16 Spiritual Sources of Health

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16 Spiritual Sources of Health

“Unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” Malachi 4:2

The causes of emotionally induced diseases may be traced from the autonomic nerves to their cortical origins and from the secretions of the endocrine glands to their source in the inmost organic structures which Swedenborg called the “simple cortex.” But here nature gives way to spirit. For the brain-cells absorb their subtle material aliments from earth and atmosphere and produce their complex chemical carriers of life according to the states of a man’s affections.441 And man’s affections are derived from the spirits who are with him.

The only real health is from the Lord. A wicked man may seemingly have a strong and healthy body. But inwardly there is no soundness in him. His “purer blood” or animal spirit is not being purged from those malign substances which attract the influx from the hells. He carries with him the poison of deceit, the seeds of insanity, and the latent causes of disease.

Just as anger and cankering emotions make for illness, love and faith are the fountainhead of health and an important element in cures. It is well known that a patient must have an incentive to recover and a faith in its possibility. But to avert illness a man must at all times keep his mind free from morbid states of self-pity, anger, pessimism, suspicion, impatience and intemperance, and from all other moods or emotions which seem to brood below the level of his thoughts but which actually inflow from evil spirits. He should be courageous in facing adversities, reasonable and prudent in his relation with other men. He should keep busy in some useful work and lead an orderly life. He should defend his own freedom and his own use while respecting the same rights in others. In short, he should be rational and moral. He should cultivate the moral virtues, learn to appreciate them in others, patiently try to see the point of view of those who criticize him, and see himself objectively, as others see him. An inoffensive sense of humor which allows him to smile at irritations and laugh at his own errors, can often prevent a nervous breakdown. Modern doctors prescribe a happy mood as the best medicine.

Moral virtues do not suffice to combat evil spirits. Evils must be shunned as sins against God if the angels are to banish the unclean spirit that would return with seven others to the house of the garnished mind. The protection of heaven comes to the just man who loves mercy and walks humbly before his God. And the promise is, “Unto you who fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.”442

Interior happiness comes from a heart made humble by knowing its own weaknesses and strong by putting trust in the Divine providence. The hectic pursuit of worldly fame or personal power or luxury is responsible for much illness. Uses are provided us as a means to forget ourselves, not as a path to selfish pleasures or personal vanity. The true way to happiness and health is to find our place of use in society, to employ our talents with a cheerful heart to mitigate the misfortunes of others, to sustain their good efforts, to contribute of our best illustration to their spiritual welfare. A man who can attract good spirits is of more value to his fellowmen than the inventor of atomic engines or the most brilliant of secular thinkers—if the latter do not first seek the kingdom of God.

Protection in Uses

A most powerful protection against evil and disease is to be found in the love of being useful—the zeal for work from an interest in the needs of others. This love conquers many illnesses and delays the inroads of old age. Indeed even an evil man or spirit is to a certain point protected by society and by heaven so long as he performs a use. The people of Israel were under a Divine protection from pestilences and disasters so long as they were faithful to their covenant, even though their function was one of merely “representing” a church. Muscles never used would weaken and talents not exercised tend to disappear. The Writings urge us to temper our uses with a due amount of rest and proper recreation. But “they who love idleness more than use gather evils into their spirit,” for they turn to things filthy and evil, vain and frivolous, until their mind grows stupid and their body torpid. On the other hand, “while a man is in some study and business or is in a use, his mind is limited and circumscribed as by a circle within which it is coordinated by stages into a form truly human.”443

“Use is to discharge the works of our employment sincerely and industriously.” The love of use and the derivative application prevent the mind from wandering in idle daydreams and from drinking in the allurements of sensual lusts which scatter all thoughts of religion and morality to the winds.444 Hence it is that the delight of heavenly life, as well as its wisdom, revolves about uses to be done. The angels know that to love the Lord as a person and not to love uses, is to love Him from self; but use in itself is Divine, and to do uses is to love the Lord and to be in Him—in the very current of His sustaining life, or in that kingdom of uses which is described as the Grand Man of heaven. And through the ordered uses of the home, society, and the church, this kingdom extends its protection over men on earth also.

Love, the Key to Health

Love is the key to health as well as to happiness. Even the food we eat has a different effect when it is eaten with thankfulness and delight, than when it is gulped in a state of anxiety. Delight aids the secretion of digestive juices and enzymes and “opens the chyle-ducts” so that the nourishment can be rightly absorbed.445 Food and drink nourish the body better and more suitably when a man, at dinner or supper, is cheerful in spirit and is at the same time “in the delight of conversing with others about the things he loves, than when he sits at table alone.”446 Indeed, man shall not live by bread only. Among the proper “diversions of charity” are dinners, suppers, or parties “with those who are in mutual love from a similar faith”; where the conversation turns on various civic and domestic topics, but the chief interest centers on the church. The sphere of love and charity on such occasions exhilarates every mind, softens every voice, and brings festive feelings into all the senses.447 All of which confirms the proverb, “Better a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.”448

It is really love to the Lord and charity towards the neighbor which invite the wholesome spheres of heaven. And no love can give a more complete protection against the hells or offer more support to heaven than a love truly conjugial such as exists with two married partners who together look to the Lord in their common uses.449 For marriage was instituted by the Lord to be the norm of human life in which all the needs of soul and mind and body find their fulfilment and through which the Divine uses of creation are to be accomplished. It is to the state of marriage that every human individual must look for the final balance of life’s many uses and delights. And if a true marriage is not achieved on earth, a man or a woman can still live in the sphere of the conjugial union of charity and faith which fosters all the spiritual and natural uses of society and begets the wisdom of life.

The love of propagating and the love of protecting the offspring comes to all men as a sphere out of heaven and as a general influx. In the natural man, as in animals, it is received as a love of the sex. This is a natural instinct, and if it is not tempered by reason or conscience, it becomes the main source of mental stresses and social problems. But it is intended as the womb of conjugial love. And conjugial love can be received only according to the states of the church with man, or according as man, as of himself, orders his life by revealed Doctrine to recognize the purposes of creation. It is given to those who shun their evils as sins, approaching the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God of heaven and of earth, and who thus can sustain the particular influx of the angelic guardians which come from the celestial heavens with innocence and peace. Under such angelic auspices the conflicts of one’s natural affections are easily resolved and the disturbing undercurrents of fretting emotions are frankly analyzed and their stress weakened.

The states of a truly conjugial life are described as “innocence, tranquillity, inmost friendship, full confidence, a mutual desire of mind and heart to do the other every good; and from all these, blessedness, happiness, delight, pleasure; and from the eternal fruition of these, heavenly felicity.”450 This is not a cloudy ideal impossible of fulfilment in our day and age. It is possible wherever men thirst for the water of life and the New Jerusalem can be planted in their hearts.

Heaven comes to earth as a gift from the Lord—bringing the first conditions for happiness and for health—just so far as men shun evils as sins and thus invite good spirits to attend them. It comes “when a man, with his wife whom he loves most tenderly and with his children, lives contented in the Lord. From this he has in the world interior delight, and in the other life heavenly joy.”451

The Heavenly Doctrine was not given in order to restore to men the means of procuring physical health. It extends no hope for miraculous cures by prayer or by faith alone. Yet beside the pure river of water of life which flows crystal clear from the throne of God, there grows the tree of life whose fruits shall be for meat and whose leaves are for medicine—for the healing of the nations.452 These curative leaves signify the rational truths now revealed in the Writings, which can restore sound judgment to those who have been infested by evils and falsities, and may lead them to live becomingly and eventually to receive spiritual truths.453

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Real challenges: addictive behavior in a loved one.

Real challenges: addictive behavior in a loved one.

When someone close to you is struggling with addiction, how can you help them?

If a good friend accidentally splashed coffee onto your dress shirt, you might quickly assure him, “Don’t worry, no harm done. I’ll just put a little soap on it, and I’m sure it will come out.” Not many of us would raise our eyebrows and say, “This shirt cost me fifty bucks. Fork it over! I want you to experience the consequence of your mistake.” In this kind of situation, playing hardball seems a little insensitive. So where do we draw the line between helping others and enabling destructive behavior?

When it comes to everyday interactions, most of us enjoy being able to make another person’s life a little easier. We hold the door open for the person with her hands full; we turn the light on for the friend who’s reading in a dimly lit room; we hand a tissue to the kid who has the sniffles. These things allow us to feel that we’re having a positive effect on the world.

It becomes much harder, though, when we’re dealing with someone who struggles with an addiction. Should we help him recover from his hangover in the morning? Should we call her office and tell them she’s “sick”? Should we loan him money to pay for the car accident he had while under the influence? Should we patch up the hole in the wall and pretend nothing happened? Should we tell her that she can stay with us when she’s kicked out of her home?

When our conscience seems to pull us in two different directions, the teachings of the New Church may help us determine the best course of action. In the Writings of the New Church, Emanuel Swedenborg conveys the idea that real charity involves careful discretion, which he calls “prudence.” He writes that when we give assistance to someone who’s involved in poor behavior, we actually end up hurting others through this person: “for through the assistance which we render, we confirm him in evil, and supply him with the means of doing evil to others” (New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 100).

So what can we do? One thing we can do is refuse to undo the consequences that result from an addiction. This can be very difficult. We may suffer embarrassment, exposure, loss of familiar situations, loss of financial stability, or temporary separation. The benefits come later, though, as the gradual process of healing begins. One woman told a story about how surprised and hurt she’d felt when her mother forced her to leave home, after discovering her crack addiction. Years later, having hit “rock bottom” and slowly learned to face her own fears, the recovering daughter spoke with gratitude about the courage and strength of her mother’s decision.

Another step we can take when a loved one has an addiction is to begin finding peace within ourselves. It can help to take time each day to reflect, noticing the ways we’ve been reacting to upsetting situations, and beginning to learn healthier responses. It may also help to seek the advice of professionals who are trained in dealing with addiction.

Learning how to best support a loved one who suffers from addiction can be a tremendous struggle, but there is also enormous opportunity for growth, when it is undertaken with patience, prudence and prayer. If you are currently in this situation, may the Lord bless you and the ones you love on your journey to emotional health and recovery.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“People who are in heaven are in the Lord.”

Arcana Coelestia 3637

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