Nigella Lawson is well known as a television cook who takes a relaxed and casual approach to cooking for her own pleasure. However, it seems like most of us she is not immune from anxiety.
“At some stages of your life you will deal with things and at others you are overwhelmed with misery and anxiety.” (Nigella Lawson)
The trouble with anxiety is that there is usually no specific fear you can see to tackle; just a very alarming sense of danger or threat.
Some people are more vulnerable to anxiety – for example those who have had emotionally absent parents during childhood, who have an emotionally unstable temperament, or who have a currently stressful life-style.
However, anxiety is quite common. Many elderly people for example have anxiety about getting old, anxieties about health, mobility, access to facilities, and simple routine care and attention. and many younger people from time to time experience stress-related illness, bodily tension, worry, unease, even panic. Anxiety is so common a problem in fact that there just aren’t enough counsellors to go round to help us all feel better.
The question thus arises is there anything you can learn that will equip you to deal with life more calmly? Is there any spiritual knowledge that can effectively help reduce anxiety?
Jim’s problem of anxious worry concerned his sports injury. He was plagued with the idea that he was never going to recover full use of his arm. His thoughts about this kept going around in circles without getting anywhere. They kept him awake most of the night.
Jim is a young man. He said that his anxiety is worse in the morning or on weekends when he hadn’t so much to do. I do reckon that focusing on some useful activity does help distract one’s mind from one’s concerns.
“An idle mind is the devil’s playground.”
Jim found it helped to talk to a friend who was sympathetic to how he felt and who tried to put things in perspective and to see things from a different angle. The trouble was Jim kept asking the same person over and over again for reassurance, which unfortunately was beginning to drive that person to distraction.
Distraction and ventilation can only postpone anxiety. The same goes for tablets from the doctor or for that matter any drug such as alcohol. Something more radical is needed.
Anxiety and CBT
Cognitive-behaviour therapists maintain that it is possible to change anxious habits of thought that adversely affect us. Once you bring such attitudes out into the open, you can examine them in the light of day and challenge them if unrealistic. Looking for more sensible ways of thinking it becomes possible to adopt a calmer attitude.
They thus encourage the anxious person to notice the illogical thoughts which accompany anxiety and discard them as mere habits of thought, which can be replaced by some rational common sense.
Anxiety and Swedenborg
An idea along these lines, but in my view a little more powerful, can be found in the books of the eighteenth century mystic and philosopher, Emanuel Swedenborg. He has given posterity a great deal of meticulously recorded information regarding what he claimed were his daily awareness of spirits inwardly present with him. He writes about certain spirits who he says he has seen and heard in a psychic way, and who, when present with him, were the source of an anxious state of mind.
“I have talked with them, they have been driven off and the anxiety has ceased, they have come back and the anxiety has returned, I have observed its increase and decrease as they drew near and moved away.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
Anxiety and Buddhism
Professor David Loy whose studies in comparative philosophy and religion have been published widely, points out that Swedenborg’s startling and counter-intuitive idea – that we don’t really generate our own thoughts – is also found in Buddhism’s doctrine of ‘no self’ where it is said to be an illusion of self-hood.
“Since there has never been a self, only the illusion of self, the point of the Buddhist path is not to eliminate the self but forget oneself, which is accomplished by becoming so absorbed into one’s meditation exercise that one becomes it. For Swedenborg as much as the Buddhism, the path is letting go of oneself.” (David Loy)
For Swedenborg the reason for the illusion are spirits inflowing their thoughts and feelings into our consciousness. He is saying we don’t create our own thoughts because they come to us from elsewhere. A spirit is unconsciously present within our mind if it can harmonise with our desires: he or she secretly enters our way of thinking and is accepted by us as our own. According to this view, the influence, of calming thoughts from angels and anxiety-laden thoughts from lower spirits, accounts for much of what we understand as our mental and emotional life.
In line with this way of thinking, as long as you identify with your anxiety-laden thoughts, then unfortunately you will continue to be under their control. The alternative is to be mindful of such anxious thoughts, learn to dis-identify with them, let go of them, neglect them, become unattached to them, and see them for what they are, the harmful fantasies of unwanted secret companions with whom you are free to distance your self.
Copyright 2014 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotionconal problems
Posted on3rd April 2014
Discovering inner health and transformation
Poets sometimes voice a feeling that even death cannot break the bonds of love. That even after their demise a loving couple meet in heaven.
I love thee with a love I seemed to lose
With my lost saints, — I love thee with the breath,
Smiles, tears, of all my life! And, if God choose,
I shall but love thee better after death.
(Sonnets from the Portugese XLIII by Elizabeth Barrett Browning)
But does love really transcend bodily death and do you and your loved one ever meet in heaven or in another form of afterlife for that matter?
We do meet in heaven according to Leslie Flint
The psychic Leslie Flint held seances in which voices could be heard speaking. A recording includes an account by a man named George Wilmot purportedly from beyond the grave. According to this communication, we do meet in heaven again. This man awoke in an afterlife and said he met there a young woman he was sweet on during the war in France before she died together with her family.
Through Flint’s mediumship Queen Victoria was also heard speaking. Of Albert, she said
“We are still very, very concerned and interested in all the things that transpire in your world.”
Flint was involved in thousands of experiences in which people spoke to deceased loved ones and the deceased responded in normal conversations. Their voices did not come through the medium’s mouth or from any one else present. Flint was tested hundreds of times using all manner of controls and never once was found to have produced the voices or had any collaborator produce the voices.
For example he was bound to a chair, his mouth sealed with tape. In other experiments he wore a throat microphone to detect possible vibrations in his vocal organs. He was observed through an infra-red viewer. At no time did sounds come from his mouth. In no tests by qualified, skeptical scientists, was anything found to be fake or deceptive.
Does the Bible say we meet in heaven again?
Christians have traditionally thought that angels and the spirits of the departed are
sexless beings — neither male nor female. They point to the words of Christ who said
“At the resurrection people will neither marry nor be given in marriage; they will be like the angels in heaven.” (Matt 22:30)
However another interpretation of this passage is that Jesus was referring to the kind of superficial impure marriages the scoffing Sadducees had in mind which are not going to be made in heaven.
Do couples do meet in heaven according to Swedenborg?
Emanuel Swedenborg lived over a century before testing of psychics started. However, he did write about his extraordinary communication with spirits in meticulous and comprehensive detail. His books report on both his own experiences of the spirit world and what spirit communicators had told him about it. He addresses the issue of whether husband and wife meet in heaven.
He reports that people after death are male or female not only as to their
psychological makeup but also as to every detail of their spirit bodies. We are told that all of what one loves and desires stays with one in the next life. This is said to be because what one deeply feels is the inner being of one’s life. And this includes one’s sexual inclination and the person one loves.
Swedenborg claims that most couples meet after death, in a `world of spirits’ before they are ready for heaven, recognize each other, associate, and live together at least for a while. So they do not meet in heaven but meet outside heaven. To the extent they are familiar to each other and have things in common, they remain together and mutually explore each other’s true feelings. They start to see more clearly to what extent they had any real affection for each other.
According to this account those, whose minds are inwardly in a state of agreement and unity, progress and stay together for all time in heaven and are said to experience a deep conviction that they had been born for each other, and have a sense of tender love and joy such as they had never known before.
However, those whose relationship is discovered to consist of an inner disharmony, then sooner or later the individual partners have a growing unease. If there is pleasure in having a partner to blame or at least to foil and outwit, this may break out into open enmity, quarrelling, and even combat.
Other partners unsuited to each other realise it is not good for them to stay living together and so separate no matter how long they have lived together in their former life.
We are told those individuals with a heavenly character who are in unhappy relationships separate and find a new partner with whom union is possible to the point that the new pair do not wish to lead two lives but one. They are indeed kindred spirits.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problem
Posted on17th January 2012
THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE
|<< GOD AND MAN. >>
“So God created man in his own image,
THERE are two vital questions which lie at the foundation of every religion and give quality to it. These questions are, first, Who is God, and how shall we think of Him ? Second, What is man, and how are God and man related to each other ? Neither of these questions can be understood without some knowledge of the other. They are reciprocally and intimately related. It is impossible to gain a true idea of God without some true knowledge of man, and it is impossible to gain an adequate conception of man’s nature without some correct knowledge of God. Man was created in the image of God. We must, therefore, look to man to get our first hints of the form and nature of God. I propose to state, as far as I can in limited space, what the New Church teaches upon this subject.
The doctrines of the New Church are Unitarian in the assertion that there is one and only one Supreme Being. They are Trinitarian in teaching the Divinity of Jesus Christ. They differ essentially from both in showing that the whole Trinity is embodied in the one person of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, and that these three essentials of His nature constitute His Divine personality. This is in accordance with all that He says about Himself in the whole of Scripture when rightly understood. The apostle declares it in the plainest manner when he says, ” In him,” that is in Jesus Christ, “dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.” The Lord Jesus Christ affirms it when He says, ” The Father dwelleth in me.” “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father. ” ” The Father is in me, and I in him.” By this He means that there is a reciprocal and organic union between them, like that which exists between man’s soul or mind and his body. The Father is the Divine nature as it is in its uncreated and infinite essence ; the Son is the human nature, glorified and made Divine, both united in one person, one being, and making one God, as man’s spiritual nature and his physical are united in one human being and make one man. The Father, called in the Old Testament Jehovah and God, is within the Son, as man’s mind is in his body. The Divine and the human natures are distinct and yet so closely knit together that they form one person, one being. This union is not one of sentiment, or agreement in character or purpose, like that which may exist between two men who desire to accomplish the same purpose and agree in the means of doing it. It is an organic union ; it is of the same nature as that which exists between the mind and the body, between will and act. Such being the intimate, organic, perfect union between the Father and the Son, we do not divide them in thought or affection. When we think of the Son we think of the Father, as we think of the whole man when we think of his body. We think of Him in the human form, and we have a distinct object of thought. When we love the Son we love the Father, and we have a distinct object in our minds for our affections to rest upon. They are not divided between two. They are centred in one. Only one person can be supremely loved.
Having gained a distinct conception of the personal unity of God, we can see that the Divine attributes cannot be divided between two persons. They must all be combined in one person, in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Mercy and truth meet together in Him. Righteousness and peace kiss each other in Him. Mercy and justice join hearts and hands in His Divine person. This new doctrine solves the problem of the unity of person and the trinity in the Divine Being. It harmonizes all the Divine attributes, and presents to us one Divine Being in the human form, animated with human love and doing all things for human good. We may no longer pray to one Divine person to grant us favors for the sake of another, for there is only one Divine person. We no longer fear the wrath of an angry God, for there is no angry God. Jesus Christ is Immanuel, God manifest in the flesh, and He is not angry. His infinite heart is full of love for men. We only fear to sin against such infinite wisdom and unchanging love. Every one must be able to see that such a clear, distinct, harmonious, rational knowledge of God and His Divine attributes must clear the mind of its doubts and conflicting opinions, must quiet its groundless fears, and tend to bring it into harmonious, orderly, and more intimate relations with Him whom to know aright is life everlasting. The New Church gives us new, rational, and satisfactory knowledge concerning man as a spiritual being and his relations to the Lord, who is his Creator, Redeemer, Saviour, and the constant source of all his power and life.
The human spirit has generally been regarded in the Christian world as a force, as an unorganized, unsubstantial, formless essence, as a breath, an influence, bearing somewhat the same relation to the man himself that steam bears to the engine. All conceptions of it have been vague and unsatisfactory. There has been but little advance beyond the mere affirmation of its existence. Consequently all ideas about its nature and modes of operation have been vague, indistinct, and unreal.
The New Church regards the spirit in an entirely new way. According to its doctrines the spirit is the man himself in the human form, and the seat of all his power and life. It is organized of spiritual substances, as the material body is organized of material substances, and possesses all the organs, external and internal, in general and particular, that compose the material body. It has a head, trunk, and limbs. It has eyes and ears, brain and face and vocal organs, heart and lungs, arteries and veins and nerves. The spiritual organs perform relatively the same functions that the material organs perform. Spiritual lungs breathe a spiritual atmosphere ; the heart propels a spiritual blood through arteries and veins ; the nerves give sensation and power ; the hands can grasp spiritual objects, and the feet can walk upon a spiritual earth ; the eye opens to the light which flows from the spiritual sun, and the ear vibrates in harmony with the modulations of the spiritual atmosphere.
As a whole and in each least part the spirit is in the human form. The common idea has been that the body was first formed and then the spirit was breathed into it, as men make an engine and then set it in motion by steam. The new doctrine teaches that the spirit itself moulds the body into its own form, weaves its fine and delicate textures in its own loom, and clothes itself in every least part with it, making it a medium of communication with the material world, the house in which it dwells, a complicated and miraculous instrument adjusted with infinite precision to all the forms and forces of matter, for the purpose of gaining natural ideas and delights to serve as materials for the development of the affections and the intellectual faculties.
But this is merely a temporary service. The material body renders the same service to the spirit that the husk does to the corn, the chaff to the wheat. The spirit is immortal. It was made, and by its very nature ordained, to dwell in a spiritual world corresponding to its own nature. But it must have a basis to rest upon. It must have vessels to hold its fine and fluent substances while they are being prepared for distinct and permanent existence. According to this idea the spirit is the real, substantial man and the seat of all human power. It is the spiritual eye that sees. The material eye only serves as an optical instrument to bring it into such relations to material light that images of material things can be formed on its delicate canvas. The material ear cannot hear. It is the spiritual ear within that becomes moved by its vibrations and perceives harmonious or discordant sounds. The same is true of all the senses. They are simply the material instruments which the spiritual senses use to gain entrance into the material world and accommodate themselves to its substances and forces.
Men have so long been accustomed to regard the spirit as a formless essence, a merely abstract entity, that it is difficult to disabuse their minds of the error and convince them that the spirit is organic and substantial. It is generally supposed that the way to gain any true conception of spirit is to deny it all the qualities of matter. It seems to be taken for granted that only matter possesses substance and form, and that when we attribute these properties to spirit we materialize it. But this is not so.
There are some attributes that are essential to existence. It is impossible to conceive of the existence of any object that is destitute of substance and form. The essential idea of existence is that of standing forth in substance and form. Every one will acknowledge that God is the most real and substantial being in the universe. He must be substance and form in their origin and essential qualities. There can be no power without some substance that embodies it. It inheres in the nature of things and in the nature of human conceptions, that if there is a Divine Being, there must be Divine substances ; if there are spiritual beings and a spiritual world, there must be spiritual substances and spiritual forms. To deny their existence is denial of God and of everything that is not material.
But we have ocular demonstration that spirit is substance and form and possesses power. This is a kind of testimony that men have often demanded. “Show me a spirit,” they say ; “let me feel it. Let me see spirit exert itself and produce some sensible effect.” The truth is, all that is done by the body is done by the spirit’s power. There is no power in the material substances that compose the. material body to organize themselves into the human form and acquire the faculty of seeing, or hearing, or feeling. Do oxygen and hydrogen and carbon and the insensate, inorganic mould possess any such power in themselves ? The material body is continually wasting away, and if it were not supplied with new substances, it would soon become dissipated. What power and miraculous skill weaves the new substances into the old forms without any mistake, and preserves the body from annihilation ? Can the food we eat do it of itself?
But this is not all. When the spirit leaves the body, all power and consciousness cease. The eye may be as perfect in its organization as ever, but it cannot see. The ear and the other senses have lost all power of consciousness. Have lost it, do I say ? No, they have not lost it, for they never possessed it. The material eye never saw ; the material ear never heard ; the material hand never felt ; the material heart never beat, of themselves. If you were in a factory where all the wheels were humming with motion, would you not know that some power not in themselves was driving them ? And if they stopped, would you not know that the power had been withdrawn from them? Have we not just as certain evidence that the organs of the material body have no inherent, selfderived power in themselves to act ; that they must be moved by some spiritual force ; and when that force is withdrawn they must return to dust ? It seems strange that rational men will ask for evidence of the existence of spiritual substances and forces when they perceive them in constant operation within and around them.
We have the evidence of our own consciousness also of the substantial and permanent nature of the spirit. It is now a generally-accepted fact that thought and affection are indestructible. No one can divest himself of ideas or truths he has once gained. They may be forgotten, as we say, but they remain in the mind and can be recalled. If the mind or spirit were a mist or a formless essence, it could be dispersed like a vapor, and all the ideas and affections that were embodied in it would be dissipated. But they are not, and never can be. Amputate a limb and it ceases to be a part of the human body. But a thought or an affection cannot be amputated. Destroy the body and the spirit is not injured. The material body is evanescent ; it is constantly passing away like a flowing stream ; but the spirit remains untouched, substantial, immortal.
If the relation of the spirit to the body is such as I have represented it to be, the spirit must be the man himself. It must be in the human form, because the material body is cast into its mould. All the organs are woven into a garment to clothe the organs of the spirit. The spirit must therefore be composed of a series of organic forms or organs, which, combined into one, become the human form. What, then, is the spirit? It is a human being in a human form as a whole and in its least particulars. It is substantial, and the substances of which it is composed are untouched by the dissolution of the material body ; the human spirit endures forever. Having gained a clear and true idea of what the human spirit is, and of the distinction between the spiritual body and the material body, we have gained the point of view from which we can see the trinity and unity in man which are essential to personal beings, and from this we may see more clearly the nature of the Divine trinity in the one person of our Lord Jesus Christ.
We have good grounds for looking to man to find the trinity in God, because man was created in the image of God and after His likeness. If man was made in the image of God, we must find in him a likeness of God. God must be in the human form. The Divine nature must be composed of attributes corresponding to those which compose man. The Divine faculties must sustain the same relations to one another which human faculties sustain. If there is a trinity in God, there must be a trinity in man. If there is a trinity in man, there must be a trinity in God. If the trinity in man makes one person, one human being, the trinity in God must make one Divine Person, one Divine Being. If this trinity in God makes three persons, each composed of the same substance and possessing the same attributes, the trinity in man must make three persons, each composed of the same substance and possessing the same qualities. An image must have the same form as the original, and so far as it is an image it must be like it.
What are the three essential factors of a human being ? Are they not the soul or spirit, the body, and the power of the man reaching forth to affect objects and beings outside himself? These three are perfectly distinct. The spirit is not the body, and the body is not the spirit, and the influence or operation of the man is not the spirit or the body. But the three make one person, one man. If either were absent the other two would not be a man. We may regard the subject in another way. Man is essentially composed of love, intelligence, and the union of these factors in thought or deed. The love or will is not the intellect, and neither of them is thought or act. Love does not make a man ; action does not make aman. A human being is the product of the three. But the three do not make three persons. There is the same trinity of Divine love, Divine wisdom, and Divine operation in God.
To return to man, the image of God. The spirit or soul is the father of the body. It begat it and formed it and continually creates it. If the material body had consciousness and power of its own, it could truly say, I came out from the spirit. I can do nothing of myself. The spirit does the works. It could say everything that the Saviour says concerning His relations to the Father ; and yet the spirit and the body make one man, as the Father and Son make one God.
Look at, the subject in another way. The soul is in the body. Jesus Christ says, “The Father is in me.” ” No man cometh unto the Father but by me.” There is no way in which we can get access to a man’s mind or spirit but by his body. If the body could speak, it could say in truth. No one can come to the spirit but by me. I am the way, and the only way.
Here is a larger and more important truth than may at first appear. By coming to the Father something more is meant than coming to Him in space, as one man approaches another. It means that we cannot come to Him in thought,—that is, we cannot think of Him truly in any other way than as He is manifested in Jesus Christ. How is He brought forth to view in Him ? In the human form, as a Divine Man. The agnostics are right when they say that God as an infinite and formless spirit, “without body, parts, or passions,” is unthinkable. There is no image, no idea in the mind, no distinct subject for the thought to rest on. We can only think of things and beings that have substance and form. There are no beings or things destitute of these essentials of existence. If I should ask you to think of a tree or an animal or a man that had no substance and no form, you would say it was absurd, because you know it to be impossible. For the same reason we can only come to Jehovah, the Father, in thought as He appears in Jesus Christ ; and He appears in Him as a man, in the human form. “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.” For the same reason we can come to Him in our affections in no other way than by Jesus Christ. No one can love a being of whom he can gain no conception. We cannot love a formless essence, an abstract virtue or power. Think of the absurdity of loving an abstract child, a woman or a man without substance or form ! It may be said that we do love an ideal person. There is some truth in that. But our ideal is the image we form in our minds. So, doubtless, every one has some conception in his mind of God. He makes an image of Him, even while denying that He has any form. But here the image is formed for us. The Word is made flesh, and dwells among men. “God manifest in the flesh.” God manifest in the human form. God come down to men, associating with them, teaching them by word of mouth, by precept and example ; the tender, merciful God, healing their diseases, sympathizing with them in their sorrows and sufferings ; a kind, patient, pure, unselfish, noble, wise God.; and yet a man. He has a human heart ; He works in human ways ; He has human sympathies. This is the way He is revealed to us in Jesus Christ. He is revealed not merely by example and formal instruction, but He is embodied in the form of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is His form. His body, His love, His wisdom. His way of working among men and saving them. The love and wisdom of Jesus Christ are the Divine love and wisdom. God reveals Himself in Him even to the human senses, in a form comprehensible to the child. When we think of Jesus Christ we think of the Father ; when we love Jesus Christ we love the Father ; when we pray to Jesus Christ we pray to the Father ; when we worship Jesus Christ we worship the Father. We think of Him in the same way and in the same sense as, in thinking of the bodily form of a friend, we think of his mind ; when we speak to the body we speak to the soul.
According to this doctrine we have the whole Divine trinity in one personal Being, in Jesus Christ, as we have the whole human trinity in every man. We have the whole trinity united in the human form, of which we can gain a distinct idea. The mind is not confused and discouraged by trying to think the unthinkable ; it is not distracted by thinking that there are three Divine persons and saying that there is but one God. We do not pray to a being of whom we say we can form no conception— but to whom we speak and of whom we try to think—to grant us favors for the sake of or in the name of another Divine person. We go to Jesus Christ, who is God manifest in the flesh, as a little child goes to his father, in a plain and simple way, without trying to make any metaphysical distinctions, and ask Him to grant the help and blessing we need for His own love and mercy’s sake. We can think of Him ; we can love Him ; we can trust Him. He is the way, the truth and the life. If Jesus Christ was really God Himself manifest in the flesh, and not merely an ambassador from God, or a distinct person standing between men and Him, you can see what an important bearing a true conception of His character and mission will have upon the conditions and means of human salvation. It places it on new grounds. It takes it out of all that is merely formal, legal, technical, and arbitrary, and demonstrates to our senses how the one and only Divine Being loves and pities His children, and what practical work He has done and is doing to save men from sin and misery and raise them up to holiness and eternal life. God has generally been represented as an austere, inexorable embodiment of that natural, mercantile form of justice which demands the full measure of punishment for every offence. But justice has a higher meaning than this. Divine justice is not vengeance ; it is Divine love directed by Divine wisdom to secure the highest good to men. There is an immense difference between sending some one to do a painful work and doing it yourself. If Jesus Christ wasGod Himself, clothed with a human nature and a material body, by means of which He came down to human comprehension, living, laboring, teaching, and dying as to His material body among men and for them, every one can see in what a beautiful and attractive form it presents the Divine character. We can know and love and delight to serve such a Being.
This is the light in which the doctrines of the New Church present the Divine character. They dispel the cloud of misconceptions which have obscured it. They bring the Lord down to men, and present Him in such simple and clear form that a child can understand something of Him and learn to know and love Him. They take nothing away from His sanctity. They do not destroy the law or the prophets ; they help men to understand them. They do not break the force and sanctity of the least of the commandments, or teach men to break them. On the contrary, they show that they are the immutable laws of the Divine order, and, consequently, that they cannot be broken without loss and suffering. Their whole scope and tendency is to assist men in solving the problems of life ; to make the way to the attainment of the highest good plain and easier to walk in ; to reveal the Lord to men in a clearer and more attractive light ; to give man a truer and nobler conception of himself and of the capacities of his own nature for happiness, and to show the means that lie within his reach to attain the highest good.
Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895
Discovering inner health and transformation
In the post Is there an afterlife? I pointed to a similarity between Swedenborg’s reports of his mystical experiences of life after death and numerous accounts of the near death experience. There are also striking similarities between what various modern psychic mediums have said concerning a realm of spirits with Swedenborg’s writings. These similarities are as follows:
Similar account of life after death
A soul body exists; time means nothing; environment appears created by thought; we gravitate to the shared environment of like-minded spirits; there is a self-evaluation involving how we lived life on earth; one’s inner character does not change because of death; punishment is only part of a purification process; there is no procreation; there are useful occupational and similar interests, albeit at a higher level; there is an upper Astral akin to heaven; there is no pain or alarm during the dying process; and because of a similarity of experience to life, new arrivals do not at first notice they are dead.
One’s first experience of life after death
Swedenborg reports that after we awake in the spirit realm we may find ourselves in some kind of living environment – often one we have been familiar with on earth. This gradually changes, beginning more and more to reflect the quality of our own thoughts and feelings. It may be a room in a very beautiful house or an untidy shed. This very much sounds like a projection of our inner state so that what one sees in the spiritual world is a reflection of different aspects of one’s own actual character. As we are all different there are many kinds of living accommodation and environment.
Being oneself in one’s life after death
As I understand it, the spiritual world forces no one after bodily death to be something that he or she is not. When we are alive in the body on earth, our outer thoughts are busy when we are with other people or engaged in some action. However, our inner thoughts come from what we are really feeling when we are alone at home. The picture we are shown of the next life, is that the values that deep down rule our hearts come to the surface and unrelated feelings, pretences and difficulties become dormant. We each get more in touch with our true selves and all other spirits see the genuine nature of everyone’s character; whether this is selfish and destructive or caring and creative. In other words, our inner feelings and desires determine our destiny. You really are what you choose to be and pretending to be something other than what you really are becomes increasingly difficult to maintain.
I imagine the goodness or otherwise of your character would shine more clearly in the spirit realm than in our material world where people who do not know you well see only your outward persona and where your style of living is more apparent. This illumination is illustrated in near death experiences by the frequently mentioned encounter with a `being of light’ and of a life evaluation.
The ruling love emerges in the life after death
According to Swedenborg’s notion of a ‘ruling love’, we want one thing more than anything. It colours all our life. It could be for example a love of being useful, of the spiritual ideas we believe to be true, of having power over others, or of being popular and well liked. This is our underlying longing that is the essence of our true character. Many of our desires arise from this basic love. We are most likely to reveal our true selves by our actions when we do not think others are observing us.
“You are what your deep driving desire is. As your desire is, so is your will. As your will is, so is your deed. As your deed is, so is your destiny.” (The Upanishads – Hindu tradition)
Avoidance of thinking about life after death
Whether or not we believe in life after death, we can all be afraid of death and dying to some extent. Perhaps we fear a lack of control over the process of deterioration that precedes death – whether it will involve pain or loss of dignity. But just as there can be no spring without the cold of winter that comes before it – so the pain of suffering can be seen to precede the triumph of new life.
To my mind, death for me is eternity knocking at the door. Perhaps, an avoidance of thinking of life after death is due to realising that I am not living now, as I would want to live to eternity. The trouble is that often I am unwilling to allow what is bad in me to die. A reminder of the reality of death is a wake up call to discard the trivial and prioritise the significant. Now is the time to overcome estrangement and heal old wounds.
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on21st April 2011
We are conscious of our own sensations, thoughts and feelings. We each have the sense of being a self-contained individual. What makes each of us unique? Our name? Our genes? Our environment? Or the person we have become as we inwardly determine every moment of our lives?
When we live a self-orientated life, we feel separate from others to some degree or other and lack any wider view on what life is all about. However we are all capable of noticing, within our soul, the divine spark of what is deeply human, revealed to us in e.g. music, books, dreams or conversation. In this way our hearts can be stirred to want what is good. As we choose to do what is helpful for the sake of others and not just for self, we begin to find a sense of fulfilment.
Whilst alive in the world our inmost thoughts and feelings are part of a flow of life linked from one person to another. Emanuel Swedenborg found that after our death, we become much more aware of this shared world of the spirit, as we mix with others with whom we are in harmony.
All good people whatever their race, education and background are united because there is an infinite creative force for all that is humane in the world. This is the underlying divinity of love which integrates together all who receive this inspiration.
Although having different skills, understanding and interests, we can join together in a common purpose. Each religious tradition has its part to play in one universal faith. This idea is similar to the way different components of the human body fit together to form a whole healthy body. Each part depends on the others as long as they are not diseased, for the whole to function properly.
“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”