Ever gone travelling off the beaten track looking for adventure? Young people may do this before they embark on a new career and those recently retired from an old one can also seek somewhere different. They go off on an adventure to exotic locations to discover what is there and at the same time find out something about themselves. Perhaps we all need a thrilling time occasionally, to get away from the hum-drum aspects of everyday life.
Adventure of an inner journey
Travelling is not an option for everyone. However, the journey can be found in other ways. George Eliot wrote, ‘Adventure is not outside man; it is within.’ In other words, we can wake-up to the excitement of life within the confines of our normal circumstances. Many have reported on inner journeys they have taken that opened up new horizons for them.
As an example, I would like to mention Emanuel Swedenborg, a man born in 17th century Stockholm. In young adulthood he had leisure for full-time study and travel. He lived at a time when it was still possible to have a wide grasp of the knowledge of the day. Later he worked as an engineer and geologist and wrote science such as physics and biology.
Swedenborg’s adventure exploring his dreams
Emanuel had been on an intellectual quest to find a scientific understanding of the human soul. In his fifties he started noticing his dreams and reflecting on them. This was to be an inner journey; not only one of self-learning but also one of personal change. He was an intellectual man not in touch with the feeling and intuitive side of life. To explore the latter was like an adventure for him because it required great daring to tap the depths of personality, and gain something new.
Whenever someone showed a lack of respect for him he felt self-righteous indignation. Likewise he would tend to think about how his next book would make him famous. Reflecting on this self-pride, he was brought to his knees in humility. He learned to be more aware of his thoughts and to turn away from those that he judged as wrong. With this new-found effort to stand firm he became more confident that he would be forgiven and helped to find a new attitude.
Another discovery in his dreams was his sexual fantasies. He realised how he would be looking at a woman and thinking lustfully. He tried to resist such impure thoughts because he believed God wanted people to enjoy sex only as part of a monogamous loving relationship.
Nevertheless a woman was what was missing in his life. Someone perhaps to put flowers on his desk, to add decorations to his home, to encourage him to enjoy walks and music. Arguably, womanhood symbolises the warm nurturing side of life. There were women in his dreams but when awake he had prohibited all close relations with them. His aim had been to find God alone. But the kind of God he envisaged had been one to support his academic life by providing him with scientific answers like some sort of super-professor. He wondered… had God chosen to provide women in his dreams because that warm,
loving side of his makeup must be developed if he were to have any hope of understanding the Divine Source?
Adventure of following the lead of the Divine Spirit
Swedenborg’s inner journey taught him that ultimately he was dependent on God and this meant following God’s lead.
As HT Hamblin says, ‘The only way to harmony and to peace is to
follow the leading of the Spirit, and this is the most adventurous life of
It seemed to have worked for Emanuel. He abandoned his scientific books and focused instead on the personal and spiritual side to life. For him the personal and spiritual journey of adventure were the same thing. How better can you learn than by struggling? His books now would be based on personal knowledge rather than on academic reading of other writers’ books. He now wanted to explore religion from the perspective of this dimension. During this process of personal discovery, he had felt called to a higher vocation – one of exploring theology and spiritual philosophy. Increasingly, he used the intuitions he gained from his inner visionary experience, presenting them as rationally as he was able.
I guess the challenge for us is to more deeply listen to the leading of the Spirit and daring to accept whatever challenges of conscience we find. The promise is extra energy, the thrill of the new and the delight of a higher life.
‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained. And venture belongs to the adventurous.’ (Navjot Singh Sidhu)
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems