6 Spiritual Associations

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6 Spiritual Associations

“Are they not all ministering spirits, sent forth to minister for them who shall be heirs of salvation?” Hebrews 1:7

Heredity and Human Types

Nothing is more plain than the fact that men differ as to the general state of their minds. “Many men, many minds.” But there are also resemblances. All infants and adolescents are in states which are characteristic of their general age. Those of the same race incline to show a common genius. Teachers, laborers, lawyers, business men, show certain traits of mind and attitudes typical of their profession or work. And, besides these distinctions, all individuals may be classified according to temperaments, seemingly inborn yet following no known law of heredity.

Students have therefore observed that every nation or large society includes some people who are predominantly instinctive in their reactions, others who are imaginative and easily influenced by suggestion, others who possess speculative and perhaps fanatical tendencies, and some who are critical, analytic, calculating, or reflective. According to another classification, we find those who are characterized by intellect, those in whom the will is a prominent trait, and those who are action-types, whether they be dull and slow, or excitable and impulsive.

These observed types are seldom pure, and the classes overlap—fortunately. For no one type is perfect in and by itself. The Writings—amplifying the Lord’s saying that in the Heavenly Father’s house there are many mansions—teach that every type of mind is accommodated within the Grand Human Form of the Divine economy: even as many types of cells and tissues are needed to make the human body complete. These types are classified, on the one hand, as belonging to a celestial genius, a spiritual genius, and—in a sense —a natural genius: and, in addition, their diversity is made more complex as men cultivate and develop some one of the degrees of the natural mind—either the sensual-scientific, or the imaginative, or the moral and rational.

Men can modify but not essentially alter the hereditary temperaments of their natural minds. By regeneration, a man can also receive the Lord’s gift of spiritual life in a more and more interior form, and thus the Lord will open within him the degrees of the spiritual mind, which places him in the spiritual or celestial degree of his heaven. But the basic type of his natural mind, the result of heredities and of the social environment, is only to some extent modified by his choosing, and remains to qualify the general state of his spirit. His natural mind is formed, under the auspices of the Divine providence, largely without man’s help, as a vessel receptive of life. He changes its particular states, but not its general state or type. After all, it is only a vessel, a tool for a deeper life. And therefore, in heaven, the natural mind of an angel becomes as it were transparent from the spiritual within.156

If we should ask wherein lies the permanence of a racial type, such as the Chinese or the Semitic, we might receive many answers. The scientist would labor to explain about the strange process of meiosis or reductive division, whereby the hereditary factors in sperm and ovum are varied while the persistent characteristics of the species are preserved. The New Church scientist would wish to allow for gradual changes even in the germ plasm, in each generation—although he might stress that the observable changes of the cell could be responsible only for the physical and not for the spiritual inheritance, which latter cannot be traced according to any Mendelian “laws.” The New Church theologian would be particularly interested in three facts. One is, that hereditary evils, although accumulating, do not seem greatly to alter the type of face or of mind, to judge from the pictures on the palaces of ancient Egypt and the stories of the Old Testament. The second is, that our doctrines intimate that evils of heredity can be modified by a change of religion and by regenerate life. The third is, that life is not inherent in the transmitted germ-plasm, but inflows from the spiritual world.

What a man inherits from his parents is only a vessel of life: but a vessel so ordered that it receives a certain type of influx, or receives life mediated by certain groups of angels and spirits. It is in. the inflowing life that the reality of heredity lies: or, in the spirits and angels which mediate life for the receiving vessel. So far as some other type of life could be received by the germ-plasm, or by the inner organics of the child and man, so far another type of mind (and even of body) would result! This is the reason that heredities can be altered by the life of religion: for religion is the only power that can deeply reorder the spirits and angels about a man, or change such a general state as that of an inherited disposition.167

General states—states rooted in wide groups of societies in the spiritual world—can be changed only by the Lord whose Providence works through ultimate conditions in this world and thus upon all spirits and angels. And the process is slow because the deeper evils of heredity can be modified only with men who are capable of sustaining spiritual temptations. It is therefore inevitable that the general states through which the human race has passed should survive as characteristic traits of disposition, and should crop out in different combinations of hereditary types, each having their roots in different combinations of societies in the spiritual world. It is of Providence that certain forms of mind should be inclined to each other, while others should repel each other. Heredities combine, strengthen or counterbalance each other. Thus are formed races and nations and psychological groups, each receiving the gift of life in a different manner. Behind the choice of a man and the consent—or refusal—of a maid, there lie hidden invisible issues that flamed vast ages ago, and the decision involves the compatibility of the spiritual uses of societies in the other world.

The Divine truth is one and indivisible. It is the one essential reality behind creation. It exists as Law, spiritual law and natural law. This law is one, the same for all, whether men differ about it or not. In the Writings, the Divine law is stated in the form of doctrine adapted to rational comprehension. But that law, the one Divine truth, is older than the Writings, older than the Scriptures. It is eternal—the Word which was in the beginning.

The Divine truth is one. Yet there have been many religions on earth. An incomplete census taken in 1956 of sixty-eight million reported church-adherents in the United States of America records one hundred and fourteen religious organizations, most of them with varied doctrines. A denomination generally represents a general state, which has taken from various sources whatever religious truth that state is adapted to receive, and has rejected any truth which it is not able to admit: and in place of rejected truth there usually come falsified truth and a contorted perception of the whole.

The same holds true of each individual man. His religious perception is according to his state. He sees only one phase of the Divine truth at a time. He is not to blame for this: although he may be to blame for some particular states in which his perception is thus obscured—states which he may have invited. He is not responsible for general states. When a child he cannot be expected to see with the mind of an adult. If he was born and raised a Protestant, or a gentile, he cannot see the truth as the New Church man sees it.

As a man grows up, he passes through many general states. His faith is at first imitative and blindly literalistic. Later, his faith becomes imaginative, emotional, perhaps enthusiastic. Afterwards, it turns critically upon itself, becomes analytic and at length rational. At each stage there are truths which cannot be received: at least he cannot see them except in a symbolic way, or only in their most general form. Religion means different things for different ages as well as for different races.

Some years ago a psychologist suggested that since each religion fills the need of some special mood or instinct, we should really, in our progression through life, change our religion at each stage. He also classified various religions as especially satisfying to certain psychological types. This man was a pessimist as to religion. He believed that creeds were only wish-thoughts, that no one could ever contact the one and indivisible Divine truth. The New Church man of course knows that human states limit the reception of that Divine truth. But he also knows that all normal and orderly human states can receive something of that Divine truth without rejecting the rest, and that a true religion has in it that which can guide and feed these normal states without encouraging what is disorderly and evil: i.e., without stooping to falsehoods or fantasies.

Universality of the New Church

The New Church is a religion of universal application. It is adaptable to the needs of all states. It must provide leadership and instruction for all normal human types, and provide uses—spiritual uses—for all and benefits for every age. Yet it does not cater to morbid states. The New Church cannot satisfy the neurotic demands of those who would feed on the sensational, or be maintained in the good life only by the thought that they are ‘chosen of God’ or by some religious frenzy or some special earthly reward. It cannot encourage the “escapers” who retreat as recluses from worldly duties or social obligations. Nor can it be content— like so many—to substitute a moral life for a spiritual! It cannot permit the individual to evade responsibility by placing the power of salvation or the prerogative of truth-seeking in the hands of priests. It cannot pretend that rituals are more than gates to the spiritual life. It avoids appealing to merely natural affections in men, although realizing their place and value. For the New Church seeks rationally to restore the balance, the normal state of mind in which truths and uses can be seen in their progressive aspects, so that there is no false sophistication which contemptuously rejects ancient truths, nor any idolatry of traditions just because they are old; no stagnation; no disproportionate emphasis which shall sidetrack the people of the Church into such temperamental eddies as are represented by the many denominations of the present day.

The growth of mankind required that there should have been true religions in the past which were sufficient to the needs of those times. The Most Ancient Church, the Ancient Church, and the Christian, were, each in their day of flower, true religions. Yet they were of a preparatory character, and do not reach to all the normal states of a mankind fully matured. It is in a manner true that our race, as it grew into new states, did change its religion. And so, in the New Church, we go back to the true religions of the past for the needs of those progressive states which every man experiences as he grows up. The body of Divine revelation through which we receive instruction and where we see the presence of the Lord, is the Word of the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings. We teach our younger children the stories of Creation and of the Flood—symbolic truth, which is truth to them. We give the next age the Commandments and the moral truth as accommodated to the Hebrews—an adaptation of the laws of charity that they can understand, a lesson in justice and obedience. The parables and the morality of the Gospels are particularly adapted to the state of puberty. And in adolescence, the gradual introduction to the Writings commences. The internal sense, the angelic Word, is then grasped as doctrine, first as to relatively external and general teachings, but gradually as to the more interior. In the Writings heavenly truths, natural, spiritual, and celestial, are laid open, and each adult may take what serves to feed his state, according to the capacity and elevation of his thought.

Each successive stage of life thus has its religion! Yet the religions of childhood, youth, and age, are the same, comprised within the one Divine truth; indivisible, yet such that it accommodates itself to all ages and types and states.

It is for this reason that the Heavenly Doctrine, the spiritual sense of the Word which is now revealed in the Writings, can in the spiritual world become a source of light to all races and nations, that is, to spirits of all types. Yet so far as falsities of religion have been deeply impressed by accustomed life on earth, the light of truth can be received only in a very partial way. The whole spiritual world is ordered—-society after society—according to the ways and degrees in which the light of Divine truth is received in the understanding and in life. There are heavens formed from those in all nations and religions, past and present, Gentile and Christian. Such heavens are in varying degrees of spiritual light. But central to all is the New Christian Heaven, where the Word is the source of all doctrine and light. There are spirits in the world of spirits, from all types and states, whose light is relatively obscure or clear or shifting. There are also— formed out of the evil in all religions and nations—many hells where spiritual light is absent just in proportion to the evil states which they confirmed within themselves; and the light of fantasy takes its place, a sensual lumen in which all things appear distorted and confused. For evil spirits see things in the light of their ambitions and wishes; not as they really are. They see themselves as wise, they see their own states as orderly and every one else’s as insane—until the light of heaven is let in to dispel their fantasy.

Now all the life and thought that man has comes from the spiritual world, through such spirits as are with him. His mental light which should give clarity to his ideas, is obscure or bright according to his spiritual associations. He will be in a state of spiritual illustration if he is closely associated with the New Christian Heaven where the Lord is fully revealed in His Divine Human.158 But so far as he departs from the societies of spirits who communicate with this heaven, so far his mind is dimmed as to all spiritual things, although it may still be quite clear and indeed brilliant in worldly affairs.

The New Church on earth is established that it may be associated with the New Christian Heaven and partake of its spiritual illustration. Indeed, the New Heaven is the internal whence alone the New Church can increase.158 The New Church can grow only in proportion to its conjunction with the New Heaven. And therefore the Lord, who rules all things from primes through ultimates, has provided means for this conjunction. The conjunction itself is that of love and charity, for these alone conjoin. But the means of the conjunction are ultimates in the minds of men, ultimates of thought which will have meaning and special value to those spirits who are associated with the New Christian Heaven.

The Power of Baptism

The Lord has ordained two sacraments, Baptism and the Holy Supper, as the ultimates of all spiritual order with men. Order is the opposite of confusion. Order calls for distinctions. There would be no real freedom in a state of confusion. This is the reason why all in the spiritual world are distinguished according to their religions. Moreover, all of the same religion are arranged into societies according to affections of love to God and to the neighbor—and their opposites. “On the distinct arrangement there, the preservation of the whole universe depends !”159

It is of order, also, that spirits of alien religions—such as the Mohammedan and those of idolaters—should not apply themselves to the infants or children of Christians and infuse into them an inclination for such religions, and thus draw them away and alienate them from Christianity. For this would be to distort and destroy spiritual order and would create utter confusion and internal conflict in the mind of the child, preventing any orderly development of progressive states. And what holds true with infants, is true also with adults.

By Baptism a sign is placed upon a man that he belongs to the church. The experience of the baptismal rite—the promises of the man or, with the child, of his parents, the sensation of the water, the words of the sacred text, the sign of the cross, the act of benediction by the laying on of hands —enters deeply into the memory, and (whether consciously or unconsciously) remains there indelibly to color every idea which the mind later comes to entertain. This connection of ideas is seen by every spirit at his first approach to man. By virtue of the correspondence of water, and of washing, to truth and especially the truth of repentance, baptism becomes the ultimate in the mind for spirits who are being instructed in truth and who in the other life are being introduced into the doctrine and life of the New Heaven. It becomes a sign in the spiritual world, that the man is of Christians. And the spirit of man is therefore, by this sacrament, inserted among societies and congregations there “according to the quality of the Christianity in him or around him (extra illum).”160

Not the water, or the act alone, constitutes the Baptism: but the intention associated with the act. No spirit is a witness to the act itself. But spiritual beings who are with us see the associated thoughts in the minds of the one baptized and of the priest and witnesses—see all the ideas which have ever been adjoined to the idea of the ritual itself. If priest and witnesses adjoin the ideas of a Trinity of Divine Persons, of a vicarious atonement by sufferings, or of a salvation by faith only, then the act of baptism effects an introduction— in this world and among spirits—into the assembly of those who so believe. But if the ritual arouses in priest and witnesses the faith in the Lord Jesus Christ as the one God, and if the ideas that are associated are from the Heavenly Doctrine and thus conjoined with an acknowledgment of the Lord’s second advent, then it makes for an introduction into the New Jerusalem, into the New Church and the New Heaven. The memory of the baptism will be the lasting focus of all these suggested ideas: all will be recalled to spirits when the baptism is recalled; and all are invitations to such spirits to be with the man, a cloud of unseen witnesses: and there will be a connection established between all the new experiences that the man absorbs and the initial ideas centering around the material fact of baptism. Such spirits are a protective sphere around the man, keeping him in the general state of his own religion.

The baptismal ceremony as such is only a natural event. Our remembrance of it is centered about the material ideas of the water, the washing, the cross. But, as was noted previously, Swedenborg testifies that while a man thinks, his material ideas are as it were in the midst of a wave of such things as are adjoined in the memory—all that was ever known on the subject; and thus the full thought, not the material idea, is apparent to the spirits about him. Swedenborg likens that surrounding wave of associations to spiritual wings by which the thing thought of is elevated out of the memory, and is endowed with meaning and value.161 And something of this is interiorly meant when the Lord said to Moses, about the exodus from Egypt: “I bare you on eagle’s wings, and brought you unto Myself”; and the same is suggested when He lamented: “How often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not !”162

By Baptism the Lord does gather His children together under the protective sphere of the New Heaven. This sphere is a sphere of spiritual thought and affection. It guards, but does not compel. It aids, through our spiritual associates, to ward off alien spirits. At any time we are free to break away from its gentle gyres, and—by focussing our life and thought on ultimates that are opposed to it, on falsities or on things that are symbolic of evil—we can enter by degrees into other spiritual connections, if these are more accordant with our life’s delight. But so far as we freely allow the sphere of the New Heaven to be with us, there is freedom also to progress in accordance with our choice; there is a leading into greater illustration, spiritual clarity, and wisdom; there is the possibility of the more and more interior fulfilment of what Baptism involves, the realization of the meaning of the new order of the spiritual world, and of the truth that the Lord reigneth.

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New book: Starting Science from God.
Links theism (religion) to science (psychology and physics) without reduction.

Falsely accused

 

by Rev. John Odhner

“Now Joseph was well-built and handsome, and after a while his master’s wife took notice of Joseph and said, ‘Come to bed with me!’

But he refused. ‘With me in charge,’ he told her, ‘my master does not concern himself with anything in the house; everything he owns he has entrusted to my care. No one is greater in this house than I am. My master has withheld nothing from me except you, because you are his wife. How then could I do such a wicked thing and sin against God?’ And though she spoke to Joseph day after day, he refused to go to bed with her or even be with her.

One day he went into the house to attend to his duties, and none of the household servants was inside. 12 She caught him by his cloak and said, “Come to bed with me!” But he left his cloak in her hand and ran out of the house.”

(Genesis 39: 6-12)

This is the second time Joseph’s garment was torn from him; it is a very symbolic act. Clothing is a symbol of the outward thoughts and feelings that both veil and reveal our deeper desires. Jesus’ clothing was torn from Him at the crucifixion (John 19:23), and earlier in our story Joseph was stripped of his colorful tunic, and now Potiphar’s wife uses Joseph’s garment as evidence against him. How often in arguments do we invalidate, judge or try to control the thoughts and feelings of our companions?

Like Potiphar’s wife we may be eager to experience love as pleasure rather than as service, so we take hold not of love itself but of the trappings of love, the appearance of love, while true love entirely eludes our grasp. Like Potiphar’s wife, we feel affronted. We go from desire to rage, from confidently enjoying our own pleasure, to being the plaintive victim. When people show signs of love, we turn those very signs against them. “You say you love me, so you should make me happy. If you loved me, you would give me what I want.” When love does not go the way we want it to, we are often tempted to use people’s own words against them. “But you said…” is a common piece of our arguments.

False accusations led to Joseph’s imprisonment, and we may find that lies people tell about us put us in an emotional prison. Sometimes these lies are from others, but far more often they come from within us. It’s as if there is part of us that just wants to be honest and faithful and do the best we can, while another part of us is saying, “You are worthless! You are hopeless! You are not compassionate, wise or helpful. You’re just pretending.” As we reach more advanced spiritual states and we may realize that such voices with which we so frequently accuse ourselves are not truly our own, but are borrowed from chance criticisms and comments of past friends and enemies, and kept alive by the influence of demons from hell who always stand ready to muddy our minds with shame, resentment and contempt.

We cannot always defend ourselves against such lies, so we struggle with temptation, doubt and despair. Yet if we act with integrity like Joseph, the time will come when trials will be past and we become the kind of person the Lord sees we can be. Just as Joseph was given new clothes when he got out of prison, the time will come when we will say, “You have turned for me my mourning into dancing; You have put off my sackcloth and clothed me with gladness” (Psalm 30:11).

The Rev. John Odhner is an Assistant to the Pastor at the Bryn Athyn Church. For more information, visit www.brynathynchurch.org.

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Six Foundations

Jesus Christ is Now God
• Jehovah God Created Heaven and Earth (Genesis 1:1)
• Jehovah God Himself is and Always Has Been the Savior of the World (Isaiah 43:11; Hosea 13:4; Isaiah 47:4; Isaiah 63:16)
• Jesus Christ is Jehovah God (Isaiah 9:6-7; Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23; Isaiah 25:9; Isaiah 40:3-5; John 1:1-14; Psalms 33:6; 1 John 5:20)
• Jesus was Born a Divine Soul in a Mortal Body and Mind (Luke 1:35)
• Jesus Made Himself Divine, one with His Soul, so that After Resurrection and Ascension He Was and Always Will be Jehovah God All the Way Down Even to His Body (John 14:6; Luke 24:39; John 14:9; John 3:25; Matthew 11:27; Matthew 28:18; Revelation 1:8-11)
• Jesus Christ is the Archetypal Human (Genesis 1:26-27)
• Saving Faith is Believing and Following the Example of Jesus Christ (John 3:36; John 15:4-5)
• Jesus Christ Made His Second Advent between 1745 and 1770 when He appeared to Emanuel Swedenborg and Commissioned Him as a Revelator of the Heavenly Doctrines. (John 16:12-15; Matthew 24; Revelation)
God Reveals THE Truth With Authority
• The Written Revelations Given By God are Divine Truth Itself (John 6:63; Mark 13:31; Luke 16:17)
• The Written Text of Revelation Always Contains but does not Always Explicitly State the Spiritual Message from God (John 16:12; Matthew 5:17)
• It is the Job of Every Believer to Search the Scriptures for God’s Message (Matthew 7:7-8; 21:21-22; 23:25-26)
• The Ten Commandments (Exodus 20:1-17) Contain Everything to be Believed and Lived (Matthew 22:35-40; Leviticus 22:31;John 14:15; John 15:10)
Charity and Faith One and the Same in Life
• There is Only One True Faith that Saves (Matthew 16:16-18; Ephesians 4:4-13)
• Saving Faith is Complete Confidence in the Lord God Jesus Christ and Trust that a Person who Lives a Good Life and Holds a Proper Belief is Saved by Him (John 11:25)
• Doing God’s Will or Obeying God’s Commands is Imperative for Faith and Salvation Even Though These Actions Can Not Make Anyone Deserve or Merit Heaven (John 3:27; John 15:4-8; John 13:17; Matthew 13:23; Matthew 7:24-26; Luke 10:27)
You Were Created for Heaven
• Life Continues Through Death (John 14:19; John 11:25)
• Heaven is Full of People Who Love God and People (Micah 6:8; Luke 10:27)
• Hell is Full of People Who Love Themselves and Materialism (Psalms 9:17; Luke 12:5)
• Heaven and Hell are Both Eternal (Luke 16:26)
• Every Human Being is Created for Heaven (Luke 17:21)
• Angels in Heaven are Married to Eternity (Matthew 19:4-6)
God Will Renew Your Life if You Ask Him
• All Humans Have Free Will in Spiritual Matters – Otherwise the Word of God Would be Useless (Psalms 54:6; Isaiah 1:16-17; John 8:31-36; John 15:14-16)
• A Person Should Confess Their Sins to the Lord God Jesus Christ, Repent, and be Born Again to New Life in His Name (John 3:3; John 3:5; Luke 3:3-8; Mark 1:4; Mark 1:15; Luke 13:5; Luke 15:7; Matthew 10:39; Psalms 51:10)
Two Sacraments: Baptism and Holy Supper
• Christian Baptism Replaces Circumcision (Deuteronomy 10:16; Galatians 5:6; 6:15)
• Baptism is an Introduction to the Community of Believers on Earth and in Heaven (Matthew 3:13)
• Baptism is in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Matthew 28:18-19)
• Baptism is a Sign and Remembrance that a Person is to be Born Again or Regenerated (John 3:5; Mark 16:16)
• Jesus Christ is Present and Opens Heaven to Those who Worthily Approach the Holy Supper (John 6:51-56)
• Holy Supper Links the Believer with the Lord God Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 8:3; John 6:27)
About the New Church:
The New Church is a Christian church based on the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Heavenly Doctrines. We believe that Jesus Christ was born of the virgin Mary, lived and taught, was crucified, and rose again so that He could conquer hell, become completely one in all respects with His Soul, the Father (Jehovah God), and restore freedom to the human race. In Jesus Christ God is Human and Human is God — He is our visible, divine, human Creator and Redeemer, the Lord God Jesus Christ.

We believe that He has now fulfilled the prophecies of the book of Revelation and come again. This Second Advent is not the bodily coming, expected by many, but a coming in the Spirit of Truth which leads into all truth (John 16:13). His kingdom is not of this world. Therefore, just as He did not come in the expected manner (as a worldly king) the first time, so He has come in an unexpected manner (in the words of a written revelation) the second time, in the truth revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines. In 1745 Jesus Christ appeared to a Swede name Emanuel Swedenborg and commissioned him to write down everything that he would be taught over the next 27 years. The resulting volumes of Christian theology, the Heavenly Doctrines, reveal truth explaining: the spiritual message written by God into the stories of the Old and New Testaments, the nature of eternal life in heaven and eternal death in hell, the character of true marriage between one man and one woman, the character of God, the structure and function of the human mind, the constant work of the Divine Providence to save all people who believe in God and live well, and much, much more. In short, they contain all of the things which Jesus referred to when He told His disciples that there were still many things to tell them which they could not yet understand John 16:12).

It is essential to the faith of the New Church that people acknowledge Jesus Christ as the one and only God, that they turn to Him alone in prayer and life, that they refrain from breaking His Commandments because evil is contrary to His will, and that they do what is good for others because charity is one of His gifts to the human race. All of this is to be done with the acknowledgement that without the Lord God Jesus Christ we are nothing, but with Him all things are possible.
From www.swedenborg-chapel.org, the summary of foundations for the church (local pdf copy).

From depression can come spirituality and empathy

Curtis-Childs-depressionby Curtis Childs, as interviewed by Chelsea Odhner

I was raised in the New Church. Both of my parents are Swedenborgians. My education was split evenly, from elementary school through college, between Swedenborgian and non-Swedenborgian schools. I have been told that I talked and thought about religious ideas from a young age. I took it pretty seriously.

A good part of the way through my eighteenth year, I began a very distinct phase in my life. It was marked by the onset of major depression and obsessive compulsive disorder. I got overpowered by my internal world. This internal world was running everything in my life. It was horrible. I became unable to control what was going on in my mind. There was an immense gravity pulling me toward thinking about things that worried me. I would become trapped in looping thoughts and fears about a lot of things. This pattern hit its peak when I was about twenty-one or twenty-two. Eventually, I didn’t like Swedenborg’s teachings at all.

The Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg became hazardous to my health for a little while. Swedenborg’s teachings are awesome, but I found that they have the potential to be a little bit dangerous because they can give your fears a lot of ammunition. If you are open to spiritual concepts and to thinking deeply, your fears can become cosmic. A lot of my fears had Swedenborgian elements to them. The worldview was imprinted on the inside of me, and my thoughts would use this against me. When I would read the Writings, I would get into a bad mood. It was my understanding of them. I would think that Swedenborg was saying one thing, when now I take that same thing to mean something entirely different. I developed fears around concepts that really shouldn’t exist. It got to the point that reading the Writings wasn’t doing me any good, so I stopped.

During this time, I began reading other sorts of spiritual literature, some along the new age route. I read about near death experiences, which had a deep affect on me. I see now that exploring beyond the Writings of Swedenborg allowed an important expansion to my spirituality.

The lowest period I had was at Bryn Athyn College of the New Church. I was overwhelmed. I quit school because I was so depressed. It was just so hard. I was still getting good grades, but I couldn’t handle it mentally and emotionally. I moved back to my home-town in Michigan. After some time off, I decided to enroll in the communication program at nearby Oakland University.

An incredibly valuable lesson I learned during this period was that I wasn’t going to cure depression through religious thinking. I had to get everything else straight. You can’t out-think bad nutrition; you can’t out-think lack of exercise. I used to think that everything that was going on inside of me was either emotional or spiritual. I didn’t understand that our physical health affects our brains as much as it does. Part of what brought me out of my depression was physical exercise and antidepressants. I also made use of energy medicine and talk-therapy. I came to understand that I had to take care of myself holistically.

I also attribute the lessening of my depression in large part to growing older. It just takes time. I’m twenty-six now, and in some respect, I feel like I’ve beaten the depression, in other ways I feel like it has just slowed down. One thing I learned is how powerless I am, and that led me back to a search for God.

Over the course of my time at Oakland University, I came back to Swedenborg’s Writings and they became the core of my worldview. On account of my familiarity with Swedenborg’s teachings, I found myself able to contribute a lot of positive ideas to the conversations that took place in my courses. Swedenborg’s worldview is really kind in its essence, and I liked having that attitude towards everything. I liked the sense of identity that it gave me. At Oakland University, I would share my Swedenborgian worldview, and I found that people felt fed by it. At some point, I remember having the realization that I liked reading Swedenborg’s works again. I began to understand his Writings at a level that I had never known before.

I’d say the core of my spirituality is a deep level of empathy towards humans that was built up in me in part during my depression. I gained it through suffering. I know what humans shouldn’t have to go through. As I read Swedenborg’s Writings, I found that his teachings never were discordant with the empathy I felt in my heart.

It’s ironic, because at one time the problems I had were rooted in Swedenborgian concepts. But now, it is through Swedenborg’s teachings that I’ve gained a perspective that frees me from all of my fears. The reality of what he’s describing is an environment that a lot of my fears can’t survive in. The vision that he casts of what is in store for us and what is operating on our deeper levels provides hope.

Out of so much chaos have also come many gifts. One is the inspiration I’ve been given to make short, Swedenborgian-based videos. I publish them on YouTube and have had overwhelmingly positive responses from watchers, even from people well outside of the Swedenborgian realm. I want to make it possible for others to experience the relief that comes when it turns out that something that has been haunting you isn’t true, or when you hear about a reality that puts your fears to rest and awakens your greatest hopes. I see my involvement in this work as a convergence of my innate human desire to not want others to suffer and my fascination with Swedenborg’s revelation.

My life has been so intense and miserable at times, but it has definitely softened up my will. I have had the mixed blessing of constantly being under assault internally. This experience has kept me vibrantly interested in spirituality and in God. It’s funny, but hell has added so much to my spirituality.


Curtis Childs is an active contributor to Kidslive at kidslive.newchurchlive.tv. You can check out some of his YouTube videos at www.youtube.com/user/offTheLeftEye.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Just as light devoid of warmth is totally unproductive, so is faith devoid of love.”

Arcana Coelestia 3146

http://www.biblemeanings.info/

Your Book Of Life

 The Spiritual Frontier

Topics relating to the
Theological Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
and the Lord’s Second Coming :

by Rev. Eric H. Carswell

“And I saw the dead, small and great, standing before God, and books were opened. And another book was opened, which is the Book of Life. And the dead were judged according to their works, by the things which were written in the books” (Rev. 20:12).


For many Christians the book of Revelation has little clear meaning. Most people probably consider it to be ignorable. Those who try to understand it find it challenging. Fundamentalists see it as a prediction of a cataclysmic finale to the story of human life on this earth, and countless people have wondered when this finale would occur. Many words have been written trying to link past and present events with the images of destruction spoken of in Revelation to try to see when the second coming will take place. Its immanent arrival has been confidently predicted innumerable times over the last two thousand years.

The misunderstanding that surrounds this book is to be expected. None but the Lord Himself could reveal its true meaning. Human intelligence could spend five times the nearly two millennium that it has already had to try to interpret the book of Revelation and would still not find its true meaning. It is a fundamental truth of the New Church that the book of Revelation as well as the other books of the Old and New Testaments speak on a far deeper level than is seen merely in the literal sense. The book of Revelation does not primarily predict natural historical events any more than did the prophecies of the Lord’s first coming in the Old Testament.

Understood merely literally, the Old Testament prophecies appeared to promise a great and everlasting kingdom of the Messiah in which the Jewish people would have great prominence. Those alive at the time of the first coming who expected Jesus to establish an earthly kingdom were confused and bewildered by the way He lived His life in this world. Some probably lost faith when the Old Testament prophecies were not fulfilled by Jesus as they expected them to be. Likewise, many Christians have been confused and bewildered by the apparent lack of literal fulfillment of the prophecies of the book of Revelation. Some have lost faith, giving up on the prophecies of a last judgment and a second coming as having any meaning.

The traditional Christian interpretation of the last judgment has several features that differ quite strongly from the one presented by the Heavenly Doctrines for the New Church. The traditional view of all people waiting in the grave till the sounding of the great trumpet is one of those differences. The Writings for the New Church teach that life after death begins for each individual shortly after his natural life has ended. Another is that the crucial judgment of a person’s life does not take place by some objective individual apart from the person himself. A third is that life after death is not primarily a reward or punishment for our deeds in this world. There are many, many other differences. Many of them arise from a fundamental misunderstanding of the book of Revelation. Traditional Christianity has viewed the book of Revelation as speaking of earthly events that will some day take place in this world, while the books revealed for the New Church would have us recognize the images of that book as being spiritual realities, much of which has already occurred in the spiritual world.

The reality that the book of Revelation speaks of is that of a great judgment that has already occurred in the spiritual world. To understand what this book speaks of, a person must know a number of things about how judgment takes place after death. In the normal order of the life after death, both the good and evil seek the company of like-minded individuals with all being prepared over a period of time for their eternal home either in heaven or hell. From a mixture of good and evil, just as exists in this world, the different people separate themselves, with the evil seeking hell and the good, heaven. The evil do not desire to be in heaven because they cannot stand to be around those who are genuinely good. They rapidly lose their power to lead others astray, because the light of genuine truth existing in the spiritual world shows them for what they really are. This is a brief description of how the normal process of judgment occurs after each person’s death.

This process is absolutely dependent on the light of truth existing in that intermediate area between heaven and hell which is called the world of spirits. When the truth revealed to mankind ceased to provide the necessary basis for that light, disorder occurred in that intermediate world. The normal process of judgment could not go on. Rather than having hidden evil revealed, they could continue to hide. Rather than having the evil find their proper places in hell, they continued to dwell in the world of spirits and there they established a false life for themselves. It was false in that the true reality of their lives was hidden and they surrounded themselves with things that also did not reflect their true qualities. Their cities, gardens, rivers, even their sun, moon and stars were not from the Lord but from themselves and their own evil. As long as the light of truth did not shine in that world they could maintain the illusion of a false heaven. The images of great destruction recorded in the book of Revelation really did occur in the world of spirits when the light of truth once again shone in that world and the normal process of judgment could once again be reestablished.

Why is it important what a person thinks of the book of Revelation? The Lord has revealed all that He has for us in the world because He wants us to live as happy and as productive lives as we can, both now in our relatively brief natural life and also in our life after death continuing to eternity. Some of the wrong ideas that one can get from the book of Revelation could cause a person to spiritually stumble and fall. Some of them make for a sadder and more self-centered life than the Lord wishes for us.

Nearly everyone has seen the cartoon image of the man walking around in sackcloth through the busy streets of a city carrying a sign that announces that the end of the world is coming. His message is that we should turn our lives from our daily concerns. While it is very important that we recognize that each day gives us precious opportunities to serve the Lord, these opportunities will not be best fulfilled if we withdraw from the world, nor will they be best fulfilled if we cling desperately to each minute as our last, nor if we throw everything aside and live for the moment. The Lord does not want us to wait with bated breath for his arrival, thinking only of our own concerns and needs. He wants us to serve those around us. He wants us to live full, useful lives. Too great a fear of the end of natural life can lead to an impoverished approach to each day.

An important concept presented by the Writings about life after death is that the essential quality of our natural life will continue to eternity as our spiritual character. The lesson read today spoke of the judgment that win take place after death, and uses the image of a book of life that will be read. What is this book of life? One of the most horrible of all Christian heresies is that everyone’s spiritual destiny has been predestined from the beginning of time-written as in a book of who will go to heaven and who will not. Part of the reason this is horrible is because of the quality it ascribes to God. What kind of God would create some people to be inevitably damned to eternity just to satisfy some arbitrary balance? If God did not create each and every individual with the possibility of going to heaven, He would be more cruel than the worst individual could be in this world. Concerning this idea of predestination the book The Divine Providence makes the following observation:

It is cruel to believe that the Lord, who is Love itself and Mercy itself, suffers such a vast multitude of men to be born for hell, or that so many myriads of myriads are born damned and doomed, that is, are born devils and satans; and that He does not from His Divine Wisdom provide that they who live well and acknowledge God should not be cast into eternal fire and torment. The Lord is ever the Creator and Savior of all; and He alone leads all, and desires the death of no one. (DP 330).

Another reason why predestination is such a horrible idea is because of the spiritual apathy that it can arouse. If our spiritual fate is already predetermined, why bother trying to do anything about it? A person could become a complete fatalist, accepting everything that happened to him as inevitable. He would never try to work to make his life better or improve the lot of others, because all things would be accepted as being the way God intended them to be.

While very few people today would subscribe to an idea of absolute predestination by God, all of us are susceptible to the apathy that says we ourselves are fixed and unchanging or that those whom we have to deal with are the way they are due to an unchangeable nature. In some states of mind it is all too easy just to accept things as they are rather than use our best insight to try to improve them.

A person’s book of life is not something that is set before he has lived his life in this world. A person’s book of life is the sum total quality that he has gathered to his life by his choices in this world. It is the record of what he has thought and cared about each day of his life. It is not just a fist of good and bad deeds. We know quite well that actions seen by others in the world may have little relationship to the inner thoughts and motives behind them.

When we leave this world, we will have established what is more important to us than anything else. We will have accepted a ruling love that has worked to orchestrate all the other affections of our mind and from these all our thoughts and deeds. It is this ruling love that determines our eternal home after death. It is our book of life. Its pages are being recorded each day we spend in this world. Everything that we have thought, intended, spoken and done in the world is recorded there.

Swedenborg tells us of some people who after death still tried to pretend. As we learn of the basic rules in the Old Testament, the role of forgiveness in the New Testament, and comprehend why this is good in the explanations of the Writings, then we can re-direct our thinking and grow to be more in harmony with the Lord’s ways.

This is why He speaks to us in His Word. This is why He has revealed truths that can touch and stimulate every area of our minds. And this is the Lord’s second coming in truth. His Spirit of truth leads to all truth as our minds are opened to the wonders of His Word, and as we let that light shine our way. From the essence of love within the Lord that causes Him to speak to us, the Word in its threefold form would lead us back to that love. This is the male child that came from the woman clothed with the sun. This is the Heavenly Doctrine given us by the Lord. This is the Lord with us as we see and do His words. Amen.

Lessons: Revelation 12:1-6, 13-17, AE 724:1,2

Presented in Pittsburgh June 12, 1988


Apocalypse Explained 724:1, 2

And she brought forth a son, a male, signifies the doctrine of truth for the New Church that is called the New Jerusalem. This is evident from the signification of “son” as meaning truth, and of “a son, a male,’ as meaning the genuine truth of the church, consequently also its doctrine, for the truth of the church from the Word is its doctrine since doctrine contains the truths that are for the church. But the genuine doctrine of the church is the doctrine of good, thus the doctrine of life, which is of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor; but yet it is the doctrine of truth, since doctrine teaches life, love, and charity, and so far as it teaches it is truth; for when a man knows and understands what good is, what life is, what love is, and what charity is, he knows and understands these things as truths, since he knows and understands what good is, how he ought to live, and what love and charity are, and of what quality a man is who is in the life of love and charity; and as long as these are matters of knowledge and understanding they are nothing but truths and thus doctrines; but as soon as they pass over from knowledge and from the understanding into the will, and thus into act, they are no longer truths but goods; for interiorly man wills nothing but what he loves, and that which he loves is to him good. From this it can be seen that every doctrine of the church is a doctrine of truth, and that the truth of doctrine becomes good and comes to be of love and charity when from doctrine it passes into life.

This doctrine that is here signified by ‘the son, a male’ is especially the doctrine of love to the Lord and of charity toward the neighbor, thus the doctrine of the good of life, which nevertheless is still the doctrine of truth. That the doctrine of the good of love, and thus of life, is here signified by “the son, a male’ can be seen from this, that ‘the woman’ who brought forth the son was seen “arrayed with the sun, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars,’ and ‘the sun” signifies love to the Lord, and “the crown of twelve stars’ signifies the knowledges of good and truth, and from such a woman and mother nothing else is begotten except what pertains to love and good, thus the doctrine respecting these.

http://spiritualfrontier.org/lifebook.html

Generated by: timlig@pacbell.net – April 1995

A Biblical remedy to depression

Most of us, at some point in our lives, spend some time in emotional drought.

We simply don’t feel joy. Perhaps the day-in, day-out routine of our lives feels mechanical and meaningless. Maybe our personal relationships seem dull and old. For some of us, this joyless state can last years, even a lifetime. The good news is that Jesus has the remedy to restore joy to our lives. This healing account (of a Samaritan Leper who praised God after his healing Luke 17:11-19) is about gratitude.

When we feel dead to the world, isolated and numb, we can receive Jesus’ healing by mirroring the actions of the Samaritan. We can get on our knees and thank Jesus. We can praise God with a loud voice for his overwhelming graciousness. Once we begin thanking him, we’ll soon see that there are not enough hours in a day to contain the thanks he deserves. Think of all we have been given! The very air that sustains us; the mournful beauty of a dove’s song; the spectacular, ever-changing canvas of the sky; the smiles of children; the love of a friend; the roof above us; the spiritual life we receive from God; rain on the windowpane; a pet cat; the Word of God through which we learn about and enter into relationships with our Lord. There is an infinite amount of thanks and praise we can give to Jesus, our Lord and God.

Even when we are numbed with depression or a sense of entitlement, we can force ourselves to kneel. We can force the mouth to pronounce thanks. We can do this every day. The miracle, of course, is that by going through these motions of gratitude, Jesus will begin to instill genuine gratitude into our hearts and minds. With the increasing sense of gratitude comes an increasing sense of joy. What at first felt like hollow lip service becomes filled with genuine depth and feeling. To help this occur, we must remember that in truth, we are undeserving citizens of God’s kingdom. We are foreigners, very fortunate to have been given the chance to live at all! As Dr. Seuss puts it in Happy Birthday to You! (1959): “Shout loud, ‘I am lucky to be what I am! Thank goodness I’m not just a clam or a ham or a dusty old jar of sour gooseberry jam!”

There are three critical elements in our healing from depression. The first is that we learn to spot our imagined entitlement to the pursuit of the five P’s (possessions, position, pleasures, prestige, and power). The second is to understand this entitlement as an indicator that we have fallen into the delusion of individual materialism and, accordingly, reorient ourselves to our true purpose, love for the well-being of all humanity. Finally, with a new orientation, we become willing to surrender those feelings to God and replace them with praise and gratitude. The mind abhors a vacuum. We cannot simply oust thoughts of entitlement without replacing them with an alternative. Praise is the alternative that Jesus prescribes in this healing.

Praise is a wonderful antidepressant. The more we practice, the more we feel the urge to praise. It is a positive, upward cycle of joy. When we feel unhappy, let that be a signal that it is time to praise and thank God for the incredible bounty we all have already been given. No matter what situation we may be facing; no matter what our life condition may be, here is room and time for praise.


Kent Rogers is co-founder of the Loving Arms Mission (www.lamchildren.org), a not-for-profit fundraising organization dedicated to creating and supporting New Church children’s homes.

“A Biblical Remedy to Depression” was originally published as chapter 8 “Healing from Lack of Joy” in 12 Miracles of Spiritual Growth: A Path of Healing from the Gospels by E. Kent Rogers (West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation Press, 2012) and is reproduced here with the permission of the Swedenborg Foundation.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Divine Providence has as its end in view a person’s eternal salvation, thus not their great happiness in the world, not – that is to say – wealthiness and eminence which people during their lifetime think real happiness consists in.”

Arcana Coelestia 6481

Eternity and marriage

 Love everlasting

 

Those who are in love know it. The poets write about it. We even watch movies about it. But rarely do we find a church that teaches it– that is, that true love is everlasting. It cannot die. The Writings of the New Church teach that those who truly love each other will dwell together in heaven after death. Their love and their care for each other remains, and grows. Their joy in working together in service to God and to other fellow human beings flourishes, and takes on a newness each day. Swedenborg’s description of the afterlife is a complete picture and makes sense. He says that all who die enter into the other world safe and secure. Heaven is a very real world, more real than the world of appearances around us, for everything in heaven corresponds to deeper loves within ourselves. We have homes, gardens, and friends. Heaven is not a cloud upon which we sit and play harps or continually adore God through endless worship. True worship is a way of life. People are very active in heaven. Everyone there performs a function or “use” which they love to do and become more proficient in each new day, and what they do benefits everyone around them. “Heaven,” Swedenborg says, “is a kingdom of uses.”

This concept holds true of marriage as well. Good marriages are active marriages. In heaven, each partner works in harmony with the other in acts of charity and love. An idle life is not only a dull life, but it can lead to lethargy and self-centeredness. People who view life as only a means of self-fulfillment create a hell for themselves which they take with them after death. Hell is not a place of punishment where God sends a person for not following His rules. Rather, hell is a place where people freely go who have stubbornly refused to let love into their lives, and who do not wish to help others. It is a frustrating life and truly is a state of hell, for evil brings upon itself its own punishment, and a selfish life leads to dissatisfaction and eventual gloom. Those who approach marriage as a means for self-satisfaction alone will find this same dissatisfaction with their relationship, and the hell that is often created in a marriage is the product of a selfish heart that acts contrary to true marriage love. Marriage brings blessings, but the blessings come into their fullness through acts of unselfishness and charity to the neighbor.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Divine Providence has as its end in view a person’s eternal salvation, thus not their great happiness in the world, not – that is to say – wealthiness and eminence which people during their lifetime think real happiness consists in.”

Arcana Coelestia 6481