Happy marriage — How can this happen?

happy marriageA Jane Austin novel seems to end at the altar as if the wedding were all that is necessary for a happy marriage for all time. Yet these days a lot of marriages seem to finish up on the scrap heap and you might have a sneaky feeling that perhaps a well-known film star was right in her opinion.

“Sometimes I wonder if men and women really suit each other. Perhaps they should live next door and just visit now and then.”(Katherine Hepburn)

So is achieving a happy marriage simply a matter of selecting the right mate in the first place, or is it about finding a successful formula for living together? Or perhaps you think it is all to do with good luck?

Experience of happy marriage

Rather than study just failed relationships, several psychological researchers have actually looked at successful marriages. For example the late Judith Wallerstein, reported in her book The good marriage: How and why love lasts, that happily married men and women both tend to report the same basic experiences.

We worked it out. To love, you must feel emotionally safe — totally accepted, respected, and supported. Therefore, we don’t criticize or strike out in anger, instead we gently request a change.”

“We do so much together and agree on most issues, but we have a clear sense of self and do things by ourselves”

“We cherish our time together, expressing our appreciation of each other for little acts of kindness as well as major sacrifices. We treasure our memories and frequently remind each other of the good times.”

This is only a glimpse of what some contented partners have known in their happy marriage.

Mature love needed for a happy marriage

Clearly a lasting relationship is something more than mere sexual pleasure, romantic sentiment, or emotional infatuation.

“You can tell that it’s infatuation when you think that he’s as sexy as Paul Newman, as athletic as Pete Rose, as selfless and dedicated as Ralph Nader, as smart as John Kenneth Galbraith and as funny as Don Rickles. You can be reasonably sure that it’s love when you realize he’s actually about as sexy as Don Rickles, as athletic as Ralph Nader, as smart as Pete Rose, as funny as John Kenneth Galbraith and doesn’t resemble Paul Newman in any way — but you’ll stick with him anyway.” (Judith Viorst)

Immature love has been called trying to fill loneliness or an emotional vacuum with a love relationship. Some psychotherapists have written about immature love saying it follows the principle “I love because I am loved” and “ I love you because I need you.” On the other hand they say that mature love, its opposite, follows the principle “I am loved because I love,” and “I need you because I love you.” Sadly, not a recipe for a happy marriage.

Not surprisingly, mature love is said to imply concern for the partner’s emotional and bodily needs, respect for their uniqueness, seeing them as they really are and helping them to grow and unfold in their own ways, for their own sake and not for serving oneself. We are told it involves entering and become familiar with the private world of the lover, to live in the other person’s life and sense his or her meanings and experiences.

Commitment and happy marriage

Mature love involves commitment. But the issue of commitment seems difficult to many.

Importantly, there is commitment to the exclusive nature of the relationship. Infidelity is a ‘no no.’ In line with the teachings of the world’s major religions, illicit sex and unchaste thoughts are to be avoided.

Over time, any deception destroys intimacy, and without intimacy couples cannot have true and lasting love.” (Bonnie Eaker Weil).

An affair is a betrayal of the trust that has been shared in marriage that is extremely hurtful to the innocent partner.

Neither can a lack of commitment to work on the relationship be seen as good news. There are bound to be problems in any sexual union and so if one gives up easily one could end up living with several partners without giving any of them a proper chance.

“Patience gives your spouse permission to be human. It understands that everyone fails. When a mistake is made, it chooses to give them more time that they deserve to correct it. It gives you the ability to hold on during the rough times in your relationship rather than bailing out under the pressure.” (Stephen Kendrick).

Origin of mature love

So where does mature love come from?  According to Emanuel Swedenborg it has a divine origin. This he calls ‘conjugial love’ which he says is a spiritual gift: it only flows into where it is wanted but when it flows it creates a deep sense of joy, contentment, and delight that lasts for ever. You might wonder whether this is the ‘happy ever after’ many have dreamed about?

Swedenborg maintains that if ‘conjugial love ‘is to be received it requires a man to be prepared to be influenced by his wife’s subjective feelings of care and sensitivity to personal issues. He needs to listen to her practical wisdom. And it requires a woman to be willing to learn from her husband’s objective and rational thinking.  On the other hand,

“When a woman thinks her husband is a fool, her marriage is over. They may part in one year or ten; they may live together until death. But if she thinks he is a fool, she will not love him again.”  (Philippa Gregory).

In other words a lasting happy marriage requires a suitable love match where the two partners can progress together in their personal inner journey, being willing to prioritise each of their needs and humbly learn from each other by celebrating their different strengths.

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

Spiritual Substance and Material Reality

Spiritual substance, in particular, is hard for our material minds to grasp. We’re so used to thinking of everything solid as being material, and of everything non-material (thoughts, feelings, etc.) as being wispy and insubstantial. But dreams show us a world that is non-material, and yet solid when we’re in it. Dreams are more like spiritual “movies,” so they’re not quite at the level of reality of being fully conscious in the spiritual world. But they do give us some inkling of its reality.

I recently watched the movie Matrix (the original one, on video, not the subsequent movies), and it plays with this idea of a whole different world that is non-material (in this case, a constructed reality piped directly into people’s brains), and yet very real for those in it. The funny thing is, while I was watching it, I was thinking of this world as the illusion, gripping and mesmerizing people with its sensory pleasures and material satisfactions, all while the people are completely unconscious of a world far more real than this one. Swedenborg interprets “sleeping” in the Bible as being unconscious of spiritual reality, and completely absorbed in material reality. And many prophets and mystics, including Swedenborg, speak of having their “eyes opened” when they see into the spiritual world.

In the movie Matrix the constructed world that people live in looks and feels exactly like the world we actually live in. The “real” world, on the other hand, is a dark, blasted, and destroyed place. I like Swedenborg’s vision better: of the real world (for those who choose heaven) as incomparably brighter and more living than this material world–which is a mere shadow of the greater spiritual realities.

There is also a reversal that takes place in the minds of those who are moving from being materialistic to being spiritually-minded. When we are materialistic, we think of the material world as the most real thing there is, and things get progressively more unreal to us as our thoughts move to spiritual things, and finally to God–whom we see as a non-existent illusion believed in only by simple-minded and gullible people.

But as we move away from materialism and toward spiritual life, our perceptions of reality are turned the other way, and we more and more begin to think of God as the ultimate reality, and spirit as the “real world” for human beings, while seeing the material world as relatively unreal, and its pleasures and privileges as temporary, and even as illusory compared to spiritual pleasures. Yes, this world is real. But the spiritual world is much more real, and God is the most real of all.

Copyright 2012 Lee Woofenden

Reprinted from Who Is The God Of Heaven website

Lee Woofenden is a pastor in New England and may be contacted through information@swedenborg.ca

Is the Second Coming a Physical Event or Spiritual Event?

Jesus promised his disciples and those who followed Him that He would come again. This is known as the Second Coming. There are several “mainstream” interpretations of the Second Coming which has formed some false expectations in the minds of many. With these false expectations, many will not see the reality of the true Second Coming. False expectations can blind people to the truth – for example, the Jews expected a literal Messianic King, who would lead them to conquer the world. This false expectation is diametrically opposed to the spiritual truth of the Word, and because of it, the Jews completely missed recognizing the identity of Jesus Christ.

As it was then, so it is now. There are several false expectations that have been formed regarding the Second Coming. To be specific:

  1. There will be a visible appearance of Jesus in the sky, seen by everyone.
  2. At some point in time, Jesus will descend upon the Mount of Olives.
  3. Related to #2, there will be a third temple established in Jerusalem.
  4. There will be a rapture of Christians into the clouds of the sky.
  5. There will be a literal physical resurrection of the body.

So lets examine expectations surrounding each of these subjects, and look at what the New Testament actually has to say on this.

IS THE SECOND COMING A PHYSICAL RETURN OR A SPIRITUAL REVELATION?
Let’s start with a verse may indicate that there will be a physical return, visible to everyone:

Behold, he comes with the clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen. (Rev. 1:7)

There is a similar passage in Matt. 24:30. This at first seems that He will make a visible appearance, and that every eye shall see Him. But Jesus counters this argument in what at first seems to be a conflicting statement:

And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God comes not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. (Luke 17:20-21).

This is important, the word “observation” means “visible evidence” or “outward show” – something that can be seen with one’s literal eyes. This means there will not be outward visible evidence of the Second Coming.  So what does it mean that “every eye shall see him”? What it means is that those who have spiritual sight, that is spiritual understanding, will be able to see the truth of the Second Coming. That this is the spiritual meaning of “eye” can be seen from the following passage:

And if your right eye offend you, pluck it out, and cast it from you: for it is profitable for you that one of your members should perish, and not that your whole body should be cast into hell. (Matt. 5:29)

This Jesus commands after stating one should not look upon a woman lustfully, for even the thought of it is considered adultery (Matt. 5:28). It’s one’s internal thought or intent that counts. Thus he is of course not literally stating that we should pluck our eye out, but rather, that one should correct how one sees things. These false thoughts should be searched out and removed. Thus “eyes” in the spiritual sense signify one’s spiritual understanding in a good sense, or a false understanding in the bad sense.  Correcting how one sees things falsely is again portrayed as removing a “beam” out of one’s “eye” before removing a speck of dust out of another person’s “eye” (Matt. 7:3-5).

So let’s pick out another passage, which causes problems to many:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. Truly I say unto you, There be some standing here, who shall not taste of death, till they see the Son of man coming in his kingdom. (Matt. 16:27-28)

Some early Christians had interpreted this that the Second Coming should have taken place in the lifetime of the disciples. That the early Christians had this expectation, can be seen from the following passage, where Jesus singles out the disciple John after Peter asks what would become of him:

When Peter saw him, he said to Jesus, “Lord, what about this man?”Jesus said to him, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you? You follow me!”
So the saying spread abroad among the brothers  that this disciple was not to die; yet Jesus did not say to him that he was not to die, but, “If it is my will that he remain until I come, what is that to you?” (John 21:21-23)

And, in the literal sense, it was John who literally saw the Second Coming take place, in a spiritual vision as recorded in the book of Revelation.  That Jesus is talking about one’s spiritual vision is easily proven in the book of Revelation. Before John’s grand vision, John states this:

I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day (Rev. 1:10)

Which means he was in a spiritual visionary state. That “in the spirit” means one was in a spiritual visionary state can be seen from Ezekiel:

The hand of Jehovah was upon me, and he brought me out in the Spirit of Jehovah (Eze. 37:1)

After which Ezekiel sees a vision of a valley of bones coming to life. John would later mention he was caught up into heaven “in the Spirit” (Rev. 4:1), that he was carried away to a wilderness “in the Spirit” (Rev. 17:3), and he was taken to see the New Jerusalem “in the Spirit” (Rev. 21:10).

Combining Jesus’ statement of His Second Coming, with the fulfillment of it by John seeing it in a spiritual vision, we can infer that John is a type of the future, where the Second Coming will be seen in spiritual vision.

THE MOUNT OF OLIVES PROPHECY

There are a couple of passages that are used as proof that Jesus will return in physical form upon the Mount of Olives east of Jerusalem. One is the scene of the ascension of Jesus at the Mount of Olives. After Jesus commands his disciples to return to Jerusalem to await the coming of the Holy Spirit, He then ascends into heaven. There is unfortunately a mistranslation here in most English translations, I will select the NASB:

And after He had said these things, He was lifted up while they were looking on, and a cloud received Him out of their sight. And as they were gazing intently into the sky while He was going, behold, two men in white clothing stood beside them. They also said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into the sky? This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

This is stating that Jesus will return “in just the same way” or as other translations have it, “in like manner” (KJV).  The problem here is this phrase is added by the translators, the Greek simply has “as.”  So the last sentence should read as follows:

This Jesus, who has been taken up from you into heaven, will come as you have watched Him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:9-11)

It simply says He will come again from heaven.  It does not say “in just the same way” or “in like manner.”  This phrase was added by translators.  I double checked this with an online Greek interlinear tool, you can see the entire chapter here: Greek Interlinear of Acts 1. The same Greek word (Strongs #5158) is simply translated as “as” in Acts 7:28, 15:11, 27:25.

Another point, when Jesus appeared to others after the resurrection, in many cases He manifests Himself by opening up their spiritual vision:

And it came to pass, as he sat at meat with them, he took bread, and blessed it, and brake, and gave to them. And their eyes were opened, and they knew him; and he vanished out of their sight. (Luke 24:30-31)

With the corrected translation of Acts 1:11, it is saying Jesus will come “as you have watched” or “as you have seen.” If they were seeing Him with their spiritual vision opened, then this means He will return in a manner that is seen in spiritual vision.

Now, there is the case of a prophecy of Zechariah which speaks of the Lord standing on the Mount of Olives:

Jehovah shall go forth, and fight against the nations. . . . His feet shall stand in that day upon the mount of Olives, which is before the face of Jerusalem . . . and the mount of Olives shall cleave asunder, that a part thereof shall remove toward the east, and [a part] toward the sea, with a great valley; and a part of the mountain shall remove toward the north, and a part of it toward the south (xiv. 3, 4).

This many have taken to be a prophecy of the Second Coming. But that is not the case, it is a prophecy of the First Coming, foretelling how a new church would be established that would withdraw from the Jews and go out towards the Gentiles. The spiritual sense of this prophecy is explained by Swedenborg in Heavenly Arcana:

“Here the Lord and His coming are the subject; by the mount of Olives is signified the good of love and of charity and thus the church, for these goods make the church. That the church would remove from the Jewish nation, and would be established among the Gentiles, is signified by the mountain being cleft asunder toward the east, toward the sea [the west], and toward the north, and the south; in like manner as by the words of the Lord in Luke: Ye shall be cast forth without. And they shall come from the east, and the west, and from the north, and the south, and shall sit down in the kingdom of God (xiii. 28, 29). In a universal sense by Jehovah going forth and fighting against the nations, and by His feet standing upon the mount of Olives which is before the face of Jerusalem, is meant that the Lord from the Divine love would fight against the hells; for the nations are the evils which are from the hells (n. 1868, 6306), and the mount of Olives, on which were His feet, is the Divine love.” (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9780.13)

The massive work Heavenly Arcana goes through several passages that prove that in the spiritual sense, mountains signify love (or in the opposite sense selfish pride), and nations in a bad sense signify the evils of hell. It is also known to some that Jesus made a descent into hell between his death and resurrection and effected a last judgment. In these spiritual judgments, this is portrayed in the spiritual world as the upheaval and upturning of mountains (see Rev. 6:14-16). The upturning of mountains in the spiritual world is further described in Swedenborg’s vision in the work The Final Judgment. That “mountain” has a spiritual meaning can simply be seen from the gospels:

For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” (Matt. 17:20)

Jesus is obviously not literally speaking of a literal mountain. Following the description of the splitting of the Mount of Olives, Zechariah then describes a river that proceeds out of Jerusalem toward the west, and toward the east through the split Mount of Olives, which again has a spiritual meaning:

In that day living waters shall go out from Jerusalem; part of them to the eastern sea, and part of them to the hinder sea (xiv. 8).
“Living waters from Jerusalem” signify truths from a spiritual origin in the church, which are the truths that are received by man when he is illustrated by the Lord while he is reading the Word. “Jerusalem” is the church in respect to doctrine, the “sea” signifies the natural man, into which those things that are in the spiritual man descend; the “eastern sea” signifies the natural man in respect to good; and the “hinder sea” the natural man in respect to truth; and as the natural man is in the generals of truth, “sea” also signifies the general of truth.” (Apocalypse Explained, n. 275.20)

This river is again described in the vision of a new temple in Jerusalem in Ezekiel, which literalists interpret as a future third temple. However it is symbolic, and it spiritually signifies the Christian Church that would be established. This is shown in detail in the blog post The Spiritual Symbolism of Ezekiel’s Vision of the Third Temple. There are several items in Ezekiel’s vision which show that it cannot be taken literally, but should be interpreted in a spiritual manner.

IS THERE SUCH A THING AS A RAPTURE?

Next, associated with many Christians’ expectation of a physical Second Coming of Jesus is the idea of a rapture, where they will suddenly be caught up in heaven to be with the Lord. This mainly comes from the letters of Paul:

For the Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God: and the dead in Christ shall rise first: then we who are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air: and so shall we ever be with the Lord. (1 Thes. 4:7)

The original prophecy of this was probably taken from the gospel of Matthew:

And they shall see the Son of man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And he shall send his angels with a great sound of a trumpet, and they shall gather together his elect from the four winds, from one end of heaven to the other (Matt. 24:30-31)

The original does not even mention the word “rapture” but instead “gather together.” Nevertheless, from the letter of Paul he mentions that those who are alive and remain will be “caught up” and from this Greek word we have the word “rapture.”  There are two interpretations of this. It can indeed mean a sudden physical transportation, as in the case of Philip:

And when they were come up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord caught away Philip, that the eunuch saw him no more: and he went on his way rejoicing. But Philip was found at Azotus: and passing through he preached in all the cities, till he came to Caesarea. (Acts 8:39-40)

The word “caught away” is the same as “caught up” in 1 Thes. 4:7 where we get the term rapture. So from this, many assume there will be an actual physical ascension into the sky. However there is another, perhaps more interesting interpretation. The same word is used by Paul in a completely different context:

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows. And I know that this man was caught up into paradise—whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows— and he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter. (2 Cor. 12:2-4)

Some surmise Paul had this near death experience when he nearly died from being stoned to death. The word “caught up” or “rapture” is used twice in this verse. Here it does not refer to a physical ascension, but rather the rapture is to be caught up or enraptured in a spiritual visionary state.  And this is exactly what happens to John in his vision of the Apocalypse:

After this I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven! And the first voice, which I had heard speaking to me like a trumpet, said, “Come up here, and I will show you what must take place after this.” At once I was in the Spirit, and behold, a throne stood in heaven, with one seated on the throne. (Rev. 4:1-2)

With the apostles and select individuals throughout history, such visions took place on a limited individual basis. But the promise of the future is that such a visionary state will become more widespread:

And it shall come to pass afterward, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh; your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, and your young men shall see visions. (Joel 2:28)

In parallel with that, the majority of cases have been of those who are false prophets. So in each case they should be tested to determine if what they are stating is valid. But the point here is this: the expectation of a “rapture” can be fulfilled by a widespread outpouring of the Spirit, allowing people to enter a visionary state. At the moment, this is not permitted for most everyone, as most people’s minds have been lowered into material and carnal desires away from the love of the Spirit.

IS THE RESURRECTION OF THE PHYSICAL BODY, OR THE SPIRITUAL BODY?

So somewhat related to all this is the doctrine of the resurrection. There are many, at this day, who expect a literal physical resurrection, where people will rise out of their graves. This view is related to a literal appearance of the Second Coming, where everyone assumes all things take place in this material physical world. But this is not the case: one is resurrected in the spiritual world, in a spiritual body. One can take the same passages and interpret them either way. For example:

Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. (1 Cor. 15:51-53)

This would indicate we will be raised in a spiritual glorified body. Will it be visible in this world? Not necessarily. And then there is this one:

Do not marvel at this, for an hour is coming when all who are in the tombs will hear his voice and come out, those who have done good to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil to the resurrection of judgment. (John 5:28-29)

To interpret these references to a resurrection, one must have spiritual knowledge of the afterlife. In the spiritual world, midway between heaven and hell, there is an intermediate state where souls gather, good and evil, who were not judged right after death. Many enter into a state of sleep. John sees them in one of his visions of the Apocalypse, where souls “under the altar” are told they must rest or sleep a little longer (Rev. 6:9-11). There are three heavens signified by the three divisions of the temple; the lowest heaven is represented by the outer court and this is where the altar was located. Those “under the altar” are those in this intermediate state between heaven and hell.

It is in this intermediate state, where many are unaware or asleep, is where the last judgment takes place. One is judged after death, some immediately who go to heaven or hell, but many will gather in this intermediate spiritual world. Thus, it is in the spiritual world where last judgments take place. And indeed, the Second Coming is this event – a judgment of souls in the spiritual world:

For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works. (Matt. 16:27)

At this time, there is a separation between the good and evil. This is described in the parable of Matthew 25, where the righteous are signified by “sheep” and the evil by “goats” –

When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne. Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. (Matt. 25:31-32)

As this is a common misconception, one of the primary revelations given to Swedenborg is a complete explanation of the afterlife, the spiritual resurrection there, and how people are judged according to their works in a complete life review. For further information on this see Heaven and Hell as well as The Final Judgment.  This is becoming more well known among those who study the Near Death Experience from a variety of witnesses who have been brought back to life.

IF THE SECOND COMING IS “NONE OF THE ABOVE” THEN WHAT IS IT?

So its not a literal physical return, there is no literal physical resurrection, there is no rapture into the sky… all I have said so far is what it isn’t, and that one must look for a higher spiritual explanation.  It is very simple: in the First Coming, the “Word was made flesh.” The Word, or Greek Logos, is the Lord as to Divine truth made manifest in human form. In the Second Coming, the Word or Divine truth has been made manifest in the spiritual sense of the Word itself. This spiritual sense has been made manifest in the many volumes of revelations given in waking visions to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century. It is a more internal revelation, not an external visible revelation.

That this is so, is indicated by Jesus, who always describes the Second Coming as the coming of the “Son of Man.”  In the New Testament, “son of Mary” is used to refer to Jesus in His ordinary human form, “Son of God” is used to refer to Jesus in His glorified Divine Human form, but “Son of Man” is used to refer to the Lord as to the Divine truth. To appear “in the clouds of heaven” does not mean He will appear in the sky, but rather He will appear in spiritual vision. The “clouds” is the obscure truth that appears in the literal sense of the Word; for the Son of Man to “appear in glory” signifies the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word. This He did in the 18th century to Emanuel Swedenborg over a period of 27 years of continuous waking visions, where incorrect doctrines of Christianity have been corrected, for there are many false teachings that have corrupted the core of Christianity where very little truth means. And that is the other point: the Second Coming will take place when there is little or no faith left on earth:

When the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on earth? (Luke 18:8)

And there will be a general falling away from Christianity, where a false religion will come to take its place:

Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposes and exalts himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sits in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God. (1 Thes. 2:3-5)

This particular prophecy is probably taken from Dan. 11:45. A “falling away” is an apostasy from the true faith, a “man of sin” indicates that the falling away is where sin is disregarded, and to show oneself as God is to have an incorrect understanding of God Himself. Thus to see and recognize the Second Coming, one has to first recognize the falsehoods that are propagated in one’s own religion. Very few question what they are taught to believe. Falsehoods from within is what causes a true church to come to its end:

“A church is brought to an end by various means, especially by such as cause falsity to appear as truth; and when falsity appears to be truth, then the good which in itself is good and is called spiritual, is found no more.” (True Christian Religion, n. 754)

Thus what to expect? A true revelation of Jesus Christ and Christianity, a revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, revealed through spiritual vision. This will establish a New Church, which will be among the few and opposed by the many. This is signified by the 2 witnesses (Rev. 11), the sealing of the 144,000 (Rev. 7 and 14), and the woman who flees to the wilderness (Rev 12) which signifies a state of truth in obscurity known to few. This will be opposed by a false form of Christianity, signified by the dragon, beast and false prophet (Rev. 13) as well as the whore of Babylon (Rev. 17-18). That the Second Coming is a heavenly revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word, can be seen by the coming of the Lord on a white horse, where we have this statement:

And his name is called The Word of God (Rev. 19:13)

As for the hidden spiritual sense of the Apocalypse, see further in the works Apocalypse Revealed and Apocalypse Explained. The good news here, is the Second Coming has taken place, to reveal a more spiritual Christianity where further heavenly secrets are revealed. This was revealed in spiritual vision by Jesus Christ to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century:

“We read in many places that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven (as in Matt. xxiv. 30; xxvi. 64; Mark xiv. 62; Luke xxi. 27; Apoc. i. 7; xiv. 14; Dan. vii. 13; see also Matt. xvii. 5; Luke ix. 34, 35). But hitherto no one has known what was meant by the clouds of heaven; they have believed that He is to appear in them in person. But that by the clouds of heaven the Word in the sense of the letter is meant, and by the glory and power in which also He is then to come (Matt. xxiv. 30) the spiritual sense of the Word is meant, has been heretofore concealed, because hitherto no one has even by conjecture reached the conclusion that there is a spiritual sense in the Word such as this sense is in itself. Now because the Lord has opened to me the spiritual sense of the Word, and it has been granted me to be together with angels and spirits in their world as one of them, it has been disclosed that by the clouds of heaven is meant the Word in the natural sense, and by glory the Word in the spiritual sense, and by power the Lord’s power through the Word.” (True Christian Religion, n. 776)

Friday, March 24, 2017

Chapter XIV. Each Degree of the Spiritual Mind in Three Planes

THIS diagram presents the subdivisions of each degree of the spiritual mind into three and of each heaven into three.

Each degree of the natural mind also has three planes to be presented in Diagram XVII.

In Arcana Coelestia AC we read, –

“In order that anything may be perfect, it must be distinguished into three degrees; so is heaven, and so are the goods and truths there; that there are three heavens is known, consequently three degrees of good and truths there. Each heaven is also distinguished into three degrees, for its inmost must also communicate immediately with the superior, its external with the inferior, and the middle thus, by means of the inmost and the external, with both; hence is its perfection. The case is similar with the interiors of man which in general are distinguished into three degrees, namely, into the celestial, the spiritual and the natural, in like manner each of these into its three degrees, for man who is in the good of faith and of love to the LORD, is a heaven in the least form, corresponding to the greatest. So it is with all things of nature.”-AC 9825.

And in Apocalypse Explained, AE we read, –

“There are three heavens, and each heaven is distinguished into three degrees, and likewise the angels who are in them; wherefore in each heaven there are superior, middle, and inferior angels.”- AE 342[a].

In each of the above degrees or subdivisions of the mind there is a duality consisting of will and understanding, the will being receptive of love or good which is celestial, and the understanding, of wisdom or truth which is spiritual; and in each heaven and in each subdivision of the heavens, there are angels predominantly receptive of love or good, who are celestial, and others of wisdom or truth, who are spiritual. (AC 459.)

To understand the general division of the whole heaven into two kingdoms, celestial and spiritual, and the existence of the two principles, celestial and spiritual, in each kingdom, and even in each angel, it must be borne in mind that the celestial of one heaven, kingdom or angel, differs from the celestial of another and that the spiritual of one differs from the spiritual of another.

See “Relation of the Three Heavens and the Two Kingdoms,” page 37, also the two distinctions between the celestial and the spiritual, page 86.

The three degrees of the natural mind C are drawn in red, white and green-j representing the natural will, k the natural understanding and l a combination of the two in ultimates, thus the celestial, spiritual and natural of the external mind. The view of the degrees of the natural mind, here presented, is different from that in Diagram XIII; hence the reverse order of Colour.

 

Chapter XIII. Relation of the Degrees of the Natural Mind to those of the Spiritual Mind

 

THIS diagram presents the three degrees of the natural mind in certain relations to the three degrees of the spiritual mind, and the three degrees or planes of the world of spirits in relation to the three angelic heavens. (AC 4154, DLW 275, 66, 67.)

Below the natural or external mind C is drawn the spiritual body D, consisting of the spiritual-sensual and spiritual-corporeal g and h. These are called the spiritual sensual and corporeal in distinction to the natural sensual and corporeal organized of material substances. The sensual degree of the external mind f just above the spiritual-sensual, is the lowest degree of that mind and closely adheres to the spiritual body D.

The celestial degree a is drawn in red because red corresponds to love or the will, the dominant characteristic of this degree, and because red is the distinguishing Colour of the celestial heaven.

The spiritual degree b characterized by what is intellectual, is drawn in white because white corresponds to truth, the dominant characteristic of this degree, and white is a distinguishing Colour of the spiritual heaven.

The natural degree c is drawn in green because green corresponds to the ultimates of celestial love and spiritual truth in the lowest plane of the internal mind, and green is the distinguishing Colour of the natural heaven which is the lowest heaven.

The three degrees of the natural mind are drawn in darker shades of the same Colours but in reverse order, the highest green, the lowest red; this is to indicate the relation of each degree in the natural to its corresponding degree in the spiritual. The whole natural mind as one is an ultimate and base of the whole spiritual as one, but the lowest degree f (the red in the natural) is the special ultimate of the highest degree a in the spiritual, and the highest in the natural d of the lowest in the spiritual e; that is, a ultimates in f, c in d, and b in e, according to the universal law that the LORD works from the highest or inmost forms and at the same time from the lowest or outmost, developing, arranging, binding and thus preserving the intermediates. (D. W. in AE VIII, DP 124, 125.)

The celestial a passes indeed centrally through d and e in the natural mind to reach its appropriate f, as it had passed through b and c in the spiritual mind, and is the essential principle in them all, that is in b c d e; a being first and therefore universal must go to the last where it binds and preserves all. This descent of a is illustrated by the descent of nerves from the brain through intermediates into the skin whence they return again to the brain, binding and preserving all things of the body.

This relation of these degrees further appears where we show that the lowest degree in the spiritual mind when by regeneration it is opened and man is raised into it, rests as a heaven on the degree d, the highest in the natural mind, as its appropriate earth or base, b resting on e, and a on f. See Diagrams XXII, XXIII, XXIV. The same relation is seen from this that the lowest degree of the natural mind is the last regenerated and the highest degree of the spiritual mind is the last opened and entered. (Read AC 9216, 4353) Confirmation of the above relation lies also in the fact that the lowest or deepest hell which is in the lowest natural degree f, when this degree is perverted, is opposite to the highest heaven a. (DLW 275, HH 542, AE 1133.)

Below the natural mind are drawn the spiritual sensual and corporeal g and h. g is drawn in lightish Colour because the senses are the higher life of the body, the corporeal h, having in itself only insensate life, is drawn in dark. (AC 5077.)

The spiritual sensual and corporeal are composed of spiritual substances and are the lowest seat of the paternal proprium.

The natural body E being material is drawn in dark in contrast with the planes above.

Each integral part, namely, the spiritual-corporeal, the spiritual-sensual, each degree of the natural mind, and each of the spiritual is in itself a lesser human because the whole man is composed of parts which are images of the whole. This may be illustrated by the natural body, in which are several systems combined; for each system, the nervous, the sanguineous, the osseous, the muscular, the cutaneous, is, in a sense, a human system, and so a human in a lesser form. Thus man in spirit as in body is composed of many humans one above or within another from the foot of “Jacob’s ladder” to the top, that mystic ladder being the whole human and each step in it a lesser human.

This diagram is a key to many passages.

In The True Christian Religion we read, –

“The human mind from which and according to which man is man, is formed into three regions, according to three degrees; in the first degree it is celestial, in which also are the angels of the highest heaven; in the second degree it is spiritual, in which also are the angels of the middle heaven; and in the third degree it is natural, in which also are the angels of the lowest heaven. The human mind, organized according to these three degrees, is a receptacle of Divine influx; but still the Divine flows in no farther than man prepares the way, or opens the door; if he does this even to the highest or celestial degree, then man becomes truly an image of God, and after death he becomes an angel of the highest heaven; but if he prepares the way, or opens the door, only to the middle or spiritual degree, then indeed, man becomes an image of God, but not in that perfection, and after death he becomes an angel of the middle heaven ; but if he prepares the way, or opens the door, only to the lowest or natural degree, then man, if he acknowledges God and worships Him with actual piety, becomes an image of God in the lowest degree, and after death he becomes an angel of the lowest heaven. But if he does not acknowledge God and does not worship Him with actual piety, he puts off the image of God, and becomes like some animal, except that he enjoys the faculty of understanding and thence of speech. If he then closes up the highest natural degree, which corresponds to the highest celestial, he becomes as to love, like a beast of the earth; but if he closes the middle natural degree which corresponds to the middle spiritual, he becomes as to love like a fox, and as to sight of the understanding like a bird of the evening; but if he also closes the lowest natural degree as to its spiritual, he becomes as to love like a wild beast, and as to the understanding of truth like a fish”-TCR 34.

    The human mind from which and according to which man is man,” in this passage obviously means the actual mind which in itself is human, in distinction from the natural mind below, which is humanized only from the spiritual. The first or celestial degree, mentioned in the same passage, is a the highest plane of the internal mind, the second or spiritual is b, the third or natural, c. “The beast of the earth” is in d, “the fox” in e and “the wild beast” in f.

    The statement that the highest natural d corresponds to the highest or celestial a does not conflict with what is elsewhere said – that the highest degree of the natural d is the degree of the natural in which the lowest degree of the spiritual c especially ultimates, and that when d by perversion becomes a form of hell it is opposite to the lowest heaven c. The statement means only that d is the highest in the natural mind as a is in the spiritual mind

    Upon first reading, this number may seem obscure, owing to the omission of a distinct statement that there are three degrees in the natural mind, below the three degrees of the spiritual mind. The highest natural, the middle natural and the ultimate natural in the passage, are represented by d e and f.

    The order of the opening of the three degrees of the internal mind during regeneration, will be presented in Diagrams XXII, XXIII and XXIV. The closed state of the degrees of the natural mind, in the case of the wicked, will be presented in Diagram XXV.

    The spiritual mind, here drawn in three degrees is the same that is drawn in two degrees in Diagram XII. When this mind is drawn in two degrees, the lowest c in this diagram is included in the two; as will appear more plainly in what follows.

    In Arcana Coelestia AC 9215 the whole natural is equivalent to d e f g and h. (See also AC 1589.)

     

    Scripture – Is it uncivilised dogma?

    scriptureOn the face of it, much of the Bible and Qu’ran is dogmatic and sometimes unintelligible. Scripture contains scientific misconceptions. Also it has outmoded rules of living for example about food consumption and animal sacrifices.

    There are references to historical events that seem unrelated to being alive today. One also notices all sorts of horrible things. In parts of the Bible, we can find a punitive deity and barbaric acts of inhumanity .

    So, you might wonder what kind of divine authorship is supposed to be behind this scripture?

    Myth in scripture

    scriptureOne point of view is that just because a book is old it doesn’t have to be outdated. Philosophers read Aristotle and Plato and find lots of contemporary human interest in them. There’s no reason why the moral insights of religious texts like the general commands about honouring one’s parents, not killing, or not stealing should be any different. The so-called Golden Rule is that you should treat others as you want to be treated yourself. This you find in all sorts of religious texts. You see versions of that in Aristotle.

    For many people the creation story in Genesis is a myth. But I would like to suggest that the word myth should not be understood as meaning something that is not true. Doesn’t a myth convey something of a deeper truth about the human condition – something not supposed to be taken literally?

    One can likewise wonder whether there is also wisdom beneath the surface of other parts of scripture: – its historical narrative, visionary material, prophecy, and poetry. If present, it has usually remained hidden to many.

    Attitude to reading scripture

    My own experience is that when I have try to focus my mind on a text and slowly reflect on its possible meaning, only then can I start to sense a deeper message. I feel a personal relevance.

    The truth that what you will find in the text depends on your commitment you show to the text, why you’re reading it and what you want to find in it.” (Anonymous teacher of Judaism – British Library website)

    A danger lurks here. I can find myself proudly claiming I now know what scripture says and I want to tell others what to think.

    “Our understanding of God’s word will be fallible because we are finite beings. It is arrogant to raise our interpretation to infallible truth and thus start to deny the truth that other people hold in their interpretation.” (anonymous Muslim speaker – British Library website)

    If there is a God – an infinite Being beyond full human understanding – then a bit of humility from me is called for. Perhaps I have only partly had a glimmer of the truth and what is true for me works a little differently for you.

    Spiritual Teaching

    Mind you, I’m not saying scripture is the only source of wisdom. We value what we have learned from parents and teachers who have been part of our upbringing and education. They can convey deep guiding principles. For example the ideas that:

    • A realm of consciousness of spirit exists that is not limited by space or time.
    • There is a divine spark of love present with us which is the source and foundation of all reality.
    • The improvement of one’s moral character is the biggest aim of one’s human existence.

    I feel these ideas help me to find some sense in scripture.

    Nasty side of scripture

    The Old Testament prophets are good at threatening punishments of the people. Applied to myself, I feel these to be a warning about the troubles I can bring on myself if I were to stray from the right path in life.

    The people of Israel fought gory battles against various tribes living in the land of Canaan. I wonder whether these battles are symbolic of the inner conflicts within myself in my daily life. Generally speaking, there is a clash between a selfish thought and considering the needs of someone near me.

    What about animal sacrifices urged upon the people of the Old Testament? To my mind these mirror the things I need to give up, or at least cut down. What seems like a personal sacrifice at the time however can later become something of no matter.

    Correspondence and scripture

    There is one big idea I find useful in understanding sacred writing. This is the concept of correspondence.  The philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg wrote about a deeper level of meaning within the literal sense of scripture. Each object, person, and event depicted in scripture is said to correspond to this spiritual sense. Sometimes this is clear but often it is hidden. One has to employ one’s deeper perception to notice it.

     “The spiritual sense …  does not appear in the sense of the Letter: it is within it, as the soul is in the body, as the thought is in the eyes, and as affection is in the countenance. ” (Emanuel Swedenborg, philosopher)

    Enlightenment and scripture

    Some religious believers say one shouldn’t criticise sacred writing but should take it as final authority. However, there is another attitude to scripture which I think is a little bit different. It is one that does involve a questioning and searching attitude. Such an approach involves reflection and a sense of responsibility for applying what is learned.

    According to Swedenborg enlightened people are :

    Those who love truths because they are truths, and who apply them to the uses of life.”

    Conclusion about scripture

    In Hinduism and Buddhism there isn’t the same tradition, as in the Western world, of an infallibility of one particular religious text. Rather, believers draw upon a whole body and collection of spiritual writing. They use these in order to understand their religion better.

    I feel no individual writers of scripture of themselves could have infallibly grasped what is eternally true. After all they were only finite human beings. Nevertheless, I do sense a divine inspiration in their writing that has universal application.  Could they not have been instrumental in revealing the wisdom of an infinite loving Being? A message that is the Word of God?

    I would suggest there is only one way for you to answer this question to your own satisfaction. Why not try to read parts of scripture you have never visited,  and look for what you had never previously suspected was present?     

    Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
    Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems