Food for the soul – How does it nourish me?

Do you sometimes feel you lack something you feel you need? It may be a more satisfying job, bigger house for a growing family, or a better car. However, you may also feel you lack something less definable, something you can’t easily put your finger on but which may be an answer to your troubles: perhaps something which could provide comfort when you are disappointed, lift your spirits when you feel down, and engender a positive frame of mind when everything seems negative. Something we might call food for the soul.

My need for food for the soul

From time to time I feel a sense of inadequacy in myself, in my own ability to get moving again when I find myself static, or to find solutions to the ordinary lesser and sometimes bigger problems of life that confront the average person. These times I’m obliged to have to admit to myself I know so little and understand less. I thought things were going along fine and now I find I can’t always cope. This state of mind can get a bit depressing. There is always something round the corner that seems to set me back — it is as if I am being taught a lesson. If you know what I mean, you may also feel humbled by life and, when you are frustrated, tired or feeling uninspired, that you too need something extra to restore your inner life.

food for the soulOne way of looking at this is in terms of spiritual nourishment. Just as the body needs nourishing food and drink to sustain its life, so do we not need food for the soul to sustain our inner life?

A scientific perspective is that without natural nourishment we grow weak and feeble, prone to disease, lack energy and eventually wither and die. Recommended is a balanced diet that covers all the nutrients the body requires. From a spiritual perspective without inner nourishment we become “overwhelmed with duties, engagements and activities” ( H. T. Hamblin). For spiritual food sustains and revitalises our spiritual life.

So what is food for the soul?

I would suggest food for the soul is the insights and knowledge we can gain about what is good and true in life: such spiritual food meets our hunger to find out and value what is deeply true about life e.g. about principled ideas that connect with useful action. The following might be said to be examples of this: noticing the qualities in other people around us, the beauty in nature and the potential that various situations hold for something good to happen.

Is this higher knowledge not able to inspire and motivate us? To raise our minds above the petty aspects of the mundane side of things? To act as food for the soul? Just as we need a balanced physical diet, so we also need a balanced spiritual one. Not just intellectual ideas, but also insights into the needs of other people, an awareness of the various relevant views around a social issue, practical knowledge concerning how to support people in need of help, an intuition about the way to tackle interpersonal difficulty, a perception about what is good about what is going on around.

In other words I am suggesting the idea that if we see what is good and true then this can nourish our inner life. It gives us the chance to value what is important and if we do this then we acquire good sense and good intentions, and find meaningful principles, in which we can develop hope and trust, feel encouragement and comfort when things go wrong, and experience inspiration.

The words of Christ promise that spiritual nourishment will be provided as long as we have an active longing for spiritual food. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” (Matt 5:6)

Food for the soul and angel bodies

The spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg claimed to have mystical visions of heavenly life. He said that after young children have died they are brought up on the fringes of heaven and have a spirit body which corresponds to their character. This spirit body is said to grow in stature so as to eventually to take on the appearance of an adult heavenly person. The growth isn’t due to material food but rather is due to the food for the soul they are given which nourishes their understanding of what is true and wise discernment of what is good.

I would say valuing such insights and acting on them is the heavenly state of happiness. Something to which we can all aspire.

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

The Leper Cleansed

The Leper Cleansed

Matthew 8:1-5

When He was come down from the mountain, great multitudes followed Him, and behold, there came a Leper and worshiped Him, etc.

Q. WHAT do you conceive to be here figured by the Leper, who is the subject of this Miracle ?

A. The Leprosy, like all other bodily diseases prevalent at the time, was a representative figure of spiritual disease, and the spiritual disease which it represented, was the profanation of Good and of Truth, which then prevailed in the Jewish Church.

Q. And what do you understand by the profanation of Good and Truth?

A. Man is guilty of profanation, and is thus a spiritual Leper, whenever he has been initiated into the knowledge of what is true, and into the love of what is good, and afterwards acts contrary to such knowledge and love. This evil of profanation is represented by what Jesus Christ says concerning the unclean Spirit, that when he is cast out, he says, I will return to my house from whence I came out. Then he goes and takes to himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man, is worse than the first) (Matt. 12:43-46). The lord therefore, in his merciful providence, exercises a peculiar care over mankind, to prevent, as far as possible, their receiving more knowledge, and being affected with more love of what is right and good, than they can be supported in to the end of life, because the profanation of what is good and true exposes man to a more grievous condemnation than he can be exposed to by mere ignorance of, and insensibility to what is good and true, agreeable to those words of Jesus Christ, where He says, ” That servant which knew his lord’s will, and pre- pared not himself, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many blows; but he who knew not, though he committed things woryour of blows, shall be beaten with few, (Luke 12:47, 48). The Leper then, who is the subject of this Miracle, is a representative figure of all those, who have once admitted into their minds the knowledge of heavenly things, and been made sensible of the love of them, and who afterwards decline from such knowledge and love, in consequence of immersing their thoughts and affections again in the selfish and worldly love which they had forsaken.

Q. But it is said of the above Leper, that he worshiped Jesus Christ, saying, lord, if you will, you can make me clean — what do you understand here by the Leper’s worshipping Jesus Christ ?

A. The worship of Jesus Christ implies the acknowledgement of His divinity, and thus that He was god made man in One Divine Person. Such worship therefore is here recorded of the above Leper, because the acknowledgement of the divinity of Jesus Christ is the necessary qualification to draw from Him the operation of His Divine Virtue for the cure of disease whether mental or bodily.

Q. And what do you further understand by the Leper saying, lord, if you will, you can make me clean?

A. These words involve confidence, on the part of the Leper, in the Omnipotence of the incarnate god, whom he now worshiped, which confidence was grounded in the conviction, that Jesus Christ is able to accomplish every purpose which is in agreement with His Own divine order and providence; in other words, that He has power to effect all things which are not contrary to the laws of His own appointment, thus to the determinations of His Divine Will. This confidence therefore is here recorded, because it is another essential qualification for receiving all the benefits and blessings resulting from the Divine Operation.

Q. But it follows, that Jesus put forth his hand and touched him, saying, I will, be you clean. And immediately his leprosy was cleansed — What do you here understand by Jesus putting forth his hand?

A. By the hand is denoted power, because the hand is formed to execute the determinations of the will, in which all power originates.    By the hand of Jesus, therefore is represented  Divine Power, which is Omnipotence, and by putting forth the hand is signified the exercise of that Omnipotence, thus the fulfillment of the purposes of the Divine Mercy and Love,    According this sense, it is to be understood that the blessed Jesus is always putting forth his hand, because he is always in the act of relieving the infirmities, soothing the sorrows, and healing the spiritual distempers of all his children who believe in his divinity, and have confidence in the omnipotence which he possesses as the only god of heaven and earth.

Q. And what do you conceive to be further meant by Jesus touching the Leper and saying, I will, be you clean ?

A. By touching is here to be understood the communication of that omnipotence which is signified by putting forth the hand, in other words, its application to the distempered principles which it intended to cure. It is therefore added, I will, be you clean, because the expression, I will, is significative of the Divine Intention or Purpose, as originating in” the Divine Mercy or Love, whilst the expression, Be thou clean, denotes, with equal emphasis, the accomplishment of that intention or purpose, through the application of an omnipotent energy to the malady which was to be removed. It is therefore further to be under stood, not only that Jesus Christ is perpetually putting forth his hand, and touching his distempered children, who with confidence supplicate his Divine Aid, but likewise that he is perpetually saying, as in the present instance, I will, be you clean, in other words, that he is perpetually declaring the purpose of his mercy to relieve the wants and heal the infirmities of his penitent and humble children, and is always in the act of executing that purpose, whenever his children are in a proper state of heart and of life to admit his Divine Operation.

Q. And  what  do  you  understand by what next follows, where it is said,  immediately Ms leprosy was cleansed?

A. The blessed Jesus had before expressed the purpose of His Love, and also its operation, in the emphatic words, I will, be you clean, and therefore now the effect of that purpose and operation is described. Thus we are instructed that every Divine Work is threefold, including in it Intention which is of love, design which is of wisdom, and effect which is of operation; and thus too we are instructed further, that in every effect there must be a cause or design, and in every cause or design there must be a purpose or end; and that consequently in every work of creation and redemption there is a manifestation of Divine Love and Wisdom, of which such work is therefore an exact representative type or figure, so that the whole of creation may be regarded as a theatre representative of the Divine Principles in which it originates, which are love, wisdom and use.

Q. But It is written that Jesus says unto him, See you tell no man, but go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift that Moses commanded) for a testimony to them — what do you conceive to be here meant by the injunction, See you tell no man?

A. According to the sense of the letter, this injunction implies, that the cleansed Leper should be silent respecting the Divine Operation from which he had received such an extraordinary benefit, and in this sense of the term, it contains an useful caution to those, who are forward to speak of the experience they have had of the Divine Mercy, and who consider it as a crime to conceal from others the blessings which have been bestowed on themselves. But according to the spiritual idea, the injunction implies that the Miracle worked should not affect the understanding only, by being regarded merely in an intellectual view, or as a point of curious speculation, but should affect the will of its cleansed subject, by being regarded as an effect of the pure love and mercy of the most high god. It therefore follows, Go your way, show yourself to the priest, and offer the gift which Moses commanded, for a testimony to them. For by the injunction, Go your way, is to be understood a requirement to live according to the mercy which had been experienced; and by the further injunction, show yourself to the priest, is to be understood an opening of the mind to the consideration and reception of the good of heavenly love and life, which good was figured and represented by the priest under the Jewish law; and lastly by the injunction, offer the gift which Moses commanded for a testimony to them, is to be understood the grateful and devout acknowledgment that all spiritual cleansing and purification, especially in the case of the profanation of Good and Truth, is the sole effect of the Divine Loving-kindness, and a proof most positive of the Divine Omnipotence.

Q. What then is the general instruction which you learn from this Miracle?

A. I learn from it, in the first place, to adore that Divine Power and Goodness, which when manifested here on earth in a bodily form, was exercised on the bodies of men, by the removal of bodily disease and infirmity, and thus proves the original of that form to be from the father of mercies. And I learn from it, in the next place, to reflect with consolation and confidence, that the same Divine Power and Goodness is continually flowing from the glorified body of the great redeemer, to remove all spiritual disease and infirmity, even that greatest of all distempers, the profanation of Good and Truth, in all cases where Divine Aid is supplicated out of a humble and penitent heart for the purpose of removal. Lastly, I learn what are the qualifications to receive the healing gift of the Divine Mercy, and that they consist, first, in the acknowledgement of the incarnate god in His divine humanity; and secondly, in the confidence that He has Omnipotence, in other words, that He can do all things consistent with His own order, and with the laws of operation which He Himself hath been pleased to appoint. I am resolved therefore from now on to believe in this Omnipotence of the incarnate god, and to apply to Him, and to Him alone, for relief under all my spiritual distempers, and never to despair of His Divine Aid, even though I should inadvertently offend against His holy laws, and thus incur the guilt of profaning them. amen.