Man is Led and Taught By the Lord in Externals to All Appearance As Of Himself

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

In externals man is led and taught by the Lord in all appearance as if by himself. This takes place in man’s externals, but not in internals.

How the Lord leads and teaches man in his internals no one knows, as no one knows how the soul operates to cause the eye to see, the ear to hear, the tongue and mouth to speak, the heart to move the blood, the lungs to breathe, the stomach to digest, the liver and pancreas to assort, the kidneys to secrete, and countless other things. These things do not come to man’s perception and sensation.

The same is true of what is done by the Lord in the interior substances and forms of the mind, which are infinitely more numerous; the Lord’s operations in these are not manifest to man. But the effects, which are numerous, are manifest, as well as some of the causes producing the effects. These are the externals wherein man and the Lord are together. And because externals make one with internals (for they cohere in one series), the Lord can arrange things in internals only in accordance with the disposition that is effected by means of man in the externals.

Every one knows that man thinks, wills, speaks, and acts to all appearance as if from himself; and every one can see that without this appearance man would have no will or understanding, thus no affection or thought, also no reception of any good and truth from the Lord. This being so, it follows that without this appearance there would be no knowledge of God, no charity or faith, and consequently no reformation or regeneration, and therefore no salvation. From all this it is clear that this appearance is given to man by the Lord for the sake of all these uses, and chiefly that man may have the ability to receive and to reciprocate, whereby the Lord may be conjoined with him and he with the Lord, and that through this conjunction man may live forever. This is the appearance here meant.

(Divine Providence 174)
June 23, 2017

Bringing Forth Things that are Useful

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from Doctrine of Faith ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

From his earliest childhood man has the affection of knowing, which leads him to learn many things that will be of use to him, and many that will be of no use. While he is growing into manhood he learns by application to some business such things as belong to that business, and this business then becomes his use, and he feels an affection for it. In this way commences the affection or love of use, and this brings forth the affection of the means which teach him the handling of the business which is his use. With everybody in the world there is this progression, because everybody has some business to which he advances from the use that is his end, by the means, to the actual use which is the effect. But inasmuch as this use together with the means that belong to it is for the sake of life in this world, the affection that is felt for it is natural affection only.

But as every man not only regards uses for the sake of life in this world, but also should regard uses for the sake of his life in heaven (for into this life he will come after his life here, and will live in it to eternity), therefore from childhood everyone acquires knowledges [cognitiones] of truth and good from the Word, or from the doctrine of the church, or from preaching, which knowledges are to be learned and retained for the sake of that life; and these he stores up in his natural memory in greater or less abundance according to such affection of knowing as may be inborn with him, and has in various ways been incited to an increase.

But all these knowledges [cognitiones], whatever may be their number and whatever their nature, are merely the storehouse of material from which the faith of charity can be formed, and this faith cannot be formed except in proportion as the man shuns evils as sins. If he shuns evils as sins, then these knowledges become those of a faith that has spiritual life within it. But if he does not shun evils as sins, then these knowledges are nothing but knowledges [cognitiones], and do not become those of a faith that has any spiritual life within it.

This storehouse of material is in the highest degree necessary, because faith cannot be formed without it, for the knowledges [cognitiones] of truth and good enter into faith and make it, so that if there are no knowledges, faith cannot come forth into being, for an entirely void and empty faith is impossible. If the knowledges are scanty, the faith is consequently very small and meager; if they are abundant, the faith becomes proportionately rich and full.

Be it known however that it is knowledges [cognitiones] of genuine truth and good that constitute faith, and by no means knowledges of what is false, for faith is truth, and as falsity is the opposite of truth, it destroys faith. Neither can charity come forth into being where there are nothing but falsities, for charity and faith make a one just as good and truth make a one. From all this it follows that an absence of knowledges of genuine truth and good involves an absence of faith, that a few knowledges make some faith, and that many knowledges make a faith which is clear and bright in proportion to their abundance. Such as is the quality of a man’s faith from charity, such is the quality of his intelligence.

(Doctrine of Faith 25-29)
June 11, 2017

Atheism – No Proof of God


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               Atheism – No Proof of God

Rev. Dr. Erik E. Sandstrom

November 2008


New Church Life

Atheism supposedly exists now also among some young people of New Church upbringing, those who have been educated in our system! We do not wish to insult anyone’s intelligence by claiming how wrong they are, or how they are burying their heads in the sand, because they are of course absolutely right! There never was, never has been, any proof of God’s existence. Why should they believe what cannot be proved? There is however a childishly simple proof of God’s existence. More of that later.

     Just think for a moment, how infinitely clever, indeed wise, God is for not leaving any witnesses for His existence. He created the universe so there is no signature! Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) called this thunderous absence of a “signature” a sign of the “anonymous author cunningly concealing himself” and no one can be “more carefully withdrawn from direct relationship [to people] than God.” Just look, he says in other words, how carefully He has concealed Himself! To the conclusion of this lack of a signature, Kierkegaard concedes that God “is not there.” But the proof, he continued in another direction, consisted in turning to one’s “inner self, and once only in the inwardness of self-activity, does he have his attention aroused, and is enable to see God.” (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript).

     This inner self is also fallacious, however. This however has to avoid Ludwig Feuerbach’s (1804-1872) denial of God as worthy of discussion, since only “man himself, and nature” are proper objects of “philosophical study,” not God, a subject that “transcends human experience.” Here he is similar to his predecessor David Hume (1711-1776). The next generation from Swedenborg, Hume was an empiricist thinly disguised as a Deist. The mind alone was real, said Hume, but a miniature of God’s mind. We must therefore trust human reason. This however led to doubting that even the world was the way we saw it, a skepticism which lent fire to later naturalistic arguments, doubting God also. Biblical criticism had with Hume’s contemporaries, Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694 – 1768), and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) already used this approach to cast doubt on the historical existence of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad. There was a “ditch” between faith and history. The Bible could not be trusted as a source or description of any truth, let alone that of God. The Gospels were hence irrelevant as history because of the lack of miracles verifying the same truths today. Jesus himself was doubted as an historical figure, but was more the enthusiastic or kerygmatic projection of faith in some ancient outstanding individual.

     These are just a few strands of the arguments paving the way for atheism. Only faith has maintained the Bible as the all time best seller for all centuries. That says something about the persistent clarity of truth, both concealed in scripture, but self-evident here and there as well. Astoundingly enough, it was in this Age of Reason era of final doubt in the Word of God, that all the self-evident truth was drawn out and published for all to witness, if they willed. Atheism today is easily read out of existence in the Heavenly Doctrines (1749-1771).

     So it was up to around 1800 that everyone thought of God or the gods as controlling everything, from wind to thunder, to war and disease, to the stars in the sky. God caused everything, and His ways were often mysterious. But God was now relegated to a “god of the gaps” argued “from ignorance.” There are other explanations of everything today, and science provides them! Science has left only a few “gaps” where God might still exist, “growing smaller and smaller.” Lightning is caused by electrons, not by Thor or Zeus! Science explains and solves more things than God or faith in Him does. So they say.

     The Writings warned against this whole line of reasoning, in fact ridiculed it, just when the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment were peaking: naturalism is not willing to acknowledge the possibility of “influx from the Lord’s Divine through the spiritual world.” That is why naturalism has “overwhelmed” the Church (Apocalypse Explained 1220) and favored thinking “about Divine things from things proper to nature, that is space and time” (Arcana Coelestia 5116:3). Then, however, “one infinite God” cannot be comprehended at all, nor the entire creation of the universe, which becomes a “foolish” notion (Canons 4). The consequence would be the “worship of nature” which leads “automatically to atheism” (True Christian Religion 771). That is why “naturalism and atheism rush forth together” (Coronis XVI).

     We of course cannot condemn outright all that science does, nor the scientific principles which have “created” the world of technology we all enjoy, deemed to be the most advanced and civilized since the world began. We count “civilized” by such modern standards as electronic equipment and new model cars. What is denounced is eliminating God and heaven, just because they cannot be seen from the natural “lumen” of science (cf. Divine Love and Wisdom 69)! Just because the scientific method which is now a norm to all learning throughout the world, absorbs information just as easily as a sponge absorbs water (Interaction 9) does not mean that science is only harmful. It just should not deny God! For natural theology can never enter into “spiritual theology,” while the reverse, however, cannot be said. For spiritual theology easily enters into the natural scientific techniques (De Verbo 6:4). From spiritual things, all natural things can be seen in order, while from natural things, nothing spiritual at all is witnessed. There are indeed two foundations of truth, the Word and Nature (Spiritual Experiences 5709), yet from the foundation of truth based on nature, nothing of the foundation of truth based on the Word can be seen. “Nothing can be founded upon Scientifics except it be previously founded upon the Word” (Spiritual Experiences 5710). This is repeatedly given as the method:

     “When a person’s basic assumption is to believe nothing until he sees and understands it, he cannot possibly believe; for spiritual and celestial things are neither visible to the eyes nor comprehensible in mental images. But the true order is for a person to become wise from the Lord, that is, from His Word. In that case everything follows as it should…. the premise of belief in the Lord’s Word and of confirming spiritual and celestial truths by means of natural truths, using as far as is possible the terminology of the learned world” (Arcana Coelestia 129).

     Some have seen the need to see God from a premise of prior existence, as Barth, for example, who thundered “Let God be God.” There is no “regenerative soteriology” i.e. human approach to God that generates its own view of Him. This is because “God sought humanity, not the other way around,” he said. Similarly, to the extent that atheism is based on lack of proof of God’s existence, it is just declaring that the method of discovering reality obviates spiritual reality. You can no more prove that God exists than prove that the “idea of God” is itself real. After all how real is an idea? And so it goes.

     It is supremely ironical that the Lord Himself on earth addressed the impossibility of proving God’s existence. Can you guess where? It is of course where He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe” (John 20:29) He was talking to Thomas, who had just fallen on his knees and said, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas having earlier witnessed the Lord’s crucifixion and death, had here witnessed the resurrected Lord. Here was the proof, the nail marks, he asked for. Still, the risen Jesus rebuked him: “Because you have seen Me, you believe.” Part of the irony, is that Thomas “saw” the Lord with his spiritual eyes. He was seen only with the spiritual eyes after the Resurrection, saying “their eyes were opened” (True Christian Religion 777, Conjugial Love 30, Apocalypse Revealed 36). Only when they are opened, is there any “proof” of spiritual reality. And every single night, that proof of spiritual reality is supplied to practically all human beings, as quickly and quietly as the earth turns from light into darkness. We dream. Where does the “light” of a dream come from? The room is dark, yet the dream has light! That is seeing with our spiritual eyes. Besides this “proof” which we leave you to ponder, the Lord when He said, “Blessed are those who do not see yet believe,” meant the very fact that no one can prove God’s existence: “They are blessed who do not see the Lord with their eyes, as Thomas did, and yet believe that He is; for this is seen in the light of truth from the Word” (Faith 10).

     “Believe that He is.” That is God’s existence. The Only “proof” of God comes from the Word of God, which is the “light of truth.” Only the Word can “prove” God’s existence. Only revelation can tell us of God (Sacred Scripture 114). Well, does the Word of the Lord exist? Yes. The Word of God exists: Ergo, God its Author exists. We too “are because God is” (Divine Providence 46e)…

     Another argument: How can such a majestic universe exist without proof of a cause or Maker? Who is clever enough to create a universe without leaving a trace, but God? And as if to have the last laugh, the Lord made His Advent by the same method: spontaneous germination in the womb of Mary: “Only by means of conception from His Divine and by birth from a virgin…” (Divine Love and Wisdom 234, Lord 29) To think the Lord could have come any other way is insane. (True Christian Religion 502)

      Still, people ask “Where is the evidence? Unless I see it for myself…” However, because the “reaction appear[s] as though it were a property of the thing created because it occurs when the thing is acted upon,” (Divine Love and Wisdom 68) the spiritual acting on the natural is so subtle that it escapes empirical detection. Yet ever since paleo-history, man has known God was behind it all: wise people knew the land was “impregnated by the most subtle substances (which can have no other than a spiritual origin), and through this they have power to conjoin themselves to use, from which comes their prolific principle” (Divine Love and Wisdom 310). “There is present both the spiritual which provides a soul and the material which provides a body. Also within everything spiritual there is a conatus to clothe itself with a body” (Divine Love and Wisdom 343). People have known that for ages, as part of the wisdom and lore of culture.

     Well, if so, is there in fact any tangible evidence of God being the source of life? What could constitute “empirical evidence” of God’s Creative hand? Can we see when life began? Was it suddenly? Would evidence of a sudden beginning of life constitute a “smoking gun” for Creation, a finger-print of the Intelligent Designer? Is there any hard evidence of a SUDDEN beginning? Well, ahem, ahem:

The period of biological innovation occurred at virtually the same instant in geologic time all around the world….evolution at supersonic speed.” (Time, When Life Exploded, Dec.4, 1995, p.68)

Life did explode “instantly,” no not on Dec. 4 1995 but from 543 to 510 million years ago. That is a mere 33 “eons,” called by Time “virtually the same instant.” Now the current estimation of the age of the universe is 13.7 giga-years, i.e. billions of years. Dividing 543 million minus 510 million equals 33 million, into 13.7 billion, equals ca. one 400,000th.

     The “instant” of 33 million years when measurable organic life began all over this planet, is one 400,000th of the total time elapsed since creation. That is awfully quick.

     So does that do it? Is this proof? “Life” began suddenly, everywhere, simultaneously! Is this not only God’s signature, but entire palm-print in creation? What else could cause such a sudden arrival of life all at once all over the planet? It is scientifically verifiable evidence. The Lord made His Advent only on this planet (Earths in Universe 113) just because here it can be known that God is Man both from the Word and from experience (Spiritual Experience 4782). God the Creator of the universe was born onto our planet, but 543 million years ago, He left His mark already. Now we can appreciate why the Lord “loves this earth more than others” because here “heavenly truths can be rooted in truths of nature.” (Spiritual Experience 1531) Fossils and mathematics match revelation, the foundation of nature matches how creation happened as revealed in Divine Love and Wisdom, published by Swedenborg in Amsterdam, at the print-shop of Fran ois Changuion, in 1763. “I AM” acts and the time and space universe began.

     If Theists and Atheists met and discussed belief, no solution would likely ensue. There just is no proof. The decision to believe, however, is in the New Church dependent on reading the Writings or not. When Theists are also New Church members, the discussion would revolve around what proof there is that Heaven and Hell or all of the Writings are, in fact, so? However, that is one question that can only be answered by reading for oneself! As Swedenborg himself advised, “Read my books and see for yourself.” After reading them, another question can be asked: who has any shadow of a doubt left that everything said there is so? There is no doubt left whatever. “Life after death is a dead certainty.” Generations of New Church people have faced death content with the certainty of what is said about the afterlife. It is true.

     The same goes for God’s existence. After the Lord is studied in all the Doctrines, the question of God’s existence becomes pass . God is the Divine Itself, the Father, acting as the soul to the Divine Human, the Son, who is the risen Lord. The Holy Spirit comes from Him when He, as the visible God, One both in Person and Essence, speaks. That Divine speech is the “Spirit of Truth leading to all truth,” the source of the Writings, the Heavenly Doctrines. The only proof of God comes from all that He has now said, namely the Word of God in the Heavenly Doctrine.

     We close with the childishly simple proof of God.  There have been so many proofs of God put forward that they become frivolous. But there is some substance to them.

  • The Transcendental Argument says (1) If reason exists then God exists, (2) Reason exists, (3) Therefore, God exists.

  • The Cosmological or first cause Argument says, (1) If I say something must have a cause, it has a cause. (2) I say the universe must have a cause. (3) Therefore, the universe has cause. (4) Therefore, God exists.

    A couple more:

  • The Argument from Beauty or Design (Teleology): (1) Isn’t that baby/sunset/flower/tree beautiful? (2) Only God could have made them so beautiful. (3) Therefore, God exists.

  • Finally a rather cynical argument from the Bible: (1) [arbitrary passage from OT] (2) [arbitrary passage from NT] (3) Therefore, God exists.*

    All of these can be stated more philosophically, but also easily be disproved and so discounted.


         But there is a new argument we mentioned at first: How can people for thousands of year, all over the world, without contacting or even knowing of each other, all reach the same doubt over God’s existence, unless there does indeed exist a God as the object of all such doubt? You just cannot doubt something that actually does not exist, not for that many millennia, in so many scattered locations. In any case, if God actually did not exist, then the doubt of His existence would not even arise. There would be no belief to begin with. This is proved by children who are taught nothing, ending up believing – nothing! However, if God really did not exist, then there would be no universe nor people who could believe, either! But doubt of God has persisted. God has become the permanent object of human doubt. The very persistence of human doubt thereby makes God’s existence permanent! One could put this in Cartesian terms, using Dubito, ergo sum. Transposing, we have, Dubito Deum longeque per orbis terrarum, Ergo Deus est. I doubt God over time and through all the earth, therefore God is.

         However, the only proof of God is found from the “light of truth from the Word.” There is also an influx into the souls of all people that there is a God and that He is one (Canons 4). This influx can only reinforce a true belief when this is expounded from the Word. You can’t see it in your inner self, as Kierkegaard postulated, since the inner self has no answers which have not entered through the senses. There too there is a proof of God, since the idea of God has to enter through the senses. That means God has to reveal Himself in order for anyone to see and then believe in Him. Once the Word has come about through such experiences, the Word of God stands in for the original personal presence and revelation of God. And the existence of the Word of God cannot be denied, however strongly anyone is confirmed in Atheism or not. If the Bible’s existence cannot be denied, neither can God’s existence be denied, since only the Word shows God to be. For God’s existence, His nature, Advent, Salvation of the human race, all this must be revealed from the Word of God alone (Sacred Scripture 114, 115). No one can come up with this information on one’s own, by natural deduction. “No one can see from below the things which are in the heavens” (De Verbo 6:4). They must be revealed. With the Second Coming having taken place in the revealed Writings, the conclusion that “God is” and that “we are because God is” (Divine Providence 46e), is almost a foregone conclusion, but apparently not with 100% of witnesses. Therefore, “Blessed is the man who has not seen, yet believes” (John 20:29, Faith 10)

Mike Cates   PO Box 292984   Lewisville, TX  75029  Article Site Map  Writing Site Map

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Does prayer impact healing?


Does prayer impact healing

“I’m going in for an operation; pray for me.” “My mother is sick and they are not sure if she’s going to pull through. Would you please pray for her?”

What could be more natural than to ask for help from a loving God when we or someone we care for is in need, and especially when we we’d like to have some reassurance that we are not alone? It is frightening to face a threat to our health, and perhaps even more so to watch someone we love slide slowly downhill. So people reach out to the Lord, the one who can make a difference when no one else can. And we ask others to do so.

But does it do any good? It may make you feel better, but is it really a pain killer that simply numbs you to reality? Surely the Lord is doing all that can possibly be done for that person. How would the prayers of one human being sway the God of the universe to give someone more healing power, or more courage to pull through a hard healing process?

I’m going to assume that you believe that praying for others is a good idea. After all, in the Lord’s prayer we ask for all of us to receive blessings – “give us this day our daily bread … lead us not into temptation.” And the Lord tells us to pray for those who spitefully use us and persecute us (Matt 5:44). In New Church teaching that prayer means that we should “intercede” for them, meaning that we should seek to stand between them and the harm that is coming to them. (Apocalypse Explained # 644:23). Imagine a parent willing to stand in harm’s way to protect a child and you are picturing what interceding means. That’s a pretty clear message to pray for others, especially in their times of need.

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But what can we pray for? We know we can pray for spiritual well being; that’s obvious, and should be the main thing we pray for. The Lord is interested in things that last. Can we also pray for a new car? For a solution to a health crisis?

I would say that a prayer is as good as the intention of the person asking it. If you have a sincere desire for something good, your spirit will be open to the Lord’s purposes.

One way to ensure that we are open to the Lord’s way of doing things is to do what He did while on earth. When He was in the Garden of Gethsemane He prayed, “Father if it is possible let this cup pass from Me. Nevertheless, not as I will but as You will” (Matthew 26:39). This, for me is the best answer. Pray for almost anything, but when you are done, turn it over to the Lord, telling Him, in so many words, that you trust His leading and providence.

Here’s a good reason to pray for people when they are in need: it works. Look at this famous study about prayer for others done by Randy Byrd: “In 1988, as a cardiologist at the UCSF Medical Center, his double-blind study of 393 cardiac patients showed that those prayed for by Christian prayer groups used in the study were five times less likely to require antibiotics, three times less likely to develop pulmonary edema, and, compared with the control group, fewer prayed-for patients died.”

The Christians in this study were simply given the first name and initial of the last name. They did not know the people, nor did any of the hospital workers know that the study was occurring. A similar study was carried out by Zvi Bentwich at Kaplan Hospital in Rehovor, Israel. In this study patients were not prayed for, but were given “healing intention” (meaning well-wishes) by volunteers.

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One interesting aspect of the research done of the effectiveness of prayer is that non-directed prayer – prayer that is simply opening ourselves up to the Lord without any goal in mind – seems to be somewhat more effective than directed prayer. That is one of the reasons why it is so important to end our prayers, as the Lord did, with “nevertheless, not as I will but as You will.”

People in the medical profession sometimes say, “God heals; the doctor sends the bill.” This is obviously true. Think about it this way: If you think of someone with love, your spirit is touching that person’s. If you pray, your spirit is open to the Lord’s presence in an unusually heightened way. If you pray for someone else, you share a bit of that connection with the Lord with that other person. If in some small way that presence of the Lord could help, it would be worth doing.

Prayer, in the end, is speaking with God. Its real aim is to change ourselves. It is turning to the source of life and hope. Whenever something that we value is threatened, we will benefit from turning to Him. His purposes are higher than ours and He will not always answer us in ways that we might like, but He will answer us. Our job it to turn to Him daily and especially when we are in need. And if we cultivate patterns of asking for His help we open ourselves up to the best chance of receiving the gifts He has to offer.


“The more closely you are connected to the Lord, the more distinctly you appear to yourself to be your own person, and yet the more clearly you recognize that you are the Lord’s.”

Divine Providence 42

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How to become a better person?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

better personNot everybody wants to be a better person and develop along what can be our hectic journey of life. My cat doesn’t. She’s quite content with the stage she has reached in her life — as long as I feed and stroke her on a daily basis. Nor do those human beings who are uninterested in moral values, want to improve their character. You may be different.

Perhaps you have a vague uneasy feeling that you could be a better person – if only you knew how. Not necessarily because you want people to think well of you but because you would like to live a decent life, becoming more patient, tolerant, kind,  fair-minded or whatever. Many people are interested in making spiritual progress.

Becoming a better person through therapy

Much of psychotherapy and personal growth coaching is about strengthening the ego, integrating the self, correcting one’s self-image, building self-confidence, the establishing of realistic goals and so on. However, some therapists tend to believe that self-insight into our hang-ups or personal problems is sufficient for personal healing. And those that don’t actually believe this tend not to report their efforts to tackle the clients’ volition. It is as if new ways of thinking are sufficient for changes in behaviour.

But is this true? Does personal improvement come just from enlightened understanding? Is there really no need for a change of heart in facing a new direction? No need also for effort to change one’s ways?

Becoming a better person through self-discipline

Can I suggest the idea that personal improvement involves the effort of self-discipline. Self-discipline over what we think, say and do.

“Thoughts become words. Words become actions. Actions become habits. Habits become character. And character becomes your destiny.” (Unknown author)

In any trip to the shop there is a price to pay for anything we want to take home. But my point of view is that in becoming a better person it is not so much the wallet or purse that we need to produce but rather the cost of letting go of an attitude that has been with us for perhaps a long time, something that has almost become second nature. One can’t have one’s cake and eat it. So how can you expect to become more patient and tolerant whilst continuing to indulge in impatience or intolerance?

Likewise does not learning self-restraint and moderation mean forgoing excess? If so,  every desirable quality has its opposite that needs to be acknowledged as something that needs to die within the individual.

Perhaps this is why Old Testament injunctions regarding religious laws have been often couched in terms of what not to do. Don’t do this and don’t do that. In other words, you can’t do what is good unless you stop doing what is bad.

The world from biblical times on has had people who have acted selfishly or dangerously. So the Bible and the criminal law is expressed in terms of what not to do. Don’t steal, don’t act fraudulently, don’t murder and so on.

Becoming a better person through affirmations

Yet not everyone behaves badly. My plea is that instead of assuming we have what Christianity has traditionally called our ‘original sin’, we might see ourselves as innocent until our individual actions consistently prove us guilty.

Those adopting this stance practice affirmations. They say :

“I am not the impatience/intolerance/closed-mindedness/unkindness etc that I sometimes feel. I disown such traits. They need no longer cling to me.

Instead I can take on board patience/tolerance/open-mindedness/kindness etc.”

“I can learn to identify myself with good traits and as I practice them they will become ingrained into my makeup.” 

Of course, saying affirmations is one thing, but following through a commitment to change can be quite another. The conscious decision to change can be viewed as a  bridge between acknowledgement and action. If no action ensues then there probably has been no real decision at all but only a flirting with decision.

Becoming a better person through determination

This raises the interesting question about how genuine are our intentions. How real is our decision? The existential psychotherapist Irvin Yalom has pointed out that Samuel Beckett’s Waiting for Godott clearly illustrates a lack of resolve. The characters think, plan, procrastinate. The play ends with this sequence

Vladimir: Shall we go?

Estragon: Let’s go.

[Stage directions: No one moves]

Becoming a better person through trust in a higher power.

Sometimes the going can be very hard. However much you try to change your ways you may fail. Members of Alcoholics Anonymous recognise this and try to put their trust in what they call ‘a higher power’ many of whom think of as God. Religious faith means just this surrender to something beyond ourselves. For example Christians are taught to try to surrender themselves to the work of the Spirit of God working within them. It is said that without the gift of the Holy Spirit of God they cannot acquire better characteristics.

Those outside organised religion who have a similar approach often are more comfortable referring to this Spirit as the Divine Within without which they are powerless to effect change in their lives.

In my opinion the huge problem with both groups is the erroneous way this insight is sometimes applied. As if belief in a higher power absolves our responsibility for self-discipline and self-control. I trust that active co-operation with what I see as the Divine Spirit can transform my character. This is my challenge. It involves my heart and hands as well as my head.

There are many who declare that man is saved through faith, or as they say, if he merely has faith…Faith however is not mere thought …. thought does not save anyone. (Swedenborg: Heavenly secrets  section 9363)

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


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The State of a Vastated Church

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

 Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Scarcely anyone knows how the case is with the rejection of an old church and the adoption of a new church. He who does not know man’s interiors and their states, and consequently man’s states after death, cannot but infer that those who are of the old church, and in whom good and truth have been laid waste, that is, are no longer at heart acknowledged, are to perish, either as the antediluvians perished by the flood, or as did the Jews by expulsion from their land, or in some other way. But when the church has been laid waste, that is, when it is no longer in any good of faith, it perishes chiefly in respect to the states of its interiors, thus in respect to its states in the other life. Heaven then removes itself away from them – and consequently the Lord – and transfers itself to others, who are adopted in their stead; for without a church somewhere on the earth there is no communication of heaven with man; for the church is like the heart and lungs of the Grand Man on the earth.

They who are then of the old church, and thus are removed from heaven, are in a kind of *inundation as to their interiors, and in fact in an inundation over the head. This inundation the man himself does not observe while he lives in the body, but he comes into it after death. In the other life this inundation plainly appears like a thick cloud by which they are encompassed and separated from heaven. The state of those who are in this thick cloud is that they cannot possibly see what the truth of faith is, and still less what is its good; for the light of heaven, in which is intelligence and wisdom, cannot penetrate into this cloud. This is the state of a vastated church.

(Arcana Coelestia 4423)

[*inundate – to cover with a flood]

May 19, 2010