The Deep Science of Scripture

While not the Orthodox view, there has been a strong Christian tradition of biblical interpretation that goes beyond the literal sense of its words. I have maintained through various posts that to truly understand the significance of the covenant with God, the literal sense of Holy Scripture is never adequate (and often divisive as the numerous Christian denominations attest to).

Paul explained in the Corinthians: “The letter kills, but the Spirit gives Life.”  (2 Corinthians 3:6)

Later, Origen and Augustine spoke of being inspired by Christ to an understanding of the hidden content in the Holy Word. In spite of this Orthodox Christianity choose to embrace only a literal interpretation of scripture.

Thankfully, Emanuel Swedenborg entered the scene. He not only revived the idea of hidden content, he took it even further. As a result he has given to humankind the most systematic approach to a multi-layered exegesis (exposition) of the Sacred Word.

This hidden content is evidenced by the Lord’s exclusive use of parable (stories that don’t express literal, historical fact but contain eternal truth on a deeper level). This is why it is stated in the New Testament that:

He opened their minds to understand the scriptures. (Luke 24:45)

If the words of scripture were only meant to be taken literally (the sense of the letter), then such a divine jolt by the Lord to the cognitive function His disciples would not have been necessary. So there must be more to God’s revealed wisdom then meets the eye.

Swedenborg claimed that the literal sense of scripture served as a foundation upon which more elevated meanings rested. Above the lower, literal level is a spiritual level, which conveys the inner story that each one of us experiences on our spiritual journey. The Lord actually provides evidence that biblical events are meant to represent events that are to take place within human hearts and minds. The big clue is given when he responds to the demands of the Pharisees to tell them when God’s kingdom will come.

“The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or lo there! For, behold, the kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:20, 21).

So the Lord is giving a powerful hint to the Pharisees that the coming of the kingdom will not be a physical event. The coming of the kingdom is also identified with the Lord’s Second Coming in Revelation. So the New Jerusalem will be a new dwelling place in our hearts and minds for the Lord. This Holy City represents a new teaching descending from heaven.

The third or highest level of meaning in Scripture deals with high Christology. In other words, interpretation now regards the events in Scripture as dealing solely with the Lord. This includes events in the Old Testament. The Lord also alludes to this highest level of interpretation on His walk to Emmaus when He reveals to his disciples new things about the Sacred Word.

And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself. (Luke 24:27).

What possible way could the story of Moses address Christology, that is, have something to do with the interpretation of the person and work of Christ unless it contained a more elevated meaning? The Lord is now making these higher-level meanings available to the world.

So what does all this deep theology have to do with science?

In quantum physics the deeper you look at the fabric of reality, the more topologically astounding and active things get. Scripture also becomes more intricate and dynamic at its deeper levels of meaning. In the same way quantum events become more expanded, non-local, and act like non-physical waves, biblical events can also take on more expanded and non-physical meanings (so the laws of physics have their origins in spiritual patterning principles).

For instance, the word “light” can be taken beyond its literal meaning to represent the higher, non-physical meaning of “understanding.” That is why the Lord is described as the “light and the way” and that His life was the “light of men.” The Lord influences human minds in the same way light influences our physical eyes. When He opens our minds to understand Scripture, it is to reveal its hidden content.

Each and every word in Sacred Scripture offers a similar metaphysical interpretation (but not every story in the canonical Bible is the true Word of God – see my post entitled “God’s Holy Word vs. the Canonical Bible”).

These are just some of the topics I will be addressing in my next book, Proving God, which seeks to unify science and theology. This unity is not achievable without having access to the hidden content of the Sacred Word

Posted on June 8, 2008by thegodguy

This entry was posted in god, Inner growth, psychology, Reality, religion, science, spirituality, unity and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Are myths anything more than superstitious beliefs?

Today we are discovering or, to be more exact, rediscovering that the inner and outer worlds of our experience are closely related to each other. What we see in the images and experiences of the outer world is in some sense dependent on what elements are currently active within our psyche.

In that way outer images and forms can mirror or reflect, and, therefore, reveal living aspects of our inner world. Potentially, therefore, everything in our outer experience is a possible source of revelation of our inner realities and current state — as many mystics report. How we perceive and interpret events is very much a reflection of our individual selves.

Universal import of myths and legends

Just as there are underlying universal physical laws in the physical world, and underlying universal patterns of growth and development in the biological world, would it be so surprising to discover that there are also underlying universal patterns of psychological development which lie within the great myths and legends that have survived eons of human ages and development?

Witness the frequent emotive and evocative use made of them by so many of the great poets. Today, the psychologist Jung’s discoveries and interpretations in this area of ancient myths and legends is now well known, and have been influential in dispelling the rationalist’s judgment that myths are no more than primitive and superstitious beliefs about non-realities, or primitive pre-scientific attempts to explain natural phenomena.

Daedalus and Icarus

Remember the myth of Daedalus and Icarus? In order to escape from the Labyrinth in which they had found themselves imprisoned, Daedalus made wings (of wax!) for himself and his son Icarus, but warned his son not to fly too high. Ignoring his father’s advice, Icarus soared proudly up towards the sun which melted the wax, causing Icarus to fall into the ocean and drown. ‘Trying to fly too high’ — with wings of wax’.

Could a legend like that have originated without any deeper message for the hearer; without some inner significance that was the real reason for the story being told in the first place? Today we are perhaps uncovering some of the deeper awareness of the ancients which they were able to express only in story form. The difference is that, unlike them, we have an articulate psychological terminology with which to express it.

Psychospiritual Import of Sacred Scriptures

And further would it be so surprising to find that the key stories within the ancient sacred scriptures are still alive and vibrant today, retaining their emotive and sacred power because they symbolically express deep universal spiritual patterns of human experience and development?

The Buddha and Jesus are perhaps the best known ‘spiritual psychologists’ from the past, who demonstrated their incisive ability to plumb the spiritual and psychological depths in humanity through the use of symbol and parable, in the ancient scriptures as well as in their own parables, so many of which have also come down to us. For example, Jesus’ parable of the Prodigal Son  with its universal experiential patterns has stirred up and brought to light countless deep spiritual emotions and insights in those who have been prepared to ‘hear’ it with an open spirit.

The Old Testament

Generally, ‘tales’ inevitably become embellished and details changed in the telling. But in the Old testament of the Bible we have a record of ancient religious myth and sacred history of accuracy second to none due to the meticulous copying skills and strict rules of the semitic scribes known as the Massoretes.

Sadly, later interpretations of the Old testament by scholars and theologians in the Christian era became merely historical and literal, lacking spiritual and psychological depth so that it became largely dismissed or neglected as too archaic and repulsive for the modern mind. So it remained unrecognised as a potential revelation of timeless psychospiritual truths and inner realities concerning potentials divinely embedded in the human spirit, the obstacles to their development and the ways these may be overcome. The key to such deeper meaning became lost.

Swedenborg

It was not until the 18th century when rationalism was getting into its full stride that a psychospiritual breakthrough came. Emanuel Swedenborg, a distinguished philosopher, following a period of humbling transformative inner experiences, began to publish his revelatory writings. In 1747 he startled leaders of the Christian church with the opening statement of his great work, Arcana Caelestia (Heavenly Secrets).

“The Word of the Old Testament contains heavenly secrets…Every single detail, even the smallest…means and embodies matters that are spiritual and celestial — a truth of which the Christian world is still profoundly ignorant…The subject of Genesis 1 is, in the internal sense, the new creation of man, that is, in general, his regeneration.”

In the Genesis creation story Swedenborg sees how the emergent kingdoms of nature correspond to emergent levels of the human mind and spirit and so provide a universal key to the interpretation of natural images in all the subsequent stories in the Bible.

Thus the story of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden with its two trees, the divine prohibition, Adam’s falling into a deep sleep, the serpent and the ignoring of the divine warning, reveals how the human spirit is drawn into an egocentric state which, spiritually, is dreamlike and inevitably becomes subject to negative consequences.Some form of psychospiritual rescue operation is needed which, as Swedenborg, shows, the Bible goes on to symbolically outline in detail.

So the Bible will never become dated or irrelevant so long as the human mind is able to recognise its own universal inner states and stages of spiritual development reflected in the personae, events and dramas of such well-preserved sacred narratives.

Copyright Michael Stanley 2012

Ancient Knowledge: Lost & Found?

Ancient people had knowledge that was lost and this is fairly obvious to most people. We only need to look at the Egyptian pyramids, Mayan pyramids, Stonehenge etc. to become aware of this. If you have an open mind in my view you can easily find out how this knowledge has been rediscovered and recorded in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. My challenge is that you look for yourself at what he claims.

Swedenborg maintains that there is an ancient science which eclipses all natural sciences and this has been recorded throughout ancient history in the form of what we call symbolism. He calls this symbolism “the language of correspondences” (a correspondence is defined as the Divine reflected in nature.) Further; he has presented in his writings what I believe to be the very keys to opening this ancient language of correspondences.  He also points to the idea that much of this symbolism remains with us today but we have simply lost the ability to read it. Kings and Queens wear crowns and symbolic garments, ministers and priests have garments and rituals, judges and lawyers wear funny wigs and gowns and many other surviving ancient organisations have initiation ceremonies loaded with symbolism. But who knows what they all mean? No one does, because the knowledge of what they represent has been lost. But this day I offer you the proposal it has been revealed to us once again!

Let me give just one example here to get you started. We know there are two kinds of sight. One is the physical eye, the other is the eye of the understanding; and we are very much aware of this. Why else would we say “I see what you mean” or “Isn’t she bright” or “let me shed some light on the subject so you can see it more clearly”. If we did not have inner eyes, which correspond with our physical eyes, why would we say these things? It is the same with the light we shed on the problem. It’s not physical light because it lights up our understanding. So it corresponds to physical light.

In fact, Swedenborg claims that everything that exists in the outer world is a correspondence of something within and this is the ancient knowledge that was lost – the science of correspondences – but is now to be rediscovered. Why not consider seeking it out for yourself and feeling free to come back and commenting/questioning here if you want to?

Copyright 2011 Jack Dunion

Posted on23rd June 2011CategoriesMeaning of life, SymbolismTags, , , , , , , , ,

Do spiritual symbols mean anything today?

One example of a spiritual symbol is the image of a tree of life.  This is a universal symbol – appearing in ancient wisdom. We find it across cultures, religions and mythology. It turns up as the Yggdrasil (the world tree) of Norse religion, as part of the Jewish Kabbalah and as an Armenian religious symbol, to mention just a few examples.

What does the Tree of life mean to us now?

The Tree of Life appears in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and also the last – the book of Revelation. At the beginning and the end. It’s almost as if it’s the framework into which the rest of the Bible fits.

We find the Tree of Life at the beginning at the centre of a garden and at the end at the centre of a holy city that descends from heaven. Swedenborg’s interpretation of this spiritual symbolism helps me relate to this; it reflects my changing relationship with the Divine; it is different at the beginning from what it becomes or grows into at the end.

For me, the bits in-between are a depiction of my spiritual wanderings and challenges to reach a spiritual maturity; a deeper connection with my experience of what is spiritual and a living relationship with the Divine Creator.

What is the beginning of our life like?

God has no beginning but we as his finite creations definitely do begin at a point in time. Our beginnings start in an experience of unity and connection, in the oneness of the Divine, yet it is necessary for us to develop into conscious independent individuals in order to choose to return to the forgotten, lost unity and connection of the One Life that creates, loves and sustains us.

This wonderful unity and connection with all that is living, I see in the beautiful Garden of Eden. This undoubtedly idyllic and innocent picture relates to what we experience in the infancy of our spiritual life. It is in the centre of this Garden where we discover or experience the Tree of Life.

Trees are powerful symbols of enduring, substantial mental and spiritual attitudes.
For me, the Tree of Life symbolises the perception that we are all united and connected by the Creative Love that gives life to all. To have this at the centre of one’s life is to perceive that the One Life can be experienced in many facets in other people and the world of nature; the One in the many.

What is the journey through life like?

Another tree appears in the Garden – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and this is very attractive to us. What sort of perception do we gain from eating its fruit? Its presence gives us a choice; do we decide what is good and true for ourselves or depend purely on it being revealed to us by God? We have minds of our own; surely we can decide for ourselves what we should do?

It is almost inevitable that we turn away from dependence on the Divine to choose and develop our own sense of identity, our ego. Life is then identified as being in the separate individual, myself, because that is what I experience. Therefore I no longer wish to be a part of the Garden of Eden experience which is about being receptive and dependant on Divine revelation.

So I embark on a long spiritual journey passing thought many trials and challenges in order to learn about myself and be self-sufficient.

A part of this quest for enlightenment is expressed in the following quotation from an article in Chrysalis magazine entitled Odyssey by David Garrett:

The loneliness of “coming to oneself” is acutely painful. At some point, in a mysterious way, the seeker dares to consider the possibility that the loneliness and the failure are because the quest was attempted entirely by his own efforts….For the first time, the seeker becomes experientially aware of an inner source that is deeper and more resourceful than the ego. As he/she turns to it, the feeling of being stuck recedes. The cold and barren world tingles and warms. The inner earth sprouts green shoots. Each time she/he consciously relates to the inner wise one, life quickens. When he /she ignores it, vitality ceases.

What is the end of my life like?

There is the possibility of discovering afresh the ‘tree of life’ perception in one’s spiritual maturity – but not in a garden. Now it is at the centre of a city. The Holy City at the end of the Bible is always descending from heaven, therefore I am once again open to Divine revelation coming from a God-given rationality, structured yet full of vitality and dynamism. This is an integration of all that has previously taken place in my experience and comes from heart, mind and service to others.

At the end of the journey one can re-discover what had been lost, and make one’s way back to the beginning to the Tree of Life – but it is different yet paradoxically the same. Perhaps what is to be discovered is always the same, eternal and enduring, but the change has taken place in oneself. This reminds me of the T.S. Eliot poem, Four Quartets, as follows;

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of the earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well….

Copyright 2010 Helen Brown

Soul Symbols

Soul Symbols Cover

by Helen Newton and Becky Jarratt

Published by spiritualwisdom.org.uk 2008 pp 157 £10

To purchase

This book encourages us to stop, take notice of the world around us and reflect on the inner reality it contains.  Everything in nature is said to exist because it is a reflection of something of spirit. The book mainly comprises photographs of scenes and objects together with commentary regarding their psycho-spiritual significance. Some of these pictures can also be purchased as separate cards.
The suggestion is we reflect on what each picture might be saying to us about ourselves, and then read the comments provided including quotes from a variety of sources including from Swedenborg, who wrote in depth about the meaning of symbols. The authors claim that the thirty six symbols that form the heart of this book are just a start to understanding this key to both the Divine and our own personal, spiritual transformation.
I can highly recommend this book to all those interested in tuning into this higher reality, enabling more light and love to shine into our lives.                            Stephen Russell-Lacy

In engaging with symbols I can key into a universal wisdom and spirituality which I can also relate to on a personal level.  I would recommend this set of cards and book as an aid to each person’s journey towards wholeness – it’s both enriching and freeing.                                                       Helen Brown, Jungian therapist

Communication of higher awareness.

Has a new kind of uplifting perception or intuition ever come to you? Perhaps a sense of wholeness or timelessness, or an encounter with a side to reality that goes beyond the world as we usually know it. A short moment when you sensed that something new has been revealed – something usually hidden? Communication of such illumination can be problematic.

Trying to remember this sort of deep experience can be difficult because ordinary language seems unable to capture the essence of the thing. Perhaps you would love to convey something of the positive nature of what you have gone through to your partner or close friend. But how do you do this? How does one communicate something which seems to be different from common life?

communicationVerbal and non-verbal communication

You may talk about and show your feelings using tone of voice and facial expression. But this is only a communication about how you have reacted to the experience rather than saying anything about the experience itself. You may try to use the language of religion or mysticism to describe it but often the words used by these are off-putting, ambiguous or carry connotations that are not what you are trying to get at.

In communicating your experience one approach you might try is to write a poem. This isn’t quite as daft as it seems. A lot of the world’s mystical writing is couched in verse using poetic licence to convey impressions and ideas. You don’t even have to use poetry. Prose can also employ imagery to communicate something of a deeper side to existence.

In choosing imagery you might try using simile or metaphor as follows:

Using image of mountains for communication

For example perhaps your extraordinary consciousness showed you a higher and wider perspective on things, in which case you might refer to it as a ‘mountain-top’ experience e.g. glimpsing a higher aspiration in life for yourself which might become the summit of your achievement and worth all your effort to climb to the peak. We speak of ‘faith being able to move mountains’; and so if you believe in what you are doing, you can overcome any obstacle.

Using image of olive oil for communication

Alternatively, your moment of higher awareness may have been a sense of kindness and harmony. This perception might be conveyed in terms of olive oil. Don’t we speak of ‘pouring oil on troubled waters’. This image reflects a concern for resolving discord and conflict so that calm and agreement is restored. A small act of kindness can ‘oil the wheels’ of social interaction and make things run more smoothly.

Using image of lions for communication

Your special illumination may have been catching sight of that intangible thing we call courage – perhaps having a foretaste of the kind of confidence needed to turn round and face one’s personal difficulties. Using an image of the lion may express this positive feeling, for we speak of being ‘brave as a lion’ – a creature which has every reason to be a confident being, as it is, the top predator in its natural habitat. To ‘beard the lion’ would indeed be to confront danger using divine power within.

Using image of pearls for communication

Or perhaps you have had a deep experience of inner safety and stillness. The pearl comes to mind. The pearl is valued for its lustre. We speak of an important piece of advice as a pearl of wisdom. Protected by its oyster shell, it had laid quiet and still on the sea bed. You may come to value the perception about divine protection you gained in the quietness and stillness of your meditating mind.

Using image of the sun for communication

One of the most inspiring of all inner experiences is to feel in the presence of the source of all life – the love and light without which nothing that is good could exist. This is a consciousness of cosmic energy originating and sustaining not only our physical life but also our spiritual one. The light and warmth can go out of our life when we lose a loved one. We also feel in the dark and cold when we lose a sense of the spiritual light and heat which is the source of our soul. The sun with its heat and light is a wonderful emblem of this power house for all our creativity and growth.

Swedenborg on correspondence

The well known maxim ‘As above, so below‘ means that the elements of our higher consciousness correspond to the things of nature. In his exploration of this esoteric idea, the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg shows in a lot of detail how our higher thoughts can be communicated in terms of the natural things of the world.

Furthermore he maintains that because natural things – such as in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms – are created by God, they can reflect what is good that comes from God.

“The whole natural order is a theatre representative of the Lord’s kingdom.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Corruption

However, one needs to bear in mind what he also says about some parts of nature which can represent a corruption of what comes from the Divine Source – hence the existence of what is noxious, poisonous, or otherwise harmful as well as that which is nourishing, delightful, and protective.

Communication of images from animal kingdom

Alive and moving, animals in a good sense such as the lion he says can represent human desires including higher feelings.

Communication of images from vegetable kingdom

Swedenborg maintains that plants, which have growth but not movement, like the olive tree, can represent what needs inwardly nourishing and enlivening in human beings and thus potential stages of their spiritual growth.

Communication of images from mineral kingdom

There are non-living natural things such as mountains and the sun which neither move nor grow. He says these can represent spiritual resources for human nurturing and growth and thus both the ends and beginning of human endeavour.

In other words images of natural things can convey to others our higher awareness of spiritual reality.

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands

Posted on9th November 2015CategoriesConsciousness, Latest post, Meaning of life,Mystical experience, SymbolismTags, , , ,

What can I learn from nature?

natureNature is a wonderful thing. Individuals and governments are committed to showing more respect for the environment rather than carelessly destroying it. Concern about the sustainability of the planet and its protection is a contemporary attitude that is becoming quite common. I feel it reflects a spiritual sensitivity to the goodness of the unspoilt natural world.

Nature is familiar and easily described, yet somehow it can evoke something less obvious and difficult to express in words; something mysterious and on a different level. Who hasn’t at one time or another not felt inspired by the beauty of a mountain vista, a seascape or a rainbow full of startling colour? Who has not felt at peace contemplating cattle quietly grazing, being cheered by the sound of birdsong heard in the morning, or being enraptured by the scent of the pinewood in summer?  Has nature anything more specific to teach you?

“Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal and transformation in ourlives.” (Mary Ann Brussat)

In general animals are well known for the way they protect and nurture their offspring, their practical good sense in the way they adapt to their habitat, and their ability to live in the moment. All spiritual qualities. But can we learn any specific lessons from different species? Has the fox or the snake something particular to teach us?  Or is this just being anthropomorphic and attributing to animals human characteristics like in Aesop’s fables?

I would suggest to learn from nature requires an objective attitude of mind — a willingness to look deeply into what is really there as opposed to taking on board the stereotypes learned from childhood.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)

Nature of eagles

These birds soar high in the sky on widespread powerful wings and see with sharp sightedness what is far below. I can see a picture of the human mind here. Isn’t an eagle’s perception one of a higher quality than the ordinary way of seeing things? Like uplifted thinking that searches out what is difficult to see when you are immersed in the mundane world of daily concerns. According to this viewpoint your mind is capable of soaring high to see life from a higher perspective.

Nature of lambs

Here we find gentle playful trusting creatures, who reveal a joy of contentment and peacefulness. Such innocence is unselfconscious and unsullied by any thought of anything harmful or bad.  Is this not a picture of the innocence of the Divine source of all that is good deeply present within your soul?

Negative characteristics of nature

The more you know about animals, the more you also notice their negative sides. Eagles are far seeing so that they can feed — predators which swoop down and carry off lambs. According to one theory this mixture of negative and positive is an additional pointer to the spiritual. It’s author, Emanuel Swedenborg, in his notion of ‘correspondences’, maintains that the natural world is both positive and negative because it is a reflection of human inner character, human beings having both good and bad elements to their conduct. For him, the positive is the higher reality of the divine perspective: on the other hand the negative is the lower perspective of egoism inverting and corrupting what is from the divine. Thus where some animals show a negative characteristic, this also alerts us to the spiritual factor again — but this time in terms of its opposite.

Nature of pigs

Pigs are highly social animals. Properly kept they are a clean and attractive and can be quite intelligent. A pig will forage all the time, endlessly searching for something more to consume.  For me this conjures up a picture of consumerism. People who allow themselves to become fixated on getting more and more things — money, clothes, gizmos, food, the latest fashion accessory etc. Pigs also have a reputation for gluttony and dirtiness. It is these latter qualities which provide the symbol of inner greed – the love of self that takes what it can get for itself searching out everything it can want.

Nature of donkeys

Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of “self preservation” than exhibited by horses. It is considerably more difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it perceives to be dangerous for whatever reason. However, once a person has earned their confidence they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable in work.

Cannot the donkey be seen as corresponding to a human natural way of thinking which can be argumentative and which would rather trust its own senses? I would suggest the donkey teaches us that such an attitude is capable of becoming trusting and obedient to a higher truth. Such an obedient understanding to deeper principles in people could carry us to a better way of living.

“The more humility we develop, the more signs of the Divine we can see around us and within us and the closer we grow to the deep joy and happiness to be experienced deep within our soul.” (from Soul Symbols by Helen Newton & Becky Jarratt)

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