Jacob and Esau provide a profound lesson for today’s psychologists (and theologians!)

The authority and inerrancy of the Holy Bible has come under a new kind of challenge in the post-modern world. This challenge comes not just from atheists but also from a new crop of Christian theologians who no longer identify themselves as possessing an absolute deposit of inerrant sacred writings, or, of inheriting an infallible interpretation (exegesis) of the Bible’s message. Instead, this new theological movement is concerning itself with the core belief that Christianity proclaims a universal saving and transformational event. Everything else in religion is now seen to lead to a set of beliefs that are oppressive and destructive and needs correction.

Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg would agree with this new Christian emphasis on God’s transforming love rather than on a mere “book” religion. But he also added an unexpected twist that challenges the relativistic character of modernity in its shift away from embracing the Bible as an absolute and closed deposit of truth (from above). He offered a new and deeper look at Scripture that both broke down the rigid walls of religious orthodoxy yet provided rational evidence of the authority, sacredness and inerrancy of the Holy Word!

He claimed that this authority, sacredness and inerrancy of Scripture was not to be found in its literal or historical accounts, but in its layered architecture, which contain deeper levels of meaning!

On one deeper level, Scripture embraces profound psychology. For instance, the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis offers a profound study of the growth of mind and the evolution of proper human behavior—according to the laws of God’s divine order.

Jacob symbolizes the human intellect while Esau represents the human heart, will, and volition. Psychologically, the growth of the human intellect involves the exploration of knowledge that can lead us to truth. This operation takes the lead. Then an inversion takes place. The intellectual path to finding truth leads us to the heart and that which most represents goodness in our value-system (all knowledge is evaluated according to its serviceability—its goodness). This goodness then begins to command the intellect and generates further knowledge. This mental process of inversion is symbolized by Jacob inheriting Esau’s birthright—the intellect gains command first. But as the biblical story unfolds, Jacob eventually returns to his older twin brother and becomes his servant‑the intellect now begins to serve the heart. Speaking psychologically, Jacob represents analytical thought while Esau represents a new synthesis. These cognitive functions are psychical brothers!

Deeper still (according to Swedenborg) the Bible stories relate directly to Christ’s universal work of transforming love—even the Old Testament! The same Genesis story of Jacob and Esau also symbolize the process of the Lord’s glorification when He lived in the world. This sacred process involved the Lord perfectly uniting His human essence to His divine heavenly essence. This unifying process is how the Word was made flesh and how the Lord became the Alpha and Omega. This also explains how the “Word” and the “Son” are synonymous (which would not be the case if the Old Testament did not refer to the Lord alone on some deeper level).

So the Holy Word is indeed God’s revealed wisdom—not merely the work of different human authors, written from various points of view by individuals who were influenced by the cultural, political, economic or personal circumstances of the times that they found themselves in. Simply put, human authors cannot write in the divine style of the Bible’s three-tiered narrative.

Why would God communicate in this multi-tiered way?

The reason is that God’s Holy Word needs to service both terrestrial humans and spiritual angels. God’s Holy Word has to be adapted to both kinds of brain systems. Angels easily grasp the deeper spiritual and divine meanings contained in Scripture but humans have to learn to think above their worldly ideas (materialistic ideology).

The Lord God is betting that this is possible for humanity. The big secret concerning the Lord’s Second Coming and Revelation is that it represents His “reappearance” within our minds and hearts via a new understanding of Scripture. I have just scratched the surface of what the future of religion will unfold.

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God’s purpose for human beings

God is Love

If you, like me, have ever pondered the ‘big’ questions, you will almost certainly have asked yourself the question “Why am I here?”  I’m always dumbfounded when I recall that humans are sentient beings with a body specially evolved to survive for a short time in this world.  Is it not amazing that we are in the image of God? [Genesis 1:26,27]

So why are we here?  In True Christian Religion paragraph 773, Emanuel Swedenborg writes:

… the creation of the universe had as its purpose a heaven of angels formed from the human race, and at the same time a church on earth, as the means by which a person may pass into heaven, and because the salvation of people, which depends upon people being born in the world, is thus a continuation of creation.

In other words, human beings are destined to become angels. The implication of this is that angels are not a separate race of celestial beings with wings and haloes.  Instead, an angel is a man or woman who has lived and died in this world and whose spiritual self has awakened in the next world. When a male and a female angel share identical beliefs and motivation they are joined together as one mind, and the love that they share together is called marriage love. They are so close that in heaven a married pair is spoken of, not as two, but as one angel.

How do you feel about this idea?  Is it new to you?  Are you comfortable with it, or shocked by it?

Swedenborg calls the process of journeying along the path to heaven regeneration.  This simply means learning to follow God’s rules for living a kind, generous and selfless life while recognising and putting aside our faults.  It can be compared with the process of regeneration of urban areas, where the renewal process takes place in successive steps over a significant period of time, and old buildings and infrastructure are replaced by new.  For us humans, regeneration involves making spiritual progress throughout our lives.  It is hard work that never ends.  It starts when we are born again. Remember that Jesus said to Nicodemus no-one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again [John 3:3].

The first stage of being born again is called reformation, a process affecting what we think; the second stage is called regeneration, a process affecting what we do, and thus what we think. The whole process is triggered when we recognise a fault, that is, a sin within ourselves, and repent this fault. This changes the way we think about the fault (the reformation step), and God will encourage us to try to put into practice a procedure that will enable us to avoid the sin in future (the regeneration step).  This process is repeated until we have successfully marginalized the sin, and then started again for the next sin.  Notice that each sin is not removed.  It will always be part of us, hence the reason that it is marginalized.

Some people feel that they are ‘born again’ every time they identify one of their many flaws or faults and ask God to forgive them.

However, not everybody becomes an angel.  We all experience a personal last judgment when we pass from this world to the next.  The process is described in the following passage from Matthew’s gospel, chapter 25, verses 31-33:

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne.  All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left. [NIV]

The sheep represent people who are destined to become good spirits, that is, angels in heaven, while the goats represent people who are destined to become evil spirits in hell.  The decision is made based on God’s laws about how we behave in our lives in this world.  But it’s not a decision based on reward or punishment.  Instead, God does his best to find a place for us in the spiritual world where we would be happiest.  It follows that people who have been good citizens in this world would be happiest in heaven, while people who have been self-centred and nasty would be miserable in all the peace and joy of heaven, so God finds a place for them in hell amongst other evil spirits who are similarly self-centred and nasty.

So the answer to the question “Why am I here?” is, – to become an angel.  The natural world that we live in is the training ground for the spiritual world in which we will spend the rest of eternity, hopefully as angels. All we have to do is become good citizens.  How?

In the two great commandments Jesus said:

Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.  The second is this: Love your neighbour as yourself.
[Mark 12:29-31 NIV]

Swedenborg sums this up beautifully in Heaven and Hell 558:

Moreover, the extent to which people are in a state of heavenly love, which means loving useful services and acts of goodness, and feeling joy in their hearts when they perform them for church, for country, the community at large and their fellow citizen, dictates the extent to which they are led by the Lord, because that is the love in which He exists, and has Him as its source.

But what about people who do not get to heaven because of the way they behaved in this world? Swedenborg goes on to explain that they do not take guidance from God but are led by their inner self, and the inner self is altogether evil, because people have inherited from their ancestors the fault of loving themselves more than they love God, and loving the world more than they love heaven.  They perform services and acts of goodness for personal benefit and gain instead of for the good of the community.

So we are all on a spiritual journey that takes us to the next world, hopefully to heaven. It’s not a short journey, nor is it instant salvation.  It takes the rest of our lives in this world to complete.  Performing useful services and acts of goodness is not a one-off event but a lifetime of preparation for an eternity of continuing to perform useful services and acts of goodness as an angel in heaven.

http://www.god-is-love.org.uk/twelve-key-teachings/our-regeneration-is-mirrored-in-the-bible-story-of-creation/gods-purpose-for-human-beings/

https://havau22.com/emanuel-swedenborg/biography

In Six Days Jehovah Made Heaven and Earth and the Sea

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work:  But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work, thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates: For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it. (Exodus 20:8-11)

For in six days Jehovah made heaven and earth and the sea. That this signifies the regeneration and vivification of those things which are in the internal and in the external man, is evident from the signification of “six days,” as being states of combat, and when predicated of Jehovah, that is, the Lord, they signify His labor with man before he is regenerated; and from the signification of “heaven and earth,” as being the church or kingdom of the Lord in man, “heaven” in the internal man, and “earth” in the external man, thus the regenerate man, that is, one who has found the new life and has thus been made alive; and from the signification of “the sea,” as being the sensuous of man adhering to the corporeal.

In this verse the subject treated of is the hallowing of the seventh day, or the institution of the Sabbath, and it is described by the words, In six days Jehovah made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested in the seventh day; wherefore Jehovah blessed the Sabbath day, and hallowed it. They who do not think beyond the sense of the letter cannot believe otherwise than that the creation which is described in the first and second chapters of Genesis, is the creation of the universe, and that there were six days within which were created the heaven, the earth, the sea and all things which are therein, and finally man in the likeness of God.  But who that takes into consideration the particulars of the description cannot see that the creation of the universe is not there meant; for such things are there described as may be known from common sense not to have been so; as that there were days before the sun and the moon, as well as light and darkness, and that herbage and trees sprang up; and yet that the light was furnished by these luminaries, and a distinction was made between the light and the darkness, and thus days were made.

In what follows in the history there are also like things, which are hardly acknowledged to be possible by anyone who thinks interiorly, as that the woman was built from the rib of the man; also that two trees were set in paradise, of the fruit of one of which it was forbidden to eat; and that a serpent from one of them spoke with the wife of the man who had been the wisest of mortal creatures, and by his speech, which was from the mouth of the serpent, deceived them both; and that the whole human race, composed of so many millions, was in consequence condemned to hell.  The moment that these and other such things in that history are thought of, they must needs appear paradoxical to those who entertain any doubt concerning the holiness of the Word, and must afterward lead them to deny the Divine therein.  Nevertheless be it known that each and all things in that history, down to the smallest iota, are Divine, and contain within them arcana which before the angels in the heavens are plain as in clear day. The reason of this is that the angels do not see the sense of the Word according to the letter, but according to what is within, namely, what is spiritual and celestial, and within these, things Divine.  When the first chapter of Genesis is read, the angels do not perceive any other creation than the new creation of man, which is called regeneration. This regeneration is described in that history; by paradise the wisdom of the man who has been created anew; by the two trees in the midst thereof, the two faculties of that man, namely, the will of good by the tree of life, and the understanding of truth by the tree of knowledge.  And that it was forbidden to eat of this latter tree, was because the man who is regenerated, or created anew, must no longer be led by the understanding of truth, but by the will of good, and if otherwise, the new life within him perishes. Consequently by Adam, or man, and by Eve his wife, was there meant a new church, and by the eating of the tree of knowledge, the fall of that church from good to truth, consequently from love to the Lord and toward the neighbor to faith without these loves, and this by reasoning from their own intellectual, which reasoning is the serpent.

From all this it is evident that the historic narrative of the creation and the first man, and of paradise, is a history so framed as to contain within it heavenly and Divine things, and this according to the received method in the Ancient Churches. This method of writing extended thence also to many who were outside of that Church, who in like manner devised histories and wrapped up arcana within them, as is plain from the writers of the most ancient times. For in the Ancient Churches it was known what such things as are in the world signified in heaven, nor to those people were events of so much importance as to be described; but the things which were of heaven. These latter things occupied their minds, for the reason that they thought more interiorly than men at this day, and thus had communication with angels, and therefore it was delightful to them to connect such things together. But they were led by the Lord to those things which should be held sacred in the churches, consequently such things were composed as were in full correspondence.

From all this it can be seen what is meant by “heaven and earth” in the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis, namely, the church internal and external.  That these are signified by “heaven and earth” is evident also from passages in the prophets, where mention is made of “a new heaven and a new earth,” by which a new church is meant.  From all this it is now plain that by, “In six days Jehovah made heaven and earth and the sea,” is signified the regeneration and vivification of those things which are in the internal and in the external man.

(Arcana Coelestia 8891)
May 14, 2017

7 Days of Creation

 

7 Days of Creation in Genesis 1

The True Meaning of the 7 Days of Creation: Spiritual Rebirth

WordMeaningsFirstSecondThirdFourthFifthSixthSeventhSummariesMore

Introduction

From the literal meaning of the first chapters of Genesis, no one realizes that it refers to anything besides the creation of the world, the Garden of Eden which is called “Paradise,” and Adam, the first human to be created. Who thinks anything else? However, these things contain details that have never been revealed until now. . . . In this inner meaning, the first chapter of Genesis is about new creation of a human being.
In other words, it is about our rebirth.

It is a wonderful story to start out with in the Bible. You know how there is often a preface in a book, and the preface will tell you what the book is going to tell you. They always told us that in school: when you write a paper, first you tell them what you’re going to tell them, then you tell them, then you tell them what you told them. The Creation story is God telling us what he’s going to tell us in the whole Bible. He is summarizing the entire Bible, which is really, Swedenborg tells us, about our own spiritual growth. It’s about our process from when we first start to awaken spiritually to the time when we become angels in heaven. The Creation story is a wonderful summary, in just a little over one chapter, of the whole Bible story.

Briefest Summary:

Stages: External representation

Spiritual State: Internal
Initial state: without form and void Prior to rebirth: no spiritual form
First state: light and darkness Knowing that the good and the true are something higher.
Second state: heavens and earth Distinguishing those spiritual things from God (in the internal man), from those of oneself (in the external)
Third state: tender grass, tree bearing fruit Acting from knowledge, not from the heart
Fourth state: sun and moon Love and Insight begin in the internal
Fifth state: whales of the sea, birds of the heavens Actions to confirm oneself in truth and good: deep principles & rising thoughts
Sixth state: living soul, beast, ‘image of God’ Actions from insight, and hence from love: alive at last – ‘spiritual’
Seventh state: day of rest Actions from love, and hence from insight: ‘celestial’

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Nature — How should we value it?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

naturePeople need to economically make use of the world of nature by hunting for fish, growing crops, felling trees, and quarrying and mining for minerals etc. Humanity cannot survive unless food is eaten and shelter is built. Yet, in recent decades we have come to realise the insidious damage to ecosystems due to industrialisation, extraction of raw materials and modern transportation.

Natural habitat has been changed endangering some species of plant and animal: deforestation and desertification have taken place: waterways and land have been chemically polluted and there has been a rise in greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. There has been a failure to consciously consider the environmental impact of our industrial lifestyle on the children of future generations as well as on the people of the non-developed  world.

The effect on nature of excessive consumption

The priority of most politicians of the richer countries seems to be on economic growth even though 20% of the world’s population consume 80% of the world’s resources. Reliance on ever expanding technology and material comfort continues as if happiness were to come from a life of excessive consumption. Once the initial thrill of purchasing something is over, we feel empty again. Materialistic aspiration also seems to be due to unnecessarily seeking social status by trying to show by one’s possessions one’s own importance and success in the eyes of oneself and others.

Environmentalists have assumed that scientific support for their viewpoint would lead to fundamental political change. However some of them are now saying that the underlying environmental problem is one of selfishness, greed and apathy and that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.

Here are some spiritual ideas that can help us face this eco-spiritual crisis

The sacred in nature

In the industrialised world we find ourselves more and more enclosed in artificial buildings surrounded by fascinating technology and are separated from the world of nature. It is thought that we need to do something about this in order to be more in touch with the natural rhythm of life: to feel naturally grounded rather than alienated from meaningful reality.

One emphasis for many people is on seeing the sacred in nature. It is argued that a richer experience of the natural world can help us find a sense of identity relating us to a larger design. In other words mankind is part of nature and will find wisdom and well-being only in harmony with nature’s mysterious powers.

According to religious philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, nature can be seen as a theatre expressing in a symbolic way all that is deeply good and true. He claims that in ancient times people could see something spiritual in everything belonging to the natural order. There was a respect for God’s creation. Something of this can be seen in the way indigenous tribal peoples even today take for granted the existence of souls or spirits in animals, plants and rocks they encounter in daily life.

Nature reflecting the spiritual

However, there has been an unfortunate error found in religion. By focusing on human spiritual well-being, religion has often placed human beings at the centre of the universe and at the head of a hierarchy of living creatures. Many Christians have supposed that when the book of Genesis states that mankind is to have dominion over the creatures of nature that this statement is to be taken as literally true. On the other hand, there has also been the view that the Genesis story is a myth with an illuminating message rather than a textbook on history, law or science.

According to Swedenborg the creation story in Genesis is about the re-creation of a person as fit for heaven — in other words it is all about spiritual transformation of the individual rather than any  prioritising of people over animals and plants. For Swedenborg, mankind symbolises what he regards as the Divine Humane Spirit operating within the spiritually growing individual. He maintains it is this spiritual source that can come to dominate the way such a heavenly person naturally thinks and feels: the fish, birds and animals correspond to our ideas — illuminated or not, our understanding — enlightened or not, and our intentions — unselfish or not. All these can be symbols of spiritual and natural consciousness rather than things of nature to be exploited. And so reference to humanity having dominion over nature is really about what is divinely good and right in our higher mind ruling our natural ways of thinking and intending.

Bringing heaven into the world of nature

Bishop James Jones has pointed out that unfortunately within religion there has also been those who say our destiny is to escape the world and find a place in heaven or the equivalent. For them what is natural is even sinful and to be avoided. An alternative Christian view is that humanity is “a part of creation” and not “apart from creation”: that in acting as stewards of the earth serving and conserving God’s creation, salvation is about bringing down heaven on to earth.

“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Lord’s Prayer)

The Quran talks about the Creator embracing creation and that the animals that swim, fly and crawl are creatures like us we have to respect.

Valuing nature

I would conclude by suggesting that valuing nature means using and enjoying natural things but doing this by neither abusing nor exploiting them: whether they be animals we rear, the wild side of nature we can respect and try to live in harmony with, or the nature of our own bodily needs.

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

Posted on10th October 2013CategoriesEthics, Ethics & Environment, Ethics & LifeTags, , ,  Leave a comment

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Do We Underestimate God’s Intelligence?

We often describe our lives as having peaks and valleys. No one misinterprets these words as meaning geological formations. Metaphor, that is, using physical objects to represent psychological qualities is a common part of our language. It is an example of the human cognitive function of thinking in abstract terms.

Why is it that we do not ascribe this ability of abstract thought to God, who reputedly possesses Infinite Wisdom?

For instance, in Genesis 11:2, we are given a scenario in which a population of people journeyed from the east and settled into a valley in the land of Shinar. It is in this valley that the people begin the construction of a tower that would reach up into heaven itself.

This biblical story is taken as historical truth by most theologians, clergy and the laity.

But a funny thing happens when we look at this story as a metaphor. It becomes much more theological, more doctrinal, and provides a much more potent lesson that is relevant to our lives.

So let’s put on our thinking caps and move beyond our habitual minds. Let’s look at Scripture with an eye to seek out not simply historical truth but deeper, psycho-spiritual truths.

In ancient times people would turn to the east to worship God. Since the sun rose in the east, this gesture symbolized orienting oneself to God’s enlightening truth. Therefore, when we read Genesis 11:2, journeying from the “east” means people putting distance between themselves and God. In fact, it symbolizes turning one’s back on God.

Settling in a “valley” represents that they had settled into a lower form of worship with a diminished and inferior understanding of religion. In other words, the worship of God hit a new low, and had sunken to a new level.

It is from this low and inferior level of faith that they decided to build an edifice that could reach heaven. Such an edifice was founded on a worship built on incorrect and false principles. This false worship is further underscored by their choosing to build the tower with bricks. Since bricks are man-made, they signify worship made artificial, that is, a fabricated worship.

Like bricks fired and baked hard in a kiln, all false principles are forged from the “fire” of self-love and self guidance – further evidence of a people putting psychological distance between themselves and God.

Bitumen was used for the mortar. Bitumen is a sulfurous or inflammable substance. It denotes the passion of self-love that can burn in people’s hearts. Self-love is in opposition to loving God and the neighbor. Only true spiritual love keeps things connected and glued. Therefore, the mortar (bitumen), which represented the quality of their selfish love, could not hold their edifice of perverted doctrine and worship together. As a result, they became a confounded people and were at variance with each other.

If you do not think that God would stack levels of deeper meaning within the words of Holy Scripture then you are most certainly underestimating the true nature of Infinite Wisdom.

 

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Blind faith – Science or religion?

blind faithEmotions can run high in the debate between religion and science. Just take a look at  the high-profile campaign in the United States to teach ‘Intelligent Design’ in schools. But is conflict inevitable because both sides are showing blind faith in their own version of reality?

Blind faith of scientists who deny a purposive life source

Despite the victory of Darwinism over creationism, it is hard to see how adaption from something like a single cell through natural selection can give an account for the development of human self-reflection, courage, honesty, ethical insight, ideology, altruism, and resistance to temptation. This is not to deny the truth about the facts of nature that science can reveal. But should we not also acknowledge the deeper side of human life revealed inwardly to those of a spiritual bent. To my mind, human consciousness derives from the human soul absent in other forms of life.

Those who believe that the origin of human existence is a spiritual Life Source are aware however that science firmly favours Darwin’s evolutionary theory, which is based on natural selection and chance factors in reproduction. Survival of the fittest means all human beings together with all animal life have descended from some one primordial form. Science it seems has no room for spiritual ideas such as a purposeful human creation.

Blind faith of creationists

The Darwinian view has easily seen off the creationists, who to my mind have failed
to notice the allegorical nature of the Genesis story. By this I mean that the story of the beginning of the world and the Garden of Eden is not a physics and biology lesson but rather a psycho-spiritual one.

Some modern theologians see the first few chapters in Genesis as a symbolic representation of the origin and dynamic development of the human psyche and
its consciousness in relation to its Source; an ageless model of each of us created in the image and likeness of God. Thus arguably the Garden of Eden is a picture of the state of trust in and obedience to God and the fall of humanity into reliance on self-intelligence and self-orientation.

To my way of thinking the Bible as a whole, if inwardly understood, shows the spiritual journey of humanity returning to a state of innocence. We have a tree of life in the first book Genesis and in the last book Revelation, both I think representing the reality seen through the depths of one’s spirit.  Understanding about life

‘coming from a God-given rationality, structured yet full of vitality and dynamism.”
(Helen Brown Do spiritual symbols mean anything today?)

According to this view trust in the Source is not one based on ignorance but is one with rational understanding — no blind faith but rather a realistic perception about meaning and purpose that takes into account all our understanding about life as a whole.

More people these days are rejecting the blind faith of religion expressed in traditional superstitions and unreasonable dogmas. People are more likely to want their spiritual intuition to be confirmed by rational discussion. Only the creationist will assume scripture is always literally true. I am arguing that people want answers to life’s issues informed by scientific education and the reasoning of common sense, as well as by spiritual knowledge and insight.

When theological doctrines such as creationism are seen to lack realistic sense, then I guess religion will start to be side-lined by those who use their rational minds.

Blind faith in scientific theories limited by naturalistic assumptions

I notice that likewise some scientists claim that random processes created human
life rather than any creative design. Is this not because there can be no scientific instruments to observe purpose and meaning? And because science is limited by its assumption that knowledge is limited to natural things like fossils and genes? I can’t imagine how there might be any scientific proof that science is the only means of acquiring valid knowledge.

Likewise when scientific theoretical concepts appear unlinked to the results of research then even to scientists they will seem more like fantasy than reality.

I wonder if you would agree with the following statement? In its naturalistic explanations and focus on the question ‘how?’ science deals with the level of thinking of the external rational mind, whereas, religion, with its focus on meaning and the question ‘why?’, appeals to the inner rational mind.

In other words when rationally presented, perhaps both science and religion are useful for communicating  different aspects of human knowledge and understanding: science for the outer, time-related, natural life and religion for the inner timeless spiritual life.

Blind faith due to arrogance

Does trouble not arise when some theologians or some scientists believe they know it all? Religion got it wrong in the past about the earth being at the centre of the solar system and today creationists claim the world was made in seven days despite all the evidence of science to the contrary.

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.” Galileo Galilei (1600–1670)

“Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.” Albert Einstein (1879–1955)

Scientists as much as religious people can fall into the trap of blind faith.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

NEBUCHADNEZZAR AND DREAMS IN THE WORD

NEBUCHADNEZZAR AND DREAMS IN THE WORD

A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. Rose

Preached in Bryn Athyn February 19, 1995

“I have dreamed a dream” (Daniel 2:3).

These were the words of Nebuchadnezzar. He knew there was something of great importance in his dream, something to do with his destiny. Yes, a king awakens from a dream and senses that it has an important bearing on his life. That seems to be a recurrent theme of Scripture. We will return to the dream of Nebuchadnezzar, but first let us consider other dreams of Scripture.

The first example is in Genesis 20, and it is very dramatic. Abimelech the king of Gerar had taken the wife of Abraham. And God came to Abimelech in a dream by night and said, “You are a dead man … she is a man’s wife.” And Abimelech said, “Did he not say to me, `She is my sister’?” “And God said to him in a dream, `Yes, I know that you did this in the integrity of your heart. For I also withheld you from sinning against Me; therefore I did not let you touch her. Now therefore, restore the man’s wife, for he is a prophet and he will pray for you and you shall live. But if you do not restore her, know that you shall surely die, you and all who are yours.’ So Abimelech rose early in the morning, called all his servants and told all these things in their hearing; and the men were very afraid” (verses 3-8).

“And he will pray for you” (Gen. 20:7). This is the first mention of prayer in the Word, and it is here that the Writings give the well known statement about prayer being speech with God to which there answers an influx into the thought of the mind and an opening of the interiors toward God, sometimes a feeling of hope, comfort and inward joy (see AC 2535).

But note especially here that the king was told he was made aware that his actions had been influenced in a way not conscious to him. God said, “I withheld you from sinning … I did not let you touch her.” In this first dream example we note that a king’s actions were being controlled beyond his knowing. And much more than we know, our actions are led. How is this possible? There are angels with us who influence our affections. This is not just a poetic thought, but a constant reality. Indeed, if there were not angels present with us, we would plunge into evil (see AC 5850). By influencing our affections and feelings they influence our actions but never violate our freedom. They “inspire good affections so far as people will receive them in freedom; and by means of these they also control the deeds or works by removing as far as possible evil intentions” (HH 391).

So, in the first scriptural example of a dream there is a lesson about life. Without the Lord we can do nothing, and the Lord is constantly influencing us through angels. And in the second example the subject of angels comes to us in a most memorable way. This is in Genesis 28. Jacob dreamed that he saw the angels of God ascending and descending on a ladder or stairway at the top of which was God. The angelic influence did not take away his freedom or his own initiative. On the contrary it created the setting for him to make choices to make a resolve. If God would be with him in the way he was going, He would worship Him and would give one tenth of all that he had.

When Jacob awoke from that dream he said, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.” He had a new sense about life in this world. “This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven” (verses 16,17). The dream gives a different sense of what life really is. We may be making choices and making resolves about short-term goals in our daily lives, but the dream is a reminder of a much greater reality. We will mention this again in connection with the dream of Nebuchadnezzar.

With Jacob’s son Joseph, dreams become especially prominent, and we notice that these dreams predict the future not only Joseph’s own dreams of the sheaves of wheat and the sun, moon and stars, but also the dreams of others which he interpreted, the dreams of the butler and the baker in prison, and the great dream of Pharaoh, ruler of Egypt. Several times the Writings mention that the meaning of a dream is a foretelling of the future (see AC 3698, 5091, 5104, 5110, 5195, 5252). Let us be clear that we are not intended to know the future. In fact we should not even want to know the future, for knowing it would take away our very humanity. This is the well known teaching of Divine Providence 179, where it is said that it is quite common to have a longing to know the future, but this can be taken away from us and in its place can be given “a trust that the Lord is directing our lot” (DP 179).

Yes, in the case of Joseph and for those whose dreams he interpreted, a general idea was granted of what would happen. This is not so for us. The message for us, one might say, is that there is a future. It is something known by the Lord. A dream signifies His Divine foresight and providence. Well, isn’t it obvious that there is a future? In a way, yes. It is an obvious fact that we are going to die. But this can be so unreal to us. In fact it can require effort to get it into our heads. The Writings invite and urge us to think about it. Now they do not ask us to think about the fact that we are going to die, but that we are going to live. “Let him who wishes to be eternally happy know and believe that he will live after death. Let him think of this and keep it in mind, for it is the truth” (AC 8939).

Sometimes we are so influenced by worldly spirits that our thoughts are fixed hypnotically on this world, and we are told that in order to be delivered we need to think about eternal life (see AC 6201e).

The dream that Pharaoh had and which Joseph interpreted was about seven years of plenty and seven years of famine. And hearing that dream made him choose to turn the power of his kingdom over to a stranger. He removed the ring from his finger and placed it on the finger of a young man he had only just met and said, in effect, “Since you know this, you shall be ruler in my kingdom.”

It is almost beyond believing that a king in full power would turn over that power to another man. As it is said in the Writings, “Pharaoh deprived himself of his own authority, and put all Egypt under Joseph” (AC 5316). Each one of us has a sense that we are doing something. We have in our waking conscious life a sense of our own freedom and strength, our authority and our own prudence. We are king in our own realm. But God is doing something too. What Pharaoh saw (and what he had not seen before) was that what God was doing had a vital application to what he was doing and what he ought to do. He ought to choose out a man. The Writings say to think above the idea of choosing some individual, but to think about “realities” (AC 5287).

When we speak of the operation of the Divine Providence, we mean what God is doing. That operation or working begins at birth and continues thereafter. It goes on first in the simple, unknowing years of infancy and childhood. And even as it continues in our more mature years, we are no more aware of this Divine Providence than one is aware of a forgotten dream.

That private kingdom of our own life’s history is only partly recalled. Some more than others enjoy flashes of tender childhood memories. And those childhood states are realities. The Lord is speaking of our kingdom when He says, “So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground, and should sleep and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how” (Matt. 4:27).

When we consciously acknowledge the Lord, trust Him and submit our lives to Him, we are like a king, remaining on the throne yes, but acknowledging the sovereignty of the Lord. This is not something that happens only once in our lives. We awaken repeatedly into new realizations, and like Jacob we say, “Surely the Lord is in this place, and I knew it not.”

“I have dreamed a dream.” King Nebuchadnezzar knew in the privacy of his mind that he had a dream and that the dream was of great importance. He knew. Many other things he might not be sure of. In fact, things he had trusted he was beginning to distrust that day. Astrologers, sorcerers and wise men had enjoyed his trust, patronage and protection. But now he was awaking to a realization of their inadequacy. If in the past they had been able to say or show things of some value, in the light of that day it was not enough.

Was he right or wrong? Was he a most unreasonable man as his astrologers were protesting? Was he only a superstitious fool? On the contrary, he was less a fool that day than perhaps on many other days. For that day he was not like the man whom Jesus postulated as saying, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink and be merry. But God said unto him, `You fool, this night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?'” (Luke 12:19,20). A fool is one who relies upon the fallacies of the sense, or who thinks this world is everything. One who is wise from himself alone, that one is a fool.

Nebuchadnezzar listened with wonder as Daniel told him the meaning of his dream, and he knew that it was his dream and that it had to do with his past life and his destiny. Daniel told him that the dream was given “that you may know the thoughts of your heart” (Dan. 2:30). Some of our thoughts we do not know, because they do not arise in explicit consciousness.

There are people who have much more belief in life after death than they know. The simple “believe they will live after death, in which simple faith, unknown to them, there is hidden the belief that they will live there as men, will see angels, will speak with them, and will enjoy happiness” (AC 6053).

How often the Lord told stories, and if we were wise we would see that He is telling our story, and we would see meaning in the way He recounts it. The dream of Nebuchadnezzar was a vivid sequence. He had seen an image. At the beginning he saw first its head made of gold, and descending from the head the substances changed from gold to silver to bronze to iron, and finally to iron mixed with clay.

What is going on in our lives right now? What is the story? What is the sequence? If asked at a given moment, we might reply that we have time only to say that we are facing certain present obligations and dealing with present needs. But our life is a story that could be told from a distance, or told from the distant perspective of a dream. It could be told in angel conversations taking form in correspondential images in the world of the spirit.

In the dream of Nebuchadnezzar we may see in the first golden state our early infancy, but it passes away. The strength, or iron, is then mixed with clay, and in later years we sense an impending end. Daniel said that the iron was strength and the clay was brittle, but then came a stone cut out without hands which grew into a mountain and lasted forever.

The gold was beautiful, and the iron was strong, but it was followed by what is brittle. How brittle and vulnerable we sometimes feel. Our very senses tell us that we are growing older and more fragile. And it is not just our bodies. We also come into a sense of our inner inadequacy and the limitations of our self-intelligence. Our memories are not as acute, and even the strength we have built up in our lives is mingled with what is perishable.

And all this can enable us to look with absolute wonder to Him who is the rock in whom we trust and in whom we may live forever and ever.

Remember the gift the Lord gives of trust that He is directing our lot (see DP 179). This comes to us like the interpretation of a dream. Our life is in His hands. Skeptical voices may tell us something else, but they are like unreliable astrologers. The voices may come from our own thoughts, arrogance, or self-intelligence. The fallacies of the senses put a wrong construction and a false interpretation on our lives. And even if they make some sense of the present, when it comes to the future they have no answer but are like mute magicians, soothsayers, standing there with nothing to say. But the reality of the Lord’s presence and Providence is like a rock growing to a mountain from which comes all our help. And His voice tells us, “Without Me You can do nothing.” “He that follows Me shall not walk in darkness.” “He that comes to me shall never hunger.” “Great is your reward in heaven.” “I go to prepare a place for you.” “Nothing shall by any means hurt you.”

Particulars of our future we do not know. Our passing states day by day are directed to ends of which we are unaware (see AC 2796). Unaware we may be, but every night that we sleep we are associated with angels sent to us by the Lord, whose Divine knowledge takes form in fragments of dreams which we cannot interpret. And He is saying that He is with us and will not leave us.

Our destiny is in the hands of Him who has all power and strength, “For wisdom and might are His … He knows what is in the darkness, and light dwells with Him” (Dan. 2:20,22). Amen.


Lessons: Daniel 2 and AC 1975, 1980

Arcana Coelestia

1975. As regards dreams, it is known that the Lord revealed the arcana of heaven to the prophets, not only by visions but also by dreams, and that the dreams were as fully representative and significative as the visions, being almost of the same class; and that to others also as well as the prophets things to come were disclosed by dreams, as by the dreams of Joseph, and of those who were in prison with him, and by those of Pharaoh, of Nebuchadnezzar, and others, from which it may be seen that dreams of this kind, equally with visions, flow in from heaven; with this difference, that dreams occur when the corporeal is asleep, and visions when it is not asleep. How prophetic dreams, and such as are found in the Word, flow in, nay, descend from heaven, has been shown me to the life …

1980. It is worthy of mention that when after waking I related what I had seen in a dream, and this in a long series, certain angelic spirits (not those spoken of above) then said that what I related wholly coincided and was identical with the subjects they had been conversing about, and that there was absolutely no difference; but still that they were not the very things they had discoursed about, but were representatives of the same things, into which their ideas were thus turned and changed in the world of spirits; for in the world of spirits the ideas of the angels are turned into representatives; and therefore each and all things they had conversed about were so represented in the dream. They said further that the same discourse could be turned into other representatives, nay, into both similar and dissimilar ones, with unlimited variety. The reason they were turned into such as have been described was that it took place in accordance with the state of the spirits around me, and thus in accordance with my own state at the time. In a word, very many dissimilar dreams might come down and be presented from the same discourse, and thus from one origin; because, as has been said, the things that are in a man’s memory and affection are recipient vessels in which ideas are varied and received representatively in accordance with their variations of form and changes of state.