Goodness

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The Lord, in His essence, is love itself, perfect and infinite. From that love His entire focus and effort is on loving us and making us happy – which can only be done to its fullness if we freely choose to accept His love and be conjoined with Him.

To that end, we also have the capacity to love – we can allow that conjunction to happen by receiving the Lord’s love and returning it, and the way we do that is by aligning our loves with the Lord’s. Obviously the Lord is infinite and perfect and we are finite and imperfect, but we can work to love as He loves, and closer we get the more we are “good” – the more we will desire to be good, delight in what is good, actually do what is good, and live in peace, harmony and joy both in this life and in heaven.

Achieving that, of course, is not a matter of saying a little prayer and being changed, and it’s not a matter of simply deciding or force of will. As anyone who has mooned over an unrequited romance knows, our loves are simply not changed that easily, and indeed seem largely out of our control.

Consider, for instance: Say you are in desperate need of money, and see a man drop his wallet as he climbs into an expensive car and drives away. You pick up the wallet, and find several thousand dollars there. The fact is, at that moment you (unless you are a better person than 99.9 percent of us) really really want to keep that money. You might not do it. You know what’s right, and you may well make yourself do what’s right. But you can’t just change that “want” and make it go away. You don’t have that kind of control.

So how can we actually become good? The answer is what the Writings refer to generically as “truth.” From the time we are small children we are constantly learning what’s right and wrong and being forced to apply that knowledge. Over time those ideas get deeper – from “don’t hit other children!” to “you need to think about what makes other people happy” to “love your neighbor as yourself” – but they all to some extent run contrary to what we want. Consider that wallet: The reason most of us would call the guy and give him his money is that we know it’s the right thing to do, even though it’s not really what we want to do.

If you think about it, those truths – those ideas of right and wrong – come into use from the outside, and sort of work their way from outer layers of our minds (“don’t hit other children!”) to deeper, more thoughtful ones (“love your neighbor as yourself”). The Writings tell us that even as we are absorbing truth from the outside, the Lord is secretly planting desires for good in our souls, in the inmost levels that we’re not even aware of. Among the most important of these desires is, in fact, the desire for truth, which urges us to gather and accept that truth coming to us from the outside.

As we build that storehouse of knowledge, we come to the key decision point (or a lifelong series of decision points, really). We can decide to embrace that truth, to determine for ourselves that we want to do what’s right because it is right. Or we can ignore it and wallow in our base desires.

If we do the former – determine to follow what’s true – that truth crosses from the exterior parts of our mind to more interior ones. And in the more interior areas it can mix with the desires for good the Lord has hidden away there.

And then what happens? The Writings have some beautiful passages about how good loves truth, how it will seek it and embrace it, fill it with life and make it its own. This is a little hard to imagine, but consider falling in love with someone. Don’t you want to know everything about him or her? Don’t you want to know every little thing that makes him or her happy so you can provide it? Your desire to love embraces truth so it can put love into action. Much the same happens with the desires for good inside us and the attendent truths – the good desires seek the real truths, the ones that fit, and make them their own.

This does not, of course, happen all at once in every aspect of our being. It is the work of a lifetime and entails many battles with the evil desires that pollute our souls. But the process can be increasingly joyful, and the end result is spectacular – eventually the desires for good will be so empowered that they can actually take the lead role and extend out to the outermost parts of our minds. In that state we no longer even want what’s wrong; our joy of life is in doing what’s good. This, of course, is the state that angels enjoy in heaven.

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Why are bad things permitted to happen?

The Lord’s governance of all people is called His Divine Providence.

There is nothing that happens outside of the care of the Lord and His providence. This does not mean that the Lord wills evil things to happen. The Lord is continually providing for all that is good and true and useful to effect us and inspire us. His will is only that good things happen. However, He also created people to be free. Therefore people make choices that are merely somewhat good, or partially good and sometimes downright evil and wrong. The Lord is present with people in these choices trying to bend them to a lesser evil or even to what is good. He will never exert His influence to the point where someone’s will is broken or pushed beyond their own free choice. We are also told that the Lord will only permit evil to happen if good may come from it. For example, we can see in the death of an individual how often it will impact people for good; by either inspiring others to change their lives, or live more spiritually, or some such thing. When evil things happen the Lord is there permitting it (not willing or desiring it to happen), providing that good might come from the choices made.

When it is said that God permits, this does not mean that He wills, but that He cannot avert on account of the end, which is salvation. Whatever is done for the sake of the end, namely, salvation, is according to the laws of the Divine Providence. (Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 234)

We will be effected by our heredity that is passed on from our parents and ancestors, our environment, our experiences, and our ruling or dominant love. We are created to have free choice so it is completely up to us what we choose to do and what we choose to love. The Lord knows what we are going to choose but that doesn’t mean He is deciding for us. It means that He can allow for, and provide for, our choices.

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DAILY INSPIRATION

“The doing of a good deed flows from the desiring of it. In ancient times, deed and will were made one… for pretense did not exist at all.”

Arcana Coelestia 363

Father – is he uniquely important?

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

fatherTraditionally, the father has been the bread-winner for the family. These days, however, many women have well-paid jobs in the professions and business. The two sexes are said to be equal, and the ‘new man’ as a father is supposed to reduce his time at work so as to be as actively involved as the mother – not just in domestic chores – but also in time spent with the children, and in thinking about their health and schooling.

Does the gender of the parents matter?

However in doing more of what mothers have traditionally done, some men are beginning to wonder if there is any unique role for a father that can be valued. As the mother goes out to work, the father is no longer the sole or sometimes even main family bread-winner.

A lead article in the Journal of Marriage and Family concludes “The gender of parents only matters in ways that don’t matter.” This assumes there is nothing that a father brings to the table of parenting that is not easily replicated by the mother. Is a father then not distinctly needed other than as an additional parent?

The father in animal studies

In fish, reptiles and in many species of mammals, there is seen little or no paternal role in caring for offspring. It is the females who must do all the work of caring for the young. For example a male bear leaves the female shortly after mating and will kill and sometimes eat any bear cub he comes across, even if the cub is his. Bear mothers spend much of their cubs’ early life protecting them from males. Domesticated dogs are not monogamous with their mates and show little interest in their pups.

On the other hand there are some animals where the fathers take a paternal caring role with their young. A male wolf helps feed, protect, and play with his pups and is the one who does most of the hunting for the young when the mother is securing the newborn pups. Most male waterfowl are very protective in raising their offspring, sharing scout duties with the female. Examples are geese, swans and gulls and a few species of duck. When the families of most of these waterfowls travel, they usually go in a line and the fathers are usually the ones guarding the offspring at the end of the line while the mothers lead the way.

In animal studies, whether the parents are monogamous seems to be a crucial factor in the involvement of the adult male in the young.

The love of a mother

In humans, from the child’s conception, the mother is the parent who nourishes the baby and forms the primary attachment which is continued as the infant grows and experiences her affectionate nurturing care. And so she is likely to be the major caregiver of the children, even if she herself is employed to a larger or smaller extent in the labour force. According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, the love of children directly affects women because of the linkage of a deeper monogamous affection he called conjugial love with the female sex.

In recent years social science studies have been showing the benefits on children of healthy father-child relationships for example higher self-esteem, increased curiosity, greater empathy.

Why should this be the case? Is it because two parents are better than one? Or is it because each sex has something special to offer to child raising?

The mother is usually more affectionate and closer to children whereas the father tends to be more emotionally distant. Some men will drift and muddle through their home life, others make every effort to be a thoughtful and loving parent giving time for play, and keeping an eye on the child’s well being.

Swedenborgian view of gender

For Swedenborg the male mind is more prone to understanding and the female to feeling and thus a father  has a tendency to see things from a broader perspective. If there is something in this, then in so far as a father is interested in his children’s welfare, can he not offer a distinctive good sense? For example as a result of his male approach to life children may be more interested about the world around them and develop greater problem solving skills.

A father’s influence on the children may be indirect as often the mother has more contact with them. Nevertheless her loving care and way of dealing with the child may possibly be influenced after discussing common concerns with her partner and getting his views on wider issues.

Does a good father not also combine with his partner to contribute to the caring and moral atmosphere in the home? If so he is likely to want to explore and share good ideas of relevance to the child’s developing understanding. Arguably, in the fatherly role, a man can be instrumental in fostering ethical principles and ideas about the meaning of life that remain unconscious within the child as he or she developments into adulthood.

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

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on8th October 2014CategoriesMeaning of life, Other aspects of meaningTags, , , ,  Leave a comment

CONCERNING THE DIVINE HUMAN OF THE LORD

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

CONCERNING THE DIVINE HUMAN OF THE LORD
THAT IN HEAVEN IT IS EVERYWHERE ACKNOWLEDGED

Selection from
THE SPIRITUAL DIARY

OF
EMANUEL SWEDENBORG

BEING THE RECORD DURING TWENTY YEARS OF HIS SUPERNATURAL EXPERIENCE

     Every man whatever, who has not destroyed his rational mind and no longer receives therein the heavenly influx, and, so, [every man] who does not acknowledge nature as God, has the idea of a human concerning the Divine. This was attested, through much experience, by those in the other life. This Divine Human is nowhere else than in the Lord. Let who pleases think where else the Divine Human could be. The Lord also plainly teaches that He who sees Him sees the Father, and that He is in the Father and the Father in Him and that the Father and He are one. The learned do not know what the soul is; whether it is anything, or whether only a vital [spark], or whether it is the cogitative [function] in a sort of trial [condition]; whether it is there in the body, or elsewhere; when, yet, the soul is the man himself, and wholly in a human form, and the body is adjoined thereto (everywhere according to its functions in a gross world. Hence are the vagaries of the learned. The simple, on the other hand, know that their soul is in the body; consequently, they have no doubts about a life after death).

     Another thing is, that the thoughts and wisdom of the angels are according to the form of heaven, and their affections according to the changes of state there; for, were not the form of heaven perfect, no one could think, still less be wise, because every thought has extension into the societies of another heaven, [these societies] being arranged according to the form of heaven. The form of heaven, in general, relates to man; for it corresponds to each thing with man, as has been shown; [to wit], ((that, first, all things of the whole body, from the highest to the lowest and from the inmost to the outmost, are organic forms, completely [adapted] for the reception of the life of faith from love; and so much as there is of Divine love in man from God, so far are his organs receptions of life, consequently, so far are they living. This is most perfectly the case in the Lord, inasmuch as the Divine Love Itself which was the Esse of His life, formed the body after its likeness, thus to its reception, even to such a degree as that all the [organs] should be forms of Divine Love; and, since the body was made Divine they are the Divine Love. Nothing there is closed, as infinites; but all things are formed according to the idea of an infinite heaven. [It was also shown] that, in the generating of men, there is a likeness of the father, from the conception from the father, thus from the soul, which is the esse of life; this [esse] imparts its own to the body, and makes it a likeness of itself; for the body is the existere of life from the esse of life. Second, that men are not aware that the whole body is the form of its love – which is known in the heavens. Nor do they know how the Lord, although a man and not a spirit, entered through closed doors. Third, that there is not one God when there are three persons. Fourth, that men say that He is omnipresent, even as to the human, as in the Holy Supper. Fifth, they believe that they shall rise as to the body; for they know nothing as to what quality those in the other life are, to wit, in a body and in all things of the body. They do not know what the soul is, and what the body!)) That the Divine is Human in heaven, is a fundamental of wisdom, because of thought; for [that] idea is the primitive one of the universal heaven. Wherefore he who is not in it cannot be in angelic wisdom. Hence, also, it is evident, that the Lord as to the Divine Human is the all of heaven and the all of the wisdom of the angels there.

     It shall be added, in the third place, that the Divine in heaven must have been the Divine Human, before the Coming of the Lord – as is clear from correspondences; wherefore, everything proceeding from the Divine was then in the Human form, so that that form must have been the existere of Infinite Love from the esse of love; and, because it was of love, and the Divine is the Infinite of power, or omnipotence, therefore it also follows, necessarily, that, at length, it so came to pass that it [the Divine] put on the human, actually. These things are written by influx out of heaven, from the wisdom of the angels there.

     By means of the Divine Human of the Lord order was restored even to the ultimate of life, which is the sensual; for successive Divine order perished in ultimates, thus the Divine in the ultimate: this has been restored by the Lord, so that thus the Divine could reach even to that. When I spoke with the angels, I perceived, from their inflowing idea, that there never could have been a Divine creating all things, unless it were a one – not divided into three equal essences, but into three successive essences, which are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, and these in one Person. It was also perceived that the Divine Itself, which is the first essence, must have been Man in endeavor, or in course of becoming – fieri – whence it was as it were man, thus man reflexively; and that the second essence is Man born, and essentially from the first; and the third essence in successive order, is Man proceeding, which is the whole heaven; and, if it is named, it may be called the Holy Spirit, since it is from the Lord there, and in the Church thence. It may also be confirmed from the fact that the body is the existere of life from the soul, which is the esse of life – as is done among spirits. It may be confirmed from the creed of Athanasius. Those from the Christian world who, from principles taken up and confirmed in the world, deny the Lord, have scarcely any life; they are completely silly.

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(Emanuel Swedenborg’s Spiritual Diary 4844 – 4847)


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Uses

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

By Mr. Joseph S. David

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Women in the Wheat Fields, by Charles Caryl Coleman

Uses are the tangible, expressed forms of love to the neighbor. We can think of things we might do to help a neighbor, and we can want to do something to help, but it’s not until we deploy the thoughts and act on our will, that we actually perform a use.

Doing actual useful service completes the trilogy of end, cause, and effect, the action being the effect. Furthermore, we are taught in the doctrines of the New Church that the primary theater for charity is not the giving of alms to various people or causes, though that is important, but to do the job or fill out the office we are in honestly, justly, and industriously as best we can, not because it helps us but because it helps the common good. And because this is what the Lord requires of us.

Heaven is called a kingdom of uses because all angels are busy doing a useful task every day, and angels love it so, because these tasks are perfectly suited to the angel doing them, allowing each angel to delight in what he is doing every day to his or her heart’s content.

One of the key descriptions of heaven in the doctrines is that of a single grand human being, not because of shape but because of function. Modern science has learned a lot about the human body. We can know that we are made up of billions of different kinds of cells, brain cells, muscle cells, bone cells, and on and on, and that all these cells are busy little shops, taking in raw materials from the blood and turning out products the body needs and sending them around. We can see that each cell in our body is analogous to a society of angels, as we are told that there are societies in the provinces of all parts of the body performing the spiritual correspondent of what the various body parts do in an anatomic or physiologic way. So just as our cells all perform uses in our body to keep the whole body healthy and active, so do all angelic societies, and within those individual angels. Thus heaven can continue to exist, grow and perform its uses toward those of us still down here in the material world.

A similar kind of picture, though in a more imperfect way, shows how a political entity, a country, or state, or city can operate with all the various jobs contributing to a vibrant commonwealth, with people trading goods and services and doing all the things that make a community live. But it works better when all the citizens are led internally by love to the neighbor rather than love of self.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 454, 997, 4222, 4984, 7038; Divine Love and Wisdom 65, 213, 297; Heaven and Hell 64, 387, 403; Heaven and Hell 517 [2])

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Does God withdraw from us and test us?

The answer is, “no.” God never withdraws from us – He is always present and loving us. We are however, left in freedom and we can use that freedom to turn away from the Lord if we choose. The Writings for the New Church also teach that when we are going through temptation that the Lord draws even closer to us, but that it can feel like He’s farther away. This is because the closer the Lord is to us, the more freedom we are in, and the more it feels like we are doing things on our own. The bottom line is that God is all loving and ever present. He doesn’t choose to leave us or back away.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Love and wisdom, apart from usefulness, are only imaginary things. That is, they do not become real unless they are used.”

Apocalypse Revealed 875

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Share ideas – How to talk about beliefs.

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

It might be tempting to keep quiet about what you really believe or hide behind a book that gives your view rather than talking about it yourself; especially if you are afraid if you share ideas they might be discarded or even trampled on.

But don’t we each have some sort of responsibility for freely offering a word of wisdom freely received?

I would argue that it’s only when we share ideas and beliefs that we can build deeper relationship. But how many of us fail to do this, preferring to say the comfortable thing, and conform to what we assume is expected? Conversations that touch on important issues really give satisfaction; one soul has touched another.

“Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.” (Rollo May)

Perhaps you are reticent to share ideas about your hopes, values and convictions. Do you  avoid any honest talk about politics and religion, or quickly pass over difficult subjects like the meaning of death or human suffering, or your personal aims in life. Is this because you have little to say or are unhappy about being your real self?

“There are some people who have the quality of richness and joy in them and they communicate it to everything they touch. It is first of all a physical quality; then it is a quality of the spirit.” (Tom Wolfe)

Here are some suggestions about how to share ideas.

1. Be clear about what you would want to say if you had the chance. One possible reason why you might sometimes gloss over matters, is you haven’t thought through your ideas; have not understood what is important to you about your beliefs; or are not yet clear about what ideas you want to share.

“First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak.” (Epictetus)

2. Find an appropriate person to speak with. You cannot expect to share ideas  about the local football team with someone who is bored by sport. Nor can you expect to talk about your spiritual beliefs with someone who is disinterested in the deeper aspects of life.

3. Even then you cannot just launch into a topic out of the blue. Only by listening carefully, will you be in a position to show the relevance of what you want to say to the other person, beginning where they are at. This means being sensitive and aware of the other person’s feelings.

“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others” (Tony Robbins)

4. I would advise not tackling a passionately held attitude head on. It will get you nowhere. Only by listening can you learn what switches someone off or where to tread carefully. One would walk warily around certain topics where the other person has strong feelings. Raising a certain topic like gay marriage, re-incarnation, vegetarianism, human suffering may feel like walking over broken eggs.

Instead try to share ideas by testifying to our own experiences and thoughts and their relevance to the person’s situation and practical issues.

5. Share ideas by offering your views for consideration rather than telling someone in an authoritative way what to think. This means asserting your thoughts without dominating; listening to the other person’s attitude even when they don’t oppose you.

“The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.” (Peter Drucker)

6. Wait for the right time to mention what you have in mind; looking for opportunities to steer the conversation towards the topic that interests you

7. Share ideas by keeping to the point.

“The ability to simplify means to eliminate the unnecessary so that the necessary may speak.” (Hans Hofmann)

8. Share ideas by using words in common parlance avoiding jargon or terminology with socially unacceptable connotations. When talking with someone you don’t know too well from a different background it is important to check out any misunderstanding of words with a specialised meaning that do crop up.

When it comes to deeper ideas, any language can be inadequate especially when you are trying to express the inexpressible. For example if you want to share your spiritual beliefs then be wary about the way the word ‘God’ is used. Some people have rightly rejected a distorted image of God. Nevertheless they may still have a feeling that there is an underlying divine source of what is good and true in life.

share ideas9. Use effective and socially acceptable non-verbal behaviour; for example the right tone and loudness of voice, eye-contact, body posture.

10. Only suggest an idea if it might lead to something useful for the other person. There is a chance that what you want to say is not needed by a particular individual.

11. Don’t assume listeners will agree that what is said is self-evident. Nothing can be more annoying than for someone to share ideas by telling us what to think as if they must be right. It sounds arrogant and dogmatic.

Better to say “This is my opinion; here is my experience and evidence; look for yourself and decide.”

12. Don’t voice your opinion as a way of winning an argument and getting the better of someone. People use their inner freedom to search for meaningful notions because they love what makes sense. We should encourage such people to exercise their freedom to rationally weigh up our beliefs. We cannot assume everyone we speak with is able to intuitively perceive the truth of what we say. After all we may be wrong.

13. Welcome questioning of what you say.

“A powerful idea communicates some of its strength to him who challenges it.” (Marcel Proust)

Look upon a conversation as a two way process. You can learn from the other person and hopefully they can learn from you.

Swedenborg

Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg wrote that we never achieve truth as it is in itself, but that all of our insights are only approximations to genuine truth, mere appearances of what is true adapted to human understanding. In communicating with people we need to accommodate our message to where each is coming from in terms of the appearances and illusions they have. And to share ideas with them we need to listen to what they have to say in terms of our own misapprehensions.

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

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on13th August 2013CategoriesMeaning of life, Other aspects of meaningLeave a comment