Your Book Of Life

 The Spiritual Frontier

Topics relating to the
Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
and the Lord’s Second Coming :

by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Rev. 20:12).


For many Christians the book of Revelation has little clear meaning. Most people probably consider it to be ignorable. Those who try to understand it find it challenging. Fundamentalists see it as a prediction of a cataclysmic finale to the story of human life on this earth, and countless people have wondered when this finale would occur. Many words have been written trying to link past and present events with the images of destruction spoken of in Revelation to try to see when the second coming will take place. Its immanent arrival has been confidently predicted innumerable times over the last two thousand years.

The misunderstanding that surrounds this book is to be expected. None but the Lord Himself could reveal its true meaning. Human intelligence could spend five times the nearly two millennium that it has already had to try to interpret the book of Revelation and would still not find its true meaning. It is a fundamental truth of the New Church that the book of Revelation as well as the other books of the Old and New Testaments speak on a far deeper level than is seen merely in the literal sense. The book of Revelation does not primarily predict natural historical events any more than did the prophecies of the Lord’s first coming in the Old Testament.

Understood merely literally, the Old Testament prophecies appeared to promise a great and everlasting kingdom of the Messiah in which the Jewish people would have great prominence. Those alive at the time of the first coming who expected Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom were confused and bewildered by the way He lived His life in this world. Some probably lost faith when the Old Testament prophecies were not fulfilled by Jesus as they expected them to be. Likewise, many Christians have been confused and bewildered by the apparent lack of literal fulfillment of the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Some have lost faith, giving up on the prophecies of a last judgment and a second coming as having any meaning.

The traditional Christian interpretation of the last judgment has several features that differ quite strongly from the one presented by the Heavenly Doctrines for the New Church. The traditional view of all people waiting in the grave till the sounding of the great trumpet is one of those differences. The Writings for the New Church teach that life after death begins for each individual shortly after his natural life has ended. Another is that the crucial judgment of a person’s life does not take place by some objective individual apart from the person himself. A third is that life after death is not primarily a reward or punishment for our deeds in this world. There are many, many other differences. Many of them arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of the book of Revelation. Traditional Christianity has viewed the book of Revelation as speaking of earthly events that will some day take place in this world, while the books revealed for the New Church would have us recognize the images of that book as being spiritual realities, much of which has already occurred in the spiritual world.

The reality that the book of Revelation speaks of is that of a great judgment that has already occurred in the spiritual world. To understand what this book speaks of, a person must know a number of things about how judgment takes place after death. In the normal order of the life after death, both the good and evil seek the company of like-minded individuals with all being prepared over a period of time for their eternal home either in heaven or hell. From a mixture of good and evil, just as exists in this world, the different people separate themselves, with the evil seeking hell and the good, heaven. The evil do not desire to be in heaven because they cannot stand to be around those who are genuinely good. They rapidly lose their power to lead others astray, because the light of genuine truth existing in the spiritual world shows them for what they really are. This is a brief description of how the normal process of judgment occurs after each person’s death.

This process is absolutely dependent on the light of truth existing in that intermediate area between heaven and hell which is called the world of spirits. When the truth revealed to mankind ceased to provide the necessary basis for that light, disorder occurred in that intermediate world. The normal process of judgment could not go on. Rather than having hidden evil revealed, they could continue to hide. Rather than having the evil find their proper places in hell, they continued to dwell in the world of spirits and there they established a false life for themselves. It was false in that the true reality of their lives was hidden and they surrounded themselves with things that also did not reflect their true qualities. Their cities, gardens, rivers, even their sun, moon and stars were not from the Lord but from themselves and their own evil. As long as the light of truth did not shine in that world they could maintain the illusion of a false heaven. The images of great destruction recorded in the book of Revelation really did occur in the world of spirits when the light of truth once again shone in that world and the normal process of judgment could once again be reestablished.

Why is it important what a person thinks of the book of Revelation? The Lord has revealed all that He has for us in the world because He wants us to live as happy and as productive lives as we can, both now in our relatively brief natural life and also in our life after death continuing to eternity. Some of the wrong ideas that one can get from the book of Revelation could cause a person to spiritually stumble and fall. Some of them make for a sadder and more self-centered life than the Lord wishes for us.

Nearly everyone has seen the cartoon image of the man walking around in sackcloth through the busy streets of a city carrying a sign that announces that the end of the world is coming. His message is that we should turn our lives from our daily concerns. While it is very important that we recognize that each day gives us precious opportunities to serve the Lord, these opportunities will not be best fulfilled if we withdraw from the world, nor will they be best fulfilled if we cling desperately to each minute as our last, nor if we throw everything aside and live for the moment. The Lord does not want us to wait with bated breath for his arrival, thinking only of our own concerns and needs. He wants us to serve those around us. He wants us to live full, useful lives. Too great a fear of the end of natural life can lead to an impoverished approach to each day.

An important concept presented by the Writings about life after death is that the essential quality of our natural life will continue to eternity as our spiritual character. The lesson read today spoke of the judgment that win take place after death, and uses the image of a book of life that will be read. What is this book of life? One of the most horrible of all Christian heresies is that everyone’s spiritual destiny has been predestined from the beginning of time-written as in a book of who will go to heaven and who will not. Part of the reason this is horrible is because of the quality it ascribes to God. What kind of God would create some people to be inevitably damned to eternity just to satisfy some arbitrary balance? If God did not create each and every individual with the possibility of going to heaven, He would be more cruel than the worst individual could be in this world. Concerning this idea of predestination the book The Divine Providence makes the following observation:

It is cruel to believe that the Lord, who is Love itself and Mercy itself, suffers such a vast multitude of men to be born for hell, or that so many myriads of myriads are born damned and doomed, that is, are born devils and satans; and that He does not from His Divine Wisdom provide that they who live well and acknowledge God should not be cast into eternal fire and torment. The Lord is ever the Creator and Savior of all; and He alone leads all, and desires the death of no one. (DP 330).

Another reason why predestination is such a horrible idea is because of the spiritual apathy that it can arouse. If our spiritual fate is already predetermined, why bother trying to do anything about it? A person could become a complete fatalist, accepting everything that happened to him as inevitable. He would never try to work to make his life better or improve the lot of others, because all things would be accepted as being the way God intended them to be.

While very few people today would subscribe to an idea of absolute predestination by God, all of us are susceptible to the apathy that says we ourselves are fixed and unchanging or that those whom we have to deal with are the way they are due to an unchangeable nature. In some states of mind it is all too easy just to accept things as they are rather than use our best insight to try to improve them.

A person’s book of life is not something that is set before he has lived his life in this world. A person’s book of life is the sum total quality that he has gathered to his life by his choices in this world. It is the record of what he has thought and cared about each day of his life. It is not just a fist of good and bad deeds. We know quite well that actions seen by others in the world may have little relationship to the inner thoughts and motives behind them.

When we leave this world, we will have established what is more important to us than anything else. We will have accepted a ruling love that has worked to orchestrate all the other affections of our mind and from these all our thoughts and deeds. It is this ruling love that determines our eternal home after death. It is our book of life. Its pages are being recorded each day we spend in this world. Everything that we have thought, intended, spoken and done in the world is recorded there.

Swedenborg tells us of some people who after death still tried to pretend. As we learn of the basic rules in the Old Testament, the role of forgiveness in the New Testament, and comprehend why this is good in the explanations of the Writings, then we can re-direct our thinking and grow to be more in harmony with the Lord’s ways.

This is why He speaks to us in His Word. This is why He has revealed truths that can touch and stimulate every area of our minds. And this is the Lord’s second coming in truth. His Spirit of truth leads to all truth as our minds are opened to the wonders of His Word, and as we let that light shine our way. From the essence of love within the Lord that causes Him to speak to us, the Word in its threefold form would lead us back to that love. This is the male child that came from the woman clothed with the sun. This is the Heavenly Doctrine given us by the Lord. This is the Lord with us as we see and do His words. Amen.

Lessons: Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17, AE 724:1,2

Presented in Pittsburgh June 12, 1988


Apocalypse Explained 724:1, 2

And she brought forth a son, a male, signifies the doctrine of truth for the New Church that is called the New Jerusalem. This is evident from the signification of “son” as meaning truth, and of “a son, a male,’ as meaning the genuine truth of the church, consequently also its doctrine, for the truth of the church from the Word is its doctrine since doctrine contains the truths that are for the church. But the genuine doctrine of the church is the doctrine of good, thus the doctrine of life, which is of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor; but yet it is the doctrine of truth, since doctrine teaches life, love, and charity, and so far as it teaches it is truth; for when a man knows and understands what good is, what life is, what love is, and what charity is, he knows and understands these things as truths, since he knows and understands what good is, how he ought to live, and what love and charity are, and of what quality a man is who is in the life of love and charity; and as long as these are matters of knowledge and understanding they are nothing but truths and thus doctrines; but as soon as they pass over from knowledge and from the understanding into the will, and thus into act, they are no longer truths but goods; for interiorly man wills nothing but what he loves, and that which he loves is to him good. From this it can be seen that every doctrine of the church is a doctrine of truth, and that the truth of doctrine becomes good and comes to be of love and charity when from doctrine it passes into life.

This doctrine that is here signified by ‘the son, a male’ is especially the doctrine of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor, thus the doctrine of the good of life, which nevertheless is still the doctrine of truth. That the doctrine of the good of love, and thus of life, is here signified by “the son, a male’ can be seen from this, that ‘the woman’ who brought forth the son was seen “arrayed with the sun, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,’ and ‘the sun” signifies love to the Lord, and “the crown of twelve stars’ signifies the knowledges of good and truth, and from such a woman and mother nothing else is begotten except what pertains to love and good, thus the doctrine respecting these.

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Freedom

HR90THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

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FREEDOM

There is infernal freedom, and there is heavenly freedom. Thinking and willing evil and also speaking and doing it so far as civil and moral laws do not prevent, is from infernal freedom. But thinking and willing good and speaking and doing it so far as opportunity offers, is from heavenly freedom. A man perceives as his own what he thinks, wills, speaks and does in freedom. The freedom anyone has always comes from his love. The man in an evil love cannot but deem infernal freedom to be real freedom, and a man in love of the good perceives that heavenly freedom is real freedom; consequently each regards the opposite of his freedom as bondage. No one can deny that one or the other must be freedom, for two kinds of freedom opposed to each other cannot both be freedom. Furthermore it cannot be denied that to be led by good is freedom and to be led by evil is bondage. For to be led by good is to be led by the Lord, but to be led by evil is to be led by the devil.

[2] Inasmuch as all he does in freedom appears to a man to be his own, coming as it does from what he loves, and to act from one’s love, as was said, is to act freely, it follows that conjunction with the Lord causes a man to seem free and also his own, and the more closely he is conjoined to the Lord, to seem so much freer and so much more his own. He seems the more distinctly his own because it is the nature of the divine love to want its own to be another’s, that is, to be the angel’s or the man’s. All spiritual love is such, preeminently the Lord’s. The Lord, moreover, never coerces anyone. For nothing to which one is coerced seems one’s own, and what seems not one’s own cannot be done from one’s love or be appropriated to one as one’s own. Man is always led in freedom by the Lord, therefore, and reformed and regenerated in freedom. On this much more will be said in what follows; also see some things above, n. 4. [DP43]

The reason why the more distinctly a man seems to be his own the more plainly he sees that he is the Lord’s, is that the more closely he is conjoined to the Lord the wiser he becomes (as was shown, nn. 34-36), and wisdom teaches and recognizes this. The angels of the third heaven, as the wisest angels, perceive this and call it freedom itself; but to be led by themselves they call bondage. They give as the reason for this that the Lord does not flow immediately into the perceptions and thoughts of wisdom, but into the affections of the love of good and by these into the former, and this influx they perceive in the affection by which they have wisdom. Hence, they say, all that they think from wisdom seems to be from themselves, thus seemingly their own, and this gives reciprocal conjunction. [ DP44]

As the Lord’s divine providence has for its object a heaven from mankind, it has for its object the conjunction of the human race with Him (see nn. 28-31). It also has for its object that man should be more and more closely conjoined to Him (nn. 32, 33); for thus man possesses a more interior heaven. Further, it has for its object that by the conjunction man should become wiser (nn. 34-36) and happier (nn. 37-41), for he has heaven by and according to wisdom, and happiness by wisdom, too. Finally, providence has for its object that man shall seem more distinctly his own, yet recognize the more clearly that he is the Lord’s (nn. 42-44). All these are of the Lord’s divine providence, for all are heaven and heaven is its object. [ DP45]

How far distant heavenly freedom (which is from the affection of good and truth) is from infernal freedom (which is from the affection of evil and falsity), is evident from the fact that when the angels in heaven merely think about such freedom as is from the affection of evil and falsity, or what is the same, from the cupidities of the love of self and the world, they are immediately seized with internal pain; and on the other hand, when evil spirits merely think about the freedom which is from the affection of good and truth, or what is the same, from the desires of mutual love, they at once come into anguish; and what is wonderful, so opposite is the one freedom to the other, that the freedom of the love of self and the world is hell to good spirits; and on the other hand, the freedom of love to the Lord and mutual love is hell to evil spirits. Hence all in the other life are distinct according to their kinds of freedom, or what is the same, according to their loves and affections, consequently according to the delights of their life, which is the same as according to their lives; for lives are nothing else than delights, and these are nothing else than affections which are of the loves. [AC 2873]

0179a

0179a Because Jehovah hath hearkened to thine affliction. That this signifies while it was submitting itself, is evident from what was said above (n. 1937), in that to “humble and afflict oneself” denotes to submit to the sovereign control of the internal man, which submission was there treated of, and it is shown that this is to compel oneself; also that in compelling oneself there is freedom, that is, what is spontaneous and voluntary, by which compelling oneself is distinguished from being compelled. It was also shown that without this freedom, that is, spontaneity or willingness, man cannot possibly be reformed and receive any heavenly Own; and further that there is more of freedom in temptations than out of them, although the contrary appears to be the case, for the freedom is then stronger in proportion to the assaults of evils and falsities, and is strengthened by the Lord in order that a heavenly Own may be conferred upon the man; and for this reason the Lord is more present with us while we are in temptations. It was shown further that the Lord never compels anyone; for he who is compelled to think what is true and do what is good is not reformed, but thinks falsity and wills evil all the more. All compulsion has this effect, as we may see from the records and examples of life, for from them we know these two things: that consciences do not suffer themselves to be compelled, and that we strive after what is forbidden. Moreover everyone desires to pass from non-freedom into freedom, for this belongs to man’s life.

[2] Hence it is evident that anything which is not from freedom, that is, which is not from what is spontaneous or voluntary, is not acceptable to the Lord; for when anyone worships the Lord from what is not free, he worships from nothing that is his own, and in this case it is the external which moves, that is, which is moved, from being compelled, while the internal is null, or resistant, or is even contradictory to it. While man is being regenerated, he, from the freedom with which he is gifted by the Lord, exercises self-compulsion, and humbles and even afflicts his rational, in order that it may submit itself, and thereby he receives a heavenly Own, which is afterwards gradually perfected by the Lord, and is made more and more free, so that it becomes the affection of good and thence of truth, and has delight, and in both the freedom and the delight there is happiness like that of angels. This freedom is what the Lord speaks of in John:

The truth shall make* you free; if the Son makes you free, you shall be* free indeed (John 8:32, 36).

[3] The nature of this freedom is utterly unknown to those who do not possess conscience, for they make freedom consist in doing as they please and in the license of thinking and speaking what is false, of willing and doing what is evil, and of not compelling and humbling, still less of afflicting such desires; when yet the very reverse is the case, as the Lord also teaches in the same gospel:

Everyone that committeth sin is the servant of sin (John 8:34).

This slavish freedom they receive from the infernal spirits who are with them and who infuse it, and when they are in the life of these spirits they are also in their loves and cupidities, and an impure and excrementitious delight breathes upon them, and when they are being as it were carried away by the torrent, they suppose themselves to be in freedom, but it is infernal freedom. The difference between this infernal freedom and heavenly freedom is that the one is that of death, and drags them down to hell, while the other, or heavenly freedom, is of life and uplifts them to heaven.

[4] That all true internal worship comes from freedom, and none from compulsion, and that if worship is not from freedom it is not internal worship, is evident from the Word, as from the sacrifices that were freewill offerings or vows, or offerings of peace or of thanksgiving; which were called “gifts” and “offerings” (concerning which see Num. 15:3, etc.; Deut. 12:6; 16:10-11; 23:23-24). So in David:

With a free-will offering will I sacrifice unto Thee; I will confess to Thy name, O Jehovah, for it is good (Ps. 54:6).

So again from the contribution or collection which they were to make for the Tabernacle, and for the garments of holiness, spoken of in Moses:
Speak unto the sons of Israel, and let them take for Me an offering; from every man whom his heart impels willingly ye shall take My offering (Exod. 25:2).

And again:

Whosoever is of a willing heart let him bring it, Jehovah’s offering (Exod. 35:5).

[5] Moreover the humiliation of the rational man, or its affliction (from freedom, as before said), was also represented by the affliction of souls on days of solemnity, as mentioned in Moses:

It shall be a statute of eternity unto you; in the seventh month, on the tenth of the month, ye shall afflict your souls (Lev. 16:29).

And again:

On the tenth of the seventh month, this is the day of expiations; there shall be a holy convocation unto you, and ye shall afflict your souls; every soul that shall not have afflicted itself in that same day, shall be cut off from his peoples (Lev. 23:27, 29).

It was for this reason that the unleavened bread, in which there was nothing fermented, is called the “bread of affliction” (Deut. 16:2-3).

[6] “Affliction” is thus spoken of in David:

Jehovah, who shall sojourn in Thy tent? who shall dwell in the mountain of Thy holiness? He that walketh uprightly, and worketh righteousness; he that sweareth to afflict himself, and changeth not (Ps. 15:1-2, 4).

That “affliction” denotes the mastering and subjugation of the evils and falsities that rise up from the external man into the rational, may be seen from what has been said. Thus “affliction” does not mean that we should plunge ourselves into poverty and wretchedness, or that we should renounce all bodily delights, for in this way evil is not mastered and subjugated; and moreover some other evil may be aroused, namely, a sense of merit on account of the renunciation; and besides, man’s freedom suffers, in which alone, as in ground, the good and truth of faith can be inseminated. (Concerning “affliction” as denoting also temptation, see above, n. 1846.) [AC 1947]

The reason why the evil succeed in accordance with their skill, is that it is according to order that everyone should do what he does from reason and also from freedom; and therefore unless it were left to a man to act in freedom according to his reason, and thus also unless the consequent arts succeeded, the man could not possibly be disposed to receive eternal life, because this is instilled when the man is in freedom, and his reason is enlightened. For no one can be compelled to good, because nothing compulsory cleaves to the man, for it is not his. That becomes the man’s own which is done from freedom, for that which is from the will is done from freedom, and the will is the man himself; and therefore unless a man is kept in the freedom to do evil also, good from the Lord cannot be provided for him. [AC 10777]

Author: EMANUEL. SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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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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Equilibrium

THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

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EQUILIBRIUM >> Good and Evil >> Truth and Falsity >> Heat and Cold >> Light and Darkness

equilibriump_500_333 THE EQUILIBRIUM BETWEEN HEAVEN AND HELL.

For any thing to have existence there must be an equilibrium of all things. Without equilibrium is no action and reaction; for equilibrium is between two forces, one acting and  the other reacting, and the state of rest resulting from like action and reaction is called equilibrium. In the natural world there is an equilibrium in all things and in each thing. It exists in a general way even in the atmosphere, wherein the lower parts react and resist in proportion as the higher parts act and press down. Again, in the natural world there is an equilibrium between heat and cold, between light and shade, and between dryness and moisture, the middle condition being the equilibrium. There is also an equilibrium in all the subjects of the three kingdoms of nature, the mineral, the vegetable, and the animal; for without equilibrium in them nothing can come forth and have permanent existence. Everywhere there is a sort of effort acting on the one side and reacting on the other.

[2] All existence or all effect is produced in equilibrium, that is, by one force acting and another suffering itself to be acted upon, or when one force by acting flows in, the other receives and harmoniously submits. In the natural world that which acts and reacts is called force, and also endeavor [or effort]; but in the spiritual world that which acts and reacts is called life and will. Life in that world is living force, and will is living effort; and the equilibrium itself is called freedom. Thus spiritual equilibrium or freedom has its outcome and permanence in the balance between good acting on the one side and evil reacting on the other side; or between evil acting on the one side and good reacting on the other side. [3] With the good the equilibrium is between good acting and evil reacting; but with the evil the equilibrium is between evil acting and good reacting.  Spiritual equilibrium is between good and evil, because the whole life of man has reference to good and to evil, and the will is the receptacle. There is also an equilibrium between truth and falsity, but this depends on the equilibrium between good and evil. The equilibrium between truth and falsity is like that between light and shade, in that light and shade affect the objects of the vegetable kingdom only so far as heat and cold are in them. That light and shade themselves have no effect, but only the heat that acts through them, is evident from the fact that light and shade are the same in winter time and in spring time. This comparison of truth and falsity with light and shade is from correspondence, for truth corresponds to light, falsity to shade, and heat to the good of love; in fact, spiritual light is truth, spiritual shade is falsity, and spiritual heat is good of love (see the chapter where light and heat in heaven are treated of, n. 126-140). [HH589]

There is a perpetual equilibrium between heaven and hell. From hell there continually breathes forth and ascends an endeavor to do evil, and from heaven there continually breathes forth and descends an endeavor to do good. In this equilibrium is the world of spirits; which world is intermediate between heaven and hell (see above, n. 421-431). The world of spirits is in this equilibrium because every man after death enters first the world of spirits, and is kept there in a state like that which he was in while in the world, and this would be impossible if there were not a perfect equilibrium there; for by means of this the character of everyone is explored, since they then remain in the same freedom as they had in the world.  Spiritual equilibrium is freedom in man and spirit (as has been said just above, n. 589). What each one’s freedom is the angels recognize by a communication of affections and thoughts therefrom; and it becomes visible to the sight of angelic spirits by the ways in which the spirits go. Good spirits there travel in the ways that go towards heaven, but evil spirits in the ways that go towards hell. Ways actually appear in that world; and that is the reason why ways in the Word signify the truths that lead to good, or in the opposite sense the falsities that lead to evil; and for the same reason going, walking, and journeying in the Word signify progressions of life.{1} Such ways I have often been permitted to see, also spirits going and walking in them freely, in accord with their affections and thoughts. [HH590]

0017 Evil continually breathes forth and ascends out of hell, and good continually breathes forth and descends out of heaven, because everyone is encompassed by a spiritual sphere; and that sphere flows forth and pours out from the life of the affections and the thoughts therefrom.{1} And as such a sphere flows forth from every individual, it flows forth also from every heavenly society and from every infernal society, consequently from all together, that is, from the entire heaven and from the entire hell. Good flows forth from heaven because all there are in good; and evil flows forth from hell because all there are in evil. The good that is from heaven is all from the Lord; for the angels in the heavens are all withheld from what is their own, and are kept in what is the Lord’s own, which is good itself. But the spirits in the hells are all in what is their own, and everyone’s own is nothing but evil; and because it is nothing but evil it is hell.{2} Evidently, then, the equilibrium in which angels are kept in the heavens and spirits in the hells is not like the equilibrium in the world of spirits. The equilibrium of angels in the heavens exists in the degree in which they have been willing to be in good, or in the degree in which they have lived in good in the world, and thus also in the degree in which they have held evil in aversion; but the equilibrium of spirits in hell exists in the degree in which they have been willing to be in evil, or have lived in evil in the world, and thus in heart and spirit have been opposed to good. [HH591]

Unless the Lord ruled both the heavens and the hells there would be no equilibrium; and if there were no equilibrium there would be no heaven or hell; for all things and each thing in the universe, that is, both in the natural world and in the spiritual world, endure by means of equilibrium. Every rational man can see that this is true.  If there were a preponderance on one part and no resistance on the other would not both perish? So would it be in the spiritual world if good did not react against evil and continually restrain its uprising; and unless this were done by the Divine Itself both heaven and hell would perish, and with them the whole human race. It is said unless the Divine Itself did this, because the self of everyone, whether angel, spirit, or man, is nothing but evil (see above, n. 591); consequently neither angels nor spirits are able in the least to resist the evils continually exhaling from the hells, since from self they all tend towards hell. It is evident, then, that unless the Lord alone ruled both the heavens and the hells no one could ever be saved. Moreover, all the hells act as one; for evils in the hells are connected as goods are in the heavens; and the Divine alone, which goes forth solely from the Lord, is able to resist all the hells, which are innumerable, and which act together against heaven and against all who are in heaven. [HH592]

The equilibrium between the heavens and the hells is diminished or increased in accordance with the number of those who enter heaven and who enter hell; and this amounts to several thousands daily. The Lord alone, and no angel, can know and perceive this, and regulate and equalize it with precision; for the Divine that goes forth from the Lord is omnipresent, and sees everywhere whether there is any wavering, while an angel sees only what is near himself, and has no perception in himself of what is taking place even in his own society. [HH593]

How all things are so arranged in the heavens and in the hells that each and all of those who are there may be in their equilibrium, can in some measure be seen from what has been said and shown above respecting the heavens and the hells, namely, that all the societies of heaven are distinctly arranged in accordance with goods and their kinds and varieties, and all the societies of hell in accordance with evils, and their kinds and varieties; and that beneath each society of heaven there is a society of hell corresponding to it from opposition, and from this opposing correspondence equilibrium results; and in consequence of this the Lord unceasingly provides that no infernal society beneath a heavenly society shall gain any preponderance, and as soon as it begins to do so it is restrained by various means, and is reduced to an exact measure of equilibrium.  These means are many, only a few of which I will mention. Some of these means have reference to the stronger presence of the Lord; some to the closer communication and conjunction of one or more societies with others; some to the casting out of superabundant infernal spirits into deserts; some to the transference of certain spirits from one hell to another; some to the reducing of those in the hells to order, and this also is effected in various ways; some to the screening of certain hells under denser and thicker coverings, also letting them down to greater depths; besides other means; and still others that are employed in the heavens above the hells. All this has been said that it may in some measure be perceived that the Lord alone provides that there shall be an equilibrium everywhere between good and evil, thus between heaven and hell; for on such equilibrium the safety of all in the heavens and of all on the earth rests.[HH594]

Author: EMANUEL. SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.

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

The Doctrine Of Charity And Faith

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

Hell and Its Fire

THE DOCTRINE OF CHARITY AND FAITH

Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

That which anyone does from love remains inscribed on his heart, for love is the fire of life, thus is the life of everyone. Consequently such as is the love, such is the life; and such as is the life, thus such as is the love, such is the whole man as to soul and as to body.

As love to the Lord and love toward the neighbor make the life of heaven with man, so when they reign do the love of self and the love of the world make the life of hell with him, for these loves are opposite to the former; and therefore those with whom the loves of self and of the world reign, can receive nothing from heaven; but all that they receive is from hell. For whatever a man thinks, and whatever he wills, or whatever a man believes, and whatever he loves is either from heaven or from hell.

From this it is that those in whom the love of self and the love of the world make the life, desire what is good for themselves alone, and not for others except for the sake of themselves. And as their life is from hell, they despise others in comparison with themselves, they are angry with others if they do not favor them, they hold them in hatred, they burn with revenge against them, and even desire to vent their rage upon them. At last these things become the delights of their life, thus their loves.

These are they who have hell in them, and who after death come into hell, because their life is in agreement with the life of those who are in hell; for all there are of this character; and everyone comes to his own people.

As these persons receive nothing from heaven, in their hearts they deny God and the life after death, and consequently hold in contempt all things of the church. It avails not that they do good to their fellow-citizen, to society, to their country, and to the church; or that they speak well about these; because they do all this for the sake of themselves and the world, in order to save appearances, and to secure reputation, honors, and gains. These are the external bonds by which such persons are brought to do what is good, and are withheld from doing what is evil. As for internal bonds, which are those of conscience, and which dictate that what is evil must not be done because it is sin, and is contrary to the Divine laws, they have none.

And therefore when these persons come into the other life, which takes place immediately after death, and external things are taken away from them, they rush headlong into every wickedness in accordance with their interiors, such as contempt of others in comparison with themselves, enmity, hatred, revenge, rage, cruelty, and also into hypocrisy, fraud, deceit, and many other kinds of wickedness. These are then the delights of their life; and therefore they are separated from the good, and cast into hell.

In the world many such persons are not aware that these thing are the delight of their life, because these things hide themselves in the loves of self and of the world; and at that time such persons call all things goods that favor these loves; and all things that confirm them they call truths. Neither do they know and acknowledge any other goods and truths, because they receive nothing from heaven, which they have closed against themselves.

As love is the fire of life, and everyone’s life is in accordance with his love, it may from this be known what heavenly fire is, and what infernal fire. Heavenly fire is love to the Lord and love toward the neighbor, and infernal fire is the love of self and the love of the world, and the consequent concupiscence of all evils, which spring from these loves as from their fountains.

The nature of the life with those who are in hell can be inferred from what it would be among such persons in the world if external bonds were taken away, and there were no internal bonds to restrain them.

The life of man cannot be changed after death. It then remains such as it had been. Nor can the life of hell be transferred into the life of heaven, because they are opposites. From this it is evident that those who come into hell remain there forever; and that those who come into heaven remain there forever.

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(Arcana Coelestia 10740 – 10749)

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There Is Always a Blue Sky

Swedenborg Foundation

By Peter King

Depression is an illness, and we can try to treat it with medicine, with therapy, or with a combination of the two. Such approaches are all very useful, and I would never tell anyone suffering from depression not to take the pills prescribed to them or to see a properly qualified therapist. These things will only take us so far, though, because depression is as much a spiritual problem as it is a physical one. Depression principally affects the way we think and feel; and in consequence, it affects how we relate to others. We need more than pills; we need a source of spiritual medicine. I believe that I have found such a source in the writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.

I suffered from depression for more than fifteen years; and for most of that time, I did not hold out much hope that things for me and my family would improve. Depression ate away at my family life, my social life, my self-esteem, and my faith, leaving me with very little hope. But over the last year, I have come to realize that I can fight depression using the revelations of Swedenborg and as a result have begun to change. Swedenborg has given me the means to fight for my soul.

I have developed six simple statements that I use to fight off depression. I say these to myself constantly and use them to ward off the negative thoughts and sense of isolation that depression uses to trap me. These statements are entirely personal. If I am to change how I think and feel, they must be framed this way. But I hope that sharing them can help others fight for their souls as well.

1. I must face up to my problems and not hide from them.

For many years, I did not look at myself or examine what depression was doing to me. I would, in fact, refuse to do so, with the vain idea that if I ignored depression, then it might ignore me. But I now realize that I must do the exact opposite of this. I have to inspect my negative thoughts and ask myself what they are trying to get me to do. Just what are their motives and where do they come from? Are the thoughts trying to control me, dominate me, or coerce me into doing something that will harm me or others? If they are not helping me, then they are not what I want or need and I should reject them. These thoughts are not there for my own good but are simply there to further themselves at my expense.

Swedenborg showed me that I could not start to understand my situation unless I reflected upon myself. Once I did this, I began to notice things about myself that were hitherto secret or unknown. I became aware of myself in relation to what was around me.

Without reflection we know nothing, except that we are, and nothing else, not what we are. On the other hand, if we reflect upon ourself from [the viewpoint of] others, or allow others to reflect upon us, and to say what we are like, then for the first time we are able to know ourself. Otherwise we can never learn, but remain in our own illusions, and from them, reflect upon others. So one thinks truths are falsities, because one is judging from one’s illusions. For such as the starting-point is, such also is everything that follows. (Spiritual Experiences §734)

Without self-reflection, I would have continued with my illusions and misconceptions, using them as the basis for my relations with others. As a result of self-reflection, I have encouraged others to tell me how they see me and have begun to find that I can face the world as it really is.

I now see that I cannot ignore what depression is doing to me. It is only by looking at who I am that I can recognize its hold and then start to resist. I am no longer passive, and I now know that I must take responsibility; it is my fight.

2. I am neither my faults nor my virtues; I can choose my path.

The Lord does not condemn me. Like all of us, I am being prepared for heaven, and the only reason that I might not get there is because of my own actions. Swedenborg shows us that neither good nor evil comes from within but instead comes from outside of us; all that is good and true comes from heaven, and all that is false and evil comes from hell.

This is a tremendously liberating idea. It means that I do not have to accept depression, negative thoughts, or anxiety as things that are coming from within me. Even though I might have once believed them to be generated by me—that they are my thoughts—in truth, they are not. I now know that the negative thoughts that have dominated my headspace are not what I really am, so I can face these thoughts and call them out as the lies that they are. I see now that they are trying to control me and to harm me, but I don’t have to let them.

There are reflections of thought . . . for the most part having to do with one’s own affairs, or things that are to come . . . by which the longer one is held in them, the more one is infested by evil spirits. This is the cause of depressions with many. (Spiritual Experiences §§3624:2–3625)

3. Never forget that people love me and I love them.

When suffering from depression, I isolate myself and in turn feel completely alone. It is me against the world. But I am never really alone. The Lord is always with me; and the greater my need, the closer he is.

The Lord is present in us and with us throughout the whole world; and the reason for this is simply that the Lord is not in space. (Divine Love and Wisdom §10)

But I am also close to others who love me and whom I love. Depression brings with it self-pity and a refusal to accept responsibility. So what I do really does matter both to myself and to others. My choices matter, in terms of where I end up, but they also matter to those closest to me. Depression does not merely affect me, but it also impacts greatly on those I love. They bear the brunt of my anger and my moods. So, if I can change, I not only improve my own life but also improve the lives of those I love.

4. Depression is not me.

This is the single most important thing I have learned from Swedenborg. Depression is not who I am!

As mentioned above, Swedenborg tells us that all good and evil comes from outside of us. So just as I am neither my faults nor my virtues, I am not my depression. In fact, it is never my depression. What is pressing down on me is something from outside that is trying to affect the thoughts and feelings that I have.

Divine providence is in the smallest details of our thoughts and desires, which means that we cannot think or intend anything on our own. Everything we think and intend, and therefore everything we say and do, is the result of an inflow. If it is good, something is flowing in from heaven; if it is bad, something is flowing in from hell. (Divine Providence §287)

Depression does not come from within me, so it does not define me. Since I am separate from depression, it does not make me what I truly am. Understanding this idea puts depression on the outside and lets me think of myself as someone who can be free of it. I can be a caring and loving husband, father, and friend. I can take part in society and have a purpose in all that I do. I can be useful and free.

5. Depression is temporary; love is permanent.

Depression is a parasite. It seeks to feed off me, keeping me alive just so it can thrive at my expense. It leaves me debilitated, almost literally unable to move or to respond intelligently to others. But, when depression is not there, I am free to act, to care, and to love. This is how I really am; this is me.

Love is the opposite of depression: it is selfless. Unlike depression, love feeds me. Love is always there, and all I need to do is reach out for it. I try to remember that above the gray clouds, the sky is always blue.

The sky blue color is such as to contain good. (Spiritual Experiences Minor §4712)

Likewise, love is always there, if only I can see it.

6. Depression is weaker than me; I do not fear it.

As a parasite, depression needs me; it cannot live without me. Depression can only survive if I allow it to reside within me, but I do not have to let it do so.

Depression is negative and shallow, so it cannot offer us anything but despair. What I now know is that there is so much else beyond depression. There is always a blue sky; there is always love. I just have to remember it is there.

Love is our life. . . . We are wholly unaware that [love] is our very life—not just the general life of our whole body and of all our thoughts, but the life of their very least detail. (Divine Love and Wisdom §1)

These six statements are not a cure, and they will not necessarily make depression go away. But, for me at least, they provide a defense against it. Most of all, I know now what depression is, and it is much harder for me to be caught unawares. I know its shape and how it moves, and because of this, depression is diminished. I can see beyond it, and the sky is blue.

Peter King, PhD, is a reader in social thought at De Montfort University in Leicester, UK.

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