spiritual questions and answers
humility where is the good in it
spiritual questions and answers
humility where is the good in it
What is spiritual astronomy? It involves looking at the discoveries of astronomy in a novel and more personal way that can lead us to making similar spiritual discoveries about ourselves.
For instance, Galileo made the claim that the sun was the center of the planetary system rather than the earth. This was proven to be true. We can also make a similar spiritual discovery that the world does not revolve around us. When the Lord was in the world he challenged people to make exactly this same important discovery—by teaching that “Loving God and loving the neighbor” were the greatest commandments.
(By the way, it wasn’t Galileo’s science that got him in trouble with the church, it was his challenge to a literal interpretation of Holy Scripture. He believed that true science would not contradict Scripture if properly understood.)
Since Galileo’s time, astronomy has made additional discoveries that our sun is one of billions of suns in the Milky Way galaxy, which is just one of billions and billions of galaxies far out in space. Thus, when we measure ourselves against this vast universe we become less than a speck. So there is no premise by which we can rationally support and embrace self-conceit and self-importance. Again, the Lord taught humility, and to serve others.
Are your worldly hopes and wishes merely insignificant specks of dust in God’s Infinitely wise eyes? Or are your hopes and dreams worthy of divine notice? When you sincerely love others, God can find an abode in your heart and mind. You can then provide residence for something infinitely more vast and important than the entire physical universe!
Discovering inner health and transformation
Who wouldn’t try to persuade their youngster to study for what they see as a promising career? Who wouldn’t pull out all the stops to influence investors to support their business? Who wouldn’t want to make their spouse feel the same way about having more children or a house move? It is surely normal for me to want the best for someone as I see it? Or is this sometimes as case of me wanting to get my way. Have things as I see fit?
I have to ask myself if my attempts at influencing others amounts to trying to make them think, act, or feel the way I do? All this made me wonder just how I might assess the way I manage other people in my life. Do I try to get my way with others too often?
‘Hang on,’ I hear myself say. ‘I don’t force anyone to do anything. That would be selfish.’ Okay so before the kids left home, I seldom shouted at my teenage daughter to keep her bedroom tidy. I seldom ordered anyone in the family to do their chores. In fact even now I rarely if ever voice explosive anger, never mind any verbal abuse or any threat of violence to get my way. But perhaps I don’t even realise if I use less obvious methods of manipulation?
You may have heard of the young woman who thinks she will be able to change her man after they are married. Make him tidier, stop smoking or whatever. But he may be of a different mind. And when she fails to alter his bad habits, she may end up just nagging him which can cause irritation but no change of ways. Telling someone what to do or what to think doesn’t usually work because people like to decide things for themselves.
Offering a point of view for their consideration and rational arguments to support it can be quite another matter. For this is respecting their personal choice. A father who insists on telling his daughter what to believe about politics, religion and so on, will appear as someone who thinks he knows best.
He may feel certain he is right. However, these days, less and less people will tolerate being told what to think. They really do prefer to make up their own minds. By claiming absolute answers to life’s issues, perhaps without realizing it, the father is arrogantly trying to impose his views. He would be advised to more humbly offer his beliefs for consideration and they even may be welcomed as his gift.
Many parents have learned not to speak dogmatically about matters that are dear to their hearts. But some still don’t want to hear anything that might distract from their agenda. And so they sometimes fall foul of the mistake of turning a deaf ear to their teenager’s point of view.
This shows when they refuse to pay attention to anything that opposes them, saying things like “I don’t want to hear it”. Or they may show a fierce look or glance, unpleasant tone of voice, or make rhetorical comments, or use subtle sarcasm. The trouble is how we come over to others is not always apparent to us, and we can get into unfortunate habits in how we communicate.
Making up excuses is something I have done at some time or other to cover up my embarrassment or mistakes. Perhaps you have taken this a step further and been engaged spinning a yarn to the media on behalf of your company or to your friends regarding your achievements. It is not only ‘spin doctors’ who twist the truth to suit their own ends. The trouble is when dishonesty becomes a habitual method of trying to get our own way.
Like when we refuse to admit something obvious, or use weasel words to give vague, irrelevant, rambling, responses to evade revealing our real intentions. For we hope that only by changing the subject and keeping quiet about what we are up to, instead of giving a straight answer, can we hope to change someone’s mind or actions.
Ray and Star Silverman in their book Rise Above It have given a Swedenborgian perspective on trying to get our own way. Whether we do this coercively or subtly, it is said to be a sign that we want to possess what belongs to another person for our own sake; having charge of what they think and believe.
Any apparent success in controlling someone feeds the ego trip that our ideas are more valid than the other person’s, and the illusion that what we want is more important than what he or she wants. A few people want to possess someone’s aspirations, values and even their deepest desires.
When you notice yourself starting to manipulate other people, perhaps for genuinely held reasons, you might however want instead to hold back. I find it helps me to remember the importance of giving respect to other people who need to find out things for themselves, be free to choose what they want, and take responsibility for their own lives.
Even though we each may have a specific superior talent for something or a more important social responsibility, nevertheless everyone has a significant role to play in the universal human family. Someone controlling their attitudes can rob them of their unique contribution.
In striving to overcome the love of power, I like to think I have discovered the power of love.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on30th March 2012
We not only have the means to prevent unwanted births, we have adopted similar means of preventing ideas from inseminating our minds.
For instance, the Ten Commandments can be read, stored in the memory as data, but never acted upon. The Lord, while in the world, simplified these ten laws into two – loving God and loving the neighbor. Still, the Lord’s teaching of loving God and loving others can simply be filed away in the memory as mere data.
Anything that prevents God’s ideas from taking hold in the mind and not being allowed to grow into the mature and loving actions of one who seeks eternal life and blessedness is spiritual contraception.
The Christian doctrine of salvation by faith alone is just such a spiritual birth control pill. The reason is that faith alone stresses “belief” over “acts of goodness” for obtaining salvation and entry into the gates of heaven.
This is holy hogwash!
Believing alone is like allowing a concept to enter into one’s memory without the conceiving. In other words, when an idea is not allowed to germinate and change the way we act in the world, how can mere “believing” lead to our spiritual rebirth?
Rebirth implies real, tangible process.
What possible process is involved when ideas simply remain as un-germinated seeds in the soil of the human memory? Those who embrace the doctrine of faith alone point out that no one is perfect and that no human act or deed of goodness can help us gain the credit of the Lord’s righteousness.
The doctrine of faith alone allows Christians to overlook their personal flaws and serves as a prophylactic to the commandments and introspection. Such believers cleverly point out that an individual who seeks salvation through good deeds seeks his or her own merit. But they miss the point that, because people are imperfect, they must seek and pray for the Lord’s help in becoming a better person. One does not seek merit if he or she approaches the Lord with sincerity and humility. (And one cannot effectively seek God’s help unless one sees specific inclinations and compulsions that need overhauling.)
The other thing people tend to overlook is that good deeds are not sincere until someone tackles their personal flaws. Otherwise, a person can accomplish good deeds for the sake of reputation, self-promotion, and even to keep personal agendas hidden from the world.
Repentance precedes good deeds. This brings innocence to the deed.
Love is faith put into action. True faith is the love to do what is true. Love makes faith alive. The warmth of Love is how faith germinates in our memory and grows out into the living actions of our heart. Any religious doctrine that deters the growth and development of spiritual love in our lives is “rebirth control.”
God’s heavenly kingdom consists of mutual love. Mutual love is more than our possessing the right idea in our noggins. It necessitates doing the right thing from a spiritual conscience.
Be honest. Don’t you wish everyone would think and be like you? If you could turn everyone else into “you,” the world would be six billion times better. I am not kidding.
Furthermore, you actually have the power to do so.
Not only would it be a good thing to turn everyone else into copies of “you,” God wants you to do precisely just that! In fact, it is actually one of God’s great commandments. The commandment is to love thy neighbor as oneself.
Confused? Let me explain.
God really does want us to look at others and see ourselves. But this is not to be understood as a spreading out of one’s self-centeredness in all directions. It is an act of humility.
When one person loves another as him or herself, he or she will then see the other in oneself, and oneself in the other. This spiritual love and consciousness is called empathy.
It is not the multiplication or the forcing of one’s will upon everyone else, either. It is the harmonious unification of the wills of many.
This unites one person with another. And even better, unites one society with another.
This union does not superimpose our likeness upon another person. Rather, it allows us all to take on the likeness of the Lord God, who is Divine Love.
Heaven is a likeness of the Lord because it consists of those who live in spiritual love and unity. Heaven on earth is the adoption of neighborly love by all its terrestrial citizens.
This is the deeper meaning within God’s command to be “fruitful and multiply.” God wants us each to increase the good in the world.
That would indeed make the world six billion times better.
A bit of self-pride seems part of the positive trait of self-esteem.
Yet we speak of pride before a fall. The story of Icarus is about a young man’s attempt to escape from Crete by means of wings that his father constructed from feathers and wax. Icarus ignored instructions not to fly too close to the sun, and the melting wax caused him to fall into the sea where he drowned. In flying too high he is often seen as possessing overconfident arrogance. The proverb ‘Pride goes before a fall’ seems apt, implying suffering for those too cocky for their own good.
On the other hand, sounding superior and important are favoured traits in today’s tough competitive economic climate. Even if you are not in business, you need to market your work skills in order to keep your own job or get another one.
“At home I am a nice guy: but I don’t want the world to know. Humble people, I’ve found, don’t get very far.” (Muhammad Ali)
And it is said that it can become counter-productive to be modest because you may not be taken seriously.
So is it really true that you will be like Icarus and suffer in some way as a result of being full of yourself and your ability? What’s so bad about a bit of self-pride?
In his book Essential Spirituality, Roger Walsh writes about noticing the sacred in other people.
He tells a story about an old woman sitting by the roadside outside her town who was approached by a traveller who asked “What kinds of people live in this town?”
“What were the people like in your home town?” queried the old woman.
“Oh, they were terrible!” fumed the traveller. “Liars, cheats, incompetents, you couldn’t trust any of them. I was glad to leave.”
“You’ll find the people in this town just the same.” Responded the old woman.
Not long afterwards, she was approached by a second traveller who also questioned her about the people in the town.
“”What were the people like in your home town?” she asked.
“Oh, they were wonderful!” exclaimed the traveller. “Fine, honest, hard-working, it was a privilege to be with them. I was so sorry to leave.”
“You’ll find the people in this town just the same. “responded the old woman.
So, how you see others and what you say about them reveals more about yourself than about them. You don’t want to seem to be a know-it-all full of self-pride who fails to notice the value in others. Few people want to appear big-headed about their own abilities at the cost of the abilities of others. Moreover, seeing what is valuable about others helps you be honest with yourself about your own limitations even when this is uncomfortable.
Spiritually-minded people acknowledge a source of deeper energy and wisdom beyond their own mind. They ask how can one not feel humbled by the wonders of the universe, or when seeing the power of altruistic love manifest in the most extreme circumstances. We are so often exposed to the scientific view, of an evolution without purpose and a universe as a meaningless machine, that no transcendent sacred force — whatever we want to call it — is allowed to exist.
But then we are pulled up short by tantalizing glimpses, of a mysterious quality within nature — perhaps triggered by a beautiful sunset, the wisdom of birds and animals, or the vastness of space — glimpses that offer a truly awe-inspiring experience of something beyond oneself. At such moments the mundane world is transfigured.
Such experiences, can lead to acknowledging a higher good and truth that exists beyond your own ability, and which is the source of inspiration for human effort. In this way of thinking, the focus is not on the strengths of humanity but on the strengths of the Divine presence within the human soul and accepting one’s dependence on this presence for finding tolerance, patience, and other virtue. Not, as do some Christians, in sanctimoniously promoting themselves as Godly and thus betraying a self-pride in being better than others. Instead, by genuinely bowing down to an origin of all that is good, the individual does not feel empty but full.
“Jesus is the God whom we can approach without pride and before whom we can humble ourselves without despair.” (Blaise Pascal)
Neither need one indulge in self-abasement as do some believers but rather celebrate one’s ability to be uplifted and share the spiritual power available: not in denying the inner strength in oneself but rather in recognising that it is received from a higher Divine source. A bit of self-pride might not be an appropriate attitude for those with this kind of true humility.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Yet elsewhere, Swedenborg insists that God’s truths cannot be instilled (acquired) into one’s inner life without temptations.
So what gives here?
According to Swedenborg, the Lord God uses every circumstance wisely (and providentially) to promote His heavenly trajectories. This means allowing infernal spirits (from hell) to reprove and chasten—that is, to challenge any genuinely spiritual idea in a person’s memory.
(Even noble ideas must go deeper than a person’s memory function in order to be appropriated. But such a temptation to make this happen is not permitted among those with wrongly oriented hearts.)
The resulting conflict (and friction) between opposing influences forges particular notions to form an eternal belief system within one’s inner (spiritual) organic fabric. In this way God uses evil to help in the process of spiritual transformation because evil is then used as an important passive principle to allow Truth to become organically fixed (qualified) deeply into the human spirit.
Gushiness, chumminess and worldly affirmations are manifestations of lazy worshippers choosing not to enter into this humbling process and self-conflict.
Matthew 5: 1-11: “1 And seeing the multitudes, He went up on a mountain, and when He was seated His disciples came to Him. 2 Then He opened His mouth and taught them, saying:
Matthew 16:24: “Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me.” “
Matthew 16:25: “For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it.”
Mark 10:15: “Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
(compare Matthew 19:13-15 and Luke 18:15-17):
Matthew 19:13-15: “13 Then little children were brought to Him that He might put His hands on them and pray, but the disciples rebuked them. 14 But Jesus said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” 15 And He laid His hands on them and departed from there.”
Luke 18:15-17: “15 Then they also brought infants to Him that He might touch them; but when the disciples saw it, they rebuked them. 16 But Jesus called them to Him and said, “Let the little children come to Me, and do not forbid them; for of such is the kingdom of God. 17 Assuredly, I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God as a little child will by no means enter it.”
John 12:25: “He who loves his life will lose it, and he who hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life.”