The Riots and Disorder

The recent riots in Britain, starting in London and quickly spreading to other cities in England, left many people feeling shocked, insecure and even frightened. For a short time we were reminded what life is like if laws of order (e.g. the commandments in the Bible) are not observed in our society.
Afterwards, the debate soon got going as people began asking “who is to blame”.

I listened with interest as people expressed their thoughts on where the
responsibility lay. Among the flurry of opinions a small number of people were prepared to consider deeper causes but I was disappointed that few were enabled to point out the move away from the solid ground of religious teachings towards “Relativism” in society. Most people, whipped up perhaps by emotive political statements in the media, put the blame squarely where the problem occurred.

Whereas no decent minded person would disagree with the politicians, when
they site horrific examples of crime and say this type of behaviour is completely unacceptable, this does not necessarily represent any progress in dealing with the problem. What it does achieve is to continually draw people’s minds back to the symptoms and away from the true causes.

I see a parallel here; when I worked in Social Care my colleagues and I were
given training on dealing with challenging behaviours (breaking things,
shouting or lashing out) which were frequently presented in the lives of our
Service Users (SU) i.e. people with learning disabilities. Before this training
it was common place for staff to blame any challenging behaviours squarely on the SU. The more aggressive the SU became the more assertive the worker would become until eventually the SU would be either medicated, isolated and/or removed to a secure location; but the problem always re-occurred at some later date.

Until training was made available this was a regular pattern. The training
however encouraged staff to try out new ways of communicating with SU, based on assessed levels of SU comprehension through asking them to complete basic tasks. Through these assessments we were able to develop methods of communication more suited to their abilities e.g. we would invite family, friends and people who knew them best to speak on their behalf. Once we became more pro-active in identifying and meeting their needs the challenging behaviours were very significantly reduced.

The results of the training helped me view these challenging behaviours in a
new way. I came to realise that these behaviours were actually forms of
communication; not the traditional forms of communication we value, but rather the only effective communication available to them for getting people to acknowledge their needs. It was notable that after each bout of challenging behaviour the SU would get peoples’ collective attention and their needs would then be identified and met.

I see these recent riots in Britain in much the same way. Of course we
should make it clear that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable but surely we also have a duty to try to identify and deal with the real causes. Until more members of society, at every level, begin to re-apply the spiritual principles taught by the Lord our God, not least to love our neighbour as our selves, can we not expect people to continue to express themselves in this way. Unless we become more pro-active in dealing with real causes, and stop allowing our minds to be focused on the symptoms, this will become the only way a disaffected people can get the collective attention they need to have their needs met; especially now they know it works!

My message to all those who genuinely want to address this problem is
simple; “seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you” Matt. 6:33

Copyright 2011 Revd Jack Dunion

Permissive parenting – what does it mean?

permissive parenting

Given the huge decline in the influence of organised religion, what is right and wrong is now mainly learned in the home and through the media.  We tend to still assume that the role of a parent is to supervise children and teach them right and wrong. But to what extent is this still happening in this age of permissive parenting?

Permissive parenting and monitoring what teenagers get up to

During the 2011 English riots there were fathers and mothers of rioting teenagers who didn’t know or claimed they didn’t know their offspring were out on the street at night. One view is that some parents could indeed take more responsibility for the behaviour of their children, but that others are struggling to cope at the best of times, sometimes dealing with chronic illness or the effects of domestic abuse. Some parents in social housing work very long hours in low paid jobs to make ends meet and cannot afford a childminder to keep an eye on their children when they are doing evening shifts or during the long school holiday.

For the rest of the population who are not particularly well off, especially younger families, money is very tight. High housing costs and reducing wages mean more mothers are obliged to go out to work for the family to make ends meet. Nevertheless there is still a common expectation these women will also do most of the domestic work in the home. As a consequence they have less to do with their children. All these factors appear to be social conditions conducive to permissive parenting.

Permissive parenting and absent fathers

One argument is that since the 1960’s, permissiveness in western culture has led to early sexualisation often not making its way into stable relationships, and that this leads to higher rates of divorce and weakened parenting. It is not inevitable that permissive parenting occurs when one parent is absent. However mothers do lack help from absent fathers to deal with bad behaviour with no-one to back them up telling kids about right and wrong.

We can only guess at this stage how many looters come from homes with incomplete parenting. From film on television, black youths were seen among the rioters. Is it a co-incidence that according to a BTEG report, 48 percent of black Caribbean families with dependent children are headed by a lone parent? This compares to the national average in the UK of 7 percent of households with children having a lone parent (according to Office of National Statistics 2007) It would be instructive to know the rate of lone parenting amongst the families bringing up the white rioters.

Permissive parenting and children’s access to mass media

Another aspect of permissiveness has been the absence of effective public censorship of film, video and television. Someone said that being in the middle of the riot was like being in the middle of a computer game or a film set. Admittedly, research into the potential anti-social effects of the media is difficult area to investigate and has not always produced consistent results. However, many academic studies do suggest a relationship between exposure to media violence and violent behaviour.

Permissive parenting is watching and exposing the family to bloodshed, sexual extortion and theft on television and video film. This can only be helping with desensitisation to violence and other horrible behaviour.

Also the distinction between the virtual and the real seems to be disappearing for some young people. The computer game ‘Grand Theft Auto’ contains some horrendous scenes. Perhaps we shouldn’t be surprised if some individuals eventually act out these hate-filled fantasies. If one opens one-self to such excitement there should be no surprise if a hellish state of mind starts to rule one’s actions. The Christian religion argues there is a reality to evil from which we need to be saved.

Permissive parenting and moral education

Parents might tell their kids about legal penalties if one is caught breaking the law and may say it is morally wrong to steal from, harm or tell lies to others. To know what is said to be right and wrong is one thing, but to understand why it is a good rule is another.  How many parents are not at home to explain their views e.g. when their kids are watching television. They may be too tired to be other than permissive in their attitude to bad behaviour in the home.

It is good to show care for others by respecting their property, helping them, and being honest with them. The hope for society is that the spiritual principles behind moral codes can be shown by adults engaging in responsible rather than  permissive parenting: then the principles can be seen as good and acceptable.

It is up to their offspring to do the rest – to think about matters, to accept what is a moral guideline worthy of following, to resolve to follow it in personal life and to resist temptation to go against it – these are all different stages in moral development.

But if they are not brought up to appreciate what makes laws good and useful they are unlikely to obey them if they believe they can get away with it. When the mob is doing crime, this is exactly what those joining in assume. They will be lost in the crowd. Their natural tendency to self-love and conceit that they know best then take over.

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

Consumption – Is this a problem?

consumption

Some commentators have written about consumption in terms of our acquisitive society. Gaining respect — particularly amongst younger people –often depends on wearing fashionable gear and owning the latest electronic gizmo rather than for one’s personal qualities. It seems you are not valued so much for who you are but for what you possess. One might wonder whether an emphasis on consumption is arguably a cause of the problem of looting during the riots in 2011 in some English cities.

Looting and a consumption orientated society

Many people have been shocked, frightened and angry at the breakdown of law and order that has caused great damage in some of the larger cities ; violence against unarmed police, arson and destructive behaviour together with widespread looting and mugging which terrorised shopkeepers and residents. A lot of those going on the rampage were teenagers. How has this happened? How do we make any sense of these disgraceful scenes that have brought shame on a nation? There are probably several complex factors that can throw light on this. Here I am thinking about material consumption.

Talking about the looting, one man said to a television reporter,

‘People round here have got no money man, so people are going to do things like that—it’s opportunity isn’t it.’ A woman said that it is not wrong to loot ‘something that is mass-produced and you can get millions of them from a factory and if I could pick it up, of course I would take it home’

A journalist writing in the Independent newspaper noticed:

“the startling inarticulacy of so many of those now being dragged through the magistrates courts… The great majority appear to be those for whom tertiary education – or even a job – is almost as unlikely as a trip to the moon.”

You might have the illusion that by looting something expensive you can acquire added value to yourself.

Feeling undervalued in a society orientated towards consumption

All of us, including those with little money to spare, are exposed to non-stop advertising and the materialistic values of western culture. Those who can afford it, tend to take nice foreign holidays, drive smart cars, and live in large houses in prestigious areas. All this is well beyond the wildest dreams of the poor. Many people with little or no money feel of no value in a consumption orientate culture which judges worth in terms of money.

Someone talked on a radio phone-in about children overlooked by the educational system because they have practical aptitude but not academic aptitude.

“They get put to the back, they get ignored and they bunk off school. They are not given anything of value to do in a practical sense and have just been told they are useless. And so they go on the downhill spiral.”

Our culture seems to highly value verbal intelligence at the expense of practical skills using the hands although arguably the latter is what our economy needs much more of at this time. Consequently, many kids who have difficulty and thus little interest in reading and writing also lack job opportunities. They haven’t been helped by a national shortage of apprentice-style training that would have provided personal role-models and socialisation as well as other working skills.

Some are unwilling to work for low wages and others are just not employable. Welfare benefits have been thought to provide a perverse incentive not to look for low paid jobs. Each person addicted to the dependency culture will remain on the dole and the vicious circle continues as they each consequently continue to feel and act as a social failure. When you live in a consumption orientated society having no money is pretty much a definition of failure.

What does an emphasis on consumption do to the very poor?

The so-called very poor social underclass are likely to live in inhuman tower blocks or in anonymous sink estates with few if any social amenity buildings. Such people have seen those at the top of society getting away with amoral acts; greedy bankers, who despite their reckless loss-making investments, have exploited public funding for their own extravagant bonuses. They have read all about cheating politicians who have lied over their expenses; a kind of smash and grab of sorts.

Is it so surprising that many poor people in western culture have a sense of entitlement and want some of this wealth too? Of course, just because one is poor, doesn’t make one a criminal and lack morality. There can be no excuse for acting badly.

Gaining appreciation through consumption or through communication

It is not always so obvious that we might be really appreciated for what we do rather than how much money we have. Is there not a tremendous unsung spiritual value in being courteous, giving someone a little time, showing consideration, taking the initiative to do some little job that will be of help to someone else, and generally making oneself useful. What a pity more people cannot experience what it is like to feel respected, appreciated, and esteemed by others for what they do that is good and useful.

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

Gay Pride and Straight Talk.

gayWhether to allow gay bishops is currently a hot issue in the Church of England. In line with British equality law, the Church cannot allow sexual orientation in itself to be grounds for preventing a priest being promoted to the role of bishop. However, consistent with provisions contained within the Act for a religious organisation to operate in accordance with its doctrine, the document, ‘Choosing Bishops – The Equality Act 2010’, makes clear that those considered for promotion must be celibate and to have been celibate during their time as a priest.

Many people feel puzzled by this reluctance to embrace homosexuality by strands of organised religion. And some feel angry and want to promote the idea that gay people should be proud of their sexual orientation feeling this is their natural inclination.

The same idea about natural inclination of course could be said of those attracted to the opposite sex who feel they have no conscious choice in the matter. However although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social, and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no firm findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors. Many think that nature and nurture both play complex roles.

From a spiritual perspective, we might ask whether a gay partnership has the same potential for human happiness as that of a heterosexual one. So what does Swedenborg have to say about it?

Conjugial principle and gay partnership

Swedenborg coined a new word ‘conjugial’ by adding an ‘i’ to the old legal term ‘conjugal’. He did this to distinguish a quality of love that unites a couple as one in heart, mind and life. When the understanding of what is true in one person makes one with the affection of what is good in the other, there is said to be a union of the two minds into one.

A deep union between two people is said to be characterized by spiritual states of peace, tranquility, intimate friendship, full trust, joy and sexual pleasure. According to Swedenborg this state of ‘conjugial love,’ has a spiritual source ie the divine union of what is good and what is true. Without this harmony there would be inner tension — thinking one thing but wanting another. Hence in so far as the partnership is a conjugial one, there is a profound joy because the divine harmony is present within the relationship.

Given that each of us has both of some of what is good and true within us, it might be asked whether the conjugial principle has the potential to apply equally to the relationship between two people of the same sex in the same way as between two of the opposite sex. In other words can there be conjugial love in a gay marriage between masculine and feminine natures in each person if we assume we all have both masculine and feminine within us?

Gender difference

The idea there is both masculine and feminine in each person came from Carl Jung. On the contrary, although Swedenborg says that both sexes have thinking heads and feeling hearts and should be equally valued, he nevertheless maintains they are not the same. In his book Conjugial Love (section 32) he says there is an essential difference between male and female and that after death a male lives on as a male and a female as a female.  He goes on to describe the underlying psycho-spiritual difference between male and female minds.

According to Swedenborg, both sexes are capable of intelligent thought and empathy. At the same time, his contention is that men are more naturally inclined towards using their heads and taking an objective stance. On the other hand, women are said to be more likely to observe what is going on with their intuition and take a subjective perspective. Whilst the man is suited to thinking about what is right for longer in the light of understanding, the woman is suited to sustaining a warm feeling for what is good in the heat of love.

Heterosexual love

This supposed gender difference is Swedenborg’s rationale for heterosexual love. Just as opposites attract, the love between a man and a woman can be deeper because it can be between an understanding and its corresponding affection. And so each complements the other. This difference offers the potential to enter deeply and unite them. Also (in his book Conjugial Love section 181), he contends that conjugial love can only happen in the relationship between a man and a woman.

If Swedenborg is right about the difference between men and women, then love between two people of the same sex cannot be the same as the love between those of the opposite sex.

Gay love

We might wonder if these ideas from the eighteenth century have anything to teach us in this day and age. The marriage statistics show that there are lots of people in less than satisfactory heterosexual relationships. Some gay partnerships last longer than heterosexual ones. And given the sexual prejudice still around, one might argue that to persist as a gay couple requires a better inner resilience in the partnership.

Swedenborg doesn’t address the issue of gay partnerships – there was no word for it in his day. However one thing he does state (in his book Conjugial Love section 55) is that the love of a man for a man or that of a woman for a woman cannot be a deep one. He may have got it wrong, but he says that the love of a man for a man and of a woman for a woman make relatively superficial contact not leading to any deep inner union of the two.

In other words according to this view the love between two men is more about the association between one way of thinking and another way of thinking – between one understanding and another understanding. The love between two women is more about the association of one state of feeling and another state of feeling.

In aspiring to reach the heavenly condition of what Swedenborg calls conjugial love, one could argue that people stand a better chance within a heterosexual rather than a gay partnership.

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

Evil – Can anyone be so characterised?

evil
Ratko Mladic

Ratko Mladic was the key player and commander of the Bosnian Serb forces that tried to eliminate Muslims from large parts of Bosnia. His forces were responsible for much social evil, massacring eight thousand Muslim men and boys at Srebrenica in 1995: the brutal siege of Sarajevo between 1992 and 1995 resulted in the death of 10,000 people. His capture and trial for war crimes reminds us of the torture, mass rape, arson and genocide that formed part of this ‘ethnic cleansing’.

How does one explain these evil crimes against humanity? How could someone like Mladic fundamentally go against human values, and be outside of what civilisation universally sees as acceptable behaviour?

Can a person be evil?

When someone, like Mladic, or one of his followers, harms another person, should they be considered as evil? Or are they so out of harmony with themselves, they should be seen as sick or ill rather than wicked? This may be so. But even if no individual person is evil, this does not mean that some human behaviour cannot be properly considered evil. According to this second view evil is part of the process of individual choice rather than the quality of the person doing the choosing.

Is evil a useful term?

Some people ask whether the social context in which harm to human beings is done, calls into question the idea that such acts can be universally considered as evil. For them, standards of good and evil are only products of local culture, custom, or prejudice and that the very word ‘evil’ is an outmoded concept no longer fit for purpose.

However, others point out that what counts as evil is all to do with the individual intent, independent of culture. Arguably, those who are willing to go against moral codes will justify their actions if it suits them to do so, whether they be those ship captains and plantation owners who engaged in the slave trade, the Nazis who found mass extermination of the Jews acceptable, or the leadership of the United States Union Army’s massacre of “savage” Native American Indians.

Is evil an illusion?

The results of evil intent are real enough whether they be seen in times of war, suffering of victims of serious crime, or simply those on the end of spiteful gossip. But should we understand evil as a powerful identity that causes suffering in the world? Or is it just a man-made idea that has no reality? Should we ditch the idea of Satan as just old hat?

In one sense perhaps we should. Ever since Thomas Aquinas, the Catholic Church has defined evil as the absence of good. Just as cold is defined as the lack of warmth, and darkness the deprivation of light, so evil is defined in terms of good. To understand evil one thus needs to understand what is meant by good. For evil is its opposite. To appreciate cruelty one first needs to experience tender care. To comprehend malice one needs to know love. To understand a state of ignorance one needs to fathom a state of knowledge.

Where does evil come from?

Likewise for Swedenborg, evil is the inversion of good. He reckons disorder is the inversion of order, and falsity the inversion of truth. Evil is a quality of life which has no independent origin, but is a distortion of the one Divine life.

Using his psychic vision, he describes a way of life of human spirits in a hidden spirit realm, who choose hatred over love, and crime over justice. One is not normally conscious of their influence but if one continually allows their presence into one’s heart and mind, they are said to then prompt and urge cruelty, sexual violence, and self-ascendancy without any concern for human suffering. We don’t know if people like Mladic will join them in his after-life. But allowing himself to be constantly swayed by their impulses and thoughts, he can become crazed with evil, caught up in a crowd baying for blood. The madness feels overpowering and the individual is swept along apparently helpless to fight against the current.

Actually, Swedenborg says this seeming overwhelming power of evil is an illusion. For there is also a divine sphere of justice and humane concern which is available to us all. This good balances the evil flow. And so we have the freedom to inwardly turn in which direction we wish. But without turning towards what is good we would all be vulnerable to the inflow of cruelty and malice.

Many of us human beings sometimes choose to turn our back on the one Source of happiness and opening ourselves to evil impulses. This is when we put self above all else. That is when what we want determines all our actions together with the fear, pride and greed that accompanies self-love. Just look in at the criminal courts of justice and see what trouble can then be reeked; never mind the international court in the Hague where crimes against humanity are tried. Perhaps the Serb nationalists who still support Mladic will then realise the full extent of the evil their hero has really caused.

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

Admiration – Do you deserve it?

admiration
Silvio Berlusconi

You have seen the young pop performers, posturing on stage, pretentious, reeking of youthful ego and full of their celebrity status. And you wonder if you could have gone up on stage yourself and done that too. Maybe not! But what about something else you do that deserves attention — great disco dancing, passing of academic tests, goal scoring on the sports field?  Don’t you too deserve some admiration?

A politician wanting admiration

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi apparently thinks so. Why else at the age of 74 does he surround himself with a bevy of bimbo escorts and sexual scandal? Is this not an attempt to cut a fine figure wanting the image of admiration, adulation, and adoration?

Admiration for those with power, sexual allure & expertise

This desire for others to have a high opinion of oneself shows in other ways. The over-sensitivities of gangland city youth come to mind. With gang leaders it can be difficult, however carefully you choose your words, to talk frankly without making their hackles rise.  ‘We beat him up because he didn’t respect me’. By respect the gang leader meant ‘cow-towing’.

In addition wanting to be well thought of is seen in the victim of plastic surgery desperate for a ‘boob job’ that will give the allure of sexual status. It is also present in the interest in social standing in those who are proud and touchy over questions of social precedence and correct forms of address on formal occasions.

This apparent need for status can also be apparent in the way business people communicate with each other. Use of specialist language can save time when specialists talk together. But sometimes clarity and succinctness go out of the window when people strive to conform to what they imagine is high status ways of talking. One example is the use of phrases like ‘benchmarking’, ‘roll-out’, ‘synergies’ and other management-speak which is tired and discredited by the time it is introduced into a local setting.

But are the rest of us so radically different? Some of us wouldn’t easily admit it but can we too not be a little touchy over the amount of courtesy shown us by strangers, or the degree of deference we imagine we are due on account of our professional reputation? Of course in traditional British culture, if you want to keep the good regard of others, you don’t make the mistake of allowing any boastful note to creep into how you talk about any achievements. No, you have to show off in more subtle ways!

Admiration and ego

According to Emanuel Swedenborg, in the spiritually transformed person, the needs of ego are set to one side – not annihilated contrary to what some spiritual teachers say — but only put to bed.

The writer Dr Michael Stanley puts it this way

All our troubles “stem from believing in the ego’s illusion – that one is separate and self-contained, and what is in one is one’s own. Cease to fall for this error, and heavenly states are experienced – especially peace.”

Admiration for the source of love and light

Instead of egoism with its showing off and concern for status in the eyes of others, a spiritually changed  person chooses to turn to the source of love and light and as a result is filled with a more elevated state of mind that gives an overriding desire to please others for their sake.

Swedenborg’s visionary experiences of a higher heavenly realm is filled with such angelic people who do not think or speak from self yet experience the sublime feelings of content, joy and peace.   The way such individuals vary is seen in terms of the quality of their useful functions rather than any sense of social class, stigma, or fame carried over from the world.  No concern about status there. Just an interest in allowing the divine life to flow through one’s being.

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

Mental health – Same as spiritual health?

For over thirty years I worked as a psychological therapist in the British National Health Service. I helped patients start to manage and deal with their mental health problems. The service expected me to discharge each case as soon as possible so I could see the next patient on the long public waiting list. Following treatment, the individual received no further active professional help. All I did were follow-ups to check on progress.

Many who had finished therapy had successfully started to better deal with past traumatic experiences, long-term negative situations, and current stressful difficulties. They had become free of their worst symptoms of mental ill-health.

Mental health

However, despite their improvements, I believed many of the discharged patients would have benefited from further help. The condition of mental health is not just the absence of mental health problems.

Mental health is usually seen as a state of subjective well-being. A satisfactory adjustment to personal circumstances and a resilience in facing life’s demands. Some definitions also include personal competence, a balance of autonomy and dependence, and reaching one’s potentials. In other words ‘the capacity to work and to love’ as said by Sigmund Freud.

Spiritual terminology

mental health
Professor Julie Exline

Actually, recent research by Julie Exline, at Western Reserve University, has found that people who more fully embrace struggles with fundamental beliefs and values report better mental health than those who don’t. She identified this in spiritual terms.

“Regular spiritual avoidance can make it difficult to identify, work toward or experience the qualities that lend a sense of purpose to life” (Julie Exline)

In other words, help is needed for people fearful of confronting the tensions and conflicts brought on by existential concerns—the “big questions” of life.

However, in mental health circles at the time I was working, there was still an attitude of negativity or indifference towards spirituality and religion. I am pleased that in more recent times this is slowly changing. There is now much more openness and positive attention given. Hence psychotherapists, at least in North America, are now encouraged to be more active in stimulating patients, if they wish, to explore the spiritual dimension in their lives.

But do the words ‘mental’ and ‘spiritual’ mean different things? Are ‘mental health’ and ‘spiritual health’ not the same? Does spirituality really add an extra dimension?

Transpersonal psychology

mental health
Dr. Steve Taylor

Transpersonal psychologist Steve Taylor studies:

“Experiences in which the sense of identity or self extends beyond the individual or personal to encompass wider aspects of humankind, life, psyche or cosmos”. (R. Walsh, and F. Vaughan)

Taylor has written about an inner suffering of the mind he calls ‘psychological discord’. It is when we have a sense of loneliness, foreboding, dissatisfaction, boredom. I would say you don’t have to have a mental-health problem to experience this emptiness within yourself.

Effects of psychological discord

As a result of this inner disharmony, we want to be taken out of ourselves, to compensate for our dissatisfaction and discord. We seek to defend our fragile ego and build it up. So we react angrily to anyone causing us offence. Or we might put a lot of energy into acquiring material things, social status, power or fame.

We want to latch our attention on to something external to our own discord. So we are also prone to frequently use electronic gadgets to engage in unnecessary activity such as accessing social media, games, television. We spend this time in a passive state where there is no real challenge and we don’t have to engage our deeper nature.

Also we fall into daydreaming or rumination about the past or future rather than being mindful of the present moment. Part of our minds are elsewhere rather than being alive to opportunities for living life to the full. Often we aren’t even properly present to the people we meet throughout the day. Not giving our full attention when we talk to them.

Cause of psychological discord

Taylor says that this state of inner disharmony and discord is normal. We need to learn to inwardly grow as people to transcend it. He attributes it to what he calls a common condition of ‘humania’. This is defined as one of isolation, and incompleteness inherent in our superficial sense of self-hood. He contrasts this sense of ‘I’ with a different state of consciousness he calls the ‘witnessing self’ which is more fundamental.

This concept of ‘humania’ is not so very different from the concept of ‘proprium’ written about by the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. For him, this is the non-spiritual awareness we have of being a separate, self-contained individual with a mind and body of our own quite apart from other people, the world around us and our divine Source.

“By proprium no one understands anything else than that he lives from himself, and consequently thinks and wills from himself.”(Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)

Spiritual health

Instead of operating at the level of lower ego or propium, people, have traditionally understood spiritual health to refer to a higher consciousness of ennobling thoughts. It is to do with contentment and peacefulness. Experiencing generosity and a joy of doing good service for others, living ethically, and rising above the natural desires and attachments of the material plane.

Scholars interpret most of the sacred writings of the world’s great religions as referring to an enlightened understanding of life and liberation from wayward motives. Many writers refer to spiritual health as death of an old ‘false self’ and uncovering of one’s ‘true Self’.

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems