Social Justice is not Spiritual or Eternal Justice

It is honorable to care for our neighbors—even on a global scale. It requires a good heart to be concerned for others. But is ensuring equal rights the same thing as everyone being assured of a roof over their heads, healthcare, and big screen TVs? Is our idea of equal rights the same thing that God thinks it is?

I agree that we should all pitch in to banish human suffering to make each others’ lives better and happier, but it seems that such moral and charitable efforts should not be focused solely on that which can rust, be stolen or eaten by moths.

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. (Matthew 6:19)

We do not live forever on this earth, in spite of modern medical advances, improved distribution of food or increased comfort and convenience from modern innovation. These worldly things are important in God’s creation—only as long as they are serviceable towards our living a heaven-bound life.

A government can legislate a level playing field for all its citizens yet not offer any help towards a person’s eternal wellbeing and soul. So in terms of truly living an “upwardly mobile” life, we can have all the creature comforts of this earth and enjoy great physical health but still be counted among the disabled, sick, homeless, oppressed, poor, starved and miserable!

Unlike worldly social justice, heaven is not an entitlement program. According to theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, the concept of helping the downtrodden and less fortunate was looked at quite differently in more ancient civilizations. Instead, they understood whether a person was less fortunate or not from their spiritual situation. Here is a quote from Swedenborg:

The Ancient Church distinguished into classes the neighbor or neighbors toward whom they were to perform works of charity; and some they called “maimed,” some “lame,” some “blind,” and some “deaf,” meaning those who were spiritually so. Some also they called the “hungry,” the “thirsty,” “strangers,” the “naked,” the “sick,” the “captives;” and some “widows,” “orphans,” the “needy”, the “poor,” and the “miserable;” by whom they meant no other than those who were such as to truth and good, and who were to be suitably instructed, led on their way, and thus provided for as to their souls. (Arcana Coelestia, Vol. 6, n. 4302)

In fact, in order to get individuals re-focused towards spiritual matters and eternal life, God often will make use of misfortune, sorrow and human suffering ( Arcana Coelestia, Vol. 1, n. 8 )

Social justice is a hot topic right now. Tell me what you think.
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Heaven and Hell

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Heaven and Hell

You must be joking! ‘Heaven and Hell,’ what images do they conjure up in today’s world. Heaven- cute little cherubs with wings, sitting on fluffy clouds, playing harps or feasting in paradise without ‘Weight watchers’; Hell- mediaeval tortures, spooky red devils with horns and tails, furnaces, fire and brimstone (whatever that is.) Either way count me out!

And yet do you, like me, have a sneaky suspicion that there must be something more to this life. Do you ever wonder whether life carries on in another dimension and if so what it could be like? Do you ever think that there just might be some grain of truth in these out dated concepts of heaven and hell?

We often use words like heaven and hell to describe our own inner feelings. If everything goes wrong at work and the things that we attempt are thwarted and leave us frustrated we might feel that we have had a ‘hell of a day.’  If things go right and we feel pleased and happy we talk about ‘being in heaven.’ We can see from this that there is a relationship between how we feel and heaven and hell. Heaven and hell essentially are states of our mind or inner being and not physical places of either bliss or torment. Our actions and reactions, our thoughts and deeds, our loves and desires build heaven or hell within us.

Emanuel Swedenborg tells us that when our physical body dies the essential person, the spirit or soul passes into the spiritual world. Although the spiritual world may appear insubstantial to us on earth it is ultimate reality.

In the spiritual world there are communities where groups of people live and work together as in this natural world. We ultimately find ourselves living with communities with whom we feel at ‘home’ and who have similar natures to our own. If, whilst on earth, we have tried to think of others before ourselves, have had a belief in an entity greater than ourselves and tried to live according to principles then we should find ourselves living in a heavenly society. We really should be ‘in heaven.’

If, on the other hand, we have spent our lives being awkward, miserable, intolerant, selfish and dare we say plain ‘evil,’ then it is easy to see that being in a community of ‘angelic’ people would be anathema to us. We would be happier being in a company of like- minded people where we could continue to ‘make life hell.’

The choice is ours.

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Astral Plane – Real or Imagined?

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astral planeThe astral plane is said to be another dimension of reality coexistent in space with our physical world. It is featured in the television show Charmed, in which it is described as a realm of “spirits and energies” and a place where time does not progress.

Carl Jung practised what he called ‘active imagination’ and reported that in his mind he regular met and consulted an old man called Philemon. Whether one calls this degree of consciousness a psychic, mental or astral plane, it is one where all feelings and thoughts become detectable: just as noticeable as physical objects that are visible to our natural eyes.

You might wonder if Jung was projecting his expectations or hopes onto an imagined guru figure who had no independent existence? Perhaps all so-called experiences of the astral plane consist of mistakenly attributing what is imagined in the mind to an objective reality.

On the other hand, arguably we are distracted by sensations from the day to day physical world and so do not experience the existence of any spiritual reality beyond it.

The Neanderthals 100,000 – 25,000 years ago buried their dead in graves containing food and flint implements that would then be needed. And throughout human history there has been belief in the reality of an afterlife in a non-material plane of existence.

So is the astral plane real or imagined?

Common idea of astral plane

Hindus, Buddhists, Theosophists, and Anthroposophists, amongst others, give accounts of events after death which are basically very similar. After death the soul is said to consist of the astral body – the personal consciousness – that is fully parted from the physical body. The individual then enters into a state in which one’s past life is reviewed in-depth and desires and emotions are re-experienced, the soul perhaps inflicting its own purgatory on itself. This suffering is said to bring purification after which the astral body too is allowed to dissolve away.

Astral plane and Swedenborg’s ‘World of spirits’

There is a fascinating account of the astral plane actually arising from personal experience lasting many years. Eighteenth century visionary, Emanuel Swedenborg, wrote it. He called this astral plane of life ‘the world of spirits’, a transitional level of the ‘spiritual world’. The spiritual world is said to be the inner world of mind of which we usually only have full consciousness after our bodily death.

In his book Window to Eternity, Bruce Henderson has pointed out the reasonable as well as detailed way Swedenborg wrote about the spiritual world. He says this demonstrates that this is not just one man’s fanciful imagination; it is a special vision.

Visual aspects of Astral plane

According to traditional spiritualism, after death the soul eventually wakes up in some land, a realm of consciousness created by the desires of the individual. Likewise Swedenborg reports that the surroundings he experienced in the ‘world of spirits’ reflect the thoughts and feelings of its inhabitants. Whether or not thoughts and feelings are good and rational, or bad and illusory, these inner states of heart and mind are represented by corresponding natural qualities and things. Light or dark: warm or cold: beautiful or ugly.

Afterlife process in Astral plane

Swedenborg wrote that there is nothing that a person has ever sought in him or herself or done in secret that can be concealed after death. All things and each single thing are then laid open as clear as in daylight. However he says all the secret things in one’s life are not suddenly revealed to others. Our inner character only slowly can manifest. But in this way our selfish attitudes can be eventually seen for what they are and, if we will, turned away from. In so far as we do not do so we suffer the consequences as a sort of self-inflicted punishment.

Something similar to this is taught in Tibetan Buddhism. The Bardo is a state between death and rebirth. ‘The Tibetan book of the dead‘ describes the individual being aware of a radiant colour light of pure reality. This is the chance of the self to obtain Nirvana, by abandoning ego existence and becoming one with the light. But most souls are not willing to be reunited with the light of this stage. The self then acquires a karmic body formed by the action of past thoughts and deeds and encounters all the deities that are projected by its own mind both benign and vengeful, loving and judgemental in accordance with its beliefs and conditioning whilst on Earth. Judgement and punishment follow.

This description of the afterlife process parallels that of other occult traditions where the astral body creates its own reality until the desires and emotions which drive it have been purged.” (Donald Watson)

Ruling love and the astral plane

It is widely thought that the astral body gravitates to a level appropriate to its make up on the astral plane. This is probably the reason that some religions insist that right emotions are more important that actions or beliefs. Similarly, Swedenborg would say that the crucial thing is one’s intentions. However, he fastens on the general intention that rules our heart.

According to this idea underlying all the various interests, desires, goals we have is one pervasive and prevailing love, the love that rules you. It develops through many personal choices made in life. It is what turns up when we reflect on the things that please us most.

“It is not necessarily what comes into your mind… that reveals your true character, but what you do with those thoughts or would like to do if you could.” (Bruce Henderson)

In Swedenborg’s ‘world of spirits’ your ruling love points you in one direction or its opposite. Let’s consider those souls orientated towards a higher plane of spiritual consciousness because they are ruled by good intentions. He claims that right thinking replaces their illusions. Those, however, with an opposite orientation, ruled by selfishness, according to Swedenborg, find what insights they have will be replaced by illusions. As this process takes place he says the person gravitates to the community of like-minded souls.

In other words, we surround ourselves with thought forms in keeping with our astral states: and our desires and emotional attachments rule our existence on the astral plane after death. I would suggest that in this way we form our own heaven or hell.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands

 

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Living in Two Worlds                       

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One of the problems with our busy materialistic world is that we seem to get very little time to think more deeply about what is going on in our lives. Everyday is made up of all sorts of practical and physical activities. We go to the shops and buy food. We cook our meals and wash up. We clean the house and read the newspaper. We mow the lawn or put our feet up in front of the television. We go to work by car or bus or train and come back late and tired. So much can get crammed into one day that we begin to feel unable to cope or at the other end of the scale we may have so little we can do that we feel lonely and cut off from the world around. If we are blessed with all our senses we can see the world around us, we can hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it. And particularly in spring and summer, when all sorts of flowers are coming into bloom, the physical world around us offers a wonderful array of stimulants for our senses. And we mustn’t forget our interactions with other people: a wave across the street, a smile to a passer-by, a chat over coffee, a lengthy phone call, a letter from a friend, a kind word or a loving kiss. There is so much going on in our physical world that it is not surprising that many people live as though there is nothing else – that everything that goes on in our lives can be explained in physical terms.

But is this really so?

red roseImagine you are holding a fragrant rose in your hand. You see the wonderful colour and texture of the flower, you touch its soft and smooth petals and you smell its intoxicating fragrance. So far you have been involved in a physical way with this rose but how does it make you feel? Do you feel happier and a little brighter inside, does a smile come over your face, does it evoke distant memories, do you feel more peaceful, do you feel more loved or more loving? In a wonderful way that rose, out there in the physical world around us, has touched something deep inside you and you have responded.

Or imagine that you have just received a letter from somebody you knew a long time ago. You open the letter, see who it is from, and read the first few lines. They are just ink on paper but how do you feel? Do you feel surprised and pleased, does a feeling of warmth grow within as you recall your past friendship, are you transported back to another time and place, do you now feel close once again? Just like the rose, something as physical as ink and paper has touched you deep inside and you have responded.

These are just two examples of the countless situations we can find ourselves in when we realise that there is something much deeper to our lives than our physical being. Whilst our lives appear dominated by the physical world around us there is another world within us of feeling and thought where our deepest experiences take place and where we develop our real character. It is our inner world where, for example, we can feel deep joy when we are very close to someone we love and deep pain when we are separated.

Throughout the ages wise people have realised that we live in two worlds at the same time, a physical outer world and a deeper inner spiritual world. The problem is that we get so absorbed by the state of our physical outer world that we don’t spend enough time on the spiritual world within us. How many people, for example, struggling in a gym to improve their physical well-being, would spend just a little time on spiritual exercises to help them develop their inner world? Is this not a distorted view of our priorities?

Jesus highlighted the need to change our priorities in favour of the inner spiritual life when he said:

“Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you”.  Luke 12:29-31

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the visionary Jesuit priest, wrote in the 20th century:

“We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience”.

Emanuel Swedenborg not only recognised that we are living in two worlds but also that when we die our real inner spiritual self goes on living:

“As regards the soul, which – it is said – goes on living after death, it is nothing else than the actual person living in the body. That is, the soul is the person’s inner self acting in the world by means of the body and imparting life to the body. When his inner self is released from the body the person is called a spirit and then appears in a completely human form”. Arcana Caelestia 6054

Should not our emphasis be on developing the quality of our inner life rather than worrying excessively as we do about our outer physical world?

“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt within the heart.”  Helen Keller

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You have a Soul, a Physical Body, but everything in between is up to you!

Religion is simply about how to live a heaven-bound life. And, if one humbly and sincerely loves God and the neighbor, reaching God’s heavenly kingdom of mutual love does not require one to be a neuroscientist.

So why did Emanuel Swedenborg provide so many extra details on the process of spiritual salvation? The average person who lives a life of goodness from spiritual principles does not really need such doctrinal “overkill.”

A hint comes from a statement once made by George Gurdjieff that “the more one knows, the more effective one’s efforts can be.” The purpose of religion is to change our lives to become better people. Therefore, Swedenborg offered the extra information for those who wanted to understand the actual “science” behind salvation (all process proceeds according to the laws of order).

Religion basically informs us that we have a soul and a physical body. Because we have souls, the human race can survive death and live in a spiritual realm. But what Swedenborg (and Gurdjieff) brings to the theological table is that the human soul still needs to be embodied in a way that allows an individual’s personal identity to be put into a non-physical structure and organically transferred to a different realm.

According to Swedenborg, God’s living force flows into our souls—through heaven—and down into the hearts and minds of us people living on earth. But this divine influence flows through us like water through a sieve—unless a person makes the effort to allow God’s love and truth to become “fixed” and permanent in his or her life.

Swedenborg discovered that the true human soul is even beyond the consciousness of angels. So we cannot live in such a rarified sphere after death. What happens is that the Soul creates a spiritual body inside the physical body—based on the things we LOVE and seek! In other words, instead of being the mere result of our parents’ genes (which is a genetic “crapshoot”), the spiritual body is who we really are and deserve to be!

Swedenborg claimed that a person’s blood is a physical analog of an individual’s loves, affections and passions. Not only do people have different appetites, the human digestive system extracts nutrients that bring the chemical makeup of a person’s blood into concord with their affections. He claimed individuals even extract different qualities from the atmosphere (atmospheric and ethereal salts) in our respiratory systems to further promote this concord. And finally we all draw in different kinds of knowledge from the world (including religious doctrine). From these multi-sourced “foods” the soul fashions our real spiritual body using the substances that correspond to our life choices and values (loves).

We tend to view the human mental faculty of understanding and reasoning as a cognitive function. But Swedenborg claimed that the human understanding is an organized body of knowledge that forms one’s innermost bio-complexity. In the same way the physical body consists of organs that digest and prepare food, the human understanding contains non-physical analogs of these same organs by which the spirit can digest and prepare information. Angels, and those who live in heaven, have developed spiritual bodies that can receive and digest an even nobler food or quality of information—God’s teachings and tenets.

The spiritual body develops (crystallizes) within our physical bodies as we live out and act on our chosen principles of life. When individuals leave their physical bodies behind after death, they find themselves living in the environment that most suits their spiritual bio-complexity. Those who gravitate toward heaven or toward hell have differently organized spiritual bodies. Again, the soul can only create our inner reality and spiritual body from the things we hold dearest in our hearts and minds. (If the soul did not comply with our strongest wishes our very bio-fabric would rip apart!)

I am sharing these ideas with you so that you can have a more visceral notion of the consequences of one’s behavior. My new book Proving God contains a chapter entitled “The Science of Salvation” which puts the discussion of human salvation into clear scientific language!

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Sell your soul – Could you do it?

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