Despair – How to conjure up hope?

despairOn an off day, Stuart would privately think that life had little to offer him and he even sometimes felt that all he was doing was going through the motions of living. Money was tight, and in a time of recession there were poor prospects of job advancement. Although working as an estate agent, he had started to despair that he could do anything about finding any way of earning a living in a meaningful role in line with his youthful ideals.

Whatever he did wasn’t satisfying for very long and from time to time the feelings of hopelessness would return. He kept busy and this was his way of avoiding what he didn’t realize was a state of inner despair. He had been an idealist when younger, very keen to help bring about a world where the natural environment was protected, business people were honest, and social justice was the norm.

Now days he felt depressed whenever he read a newspaper or watched a newscast that clearly showed the opposite of his vision. He had switched from being very positive to very negative in his hopes. He was starting to feel like a failure and trapped by his situation, with a reducing willpower left for continuing the struggle with the disappointments of daily living.

How can someone like Stuart change this state of despair and find something to give hope and energy?

Despair resulting from lack of belief

There is nothing wrong with having a vision of a better world. Many of us like Stuart have imagined a human society uncorrupted by warfare and other social evils; or a natural environment with its beauty not exploited by greed; or a community of mutually supportive people with real concern for the public good, that gives everyone a sense of belonging and being included. Whatever idea of the future that excites us, it can serve to energise our best efforts.

I feel Stuarts’s problem however was that he had no deep belief to sustain his endurance when set-backs and adversity got in the way: nothing to hold on to that had the power to transform society: no spiritual framework of ideas to sustain his youthful vision, to give it credibility in the long run as an achievable objective, and to enable his wishes to survive a rational appraisal of what is possible. When there is nothing on which one can pin one’s hopes, then despair is likely to be the result.

If you despair, in what can you put your faith?

In other words, I am trying to argue that what is crucially needed is something beyond oneself, that transcends the material realm, and in which one can put one’s faith: an entity greater than oneself: that goes beyond the ‘little me’ with my petty concerns: that offers a timeless vision of life.

The way you think affects the way you feel. This is a psychological process known about by psychologists and used in CBT (cognitive behavioural therapy). Consequently, it is key to examine whether the belief that sustains your hopes is a reasonable one. Stuart’s despair seems to come from his denial of any divine spark within and beyond humanity that could help us think further than self.

But how to be convinced? How to find a rational faith that could challenge the setbacks and illusions that destroy hope? The illusions of meaninglessness, alienation and self-condemnation?

Persuasive belief and despair

One answer comes from the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. He writes about a limited type of belief that results from being persuaded by some ideology such as a political or religious teaching: often this is a belief of convenience so our attitudes unconsciously fit in with those of our family and friends. He claims that it is possible for such a belief to be  part of the thinking mind, but not also part of the feeling heart: if so he says it cannot endure. For example being persuaded that it is wrong to steal cannot transform a person from being a robber at heart unless there is a desire to be honest, so that thought and feeling are in harmony. Incongruity between head and heart accounts for the hypocrisy seen in some of the history of religion including Christianity. It can also account for lost hope and despair.

Swedenborg contrasts persuasive belief with a genuine faith in a higher power. He maintains real faith is to do with trust and confidence: it is knowing in your heart with an inner conviction for example that there is a divine providence behind the universe beyond all the ability of material science to observe. So just how can one find such an inner conviction that sustains hope? What do you do to be convinced deep down?

Despair or receiving confident hope through faith

Swedenborg’s answer is that such a faith is a spiritual gift – not something we can create for ourselves but rather something that we can receive: a gift only for those who are ready to receive it: who are willing to give something of themselves in order to receive.

But give what? Things that occur to me are:

  1. Giving an open mind to the possibility of a higher spiritual power that we can source to change things for the better,
  2. Giving the time to try to understand what this would mean,
  3. Giving our effort to try to lead a way of life in line with what we are persuaded is true.

If all this is correct then to find confidence in justice and peace, one needs to attempt to act  fairly with others. Likewise to have a deep trust in a creative force within the universe, one needs to oneself start nurturing the natural environment. Also to believe in the reality of the power of compassion, then one needs to begin practicing a caring attitude towards those with whom we come into contact. I believe this is the way to receive the gift of inner conviction.

Without confidence and conviction there can be no sustainable hope. Without hope there is despair.

“Give and you will receive”
“Search and you will find”
(Jesus Christ)

Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Self-respect — How to find it if feeling guilt?

self-respectWhat you did wasn’t that bad. A hasty ill-judged remark, an over-indulgence, a minor act of selfishness. You want to forget about it but the memory lingers. What if somebody else noticed? You feel uneasy with yourself. Is this the tiny prick of conscience? A sense you have done something wrong? You want to feel self-respect after doing wrong. You want to feel better about yourself but you cannot change what happened.

Joan had become preoccupied with her sense of guilt. She had badly let down her life-time friend Sally. Not gone to her best pal’s wedding. There was a good reason or so she had tried to tell herself. The conference was one she had keenly wanted to attend.  But she could have put it off until the following year. She knew she should have put her life-long friend first. Sure, Sally was still speaking – after a fashion — but Joan couldn’t forgive herself. Couldn’t get her self-respect back.

We all do some wrong things but there are actions that some people take that cause immense hurt and damage. But whatever it is we have done, we need to feel self-respect, to be liked and accepted without feeling bad about ourselves. So how does one get rid of guilt?

If you are not unfairly being hard on yourself, the first step is to stop making up excuses to justify, what deep down, you know you shouldn’t have done. Be honest and own up at least to yourself. And resolve to try not to do something like it again. If you want, you can be a different person from the time when you behaved badly. The self-respect can return.

Okay there are some things that can’t be remedied that we will regret for ever. Yet you can ask yourself, is there really nothing I can do to right the wrong? Sometimes you can and then a sense of pardon might be felt from the offended person after you apologise or attempt to make amends. This happened to Joan. Not only did she confess her selfish error to Sally, she did her best to make it up to her by later throwing a surprise wedding anniversary party. And that cost her a pretty penny and some valuable time but she was really glad she could do it. She and Sally were the best of friends again.

Reconciliation can be a wonderful thing, for example following marital breakdown, but how can this be achieved following serious crime. How on earth do people live with themselves after committing murder or abusing a child? I guess if they have little conscience then they suffer little guilt. But if they do have genuine remorse then sad indeed is their torment unless they can find a way to stop condemning themselves for that one mad moment when they completely lost self-control. Self-respect for this kind of person must feel like a mile away.

Some people have experimented with psychedelic drugs and report the experience of love and forgiveness, as well as benign and blissful moments of cosmic unity whilst under the chemical influence. But these effects don’t seem to last and the ‘trip’ can also include horrible visions of filth and torture.

So where can we get lasting help for a stricken conscience? Those with strong feelings of anxiety and guilt have been drawn to the promise of religion for their redemption. But traditional Christianity talks about the “forgiveness of God for the repentant sinner” thus using a language that has unfortunate connotations of punishment and judgement.

Instead, why not think of the image of genuinely loving parents? These have nothing to forgive when looking at their children who go off the rails. Just hope and encouragement for better days ahead.

Or think of non-judgmental counsellors who adopt an accepting attitude towards their clients. This stance allows confessions of guilty secrets and the encouragement of self-insight and attitude change. The aim of therapy is self-respect and self-esteem.

Counsellors don’t need to forgive, for it is not they who have been offended but they do foster self-acceptance. Likewise the divine Counsellor, as the origin of infinite mercy and compassion, does not need to forgive. For to forgive implies condemnation which Love itself is incapable of feeling. Such an idea of God as a Counsellor can be thought of as providing healing of guilt.

Emanuel Swedenborg taught that there is a huge mistake in an interpretation of the Christian doctrine of ‘justification by faith alone’ that correct religious belief is sufficient for salvation. Instead he said that what is wanted in the heart and what is done by the hands, in addition to what the head thinks, is what really matters. He claimed that to feel divine acceptance, belief alone is insufficient: one also has to put into practice one’s belief  and that this means  changing the ways one deals with other people by following Christ’s way. Through gaining a sense of God’s respect for what we do we can find self-respect.

In other words whilst in humble supplication we can pray for God’s mercy but in so doing  we need to remember our own responsibility for accepting other people. As the Lord’s prayer says:

“Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us.”

As HT Hamblin put it:

“If he will love, or hold in thoughts of good-will the one who has wronged him, then his life will become happy and peaceful, and in its highest sense, successful.”

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

Discontent – Why do I have this?

discontent
Brian Moore

Brian Moore the former English rugby international player sees something of discontent in himself. What he wanted was success. And he pushed himself really hard over and over again to do well. He now recognises that whether it be in sport, business or whatever field you are in, if you are too driven you can drive yourself into the ground.

Some people have high ambition and specific goals to match. But those of them who are too driven have discontent even when they get to where they wanted to be.

Discontent hankering after things

You also may hanker after things you haven’t got; fame, or fortune, people or possessions. For example perhaps all you think you need is just a new sofa and when you get it everything will be sorted. But when it arrives you find there’s something else you must have — a new holiday, a new job. For some people a basic discontent persists no matter what they get or achieve. Something else looms on the horizon and they long for that too. Sooner or later they won’t get what they want because nobody gets all they want in life.

Discontent hanging on to things

When people in India hunt for monkeys, they set out a heavy wooden box with a small hole on top just big enough for a monkey to squeeze a hand through. Inside the box is a banana. A monkey smells the fruit and reaches inside to grab it. The hunters approach to capture him. As it tugs and pulls, it can’t pull the banana through the hole. The strange thing is the monkey refuses to let go and run away before being captured.

Sometimes you may wonder if you too hang on to things no matter what the cost because you assume your happiness depends on having them.

Discontent of envy

In a ‘keeping up with the Jones’ type of society, envy can arise when there is a love of having more and more of the same things that other people have, only better and better things. In a competitive intellectual society, envy can also raise its ugly head. In both cases it is striving for anything which is owned, prized or wanted by others in order to gain their approval and admiration.

According to the major spiritual traditions, these sort of feelings arise when the superficial things of life are the sole centre of attention for their own sake, at the expense of deeper human values, human relationships and social obligations.

Story of Nasrudin

The Islamic mystics tell a story about Nasrudin out walking who found a man sitting on the side of the road crying. He wailed “I am so poor. I have no money and everything I own is in this little bag.”

“Ah-ha!,” said Nasrudin, who immediately grabbed the bag and ran as fast as he could until he was out of sight..

“Now I have nothing at all,” cried the poor man, weeping still harder as he trudged along the road in the direction Nasrudin had gone. A mile away he found his bag sitting in the middle of the road, and he immediately became ecstatic. “Thank God,” he cried out. “I have all my possessions back. Thank you, thank you.”

“How curious!” exclaimed Nasrudin, appearing out of the bushes by the side of the road. “How curious that the same bag that made you weep now makes you ecstatic.”

Discontent not noticing the valuable

Sometimes what is valuable is not noticed. It is hidden away in the simplest things of life but we do not see it or appreciate it because of the frantic pace of our lives. Overwhelmed by numerous commitments, activities and appointments, our lives are filled to the brim with things to do and little time to be – things to achieve and little time to appreciate. Greedy to accomplish more, we pack our daily schedules with things to do and places to go. Believing that achieving our goals is more important than being still to quieten the mind and appreciating the many treasures and simple joys stored up for us within the present moment.

Discontent not trusting in the Divine

Emanuel Swedenborg taught that those who trust in the Divine remain in equanimity whether they obtain their desires or not ; and they do not grieve over the loss of them for they  are content with their lot. If they become wealthy they do not set their hearts on wealth. If they are given social status they do not regard themselves as more worthy than others.

Is this not the route away from discontent and towards satisfaction and peace of mind?

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

The Raven and the Dove

October 19, 2014 – Toronto

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

  1. Introduction

    1. Remember that the story of Noah and the Ark comes from the Ancient Word, written in an “ancient style” – factitious; a made-up story that is nevertheless true.

      1. The Parable of the Wicked Vinedressers that we read as a lesson is an example of the same kind of thing in the Lord‘s own words in the New Testament. It’s not a story about real people, but the lesson it teaches is truth itself.

    2. Review story

      1. The earth filled with wickedness

      2. Noah commanded to build an ark

      3. Locked inside, there is rain for 40 days and nights, flooding the earth and destroying all the wicked things.

      4. Only Noah and those who were with him in the ark remained alive. And the waters prevailed on the earth 150 days (GEN 7:24).

      5. The waters subside. It takes another 150 days until the ark rests on the ground.

      6. Another 40 days pass until Noah opens the window and sends out a raven.

        1. The raven flies back and forth but does not return.

      7. Then Noah releases a dove.

        1. The first time it does not find a place to rest, so it returns to the ark.

        2. After 7 days he tries again. This time the dove returns with an olive leaf.

        3. After 7 more days he sends the dove again. This time it does not return and he knows that it is finally safe to leave the ark and start his new life.

  2. Main Body

    1. Contrast the raven to the dove.

      1. Black, carrion eating. The raven represents the last states of the falsity that was the cause of the flood in the first place.

      2. It flies back and forth, gradually disappears; a picture of the waning falsity which allows for the emergence of the new states of truth from the Lord’s Word.

    2. Doves = the truths and goods of faith residing with a person who is to be regenerated (AC 870)

    3. The question is why is the dove released 3 times?

      1. The subject is the three states following temptations in the regeneration of this man (AC 871)

    4. Dove 1 – No rest, comes back to the ark.

      1. ‘The dove found no rest for the sole of its foot’ means that no good and truth of faith at all had as yet been able to take root.

      2. ‘It returned to him to the ark’ means good and truth appearing to be the good and truth of faith with him.

      3. ‘For the waters were over the face of the earth’ means that falsities were still there to overflowing.

      4. ‘He put out his hand’ means his own power.

      5. ‘And he took hold of it, and brought it in to himself into the ark’ means that self was the source of the good he did and of the truth he thought. (AC 873)

      6. [The first time the dove is released represents] a state when people imagine that they themselves are the source of the good they do and of the truth they think. And because they are still in the greatest obscurity, the Lord lets them cling to that opinion. But as long as they cling to that opinion which is false, no good deed they do nor any truth they think is the good or truth of faith. For whatever a person carries out from himself cannot be good since it has come from self, an impure and most unclean origin. (AC 874)

      7. While [the person who is being regenerated] was inside the ark, which means his state prior to regeneration, he was in captivity or prison, hemmed in on every side by evils and falsities, which are ‘the flood-waters’.

      8. Consequently ‘it returned to him to the ark’ means that good and truth meant by the dove came back to him again. Any good at all which a person supposes that he does from himself comes back to him, for it has self in view. AC 876)

      9. The waters – falsities – are still surrounding the ark, so even though the person is attempting to do things that are good, still at heart there is an element of selfishness. A lot of our immature efforts to do good have a selfish motive; we want to go to heaven! Later, as we mature, we eventually begin to do good because it’s the right thing to do, because we are beginning to learn how to love the neighbour.

    5. Dove 2 – Finds an olive branch which it brings back to Noah.

      1. ‘He waited yet another seven days’ means the beginning of the second state of regeneration,

      2. ‘seven days’ meaning that which is holy, because now charity is the subject.

      3. ‘And he proceeded to send out the dove from the ark’ means a state of receiving the goods and truths of faith.

      4. ‘And the dove returned to him at evening time’ means that these started to show themselves a little,

      5. ‘evening time’ being similar in meaning to pre-morning twilight.

      6. ‘And behold, in its mouth an olive leaf plucked off means a small measure of the truth of faith,

      7. ‘leaf’ meaning truth,’ olive good that stems from charity,

      8. ‘plucked off’ the fact that the truth of faith derives from that charity, and ‘in its mouth’ the fact that it was made visible.

      9. ‘And Noah knew that the waters had abated from over the earth’ means that all this was so because the obstructive falsities were now fewer than previously. (AC 879)

        1. Those waters of falsity are being pushed back by the improving state of regeneration.

        2. The “leaves” of the tree of life are for the healing of the nations.

        3. It’s important that it is an olive leaf, for the olive (which produces oil) introduces the element of charity tied to the truth represented by the leaf.

      10. The waters continue to abate: “when a person is being regenerated truths are planted in him towards which falsities are turned by the Lord. It thus appears as though they have been dispersed, dispersed by means of the goods which he is given.” (AC 887)

    6. Dove 3 – Does not return, demonstrating to Noah that it is finally safe to open the ark.

      1. ‘He waited yet another seven days’ means the beginning of the third state,

      2. ‘seven days’ meaning that which is holy.

      3. ‘And he sent out the dove’ means a state of receiving the goods and truths of faith.

      4. ‘The dove did not come back to him any more’ means a state of freedom. (AC 888)

        1. The water – the falsities – have finally been pushed back enough that the person can begin to act from freedom and rationality. They get out of the ark and walk about on the earth, breathing the fresh air, moving about as they wish.

      5. ‘It happened in the six hundred and first year’ means a finishing point.

      6. ‘At the beginning, on the first of the month’ means a starting point.

      7. ‘The waters dried up from over the earth’ means that falsities were not at that time apparent.

      8. ‘And Noah removed the covering of the ark, and saw out’ means the light, once falsities had been removed, shed by the truths of faith, which he acknowledged and in which he had faith.

      9. ‘And behold, the face of the ground was dry’ means regeneration. (AC 893)

  3. Conclusion

    1. When we think about our own spiritual states it’s hard for us to get a sense of perspective because we only experience the ‘now’. We dimly remember the past, and we cannot know the future.

    2. The power of this story, then, is that it gives us a picture of the progress of the states of regeneration.

      1. If we are in the early stages, it can give us hope for the future, and guide us on the path.

      2. If we are in the later stages, it can give us a perspective from which to look back and be reminded of the progress that we have made.

      3. But, if nothing else, this little fragment of the Noah story holds within it the promise and certainty of the Lord’s constant care and guidance, and demonstrates that He does have a plan for us, and even when the storms rage around us, when the evil spirits try to enslave us, He can still can lead us to our heavenly home. Amen.

First Lesson: Genesis 8 – from the Children’s Talk

Second Lesson: MAT 21:33-44

“Hear another parable: There was a certain landowner who planted a vineyard and set a hedge around it, dug a winepress in it and built a tower. And he leased it to vinedressers and went into a far country. Now when vintage-time drew near, he sent his servants to the vinedressers, that they might receive its fruit. And the vinedressers took his servants, beat one, killed one, and stoned another. Again he sent other servants, more than the first, and they did likewise to them. Then last of all he sent his son to them, saying, ‘They will respect my son.’ But when the vinedressers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let us kill him and seize his inheritance.’ So they took him and cast him out of the vineyard and killed him. “Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those vinedressers?” They said to Him, “He will destroy those wicked men miserably, and lease his vineyard to other vinedressers who will render to him the fruits in their seasons.” Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: ‘ The stone which the builders rejected Has become the chief cornerstone. This was the LORD’s doing, And it is marvellous in our eyes’? “Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it. And whoever falls on this stone will be broken; but on whomever it falls, it will grind him to powder.”

Third Lesson: AC 892.

Once someone has been regenerated he enters for the first time into a state of freedom. Previously he has been in a state of slavery. It is slavery when evil desires and falsities predominate, freedom when affections for good and truth do so. As long as he is in a state of slavery, a person never perceives what his situation is. Only when he enters a state of freedom does he start to do so. When he is in a state of slavery, that is, when evil desires and falsities predominate, the person who has become subject to them imagines that he is in a state of freedom. That however is sheer falsity, for he is at that time being carried away by the delight that accompanies desires and resulting pleasures, that is, by the delight accompanying the loves that are his own…. It is however the devilish spirits, in whose company and so to speak fast moving stream he is caught, who carry him away….

[2] No one ever enters into a state of freedom until he has been regenerated and is being led by the Lord by means of the love of good and truth. When he has entered that state he is enabled to know and perceive for the first time what freedom really is, because he can at that point know and perceive what life is, what the true delight in life is, and what happiness is…. When persons who are in a state of freedom from the Lord see the life that goes with evil desires and falsities, and even more when they experience it, they are as appalled by it as people who see hell opened before their eyes

Prayer, Betrayal, and Arrest

A sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – April 6, 2014

  1. Jesus had been teaching in the smaller towns and villages outside of Jerusalem for three years. His miracles and radical ideas had attracted quite a few followers, and at the same time had attracted the attention and anger of the chief Priests and Elders of the church.

    1. Then, at the time of the Passover when the streets of Jerusalem were crowded with visitors, Jesus rode into the city on a donkey, a symbol of royalty, and then went into the temple. There He cleaned out the people who were selling animals for sacrifice and the money changers, saying that the temple was “His house” and that they had made it a “den of thieves1.”

      1. This was a powerful message. One might have expected that having entered as royalty, He would go to the palace to confront Herod. Instead, He went to the temple, showing that instead of being an earthly king, it was His intention to be the king of a spiritual kingdom.

    2. All these things, both taken individually and as a whole, enraged the leaders of the church. They believed they had just cause to arrest Him, but they feared His popularity. If they were going to act, it would have to be in secret.

      1. If Jesus had spent the night in some private home in Jerusalem, away from the crowds, He surely would have been arrested. He knew that would be the eventual result, but He needed to control the time and circumstances, so He and the disciples left Jerusalem every night and rested in Gethsemane, on the Mount of Olives.

    3. On Thursday, the Lord and His disciples celebrated the Passover in Jerusalem. It was here that the Lord instituted the Holy Supper, and it was from this meal that Judas Iscariot departed to lead the chief priests and the soldiers to arrest Jesus.

      1. After the Passover meal was completed, the Lord returned to the Mount of Olives, and it is here, on Thursday night, where the events we are interested in unfold.

  2. (Mat 26:36-56) Then Jesus came with them to a place called Gethsemane, and said to the disciples, “Sit here while I go and pray over there.” {37} And He took with Him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and He began to be sorrowful and deeply distressed. {38} Then He said to them, “My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death. Stay here and watch with Me.” {39} He went a little farther and fell on His face, and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as You will.” {40} Then He came to the disciples and found them asleep, and said to Peter, “What? Could you not watch with Me one hour? {41} “Watch and pray, lest you enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” {42} Again, a second time, He went away and prayed, saying, “O My Father, if this cup cannot pass away from Me unless I drink it, Your will be done.” {43} And He came and found them asleep again, for their eyes were heavy. {44} So He left them, went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words. {45} Then He came to His disciples and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and resting? Behold, the hour is at hand, and the Son of Man is being betrayed into the hands of sinners. {46} “Rise, let us be going. See, My betrayer is at hand.”

    1. Three” = complete. (Many passages)

    2. Sleep” = a lack of perception of spiritual things. (Many passages)

    3. Cup” = temptation. (Many passages)

    4. AC 1787. …Every temptation is attended with some kind of despair (otherwise it is not a temptation), and therefore consolation follows. He who is tempted is brought into anxieties, which induce a state of despair as to what the end is to be. The very combat of temptation is nothing else. He who is sure of victory is not in anxiety, and therefore is not in temptation.

      [2] The Lord also, as He endured the most dire and cruel temptations of all, could not but be driven into states of despair, and these He dispelled and overcame by His own power; as may be clearly seen from His temptation in Gethsemane….

      [3] From these passages we may see what was the nature of the Lord’s temptations-that they were the most terrible of all; and that He felt anguish from the very inmosts, even to the sweating of blood; and that He was then in a state of despair concerning the end and the event; and also that He had consolations.

    5. But, how is it that the Lord, who is the God of the Universe, all powerful, all knowing, could be tempted?

      1. First of all, we need to be clear that His love of the human race was never tempted. He was only tempted in regard to how it would happen, the truth of the matter. And even this could only happen if He metaphorically tied one hand behind His back, by taking on the limitations of a physical, human body.

        1. AC 2813. And bound Isaac his son. That this signifies the state of the Divine rational thus about to undergo as to truth the last degrees of temptation…. That to “bind” is to put on the state for undergoing the last degrees of temptation, is evident from the fact that he who is in a state of temptation is no otherwise than as bound or chained…. “Isaac the son” is the Lord’s Divine rational, here as to truth…. All the genuine rational consists of good and truth. The Lord’s Divine rational as to good could not suffer, or undergo temptations; for no … spirit inducing temptations can come near to Good Divine, as it is above all attempt at temptation. But Truth Divine bound was what could be tempted; for there are fallacies, and still more falsities, which break in upon and thus tempt it…. It was Truth Divine which was no longer acknowledged when the Lord came into the world, and therefore it was that from which the Lord underwent and endured temptations. Truth Divine in the Lord is what is called the “Son of man,” but Good Divine is what is called the “Son of God.” Of the “Son of man” the Lord says many times that He was to suffer, but never of the Son of God.

      2. It’s important to remember that although the Lord was going through temptations throughout His life in the world, they are only recorded in two places: His 40 days of fasting in the wilderness2, and the events surrounding the crucifixion.

        1. In the wilderness series we see three different kinds of temptations. This was to show that all the Lord’s temptations could be divided into these three types, and therefore they were a symbol for them all. Here the forty tells us that it was a temptation, and the three tells us that the series was complete.

        2. Notice also that when on Gethsemane, the Lord goes away to pray three times. The three tells us that this was not the only time He prayed, but that it was to represent all His prayers throughout His time in the world, the complete set.

        3. And the number three occurs again in the resurrection in that He rose on the third day. The number three associated with His resurrection indicates that the state of being in the world in a human body was now complete and the next state, that of the glorified Divine Human, was about to begin.

      3. Earlier that evening, at the Passover meal, Jesus said to the twelve, “one of you will betray Me” (MAT 26:21). What’s interesting is that when He said that, the twelve responded by asking him, “Is it I?” (MAT 26:22) and when Judas asked Him the same question, the Lord responded, “You have said it” (MAT 26:25).

        1. Whatever motives Judas may have had at the time, the fact is that this was part of the Lord’s plan, something that needed to happen.

          1. This becomes clear when we think about the situation. The Lord and the twelve were camped in an olive grove on a mountain top some distance from the city. If there was any light at all, it would have come from small campfires, and all the men would have been roughly the same age and dressed in roughly the same clothes. The men coming to arrest Jesus would have needed someone who knew Him well to be able to positively identify Him so that they could be sure to arrest the right person.

          2. The word “betray” also has the meaning of “to reveal” as in “the child’s giggling betrayed his hiding place,” although by taking things into his own hands and working secretly with the Chief Priests and Elders for money there was certainly an element of the traditional concept of betrayal.

    6. {47} And while He was still speaking, behold, Judas, one of the twelve, with a great multitude with swords and clubs, came from the chief priests and elders of the people. {48} Now His betrayer had given them a sign, saying, “Whomever I kiss, He is the One; seize Him.” {49} Immediately he went up to Jesus and said, “Greetings, Rabbi!” and kissed Him. {50} But Jesus said to him, “Friend, why have you come?” Then they came and laid hands on Jesus and took Him. {51} And suddenly, one of those who were with Jesus stretched out his hand and drew his sword, struck the servant of the high priest, and cut off his ear. {52} But Jesus said to him, “Put your sword in its place, for all who take the sword will perish by the sword. {53} “Or do you think that I cannot now pray to My Father, and He will provide Me with more than twelve legions of angels? {54} “How then could the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must happen thus?” {55} In that hour Jesus said to the multitudes, “Have you come out, as against a robber, with swords and clubs to take Me? I sat daily with you, teaching in the temple, and you did not seize Me.{56} “But all this was done that the Scriptures of the prophets might be fulfilled.” Then all the disciples forsook Him and fled.

      1. Notice the sequence of events as described by Matthew.

        1. A large crowd of armed men arrived, likely also carrying torches, led by Judas. One could easily imagine that they would have been both seen and heard a long way off, and if the Lord had wished it, He and the disciples could have slipped away in the dark.

        2. When the men seized Jesus, a fight broke out. The disciples were carrying swords. They drew them and attacked the men in the crowd, leading to the injury to the servant of the High Priest.

        3. Jesus healed the servant, admonished the crowd for coming in secret when He had been daily in the temple, and then meekly submitted to them.

        4. It appears that the disciples were indeed expecting Him to call down a legion of angels, or at least use His powers in some other way to defeat this crowd, but once they realized that He was giving Himself up without the fight for which they had been preparing for years, they fled in confusion.

  3. There are several things we need to reflect on in preparation for Easter.

    1. The importance of doubt in temptation

    2. The Lord’s two states of Temptation and Glorification.

      1. When He taught and acted with authority, He was in the state of Glorification, feeling one with the Father within.

      2. When He expressed anger, or doubt, He was in the state of Temptation, feeling distant from the Father within, and doubting that the course He was on was the correct way to ensure the salvation of the human race.

    3. The Lord’s love was never tempted, only the process.

      1. The hells could not touch the Lord’s Divine Love, but they could introduce falsities in the forms of alternative plans that would have the ability to create doubt, thus temptation to deviate from the original plan.

    4. While His temptations are more grievous than we can experience or imagine, still they are recorded so that we can by guided and comforted by them.

    5. How to do they comfort us? If the Lord can fight and overcome in these circumstances, surely He can fight and overcome for us, too.

    6. Finally, remember that the goal was redemption of the human race.

      1. Not wiping away sin, but restoring spiritual freedom by conquering the hells and putting them back into order.

      2. Every moment of every day we are free to think about anything we want, and we are free to choose our own course. That is freedom of choice in spiritual things. It makes it possible for each one of us to go to heaven. And for that we should be eternally grateful. Amen.

Hear now the Word of the Lord …

First Lesson: Isaiah 53:1-12

Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For He shall grow up before Him as a tender plant, And as a root out of dry ground. He has no form or comeliness; And when we see Him, There is no beauty that we should desire Him. He is despised and rejected by men, A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. Surely He has borne our griefs And carried our sorrows; Yet we esteemed Him stricken, Smitten by God, and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, And by His stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; We have turned, every one, to his own way; And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and He was afflicted, Yet He opened not His mouth; He was led as a lamb to the slaughter, And as a sheep before its shearers is silent, So He opened not His mouth. He was taken from prison and from judgement, And who will declare His generation? For He was cut off from the land of the living; For the transgressions of My people He was stricken. And they made His grave with the wicked– But with the rich at His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was any deceit in His mouth. Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise Him; He has put Him to grief. When You make His soul an offering for sin, He shall see His seed, He shall prolong His days, And the pleasure of the LORD shall prosper in His hand. He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. By His knowledge My righteous Servant shall justify many, For He shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide Him a portion with the great, And He shall divide the spoil with the strong, Because He poured out His soul unto death, And He was numbered with the transgressors, And He bore the sin of many, And made intercession for the transgressors.

Second Lesson: AC (Elliott) n. 3381

3381. ‘Because Abraham hearkened to My voice’ means the union of the Lord’s Divine Essence with the Human Essence by means of temptations.

[2] That these considerations are meant by hearkening to the voice of Jehovah, or the Father, is also evident from the Lord’s words uttered in Gethsemane, in Matthew, My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; nevertheless not as I will but as You will. Again, for the second time, My Father, if this cup cannot pass from Me unless I drink it, Your will he done. Matt. 26:39, 42; Mark 14:36; Luke 22:42.

But because Jehovah or the Father was within Him, that is, He was in the Father and Father in Him – John 14:10, 11 – ‘hearkening to Jehovah’s voice’ is used to mean that the Lord through temptations united the Divine to the Human by His own power, as is also clear from the Lord’s own words in John, As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father, and I lay down My life,3 for the sheep. For this reason the Father loves Me, that I lay down My life,4 so that I may receive it again. No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself; I have power to lay it down and I have power to receive it again; this commandment I have received from My Father. John 10:15, 17, 18.

Here end the lessons. Blessed are they who hear the Word of God and keep it. Amen.

1MAT 21:13, MAR 11:17, LUK 19:46

2Matthew 4, Mark 1, Luke 4

3Literally, soul

4Literally, sou

The Seventh Day

Practices of Peace week 7

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto – March 16, 2014

Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. (Gen 2:1-3)

For the past 6 weeks we have been looking at the days of creation as found in the book of Genesis. Through this careful study it has become quite clear that these passages do not and are not intended to speak about the creation of the natural world. They are the states of the development of the human mind. The wonderful thing is that because the story itself is written in the form of a parable, there are all kinds of valid ways to interpret and use this information. It’s a wonderful way to describe the steps of awakening intelligence in a new-born. It can also be used to describe the states that the Lord Himself went through when He was born into the world. Or, as we have been focussing on here, the seven days can speak of the seven successive states that each one of us goes through when we tackle some evil that we find within ourselves and try to remove it with the Lord’s help.

Today we are talking about the seventh day, a day of rest and reflection. It’s like hiking to the top of a mountain. There are a number of different kinds of challenges to face along the way. You have to look at the weather and make the decision to go or not go. You have to make sure you are wearing the right clothes and have the proper supplies. There will be steep portions, streams to cross, and long, grinding ascents. But once at the top, the first thing that most people do is turn around and look back to see just how far they’ve come. And that is what the seventh day is about. You have decided to tackle a spiritual task. There have been a variety of challenges along the way, but now you are coming to the end and beginning to feel the delights that the Lord provides. It’s time to look back, remember the obstacles overcome, and rejoice in the accomplishment.

With that in mind, let’s review the steps.

  1. Awakening – light shines for the first time
    1. (Gen 1:1-5) In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. {2} The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. {3} Then God said, “Let there be light”; and there was light. {4} And God saw the light, that it was good; and God divided the light from the darkness. {5} God called the light Day, and the darkness He called Night. So the evening and the morning were the first day.
    2. AC 7. The first state is the state which precedes, both the state existing from earliest childhood onwards and that existing immediately before regeneration; and it is called a void, emptiness, and thick darkness. And the first movement, which is the Lord’s mercy, is ‘the Spirit of God hovering over the face1 of the waters’.
    3. In this first stage, before the light hits, we grope in darkness. We might be thinking only about ourselves, our possessions, our need to be respected. Since we are unaware of the real, spiritual world within everything, our life is “empty, dark and void.” The change begins when we start to acknowledge a higher power, something more than the shallow life we’ve been living. This is like a light dawning.
  2. Distinguishing – Waters above from waters below.
    1. (Gen 1:6-8) Then God said, “Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.” {7} Thus God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament; and it was so. {8} And God called the firmament Heaven. So the evening and the morning were the second day.
    2. AC 8. The second state is when a distinction is made between the things that are the Lord’s and those that are man’s own. Those which are the Lord’s are called in the Word ‘remnants’, and here they are chiefly the cognitions of faith which a person has learned since he was a small child. These are stored away and do not come out into the open until he reaches this state. Nowadays this state rarely occurs without temptation, misfortune, and sorrow, which lead to the inactivity and so to speak the death of bodily and worldly concerns – the things which are man’s own. In this way what belongs to the external man is segregated from what belongs to the internal. Within the internal are the remnants, stored away by the Lord until this time and for this purpose.
    3. Once we have become aware that that there is a higher authority, we begin to try to distinguish between what’s really important and what isn’t. But because we don’t worry about these things when everything is going well, these two first phases come about in times of trouble. Hardship or heartache washes away shallow concerns. We see a separation between the things that do and don’t matter. Most importantly we begin to see that the truths that the Lord provides in the Word are on a high level while the knowledges provided by the sense and other people are far below.
  3. Cultivating – Tender plants grow
    1. (Gen 1:9-13) Then God said, “Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so. {10} And God called the dry land Earth, and the gathering together of the waters He called Seas. And God saw that it was good. {11} Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb that yields seed, and the fruit tree that yields fruit according to its kind, whose seed is in itself, on the earth”; and it was so. {12} And the earth brought forth grass, the herb that yields seed according to its kind, and the tree that yields fruit, whose seed is in itself according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {13} So the evening and the morning were the third day.
    2. AC 9. The third state is one of repentance, a state in which he speaks piously and devoutly from the internal man and brings forth goods, like charitable acts which are nevertheless inanimate since he imagines that they originate in himself. They are called a tender plant, then a seed-bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.
    3. When we have distinguished what’s important from what isn’t, the “soil” of our mind is ready to hear the truth, and a tender, more compassionate side of us can begin to take root. We have come to a point where we know that the Lord wants us to be kind and helpful to others, but it’s difficult at first. It’s hard to get started, and there’s a lot of merit mixed in. But, with practice and effort, the grass becomes the tree bringing forth good fruit. Still, it’s an effort of truth, not yet of love. We do it because we know we ought to, not yet because we love doing it. So more steps are still needed.
  4. Navigating – Sun, moon and stars placed in the sky for light
    1. (Gen 1:14-19) Then God said, “Let there be lights in the firmament of the heavens to divide the day from the night; and let them be for signs and seasons, and for days and years; {15} “and let them be for lights in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth”; and it was so. {16} Then God made two great lights: the greater light to rule the day, and the lesser light to rule the night. He made the stars also. {17} God set them in the firmament of the heavens to give light on the earth, {18} and to rule over the day and over the night, and to divide the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. {19} So the evening and the morning were the fourth day.
    2. AC 10. The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.
    3. The more we practice changing our removing evils and doing the opposite goods, the easier it becomes. Our principles become clearer – they are like the sun and moon, the “lights” that lead us. The “sun” of love stirs us to care, while the “moon” is a picture of our faith, constantly varying as we experiment and make attempts, just as the light of the moon varies during the month. But the sun, the Lord’s love, is always there, constant. And, as we move forward and begin doing things not for our own sake, or because we think we ought to, but because it’s what the Lord wants us to do, everything we do begins to be filled with spiritual light and heat.
  5. Speaking – fish swim and birds fly
    1. (Gen 1:20-23) Then God said, “Let the waters abound with an abundance of living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the face of the firmament of the heavens.” {21} So God created great sea creatures and every living thing that moves, with which the waters abounded, according to their kind, and every winged bird according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {22} And God blessed them, saying, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas, and let birds multiply on the earth.” {23} So the evening and the morning were the fifth day.
    2. AC 11. The fifth state is when he speaks from faith and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good. What he brings forth at this point are animate and are called the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.2
    3. In this stage, the things we do or say have new energy and life because we no longer take credit for them. We become stronger advocates for what we know is true, and we feel more love for others because we are putting ourselves in the stream of Providence. We begin to have a sense or perception that God is working through us, and we can share in His love.
  6. Loving – Humans are created in the image of God
    1. (Gen 1:24-31) Then God said, “Let the earth bring forth the living creature according to its kind: cattle and creeping thing and beast of the earth, each according to its kind”; and it was so. {25} And God made the beast of the earth according to its kind, cattle according to its kind, and everything that creeps on the earth according to its kind. And God saw that it was good. {26} Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over the cattle, over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” {27} So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them. {28} Then God blessed them, and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply; fill the earth and subdue it; have dominion over the fish of the sea, over the birds of the air, and over every living thing that moves on the earth.” {29} And God said, “See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food. {30} “Also, to every beast of the earth, to every bird of the air, and to everything that creeps on the earth, in which there is life, I have given every green herb for food”; and it was so. {31} Then God saw everything that He had made, and indeed it was very good. So the evening and the morning were the sixth day.
    2. AC 12. The sixth state is when he utters truths and performs good deeds from faith and consequently from love. What he brings forth at this point are called a living creature and a beast. And because at this point he starts to act from faith and also simultaneously from love, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image. The spiritual life of that man finds its delight in, and is sustained by, the things which are associated with cognitions of faith and with charitable acts, which are called his food; and his natural life finds its delight in, and is sustained by, those which belong to the body and the senses. The latter give rise to conflict until love rules and he becomes a celestial man.

      AC 13. Not all people who are being regenerated reach this state. Some, indeed the majority nowadays, reach only the first. Some reach merely the second, others the third, fourth, or fifth. Seldom do any reach the sixth, and hardly anybody at all reaches the seventh (which is the celestial man).

      AC 62. The stages and states of the regeneration of man – both of mankind and of the individual person – divide into six and are called the days of his creation. Gradually from being no man at all, he first becomes something, though only little, then something more, until the sixth day is reached, when he becomes ‘an image’.

    3. Finally, we not only say what we mean, we also act on our beliefs, from a loving frame of mind. In this stage, we fully embrace our spiritual heritage as men and women created in the image of God. Literally a “new chapter” begins here. The six days of creation take up the first chapter of Genesis. The seventh day begins the second chapter. The sixth day is a picture of someone reaching a pretty advanced spiritual state – not all of us will reach this during our lives in the world, but it is held out to us as a possibility. At the end of this state, the Spiritual Man is complete.
  7. Resting – No more work, “There is peace “
    1. (Gen 2:1-3) Thus the heavens and the earth, and all the host of them, were finished. {2} And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. {3} Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.
    2. AC 73. Verse 1 deals next with the man who from being dead has already progressed to being spiritual, and from being spiritual now progresses to being celestial.

      AC 74. The celestial man is the seventh day on which the Lord rests, verses 2, 3.

    3. There are two creations stories in Genesis, one following another. That there are two indicates that they are not meant to be taken as scientific. The first is the creation of the spiritual man in six days followed by a day of rest. Once that is complete, the next stage, if possible, is to create the celestial man. This is described in the story of the garden of Eden in Genesis 2.

The word “Sabbath” is from the Hebrew for “rest,” and it represents both the rest that comes to people when they finally conquer in temptations and the state of rest for the Lord that comes when He is finished fighting the hells for the people who have been in temptation. This is why, when the six days of creation represent our combats with evils, it is said that on the seventh day, the Lord rested. It is because it is the Lord who actually fights for us in the combats of temptation, although it seems to us that we are fighting for ourselves.

The Sabbath comes at the end of the battle, and it is a state of rest for those weary from the battle. It is also the state of peace and rest that comes to those who are victorious in their battles, have driven the enemy away, and have restored order into their lives. The Sabbath represents the state of peace and happiness that the Lord gives to people after good and truth have been conjoined in their minds by means of the combats of temptation. In regard to the Sabbath, the Word teaches that there are only two states for mankind: the first is a state of truth alone, where there is combat while the will and the understanding are not as one — the person knows one thing but wills to do another. The second state is a state of peace that follows the combat when the will and the understanding are in accord, the one part willing what the other part now knows with a certainty to be true.3

We’ve reached the top. It’s time to look around and enjoy the view of where we’ve been. We can sit down, break out lunch, and just enjoy that we have reached a difficult goal. All the while knowing that later we’ll have to go down to our home and that there will be other mountains to climb. But not for a while. Amen

First Lesson: (Luke 6:1-11)

Now it happened on the second Sabbath after the first that He went through the grainfields. And His disciples plucked the heads of grain and ate them, rubbing them in their hands. {2} And some of the Pharisees said to them, “Why are you doing what is not lawful to do on the Sabbath?” {3} But Jesus answering them said, “Have you not even read this, what David did when he was hungry, he and those who were with him: {4} “how he went into the house of God, took and ate the showbread, and also gave some to those with him, which is not lawful for any but the priests to eat?” {5} And He said to them, “The Son of Man is also Lord of the Sabbath.” {6} Now it happened on another Sabbath, also, that He entered the synagogue and taught. And a man was there whose right hand was withered. {7} So the scribes and Pharisees watched Him closely, whether He would heal on the Sabbath, that they might find an accusation against Him. {8} But He knew their thoughts, and said to the man who had the withered hand, “Arise and stand here.” And he arose and stood. {9} Then Jesus said to them, “I will ask you one thing: Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do evil, to save life or to destroy?” {10} And when He had looked around at them all, He said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” And he did so, and his hand was restored as whole as the other. {11} But they were filled with rage, and discussed with one another what they might do to Jesus.

Second Lesson: AC 81

The subject in [Genesis] chapter [2] is the celestial man; in the previous chapter it was the spiritual man who progressed to being spiritual from having been a dead man. But since people nowadays do not know what the celestial man is, and scarcely know what the spiritual man is or what the dead man is, let the nature of each one be presented briefly, in order that it may be known how they differ.

First. The dead man acknowledges no other truth or good than that belonging to the body and the world. This he also worships. The spiritual man acknowledges spiritual and celestial truth and good. But he does so not so much from love as from faith, which is also the basis of his actions. The celestial man believes and perceives spiritual and celestial truth and good, and does not acknowledge any other faith than that which stems from love, which is also the basis of his actions.

Second. The dead man has solely the life of the body and of the world as his ends in view. He does not know what eternal life is, or what the Lord is. Or if he does know, he does not believe. The spiritual man has eternal life, and therefore the Lord, as his ends in view. The celestial man has the Lord and therefore His kingdom and eternal life as his ends in view.

Third. The dead man when involved in conflict nearly always gives in. And when there is no conflict evils and falsities reign supreme within him, making him their slave. His bonds are external ones, such as fear of the law, loss of life, wealth, profits, and reputation on account of these. The spiritual man is involved in conflict, but he always conquers. The bonds which restrain him are internal, and are called the bonds of conscience. The celestial man is not involved in conflict. If evils and falsities assail him, he treats them with contempt, and is therefore called a conqueror. No visible bonds restrict him, for he is a free man. His bonds, which are not visible, are perceptions of good and truth.

 

1lit. The faces

2lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

3See AC 9431

The Fifth Day

 


A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Toronto, March 2, 2014

AC (Elliott) n. 39. Verse 20 And God said, Let the waters bring forth creeping things, living creatures; and let birds fly above the earth, upon the face1 of the expanse of the heavens.

  1. Last week we talked about how the turmoil and conflict come to an end when the person begins to acquire internal truths and to live from their internal man. Because the person begins to think and act from wisdom, and seeks to do things that are genuinely useful, the deeds are called in the Word the tender plant, the seed bearing plant, and finally a fruit tree.
    1. But even though these deeds are genuinely good deeds, the person in the third state hasn’t yet come to see that the Lord is the source of all love and faith, and while the person thinks that these good deeds originate in themselves, that they are the cause of them, they remain “inanimate” rather than truly living. But the person is heading in the right direction.
    2. There’s been “light” since the first day. Every person, from childhood through early adulthood, is gifted with the knowledge of the difference between right and wrong, and with feelings of contentment and happiness when they do the right thing. But as we navigate the shoals of adult life we are faced with temptations and challenges. If, during the course of these, we turn to the Lord through prayer and study of the Word, all the while trying to do the right thing, the fourth state will come. The light will dawn. We’ll have that “aha” moment when it starts to come together for us. We’ll feel that love from the Lord in ourselves, and we’ll see situations anew, from the light in our internal mind that comes from heaven.
      1. It doesn’t come without work, but it is the goal that the Lord has been leading us to all along.
      2. And with it comes the promise of even greater enlightenment and even greater usefulness in the states to follow.
  2. For the first four days, we’ve been talking about states and experiences that most people have. The first four states are more common, and because they tend to relate to things of the natural world, they can be illustrated in ways that most people would recognize.
    1. Most adults have figured out that we need to be kind to others, and we’ve figured out that there are things we can do that are genuinely useful that benefit other, and at the same time benefit ourselves. We have learned how to work together with our spouse.
    2. It doesn’t mean that we do these things all the time, but successful adults have figured out most of these things. It’s part of normal growth and fitting in with the other adults in the world around us.
    3. But, as the Word points out, the goods that are done at this point are as much from enlightened self-interest as they are from spiritual causes. That’s why the Arcana says that they are “inanimate” because they do not flow from the Lord.
    4. In order to make this next step in our regeneration, in order to move from the fourth to the fifth day, each person has to make a difficult jump to a new way of thinking.
      1. There needs to be a humble recognition that good comes from the Lord, not from ourselves. We need to acknowledge that the good that we do is from the Lord through us.
    5. AC 39. After the great lights have been kindled and lodged in the internal man, from which the external man receives its light, a person starts to live for the first time. Till then he can hardly be said to have lived, for he had imagined that the good he had done he had done from himself, and the truth he had uttered he had spoken from himself. And since man functioning from himself is dead – there being nothing in him that is not evil and false – therefore whatever he brings forth from himself is not living. So true is this that of himself he is incapable of doing any good deed that is in itself good….

      [2] Nevertheless when the Lord is revitalizing a person, or regenerating him, He does allow him, to begin with, to imagine that good and truth originate in himself, for at that point a person cannot grasp anything else, or be led to believe and finally perceive, that all good and truth come from the Lord alone…. But once he has been brought to life by love and faith and believes that the Lord is at work in every good deed he does and in every truth he utters, he is compared first to creeping things from the water and to birds which fly above the earth, and then to beasts, all of which are animate and are called ‘living creatures’.

      1. The problem for us is that when we read the story of creation, we can see that there is a distinct, obvious difference between the various plants that were created on the 4th day, and the birds and fishes that are created on the 5th. Both are useful and alive, but animals are distinctly more alive than plants.
      2. But when we look at our own lives, or perhaps at the lives of the people who are close to us, we can easily see the good deed that are performed, the acts of love. What we cannot see is whether they are motivated by enlightened self-interest (natural motives) or the more regenerate state of obedience to the Lord’s will (spiritual motives). If we cannot perceive the difference in ourselves, we certainly cannot know the difference in others!
      3. So, what are we to do? We know how the Lord wants us to act, we know that the Lord wants us to be motivated by getting ourselves into the stream of His Providence, of becoming instruments of His peace. We need to be conscious of that goal as we ponder the various decisions we have to make in life. Don’t examine things to the point of being unable to act at all from uncertainty about motives, but consciously choose to think about what we say in the Lord’s prayer, “Thy will be done.” What is the Lord’s will in the particular circumstance in which we find ourselves?
    6. Why is it so important to make this jump?
      1. AC (Elliott) n. 41. Anything that is man’s own has no life in it; and when depicted visually it looks like something hard as a bone and black. But anything that comes from the Lord does contain life. It has that which is spiritual and celestial within it, and when depicted visually it looks human and alive. It is perhaps incredible, but nevertheless absolutely true, that every expression, every idea, and every least thought of an angelic spirit is alive. In even the most detailed areas of his thought there is an affection that comes from the Lord, who is life itself. Consequently all that derives from the Lord has life within it, for it contains faith in Him, and is here meant by ‘a living creature’. It then has the outward appearance of a body, meant here by that which is moving, or creeping. To [people in the world] these matters remain arcana, but since the subject here is the living and moving creature, they ought at least to be mentioned here.
  3. Let’s take a moment and look at these living things that the Lord promises will be His gifts when we enter the state represented by the 5th day of creation.
  4. AC (Elliott) n. 42. Verse 21 And God created the great sea monsters, and every living creature that creeps, which the waters produced abundantly according to their kinds; and all winged birds according to their kinds; and God saw that it was good. As has been stated, ‘fish’ means facts, here facts quickened and brought to life through faith from the Lord.
    1. When you think of this it helps to avoid thinking of a single fish that you’ve pulled out of the lake, or maybe one that’s being served to you for dinner. Instead, think about one of those nature specials you see on TV (or the movies) where a diver takes a good camera into clear water with good lighting and captures a whole school of fish swimming together, darting this way and that, thousands of beautiful fish turning and moving as one.
      1. This is a better picture of how a whole lot of related facts create a much larger whole, a level of understanding that has life in it. It’s made up of individual facts, but when taken together the whole is greater than the parts. Or, as the Writings say, they are “quickened” and “come to life” through faith in the Lord.
      2. Faith in the Lord? It’s that humility of spirit spoken of above where the person in the 5th state humbly submits to the Lord’s will, and adjusts his thoughts and actions accordingly. Thus, they come to life.
    2. AC 42 (continued) ‘Sea monsters’ means those facts’ general sources, below which and from which details derive. Nothing whatever exists in the universe that does not depend on some general source for its commencement and continuance. In the Prophets sea monsters or whales are mentioned several times, and in those places they mean those general sources of facts….
      1. The traditional translation here would be “great sea creatures” but the underlying Hebrew word could mean a “crocodile” or a “whale” or a “dragon.”
      2. Based on the internal sense of the passage, it seems that however we translate it, it should be something large and single so that it compares to the school of fish described above. It represents the large, general concept that forms the basis for the facts.
        1. Love your neighbour” could be the “sea monster”, and all the various ways that we can be loving towards the neighbour are the school of fish.
    3. Even though we may not really be able to feel this change of state as something distinct and obvious, yet it is a promise that we can look forward to.
    4. Perhaps it’s one of those things that can only be seen in hindsight, that is, after we have come into this state we can look back on previous states and see how things are different, how spiritual things have become more important than natural ones, and the sense that spiritual blessings are multiplying.
    5. AC (Elliott) n. 43. Verse 22 And God blessed them, saying, Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the waters in the seas; and let birds be multiplied upon the earth. Everything that has life in it from the Lord is fruitful and multiplies without limit. This does not happen during a person’s lifetime, but in the next life it does so to an astonishing extent. In the Word ‘to be fruitful’ has reference to matters of love, while ‘to multiply’ has reference to matters of faith. The fruit of love contains the seed by which it multiplies itself to so great an extent. The Lord’s blessing also means, in the Word, fruitfulness and multiplication, for they are the outcome of that blessing.
    6. Verse 23 And there was evening, and there was morning, a fifth day.
    7. And so we see that in the fifth state the person who is regenerating moves from someone who is only acting from natural causes to one who begins to think about the Lord’s truth from the Word and makes a sincere effort to bring those truths to life in the things that he does for others. And, just as fish and birds are more “alive” than plants, so the things that the person does are more alive for they have the Lord’s own truth within them.
    8. But another step remains. While the person is now acting and living from faith in the Lord, another thing needs to be added, to be able to do these things from the good that is in the new will given to him by the Lord. This sixth state of regeneration, the 6th day of creation, will be the topic of the sermon next week.
    9. AC (Elliott) n. 48. From these considerations it is now clear that the fifth state is one in which a person speaks from faith which is part of the understanding and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good; and that what he produces at that point are the animate things called ‘the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.2

      It is also clear that the sixth state exists when he utters truths and performs good deeds from faith which is part of the understanding and so from love which is part of the will. What he produces at that point is called a living creature and a beast. And because at that point he begins to act both from faith and from love simultaneously, he becomes a spiritual man, who is called an image; and this is dealt with next. Amen.

First Lesson: Luke 18:15-19

Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.” Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one is good but One, that is, God. Amen.

Second Lesson: AC 10-11

AC (Elliott) n. 10 The fourth state is when he is moved by love and enlightened by faith. Previous to this he did indeed utter pious words and bring forth good deeds, but he did so from a state of temptation and anguish, and not from faith and charity. Therefore the latter are now kindled in his internal man, and are called the two great lights.

AC (Elliott) n. 11 The fifth state is when he speaks from faith and in so doing confirms himself in truth and good. What he brings forth at this point are animate and are called the fish of the sea and the birds of the air.3 Amen.

 

1lit. the faces

2lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)

  1. 3lit. birds of the heavens (or the skies)