Chapter XII. The Mind as the Two Kingdoms.

THE whole spiritual or internal mind is here presented in two degrees, the celestial and the spiritual. When by regeneration these two degrees are opened in man and stored with good and truth from the LORD, they answer to the two kingdoms, celestial and spiritual, into which the whole heaven is divided.

When the degrees of the spiritual mind are so opened and stored, then also the two degrees of the natural mind are cleansed of evil and falsity and replenished with good and truth of a lower degree, and form an orderly and correspondent base for the two kingdoms of the internal mind.

Every regenerate man is in one kingdom or the other according to his state of regeneration.

In the internal mind reside love to the LORD and love to the neighbor, and these heavenly loves ought to rule and qualify the loves of self and of the world located in the external mind. With the regenerate they do rule and impart a good and true quality to these natural loves.

But if the natural loves rebel and throw off the dominion of the higher, as with the wicked, they become evil, pervert the external mind, and close up the internal. This state of the external is called hell.

This diagram presents also a view of the two kingdoms of hell opposite to the two kingdoms of heaven. The satanic kingdom lies in the plane D, the diabolic in E. (Read DLW 273, and recur to the diagram; TCR 281 end; AE 740.)

In Last Judgment 14, the lowest hell (in the degree E and called the hell of devils), is said to be behind, because that which is lowest in the order from above down, and outmost from within out, is behind in the order from front back.

The satans mentioned in Apocalypse Revealed 97, 550 and 841 are in the degree D, the devils in E.

There is no discrepancy between the statement in one passage that devil is evil and thence falsity, and in another that devil is the love of self and of dominion thence. In one passage satan means falsity or the love of falsity and the evil thence, in another it means the love of the world, and thence the love of possessing the goods of others, in still another pride of intellect and of self-derived intelligence. A similar variety of statements occurs in regard to heavenly principles. It is said that the celestial principle or kingdom in heaven is love of good and thence of truth, and is love to the LORD and thence love to the neighbor; and that the spiritual kingdom is truth and thence good, or love of the neighbor and thence of the LORD. The good of the spiritual kingdom is intellectual good because the good there is from truth reduced to practice, thus truth which is intellectual is the essence of that good. Concerning the spiritual kingdom we read, –

“The angels of the second heaven are in spiritual love. Spiritual love is the love of truth, and in the supreme sense the love of Divine Truth which proceeds from the LORD, thus also love to the LORD but in an inferior degree to that in which are the celestial angels, for the celestials are in love to the LORD from the reception of Divine Good from Him; whereas the spiritual angels are in love to the LORD from the reception of Divine Truth from Him; the difference is as between love in the will and love in the understanding, or, as between flame and. its light.”- AE 831

The meaning in this passage is not that the spirituals have not will but that their will of good is formed by truth and is therefore intellectual. Inversely among the satans evil is the evil of falsity and is therefore intellectual, and inheres in the love of the world as a final end. Evil arising primarily in the will is voluntary and is the evil inhering in love of self as a final end; this is the ruling love among the devils.

This diagram illustrates True Christian Religion TCR 234, 235 and 236 and like passages throughout the Writings in which the angels are considered in two kingdoms and men in the natural degree below. The celestial angels are in B, the spiritual in C. In B is the celestial sense of the Word; the spiritual sense in C. The natural sense is in D, E, F, which together constitute the natural kingdom mentioned in 236. The higher celestial part of the natural sense is in D and the higher spiritual part in E; the merely literal sense, including the lowest spiritual and celestial element, is in F and answers to the life of the natural body.

The celestial degree and kingdom of the internal mind, is the primal abode of celestial perception, the spiritual degree that of conscience.

Perception and conscience flow thence into the natural mind, gifting it with natural perception which is celestial, and natural conscience which is spiritual.

Heaven is a mirror image of God’s Love

 

The topic of heaven and its topological description is closely connected to neuroscience and the mind/brain problem.

Modern neuroscience has discovered that every part of the human anatomy has reference to some specific part of the brain and its grouping of neurons. They suspect that in some similar manner, the physical parts of the brain are correlated to specific functions of the non-physical mind.

Emanuel Swedenborg, who is the father of the neuron theory of the brain, made comparable statements in his scientific writings, but took these ideas much, much further in his theological works. In his multi-level cognitive model, brain states not only have correlation with mental states but that every affection and idea of the human mind has reference to a specific society and spiritual function in heaven (or hell). And finally, every society in heaven has reference and correlation to some aspect and quality of God’s Divine Love and Wisdom.

This causal nexus has eternal consequences.

Every time we think and feel, it resonates with some society of spirits or angels in the other world. The mind is non-physical and represents the operation of our spirit. This spiritual operation consists purely of the various affections, dispositions and intentions of our heart (will), which find form in our thoughts and ideas (thought gives form to the affection and intention).

Affections, emotional moods, intentions, appetites, and dispositions are all derivatives of love. Everyone’s love is different. In fact, the qualities of the human heart and its resulting thoughts can be organized into genera, species, and varieties.

Heaven gets its organization from these genera, species, and varieties of love (which represent our receptivity to some quality and influence of God’s Love).

Heaven is not the same for everybody (nor is Hell). While someone on planet earth can live next door to a person with opposing likes and dislikes, this cannot apply to neighbors in the spiritual world, who form relationships and societies according to affinities.

Heaven consists of individuals who desire to be of service to others in order to promote true happiness (rather than to seek happiness through personal gain and promotion). This is the essence of spiritual and heavenly love. Those who view this activity as servitude and seek their own betterment are removed to a society among those of similar bent.

Happiness, of course, cannot be acquired in a society where everyone desires to be greater than others. This is what constitutes Hell.

Swedenborg states that in the spiritual world everyone gravitates to, and creates, a society that most corresponds to one’s own quality of love. All substances and forms in heaven are holographic representations of what we love and think.

Love is spiritual formative substance and spiritual life (and not merely a romantic notion).

In this psycho-topological landscape of the heart and mind, we each adapt this primal substance into our appropriate environment, where everyone becomes their own genera, species and variety of love (or self-love).

Heavenly societies are mirror (holographic) images of God’s love because they reflect and manifest some particular quality of Divine Spiritual Love. All the myriad ways we can each be of service to others is an image of God and is what creates both the special distinctness and unity of heavenly societies.

The Lord God views heaven from a holistic and organic point of view – just as we view the human anatomy as a unified division of labor and mutual cooperation. Heaven takes on an ultimate Grand Human Form because “humanness” comes from God’s spiritual love – and from no other source.

Because you can love and hate, you already are, as to your spirit, moving through different spiritual societies and have associations there.

Please be mindful of that.

Posted on June 18, 2008 by thegodguy

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Eating Your Way To Heaven

The multitudes of diet books for sale attest to the fact that we humans have developed poor eating habits. Eating involves more than satisfying one’s appetite, it also partakes of judgment. We constantly have to judge between eating what gives us the most pleasure and what food will do us the most good.

But is there a food so healthy for us that eating it will turn us into angels and get us all the way to heaven? The answer is “yes.”

Of course, eating your way to heaven does not mean merely switching your dessert from a seven-layered devil’s food cake to angel cake. Heaven is not a physical world, so it requires a steady diet of special, non-physical foodstuffs.

In my previous post I brought up the idea of a more rarefied aliment that is especially suitable to our species. Humans also have an appetite and a thirst for knowledge. The human brain and mind are actually the digestive system of our spirit. Everything the physical digestive system does with terrestrial food has its analog with what the mind does with information.

For example, we chew and ruminate on ideas. This mental activity lets us find out whether ideas or concepts are savory to our personal tastes and worthy of being “swallowed.” Next, our mind churns and rolls these ideas around so that they can be broken down further into their constituents. The mind then scrutinizes this mental material more deeply. In this way our discernment and judgment act as mental digestive enzymes (the acid test). If these constituents are judged as agreeable, they are finally absorbed and enter into the very fabric of our inner being (otherwise they are jettisoned as “crap”).

Like physical food, there are ideas which can seduce our thinking and bring us lots of pleasure, but are not necessarily going to do us the most good. This is why we need to reflect on all our compulsions. This is also why we need a higher form of nutritional guidance and wisdom to help our judgment.

God’s Holy Word is actually a Divine Diet Book. The whole cosmic drama of Adam and Eve was based solely on what to eat and what not to eat. In the same way that physical food is metabolized and becomes part of our spiritual being, information is metabolized in a way that it can become part of our inner or spiritual being. Therefore, both types of “eating” represent appropriation. We can accept God and religion or reject it.

Now the phrase “you are what you eat” takes on a more critical and eternal meaning. When one sheds his or her physical body after death in this world we are left with our spiritual fabric, which was formed out of the ideas, concepts, and belief systems we developed a strong appetite for. We then gravitate to either a world of compulsions or an unselfish world of wisdom.

It is not hard to imagine that a world where compulsive behavior runs rampant will be populated by individuals who seek to satisfy only themselves. This creates an environment of hatred and sets up a condition whereby there can only be eternal frustration in people’s never-ending hunger to dominate others and have things their own way. This frustration is the eternal “fire” of hell.

On other hand, those in heaven have developed their spiritual bodies to be able to metabolize and act according to God’s love and wisdom. I hope I have made these ideas easier for you to digest.

Bon apetit!

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Heaven Is Not A Retirement Destination

I recall an episode of The Twilight Zone TV series where a man of suspicious character is killed and suddenly finds himself regaining consciousness in the hereafter. He is greeted by a host, who has been given the special responsibility to see that all the dead man’s needs are taken care of. Everything works out perfectly—too perfectly. The dead man wins at everything he does.

After awhile, having everything go his way actually starts driving him crazy. He begs his host not to have everything rigged so that he always wins. Finally, he tells his host that he doesn’t deserve to be in such a perfect world and pleads to be taken to that “other” place. It is then, that he is informed that he is in that other place.

I am not implying that in hell one is waited on hand and foot, just that happiness cannot be obtained from such a one-sided scenario. Heavenly happiness must be something else.

We rarely contemplate what eternal happiness might actually consist of. Heaven is certainly the continuation of life in a more perfect realm. But how is life perfected and what constitutes living in blessedness to eternity? The answer to that question is in plain sight to all of us and simply involves a little reflection on what the dynamics of life already reveals. If we contemplate the bio-complexity of our anatomy, it becomes quite apparent that it is ordered and arranged according to mutual interrelatedness and interdependence. Organic unity (relational holism) comes from the harmony of shared utility. Individual cells serve the needs of the entire body and the body serves all the needs of the cells.

The same dynamics hold true for human society. The “glue” and quality of a nation, region, city, or small community is based on the quality of services and talents that are shared among its individuals. So the same divine patterning principle is being expressed by both bio-diversity and human diversity. Life is service. Life cannot be separated from duty.

This is why we often hear stories about people who die soon after retirement. These deaths often seem premature to us and puzzling. But staying engaged and useful to others seems to have real health benefits. The human mind falls apart if its energies are not engaged in challenging new activity (the devil’s workshop). So if life essentially consists of reciprocal utility, happiness in heaven must allow for such a sharing of talents to increase, intensify, and perfect itself through eternity. This is the exaltation of love.

Ironically, what makes hell a hell is work, and, what makes heaven a heaven is also work. But those in heaven do so for the love of serving others, while those in hell—who for selfish reasons will not work unless there is immediate personal profit—end up only being able to perform lowly menial tasks within God’s economic system of love.

Happiness is not one-sided or self-centered. In fact, our individuality finds itself the more we are in useful service to others. And this increases in heaven because our inner potentials are locked up in our spirit. The spirit is not material and therefore not limited within the constraints of space and time. So, our spirit’s inner potential can be continuously opened throughout eternity, as we strive towards greater usefulness. How else would a God of love create the universe?

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How bad a person am I?

How bad am IYou may feel undeserving of any happy destiny because you are fundamentally not okay with yourself. Well, for all I know you might well be consumed by a huge ego, be selfish, vain, bitchy, resentful, etc.  But I would like to ask how do we really know when we are basically bad? That would be quite a big conclusion to carry around on one’s shoulders. Here are four questions that might help your spiritual self-assessment.

1.      How judgmental are you about yourself?

You may not be as bad as you think if you have been focusing on or exaggerating the negative side and ignoring or minimising the positive.

“For all right judgment of any man or things it is useful, nay, essential, to see his good qualities before pronouncing on his bad.” (Thomas Carlyle)

We may be quick to pin labels on people. That’s why the tabloid newspapers sell so well. But being judgmental about oneself is a similar attitude. One can search out for and exaggerate one’s own defects just as easily as finding fault in others. Seeing oneself just in terms of one’s negative characteristics means forgetting such positives as one’s generosity of spirit or one’s desire to better understand the deeper side of life.

2.      Are you biased by an illusion of condemnation?

In many mythological, folklore and religious traditions, hell is a place of damnation i.e. eternal torture and punishment for bad conduct during life on earth. Even today we are influenced by this tradition. Condemnation of others can be paralleled by self-condemnation. The persecutory notion that bad people deserve to suffer is mirrored by the guilty idea that I, who am bad, deserve to suffer.

A very different view of hell however shows up the illusion of self-condemnation.  It is Emanuel Swedenborg’s teaching that in the next life no-one suffers punishment for any past misdeeds however wicked the person committed in the world. According to this view, what punishments do occur do not go on continually for ever because they are not retributions for wrongdoing committed on earth, but rather disciplinary reactions to minimise and deter criminal acts that selfish and cruel people commit in hell. Thus punishments in hell cease when external order has been restored.

From a similar spiritual perspective, it could be said that a loving attitude towards oneself would means cutting out all on-going guilt or self-punishment for any past bad conduct. In evaluating our  character we  shouldn’t be biased by any desire to condemn ourselves for past conduct however bad it was. A sense of self-acceptance is part of the healing process.

Easier said than done you might think. And so those drawn to religion hope they can find a sense of divine forgiveness to compensate for their difficulty in self-acceptance.

3.      Are you being premature in trying to reach any firm conclusions about yourself?

I guess we are all a bit of a mixture of good and bad.

“There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us. When we discover this, we are less prone to hate our enemies.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.)

Sometimes we obey the law and behave ethically out of love for doing what is good and right for its own sake. Other times we only do what is good out of self-interest and would behave badly if we thought we could get away with it.

Psychological theories of personal development tend to focus on the notion of integration. Disparate personal fragments in our make up slowly begin to harmonise as our character is formed. My take on this is to say that the process is either one of regeneration or degeneration; spiritual growth or spiritual decline. I believe that over a life-time we gradually are forming for ourselves an all-pervading motivation for something good or something bad and are integrating all subsidiary compatible desires and discarding all incompatible ones.

However, according to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, this process of integration is not complete in this life: the values that deep down influence our hearts do not always come to the surface and unrelated feeling, pretentiousness  and difficulty co-exist and are manifest in different situations.

He says it is only at some point in the next life that we do eventually fully get in touch with our true self (what he calls our ruling love) when the spirit of who we are slowly begins to really show and the process of separating disparate elements can be accomplished.

 “There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known.” (Luke 12:2)

Swedenborg’s evidence for his position was his own experience. Subjectively he was able to become conscious of an invisible realm in which his spirit existed and that as part of his journey within a spirit world he encountered both angelic people and also some very unpleasant individuals. Many of the self-centred spirit people wanted to be obeyed and praised and were quick to feel slighted feeling various shades of contempt, vengefulness, nastiness and cruelty. The caring unselfish ones however had the opposite feelings.

4.      To what extent does your bad side now rule your life?

Does your greed, vengefulness, or being unfaithful to your partner, amount to a spontaneous unconsidered urge? One view these days is that behaving badly is nothing much more than making an impulsive mistake through ignorance of what being good involves; not realising the consequences. On the other hand mistakes can somehow get intentionally repeated.

“To make a mistake is only an error in judgment, but to adhere to it when it is discovered shows infirmity of character.” (Dale Turner)

I would suggest giving in to some bad impulse is one thing. Worse than this is deliberately intending to do something bad when knowing it is wrong in one’s heart such as using trickery and deceit, having contempt for others, etc Worst still is habitually delighting in such wrong-doing and looking for reasons to justify such behaviour. Worst of all is fully convincing oneself that such things are allowable and smart.

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

The Final Victory Over Hell

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. (Mark 16:6)

Jesus Christ, as we know Him from the New Testament, was a very pleasant person. He was seldom angry, He was loyal to His friends, He was patient, He knew all kinds of amazing things, and was very good at teaching them in dozens of different ways. He might even remind us of that teacher who seemed to take a special interest in our progress at school, who knew how to reach us, and who also knew how to inspire us to make that extra effort and produce work that was above our usual standard. As a man of the world, as an example to others, the Lord has had a profound effect on the lives of millions of people who have come to know of Him through their study of the Word.

It is because the Lord presented Himself in such a way during His life in the world that we approach Easter with such mixed feelings; feelings of joy for the risen Lord and the battle won, mixed with feelings of sadness that it had to be done in this way.

It is much the same as the way people feel when a World War is over: The ecstatic delight that the horror is finally over, colored by the numbness and the sadness of all the needless tragedy that had gone before.

We have to face the fact that evil is a part of life in the natural world. We cannot wish it away. We have to face it squarely and deal with it according to the rules that the Lord has given us. There is only one way to savor the delight of victory, and that is to conquer in temptation.

We are gathered today to savor the delight of the Lord’s victory over hell, not only because He won the victory and we are on His “side,” but also because through His victory over hell He has brought an order into the spiritual world which means that forevermore, everyone’s battles against hell will be that much easier.

The battles that the Lord fought against hell during His time in the world could not be avoided, for it was His purpose and intent to face the hells in the natural world, the only arena where they could be permitted to approach closely enough to Him to actually have some effect. As we read in our lesson, it is a matter of the universal Christian faith that the Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subjugate the hells and to glorify His Human; and without this no mortal could have been saved (Faith 34). In other words, it was the Lord’s Divine Purpose from the very beginning that this battle should be fought and won in the natural world, for only by so doing could the Lord bring the evils that men had introduced into the world under such bonds as to allow men to live in the world in spiritual freedom and eventually come to heaven.

In order to understand and appreciate this, we also have to have a correct understanding of who Jesus really was, and why it was necessary for Him to come into the world. The heavenly doctrines of the New Church give us five key thoughts to lead us into a true understanding of the real meaning of the miracle of Easter morning.

First, we are told that it is a universal of faith that God is one in Person and in Essence in whom there is a Trinity, and that the Lord is that God (Faith 35). This idea is basic to our whole understanding of the nature of God, for it is essential that we know that Jesus Christ, the Teacher who walked on earth and was crucified, was in fact the Jehovah God of the Old Testament. This is clearly what He Himself taught, and what was the faith of the Christian Church for over three hundred years, until the leaders of the Christian church invented the doctrine of the trinity of persons and voted to adopt it in order to end a long-standing doctrinal argument.

The second article of faith is that no mortal could have been saved unless the Lord had come into the world (Ibid.). Until the Lord revealed the spiritual history of the world through the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, no one could have known the full meaning of this statement, no one could have known the spiritual danger the human race faced.

The human race, originally created as celestial, pastoral people, had descended, through a series of cycles, to the point where, in spite of the fact that it had achieved the heights of thought and government established by the Greeks and Romans, it had in fact sunk to the very depths of spiritual deprivation. Men in those days could achieve great economic and political power, but they had turned entirely away from spiritual things. They had become so full of the natural world that they were no longer able to recognize spiritual truths when they arrived in the spiritual world after death. This meant that evil spirits were able to easily deceive them, and lead otherwise decent folks into a form of slavery in false heavens. This was only possible because those people entering the spiritual world from earth were so ignorant of spiritual things. It was getting so bad that unless the Lord had done something to inspire the world with some spiritual ideas and ideals, that the human race would have simply expired under the weight of its own love of the world because it would have no longer had any way of receiving spiritual life.

The third point is that as the Lord recognized this spiritual situation as it developed, He knew that He would eventually have to take on the natural degree which men loved so much, and present Himself to them before their natural eyes, and speak into their natural ears and so inspire them to think about and act from spiritual truths once again.

At the same time, by taking on the natural degree itself by taking on a physical body, the Lord deliberately put Himself in a position to receive the assaults of hell, and it is a universal of faith that He came into the world to remove hell from man; that He removed it by combats against it and by victories over it; and that He thus subjugated it, and reduced it to order and under obedience to Himself (Ibid.).

He removed hell from mankind by breaking its power over men. He broke its power by giving mankind another path to choose, by teaching them the way to heaven. He also broke their power by receiving one by one the temptation of each society of hell and resisting it, turning it away, and throwing it back into its proper place in hell. As a result of these battles, the so-called false heavens were destroyed, and those who had been held captive in them were set free to learn the truth (if they wished to) and to find their way to their eternal spiritual homes. The power of hell was broken, and the evil spirits no longer had the power to reach out and “possess” the mind of a man in the world or a new spirit in the spiritual world as they had once had. The power of hell was broken, it was now subject to the government of the Lord once again.

Perhaps it would be useful to mention that hell only got out of control in the first place because of the Lord’s intense desire that everything that we do be of our own free choice. Therefore, as long as it was still possible for those who wished to go to heaven to do so, the Lord allowed evil to grow and grow in the world because that was what the human race wanted for itself. It was only when the human race had brought itself to the point of total destruction that the Lord stepped in to restore spiritual order.

We can think of it in terms of an adult supervising a large group of children in a playground. A certain amount of quarreling is a normal part of the way that children interact with each other, and a wise adult allows a certain amount of disorder to go on so that the children can learn to deal with their own problems in their own ways. But if the quarreling becomes so extensive that the children cannot possibly control it, then it is necessary for the adult to step in, make some judgments, and restore order. The essential point of this illustration is that we understand that both letting the quarreling go on at first, and later stepping in, are actions representing the adult’s great love for the children, but that love is showing itself in different ways under different circumstances. And so the Lord’s great love for the human race shows itself to us in different ways under different circumstances.

The fourth doctrinal point is that the Lord came into the world to glorify His Human. This is very important because unless we remember this point we can get a very negative feeling about Easter, that all the Lord did was to come to repair the mistakes that we had made.

In fact, from the very beginning, the Lord had foreseen the need to have a Human through which He could communicate with the church on earth. Until He had His own human, when the Lord wished to speak to men on earth, He had to “borrow” the spiritual body of an angel. The angel would seem to himself to go to sleep, and the Lord would flow in and appear in the angel’s form. Then, when their spiritual eyes were opened, Jehovah God could present Himself to men in the world. This is the way that He spoke to Moses and the prophets.

But the Lord wished to have direct communication instead of through representatives, and so He waited until the human race had reached the natural degree, and then He took on that degree to present Himself before men in the world directly. Having taken on the natural plane, that is, a physical body, the Lord then proceeded to incorporate it into the Divine Itself in such a way that all that was evil or corrupt was put off and rejected, but that which could be purified was made Divine. The result was that He rose, unlike any other man, with that which with man rots in the grave. The Lord had acquired for Himself a spiritual body through which He could communicate with men. He no longer needed to have an intermediary angel to do this work for Him. Swedenborg was with some people who had known the Lord in the world when He appeared in the sun of heaven. They testified that the face that they saw there was that of man they had known in the world.

The fifth and final point is that all of this means nothing if we don’t use it in our daily lives, in our day-to-day dealings with others, for the universal of the Christian faith on man’s part is that he should believe on the Lord. For by believing on Him conjunction with Him is effected and this is the means of salvation. To believe on Him is to trust that He will save: and because no one can have such trust but he who lives a good life, therefore, this also is meant by believing on Him (Ibid.). In the simplest possible terms, if we say we believe something, but we do not live according to it, then we don’t really believe it.

Of course, that is the real purpose of His resurrection; that by maintaining a state of spiritual order and equilibrium He creates a sphere in which each of us is free to do what we think is best. He has fought with the hells and brought them under control so that they cannot infest our minds unless we specifically invite them to. He has taught us by word and example what kind of life we ought to live. He has provided us with every tool and opportunity that we might need. And then He patiently waits, as a friend, to see what we will do. Let us resolve, then, to live according to His principles, to be kind towards one another, to think about other people’s feelings before we act or speak, to do everything we can to use the things which He has taken such great care to provide for us. AMEN.

 

1st Lesson:  Mark 15:25-47

Now it was the third hour, and they crucified Him. {26} And the inscription of His accusation was written above: THE KING OF THE JEWS. {27} With Him they also crucified two robbers, one on His right and the other on His left. {28} So the Scripture was fulfilled which says, “And He was numbered with the transgressors.” {29} And those who passed by blasphemed Him, wagging their heads and saying, “Aha !You who destroy the temple and build it in three days, {30} “save Yourself, and come down from the cross!” {31} Likewise the chief priests also, mocking among themselves with the scribes, said, “He saved others; Himself He cannot save. {32} “Let the Christ, the King of Israel, descend now from the cross, that we may see and believe.” Even those who were crucified with Him reviled Him. {33} Now when the sixth hour had come, there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour. {34} And at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?” which is translated, “My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” {35} Some of those who stood by, when they heard that, said, “Look, He is calling for Elijah!” {36} Then someone ran and filled a sponge full of sour wine, put it on a reed, and offered it to Him to drink, saying, “Let Him alone; let us see if Elijah will come to take Him down.” {37} And Jesus cried out with a loud voice, and breathed His last. {38} Then the veil of the temple was torn in two from top to bottom. {39} So when the centurion, who stood opposite Him, saw that He cried out like this and breathed His last, he said, “Truly this Man was the Son of God!” {40} There were also women looking on from afar, among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James the Less and of Joses, and Salome, {41} who also followed Him and ministered to Him when He was in Galilee, and many other women who came up with Him to Jerusalem. {42} Now when evening had come, because it was the Preparation Day, that is, the day before the Sabbath, {43} Joseph of Arimathea, a prominent council member, who was himself waiting for the kingdom of God, coming and taking courage, went in to Pilate and asked for the body of Jesus. {44} Pilate marveled that He was already dead; and summoning the centurion, he asked him if He had been dead for some time. {45} So when he found out from the centurion, he granted the body to Joseph. {46} Then he bought fine linen, took Him down, and wrapped Him in the linen. And he laid Him in a tomb which had been hewn out of the rock, and rolled a stone against the door of the tomb. {47} And Mary Magdalene and Mary the mother of Joses observed where He was laid. Amen.

2nd Lesson:  Mark 16:1-8

Now when the Sabbath was past, Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James, and Salome bought spices, that they might come and anoint Him. {2} Very early in the morning, on the first day of the week, they came to the tomb when the sun had risen. {3} And they said among themselves, “Who will roll away the stone from the door of the tomb for us?” {4} But when they looked up, they saw that the stone had been rolled away; for it was very large. {5} And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. {6} But he said to them, “Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. {7} “But go, tell His disciples; and Peter; that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.” {8} So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid. Amen.

3rd Lesson: Doctrine of Faith 34

  1. The Christian Faith in its universal idea or form is this: The Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world to subdue the bells, and to glorify His Human; and without this no mortal could have been saved; and they are saved who believe in Him.
  2. It is said “in the universal idea or form” because this is what is universal of the Faith, and what is universal of the Faith is that which must be in all things of it both in general and in particular. It is a Universal of the Faith that God is One in Person and in Essence, in whom is the Trinity, and that the Lord is that God. It is a Universal of the Faith that no mortal could have been saved unless the Lord had come into the world. It is a Universal of the Faith that He came into the world in order to remove hell from man, and He removed it combats against it and by victories over it; thus He subdued it, and reduced it into order and under obedience to Himself. It is also a Universal of the Faith that He came into the world in order to glorify the Human which He took upon Him in the world, that is, in order to unite it to the all-originating Divine (Divino a Quo); thus to eternity does He hold in order and under obedience to Himself hell subjugated by Himself. And inasmuch as neither of these mighty works could have been accomplished except by means of temptations even to the utter most of them, which was the passion of the cross, He therefore underwent this uttermost temptation. These are the Universals of the Christian Faith concerning the Lord. Amen.

Copyright © 1982 – 2008 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009

The Influence of Hell in Our Lives

The Influence of Hell in Our Lives

A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper


If I ascend into heaven, You are there; if I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. Even there Your hand shall lead me, and Your right hand shall hold me (PSA 139:8,10)

It is much nicer to talk about heaven. It’s something we can look forward to; it’s something that’s pleasant. But we do have to acknowledge that evil greatly affects our daily life, and that the source of all evil is hell. We all have evil thoughts. We all have fantasies about what we would do if we were no longer under our present restraints and obligations. We all feel guilty about these thoughts because we are led to believe they are our own, when yet they are fleeting thoughts that originate in hell.

Divine Providence 320 teaches: If man believed, as is the truth, that all good and truth originate from the Lord, and all evil and falsity from hell, he would not appropriate good to himself and account it meritorious, nor would he appropriate evil to himself and account himself responsible for it.

If we can learn something about hell and the way it operates, we can then become more objective about evil; we can stand back and say “that is rubbish from hell and I don’t wish to have anything to do with it” and find that it goes away and torments us no longer. We can become free, genuinely, spiritually free to do and think as we choose.

One more thing needs to be clarified: In the New Church, we often speak of “hell” in much the same way that others speak of “the Devil.” However, the Heavenly Doctrines tell us that the basis for the belief in some one individual who presides over the hells is because the Devil, Satan, and Lucifer are mentioned by name in the Word, and those references have been understood only in the sense of the letter. When understood in the internal sense, it can be seen that these are names which signify different qualities or attributes of hell.

The idea of one ruling devil is also based on the idea that is held in some Christian Churches that heaven is a place where God and the angels dwell, angels being His messengers, spiritual beings created in heaven to serve Him, and have never lived upon the earth. There is the belief that some of these angels rebelled and were cast down into hell, and these fallen “sons of light” became the devils.

There cannot be one devil who rules the hells, because all who are in hell, like all those in heaven, are from the human race. Just as there is a logical inconsistency in having more than one all-powerful God, there an even greater problem with having two Gods, one of whom has fallen and become evil and the leader of evil beings. Therefore, there is no devil as a distinct individual, although we may speak of the common effort of all those in hell as “the devil” in the same way that we can refer to a joint effort by many individuals in this country as something done by “Canada.”

Keeping these first principles in mind, let us see what else we can learn about hell that will help us to keep free of its insidious influence in our lives.

Everyone knows that the Lord is the King of Heaven. And because Heaven and Hell are opposites that balance once another, the ruler of one must be the ruler of both. This is because from the action and reaction there is an equilibrium which gives permanence to all things. It should also be obvious that there must be a supreme, all powerful governor who can restrain the violence, uprisings, and insanities which would erupt from hell, destroy the equilibrium, and bring down everything else with it. Therefore, although it sounds strange at first, it should be clear that the Lord must be the governor of both heaven and hell.

The equilibrium or balance that is maintained between the power of heaven and hell on our lives in the world of nature is extremely important, for when two things mutually act against each other, since there is equal power on either side, neither has any effect, and both can be acted upon by a third force which then acts without opposition.

This is a simple idea that can be illustrated by springs, or the game of tug of war. But when we are thinking about true spiritual equilibrium we must beware falling into the idea that heaven and hell are balanced because they are of the same strength. The strengths of heaven and hell are not equal. There is far greater strength on the part of heaven, but it is held in restraint. Hell rushes in as far as it is able, to the absolute limit of its power, with the intent of drawing a person into its own sphere. It acts on and stimulates the evil tendencies of our hereditary nature, making us believe that these loves and desires are from ourselves, and not from hell.

Heaven, for its part, wants nothing more than for us to act in genuine freedom of choice. Therefore, although there is infinite power for good in heaven, its power is carefully moderated so that it balances the evil influences, preventing us from being overpowered by them. From superior power and practised restraint, the power of heaven leaves us free to choose our own course, to do what is right from our own decision to act according to the truth that we have from the Lord.

As an illustration, we might think of a young father playfully wrestling with his little boy. The little boy attacks furiously, at the limit of his strength and skill, and the father easily controls and directs that energy so that there is no harm through his far superior strength and skill.

Yes, there is an effective equilibrium in our spiritual lives, but that is because of the infinitely greater power of heaven exercised out of love and concern for our eternal well-being. The purpose and effect on our spiritual lives is to allow us, through our puny and feeble efforts, to co-operate with heaven and lift ourselves up and out of the sphere of hell – and stay out of it!

Hell reaches out to stimulate evil loves and hereditary tendencies to evils of every kind in such a way as to make us think that these ideas and desires are our own. It hides itself, tries to keep its true nature unseen, but the sphere of hell is like a perpetual effort to destroy all that is good and true, combined with anger and a kind of fury at not being able to do so.

The spirits of hell are particularly in the desire to destroy the Divine of the Lord, (that is, to make Jesus Christ no longer Divine and authoritative, but to make Him to be just a man. Just as the acknowledgement of His divinity is the one pearl that forms each of the twelve gates of the Holy City New Jerusalem, the wish to destroy or hide His divinity is the one clod of dirt that guards the entrances to hell.)

The hells wish to destroy the Divinity of the Lord, because that is the source of all that is good and true, therefore the source of all the things that frustrate them and bring them pain because they oppose the loves of self and the world.

A sphere of good and truth proceeds from the Lord out of heaven to restrain and balance the spheres of hell. It is from the Lord alone as a source, although it appears to be from the angels of heaven, and this because it is through them as a means. While they serve the Lord’s uses, they happily and completely acknowledge that the power for what they do comes from the Lord alone and not anything from themselves.

Heaven watches, like a gentle parent, and stimulates the good loves and delightful feelings that we have gotten through the experience of being loved and well-treated by others while in the world. And while in that state, the two forces balance each other out, allowing, as before said, a third force to act as if alone: That third force is the free will of each individual.

When we, in our freedom, make choices, we are the third force acting on our spiritual state. When we choose what is good, the net effect is to add to the forces of heaven, thus moving our spiritual state out of equilibrium toward heaven – and that’s good. Our continual effort and goal should be to co-operate with heaven against hell to push the marker off centre and toward heaven as far as we can, and hold it there as long as we can! Then we will have moved our normal state out of equilibrium into the state of heaven through our own efforts! Truly, this is what the Lord wants for us!

It has already been said that the Lord rules and governs the hells. The Heavenly Doctrines reveal how He does this both in general, and in particular: In general the hells are ruled by a general outflow of Divine good and truth from heaven which counters the flows of evil and falsity flowing forth from hell. The hells are governed in particular by an outflow from each heaven and from each society of heaven which serves to balance their counterparts. There are also angels who look into the hells and restrain insanities and disturbances there. They moderate these insanities and disturbances by their very presence, for the evil spirits fear the power of heaven, and fear is the most effective tool for governing the hells.

Everyone in hell is governed and controlled by means of their fears. Some are ruled by fears implanted in them while in the world, and are still with them. But such fears are not sufficient, and they gradually subside as the memory of the world fades, and they are then replaced by the fears of punishment. In hell, the fear of punishment is the most effective means of deterring the evil from their activities. This is because in hell, the punishment is directly related to the evil desired, and is derived from it.

The punishments of hell are wonderfully varied, and cause tremendous fear and respect from the evil spirits themselves. The punishments are lighter or more severe according to the severity of the evils. They are administered by other evil spirits, who derive pleasure from it. These spirits are in turn controlled by other spirits who protect and ensure that the punishment does not go too far.

But what does “too far” mean when it comes to the eternal punishments of hell? First, hell is eternal, not the punishments. When evil spirits keep themselves in a state of relative order, they are not punished. They are fed, clothed, given shelter, and have simple tasks to do. It is only when their evil lusts well up and break forth that they are punished, that is, only when they are in a state of disorder. When such a state breaks forth, the punishment is as harsh and immediate as is necessary to counter the rush of evil. But – and this is essential for our understanding of how to effectively punish in this world – the moment the spirit brings himself back under self-control and into a state of order, the punishment ends. Evil spirits are never punished when they are in a state of external order, and if they get out of order, the punishment ends the moment their state of disorder is broken. Even in hell, there is nothing of revenge in punishment. It is simply a tool used to restore order when necessary.

If fear is the most effective means of governing the hells, how can we take advantage of that fact in our own lives to control and defeat the effects of evil spirits? By bringing into our lives the one thing that the evil spirits fear the most: the light of heaven; the truth of the Word. When the light of heaven shines on an evil spirit, it reveals him as he truly is, a deformed and pitiful creature. It shows his gifts to be shoddy imitations, it shows his powers to be imaginary, like the beasts that dwell in the nursery shadows. The light of the Word shows them for what they really are, and shows us the way to what is of genuine eternal value.

When we are faced with evil, when we feel the delights of evil within us, we must shine the light of truth on them, drive them back into the caves and holes where they belong, for we know that we are spiritually free, responsible only for what we freely choose to do, and not any passing thoughts. We cannot be harmed by hell unless we want it, for we are under the Lord’s own protection. As the psalmist himself said, I will glorify Your name forevermore. For great is Your mercy toward me, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of hell. Amen.

Lessons: Psalm 139:1-12, Matthew 12:22-30, HH 543


First Lesson:

(Psa 139:1-12) O LORD, You have searched me and known me. {2} You know my sitting down and my rising up; You understand my thought afar off. {3} You comprehend my path and my lying down, And are acquainted with all my ways. {4} For there is not a word on my tongue, But behold, O LORD, You know it altogether. {5} You have hedged me behind and before, And laid Your hand upon me. {6} Such knowledge is too wonderful for me; It is high, I cannot attain it. {7} Where can I go from Your Spirit? Or where can I flee from Your presence? {8} If I ascend into heaven, You are there; If I make my bed in hell, behold, You are there. {9} If I take the wings of the morning, And dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea, {10} Even there Your hand shall lead me, And Your right hand shall hold me. {11} If I say, “Surely the darkness shall fall on me,” Even the night shall be light about me; {12} Indeed, the darkness shall not hide from You, But the night shines as the day; The darkness and the light are both alike to You. Amen.

Second Lesson: Mat 12:22-30

Then one was brought to Him who was demon-possessed, blind and mute; and He healed him, so that the blind and mute man both spoke and saw. {23} And all the multitudes were amazed and said, “Could this be the Son of David?” {24} Now when the Pharisees heard it they said, “This fellow does not cast out demons except by Beelzebub, the ruler of the demons.” {25} But Jesus knew their thoughts, and said to them: “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand. {26} “If Satan casts out Satan, he is divided against himself. How then will his kingdom stand? {27} “And if I cast out demons by Beelzebub, by whom do your sons cast them out? Therefore they shall be your judges. {28} “But if I cast out demons by the Spirit of God, surely the kingdom of God has come upon you. {29} “Or how can one enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his house. {30} “He who is not with Me is against Me, and he who does not gather with Me scatters abroad. Amen.

Third Lesson: Heaven and Hell 543.

How the hells are ruled by the Lord shall be briefly explained. In general the hells are ruled by a general outflow from the heavens of Divine good and Divine truth whereby the general endeavour flowing forth from the hells is checked and restrained; also by a particular outflow from each heaven and from each society of heaven. The hells are ruled in particular by means of the angels, to whom it is granted to look into the hells and to restrain insanities and disturbances there; and sometimes angels are sent to them who moderate these insanities and disturbances by their presence. But in general all in the hells are ruled by means of their fears. Some are ruled by fears implanted in the world and still inherent in them; but as these fears are not sufficient, and gradually subside, they are ruled by fears of punishments; and it is especially by these that they are deterred from doing evil. The punishments in hell are manifold, lighter or more severe in accordance with the evils. For the most part the more wicked, who excel in cunning and in artifices, and who are able to hold the rest in subjection and servitude by means of punishments and consequent terror, are set over them; but these governors dare not pass beyond the limits prescribed to them. It must be understood that the sole means of restraining the violence and fury of those who are in the hells is the fear of punishment. There is no other way. Amen.


Copyright © 1982 – 2006 General Church of the New Jerusalem.
Page constructed by James P. Cooper
Page last modified September 27, 2009