likeness to death. In sleep man retires from the world and its anxieties and departs from all his fellowmen. His senses being inactive, he not only becomes oblivious to the fixed world about him, but his memory of it also sinks into quiescence. Up to a certain point, physical pain and states of emotion which stir up his blood may prevent such a retirement. But when he finally gives way to sleep, he enters a world without sense of time and indifferent to space.

Even as the angels of the resurrection are celestial in type, so also are the angels whom the Lord appoints to guard man in sleep. They are in fact angelic spirits of the province of the cerebellum; for the cerebellum perceives the states of the body by an “involuntary sense.” It is their duty to prevent evil spirits from infesting man during his slumbers—a duty which they perform with the greatest delight, so that there is a rivalry among them as to who should be present. Only persons who have “delighted, and loved in every way and with the utmost effort, to make the life of others delightful,” are eligible to serve such offices after death.289

The World of Dreams

Sleep is a state of unconsciousness. Yet there are certain factors—conditions which we cannot catalogue—which cause the return of consciousness in a strange and partial way. “To sleep—perchance to dream.” The natural memory may be aroused in a new manner, and man comes into that state on the borderland of the unconscious which we call the world of dreams: a strange world of fancy, built up from the broken fragments of experience into sequences which defy the logic by which we discipline our conscious thinking.

The fact of this dream-world has ever fascinated men. Primitive peoples saw in it a sign that there existed another world—a world of “doubles”—which they mostly confused with the spiritual world itself, but in which they saw themselves as actors. For in dreams the spirit of man seems to be released from the body to wander abroad in wider fields. The ancients also attached special meanings to their dreams, seeing obscure warnings and predictions in the jumbled recollections of their nocturnal experiences. Plato believed that our dreams gave us intimations of the various appetites and instincts which lay hidden in our nature; including bestial desires which the self-rebuke of reason kept out of our consciously directed thoughts, but which were given free rein during sleep.290 And in these modern days the Platonic view has again become the vogue. Dr. Sigmund Freud of Vienna founded upon it a new school of psycho-therapy, by analyzing the repressed longings and forgotten fears of the “subconscious mind” from the dreams in which these secret emotions reveal themselves in symbolic forms. The fact that Dr. Freud cynically traced all such emotions to a sexual origin does not take away all truth from Plato’s sage observations, nor does it lessen the value of further studies along this line.

Indeed, behind all these traditional views of dreams there lies a substratum of truth. Dreams do touch the fringe of the spiritual world. Dreams do at times have a prophetic burden or some special significance. Dreams occasionally reveal to man some of the longings and delights that are submerged and repressed in the depths of his being. Robsahm writes in his memoirs: “I asked Swedenborg whether, in our times, it was worth while to pay attention to dreams; upon which he answered that the Lord no longer at the present day makes revelations by dreams, but that nevertheless it may happen that one who understands correspondences may derive advantage from his dreams; just as a person who is awake may examine his own state by comparing his own will with God’s commandments.”291

This account by Robsahm cannot be taken as entirely correct, but is none the less interesting when we consider that in the period when Swedenborg’s spiritual faculties were first being opened he kept a private record of his dreams and of the interpretations that he put upon them. He instinctively felt that his dreams were—like his commencing visions—significative and symbolic. In his humility he did not spare himself in these interpretations. Yet it may be questioned whether he as yet knew the science of correspondences sufficiently to make those dreams more than the background for his own perceptions about his state while he was grasping for some indications of the work into which the Lord was leading him. (See his Journal of 1744).

That dreams, whether they are orderly or incoherent, are significant is as true as that the whole world is a theater representative of uses. Everything in both worlds, and in both body and mind, is symbolic of the forces at work—could we but know what these are. In the Writings these forces are described. And it appears from the teachings that no blame is attached to man for things occurring during sleep. For then man relinquishes his command. His will, or proprium, is taken away, and his natural understanding is laid asleep.292 In dreams, his “spiritual sight” is helpless and irresponsible and therefore usually quite impersonal, while the contents of his memory are being reconstructed into vivid imagery and into situations which symbolize states that are not his own, but which belong to spirits, and perhaps to angels, who are with him.

“Such stuff as dreams are made on” comes from the man. Nothing actually new—never before seen or felt—comes through dreams. But because man’s internal sight then is only a beholder,292 and man not really a responsible actor, the most strange and impossible situations usually cause him no surprise, the most ridiculous happenings cause no amusement, terrors may cause no fear. His memory may retain the dream in part, or he may—like Nebuchadnezzar—be unable to remember it. When an emotion, such as fear or shame, is felt in a dream, the man on waking need not take any responsibility for it. The thing is a matter of record, but not a part of his nature. In other words, if his external memory retains an impress of the dream, yet his internal memory, his interior thought and affection, has felt no influx and received no stain.

Paradisal Dreams

We have been treating of dreams in general. But the Writings tell us that there are at least three distinct kinds of dreams, or dreams from three sources.293

The first type is a dream which comes from the Lord Himself, either immediately or mediately through heaven.294 Such were the prophetic dreams mentioned in the Word. This is a form of Divine revelation. Thus an angel was filled with the Divine to the exclusion of his own proprium and consciousness, and appeared in a dream to a prophet on earth, clothing himself in the mental imagery of the man’s external memory and, thus seen, impressed the man with a series of representations which were adopted as the direct symbols of the Lord’s Divine truth. Such dream-visions sometimes conveyed to the prophet’s mind an external significance, as for instance a prediction of some future event. But the spiritual meaning of dreams was seen only by internal men such as the people of the most ancient church.295

One class of dreams stands by itself, although it somewhat resembles the prophetical. We refer to a dream in which the Lord was seen by Swedenborg. The actual call to his mission had occurred in a state of vision.296 But in the Diary he jotted down the following remarkable memorandum: “The Lord was seen by me in a dream with the face and form in which He was in the world. It was such that it was interiorly full and thus so that He could rule the whole heaven within. . . . And He often as it were slept with His eyes when He was inwardly within Himself. . . . And it was said that such had been His appearance. In a word, He was full of heaven and the Divine. (The night between Nov. 18 and 19, 1751).”297

The second kind of dream comes through angelic spirits who from an ardor for the happiness of others serve as guardians over those who sleep. These angels are at the entrance of those heavenly “paradises” which to the angels represent only celestial and spiritual things, but which spirits delight in for their own sake. These paradises appear in the externals of heaven, or are created there when angels of a superior heaven converse together intellectually about truths of wisdom and faith. The angelic spirits in question love to affect a man who is asleep and thus receptive, with the enjoyable and delightful things which they see in his affection and genius. They arouse from the dreamer’s mind beautiful and pleasant representations which refresh him with tranquil charm. But Swedenborg observed that they did not themselves know whence such beautiful presentations came to them “all in a moment,” except that they came “from heaven.” Nor is it orderly that they should know the man whom they are watching over.298

Presumably all men, when asleep, have such heavenly guardians, more or less distantly present. Yet the statement is that these are “entrusted with the duty of watching over certain men”—as if all were not equally favored. And this suggests that the Lord may have a particular concern about those in this world who perform more eminent or responsible uses; whose reliance on the spiritual reserves of the other world and of the subconscious processes of the mind must be greater. Such men, by day, enjoy the illustration of their use, which comes from their being spiritually present in the societies of such use in the other world. But at night their reserve powers must be filled up, and this by the angels of sleep.

Dreams such as are induced by these angelic spirits actually originate in angelic discourse—in conversations between angels on spiritual subjects. The order of the angelic ideas is at once presented in the world of spirits in representatives of great variety, differently in every group of spirits that is affected. Thus with Swedenborg and the spirits associated with him as a man—spirits who were using his memory —the forms of the dream which resulted were shaped according to his memory and his general affection. From the same spiritual origin can thus arise dreams totally different, yea, opposite. For what may cause joy to one man, may to others call up tedium and nausea, shame or horror.299 The reason for this lies in the universal spiritual law that no influx from spirits or angels can introduce new persuasions or alter the faith or memory of spirit or man.

On some occasions, Swedenborg related his dreams to the angelic spirits who caused them, and they recognized in his mental pictures and states the correspondential representations of their own conversation.300 Yet he also saw the diversified dreams caused in various spirits from the same origin, and confessed that it could never be known from the natural imagery of their dreams what the spiritual influx involved or contained; and he suggests that the influx was not always strictly “an influx by correspondences.” The imagery was not purely correspondential. Yet it was representative. Strictly speaking, “correspondences” are true creative relations of cause and effect, the same everywhere. So for instance, light corresponds to truth and heat to love—always. But the objects of the dreams represented different things to different spirits; for every man clothes familiar objects with a sphere of ideas and a meaning all his own. The things of man’s affection as well as his memory invite dreams of varying type. But in his dreams the objects are arranged with reference to the angelic ideas which inflow—thus as symbols of their corresponding states, symbols which indeed represent, but do not correspond; and which mean one thing to the angels, and quite another to the man. Only the angels could recognize the relation of the dream to their own ideas.301 We may doubt, therefore, whether New Church men will ever attempt to become interpreters of dreams; although—strange to say—one of the very first volumes in the vast collateral literature of the New Church was entitled “Oneiromancy !”302 But its anonymous author merely used the science of correspondences as a guide for interpreting the bewildering phenomena of the world of dreams.

The dreams introduced by angelic spirits contain within them the order of heaven, even if man cannot discern it. Normally the dreams they induce are pleasant, sweet, and peaceful ; but with the man they may also be turned into warnings, as is often done on some other planets when men fall into evil. Such dreams can be induced not only upon men, but even upon spirits. Swedenborg relates a strange thing—that while he was among the cerebellar spirits as a spirit, he also was able, repeatedly, to introduce dreams into a sleeper.303 He checked the experiment with the man upon whom he had acted—which spirits can, of course, not do. Yet men also can impose dreams upon their fellow-men, by using hypnotic methods.

Dreams Induced by Spirits

The third type of dreams spoken of in the Writings is not produced through angels, but through the spirits who are near man while he sleeps.304 Such dreams are also significative, for the influx calls forth from man’s memory such things as have a special significance, but a significance to the spirits, not to the man.

Angels produce dreams that please, because they take care that what they draw forth should be associated with delight in the man’s mind. They look for such ultimates in man because they always consider first the freedom of man, and lead him only so far as his own affections respond. But spirits in the world of spirits are not so considerate. Fortunately they have no power to harm man while he sleeps, although they use his mind as their own. But if they could, they would exclude everything from a man’s waking life which is not in line with their own delights. They would impose their own will upon him and sometimes desire to obsess him utterly—and if he should then resist them they would seek to destroy him. For this reason spirits who are with men are kept quite ignorant of the fact. They know not the man, but believe that they think quite independently of men. Yet they think and converse among themselves by using the ideas of the men with whom they are associated; and—as has been pointed out repeatedly—the spirits most closely adjoined to a man assume his whole memory and think themselves to be the man. They become so immersed in man’s attitudes and memory that they may even impersonate him in the other world—look like him in dress and demeanor. Each man has at least one such “consociate spirit.”305

When a spirit is asleep, good spirits can act through him. It is therefore provided that when a man falls asleep, his closer attendant spirits will also fall asleep, since the memory of the man then becomes inactive. If the spirits are evil they are indeed compelled to sleep, for as long as they are awake, man’s affections are being stimulated.306 The state of a man’s ruling love would not be disturbed, but he would no longer be receptive of the influx from the society closest to his inner delights, but would remain conscious of the irritations and anxieties of his external mind so that sleep would be impossible.

But while the attendant spirits dwelling in his superficial spheres of thought fall asleep along with the man, other spirits, more distant from the ordinary states of his life, may still exert their influence upon him. They have indeed no power to stir up his interior thought or affection; for if they did the man would awake in a moment.307 But they can use the memory of man quite freely, although it is the Lord Himself who gives the final permission and prevents abuses.

And now there commences in man—and somewhat similarly in his consociate spirits—the strange fantasmagoria of dreams. Each spirit takes on from man’s memory whatever objects or sensory stimuli that agree with his own life. It is a characteristic of such dreams that, if persons should figure in the scene, each spirit assumes all that a man knows about a certain individual, and actually impersonates him and acts his part in the mental drama. And some may also impersonate the sleeper himself, and speak to other spirits in his tone of voice; but the contents of the speech may not at all be what the man would normally say, but the most stupid nonsense or the grossest falsehood.308

At times, actual spirits may themselves, by the Lord’s leave, be seen in a dream under an appearance that is familiar to the sleeping man. It is told of Louis XIV that he gave warnings to one of his descendants in a dream; and Swedenborg once saw Peter the Great and spoke to him during a dream.309

And Spirits who sleep simultaneously with man sometimes oversleep! Swedenborg found them sleeping, yes, and dreaming, after he himself had awakened. He compared experiences with them and found that they sometimes dreamt when man was not dreaming—which no doubt allows man to change his state.310 Yet the rule is that their dreams are mostly garbed in the ideas of man’s memory. The dreams of spirits are generally caused by spirits who are in a more interior state than they are themselves. But sometimes evil spirits can induce bad dreams upon spirits that are to be vastated.311

Fantastic Dreams

Apart from these three types of dreams—those caused by the Lord, those induced through angels, and those which spirits inject—the Arcana Coelestia speaks of “fantastic dreams.”312 This class is dismissed with a bare mention. But with us mortals here below, such fantastic dreams may be quite disturbing. They seem as disordered processions of fragmentary thoughts, unconnected pictures, ludicrous figments of a fevered imagination, meaningless, isolated; or perhaps as images and situations that rise up to strike us with horror, as in nightmares or in some delirium that attends an illness. That their origin is from the other world is of course necessarily true. No emotion or consciousness is possible with man except from the presence of spirits. Yet these fantastic dreams are, we surmise, not characteristic of the true sleeping state in which the natural memory is closed from below and is moved only from within. Our nocturnal fancies may at times be symptomatic of disturbing desires or secret fears which gnaw the mind in our wakeful state but are not released in our imagination except in the symbolism of dreams. But grave injury might be done if man made himself responsible for the disorders of his dream-life which after all occur after he has relinquished his control.

In states of disease or discomfort such as may result from overstrain or from too rich food or from the use of various drugs, the senses are sometimes still pounding from below upon our consciousness even after we have fallen asleep. And while the state of the blood and the senses is such that the brain cannot find continual repose, there are countless opportunities on the part of hordes of wandering spirits—such as the curious spirits belonging to the “province of the chyle-duct”—to seek a temporary lodgment in the mind of a man. But this kind of influx touches closely upon another phase of our general subject, namely, the connection of spirits with disease.

The teachings concerning dreams may not appear to be, by themselves, an important part of the doctrine of the church. Yet they present another aspect of the marvelous economy of human life, which is ordered by infinite protective agencies and is ruled in every detail by the Lord of creation.

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

New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.

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The World Needs More Love Letters

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Hannah Brencher
Hannah Brencher

Hannah Brencher age 24 years felt lonely in the big city. Two and a half years ago she found a way of easing her own feelings of sadness and at the same time helping other isolated people.

She began writing letters to strangers and leaving them all over New York city to find tucked into park benches or magazines in cafes. Words of encouragement like “Don’t give up on your dreams” and “Someone believes in you.”

This all started as a comforting habit but as others joined in it turned into The World Needs More Love Letters project as now there are approximately 13,000 people involved. Now a veritable army of volunteer letter writers has formed and Brencher’s spark of an idea is spreading around the world.

Hannah, who is originally from New Haven in Connecticut, tells Positive News: “My hope was that people would feel like they would be given a proactive recipe: that they could become folded into something larger than themselves – something that blesses the days of others. My letters were filled with honesty and encouragement and words of love. I wanted the recipients to know love wherever they were standing.”

There are now approximately 13,000 people involved, young and old, men and women, from all walks of life.

And judging by the response to the projects web site this is really helping people find connection and encouragement they need.

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

Posted on25th April 2013CategoriesMeaning and inspiration Leave a comment

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Adventure – How to find it for free?

adventureEver gone travelling off the beaten track looking for adventure? Young people may do this before they embark on a new career and those recently retired from an old one can also seek somewhere different. They go off on an adventure to exotic locations to discover what is there and at the same time find out something about themselves. Perhaps we all need a thrilling time occasionally, to get away from the hum-drum aspects of everyday life.

Adventure of an inner journey

Travelling is not an option for everyone.  However, the journey can be found in other ways. George Eliot wrote, ‘Adventure is not outside man; it is within.’  In other words, we can wake-up to the excitement of life within the confines of our normal circumstances. Many have reported on inner journeys they have taken that opened up new horizons for them.

As an example, I would like to mention Emanuel Swedenborg, a man born in 17th century Stockholm.  In young adulthood he had leisure for full-time study and travel. He lived at a time when it was still possible to have a wide grasp of the knowledge of the day.  Later he worked as an engineer and geologist and wrote science such as physics and biology.

Swedenborg’s adventure exploring his dreams

Emanuel had been on an intellectual quest to find a scientific understanding of the human soul.  In his fifties he started noticing his dreams and reflecting on them. This was to be an inner journey; not only one of self-learning but also one of personal change. He was an intellectual man not in touch with the feeling and intuitive side of life. To explore the latter was like an adventure for him because it required great daring to tap the depths of personality, and gain something new.

Whenever someone showed a lack of respect for him he felt self-righteous indignation. Likewise he would tend to think about how his next book would make him famous. Reflecting on this self-pride, he was brought to his knees in humility.  He learned to be more aware of his thoughts and to turn away from those that he judged as wrong. With this new-found effort to stand firm he became more confident that he would be forgiven and helped to find a new attitude.

Another discovery in his dreams was his sexual fantasies.  He realised how he would be looking at a woman and thinking lustfully.  He tried to resist such impure thoughts because he believed God wanted people to enjoy sex only as part of a monogamous loving relationship.

Nevertheless a woman was what was missing in his life. Someone perhaps to put flowers on his desk, to add decorations to his home, to encourage him to enjoy walks and music. Arguably, womanhood symbolises the warm nurturing side of life. There were women in his dreams but when awake he had prohibited all close relations with them.  His aim had been to find God alone.  But the kind of God he envisaged had been one to support his academic life by providing him with scientific answers like some sort of super-professor.  He wondered… had God chosen to provide women in his dreams because that warm,
loving side of his makeup must be developed if he were to have any hope of understanding the Divine Source?

Adventure of following the lead of the Divine Spirit

Swedenborg’s inner journey taught him that ultimately he was dependent on God and this meant following God’s lead.

As HT Hamblin says, ‘The only way to harmony and to peace is to
follow the leading of the Spirit, and this is the most adventurous life of
all.’

It seemed to have worked for Emanuel. He abandoned his scientific books and focused instead on the personal and spiritual side to life. For him the personal and spiritual journey of adventure were the same thing.  How better can you learn than by struggling?  His books now would be based on personal knowledge rather than on academic reading of other writers’ books.  He now wanted to explore religion from the perspective of this dimension.  During this process of personal discovery, he had felt called to a higher vocation – one of exploring theology and spiritual philosophy.  Increasingly, he used the intuitions he gained from his inner visionary experience, presenting them as rationally as he was able.

I guess the challenge for us is to more deeply listen to the leading of the Spirit and daring to accept whatever challenges of conscience we find. The promise is extra energy, the thrill of the new and the delight of a higher life.

‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And venture belongs to the adventurous.’ (Navjot Singh Sidhu)

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

Dreams

Dreams

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Each year, as we reflect about the things that have happened in the past year, we begin to wonder about the things that might happen in the year to come. We are interested in what the future may hold for us, even though we know that if we had the sure and certain knowledge of the future it would take away our spiritual freedom. But we would all like to have an indication of the way things are going to be. Our subject for today is what the doctrines of the church teach about dreams, and what, if anything, our dreams might tell us about our future.

The dreams and visions that we read about in scripture are different from our own dreams, for they were given by the Lord for the specific purpose of revealing the Word. The Doctrines tell us that there are four different kinds of visions, and three different kinds of dreams. Visions differ from dreams in that visions are sights of the spiritual world that occur while the person is awake. The simplest kind of visions are those of people who have very active imaginations and see things that aren’t there. Spirits approach and encourage wild imaginings, and the longer they think about it, the stronger the feeling grows, until the person is absolutely convinced that it is so. The Doctrines say that “Such things befall those who indulge much in fancies, and are subject to infirmity of mind, and have thereby become credulous.” (AC 1967)

Each of us has no doubt seen drawings or illustrations that made no sense at all until the artist explained it. Then the visual images of the picture suddenly made sense and the image seemed to snap into place. Optical illusions illustrate how little the eye is involved in seeing–it is the mind that interprets the visual images, and puts them together in such a way as to make meaningful patterns. Since it is the mind that really “sees,” we can then understand that if the mind is confused or misled, all kinds of things will be seen that don’t actually exist in the objective universe. Anyone who has been fooled by an optical illusion can understand that many visions and sightings of strange and wondrous things are not signs from heaven, but signs from a desperately seeking mind, especially when encouraged and supported by attendant spirits.

A more powerful kind of vision is inspired by what are called “enthusiastic” spirits. In these circumstances, no shadows or optical illusions are necessary. The person who sees this kind of vision is easily persuaded about things, and is able to persuade others as well. The Doctrines say that these “enthusiastic” spirits have contracted this nature from persuasions and false principles while they lived in the world. (See AC 1968)

The third kind of vision is called “phantasy.” This is the preferred state of the evil spirits in the life after death. It is similar to daydreaming in that the person chooses to create an imaginary world in which to live and function, completely apart from the influence of any other living being. Such a world is completely imaginary and self-centered. The evil are in such a state because they are not permitted to act out their evils except in their imaginations, so they choose to dwell in dream-worlds of their own creation. “Such phantasies are perpetual with the infernals.” (AC 1969)

None of these visions are like those experienced by the prophets who were involved in the writing of the Word. The prophets had genuine visions, which means they were permitted to see real things in the spiritual world, that is, those things in the spiritual world that can be seen by spirits and angels with the eyes of their spiritual bodies. These are real things that exist in heaven and can be seen by men in the world–but only when their interior sight is opened by the Lord.

Every human being has a spirit within. While we live in the world of nature, that spirit is clothed with things of the natural world, and uses organs of natural material to sense and manipulate that world. While in the natural world, the spiritual organs are within, guiding and enlivening, but they are not used. When the earthly body dies, and the natural covering is lost, the spiritual organs within come into use and open for the first time. The spirit awakes in the spiritual world clothed in a body of spiritual substances appropriate to that world. With it he senses and manipulates the spiritual world. Such is the ordinary case with all men.

Since a spiritual body dwells within the natural body of every human being, it is possible for the Lord to lay the natural aside, for a time, and awaken the spiritual senses, provided there is an important use to be served. Such were the visions of the prophets. When the spiritual sight is opened, then those things which have actual existence with spirits are clearly seen. Not only are representatives seen, but also the spirits themselves, together with an understanding of who and what they are, all confirmed in living speech, just as in the world, except that such communication is free from falsity and mis-understanding. (See AC 1970)

Dreams differ from visions in that visions occur while the person is awake, while dreams take place while the person sleeps. The first kind of dream described by the doctrines is that which is from the Lord through heaven. This is the kind of prophetic dream that is found in so many places in the Word: Joseph, the Butler and Baker in prison, Pharaoh, Nebuchadnezzar, Joseph being told about Mary and being warned to go to Egypt, and many other examples. (AC 1976)

The second kind of dream is one that is inspired by the angels themselves. This is the kind of communication that they had in the Most Ancient Church, where men on earth and men in the heavens were in constant, open communication. This does not happen to us today because the state of the human race has fallen so low, and is so concerned with the things of the natural world that it cannot any longer lift itself up to the states of even the lowest angels. (AC 1976)

The third kind of dreams are stirred in the mind when a person is sleeping. These are caused by the thoughts and affections of spirits in the world of spirits who are nearby at such times as you own conscious mind quiets down in sleep, allowing your unconscious mind to “tune in” to the spiritual spheres around you. (See AC 1976) Swedenborg conducted experiments to explore the relationship between the things that he saw in his dreams, and the things that were happening in the spiritual world at the same time. Waking after a dream, he, being at that time in open communication with the spiritual world, described his dreams to the spirits who had been with him while he slept. They said that what he described was a perfect representation of the things they had been talking about among themselves while he slept–but they were not the things spoken themselves. In other words, he did not overhear or eavesdrop upon their conversation and thus learn anything from it, but the subject of their conversation inspired the images and feelings of his dream.

The angels further told him that the same conversation could have been turned into other images with unlimited variety. The reason he saw the images he did was because of his own state of mind at the time. In other words, many different dreams might be stimulated by a single angelic conversation, because each person associated with those spirits would have a different memory, a different collection of life experiences, a different response to life at that moment, and so variety is produced much as the white light from the sun is everywhere the same, but produces a profusion of colors when received by the different substances in this world. (See AC 1980)

The whole of the Old Testament is, in regard to the internal sense, a prophecy of the Lord’s life on earth. So, we can say with certainty that the Lord revealed the future to men on earth through their dreams. However, it is also clear that the Lord presented the information to the men in such a way as could be interpreted in a number of different ways. This made it possible for Him to write the Word by means of men on earth, and at the same time protect them from the danger of certain knowledge of the future.

Evil spirits burn with the desire to infest and attack us when we sleep, and because, when the conscious mind relaxes in sleep, the spiritual world is able to draw much closer, we properly feel the danger. Because the conscious mind, and therefore the free will, is asleep and unable to protect itself, when a person sleeps he is especially guarded by the Lord, for “love does not sleep” (AC 1983). Spirits who attempt to disturb or infest a sleeping person are severely punished.

In spite of the Lord’s protection, spirits are able to draw near enough to stir and waken the evil desires and unclean thoughts that are lurking under our conscious mind, and these evils within us are permitted to express themselves from time to time. This is not an infestation from without, but rather a stirring up of some of the things that are within, the things that would dominate our waking lives if not controlled by our own self-discipline and the Lord’s help. Frightening and disturbing dreams occur when our fallen nature and hereditary evils–our love and delight in the things of the natural world are stirred by spheres from hell in our sleep.

Dreams and visions were absolutely essential tools used in writing the Old and New Testaments. These were the means whereby the prophets, men living in the natural world among other men, were temporarily brought into the sphere of heaven where they saw and heard wondrous things. Their record of the wonderful things they saw and heard makes up a large part of the Old Testament.

In much the same way, dreams and visions played an essential part in the work that Swedenborg performed. He, like the prophets of old, was permitted to see things in the spiritual world. Unlike the Old Testament prophets, Swedenborg was prepared and permitted to take an active part in his visions. He was permitted to speak with the angels and spirits, to converse with them, to get to know them, to argue with them, and in every other way carry on as if a native of that world. This spiritual experience, combined with his wide range of earthly learning, made it possible for him to carry a spiritual message to men on earth with a clarity, a breadth, and a depth never before known.

But, does this mean that we should rely on our own dreams and visions as guides for the future? No, for several reasons. First, we must ask ourselves, “Who is the source of the dream?” Is it the Lord? Is it an angel? Is it a spirit recently arrived in the spiritual world? Or is it perhaps an evil spirit from hell? How can we tell for certain? The answer is that while we are yet in this world, we cannot tell for certain, and in fact can be easily deceived.

We also have to ask ourselves, “What is being stirred in us by this dream?” Is it our hereditary evils and lusts, or is it our affections of good and truth? It could be either. How can we make an objective judgment about our states in such a case?

Finally, after we have satisfied ourselves that the dream is from a heavenly source and we wish to pursue it further, and that it is stirring good affections within us, we have to ask ourselves, “What is the interpretation of the dream?” Remember Swedenborg’s experience that one spiritual idea could cause any number of different representations in the dream. With the possibility of such variety, how is it possible to reverse the process and deduce the idea from the representation with any degree of accuracy without the Lord’s direct assistance?

Dreams, like all ideas and thoughts, have their origin in the spiritual world. Pleasant, peaceful dreams have their origin in heaven, while nightmares have their origin in hell. Dreams may even give indications of what our future holds by revealing our response to certain types of situations, but never in such a way as to remove our freedom of choice. We must never fall into the trap of taking our dreams too seriously, but instead look to the dreams and visions of the prophets as they are recorded in the Word, and let these sure and certain words, prepared and interpreted by God Himself, let them be our guide for the future. AMEN.

Lessons: Genesis 37:1-11, Matthew 2:11-23, AC 4682:1

VISIONS AND DREAMS

VISIONS AND DREAMS

A Sermon by Rev. Lawson M. Smith Preached in Mitchellville, Maryland, January 4, 1987

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

It is the beginning of a new year. We seek a vision from the Lord, to show us where we are to go in the days and months ahead. In many areas of life, people speak of “visions” and “dreams”: a vision for a business, financial vision; to have a dream for one’s life; dreams for our marriages, and for our children; a vision for the church. To be a man of vision is a wonderful thing. What is it that we seek when we wish for “vision”? How can we receive it? Let us look at what the Heavenly Doctrine teaches about visions and dreams, and then see what the prophecy of Joel can teach us today.

The Lord taught the people of the Most Ancient Church by dreams and visions. These were their primary means of Divine revelation. Angels came to them in their dreams and showed them delightful paradisal gardens and many other things, and at the same time taught them what these dreams meant. Through such visions and dreams, the Most Ancient people learned the most fundamental truths, such as that all life and all goodness and truth are from the Lord alone and none from man. Having been given to understand these fundamentals, from their love to the Lord they perceived countless applications to their lives.

Later, men turned away from the Lord and closed their open communication with heaven. Then the Lord sent an angel to certain people to teach them about Himself and the life after death. The Lord filled an angel with His presence, so that the angel could represent Him to men and speak from the Divine, not from himself. The angel of the Lord came to men in visions during the day, in dreams at night, or sometimes simply spoke to them without being seen. The men to whom the Lord granted visions and dreams then taught others what the Lord had taught them. They were prophets, spokesmen for the Lord. Through them the Lord wrote the Ancient Word and then the Old Testament. The written Word began to be an important means of Divine revelation, though as yet few could read, and the Word was still transmitted mainly by oral tradition.

In Old Testament times the Lord appeared by means of angels to Abraham, Joshua, Gideon and others. The Writings point out that such visions took place by the opening of people’s spiritual eyes, not by their natural eyesight, for the subjects of the visions were in the spiritual world.

Dreams are an important part of the stories of Joseph and Daniel. The Lord used dreams to show them what He was going to do. The Lord also spoke to Solomon twice in dreams, and Solomon also answered the Lord in his dreams.

Later on in Israel’s history, the Lord gave some of the prophets remarkable visions, especially Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah, and later the apostle John, who wrote the Apocalypse. But these visions, along with many other things revealed through the prophets, can scarcely be understood, even in our day, without the help of the Writings. Relatively few people were given visions, and the Lord sent prophets infrequently. Compared to the days of the Most Ancient Church, few people were in a suitable state to accept revelation from the Lord. In Samuel’s day it is said, “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no open vision” (I Samuel 3:1).

Having a vision of what we should do with our lives is very important. But sometimes the word of the Lord seems to come to us rarely, if at all. Then some people will seek visions by other ways than from the Lord.

For example, when the Lord refused to speak to King Saul, Saul turned to a witch or medium to contact Samuel, then deceased. But the law of Moses strictly forbids necromancy and witchcraft: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” a law which even in our day, the Writings say, is altogether to be observed and done (see Exodus 22:18; AC 9349). So Isaiah warned the people, “And when they say to you, `Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? [Go] to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:19,20). This is good advice for us too. It is always unprofitable in the long run to seek guidance by a means which is not according to the Lord’s law, because there is no other source of light and vision than the Lord.

So the Old Testament warns the people to be on guard against false prophets, and to test their words by seeing whether they come true (see Deut.13:1-5). In the days when Jerusalem was under the Babylonian siege, the Lord through Jeremiah commanded the people to surrender, and then they would be well treated in Babylon. But false prophets arose claiming to have been told that there would be peace in the land again soon. Jeremiah urged the people, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: `Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. … They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. … I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, “I have dreamed; I have dreamed!” … Indeed, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal'” (23:16, 25-27). The people, sadly, followed the advice of the false prophets, but the word given through Jeremiah came true.

The Lord Himself came into the world when almost all spiritual light and vision had been cut off. He came to bring light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, so that we could see a true vision of our God. He did away with the need for representations of Himself through the angel of the Lord. In the Lord’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus, now an angel, to warn his brothers; but in Jesus’ words, Abraham says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The Writings cite this parable in explaining the law of the Divine Providence that men must not be compelled in the things of religion. “No one is reformed by visions and dreams,” we read, “because they compel” (DP 134). That is, they compel an outward, temporary, grudging acknowledgment that fades away with time, and leaves a man no better than before. Therefore the Lord does not make use of conversations with the dead to teach us today. This is not the kind of vision we should seek.

Speech with spirits is still possible, and it would not be harmful with those who are regenerate and established in a true faith based in a life of charity. But spirits do not try to teach people anything, but only speak a few words. In general, spirits speak only out of the things in the person’s own memory, and tend to reflect our own states of mind, or what a part of us wants to hear them say, whereas the written Word is an objective standard.

Some people have criticized Swedenborg as violating the Lord’s warning against conversations with the dead. Many others have been attracted to him merely as, in their eyes, a successful spiritist. But several things set Swedenborg apart from spiritists. First, he never sought contact with the other world. The Lord opened his spiritual eyes in order to reveal things to mankind which could not be made known in any other way, as He opened the eyes of the apostle John and other prophets. Second, all of the Writings rest firmly in the Old and New Testaments. Third, Swedenborg never tried to draw attention to himself. Even the Writings themselves were published anonymously until the last two works, when their authorship was already generally known. Instead, the Heavenly Doctrine always leads us to the Lord.

The Writings say there are several false kinds of visions. There are delusions induced by spirits, affecting our natural sight of things in this world. People who are not strong-minded are prone to this kind of vision. Another kind of vision is inspired by fanatical spirits who believe themselves filled with the Holy Spirit. They insist that what they teach must be believed.

All evil spirits see in a false light. An evil spirit is nothing but a collection of lusts and the fantasies of his lusts. He imagines that what is good is bad, and that what is bad is good; he takes delight in filthy and wicked things, and believes these will make him happy. In hell, one spirit miserably torments another by delusions. They also torment us on earth, inspiring similar fantasies in us, such as the feeling that “only if” I can have or do some selfish thing will I be happy.

On the other hand, when a person has a genuine vision, he actually sees things that really exist in the other life. He sees in the light of heaven from the Lord. The things of the heavens all represent the one and only reality in the Lord (see AC 1966ff). Even though today the Lord does not give us visions and dreams involving the opening of our spiritual eyes, He still does give us spiritual light to distinguish what is real and eternal from what is delusive and fleeting, if we sincerely look to Him for enlightenment.

The prophecy of Joel really looks forward to the New Church. In its spiritual sense, it shows us how we can receive vision from the Lord. The prophecy begins with the devastation of the land of Israel by locusts and invading armies. The Lord through Joel explains the reason these disasters have occurred: Israel has been unfaithful. Then comes a beautiful, clear call to repentance: “`Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, `turn to Me with all your heart … Rend your heart and not your garments'” (2:12,13). The beginning of every true state of the church, or the way to prepare for every gift from the Lord, is to repent of evils that we aware of.

But then the Lord promises to drive Israel’s enemies away, and to bless her with the former and latter rain, so that the crops bring forth abundantly. Then comes the text: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

This describes a state in which we are being regenerated. The Lord pours out His Spirit or breath upon us, the breath of life, when we are ready to receive His Holy Spirit. “Upon all flesh” means upon all mankind. In the spiritual sense, “flesh” means all human states, particularly states oriented to bodily and worldly things, which need to be reformed and regenerated by the Spirit of the Lord. The individual groups sons and daughters, old and young, and servants stand for each of the levels of our minds and hearts in which we need to receive the Lord, in order to see Him clearly. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5; AC 574).

The Lord pours out His spirit upon us by teaching and enlightening us in truths. A man who is being regenerated then “prophesies,” that is, he understands so clearly that he could teach these truths to others. We prophesy to ourselves when from the rational level of our minds we form an idea of what the Lord is saying to us and how we should act, and then tell ourselves that this is how we are going to act.

Sons and daughters are both mentioned, standing for the understanding and the will. The Writings say that our state of enlightenment depends on the state of our minds as formed by doctrinal teachings from the Word, signified by the sons. The more clearly we have the teachings of the Word in our minds, from current, regular reading of the Word, the more clearly the Lord can enlighten us. Faith is perfected by the number and coherence of truths. We can picture a chandelier: the more lights and prisms, the more bright and beautiful a light it will give. There is no substitute for a clear knowledge and understanding of the facts of Divine revelation.

Enlightenment and vision also depend on the disposition of our will, represented by the daughters. For example, we need to be willing to face a vision that calls us to repentance, not just cries of “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.

Each person is different from every other, both in his knowledge of the Word and experience, and in his love’s interests. Accordingly there is a variety of vision as to the uses of life. This variety perfects society as a whole, as long as each man’s vision comes from the Lord.

The old men, who will dream dreams, stand for the gentle, peaceful wisdom of old age, the interior sight that comes from a lifetime of following the Lord. The most ancients received their instruction in dreams. The young men’s visions represent intelligence and an interest in understanding the Word rightly. The men of the Ancient Church received revelation through visions. It is good for us to recognize and value the contributions that each state of life can bring to the church.

The male and female servants stand for rational and natural truths, with their affections. Natural truths are facts, and rational truths are concepts formed from them. Such facts and concepts are servants to visions of spiritual things and dreams of celestial wisdom. When we set our knowledge and our interest in information in subordination to the uses of life rather than making it an end in itself, then the spirit of the Lord is poured out even upon the menservants and maidservants with us.

From this prophecy through Joel the Lord is showing us how we can receive His spirit of regeneration in our lives, and so be blessed with dreams and visions of the goals to which the Lord is leading us. What we really want is a vision of the Lord so that we can cooperate with Him in His purposes. The Lord is always offering us such a vision, as light is always streaming from the sun, but we receive it according to our state. Our vision is always very limited. We don’t see where Divine Providence is leading us; we only glimpse a little of what the Lord hopes and intends for us. But what we can see is enough for us to advance into clearer and clearer light. Our source of vision is the Lord in His Word. If we read the Word, and think about its application to life in whatever uses we seek guidance whether our careers, our marriages, our families, or our church and if we act on what we see with courage and zeal, then the Lord will be able to guide us into the right paths, and into greater light. The prophecy of Joel will be fulfilled: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29). Amen.


Lessons: Joel 2:12-32; Matthew 2:1-12; AR 224:1-4e

Apocalypse Revealed 224:1-4e

I saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them, that they might converse with them face to face, and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen, standing before them, and they said, “The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts.” And they answered, “We have been told by our priests that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone, because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet in many things one did not agree with another, and still they all said, `Believe us’; and some of them, `We are God’s ministers, and know.’ But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith, and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees.” Then the angels answered, “Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain.” But two of the company said, “We have read, but did not understand.” And the angels replied, “You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities”; and the angels said further, “What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? this is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal, who sees the food of his life, not that of his body but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything, but have only heard sounds that are for the most part dissonant. But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding: one from the world and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again. Examples must serve for illustration: are you not able to understand what charity is and what faith is? that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?” … And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, “We will not say anything but what you can understand; otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish.” Concerning God they said, “All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any; therefore it ceases and perishes …

Concerning Regeneration: “Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that everyone has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually, for which reason he becomes guilty if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability, but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself, provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance and believes in the Lord is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this as-from-himself is from the Lord …

Concerning baptism, they said that it is spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration; and that an infant is reformed and regenerated when, on becoming an adult, he does the things which his sponsors promised for him, which are two, repentance and faith in God; for they promise first that he shall renounce the devil and all his works; and second, that he shall believe in God. All infants in heaven are initiated into these two, but to them the devil is hell, and God is the Lord. Moreover, baptism is a sign before the angels that a man is of the church.” On hearing these things, some of the assembly said, “This we understand.” But a voice was heard from one side, exclaiming, “We do not understand”; and another voice, “We will not understand”; and inquiry was made from whence these voices proceeded, and it was found that they came from those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith, and who wished to be believed as oracles, and thus to be adored. The angels said, “Be not surprised: there are very many such at this day; they appear to us from heaven like graven images, made with such art as to be able to move the lips and utter sounds like organs, but without knowing whether the breath, by means of which they utter these sounds, comes from hell or from heaven, because they do not know whether a thing be false or true. They reason and reason; they confirm and confirm, nor do they ever see whether it is so. But know that human ingenuity can confirm whatsoever one wishes, even until it appears to be so; therefore heretics and impious persons, yea atheists, can confirm that there is no God, but nature only” …

And after the angels had taught them something concerning correspondence and its effect, some of the company said, “Now for the first time we understand.” And when they said, “We understand,” behold a flame with light descending from heaven consociated them with the angels, and they loved one another.

Spiritual Frontier – Emanuel Swedenborg