Eternity and marriage

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Love everlasting

Those who are in love know it. The poets write about it. We even watch movies about it. But rarely do we find a church that teaches it– that is, that true love is everlasting. It cannot die. The Writings of the New Church teach that those who truly love each other will dwell together in heaven after death. Their love and their care for each other remains, and grows. Their joy in working together in service to God and to other fellow human beings flourishes, and takes on a newness each day. Swedenborg’s description of the afterlife is a complete picture and makes sense. He says that all who die enter into the other world safe and secure. Heaven is a very real world, more real than the world of appearances around us, for everything in heaven corresponds to deeper loves within ourselves. We have homes, gardens, and friends. Heaven is not a cloud upon which we sit and play harps or continually adore God through endless worship. True worship is a way of life. People are very active in heaven. Everyone there performs a function or “use” which they love to do and become more proficient in each new day, and what they do benefits everyone around them. “Heaven,” Swedenborg says, “is a kingdom of uses.”

This concept holds true of marriage as well. Good marriages are active marriages. In heaven, each partner works in harmony with the other in acts of charity and love. An idle life is not only a dull life, but it can lead to lethargy and self-centeredness. People who view life as only a means of self-fulfillment create a hell for themselves which they take with them after death. Hell is not a place of punishment where God sends a person for not following His rules. Rather, hell is a place where people freely go who have stubbornly refused to let love into their lives, and who do not wish to help others. It is a frustrating life and truly is a state of hell, for evil brings upon itself its own punishment, and a selfish life leads to dissatisfaction and eventual gloom. Those who approach marriage as a means for self-satisfaction alone will find this same dissatisfaction with their relationship, and the hell that is often created in a marriage is the product of a selfish heart that acts contrary to true marriage love. Marriage brings blessings, but the blessings come into their fullness through acts of unselfishness and charity to the neighbor.

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Living in Two Worlds                       

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One of the problems with our busy materialistic world is that we seem to get very little time to think more deeply about what is going on in our lives. Everyday is made up of all sorts of practical and physical activities. We go to the shops and buy food. We cook our meals and wash up. We clean the house and read the newspaper. We mow the lawn or put our feet up in front of the television. We go to work by car or bus or train and come back late and tired. So much can get crammed into one day that we begin to feel unable to cope or at the other end of the scale we may have so little we can do that we feel lonely and cut off from the world around. If we are blessed with all our senses we can see the world around us, we can hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it. And particularly in spring and summer, when all sorts of flowers are coming into bloom, the physical world around us offers a wonderful array of stimulants for our senses. And we mustn’t forget our interactions with other people: a wave across the street, a smile to a passer-by, a chat over coffee, a lengthy phone call, a letter from a friend, a kind word or a loving kiss. There is so much going on in our physical world that it is not surprising that many people live as though there is nothing else – that everything that goes on in our lives can be explained in physical terms.

But is this really so?

red roseImagine you are holding a fragrant rose in your hand. You see the wonderful colour and texture of the flower, you touch its soft and smooth petals and you smell its intoxicating fragrance. So far you have been involved in a physical way with this rose but how does it make you feel? Do you feel happier and a little brighter inside, does a smile come over your face, does it evoke distant memories, do you feel more peaceful, do you feel more loved or more loving? In a wonderful way that rose, out there in the physical world around us, has touched something deep inside you and you have responded.

Or imagine that you have just received a letter from somebody you knew a long time ago. You open the letter, see who it is from, and read the first few lines. They are just ink on paper but how do you feel? Do you feel surprised and pleased, does a feeling of warmth grow within as you recall your past friendship, are you transported back to another time and place, do you now feel close once again? Just like the rose, something as physical as ink and paper has touched you deep inside and you have responded.

These are just two examples of the countless situations we can find ourselves in when we realise that there is something much deeper to our lives than our physical being. Whilst our lives appear dominated by the physical world around us there is another world within us of feeling and thought where our deepest experiences take place and where we develop our real character. It is our inner world where, for example, we can feel deep joy when we are very close to someone we love and deep pain when we are separated.

Throughout the ages wise people have realised that we live in two worlds at the same time, a physical outer world and a deeper inner spiritual world. The problem is that we get so absorbed by the state of our physical outer world that we don’t spend enough time on the spiritual world within us. How many people, for example, struggling in a gym to improve their physical well-being, would spend just a little time on spiritual exercises to help them develop their inner world? Is this not a distorted view of our priorities?

Jesus highlighted the need to change our priorities in favour of the inner spiritual life when he said:

“Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you”.  Luke 12:29-31

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the visionary Jesuit priest, wrote in the 20th century:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience”.

Emanuel Swedenborg not only recognised that we are living in two worlds but also that when we die our real inner spiritual self goes on living:

“As regards the soul, which – it is said – goes on living after death, it is nothing else than the actual person living in the body. That is, the soul is the person’s inner self acting in the world by means of the body and imparting life to the body. When his inner self is released from the body the person is called a spirit and then appears in a completely human form”. Arcana Caelestia 6054

Should not our emphasis be on developing the quality of our inner life rather than worrying excessively as we do about our outer physical world?

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.”  Helen Keller

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Disasters

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Boxing Day 2004 was shattered by the developing news of the tsunami disaster in the Indian ocean and as more and more details of the horrific results of this tragedy emerged we have had to try to come to terms with one of the greatest natural disasters of the last 50 years.

Of course ‘disasters’ happen all the time and often they are close and personal or in our extended families. And then there are the larger events such as train crashes which affect dozens of lives. But this ‘tsunami’ event we have witnessed has affected millions of lives across many countries not just because of the widespread effect of the giant waves crossing the ocean but also because of the large number of people on holiday in those parts. It is, perhaps, this all encompassing effect that has made this tragedy so prominent in our news programmes and newspapers and such a challenge to our thinking about God and the way God works in the world.

To those who profess no belief in God, such a violent and destructive event tends to reinforce those views. To those who do believe in God, it raises questions about why God allows such things and why he does not intervene – and these questions inevitably bring doubt and disbelief. After all we might not be surprised if bad things happened to bad people but when bad things happen to good people or innocent people we are at a loss to explain it.

But how might we begin to try and make sense of all of this?

I think we need to start with asking ourselves who we really are. Are we just a wonderful human body driven by a vastly complex brain and so able to operate in the natural world around us? Or are we really deep inner spiritual beings with the potential to grow as we come to terms with the events that affect our lives?

I certainly feel that we are indeed spiritual beings and that the greatest gift God gives us is the freedom to choose on the one hand to be selflessly loving in our relationships with others or on the other hand to be selfishly loving towards ourselves. As we take what this freedom offers and choose the selfless pathway, then we grow spiritually, and this growth can continue past the death of our physical bodies and on to eternity.

But what if God did intervene in a disaster? What scale of disaster would merit this divine intervention? Would it only be something on the scale of the ‘tsunami’ event or would smaller scale disasters also receive God’s attention? Would family tragedies also be avoided by God’s intervention? Commonsense suggests that if God intervened at all there would be no limit to that intervention and ultimately nothing in the world would go wrong, whether caused by nature or caused by men and women. Our world would become a world in which we existed like robots, with no problems or difficulties to face and where choices to act selflessly or selfishly would be meaningless.

So we have an apparent paradox that whilst we can think of God as all powerful, nevertheless God cannot act against his love that we should live in freedom. God doesn’t want disasters or accidents or terminal illness but these are allowed because only in that way can true spiritual freedom be maintained.

Now this is an easy thing to say if you are not watching a loved one being swept away by a tidal wave or if you are not caring for someone dying as a result of some terrible accident. In these situations no words can really give comfort, however true they maybe, it is only love that can make a difference.

But don’t we often say that God is Love?. We might ask the question – “where is God at work in the ‘tsunami’ disaster?” and if we cannot find an answer it is probably because our understanding of God is limited in some way (perhaps by thinking that God should act as we act in a “quick fix” kind of way). But if this is so then we should ask instead – “where is Love in this disaster?” And surely an answer to this question comes immediately! We have seen love at work in the desperate attempts by people to save those overwhelmed by the gigantic waves, even if in that attempt they lost their own lives. We have seen love at work in the rescue workers searching hour after hour, day after day, to find those whose lives could be saved. We have seen love at work in the outpouring of concern and giving around the world. And in all this love, is God.

Bad things happen. We know that from our own personal experience and we also know it from observing the world around us. But however bad the situation it is love that can lift us up and lead us forward again. And the source of all the true love we can experience and share with others is God.

“Saying that God allows something to happen does not mean that he wants it to happen but that he cannot prevent it because of his goal, which is our salvation.”

Emanuel Swedenborg in Divine Providence 234

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What Precedes and What Follows

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From Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

Jesus said about Himself, I went out and am come from God (John 8:42).

The Father loveth you, because ye have loved Me, and have believed that I went out from God. I went out from the Father, and am come into the world; again, I leave the world, and go to the Father.His disciples said, We believe that thouwentest out from God (John 16:27-30).

For I have given unto them the words which thou gavest me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came out from thee, and they have believed that thou didst send me.(John 17:8)

To illustrate what is meant by “going out” or proceeding, let us take the following examples. Truth is said to “go out” or proceed from good, when truth is the form of good, or when truth is good in a form that the understanding can apprehend. The understanding also may be said to “go out” or proceed from the will, when the understanding is the will formed, or when it is the will in a form perceivable by the internal sight.

So in regard to the thought of the understanding, this may be said to “go out” or proceed when it becomes speech; and of the will, that it “goes out” when it becomes action. Thought clothes itself with another form when it becomes speech, but still it is the thought that so goes out or proceeds; for the words and tones with which it is clothed are mere additions that cause the thought to be appropriately perceived.

In like manner the will becomes of another form when it becomes action, but still it is the will that is presented in such a form; the gestures and movements that are put on are merely additions that cause the will to appear and affect the beholder appropriately.

So also it may be said of the external man, that it “goes out” or proceeds from the internal man, nay, that it does so substantially, because the external man is nothing else than the internal man so formed that it may act suitably in the world in which it is.

From all this it is evident what “to go out” or proceed is in the spiritual sense, namely, that when predicated of the Lord it is the Divine formed as a Man and thereby accommodated to the perception of those who believe; nevertheless both of these are one.

(Arcana Coelestia 5337)
May 31, 2017
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8 Influx and Cupidity

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8 Influx and Cupidity

“So the devils besought Him, saying, If Thou cast us out, suffer us to go away into the herd of swine.” Matthew 8:31

The Awakening of Hereditary Evils

It is a general doctrine that the life of man’s understanding and thought is constantly stimulated and enriched from the sensations of his body, or from without, while the life of the will, or that of his emotions, seems to well up from the depths of his being, or from within. In other words, truth comes from without, good comes from within. That which affects his understanding can be traced to other men and to various other agencies and sources; while that which is of his will seems to originate in himself.

Yet the doctrine shows that even the life of man’s emotions or affections comes to him through media, namely, through the spiritual world and its many societies. The influx of life from the Lord is both immediate, into man’s soul and essential human faculties, and mediate. And the mediate influx from the Lord is through heaven. The Lord rules men mediately through angelic societies which are in subordination and mutual dependence. He rules also by lower types of spirits, good and evil, who are present in endless chains connected with all the particulars of man’s memory, on which his conscious life is founded.

The infinite operation, or the ordering influx of the Lord, is not made any the less infinite or less Divine, although it works through these finite mediations. Yet there are also things which come to man from the media themselves, that is, from angels and spirits: and it is true of this influx that it takes color and character from the qualities of the life of those angels and spirits. The life which the evil spirits voluntarily transmit is evil and is felt by man as perverse and harmful cupidities. It is even true that “the things that come from the angels themselves” and “accommodate themselves to the affection of man,” “are not in themselves goods, yet still serve for introducing the goods and truths which are from the Lord.”199

“There is no good without influx through societies.”200 Nor is there any evil which does not have extension into infernal societies according to the quality and extent of their evil. All man’s affections arise from the influx of spirits. It is therefore stated that evil spirits induce in man cupidities, but no persuasions; and that they operate into man through his affections, and that they excite his evils.201 But it is specified that spirits are not allowed to operate into those evils which are hereditary—as long as such evils are merely latent, as in infancy. Evil spirits do not venture to introduce any evil so long as the apparent goods of ignorance hold sway. Evil spirits are then held in subjection, and merely serve. But the case is quite different when man has procured evil to himself by sinful acts, and has acquired a sphere of cupidities and falsities. Then the evil spirits as it were rebel, and stir up his evils, and seek to dominate. This is represented by the rebellion of Sodom against Chedorlaomer.202

If evil spirits could operate directly into the hereditary tendencies to evil before these come to man’s consciousness, there could be no salvation for man. For they would then excite his whole native will, and set loose such an influx of cupidity that man would perish as with a flood. This actually took place with the antediluvian race—the decadent offspring of the celestial church—which lived at the time of Noah. Their whole mental life became inundated with passions which turned their unresisting thought into terrible fantasies.

But the Lord, whenever possible, acted to save the human race by separating man’s understanding from the primal emotions and thus preventing the evil will from swamping man’s conscious life. This He did by confining to hell all those evil genii in the spiritual world who operated into man’s hereditary will; and by placing man’s conscious development in the realm of his understanding. He thus absolved men from responsibility for their inherited evil will. He permitted no spirits to dominate any man unless that man had invited them through actual evils and thereby had taken over conscious responsibility for their presence.

What is this ‘actual evil,’ into which spirits are permitted to inflow? It is evil which is recognized as such by the understanding, and yet condoned, excused and defended. If a man sees an evil as evil, and yet approves it by the understanding, he confirms it and appropriates it to himself, and becomes responsible for it.203

It becomes clear, therefore, that the evil will is not suddenly loosed in man. In childhood, when angels and good spirits rule, man’s first life, with its slumbering cupidities and unanalyzed delights, is however nursed by an influx from evil spirits; and this in order that he may be sustained and not perish.144 At first this is wholly unrecognized by the child and man. Evil is hidden or only latent, because the evil spirits serve and do not rule.204 But as the child emerges from the state of innocence and becomes selfconscious, affections of evil from the will gradually extend themselves into the understanding, and there they appear before man’s judgment, one by one, as his understanding grows: at first external evils, many of them from maternal inheritance; and later more interior evils, derived from the father. If man then should turn away from these evil affections as they seek to clothe themselves with knowledges and persuasive reasonings and symbolic forms in his imagination, evil spirits would have to stop infesting him—although still remaining to serve in various ways.205

In this connection we may understand the statement that in the temptations of a man of the spiritual church “evil spirits are associated who excite nothing but his scientifics and rational things,” while “spirits who excite cupidities are entirely warded off from man.”206 For the evils or cupidities of the native will are not excited, except so far as these are confirmed in the understanding, or have taken on the form of perverted knowledge, sordid imaginations, and false principles.

It is the man himself who thus confirms by thought the cupidity or evil which the spirits infuse, or else refuses to think from that evil and instead decides to think from the purer motives that emanate from good spirits.

Imputation and Control of Cupidities

Hereditary evils which have not been made actual are not imputed as guilt in a man. Neither is a man blamed for evils which spirits infuse without his knowledge—evils which man has not recognized as evils, nor confirmed by his understanding. Such evils or cupidities are only of the will, and not of the understanding.207 Gentiles and children are not rightly held responsible for all their behavior—on the principle, “If ye were blind, ye would have no sin.” This does not mean that such evils do not carry their weight of consequences, but that these miserable consequences are external rather than internal. With those who are in periodic self-examination and are in repentance in the matter of certain sins which they have found in themselves, the law of eternal imputation therefore contains the saving clause, that “if they sin from ignorance, or from some very powerful lust, it is not imputed to them, because they did not propose it to themselves, nor do they (afterwards) confirm it in themselves” by self-justifications.208

Certain acts of sudden passion may thus be caused by an influx of cupidity from spirits in the other life, before a man finds time to consider rationally how insane they are. Even in courts of law, such lack of premeditation is considered a mitigating circumstance, although the crime still remains. If such crimes were not punished at all, society would dissolve. If we were simply to condone our own momentary lapses, we would soon be a prey to evil spirits, a tool in their hands. For we would then relax the effort to use our God-given faculty of reason for disciplining our will: and we would revert to the level of beasts, and go back to the state of the antediluvians, whose own will was their only law. And all hell would rejoice.

Still it is told that good spirits, when angry, have been known to burst forth into effusions which one would expect only from the worst. The cause of their anger—Swedenborg observed—was that they were not admitted to do good.209 An upright man, when angry, is acting from the external man, from the proprium. Yet interiorly he feels that his good intention is foiled, or that a good love is assaulted. His anger, inwardly viewed, is only a zeal to remove obstacles; and to do this by the brute force of his natural affections, without consulting the understanding, is often fatal. With the good, this impure zeal does not last for long. It fights, perhaps, only to “remove those who are in what is false and evil lest they should injure those who are in what is good and true.” A good soldier exercises mercy after the battle is over. But a wicked man continues to persecute his foe from hatred and revenge, and wills evil to all with whom he fights; and his anger persists and accumulates within and is not extinguished.210

It was intimated above that no spirit is allowed to teach or lead man “except from cupidity.”211 Spirits do not infuse new thoughts, whether false or true, into any man. But it is also true, that “the life of cupidities tends to induce persuasion” ; although man must lend his consent to this.212 When a man has confirmed some lust, spirits can inflame him to a high pitch of rage from which his imagination is filled with fantasies of revenge and murder—insane persuasions about how ill-treated or persecuted he is, thoughts of self-importance and of envy which distort the perspective of his whole mind. Evil spirits are then in their delight, for such thoughts exalt their own fantasies with a sense of power and fulfilment. They cause the man to take delight in these thoughts, and—unknown to both—the spirits then rule the man, and hold him so bound that only the Lord can disentangle him.213

The more a man confirms an evil and takes delight in it and persuades himself that it is allowable,214 the more intimate becomes his conjunction with the society in hell which is in that special evil and in its many fantasies and falsities. Indeed, he is preparing himself for that society in which he will be a slave after death. A succession of emissaries from that infernal society are always with him—spirits who for a time are lifted out of that hell into the world of spirits to rule him. Or else he is attended by unjudged spirits who are like him.215

Yet the whole leading of the Divine Providence seeks to prevent a man from confirming his favorite vices except so far as he insists. The pressures of daily necessity, the rush of natural routine, the fact of man’s limitations and lack of opportunity to enter very deeply into his particular evils, are all means that tend to mitigate his state, and preserve him from rushing headlong into his hell. By his everyday life, his work and his social contacts, he is kept in a state of freedom—a state in which other spirits can operate upon him. Even if he lacks an interior plane of conscience through which angels can be near him, still good spirits can associate themselves with him externally whenever he is not in open evils.216 For even a wicked man may have a hereditary good nature and possess many lovable traits and apparent goods; and he may have many truths in his understanding. Heaven can inflow through spirits into his externals, into his regard for others and into his fear of the law, even though this proceeds from a dread of losing reputation or life. Thus they hold him in an external honorable conduct as far as they can. “This is the plane into which heaven inflows at this day”; but this plane is not retained in the other life.217

The Lord thus rules the thoughts and speech of man through good spirits, who hold him as it were bound while he is engaged in thinking about his uses. And in this state the evil spirits with the man are also held in servitude. It is related of a preacher who lived a bad life, that while he was preaching and commending the life of good, the angels excited the evil spirits present to think and speak in a similar vein. But when the preacher returned to the state of his interiors, and his ordinary life, the evil spirits immediately began to control him.218

By a life of use to society, even an evil man is therefore a partaker in the benefits of heaven in that he is temporarily removed from the control of evil spirits, and can therefore be in external order. Indeed, all men come by uses into the stream of Providence. Swedenborg cites the Swedish proverb, “Idleness is the devil’s pillow,” as an indication that when we are no longer in the sphere of the love of uses we become the prey of disorderly spirits who roam through all sorts of by-places in the world of spirits seeking rest.219

It is remarkable that the Writings refer to the corrupt states of the Christian world, yet refer to each of the nations as noble, e.g., “the noble French nation,” “the noble German nation.” This is because a nation is an organization of uses, uses so ordered that heaven can be present in them. A country is therefore a higher form of the neighbor, inferior only to the church. When we depart from the spirit of cooperating in the uses of state, society, or church; or when, in the execution of our duties, we withdraw into ourselves and turn away from the common illustration of others who are in the same use, the protection of ultimate order is no longer over us. We become like a house, empty, swept, and garnished— inviting the influx of strange spirits.220 We become unable to see things in their true proportions or to see the true relative significance of things. Our mind comes into various moods, solicitudes, and fancies; comes to brood over imagined slights, to worry about unimportant details or obstacles, or feel frustrated because of certain conditions which are quite outside of our power or office to alter; to become despondent about the state of the people about us; in short, to come either into melancholy, pessimism, or sadness, or else into some fanatical zeal or into religious scruples. And in some cases, where bodily conditions and temperamental tendencies concur, this may even develop into delirium, self-delusions, and insanities. Indeed, bodily diseases which intercept the life of use, may themselves be sufficient to invite such states.

The Causes of Morbid Moods

Swedenborg had experience with a great many of the different groups of spirits who caused these moods to which we are all so liable. Most of these spirits operate by holding man in reflection upon a certain object of thought, until the idea becomes almost an obsession, a “fixed idea” against which no argument or conscious effort avails. Thus Swedenborg found that as often as he was anxious about his garden and its care, about the probable reception of his Writings, or about money-matters and other like things, spirits would immediately throw in inconvenient, troublesome and evil suggestions, with confirmations and cupidities. He thus learnt that the longer a man is held in such thoughts, the more difficult do spirits make it for man to free himself of them.221

In the same way, when anyone comes to brood overly much upon spiritual or abstract things without finding relief in varieties and social contacts; or when his thought dwells on the fear of hell-fire or ruminates some misfortune; the spirits with him stir up his proprium and draw out from his memory many related things which thus continually haunt him so that the subject becomes—sometimes—a form of monomania.222 Those who live a solitary life are especially prone to melancholy and delirium. But there is particular danger when a solicitude of self-love, or a love of gain, prompts a man to be anxious about the future.

Modern psychiatrists indeed recognize the setting of these symptoms. They particularly mention the existence—deeply hidden among the forgotten things of the memory—of thwarted longings, repressed desires, and fears of various sort, forming “complexes” of subconscious ideas or states which have their disguised emissaries in the conscious thought. Mental patients sometimes have unreasonable antipathies or inhibitions, or fears of some ordinary object, such as a chair or a street or a certain room or a person, or a dread of heights or of crowds. Others have an inordinate and irrational delight in some color or some thing—which may recur in their dreams or their day-dreams.

But New Church psychologists know in addition that such phobias and fixations are organized by the influx of spirits and must therefore correspond to the lusts of a group of spirits in the other world. And just as each society sends out emissary spirits or employs some one spirit as a subject-spirit through which they can act with man, so these hidden knots of passion which are called “complexes” have symbolic representatives in the conscious mind—objects of thyught, which the spirits love to arouse. When man’s attention is held fixed on these objects, which are usually harmless in themselves, he comes into a certain mood because an influx from these spirits then takes place. These things occur with perfectly normal people. A man may be unable to account for his anxiety, his unreasonable fear or melancholy, or for his excitement and enthusiasm. His friends may wonder at his depression or elation—wonder why he is getting so excited or irritated over some triviality. Often he could not possibly explain. He does not know. But the spirits with him, they know; although they are not aware that they are with the man.

All human minds are subject to some of these irrational moods. Ordinarily their coming and passing is quite normal —part of the life of the mind. But—we read in the Diary— “some persons are led by spirits to such an extent that they cannot return into truths. Their fantasies have become so deeply rooted that whenever they fall into those thoughts, they are so altogether immersed in them, that they cannot be dislodged even through varieties. They remain persuaded that the matter is such or that the persons are such.” When these obsessions appear before the world, they are called monomania; for on all other subjects the man is sane.223

It is obvious that if evil held sway in man’s mind, his reason would soon totter. Passions such as envy distort man’s thought about others. Hatred or revenge fill his imagination with fantasies. The fear that springs from a sensitive self-love gives birth to hideous suspicions, utterly unfounded. And in the other world the lust for gain and wealth turns evil spirits periodically into gloating idiots. Indeed, hell is insane from no other source. And the Scribe of the Second Advent consequently writes :

“Therefore the Lord alone makes provision that man may not come into such insanities, and thence into innumerable fantasies : in order to prevent this, He commands that we shall have no care for the morrow; for this is what is meant by having solicitude for the morrow. Those, therefore, who are in such conceits, and strongly incline to them, can by no means be drawn out of them, except by faith in the Lord. Those who are in faith are liberated by the Lord, however infested by spirits, and this by innumerable methods, both external and internal.”224

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Theology

 

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Jesus Lives! – The Lord God Jesus Christ: Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of Heaven and Earth

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Theology

Old ‘Truth’ ‘New’ Truth
The Bible The Bible is the very Word of God; that the sixty-six books comprising the Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Spirit of God and are therefore wholly without error as originally given by God; and that it is our final authority, our only and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice. The Bible contains the very Word of God; the Old and New Testaments describe the details of spiritual growth of ourselves and of Jesus, in the form of commandments and parables. The spiritual meaning of these teachings is unlocked in the new revelation given to The New Church through the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg. These writings together serve as a complete and meaningful authority for The New Church and any individual who wants to understand the Lord’s Word.
The Trinity God self-exists in three distinct Persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom is to be honoured and worshipped. There is only one God, and that God is the Lord. The New Church teaches that God Himself came down to earth, and His body was called “the Son,” and His everlasting soul, “the Father,” and His operation on people, “the Holy Spirit.” Just as we have a soul, a body, and an effect on people, so the Lord has three attributes which are called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Salvation Salvation is the free gift of God, neither deserved nor obtained by any work of man, but received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is entirely by the sovereign grace of God through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ. People of all faiths are welcomed into heaven if they have lived according to what they sincerely believe to be the Lord’s will. Those who use their freedom to reject the Lord’s will choose eternal life in hell.
Satan Satan was created by God as an angel, but he rebelled against God and now exists as an evil person, the originator of sin, and the archenemy of God and man. His final doom and judgement by God are sure. Devils are not fallen angels, but rather disobedient humans. Satan is not an individual, but a collection of people choosing to lust, hurt and hate
Marriage There are no marriages or weddings in heaven. True marriage love continues to eternity in heaven.
The Second Coming Jesus Christ will personally, gloriously, and visibly return to earth. The second coming is primarily a spiritual event. We needn’t be looking for dramatic changes of government or climate, because the Lord’s kingdom is not a civil authority or a geographical location. His kingdom is concerned with the government of the human mind – with a life according to divine laws. The signs that He has come again should be the changes in our own hearts.
The Afterlife On the day of judgement, the bodies of both the righteous and unrighteous will be raised. The righteous will eternally exist in a state of joy with the Lord; the unrighteous will eternally and consciously endure punishment. In the world of spirits we are allowed to choose either heaven or hell, but the choice we make will be determined by what we have become here on earth. If we have consistently chosen evil on earth, we will continue to choose it in the other world. If we have tried to live good lives here, then that choice will be confirmed in the other world and we will be led to heaven, where we will become angels.

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Adapted from here (as was).

www.biblemeanings.info/NewTruth within BibleMeanings.info

Is it easy to get to heaven?

Emanuel Swedenborg, whose theology I fully embrace, makes the claim in his book Heaven and Hell that living a heaven-bound life is not as hard as people believe. However, this statement was made for those who falsely believe that one must reject all worldly wealth, prestige and pleasure in order to live a truly spiritual life.

Swedenborg maintained that in order to properly accept heaven’s life, a person must live in the world and be fully involved in its functions and dealings.

This indeed makes things easier and less doleful. However, to explain where the true difficulty of spiritual evolution lies requires a greater understanding of the human psyche and its idiosyncrasies. Swedenborg wrote on such a wide variety of topics that certain details can be easily overlooked or not sufficiently grasped.

So consider this an advanced course in Swedenborgian studies.

A man or woman is born into many evil inclinations, which are implanted deep within the human will, and this flawed will induces the understanding to agree with it. Spiritual growth and salvation requires that a new will (based on following God’s tenets) replaces the old will that we were born with.

A young child lives in pure volition. As a child grows up in life they learn from parents and teachers what constitutes proper behavior in the world. However, these lessons simply become mere data implanted in the memory function, which over time acts in an automatic way to cause the body and tongue to behave in proper manner—especially around others. Therefore a person learns how to appear “good.”

Swedenborg says that this process causes a real split in the human psyche that produces the external and internal natural man (hidden agendas and hypocrisy require such a split). This is where the real difficulty of spiritual growth emerges.

Unfortunately, a person is conditioned during his or her formative years to believe that by modifying one’s outer actions in life (from data in the memory) one is on a moral and spiritual path. In fact, a person is conditioned to believe that this habitual mind is one’s true consciousness and contains one’s true depth.

Swedenborg likens this false or artificial consciousness to the outer shell of a seed, which encloses the more vital and living kernel deep within. But in humans, the all-important inner kernel is rotting because it represents a flawed will that we’ve learned to keep in a safe place. It is this flawed and rotting will that religion targets and seeks to expose. But God’s message and teachings are intercepted by the outer habitual/corporeal mind, which merely uses this memory-data to mask (persona) one’s inner inclinations and proclivities. So nothing ever changes essentially. (This is why religion can fail to make a real difference.)

An individual can deceive himself (not just others) simply by changing his outward masks. True spiritual growth, however, requires that God’s lessons crack through the habitual mind and make contact with the negative aspects of our inner volitions. This does not happen from mere intellectual thought, but through acceptance from the heart and will to remove the protective and bogus mask of the habitual mind and its artificial consciousness. One must do this from sincere love, rather than for the sake of reputation or worldly gain.  A battle then ensues between one’s outer and inner realities. Swedenborg says that a person is undergoing this spiritual combat when he or she is experiencing real temptations.

This is what is so hard to do in living a heaven-bound life—to go up against oneself and seek out unflattering aspects of ourselves. As someone who has attended seminary, I experienced first-hand that the focus of religion today is on pastoral care and social justice—not on addressing the deeper chronic problem of human self-deception.

There is much more to this important topic (like hypnosis), which I address in my upcoming book “Proving God.”

http://www.provinggod.com

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The Trinity – and the Mistake People Made in 325 AD

           
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Jesus is clearly identified in the Gospels as the son of God, and during his ministry regularly referred to “the Father”, seemingly as a separate, higher being. Yet he also stated his own divinity, which was reinforced when he was resurrected after the crucifixion and appeared, in the flesh, to his followers.

So was he God? What about the Father? Could he and the Father both be God? And what about the Holy Spirit, also mentioned with great frequency? Was that a third divine being?

This seeming paradox led to a variety of interpretations among early Christians, which led to a council of 300 church leaders in the Turkish town of Nicaea in 325 A.D. They settled on the idea of three beings making up one God, an idea which was confirmed and expanded in a second council in Constantinople in 381 A.D. The doctrine took final form in what’s known as the Athanasian Creed, adopted by the Roman Catholic Church in the sixth century.

That creed, which is still central to most Christian churches today, says that the three – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – are equally God and equally all-powerful, and that all three existed from eternity and will exist to eternity. It says the Son was “begotten” of the Father and the Holy Spirit “proceeded” from the Father and the Son, but all three are “uncreated,” are equal, and are together one God in the Holy Trinity.

The Writings say this false doctrine was the beginning of the end for the Christian church, leading to an inevitable belief in three gods, even when people spoke of one God. They also say that three separate infinite beings would be impossible, since something that’s infinite cannot be divided.

Instead, the Writings say that God the Father – Jehovah, as He is known in the Old Testament – planted His own essence in Mary so that it could be clothed with a physical human body. Through Mary the resulting man – Jesus – also inherited all the typical human weaknesses and desires for evil, which meant that despite his divine soul He could lust for evil as powerfully as anyone ever has.

That human frailty allowed Jesus to engage directly in battle against the hells, which had at the time grown so powerful that people were nearly cut off from heaven. Those battles were waged the same way our battles are waged: through temptation. The Writings say Jesus subjected Himself to temptation throughout His life, on a scale and to a degree that we can’t imagine. But as He won each battle, he forced another part of hell into submission.

Those battles had another effect. With each victory, Jesus turned a little bit of His human reality into divine reality, slowly uniting his human exterior with His internal soul, which was Jehovah Himself. By the time of His ministry, what people saw was mostly divine. Through His final temptation, on the cross, he purified the final aspects of his physical humanity, so the body that was buried and resurrected was fully divine – Jesus was Jehovah and Jehovah was Jesus. And since He took that divine human body with Him to heaven, Jesus is till Jehovah and Jehovah is still Jesus, which is expressed in the Writings as the Lord.

As for the Holy Spirit, the case is this:

The Lord has always offered people spiritual guidance, but originally did so from a distance. The earliest people learned of the Lord through angels, and by seeing spiritual meaning in the natural world. Later the Lord used inspired people – Moses and various judges and prophets – to teach others about spiritual things. This changed, however, when He came among us as Jesus. As Jesus He spoke to people directly, teaching them Himself about spiritual things, teachings that were recorded and passed on to us today. The term “the Holy Spirit” describes the power of that direct teaching and the way the Lord uses it to motivate us.

The Holy Spirit, then, draws its power from things that have always been true, but it’s a power that came into effect through Jesus. That’s why it’s an expression that does not ever occur in the Old Testament, which instead speaks of the Spirit of Jehovah or the Spirit of the Lord.

So what does the Trinity mean to us now? What is the presence of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit in our lives? The Writings say that the three aspects of the Lord do indeed exist, but rather than being three people they are the soul of the Lord (the Father), the body of the Lord (the son) and the Lord’s activity (the Holy Spirit).

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

Here is a reference to a key passage in Swedenborg’s work, True Christian Religion 163.

INFLUX

HR90 THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

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INFLUX

influx8p_500_327 The truth of the matter is this. From the Lord through the spiritual world into the subjects of the natural world there is a general influx and also a particular influx–a general  influx into those things which are in order, a particular influx into those things which are not in order.  Animals of every kind are in the order of their nature, and therefore into them there is general influx.  That they are in the order of their nature is evident from the fact that they are born into all their faculties, and have no need to be introduced into them by any information.  But men are not in their order, nor in any law of order, and therefore they receive particular influx; that is, there are with them angels and spirits through whom the influx comes.  And unless these were with men, they would rush into every wickedness and would plunge in a moment into the deepest hell.  Through these spirits and angels man is kept under the auspices and guidance of the Lord.  The order into which man was created would be that he should love the neighbor as himself, and even more than himself.  Thus do the angels.  But man loves only himself and the world, and hates the neighbor, except in so far as he favors his commanding and possessing the world.  Therefore as the life of man is altogether contrary to heavenly order, he is ruled by the Lord through separate spirits and angels. [AC 5850]

The same spirits do not remain constantly with a man, but are changed according to the man’s states, that is, the states of his affection, or of his loves and ends, the former being removed and others succeeding.  In general there are with man spirits of such a quality as is the man himself.  If he is avaricious, there are spirits who are avaricious; if he is haughty, there are haughty spirits; if he is desirous of revenge, there are spirits of this character; if he is deceitful, there are the like spirits. Man summons to himself spirits from hell in accordance with his life. The hells are most exactly distinguished according to evils of cupidities, and according to all the differences of evil. Thus there is never any lack of spirits like himself to be called out and adjoined to a man who is in evil. [AC 5851]

But influx is of such a nature that there is an influx from the Divine of the Lord into every angel, into every spirit, and into every man, and that in this way the Lord rules everyone, not only in the universal, but also in the veriest singulars, and this immediately from Himself, and also mediately through the spiritual world.  In order to make known  the existence of this influx, much has already been said about the correspondence of man’s parts with the Grand Man, that is, with heaven; and at the same time about the representation of spiritual things in natural; at the close of chapters 23 to 43, and afterward about the angels and spirits with man, at the close of chapters 44 and 45; and this is now to be followed with a specific exposition of the subject of influx and the intercourse of the soul and the body.  But this subject must be illustrated by experiences, for otherwise things so much unknown and rendered so obscure by hypotheses cannot be brought forth into the light. The illustrative experiences shall be presented at the close of some of the following chapters. Let what has been said thus far, serve as an introduction. [AC 6058]

As the subject here treated of is Influx, and this is mentioned so frequently, it is necessary to say in advance what influx is.  What is meant by spiritual influx cannot be better seen than by means of the natural influxes which take place and appear in this world – as by the influx of heat from the sun into all things of the earth, with all variety in accordance with the seasons of the year and the climates of the earth; and by the influx of light into the same, with all variety likewise in accordance with the times of the days and also of the years, also in a varied manner according to the climates. From the influx of heat from the sun into all things of the earth, whence comes vegetative life; and from the influx of light into the same, whence comes support to that life, and also colors and displays of beauties; in like manner from the influx of the same heat into the surface of our bodies, and also of light into the eye; likewise from the influx of sound into the ear; and from other instances of a similar kind, it may be comprehended what is the influx of life from the Lord, who is the Sun of heaven, from whom come heavenly heat, which is the good of love, and heavenly light, which is the truth of faith. The influx of these is also plainly felt, for heavenly heat which is love produces the vital heat which is in man, and heavenly light which is faith produces his understanding, because the truth of faith which proceeds from the Lord enlightens his intellectual; but in both cases with much variety, for it is according to the reception on the part of man. [AC 6190]

0094aThat man is governed by the Lord by means of angels and spirits, has been given me to know by experience so manifest as not to leave even the smallest doubt concerning it; for now through a course of many years all my thoughts and all my affections, even to the most minute of all, have flowed in by means of spirits and angels.  This it has been given me to perceive so plainly that nothing could be more plain; for I have perceived, I have seen, and I have heard, who they were, what was their quality, and where they were. And when anything adverse fell into my thought or will, I have spoken with them and chided them.  And I have also observed that the power they had of infusing such things was restrained by the angels; and also in what manner; and likewise often that they were driven away, and that then new spirits were present in their place, from whom again there was influx. It has also been given me to perceive whence those spirits came, or of what societies they were the subjects; and an opportunity of speaking with those societies themselves has likewise frequently been granted.  And notwithstanding that everything, even to the most minute, of the thoughts and affections, flowed in through the spirits and angels, still I thought as before, and willed as before, and conversed with men as before, no difference from my former life being observed by anyone I am aware that scarcely anyone will believe that such is the fact, but still it is an eternal verity. [AC 6191]

It has been shown me to the life in what manner spirits flow in with man.  When they come to him, they put on all things of his memory, thus all things which the man has learned and imbibed from infancy, and the spirits suppose these things to be their own.  Thus they act as it were the part of the man in the man. But they are not allowed to enter further with a man than to his interiors which are of the thought and will, and not to the exteriors which are of the actions and speech; for these latter come into act by means of a general influx from the Lord without the mediation of particular spirits and angels.  But although the spirits act the part of the man with a man in respect to those things which are of his thought and will, they nevertheless do not know that they are with a man, for the reason that they possess all things of his memory, and believe that these are not another’s, but their own; and this for the reason also that they may not injure the man. For unless the spirits from hell who are with a man believed these things to be their own, they would attempt in every way to destroy the man both body and soul, because this is the infernal delight itself. [AC 6192]

How the case is with the influx of each life, namely, of the life of the thought and the life of the will from the Lord, has been given to know by revelation; namely, that the Lord inflows in two ways: through heaven mediately, and from Himself immediately; and that from Himself He flows both into man’s rational things, which are his interior things, and into his natural things, which are his exterior ones.  That which flows in from the Lord is the good of love and the truth of faith, for that which proceeds from the Lord is the Divine truth in which is the Divine good; but these are variously received with man, namely, in accordance with his quality.

[2] The Lord does not compel man to receive what flows in from Himself; but leads in freedom, and so far as man allows, through freedom leads to good.  Thus the Lord leads man according to his delights, and also according to fallacies and the principles received therefrom; but gradually He leads him out from these; and this appears to the man as if it were from himself. Thus the Lord does not break these things, for this would be to do violence to freedom, which however must needs exist, in order that the man may be reformed (n. 1937, 1947, 2875, 2876, 2881, 3145, 3146, 3158, 4031). That the Lord flows in with man in this manner, namely, not only mediately through heaven, but also immediately from Himself, both into the interior and the exterior things in the man, is a secret hitherto unknown. [AC 6472]

That the Lord rules the last things of man equally as his first, can be seen from the fact that the order from the Lord is successive from first things to last, and in the order itself there is nothing but what is Divine; and this being so, the presence of the Lord must needs be in the last things equally as in the first, for the one follows from the other according to the tenor of order. [AC 6473].

Whenever I have been reading the Lord’s prayer, I have plainly perceived an elevation toward the Lord which was like an attraction, and at the same time my ideas were open, and from this there was effected a communication with some societies in heaven; and I noticed that there was an influx from the Lord into every detail of the prayer, thus into every idea of my thought that was from the meaning of the things in the prayer.  The influx was effected with inexpressible variety, that is, not the same at one time as another; hence also it was made evident how infinite are the things contained in the prayer, and that the Lord is present in everyone of them. [AC 6476]

For many years I have observed the general sphere of the influxes around me.  It consisted on the one hand of a perpetual endeavor by the hells to do evil, and on the other of a continual endeavor by the Lord to do good; by these endeavors opposite to each other I have been constantly kept in equilibrium.  Such endeavors and consequent equilibrium are with everyone; from this all have freedom to turn whithersoever they please; but the equilibrium varies in accordance with the good or evil that reigns with the man. From this also it could be seen that the Lord flows in universally, and therefore also singularly.  And I have been informed that the opposite endeavor, which is from hell, is nothing but the perversion into evil of the good that proceeds from the Lord. [AC 6477]

When an angel does good to anyone, he also communicates to him his own good, good fortune, and bliss, and this with the desire to give the other everything, and to retain nothing.  When he is in such communication, then good flows in unto him together with good fortune and bliss much more than be gives, and this with continual increase. But as soon as the thought occurs that he desires to communicate what he has for the sake of obtaining in himself this influx of good fortune and bliss, the influx is dissipated; and still more so if any thought comes in of recompense from him to whom he communicates his good.  This it has been given me to know from much experience; and from this also it may be seen that the Lord is in every single thing, for the Lord is such that He wills to give Himself to all, and hence good fortune and bliss are increased with those who are images and likenesses of Him. [AC 6478]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

 

 

http://www.scienceofcorrespondences.com/white-horse.htm

Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.

7 Influx and Persuasion

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

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7 Influx and Persuasion

“When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places seeking rest . . .” Matthew 12:43

The Spiritual State of Christendom

It is revealed in the Writings that the first Christian Church, founded on the Gospels, has reached its consummation, judgment, and end.163 This pronouncement is not a judgment on individuals nor on specific societies in this world. But it is a Divine warning that religion has now reached the stage of decline predicted by the Lord in the twenty-fourth chapter of Matthew—a state when, “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold”; a state when spiritual enlightenment and progress are generally impossible. This situation came about by degrees, because in the course of centuries the evils of men allowed false doctrines to creep in and be enthroned in Christendom: doctrines about three Divine persons which are but three gods, and about a vicarious atonement by Christ’s blood; doctrines about the Pope’s vicar-ship and of priestly powers to dispense salvation; doctrines about a salvation by faith without charity or change of life; doctrines which all pose as sacred mysteries into which the human understanding was forbidden to enter.

From early Christian times such falsities came to usurp the place of the Word through which communion with heaven can alone be effected. The serene light of Divine revelation was not allowed to shine in the minds of men. Its message of spiritual faith and charity was covered over with a contorting shroud of perversions. Human interpretations and pagan superstitions ruled in the church—falsities which became powerful tools for confirming ambition and cruelty and for attracting the presence and influx of evil spirits; until at last there were “no other than false churches”163b and communication with the heavens was cut off. In the spiritual world evil spirits came to dominate over the simple good among Christian souls, and the “last judgment” could no longer be delayed.

In the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg a new Divine revelation was provided which exposes and discredits the falsities which, like a leaven, had soured all the teachings of the New Testament. The modern world, since the last judgment, has little courage left to defend these false dogmas. Yet they are still accepted by untold millions and are officially taught in schools and seminaries of Christian sects. And where they are no longer insisted on, many new falsities and denials, worse than the old, have sprung up—and these tend to divert men’s minds from any acknowledgment of the Deity of Christ and the holiness of the Word of God.

Even while the Christian denominations grow in the number of their nominal adherents, the Christian Church has lost its living office to serve as a medium of conjunction with heaven; “remaining in its external worship, as the Jews do in theirs, in whose worship it is well known that there is nothing of charity and faith, that is, nothing of the church.”164 Like the unclean spirit of the parable, a falsity may return under the guise of seven others worse than itself; even as the theological dogma of predestination has come back to haunt us in the more formidable aspect of materialistic determinism. Whether still vindicating the age-worn creeds or whether preaching the social gospels of the humanists and vaguely advancing various opposing political cure-alls, the Christian Church has lost its central place in the spiritual world. Spirits come into the other life from Christendom as into a strange world for the life of which their doctrines have not prepared them.

So far as any one is still persuaded in the teachings of the old church, he will attract to himself the spirits who are in the same falsities or who can for the time adopt his beliefs and ideas. And there are multitudes of such spirits in the world of spirits even at this day. It is true that they are no longer permitted to establish powerful societies there, nor is any one spirit able to maintain himself in the “world of spirits” for more than about thirty years.165 Still, there have to be spirits of every religion and every general faith there, to minister to their like on earth. And this will be possible as long as men adhere to such beliefs on earth.166 If uncongenial spirits were associated with a man, he would fall into a state of continuous sadness and disquietude. If angels or spirits closely associated with a man as much as converse together about things contrary to man’s faith or life, such sadness would affect him even if he was then thinking about something utterly different.167

So far as a man’s mind is under the shadow of false persuasions his spiritual progress is delayed here on earth and spiritual illustration is denied him. Although the world of spirits is now ordered and purged so that the progress of spirits after their death is quickened—the evil being judged sooner than formerly and the good being instructed sooner— yet on earth the progress is halted so long as man is under the restraining pull of false doctrines. And it is only exceptionally that men can liberate their minds from false beliefs and come to embrace the truths of the Heavenly Doctrine.

The New Church on earth can therefore grow only very slowly, and then only from such as are “interiorly affected by truths,” thus from “such as have cultivated their intellectual faculty and have not destroyed it in themselves by the loves of self and the world.”168Natural affections for kindred and friends form strong bonds which are difficult to sever. Experience testifies that conversion into the New Church is usually made easier with a man who is being introduced into a new environment or comes into a radical change of state through which the spirits with him are also changed; as when he moves to a new city or country, or enters into the married state, or comes of age, or comes into an entirely new group of friends and acquaintances who believe in the Writings. The intermediation of friendship is also a common aid in such changes of state.

But the loosening of the hold of false doctrines and social bonds marks only an external phase of the process which leads to illustration and association with the New Heaven. The internal conjunction with heaven and the Lord is by means of the Word—the Word seen no longer through the veils of falsities, but as it is in itself.

There is no conjunction with heaven through the doctrine and faith of the old church. But among the simple and sincere in the Christian world there are vast numbers who read the Word without much reflection upon false doctrines, and who consequently find in it the simple directions for salvation —faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and charity to man. And these, through the Word, are conjoined interiorly with spirits who are being led towards the New Heaven. Indeed, in all religions there are those who are in such simple states—upon whom the false doctrines of their religiosities have only a superficial hold: who have shunned evils as sins and placed religious life, usefulness, and common-sense charity higher than “orthodoxy.” Such are interiorly joined to heavenly societies, more or less closely according to their states of innocence. They belong already to the invisible kingdom of God—that vast communion which is called in the Writings “the Church Universal.” These are, after death, led to their various heavens. And those among them who are moved by a spiritual affection of truth can be instructed in the Heavenly Doctrine and be more nearly associated with the New Christian Heaven. According to the increase of such spirits in the world of spirits, we are told, will the New Church on earth be increased: for such spirits are needed to predispose men of various religious affiliations to receive the truths of the second advent of the Lord.169

Spirits and their Use of Man’s Memory

The general rule that each man is attended by spirits of his own faith is based on certain laws governing the relationship of the two worlds. For these worlds are held apart so that the life of each may be free. As has already been pointed out, men would not be free if they were sensibly ruled by spirits or were conscious of their presence; and spirits would not be free to progress into interior states if they were aware of the men with whom they are or felt that they used the memory of someone else. And in order that the two worlds might be apart in appearance although mutually conjoined and dependent on each other in actual fact, it is necessary that spirits and men should live consciously on two different planes and in two different states or mental environments.

When a man becomes a spirit he leaves the material body with its sense organs which throughout life had enriched his corporeal memory with constantly new impressions and with knowledges about the ultimate things of the world. But it is ordained that the risen spirit must, as to his thought, be lifted out of his own corporeal memory, which then becomes quiescent and is put to sleep; even as happens with us when we “forget” or are not thinking actively about some former experience. The spirit retains his corporeal memory—and all that is in it. It remains—but is not active. It no longer plays any active role in his mental life. Unless Swedenborg happened to be able to supply such information from his own memory, the spirits with him did not even know what their names or rank had been in their bodily life! They had forgotten, and had no curiosity about it.170

The lulling of a spirit’s external natural memory is not sudden but gradual; yet it appears to be accomplished only a relatively few days after death.171 The Lord may indeed —by various guarded modes—re-awaken a spirit’s particular earthly experiences at least in part. But this is done only for the sake of some spiritual use to be served. In order to progress in his eternal development a spirit must be liberated from such memories and from the sphere of his own material ideas which are based on space and time and personal bias. If this is not done the spirit would be unable to enter into the spiritual ideas which are proper to the more brilliant and colorful mental life which he can enjoy after death.172

Terrible consequences would also threaten mankind if spirits could actively use their own external memory. Some spirits told Swedenborg that the human race would then be liable to perish.173For the man would then become aware of the spirits, and be unable to think from his own memory-experiences. The memory of the spirits would be confused with man’s own.174 At the very least man would suffer the not uncommon illusion that he had thought such things before, a sensation which has led some people to confirm themselves in the notion of reincarnation—the persuasion that they lived on earth before, perhaps centuries ago.175

Swedenborg makes the comment that the life of a spirit is happy, that is, happy compared to that of men, and his faculties of sensation and thought vastly more distinct and subtle.176 Man has to eke out his life of thought from a few very limited experiences and from knowledges gathered with great labor. Man’s affections are clothed with no great variety in his few knowledges and in his still more scanty words. His states often fail to mature or develop, because time and space cut them short. But spirits live an intenser life—for “a spirit no longer subsists on his own basis, but upon a common basis, which is the human race.”177

Indeed, “man is the ultimate of order . . . and all ideas, even those of spirits, are terminated in man’s memory.”178 The thoughts of spirits eventually terminate and come to rest in the material ideas, the objects and mental images, of the men with whom they are associated. The spirits select these ideas from men without any conscious effort, and each spirit may be associated with a great many men at the same time, to complete the terminations of his thought. We should not take this to mean that the spirit thinks with material ideas borrowed from men. Unless he belongs to a class of exceedingly gross spirits180 he thinks quite apart from space-time concepts, and takes the material ideas of man only as a sort of basic symbol for a field of abstract ideas upon which he loves to dwell.186 Yet without the basic ultimate of man’s thought, thus without the material ideas, spirits would lose the whole connective of their thought and almost of their consciousness. Swedenborg tells that when spirits were deprived of some such material idea as that of place, they seemed to lose all sense of where they were and promptly vanished from the sight of other spirits. And they felt as if they had lost their feet.181

The reality, to spirits, of such material ideas, is illustrated by the fact that spirits after death inhabit such cities and places as they had frequented before death: but these cities are purely spiritual, and thus are based on general states of mind. They are not exactly like the corresponding cities in this world, but resemble them, especially as to the streets and well known public squares. They are of spiritual origin. The houses therein are “not built as in the world, but rise up in a moment, created by the Lord.”182 Yet they are usually quite permanent, and their inhabitants are at home in them for long periods. If spirits leave the city for good, their houses also disappear. Swedenborg gives in his journal the following interesting information “concerning cities in the afterlife and concerning the Providence of the Lord in preserving them”:

“There appear to spirits cities similar to the cities in the world—a London, an Amsterdam, a Stockholm, and so on. The reason for this is that every man has with himself spirits who are in the other life, and these possess the interiors of the man, thus all things of his memory. They do not, indeed, see the world through his eyes, but still they are inwardly in it from his ideas. Hence the ideas of similar houses, buildings, and streets of the cities appear as if they were the places themselves. . . . Hence it is that spirits who are with the men of some one city have the idea of the same city.”183

This throws considerable light on the teaching that “the angelic mansions are indeed in heaven, and to appearance separate from the abodes in which men are. And yet they are with man, in his affections of good and truth.”184 This is said of the angels, however. And angels do not dwell, as spirits do, in the material ideas with men, but in more interior things. Yet the terminations of the spiritual world are in the ultimates of man’s life. It is true that “angels and spirits are entirely above or outside of nature, and in their own world which is under another sun.” But it is an error to think of the spiritual world from appearances, as if it were in natural space, and to imagine angels and spirits as dwelling in the interiors of nature, in the ether or on the stars, or far away from men. Where there is no space, there is no distance. The kingdom of God is within you. “The spiritual world is where man is and in no wise apart from him.”185

The spirits who are with man live in a real world of spiritual substance, but the ultimates of this substantial world around them is somehow built up from the spiritual forms of ideas taken from men. The ultimates of the spiritual world lodge in the natural minds of men, while the interiors of men’s minds are formed from the spiritual world and according to its states and its inhabitants. And in this whole space-less spiritual world, it is the Lord alone who builds and creates.

The spirits with a man think spiritually,186 and generally do not take the material ideas of his thought as standing for material objects, but as foci and basic symbols for a field of abstract ideas upon which they dwell. The man, on the other hand, is only vaguely aware of these clustering associations of ideas which the spirits take up with delight as a part of their own thoughts, imagining that it is all from themselves. For spirits do not reflect on the sources of their thoughts. But the use of these inner fields of suggestion with man—by spirits who connect them with meanings, allusions, and values never guessed by man—enriches man’s thought with a sense of pleasure; so that he actually partakes of the delight which spirits have in his meagre ideas. And the result is that he is thus confirmed in the sphere of ideas in which he is.

Angels when they are present with a man are especially able to widen his ideas and insinuate a sense of interior value, profounder meaning, and greater delight into them. When angels inflow, the Arcana tells us, “it is not an influx of such thoughts as the man then has, but it is according to correspondences; for the angels are thinking spiritually whereas the man perceives this naturally. . . . When a man speaks of bread . . . the thought of the angels is about the goods of love. . . . Objects such as a man sees with his eyes do not appear before the spirits who are with the man, neither are words heard such as the man hears with the ear, but such as the man is thinking. . . . When the angels inflow, they adjoin affections also, and the very affections contain innumerable things within them. But of these countless things only a few are received by the man—in fact only those which are applicable to the things which are already in the memory. The remaining things of the angelic influx pass around and as it were enfold them.”187

Spirits Confirm Man’s Persuasions

This brings us back to the important principle that spirits cannot infuse new persuasions, new truths or new falsities, into the mind of a man.188 No angels from the New Heaven (for instance) can possibly inflow into the minds of mortals and change their faith, remove their falsities, and introduce truths in their place. Such angels can act only into men who have something of faith from the Heavenly Doctrine in their mind; and the effect of their presence is one of confirming them in the truths which they have already seen. This was no doubt implied by Swedenborg when he wrote to Doctor Beyer about the publication of the True Christian Religion: “I am certain of this, that after the appearance of the book referred to, the Lord our Savior will operate both mediately and immediately towards the establishment throughout the whole of Christendom of a New Church based on this ‘theology.’ The New Heaven will . . . very soon be completed . . .” (April 30, 1771).189 The Lord acts immediately from the Writings, and —so far as these are received—He acts mediately through the New Heaven.

Spirits have two kinds of life—the life of persuasion and the life of cupidity. When a spirit is in his persuasions, or in the thought from some faith which he has confirmed, he excites for his own use endless confirmations from the memory of the man with whom he is, and this without man knowing or feeling it. The spirit, since he cannot use his own corporeal memory,190 puts on the man’s knowledges, beliefs, and preconceptions, and assumes the man’s experience to be his own.191 Swedenborg was often astounded at the incredible wealth of ideas and arguments which were thus brought up.192 Things about which the spirit himself had never had any previous knowledge were at once arrayed with familiar skill and prudence, cunning and astuteness, as if by instinct !193 This has the tendency to confirm the man in his principles, by increasing his satisfaction with his own opinions. Normally, a spirit can never contradict a man! If this should occur, exceptionally, as it did with Swedenborg, spirit and man would become conscious of each other.

If a man should change his persuasions, then other spirits quickly apply themselves to him. But man “is not easily brought to renounce a preconceived persuasion”; “wherefore it is good for a man not to be persuaded in falsities, but to be confirmed in truths.”194

Yet man’s mind, even when it is enlightened by a true religion, is a very complex thing which has murky corners into which his faith has never really penetrated. It has logic-proof compartments and unexplored jungles where his hereditary evils hold sway and various false views, excuses, or stubborn reservations hold out against the faith which he professes. In such distant corners lie hidden all manner of inconsistencies from past states, undigested information and old prejudices bolstered by the pride of the proprium. With the regenerating man these old states are pushed to the sides more and more until they have little part in his mental life. But none the less they are easily observed by spirits who are in the same kind of rebellious falsities and who eagerly seize upon them as inviting fields of confirmation.195 Thus the man may be thrown into spheres of doubt and obscurity, and so far as his faith in truths is from the heart he will then suffer anxiety and temptation.

Doubts are of Providence permitted. Certain intellectual spirits who were prone to reflect and to be stuck in doubts, complained that faith—the persuasion of faith—could not be given one in a moment. But it was pointed out to them that man’s states are continually changing. What is clearly seen in one state may become doubtful later on. A sudden persuasion may satisfy one state, but it would not be adequate to answer all the questions of the next state.196 Faith takes root by degrees and grows in process of time under the Lord’s direction, like the mustard seed of the parable. And there is also another reason why “it is according to the laws of order that no one ought to be persuaded about truth in a moment in such a way … as to leave no doubt whatever about it; for the truth which is so impressed becomes persuasive truth, and lacks any extension and also any yielding quality.”197 It becomes hard, bigotted, and not easily applicable to the diverse duties of life. Therefore, in the spiritual world, when a truth is being brought out before good spirits, a doubt—something opposite—is soon afterwards presented ; so that they might think about it and consider whether it is so and collect reasons for it, and so bring the truth into their minds rationally. Only so can the truth be seen in its varieties of forms and applications, and the real essential meaning discerned. And this is done by reflection. This spiritual law was signified in the Word by the notable mention that, after Aaron had cast his rod before Pharaoh and it had become a serpent, the magicians of Egypt did likewise with their enchantments.198 Still, Aaron’s rod swallowed up all the rest.

All those laws which govern the influx of the spheres of spirits into man’s mind, have a constant regard for man’s freedom of choice. Only that which is insinuated in full freedom remains deeply inscribed on man’s being. This is the reason why thought is not insinuated into man by any spirit. The spirit inflows with an affection, and it is only when this affection accords with man’s affection that it is received by man in his thought—his interior thought—and thus tends to confirm and extend that thought more widely and more profoundly.

The life of a spirit’s thought is based upon the general ideas which are with man as upon a soil or background. But it is also and equally true that man’s entire emotional life with all its affections, is derived solely from the spirits that are with him. Few realize how much we are placed under the control of spirits when we give way to emotional states; and how these cupidities may then enkindle all manner of persuasions and fantasies.

 

 

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Heaven and Hell

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Heaven And Hell

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People seem a bit unclear about heaven’s landscape – is it a tropical garden with fruit for the picking, or is it a place of fluffy white clouds and harp music?

They are also divided on how to get there. Is it by accepting the forgiveness brought to mankind by Jesus on the cross (the Protestant version)? Or is it by doing the things God has told us to do through holy books and churches (the version for Catholics and most other monotheists)?

But this much seems to be agreed: It is a paradise and a reward, and anyone who gains entry will be happy.

Hell, meanwhile, is quite the opposite: It is a fearsome place where people are tortured. Some see is cold and snowy; most think of it as hot and fiery, but either way it is torment for anyone who goes there. And who is that ends up there? Anyone who doesn’t believe the right things, which will vary depending on which version of the “right things” actually turns out to be right.

But does that all make sense? It seems someone could be a thoroughly nasty person, full of hatred for others and love of himself, and still go to heaven for saying or doing specific, sanctioned things. Someone else could be the nicest guy in the world, always ready to help and with a genuine delight in the good fortune of others, but trot off to hell’s torturers for believing in the wrong version of God.

The obvious question there is “what kind of God would torture people just for believing the wrong thing?” That’s caused a lot of people to question whether hell exists.

A more intriguing question, though, involves that nasty, selfish, horrible person going to heaven. His whole life his delight has been fleecing people out of their money and laughing at them for their stupidity, and now he’s supposed to hang out eating grapes with these same pathetic losers? Worse, he’s not allowed to run any scams, trick them, laugh at them, nothing! This goody-two-shoes “love and harmony” garbage makes him gag. What kind of heaven is that?

Swedenborg’s take on heaven and hell is quite different. It stems from the idea that we are what we love: that our deepest affections and feelings determine our true character, not what we’ve done or even the thoughts we have. After we die, his works say, our affections come to the surface so that everyone can see them, and then we are in a sense free to associate with anyone we want to. So naturally we find people with similar affections so we can live together and share the things we love.

Heaven, then becomes a state where good people can share their lives with other good people. Even better, they share their lives with others who love the same specific good things, and can work on those good things together. This flows out as uses, work that’s important, and that is a delight to everyone involved.

Hell, on the flip side, is simply a place where nasty, selfish people congregate and filter into groups based on the specific lusts and desires they have. Since they’re all evil, they all want to hurt and dominate each other, so it’s a rather endless struggle. And since the Lord prevents them from really hurting each other – and prevents them from attacking the good people – it’s rather frustrating. But that torture from within is the only torture there is; the Lord has no desire to and no reason to punish them. In fact, He still loves them and wishes for them to be as happy as they can be, considering what they have chosen to become.

There is much, much more that could be said; Swedenborg wrote an entire book on the subject. Here are a few key points:

1. People are married in heaven; in fact, the pure love of marriage is the central love of heaven. Those marriages are of husbands and wives who are perfectly matched, suited to each other uniquely because of what they love and how they think. In some cases those are marriages continued from this life; in other cases couples part mutually and are led to the right partners. Swedenborg calls the love of heavenly couples “conjugial,” and says a husband and wife actually become one soul. And yes, those marriages are “complete,” with the addendum that the merging of external bodies we can experience in this life is but a faint reflection of the merging of spiritual bodies that an angel couple experiences.

2. There is no separate race of angels: Angels are people who accepted the Lord’s love in this life and went to heaven after they died.

3. Children who die go to heaven to be raised by angel parents. They are still human and still have free will, but growing up in heaven all but guarantees they will become angels as well.

4. People’s surroundings – and even their outward appearance – are projections of what they are internally, so that both are of surpassing beauty and pleasantness, all perfectly suited to the people who are there.

5. Between heaven and hell is an area Swedenborg calls the World of Spirits. People go there when they first die, and while there learn the truth about the Lord and heaven. People’s inner loves also slowly emerge while they are in the World of Spirits, so they recognize others with the same loves and begin their journeys toward heaven or hell.

6. Heaven itself is in three layers. The lowest is the natural heaven, where people are on a love of being obedient and doing the right things. The middle is the spiritual heaven, where people are in the love of other people, and from that in a love of what is true. The highest is the celestial heaven, where people are in love to the Lord, and express their ideas as wisdom. These layers are mirrored in hell, with those in pure love of self and hatred of the Lord in the deepest hells.

The Swedenborg Foundation recently published a new translation of Swedenborg’s “Heaven and Hell,” with modernized language for greater accessibility. You can order that here: http://swedenborg.com/book_detail.asp-pkproductid=82

You can also download a free version of an older translation here: http://swedenborg.com/page.asp-page_name=complete_works

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6 Spiritual Associations

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6 Spiritual Associations

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Hebrews 1:7

Heredity and Human Types

Nothing is more plain than the fact that men differ as to the general state of their minds. “Many men, many minds.” But there are also resemblances. All infants and adolescents are in states which are characteristic of their general age. Those of the same race incline to show a common genius. Teachers, laborers, lawyers, business men, show certain traits of mind and attitudes typical of their profession or work. And, besides these distinctions, all individuals may be classified according to temperaments, seemingly inborn yet following no known law of heredity.

Students have therefore observed that every nation or large society includes some people who are predominantly instinctive in their reactions, others who are imaginative and easily influenced by suggestion, others who possess speculative and perhaps fanatical tendencies, and some who are critical, analytic, calculating, or reflective. According to another classification, we find those who are characterized by intellect, those in whom the will is a prominent trait, and those who are action-types, whether they be dull and slow, or excitable and impulsive.

These observed types are seldom pure, and the classes overlap—fortunately. For no one type is perfect in and by itself. The Writings—amplifying the Lord’s saying that in the Heavenly Father’s house there are many mansions—teach that every type of mind is accommodated within the Grand Human Form of the Divine economy: even as many types of cells and tissues are needed to make the human body complete. These types are classified, on the one hand, as belonging to a celestial genius, a spiritual genius, and—in a sense —a natural genius: and, in addition, their diversity is made more complex as men cultivate and develop some one of the degrees of the natural mind—either the sensual-scientific, or the imaginative, or the moral and rational.

Men can modify but not essentially alter the hereditary temperaments of their natural minds. By regeneration, a man can also receive the Lord’s gift of spiritual life in a more and more interior form, and thus the Lord will open within him the degrees of the spiritual mind, which places him in the spiritual or celestial degree of his heaven. But the basic type of his natural mind, the result of heredities and of the social environment, is only to some extent modified by his choosing, and remains to qualify the general state of his spirit. His natural mind is formed, under the auspices of the Divine providence, largely without man’s help, as a vessel receptive of life. He changes its particular states, but not its general state or type. After all, it is only a vessel, a tool for a deeper life. And therefore, in heaven, the natural mind of an angel becomes as it were transparent from the spiritual within.156

If we should ask wherein lies the permanence of a racial type, such as the Chinese or the Semitic, we might receive many answers. The scientist would labor to explain about the strange process of meiosis or reductive division, whereby the hereditary factors in sperm and ovum are varied while the persistent characteristics of the species are preserved. The New Church scientist would wish to allow for gradual changes even in the germ plasm, in each generation—although he might stress that the observable changes of the cell could be responsible only for the physical and not for the spiritual inheritance, which latter cannot be traced according to any Mendelian “laws.” The New Church theologian would be particularly interested in three facts. One is, that hereditary evils, although accumulating, do not seem greatly to alter the type of face or of mind, to judge from the pictures on the palaces of ancient Egypt and the stories of the Old Testament. The second is, that our doctrines intimate that evils of heredity can be modified by a change of religion and by regenerate life. The third is, that life is not inherent in the transmitted germ-plasm, but inflows from the spiritual world.

What a man inherits from his parents is only a vessel of life: but a vessel so ordered that it receives a certain type of influx, or receives life mediated by certain groups of angels and spirits. It is in. the inflowing life that the reality of heredity lies: or, in the spirits and angels which mediate life for the receiving vessel. So far as some other type of life could be received by the germ-plasm, or by the inner organics of the child and man, so far another type of mind (and even of body) would result! This is the reason that heredities can be altered by the life of religion: for religion is the only power that can deeply reorder the spirits and angels about a man, or change such a general state as that of an inherited disposition.167

General states—states rooted in wide groups of societies in the spiritual world—can be changed only by the Lord whose Providence works through ultimate conditions in this world and thus upon all spirits and angels. And the process is slow because the deeper evils of heredity can be modified only with men who are capable of sustaining spiritual temptations. It is therefore inevitable that the general states through which the human race has passed should survive as characteristic traits of disposition, and should crop out in different combinations of hereditary types, each having their roots in different combinations of societies in the spiritual world. It is of Providence that certain forms of mind should be inclined to each other, while others should repel each other. Heredities combine, strengthen or counterbalance each other. Thus are formed races and nations and psychological groups, each receiving the gift of life in a different manner. Behind the choice of a man and the consent—or refusal—of a maid, there lie hidden invisible issues that flamed vast ages ago, and the decision involves the compatibility of the spiritual uses of societies in the other world.

The Divine truth is one and indivisible. It is the one essential reality behind creation. It exists as Law, spiritual law and natural law. This law is one, the same for all, whether men differ about it or not. In the Writings, the Divine law is stated in the form of doctrine adapted to rational comprehension. But that law, the one Divine truth, is older than the Writings, older than the Scriptures. It is eternal—the Word which was in the beginning.

The Divine truth is one. Yet there have been many religions on earth. An incomplete census taken in 1956 of sixty-eight million reported church-adherents in the United States of America records one hundred and fourteen religious organizations, most of them with varied doctrines. A denomination generally represents a general state, which has taken from various sources whatever religious truth that state is adapted to receive, and has rejected any truth which it is not able to admit: and in place of rejected truth there usually come falsified truth and a contorted perception of the whole.

The same holds true of each individual man. His religious perception is according to his state. He sees only one phase of the Divine truth at a time. He is not to blame for this: although he may be to blame for some particular states in which his perception is thus obscured—states which he may have invited. He is not responsible for general states. When a child he cannot be expected to see with the mind of an adult. If he was born and raised a Protestant, or a gentile, he cannot see the truth as the New Church man sees it.

As a man grows up, he passes through many general states. His faith is at first imitative and blindly literalistic. Later, his faith becomes imaginative, emotional, perhaps enthusiastic. Afterwards, it turns critically upon itself, becomes analytic and at length rational. At each stage there are truths which cannot be received: at least he cannot see them except in a symbolic way, or only in their most general form. Religion means different things for different ages as well as for different races.

Some years ago a psychologist suggested that since each religion fills the need of some special mood or instinct, we should really, in our progression through life, change our religion at each stage. He also classified various religions as especially satisfying to certain psychological types. This man was a pessimist as to religion. He believed that creeds were only wish-thoughts, that no one could ever contact the one and indivisible Divine truth. The New Church man of course knows that human states limit the reception of that Divine truth. But he also knows that all normal and orderly human states can receive something of that Divine truth without rejecting the rest, and that a true religion has in it that which can guide and feed these normal states without encouraging what is disorderly and evil: i.e., without stooping to falsehoods or fantasies.

Universality of the New Church

The New Church is a religion of universal application. It is adaptable to the needs of all states. It must provide leadership and instruction for all normal human types, and provide uses—spiritual uses—for all and benefits for every age. Yet it does not cater to morbid states. The New Church cannot satisfy the neurotic demands of those who would feed on the sensational, or be maintained in the good life only by the thought that they are ‘chosen of God’ or by some religious frenzy or some special earthly reward. It cannot encourage the “escapers” who retreat as recluses from worldly duties or social obligations. Nor can it be content— like so many—to substitute a moral life for a spiritual! It cannot permit the individual to evade responsibility by placing the power of salvation or the prerogative of truth-seeking in the hands of priests. It cannot pretend that rituals are more than gates to the spiritual life. It avoids appealing to merely natural affections in men, although realizing their place and value. For the New Church seeks rationally to restore the balance, the normal state of mind in which truths and uses can be seen in their progressive aspects, so that there is no false sophistication which contemptuously rejects ancient truths, nor any idolatry of traditions just because they are old; no stagnation; no disproportionate emphasis which shall sidetrack the people of the Church into such temperamental eddies as are represented by the many denominations of the present day.

The growth of mankind required that there should have been true religions in the past which were sufficient to the needs of those times. The Most Ancient Church, the Ancient Church, and the Christian, were, each in their day of flower, true religions. Yet they were of a preparatory character, and do not reach to all the normal states of a mankind fully matured. It is in a manner true that our race, as it grew into new states, did change its religion. And so, in the New Church, we go back to the true religions of the past for the needs of those progressive states which every man experiences as he grows up. The body of Divine revelation through which we receive instruction and where we see the presence of the Lord, is the Word of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings. We teach our younger children the stories of Creation and of the Flood—symbolic truth, which is truth to them. We give the next age the Commandments and the moral truth as accommodated to the Hebrews—an adaptation of the laws of charity that they can understand, a lesson in justice and obedience. The parables and the morality of the Gospels are particularly adapted to the state of puberty. And in adolescence, the gradual introduction to the Writings commences. The internal sense, the angelic Word, is then grasped as doctrine, first as to relatively external and general teachings, but gradually as to the more interior. In the Writings heavenly truths, natural, spiritual, and celestial, are laid open, and each adult may take what serves to feed his state, according to the capacity and elevation of his thought.

Each successive stage of life thus has its religion! Yet the religions of childhood, youth, and age, are the same, comprised within the one Divine truth; indivisible, yet such that it accommodates itself to all ages and types and states.

It is for this reason that the Heavenly Doctrine, the spiritual sense of the Word which is now revealed in the Writings, can in the spiritual world become a source of light to all races and nations, that is, to spirits of all types. Yet so far as falsities of religion have been deeply impressed by accustomed life on earth, the light of truth can be received only in a very partial way. The whole spiritual world is ordered—-society after society—according to the ways and degrees in which the light of Divine truth is received in the understanding and in life. There are heavens formed from those in all nations and religions, past and present, Gentile and Christian. Such heavens are in varying degrees of spiritual light. But central to all is the New Christian Heaven, where the Word is the source of all doctrine and light. There are spirits in the world of spirits, from all types and states, whose light is relatively obscure or clear or shifting. There are also— formed out of the evil in all religions and nations—many hells where spiritual light is absent just in proportion to the evil states which they confirmed within themselves; and the light of fantasy takes its place, a sensual lumen in which all things appear distorted and confused. For evil spirits see things in the light of their ambitions and wishes; not as they really are. They see themselves as wise, they see their own states as orderly and every one else’s as insane—until the light of heaven is let in to dispel their fantasy.

Now all the life and thought that man has comes from the spiritual world, through such spirits as are with him. His mental light which should give clarity to his ideas, is obscure or bright according to his spiritual associations. He will be in a state of spiritual illustration if he is closely associated with the New Christian Heaven where the Lord is fully revealed in His Divine Human.158 But so far as he departs from the societies of spirits who communicate with this heaven, so far his mind is dimmed as to all spiritual things, although it may still be quite clear and indeed brilliant in worldly affairs.

The New Church on earth is established that it may be associated with the New Christian Heaven and partake of its spiritual illustration. Indeed, the New Heaven is the internal whence alone the New Church can increase.158 The New Church can grow only in proportion to its conjunction with the New Heaven. And therefore the Lord, who rules all things from primes through ultimates, has provided means for this conjunction. The conjunction itself is that of love and charity, for these alone conjoin. But the means of the conjunction are ultimates in the minds of men, ultimates of thought which will have meaning and special value to those spirits who are associated with the New Christian Heaven.

The Power of Baptism

The Lord has ordained two sacraments, Baptism and the Holy Supper, as the ultimates of all spiritual order with men. Order is the opposite of confusion. Order calls for distinctions. There would be no real freedom in a state of confusion. This is the reason why all in the spiritual world are distinguished according to their religions. Moreover, all of the same religion are arranged into societies according to affections of love to God and to the neighbor—and their opposites. “On the distinct arrangement there, the preservation of the whole universe depends !”159

It is of order, also, that spirits of alien religions—such as the Mohammedan and those of idolaters—should not apply themselves to the infants or children of Christians and infuse into them an inclination for such religions, and thus draw them away and alienate them from Christianity. For this would be to distort and destroy spiritual order and would create utter confusion and internal conflict in the mind of the child, preventing any orderly development of progressive states. And what holds true with infants, is true also with adults.

By Baptism a sign is placed upon a man that he belongs to the church. The experience of the baptismal rite—the promises of the man or, with the child, of his parents, the sensation of the water, the words of the sacred text, the sign of the cross, the act of benediction by the laying on of hands —enters deeply into the memory, and (whether consciously or unconsciously) remains there indelibly to color every idea which the mind later comes to entertain. This connection of ideas is seen by every spirit at his first approach to man. By virtue of the correspondence of water, and of washing, to truth and especially the truth of repentance, baptism becomes the ultimate in the mind for spirits who are being instructed in truth and who in the other life are being introduced into the doctrine and life of the New Heaven. It becomes a sign in the spiritual world, that the man is of Christians. And the spirit of man is therefore, by this sacrament, inserted among societies and congregations there “according to the quality of the Christianity in him or around him (extra illum).”160

Not the water, or the act alone, constitutes the Baptism: but the intention associated with the act. No spirit is a witness to the act itself. But spiritual beings who are with us see the associated thoughts in the minds of the one baptized and of the priest and witnesses—see all the ideas which have ever been adjoined to the idea of the ritual itself. If priest and witnesses adjoin the ideas of a Trinity of Divine Persons, of a vicarious atonement by sufferings, or of a salvation by faith only, then the act of baptism effects an introduction— in this world and among spirits—into the assembly of those who so believe. But if the ritual arouses in priest and witnesses the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God, and if the ideas that are associated are from the Heavenly Doctrine and thus conjoined with an acknowledgment of the Lord’s second advent, then it makes for an introduction into the New Jerusalem, into the New Church and the New Heaven. The memory of the baptism will be the lasting focus of all these suggested ideas: all will be recalled to spirits when the baptism is recalled; and all are invitations to such spirits to be with the man, a cloud of unseen witnesses: and there will be a connection established between all the new experiences that the man absorbs and the initial ideas centering around the material fact of baptism. Such spirits are a protective sphere around the man, keeping him in the general state of his own religion.

The baptismal ceremony as such is only a natural event. Our remembrance of it is centered about the material ideas of the water, the washing, the cross. But, as was noted previously, Swedenborg testifies that while a man thinks, his material ideas are as it were in the midst of a wave of such things as are adjoined in the memory—all that was ever known on the subject; and thus the full thought, not the material idea, is apparent to the spirits about him. Swedenborg likens that surrounding wave of associations to spiritual wings by which the thing thought of is elevated out of the memory, and is endowed with meaning and value.161 And something of this is interiorly meant when the Lord said to Moses, about the exodus from Egypt: “I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself”; and the same is suggested when He lamented: “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not !”162

By Baptism the Lord does gather His children together under the protective sphere of the New Heaven. This sphere is a sphere of spiritual thought and affection. It guards, but does not compel. It aids, through our spiritual associates, to ward off alien spirits. At any time we are free to break away from its gentle gyres, and—by focussing our life and thought on ultimates that are opposed to it, on falsities or on things that are symbolic of evil—we can enter by degrees into other spiritual connections, if these are more accordant with our life’s delight. But so far as we freely allow the sphere of the New Heaven to be with us, there is freedom also to progress in accordance with our choice; there is a leading into greater illustration, spiritual clarity, and wisdom; there is the possibility of the more and more interior fulfilment of what Baptism involves, the realization of the meaning of the new order of the spiritual world, and of the truth that the Lord reigneth.

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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Use is The Neighbor

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Selection from Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The uses through which men and angels have wisdom

To love uses is nothing else than to love the neighbor, for use in the spiritual sense is the neighbor. This can be seen from the fact that everyone loves another not because of his face and body, but from his will and understanding; he loves one who has a good will and a good understanding, and does not love one with a good will and a bad understanding, or with a good understanding and a bad will.  And as a man is loved or not loved for these reasons, it follows that the neighbor is that from which everyone is a man, and that is his spiritual.  Place ten men before your eyes that you may choose one of them to be your associate in any duty or business; will you first find out about them and choose the one who comes nearest to your use?  Therefore he is your neighbor, and is loved more than the others.  Or become acquainted with ten maidens with the purpose of choosing one of them for your wife; do you not at first ascertain the character of each one, and if she consents betroth to you the one that you love?  That one is more your neighbor than the others.  If you should say to yourself, “Every man is my neighbor, and is therefore to be loved without distinction,” a devil-man and an angel-man or a harlot and a virgin might be equally loved. Use is the neighbor, because every man is valued and loved not for his will and understanding alone, but for the uses he performs or is able to perform from these. Therefore a man of use is a man according to his use; and a man not of use is a man not a man, for of such a man it is said that he is not useful for anything; and although in this world he may be tolerated in a community so long as he lives from what is his own, after death when he becomes a spirit he is cast out into a desert.

Man, therefore, is such as his use is. But uses are manifold; in general they are heavenly or infernal.

Heavenly uses are those that are serviceable more or less, or more nearly or remotely, to the church, to the country, to society, and to a fellow-citizen, for the sake of these as ends;

…but infernal uses are those that are serviceable only to the man himself and those dependent on him; and if serviceable to the church, to the country, to society, or to a fellow citizen, it is not for the sake of these as ends, but for the sake of self as the end.

And yet everyone ought from love, though not from self-love, to provide the necessaries and requisites of life for himself and those dependent on him.

When man loves uses by doing them in the first place, and loves the world and self in the second place, the former constitutes his spiritual and the latter his natural; and the spiritual rules, and the natural serves. This makes evident what the spiritual is, and what the natural is. This is the meaning of the Lord’s words in Matthew:

Seek ye first the kingdom of the heavens* and its justice, and all things shall be added unto you (Matt. 6:33).

“The kingdom of the heavens” means the Lord and His church, and “justice” means spiritual, moral, and civil good; and every good that is done from the love of these is a use. Then “all things shall be added,” because when use is in the first place, the Lord, from whom is all good, is in the first place and rules, and gives whatever contributes to eternal life and happiness; for, as has been said, all things of the Lord’s Divine providence pertaining to man look to what is eternal. “All things that shall be added” refer to food and raiment, because food means everything internal that nourishes the soul, and raiment everything external that like the body clothes it. Everything internal has reference to love and wisdom, and everything external to wealth and eminence. All this makes clear what is meant by loving uses for the sake of uses, and what the uses are from which man has wisdom, from which and according to which wisdom everyone has eminence and wealth in heaven.

(Apocalypse Explained 1193)
May 24, 2017
* Photolithograph has “kingdom of the heavens.” Schmidius also has it. The Greek is “Kingdom of God.”