“All freedom is of love, insomuch that love and freedom are one; and as love is the life of a person, freedom also is of their life.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 73
“All freedom is of love, insomuch that love and freedom are one; and as love is the life of a person, freedom also is of their life.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 73
“It [is] impossible for any good to take root in a person except in their freedom, for that which does not take root in freedom is dispelled at the first sign of evil and of temptation. “
Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 3854
Discovering inner health and transformation
People have random eye movements under closed eyelids (REM) from time to time when they are asleep and if wakened at these times they report dreaming. In this way sleep researchers found that most people dream for about a fifth of their sleeping time. A person of age seventy-five will not only have slept twenty-five years, but will have spent five years dreaming! We need this for, if deprived of REM sleep for a while, we become disturbed and even psychotic. Although occasionally there is speech in dreams, it is mostly composed of dramatic visual representations. There are no proven scientific theories to explain the experience. So why is it important? How can we understand it?
Clinical psychologist Wilson Van Dusen, wrote that dreams tend to deal with a wide range of present-life concerns of the person. The precise meaning of any one however is unclear, even though it makes use of people, situations and objects familiar to the sleeper.
Because of familiarity with the content, it isn’t immediately apparent that the dream uses things and people in a symbolic manner. In this way whilst getting an inkling of what is going on — we are protected from a blunt expression of those inner concerns and desires we would rather keep from daytime awareness.
Dreaming is thus a personal process that need to be understood in a personal way. And so a book offering a general meaning of dream symbols is probably not valid.
If you haven’t worked with your own dreams, they can easily seem to be a mishmash of elements into which one could read almost anything.
In using images in a symbolic way it is as if the dream is allowing you, the dreamer, to remain in freedom to listen or ignore its message. If your dream simply said you boast too much or waste too much money, it would not only would be a distressing insult but one you could not fail to see. Instead it offers an intriguing drama you can try to remember and work out only if you wish.
Carl Gustav Jung suggested that dreams come from a level more objective than one’s subjective point of view. Dream images are not from the dreamer’s usual subjective sphere of thought and language. It is as if what the dream is saying goes beyond our daytime conscious understanding to reveal something true about the inner quality of our life. It possesses a higher wisdom and knowledge about all our memories, hopes and fears.
In his books The Natural Depth In Man and The Presence Of Other Worlds, Van Dusen gives a clear picture of the hidden reality of our inner world. His understanding not only comes from his own experience as a psychotherapist working with his patients dreams but also his study of Eastern and Western philosophy, particularly the extraordinary insights and often frightening experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg. Van Dusen concludes that in a wide range of states of consciousness (including that of dreaming) an inner world is revealed as precisely Swedenborg describes.
This is a hidden realm of spirit which will become fully conscious to us all following our bodily death: a spiritual world which permeates all our human minds, whilst we still live on earth, with inflow of high and low desires, pure and corrupt thoughts, as well as beneficial and harmful impulses; an influx of good and bad influences that are perfectly balanced to preserve our inner human freedom.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on18th December 2012
Have you ever wondered why some days we can wake up feeling bright and able to cope with the day and other times, for no obvious external reasons, we can feel ‘down’ or even depressed?
External events can help create positive and negative states and behaviour in us but they are not the only cause. What makes two patients who have been admitted to hospital with kidney failure react in such different ways? One bewails his bad luck and finds fault with everything and everyone whereas the other is thankful that it is not more serious and that he has such a caring family who will support him in the future.
Our outer mind tends to be focussed on the world around us because our physical senses dominate. So it is natural to fall in with the idea that all there is to life is what we can see, hear and touch, and that we are separate from others. When we believe this and rely solely on our own abilities and ideas we can easily feel overwhelmed and vulnerable to negative states.
The reality is, however, that we are all interconnected at the spiritual level. If we are honest with ourselves we know that we need people and rely on others all the time.
“No man is an island, entire of itself” (John Donne)
This network of interdependence and connectedness involves more people than we are aware of in this world. Emanuel Swedenborg said that all our thoughts and feelings flow into us through unseen spiritual companions. This may sound strange to you if you haven’t thought about it before but it explains how an idea can suddenly pop into our mind. So where is the real ‘me’ in all of this?
We have been given the freedom to choose which thoughts and feelings to identify with and make our own. We are in control of the tuning switch and can choose whether to tune into Radio Heaven or Radio Hell.
The choice is yours – choose to identify with your positive thoughts and feelings today!
“Smile, God loves you” is an easy thing to say but if God loves us why does he allow us to suffer? How can we reconcile a God of Love with our everyday experience of the world in which we live?
To try and get some idea of how God loves us we could start by thinking about parents and their children. It is a very human thing for parents to try to love their children equally whatever their different characters and abilities and to seek the best for them as individuals whatever happens. Now parenthood is tough and however idealistically parents approach the bringing up of their children it is often the case that one child will think that mother or father loves their sister or brother more than them. And yet that is not what the parents really want or strive to achieve. And if children grow up and go in very different directions to those envisaged by their parents, truly loving parents will continue to love their children just the same.
Now God loves his children, you, me and everyone else, not with the imperfect love which we express in our lives, that has limits and conditions, but with an unconditional love that has no limits and no boundaries and is shared equally with all. And it is the nature of God’s love that it is given with the freedom for us to accept it, reject it or misuse it – there are no conditions in which God’s love is not given – it is unconditional.
In our human relationships we know how wonderful it is if our love for someone else is freely returned – not because they have to love us but because they want to love us. Paradoxically the more freedom we give to those whom we love the greater and stronger is the love that is returned. Force someone to love you and no real mutual love develops. Now offering to love someone and leaving them the freedom to respond or not is a high risk and potentially painful strategy – as most people find out at some stage in their lives when love is not returned.
And this, in a very human and finite way, is an image and likeness of how God loves us. He offers us love and gives us the freedom to say yes or no. God knows that if we return his love then a deep relationship can develop but if we are unable to respond to his love then he feels pain for what might have been.
One of the hardest things a parent has to do is to let their child make mistakes – despite realising the probable pain and suffering that will ensue. Children have to grow and develop and make their own way in the world and not feel they are being manipulated or directed by their parents. They will make the right decisions and the wrong decisions and yet the loving parent has to stand back and not intervene. They just offer advice to their child as to what they should do and then leave their child the freedom to make up their own mind.
And this is how God’s love works with us. God wants us to be happy and to be fulfilled. He wants us to respond to his love in freedom and he shows us how we should live. But because God values our freedom above all else he cannot intervene when he sees things going wrong. If he intervened in the greatest disasters that beset mankind surely he would also have to intervene in even the smallest personal problems in life and then where would we be – we would be like puppets being controlled by God in the play of life.
Bad things happen. God does not want them to happen. But God cannot intervene because of the freedom he gives us to choose to respond or not to his unconditional love. This is the nature of the God who loves you. God loves everyone equally but what we receive of his love depends on our openness to his love and our acknowledgement that all love comes from God. If we respond to his love we can feel loved, free and forgiven and we will then want to share God’s love with those around us.
The love of God is broad like beech and meadow,
wide as the wind, and an eternal home.
God leaves us free to seek him or reject him,
he gives us room to answer ‘Yes’ or ‘No’
There are three things which make up the essence of God’s love – loving others more than oneself, wishing to be one with them, and devoting oneself to their happiness.
It should be known that God is constantly present, continually striving and acting on a person, and touching his free will but never forcing it. For if God were to force a person’s free will, his dwelling in God would be destroyed, and he would be left only with God’s dwelling in him.
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.
“The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30
There is No Blind Chance
As was pointed out in another chapter, man is not responsible for all his general states. A child is not responsible for his childishness, and no adult can be blamed for having passed into maturity or old age. Neither can any arguments or any deliberate effort bring a woman into the state of a man or a wife into the state of her girlhood. Whenever our bodies grow tired after a day of activity, our minds inevitably come into new states, less strenuous; until we sink into oblivion of all cares, and spirits of a celestial type environ us.
How little we are (at least consciously) responsible for certain of our general states, seems to be clear from that which is called “fortune” or “luck.” Men commonly blame many of their disappointments on “bad luck,” or ascribe their windfalls to a lucky chance. But the Writings declare to us that there is no such thing as blind chance. For the Divine providence operates even in the least and most detailed circumstances of our lives, and thus “in the most singular things of man’s thoughts and actions.”250
It is easy to see that the real causes behind man’s general states lie in the presence with him of spirits of different types, and thus in the different spiritual mediations which modify the influx of the Lord’s life into men. We can also see that evil spirits could lead men into many kinds of accidents and misfortunes. Swedenborg records that such spirits at times caused his feet to stumble, and that they were responsible for certain slips and errors in his manuscript. Not that they actually willed such particular results—a thing which they entirely denied—but that they held him in a state of ignorance and obscurity which led to the errors. The common evil which flowed from the self-love of these spirits naturally produced such effects! Certain spirits, by their arts, have a special skill to produce a sphere from which unfortunate circumstances naturally flowed in a way which wholly resembled pure chance. Such spirits do not foresee the misfortunes they cause with a man, but they are nevertheless punished for producing such spheres from an effort to be destructive.251 “Unforeseen misfortunes are nothing else than the perpetual endeavors of evil spirits . . . and unforeseen goods come forth from the Lord. This appears incredible; but still it is so.”252
“They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him.” For whatever happens, whether it appears as prosperous or not, is still good for them, conducing to their eternal happiness. But with the wicked the unforeseen goods which come from the Lord are turned into an evil effect.253
Swedenborg comments that it seems incredible that spirits should be the cause of misfortunes. Yet it may seem still more incredible that even the course of what is called “a streak of luck” in cards, dice-games, etc., is intermediated through the spiritual world. “Hardly any one” knows this. But spirits convinced Swedenborg that the turns of fortune in a game of dice could be predicted by them from the unfailing appearance of certain signs—a dark cloud about him if he was to lose, a white one if he was to win!254 The “dark cloud” was of course not the cause of the misfortune; but it was a spiritual manifestation or representation of the state in which he was—a state which because of his own needs permitted him to immerse himself into a natural series of events which in their very nature would lead to “bad luck.”
Seemingly there is nothing less determined beforehand than the outcome of a lottery or the fall of a pair of dice. The only predictable factor in the fall of the dice seems to be a definite ratio of probabilities which in the long run is almost fixed, but which leaves the outcome of each single throw in uncertainty. There appear to be certain natural laws which limit the uncertainties and operate to balance the probabilities. And the more we analyze a situation, the clearer it becomes that to an all-seeing eye there is no “chance”; but that for the sake of man’s freedom it is not given him to see all the contributing contingencies or all the operations even of the natural laws involved. Swedenborg learned things about this which he was forbidden to make known.255
Providence in the Ultimate of Order
“Chance” is defined in the Writings as the operation or influx of the Divine providence into “the ultimate of order, in which all things are comparatively inconstant.”256
The Lord rules, and has always ruled, human minds, and thus the heavens and the hells, from primes through ultimates. In the ultimates of the world we may observe a fixed and constant order founded on space and time. We find orderly changes and progressions over which man has no power, and inevitable chains of cause and effect which will and thought cannot budge. Untold subatomic units moving ceaselessly at random without any purpose are gathered into great mass-actions which apparently have both order and use and which fall under the inexorable cycles of changes and of seasons. Countless data of knowledge without seeming order or connection are gathered into man’s mind. Yet in the view of man’s rational mind they may be arranged into categories and classifications which reveal a purpose or a law. One can examine the scattered details by themselves, and see only blind chance and chaos in their “comparative inconstancies.” Or one can behold the ordered movements and groupings as a whole in their constant recurrence and static presentation, and see therein an evidence of Divine government and providence which “by things constant and things inconstant deals wonderfully with human prudence and yet conceals itself.”257 So far as we can see, the constant and regular effects of natural law by which Providence operates in the ultimates of its complex order, are not disturbed in favor of man. Despite the varied states of the human mind the seasons of summer and winter come and go in their independent and fixed routine. The sun shines on the evil and on the good. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust. It is as if the life of man has been fitted into a set of disciplinary circumstances of external law or into a general fixed mould of natural routine in time and space.
If the Lord rules our minds from ultimates, it would seemingly be a contradiction to say that fortune and chance depended on the kind of spirits which are with man. But, actually, spirits need certain kinds of ultimates, depending on their states. And in various ways, hidden to man, they lead him through his own affections to seek such correspondent ultimates. In the apparent inconstancies and details of nature there is a profusion of correspondent foci. According as man places undue value on selected external objects or objectives, he becomes a source of delight for either good or evil spirits. Their sphere affects him. He steps into an unknown and uncontrollable stream of events. Evil spirits would then distract his attention from truthful circumstances and would find a way of avoiding the order and purpose of the whole by taking the parts and constructing out of them a series or order of their own—an order conducive to “ill luck” or apparent misfortune.
What we know as the laws of nature are formulations of the series of physical causes and effects from the cumulative experience of human observers ; although actually natural laws should be regarded as the effects of spiritual laws. Men are apt to think of the government of Providence from the picture which they have of nature, in which one thing occasions another in a chain of fixed “necessities.” To counter this viewpoint, the Writings record some conversations which Swedenborg had with angels and spirits.253 He tells of certain spirits who, knowing that the Lord leads men through apparent necessities,259 had the idea of a preordained fate or absolute necessity by which the entire life is necessity, so that even the Lord was bound by necessity. But since this idea of the Divine was colored by our concepts of human necessities, attention was called to the fact that man has freedom, and he who acts from freedom of choice is not under necessity; the very idea of choice implies this. There converge many circumstances—”contingencies” or happenings—which can carry man in opposite directions. The moments of a man’s life are like pebbles which a man scatters at pleasure, from freedom rather than from any necessity. Yet the Lord foresees the form in which man will eventually arrange his life, and His providence is in every single detail, “but not according to such an order as man proposes to himself.” From the Divine foresight the Lord sees the relationships between the “pebbles”— as an architect sees the design behind a heap of building materials—and fills in what is lacking, to provide for consequences a thousand years later. “All the things which are from the Lord are most essential, but they do not follow in order from necessity, but in application to the freedom of man.”260
Thus the Lord “foresees with an unceasing accommodation” how man as it were leads himself.261 Every change and variation in the human mind produces a change in the series of things that follow, and this progressively to eternity. But the drift of all the sequences of human states which man determines, would go far wide of the goal of creation “if the Lord did not lead the states of human minds every least moment”—and this through spirits and angels. This leading is secret and does not interfere with human prudence or choice, but is “accommodated” to man’s free agency. For each single thing which man does, sees, or thinks, the Lord does and sees infinite things. On the surface, the history of the race and the life of each man and each church seems to be determined by human decisions. If it were not so, man might just as well not exist, for he would have no sense of accomplishment, no incentive either to will or to think, still less to work or take responsibility. But the Lord acts to correct human mistakes, through unforeseeable things. He acts through heaven, mediately, and also immediately from Himself, not only into the will and thought of man, with or without man’s consent, “but also at the same time into the many things which befall him.”262 These “contingent” things, or providential circumstances, are the means by which the Lord, from His infinite resources, supplies the links between the moments of human decision, and by which He fills in the interstices which man has not thought of !
Yet man speaks of “chance.” We do not believe that spirits have any power over nature or nature’s laws. They did not even know beforehand how the dice would fall at Swedenborg’s backgammon table. But such is the inscrutable intricacy and detail of the Providence of God, that the “white cloud” of good fortune or the “dusky cloud” of warning are tokens before spirits of His foreknowledge of the chances which shall befall; unpredictable events into which He permits a man to be led for eternal reasons which look to the needs of spirits and also to the needs of the man—lest he should become the prey of morose disappointment, or lest he should come to rely on his “luck” rather than on his reason and his labor.
The Lord, in His essence, is perfect, infinite love given form through perfect, infinite wisdom. Because He is love, and love wants something to give itself to, he created human beings so that we could accept his love and return it, and thus be conjoined with Him.
Two things had to be done for this to work. First, we had to be structured so we would fit into a state of union with the Lord – which means we had to be forms of love and wisdom ourselves. Second, we had to be free to reject the Lord’s love, or the choice would be meaningless (in fact, if we were purely good, with no choice, we would be extensions of the Lord; in that case loving us would the Lord loving Himself, which is contrary to His nature).
The things that make us human, then, are the fact that we have thoughts and feelings (thoughts come from wisdom; feelings come from love), and that we can choose – in freedom – to use those thoughts and feelings to open ourselves up to the Lord’s love and be conjoined to Him.
And how do we do that? By bringing our thoughts and feelings into line with the Lord’s love and wisdom, so His love and wisdom can flow into us. We accomplish this first through our thoughts, which are more external and more under our control than our feelings are. We can fill our minds with the Lord’s teachings through the Word, through ministers, teachers and parents and through the wisdom of people around us. Using those ideas of what is right and wrong, we can force ourselves to stop doing what is wrong and instead do what is right. If we stick to it out of a desire to be good people, the Lord will start rewarding us with joy in doing the right thing, and will eventually change how we feel so that we genuinely love to do what’s good.
If we do that, we will eventually become angels – who are also human, people who once lived in our world and followed the Lord. If we don’t, instead letting selfish loves rule us, we will eventually become evil spirits in hell – who are also human, though barely so, since they reject the Lord’s love.
An interesting aspect of this is the role of freedom. Free choice is essential to our humanity, but it seems like the more we force ourselve to follow rules the less freedom we have, until as angels we do nothing but obey. Following our urges and doing whatever we want seems like a much greater degree of freedom. This, however, is exactly wrong on a spiritual level. If we follow our urges we will end up desiring only evil. Since evil wants only to hurt and dominate others, we will face constant obstacles and resistance to our desires. That will be all the more true in hell, where the Lord prevents evil spirits from doing any actual long-term harm. On the other hand, if we force ourselves to be hind and loving, the Lord will eventually fill us with the desire to be kind and loving – and in heaven, with everyone in such a state, there is no need for rules at all. Every angel does exactly what he or she wants to do.
There is one other aspect of humanity that is worth mentioning. The Writings also tell us that because both heaven and the natural world were created by the Lord, they are in human form just as we are. That means every aspect of life has some analogy to the human body, and to the human spirit. Since humanity is modeled on the Lord, this also means that every aspect of heaven and earth has some analogy to the nature of the Lord. Think about this next time you go for a hike – every leaf on every tree could tell us something about the Lord, if only we could understand it. And every leaf on every tree could tell us something about ourselves, as well.
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