Discovering inner health and transformation
I do often find the books written by mystics as mystifying! And so put them down quick; and I don’t think I’m the only one. For mysticism is often viewed as confused, irrational thinking.
Sometimes I feel mystics intentionally obscure the meaning of something to make it more difficult to grasp and that’s when I long for the clear albeit doctrinaire statements of orthodox religion or for that matter the dogmas of materialistic science. At least they do not so obviously contain contradiction and paradox. Yet occasionally I do get glimpses of something in the writing of mystics that I can only describe as giving me sudden deep moments of intuition.
Still keen to get a handle on the mystics, I recently started reading Hymn of the Universe by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin whose words are said to be part of the treasury of mystical literature.
I sensed here a heavenly perception of the warmth and light of the creative Spirit
“Over there, on the horizon, the sun has
just touched with light, the outermost fringe of the eastern sky. Once again, beneath this moving sheet of fire, the living surface of the earth wakes and trembles”
A love and respect for so many people trying to fulfill what he calls the creative Energy.
“The whole vast anonymous army of living humanity; those who surround me and support me though I do not know them … who today will take up again their impassioned pursuit of the light.”
I felt a universal humanity with all its separate parts working together complementing each other to bring about heaven on earth.
As well as those “despite their error”, “confused or orderly”. “All of them, Lord, I will try to gather into my arms”
Is this not a love for his fellow man whom he asks God to “receive” and with whom he asks “Lord make us one”?
Mystics come from different religious backgrounds and there are mystic traditions which form sub-currents such as Kabbalah within Judaism, Sufism within Islam, Vedanta within Hinduism, and Christian mysticism within Christianity.
Teilhard de Chardin comes from a Roman Catholic background and demonstrates the basic Christian attitude that of ourselves we are lifeless but that we can be in-filled with the divine Life if we turn to it.
“As for us creatures, of ourselves we are but emptiness and obscurity. But you, my God, are the inmost depths, the stability of that eternal milieu, without duration or space.”
Here we have the characteristic of mystical writing – poetry disguised as prose. Little or no attempt to provide rational coherence and structure but rather we get a subjective expression of devotional emotion.
Nevertheless in other of his writing he was a leading proponent of the idea that evolution occurs in a directional, goal driven way rather than due to the accidents of natural selection. Trained as a paleontologist and geologist as well as a Jesuit priest, he had a reverence for the natural world and a continual awareness of the spiritual.
“Like the pagan I worship a God who can be touched; and I do indeed touch him – this God – over the whole surface and in the depths of that world of matter which confines me.”
But he adds that it is more than the emotion felt by the pagan as he lies prostrate before a tangible divinity. “Through your own incarnation, my God, all matter is henceforth incarnate.”
This reminds me of the mystical idea of the whole of creation as mirroring the
Divine soul operating in the world of people. Where accepted it is shown in the
beauty of nature. Every single thing within the natural order should be cared for because it is an image of the Divine. In each thing we see in the forest, on the mountain and in the sea, something that meaningfully represents the spiritual dimension.
It is difficult to find words to express and describe meaningful insights. And so
the perceptions of the mystics are often regarded as ‘hidden secrets’, or ‘esoteric knowledge’ – and for the initiated only. Yet mystics themselves often seem to think that what is out of sight can be found by every person. It is said to be there in all of us, it is just that but we may not yet be able to recognize it.
Likewise according to Emanuel Swedenborg — who also came from a Christian background, and who also had mystical experiences — no matter how well educated and intelligent you are, you need inner enlightenment from the Lord to perceive spiritual matters.
He claimed this inspiration is the illumination that the angels of heaven enjoy and comes to those who are closely linked in their hearts and minds with the spirit of love and truth. The ideas of natural thought, to do with place, time, person or material objects, cannot provide the deep insights of the mystic.
In his book Heaven and Hell, Swedenborg wrote:
“At times I have entered into the state in which angels are, and in that state have talked with them, and then understood everything. But when I was brought back into my former state, and thus into the natural thought proper to man, and wished to recall what I had heard, I could not. For there were thousands of things not on a level with the ideas of natural thought, and therefore only to be expressed by variegations of heavenly light, and thus not at all by human words.”
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on 13th October 2011
Discovering inner health and transformation
People need to economically make use of the world of nature by hunting for fish, growing crops, felling trees, and quarrying and mining for minerals etc. Humanity cannot survive unless food is eaten and shelter is built. Yet, in recent decades we have come to realise the insidious damage to ecosystems due to industrialisation, extraction of raw materials and modern transportation.
Natural habitat has been changed endangering some species of plant and animal: deforestation and desertification have taken place: waterways and land have been chemically polluted and there has been a rise in greenhouse gases contributing to climate change. There has been a failure to consciously consider the environmental impact of our industrial lifestyle on the children of future generations as well as on the people of the non-developed world.
The priority of most politicians of the richer countries seems to be on economic growth even though 20% of the world’s population consume 80% of the world’s resources. Reliance on ever expanding technology and material comfort continues as if happiness were to come from a life of excessive consumption. Once the initial thrill of purchasing something is over, we feel empty again. Materialistic aspiration also seems to be due to unnecessarily seeking social status by trying to show by one’s possessions one’s own importance and success in the eyes of oneself and others.
Environmentalists have assumed that scientific support for their viewpoint would lead to fundamental political change. However some of them are now saying that the underlying environmental problem is one of selfishness, greed and apathy and that we need a spiritual and cultural transformation.
Here are some spiritual ideas that can help us face this eco-spiritual crisis
In the industrialised world we find ourselves more and more enclosed in artificial buildings surrounded by fascinating technology and are separated from the world of nature. It is thought that we need to do something about this in order to be more in touch with the natural rhythm of life: to feel naturally grounded rather than alienated from meaningful reality.
One emphasis for many people is on seeing the sacred in nature. It is argued that a richer experience of the natural world can help us find a sense of identity relating us to a larger design. In other words mankind is part of nature and will find wisdom and well-being only in harmony with nature’s mysterious powers.
According to religious philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, nature can be seen as a theatre expressing in a symbolic way all that is deeply good and true. He claims that in ancient times people could see something spiritual in everything belonging to the natural order. There was a respect for God’s creation. Something of this can be seen in the way indigenous tribal peoples even today take for granted the existence of souls or spirits in animals, plants and rocks they encounter in daily life.
However, there has been an unfortunate error found in religion. By focusing on human spiritual well-being, religion has often placed human beings at the centre of the universe and at the head of a hierarchy of living creatures. Many Christians have supposed that when the book of Genesis states that mankind is to have dominion over the creatures of nature that this statement is to be taken as literally true. On the other hand, there has also been the view that the Genesis story is a myth with an illuminating message rather than a textbook on history, law or science.
According to Swedenborg the creation story in Genesis is about the re-creation of a person as fit for heaven — in other words it is all about spiritual transformation of the individual rather than any prioritising of people over animals and plants. For Swedenborg, mankind symbolises what he regards as the Divine Humane Spirit operating within the spiritually growing individual. He maintains it is this spiritual source that can come to dominate the way such a heavenly person naturally thinks and feels: the fish, birds and animals correspond to our ideas — illuminated or not, our understanding — enlightened or not, and our intentions — unselfish or not. All these can be symbols of spiritual and natural consciousness rather than things of nature to be exploited. And so reference to humanity having dominion over nature is really about what is divinely good and right in our higher mind ruling our natural ways of thinking and intending.
Bringing heaven into the world of nature
Bishop James Jones has pointed out that unfortunately within religion there has also been those who say our destiny is to escape the world and find a place in heaven or the equivalent. For them what is natural is even sinful and to be avoided. An alternative Christian view is that humanity is “a part of creation” and not “apart from creation”: that in acting as stewards of the earth serving and conserving God’s creation, salvation is about bringing down heaven on to earth.
“Your kingdom come, your will be done, on earth, as it is in heaven.” (Lord’s Prayer)
The Quran talks about the Creator embracing creation and that the animals that swim, fly and crawl are creatures like us we have to respect.
I would conclude by suggesting that valuing nature means using and enjoying natural things but doing this by neither abusing nor exploiting them: whether they be animals we rear, the wild side of nature we can respect and try to live in harmony with, or the nature of our own bodily needs.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on10th October 2013
|The True and False Theory of Evolution
by Rev. Chauncey Giles
Table of Contents
|To Lecture I|
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If there is a God – a creative Divine Source to our life – then surely the Divine nature must contain within itself, at the very least, qualities of what is highest, purest and best to be found in the Divine design of creation: Love, Wisdom, Goodness, Truth etc. Otherwise, we would be looking still higher for the source of such qualities.
The search for the true or actual God is then the search for what we can conceive of as being the highest, purest and best in life, followed by an intuition that the Divine Source itself must be the measure of that perfection, and have unlimited potential for expressing aspects of that perfection in countless creative ways. We can then say, for example, that God is Love.
Use the links below to explore the Transcendent/Personal nature of the Divine, the Oneness of God, God as a Parent, Pathways to God and what is meant by Providence and much more.
Selection from Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
Spaces and times must be removed from the ideas before the Lord’s omnipresence with all and with each individual, and His omniscience of things present and future, can be comprehended. But inasmuch as spaces and times cannot easily be removed from the ideas of the thoughts of the natural man, it is better for a simple man not to think of the Divine omnipresence and omniscience from any reasoning of the understanding; it is enough for him to believe in them simply from his religion, and if he thinks from reason, let him say to himself that they exist because they pertain to God, and God is everywhere and infinite, also because they are taught in the Word; and if he thinks of them from nature and from its spaces and times, let him say to himself that they are miraculously brought about. But inasmuch as the church is at present almost overwhelmed by naturalism, and this can be shaken off only by means of rational considerations which enable man to see what is true, it will be well by means of such to draw forth these Divine attributes out of the darkness that nature induces into the light; and this can be done because, as has been said, the understanding with which man is endowed is capable of being raised up into the interior light of heaven if only man desires from love to know truths. All naturalism arises from thinking about Divine things in accord with what is proper to nature, that is, matter, space, and time. The mind that clings to these, and is unwilling to believe anything that it does not understand, cannot do otherwise than make blind its understanding, and from the dense darkness in which it is immersed, deny that there is any Divine providence, and thus deny the Divine omnipotence, omnipresence, and omniscience, although these are just what religion teaches both within nature and above nature. And yet these cannot be comprehended by the understanding unless spaces and times are separated from the ideas of its thought; for these are in some way present in every idea of thought, and unless they are separated man cannot think otherwise than that nature is everything, that it is from itself, and consequently that the inmost of nature is what is called God, and that all beyond it is merely ideal. And such, I know, will wonder how anything can possibly exist where there is no time or space; and that the Divine itself is without them, and that the spiritual are not in them, but are only in appearances of them; and yet Divine spiritual things are the very essence of all things that have existed or that exist, and natural things apart from these are like bodies without souls, which become carcasses.
Discovering inner health and transformation
Many people sense that there is a deeper aspect of reality. A spiritual force behind the universe.
To my mind this divine level of what is real is pure love and the source of all that explains the meaning of life. It is wisely working away in our hearts and minds. This is the infinite and eternal God of religion, beyond gender, beyond the bounds of space and time, and beyond our full comprehension.
According to much western world religion, this mighty spiritual force is manifest as the Christ within the human soul who inspires our feelings and thoughts with his altruistic love and higher intelligence. A new way of expressing this is as follows. We are an image of Christ’s divine humanity who like us has heart, head and hands – although in his case it is a heart of compassion, a head of wisdom and hands of power.
This is the Christ with whom we can pray and relate to on a personal footing; the divine that flows into our conscience to guide us towards the ethical and moral life. Of ourselves we do not have the ability to inspire and illuminate our lives. But cooperating with the Christ within we can find the divine life as if it were our own.
Many people can accept that there is no dark side to God and that human suffering and what is evil is caused by some human beings turning away from the values of mutual care and instead focusing exclusively on self-orientation. In my view the Divine is all-loving, all-knowing and whilst present everywhere is beyond time and place. It respects our freedom to decide for ourselves what kind of life we want to lead and so does not intrude to control human affairs.
This deity does not stop suffering, and like loving parents does allow us, the offspring, to learn the lessons of life the hard way whilst at the same time it counter-balances what is bad by providing what is good. Parents continue to provide for and support their children throughout their difficulties and misfortunes. When God does this for all of us, it is called the work of loving providence.
I would say that Divine life flows invisibly into the world to offset disease with healing, temper hate with love, and moderate despair with inspiration. This is done in relation to the smallest detail of life and so despite how things appear, nothing actually happens by chance. If the work of providence were obvious then we would not be free to believe or disbelieve in the divine as the spiritual origin of our lives.
According to this view, God is concerned with long-term goals not short-lived happiness. Only in retrospect can we hope to see the way traumas and suffering has functioned as growth points in our spiritual learning.
One cannot prove the existence of God which is invisible. But there is evidence to support the Divine nature. Unless God were revealed, humanity would only have a dim awareness that the divine within comes from a higher power creating all that is good. And so I would say that God is manifest as the Christ of history. Also facets of the divine are shown both in the world of nature and in the sacred scriptures of the world’s religions.
Nature is said to be red in tooth and claw. But it also shows a positive side. There is beauty as well as ugliness in plant life, affection as well as cruelty in the animal kingdom, and safety as well as danger on land and sea. What is good in nature symbolically shows the qualities of the divine in our thoughts and feelings. What is bad mirrors the corrupting influence of humanity’s self-orientation.
The Divine is widely acknowledged as revealed in sacred writings of especially inspired individuals. Beneath the various authentic religious traditions and customs there is a common core of spiritual teaching. This is not surprising if they have a common source. What is revealed is what all religions teach i.e. :-
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems