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).

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

INFLUX

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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)

 

 

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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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Spiritual Topics

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.

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Use is The Neighbor

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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.”

Is There Life After Death?

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Spiritual Topics

By Rev. Ian Arnold

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The Bible on Life After Death

I’ve written about the findings of Drs. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Raymond Moody, both of whom have worked for years with patients who, after being revived from clinical death, have recounted what happened to them during the experience. I’ve also studied and written about “Heaven and Hell”, written by Emanuel Swedenborg in 1758, which contains so much that bears out the reality of what these people described.

Inevitably, in thinking about the afterlife, questions arise about what is said on the subject in the Bible. People tend to think that the Bible says practically nothing about the life after death, and the churches on the whole, tend to teach a ‘wait and see’ attitude. Even Dr. Moody, in the second part of his book, “Life after Life”, where he looks at the Bible for possible parallels to the experiences his patients described, fails to mention what, at least as I see them, are some of the most significant of all things said there.

I want you, if you will, to quietly consider the following:

Jesus said: “Let not your hearts be troubled; believe in God, believe also in me. In my Father’s house are many rooms; if it were not so, would I have told you that I go to prepare a place for you? And when I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and will take you to myself, that where I am you may be also.” (John 14 :1-3).

As you think about these words ask yourself, what could Jesus have meant by His Father’s house but some kind of higher life? These are very beautiful words. Full of promise and wonderfully reassuring. Where Christ is, there we shall be.

In another Gospel, Matthew, chapter 22, the Sadducees (who, by the way, did not believe in the resurrection or in survival after death) had been trying to trap the Lord, using a ridiculous example to try to make fun of the whole idea. At the end of this particular encounter with them, the Lord said these words: “And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God, ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” (Matthew 22: 31-33). It’s so easy for us to miss the point here. Here was a group of people who stoutly denied the resurrection. As far as they were concerned, and though they revered the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, they were dead. Not so, said Jesus. God is not the God of the dead, but of the living. They are not dead. They are alive today, though in the spiritual world.

And then we come to Luke’s Gospel, to the description there of the crucifixion. One of the criminals crucified alongside Jesus railed at Him, it is said. The other defended Him and turned to Jesus asking him to remember him when He came to His Kingdom. And (Jesus) said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise”. They are startling words, aren’t they? “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in paradise.”

It by no means ends here. I want to refer you to a parable. Now I know that some people dismiss the parables as illustrations, the accuracy and teaching of which can be questioned. Is it, though, likely that Jesus would have used something, inaccurate and fanciful, even though it only be in a parable? For myself I can’t believe He would. In any case, listen to what He said. It is the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Luke 16:19-31.

“There was a rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table. Moreover the dogs came and licked his sores. The poor man died and was carried by the angels to Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and was buried; and in Hades, being in torment, he lifted up his eyes, he saw Abraham afar off and Lazarus in his bosom. And he called out, Father Abraham, have mercy upon me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue; for I am in anguish in this flame. But Abraham said, Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner evil things; but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us’. And he said, ‘Then I beg you, father, to send him to my father’s house, for I have five brothers, so that he may warn them, lest they also come into this place of torment’. But Abraham said, ‘They have Moses and the prophets; let them hear them.’ And he said, ‘No, father Abraham; but if someone goes to them from the dead, they will repent’. He said to him, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be convinced if some one should rise from the dead.” (Luke 16: 19-31).

Let me say again that though a parable, yet I believe – and a strong case can be made out to this effect – that the Lord was here drawing on essentially real life experiences as He did of course in His other parables. The sad thing, is that it has been neglected for the wealth of information it contains about life after death. Here, in fact, are just some of the points made. The parable takes for granted that resurrection and awakening in the spiritual world follows on after death. Lazarus died and he was taken up into Abraham’s bosom. The rich man also died and found himself in hell. There is no suggestion of an interval of years. No mention of a last judgment with which many have associated resurrection from the dead. The person goes on living though now in another realm. It’s interesting also that the character people form for themselves in this world goes with them into the next. Death doesn’t change people….it doesn’t change us as to the person we really are inside.

And this raises the whole question of the purpose of our life in this world. Swedenborg explains that whilst the Lord wishes to ultimately bring us all into heaven and to bless our lives with heavenly happiness, yet we must choose this life ourselves. And that, in a very real sense, is why we are here. The kind of person we freely choose to be in this world, selfish or unselfish, greedy for ourselves or more considerate for the well-being of others, is the person we will remain. As the tree falls so it lies. And after death we shall take ourselves to people like-minded to ourselves and with whom we are happiest and most at ease. It is sometimes fondly thought and hoped that when we die we will change. We will be different people. We will get about doing the things and being the person we never got around to being here. But we won’t. Once the surprise and novelty wears off, we will be our old selves once again. It’s always the way. It’s worth dwelling on this for a moment. Another popular idea is that after death we will be called to give account of ourselves and will be judged and sent one way or the other whether we like it or not. But nothing whatever is said to this effect in the parable. Lazarus died and went to heaven. The rich man died and went to hell. They took themselves there, to all intents and purposes. Their lives or the type of person they on earth had chosen to be, determined where they would go.

I remember an older friend of mine saying some years ago… indeed, pointing out the obvious… that in a hundred years from now everyone alive today, adults and children (with a few exceptions, of course) will be dead. And that wasn’t said as some kind of doomsday forecast or in any morbid way. It is a fact. We are all going to die. And it’s useful and healthy to talk calmly about the fact. But while the body dies and is discarded the mind or spirit within, which is the essential person we are, goes on living, just as the parable describes. And that doesn’t mean some disembodied existence. Lazarus and the rich man were just as much people after death as they had been before. The rich man remembered his brothers. “After the death of the body” wrote Swedenborg, “the spirit of a person appears in the spiritual world in a human form, altogether as it appeared in the natural world.”

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