Does God purposely deceive us?

You bet He does! But it is for our own good.

If humans could see that God’s life flows into us and affects our hearts to do good, they would vigorously rebel. So God is very careful to allow the human race to believe and sense that life and goodness of heart issues forth from themselves.

This divine deception preserves our free will, which is essential to spiritual salvation. However, this state, in and of itself, is a form of trance since individuals are unable to perceive reality as it truly is.

Ever since the “Fall of man,” which began with God putting Adam into a deep sleep, the human race has been allowed to gain a strong sense of selfhood and ontological autonomy. So, the very concept that all life and goodness comes only from God is viewed as anti-intuitive. Again, the Lord God has permitted this outcome so that humankind would retain the free will necessary to make better life-choices and to prefer God’s tenets (as opposed to self-rule) later in life.

God allowed this condition to occur in order to allow humans the chance to eventually rise above our biological selves. I have been mocked for my suggestion that God hypnotized the human race in order to later de-hypnotize them. But the term hypnosis fits well with the higher or spiritual meaning behind the Genesis story of Adam being put into a deep sleep (“hypno” means sleep). This “deep sleep” was a diminished state of human cognitive function. Let me quote theologian Emanuel Swedenborg concerning this important topic:

He who is being regenerated believes at first that the good which he thinks and does is from himself, and that he also merits something, for he does not yet know, and if he knows he does not comprehend, that good can flow in from some other source, nor that it can be otherwise than that he should be recompensed, because he does it from himself.

Swedenborg claimed that humans originally had access to a higher mind and cognitive level by which they had direct experience of God’s love and spiritual energy flowing into and maintaining their very lives. However, human self-love and self-judgment became so attractive over time that God was forced to disconnect them from higher mind so that they could delude themselves from their misguided “bliss.” Without such a divine strategy humans would have lost their free will and the chance for eventually turning things around. Back to Swedenborg and the rest of his challenging quote:

Unless at first he believed this, he would never do any good. But by this means he is initiated not only into the affection of doing what is good, but also into knowledges concerning good and also concerning merit; and when in this manner he has been led into the affection of doing what is good, he then begins to think differently, namely that good flows in from the Lord . . . (Arcana Coelestia, Vol. V, n. 4145)

The idea that an individual begins to think differently represents enlightenment, or augmentation of one’s cognitive function. Since trance involves a diminished cognitive state, the process of spiritual evolution necessitates people “snapping out of it” and “waking up.”

The world needs a bold new church that is willing to greet its parishioners with a slap on the face from a cold wet rag!  Unfortunately, most people go to church to feel good about themselves and find validation from others. We are all accomplished hypnotists.

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Is Hell Eternal?

Most people who belong to traditional faith-systems assume that damnation in Hell is eternal and don’t give it a second thought.

But based on the visionary insights and theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a spiritual seeker is given much to think about. Swedenborg’s systematic theology offers the most detailed look at life in Heaven and Hell. One of his most unique ideas is that heaven is not closed off to anyone, yet many individuals choose hell and choose to stay!

To understand this novel concept one must grasp that neither Heaven nor Hell is a place you go to. They are not physical destinations. Rather, each is the spiritual reality one creates or cultivates from his or her life-choices while on earth. The spiritual world, which is beyond space, time and physical coordinates, reflects the quality of one’s spirit.

A person gravitating to either heaven or hell simply follows the path of their own life principles. The human spirit simply follows its heart. That is why the ultimate purpose of religion is to direct the heart to make the best choices—which often requires us to transcend our selfish motives and self-interests.

A person who puts themselves above others and has inner contempt for others cannot stand being around those who have embraced mutual love. Such individuals actually find heaven a suffocating experience and flee from angelic beings of their own FREE WILL!

But the big question is if, after the death of the physical body, one takes the wrong spiritual path—from a life of putting themselves always above others—is there a way out of hell? Even those who study Swedenborg intently argue whether Hell is a forever thing. Those who contend that a God of Infinite love would not allow for hell to be an eternal situation cannot bear the thought of such a thing. Yet, nowhere in his writings does Swedenborg concur. For instance, Swedenborg says this about those who falsely believe that God can do anything when it comes to salvation:

For he supposes that if the Lord wills, He can save everyone, and this by means innumerable – as by miracles, by the dead rising again, by immediate revelations, by the angels withholding men from evil and impelling them to good by an open strong force, and by means of many states, on being led into which a man performs repentance, and by other means. But he does not know that all these means are compulsory, and that no man can possibly be reformed thereby. (Arcana Coelestia, Vol 5, n. 4032).

But can’t an individual come to his or her senses after enduring hell for eons? Again, in hell, a person simply is faced with one’s own evil.  However, the full answer to this question comes from Swedenborg’s scientific background. He observed that a person’s Ruling Love formed the bio-structure of person’s spiritual body. A person therefore becomes who he or she really inwardly is—this is very fabric of one’s being. If God could change this He would in effect destroy that person’s individuality and life.

I have just touched on a few areas of this important issue. I invite you to add to this discussion by sharing your own views.

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Good, Evil, and Free Will—You Decide

Swedenborg Foundation

by Hanna Hyatt

If you have begun to dabble in Swedenborg’s many works, you might have seen references to influx, a term that’s often rendered as “inflow” in newer translations. Are you curious about influx? Have you wondered how this divine influence relates to free will? What does Swedenborg say about how the interplay between good, evil, and freedom impacts a person’s spiritual life?  If you want to know more, you’ve arrived at the right place!

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It is common knowledge that we can’t reach out and grab part of the sun. We can only feel the sun’s light through layers and layers of atmosphere. Swedenborg compares the physical reality of the earth with the spiritual reality of heaven and hell. In the same way that approaching the physical sun would destroy our bodies, he tells us that coming into direct contact with God—whom Swedenborg describes as love itself—would completely overwhelm us. We need the layers of separation to turn an immense energy into a nurturing, sustaining force.Swedenborg focuses on this comparison in his book Heaven and Hell, where he describes the nature of the Lord’s love, the relationship between physical and spiritual reality, and the Lord’s goal for humanity: to receive his love and “pay it forward” by behaving in loving ways toward others. Swedenborg writes that God’s love reaches humanity through angels, who help human beings reach the Lord. Once loving ideas and concepts reach people, their minds and souls receive God’s love, which begins to influence the way they perceive the world.

Through his spiritual experiences, Swedenborg found that before people can begin deciding whether or not they want to act on that divine influence, three important processes must happen backstage: the combination of influx, evil influences, and freedom.

Influx

Influx happens when the Lord’s love reaches people’s minds, and Swedenborg writes that our lives depend on it: “We could not survive for a moment if the influx from the spiritual world were taken from us” (New Jerusalem #277). The life-sustaining force that flows into us from God, he continues, is love. If we embrace this love and try to listen for the “little voice” of conscience that it produces, it provides the loving thoughts and inclinations that enable us to love others and embody good ideas. These are our good influences, also known as influx.

If influx were our only influence, we would be nothing more than vessels for the Lord’s love, without any ability to decide how to act or even think. Goodness would be thrust upon us, and we would not be free. We would be nothing more than very loving robots. Swedenborg writes that the Lord protects us against this by allowing us to be exposed to evil.

Evil Influences

Swedenborg focuses on the love of self as one of the primary hellish loves. He notes that the Lord gives us the ability to love hell through all the ways we can love ourselves—valuing success and popularity, making idols of our strengths, and admiring ourselves above all others. With this idea, the Lord allows hell to reach into our lives and influence us, just as his influx influences us. By allowing us to suffer from other people’s selfish decisions, Swedenborg says, God gives us the tools to recognize this behavior as evil. In this way, the Lord gives us freedom to choose between good and evil and make our own decisions.

Swedenborg writes that evil influences are the only way that human beings can be free. While the Lord is providing all good things through heaven, hell is providing us with fuel to love ourselves and the world, to reject all good things and love evil. These two forces working in opposition give us two paths to choose between, and those choices form our character.

Freedom

Through our thoughts and through our values, the Lord’s love meets the influences of hellish love. We have the freedom to think that we want to love others and that we want to love ourselves—which in Swedenborg’s theology are two mutually exclusive things—without skipping a beat. We are the mixing bowl where everything good and bad jumbles together, making it hard to figure out and isolate the good or the bad. From situation to situation, we apply both good ideas and bad ideas, usually with mixed motives and confused influences.

That confusing concoction is called freedom, and Swedenborg tells us that the Lord adores it and protects it fiercely, as Swedenborg notes in his book Divine Providence: “The Lord protects our freedom the way we protect the pupil of our eye” (#97).

We are able to make decisions freely if and only if our heads are breathing the air in the sky with the angels and our feet are planted solidly on the ground, where hell can reach us and influence us. Swedenborg uses this airy imagery to illustrate the Lord’s love for our freedom: “Taking away human spiritual freedom would be like removing the wheels from coaches, the air-catching arms from windmills, the sails from ships” (True Christianity #482).

For people struggling with selfish impulses or negative emotions, influx also allows for divine love and good influences to flow in and provide support. It also supplies us with everything we need to connect with hell. If we go through life searching for the good and the Lord’s love, Swedenborg says, the Lord will continue to open our hearts and minds and allow us to receive more of his love. This leads to an apparently contradictory yet key principle of Swedenborg’s theology: The only way we can freely choose to follow the Lord is if he allows us to leave him.

A recurring image from Swedenborg’s writings is that the Lord’s sunlight warms us, just as the air we breathe fuels us and the ground we stand on gives us balance. We need all influx, evil influences, and freedom to be able to think and act for ourselves—that, he explains, is the only way that human beings are able to love the Lord from their own hearts and minds.

Fate – Can I Escape It?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

fateAfter the terrorist explosion at Maalbeek Metro station in Brussels in March 2016, one person said he was going to stop using the underground railway and walk to work instead. However, others think in terms of fate. ‘What is meant to be, will be’. ‘My time will come when it comes.’ Do you think that things will probably happen no matter what you do and that fate will catch up with you in the end?

Alternatively, can you escape fate? Can it be cheated?

If you believe in fate, then you might believe what will happen to you is already written in the stars.

In some cultures in the world there seems to be more of a tendency to believe in fate. Ahsan Ul Haq Kayani is a senior patrolling officer with the national highways police in Pakistan. He did some research in three cities there, interviewing professional drivers, police officers, and policy makers. It became clear that, across the board, fatalism about death extends to fatalism about risky driving. For example, one police officer said, “If a disaster has to come in your life, you cannot escape, no matter what you do – even if a driver follows safety measures.”

Consequences of believing in fate

In some places, tragically there are downtrodden people who are defeatist for understandable reasons. They live in dire poverty, and lack opportunities to better themselves. Their situation reminds me of the laboratory research on dogs by Martin Seligman in the 1960’s at the University of Pennsylvania. Whatever the dogs did to escape their cages, they were punished with an electric shock, and so they became passive and gave up trying. Likewise, if oppressed people were to try to escape their dreadful circumstances only to be continually defeated, then, like the laboratory dogs, it would not be surprising that they might learn to feel helpless and passively resign themselves to their fate.

Usually, however, for most of us only some things in life turn out badly – perhaps you fail your exams, your boss at work is overcritical, or you catch a dangerous bug.

If you were to blame fate for misfortune you would see the future as inevitable and might actually give up studying, stop trying to work well, or no longer live in a hygienic manner. Nevertheless, in so doing, would you not be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Bringing about the very things, you do not want?

Fate and religion

Since the time of active belief in Roman, Greek and other mythologies, fate has often been thought of as divinely inspired.

It seems difficult to think about a God who can be all-powerful but who does not actually control everything that is going on in the world.

The Pew Foundation in 2012 asked Muslims in twenty-three countries ranging from Bosnia to Indonesia, “Do you believe: in predestination or fate?” and found widespread fatalism.

Over the years, there have been deadly stampedes and other crowd disasters during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet, each year thousands continue to make the journey. After a building crane fell into Mecca’s Grand Mosque in September 2015, killing 114 and injuring 394, the mosque’s Imam Abdul Rahman Al Sudais visited the injured and, as he met each one, told them, “This is the will of Allah.”

“Whatever man is or does and whatever happens to him is directly willed by Allah”(Raphael Patai, anthropologist referring to Muslim belief)

Many critics say that until the Saudi authorities do something the deaths are likely to continue. It seems to me they are using the excuse of fate for not taking responsibility.

We also find a similar idea of fate – what theologians call pre-destination – in some strands of Christianity.

Yet paradoxically, even when religion has this idea of fate, it is not thought to take away individual freedom to make personal choices. So, how could these two ideas – divine omnipotence and free will – be mutually compatible? Even today, this question is a matter of great study and interest.

Fate and free will

I think the teaching of Emanuel Swedenborg regarding the nature of God offers an answer. The all-powerful force behind the universe is said to so love us that we are allowed the freedom to think and be what we want. In other words, it is not in the divine nature of loving others to want to impose one’s will on them; but rather to permit us all to learn from our mistakes and freely choose our own character.

If there is freedom, things are not inevitable” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

I would suggest that if we did not have this inner freedom to choose, then we would be inhuman – mere robots – following our inbuilt software to obey the dictate of the engineer who designed us.

Swedenborg’s idea is that it is God’s priority is to work in a hidden way to provide us with what we deeply need for a peaceful and contented eternal life – wisdom, forgiveness, a kind generous heart etc. This happy fate is what God wants for all people. A lower priority is that we get what we physically need for pleasure during this temporary life on earth. Therefore, according to this doctrine, improvement to one’s inner life can only come when one freely chooses to respond positively to the divine leading.

If all this is true then it follows that the all-powerful God will not necessarily stop me being a victim of circumstances and human folly. But when evil things happen, it is not the will of God. God never wills bad things on anybody. Instead, God’s love wants us all to be inwardly happy.

My advice is do not be resigned to what you imagine is your earthly fate but trust in Divine Providence for your eventual destiny. Likewise, a common attitude seems to be that life is full of bad things and we just have to hope for the best and get on with it.

A person’s fate after death is determined by the kind of life he led in the world” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands

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Posted on21st June 2016CategoriesMeaning of life, Other aspects of meaningTags, ,  Leave a comment

Freedom or Free will

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

By Mr. Joseph S. David

Freedom or Free Will

Free will is the quality that distinguishes humans from animals. Animals cannot be either good or evil = they are what they are – but humans can choose. The Lord protects this freedom of will to the extent that He allows evil, because only loves that are freely chosen can be appropriated to an individual. Because we are all free to choose to do what we believe is right in the Lord’s eyes, or choose to do what we want, we can be formed into an image of the love we choose. The image may be heavenly or hellish, it’s our choice. No animal has such a choice.

The Lord has always given mankind a choice. Adam had a choice in the garden of Eden, Noah had a choice to obey about the ark or not, Abram had a choice to travel to Canaan or not, and the children of Israel had choices galore.

They all had received revelation of one kind or another, culminating in the Word from Moses, the prophets and the Gospels – what we now call the Bible. (You will find short explanations of the Most Ancient Church, the Ancient and Israelitish churches elsewhere on this site.) The writings for the New Church are a continuation of the Lord’s revelation. The knowledge that they had, and that we have today, from those revelations opens up the ability to make good choices, or bad ones.

We can’t change our loves ourselves. We can’t flip back our skull and throw a switch in our brain that makes us love our neighbor – but the Lord can do something like that over time. And without even opening up our skull! But He won’t do that unless we want Him to. We show Him that we want it to happen by acting as if He’d already done it. If we force ourselves to act as if we love our neighbor even though we don’t feel it yet, we will one day realize that, all unknown to us, He has reached in and changed us a bit. We may have forced ourselves, but free will means that we are free to force ourselves – it’s our choice.

Some people may believe that they can’t change. Maybe they try for a little while and don’t notice anything, so they lose heart. This is a lifetime project. All during our life in the natural world the Lord keeps us in a state of equilibrium between the influences of heaven and hell, just so that our will can move us a little bit one way or the other, so that we can remain in control. This is our freedom.

The Lord wants everyone born to come to His heaven, it’s what we are born for, but we are all free to decide for ourselves if we will do so or not.

(References: True Christian Religion 475, 483, 498, 500)

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A something analogous to Free Will in all Created Things

A something analogous to Free Will in all Created Things

Unless there had been a certain free will in all created things, both animate and inanimate, there could have been no creation. For as regards beasts, without free will in natural things there would be no choice of food conducive to their nourishment, nor any procreation and preservation of offspring, thus no beast. If there were not such freedom with the fishes of the sea, and the shellfish at the bottom of the sea, there would be no fish and shellfish. So unless it were in every little insect there would be no silkworm producing silk, no bee furnishing wax and honey, nor any butterfly sporting with its consort in the air and nourishing itself with the juices of the flowers, and representing the happy state of man in the heavenly aura after he has cast off his exuviae like the worm. Unless there were something analogous to free will in the soil of the earth, in the seed cast into it, in all parts of the tree springing from it, and in its fruits, and again in new seeds, there would be no vegetation. If there were not something analogous to free will in every metal and in every stone, common and precious, there would be neither metal nor stone, yea, nor even a grain of sand for this freely absorbs the ether, emits its natural exhalation, rejects its disused elements, and restores itself with new. Hence is the magnetic sphere about the magnet, a sphere of iron about iron, of copper about copper, of silver about silver, of gold about gold, of stone about stone, of nitre about nitre, of sulphur about sulphur, and a different sphere about all the dust of earth, from which sphere the inmost of every seed is impregnated, and its prolific principle vegetates for without such an exhalation from every particle of the dust of the earth there would be no beginning, and hence no continuance of germination. How otherwise than by what is exhaled from it could the earth penetrate with its dust and water into the inmost centre of a seed sown, as into “a grain of mustard seed, which is the least of all seeds, but when it is grown it is the greatest among herbs, and becometh a great tree“? (Matt. xiii. 32; Mark iv. 30-32). Since then freedom has been granted to all created subjects, to each according to its nature, why not free will to man according to his nature, which is that he may be spiritual? It is for this that free will in spiritual things has been given to man from the womb to the end of his life in the world, and afterwards to eternity. (TCR a 499)

What Free Will is

What Free Will is

That it may be known what free will is, and the nature of it, it is necessary that it should be known whence it is; from the recognition of its origin especially it is known not only that it is, but also what it is. Its origin is from the spiritual world, where the mind of man is kept by the Lord. The mind of man is his spirit, which lives after death. And his spirit is continually in company with its like in that world; and through the material body with which it is encompassed, his spirit is with men in the natural world. The reason why a man does not know that as to his mind he is in the midst of spirits is, that the spirits with whom he is consociated in the spiritual world think and speak spiritually, but the spirit of the man, while he is the material body, thinks and speaks naturally and spiritual thought and speech cannot be understood or perceived by the natural man, nor the reverse; nor therefore can they be seen. But when the spirit of a man is in association with spirits in their world, then he is also, with them in spiritual thought and speech, because his mind is inwardly spiritual but outwardly natural; and therefore by its interiors it communicates with them and by its exteriors with men. Through this communication man has a perception of things, and thinks about them analytically. If man had not this. he would think no more nor otherwise than a beast. So also if all intercourse with spirits should be taken away from him he would instantly, die. But that it may be comprehended how man can be kept in a middle state between heaven and hell, and thereby in the spiritual equilibrium whence he has free will, it shall be briefly explained:—The spiritual world consists of heaven and hell. Heaven is over head, and hell is beneath the feet there; not however in the centre of the earth inhabited by men, but beneath the earth of that world,—which is also of spiritual origin, and therefore has not extension, but the appearance of extension. Between heaven and hell there is a great interval, which to those who are there appears as an entire world. Into this interval evil from hell is exhaled in all abundance; and on the other hand, from heaven good also flows in there in all abundance. It was this interval of which Abraham said to the rich man in hell—” Between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that those who would pass over from hence to you cannot; neither can they who are there pass over to us” (Luke xvi. 26). Every man as to his spirit is in the midst of this interval, in order, solely, that he may be in free will. (TCR n. 475)

The spiritual equilibrium which is free will may be compared to a balance, in each scale of which equal weights are placed; if then a little be added to the scale of one side the tongue of the balance above vibrates. It is also similar to a carrying pole, or a large beam balanced upon its support. All and each of the things that are within man, as the heart, the lungs, the stomach, the liver, the pancreas, the spleen, the intestines, and the other organs, are in such an equilibrium. Hence it is that each one in the greatest quietness can perform its functions. So with all the muscles; without such an equilibrium of the muscles all action and reaction would cease, and man would no longer act as a man. Since then all things in the body are in such an equilibrium, all things in the brain also are in the same condition; consequently all things that are in the mind therein, which relate to the will and the understanding. (ibid. n. 478)