spiritual questions and answers discovering inner Health
Discovering inner health and transformation
People have random eye movements under closed eyelids (REM) from time to time when they are asleep and if wakened at these times they report dreaming. In this way sleep researchers found that most people dream for about a fifth of their sleeping time. A person of age seventy-five will not only have slept twenty-five years, but will have spent five years dreaming! We need this for, if deprived of REM sleep for a while, we become disturbed and even psychotic. Although occasionally there is speech in dreams, it is mostly composed of dramatic visual representations. There are no proven scientific theories to explain the experience. So why is it important? How can we understand it?
Why your dream is not easy to understand
Clinical psychologist Wilson Van Dusen, wrote that dreams tend to deal with a wide range of present-life concerns of the person. The precise meaning of any one however is unclear, even though it makes use of people, situations and objects familiar to the sleeper.
Because of familiarity with the content, it isn’t immediately apparent that the dream uses things and people in a symbolic manner. In this way whilst getting an inkling of what is going on — we are protected from a blunt expression of those inner concerns and desires we would rather keep from daytime awareness.
Dreaming is thus a personal process that need to be understood in a personal way. And so a book offering a general meaning of dream symbols is probably not valid.
If you haven’t worked with your own dreams, they can easily seem to be a mishmash of elements into which one could read almost anything.
How to understand a dream
- When you next wake up after the dream, jot down a phrase or two about it in order to jog your memory later.
- The next day try to get back into the dream, reliving it. Slowly tell the dream to yourself. What were you feeling at different points. Ask yourself, ‘What did it feel like when …. ?’ ‘How is that like my life?’
- Pretend to be a person you dreamed of, and tell the dream story from this perspective. You may get clues as to what the individual figure represents in you.
- Assume everything in the dream is you. Your most conscious day-time feelings and thoughts are shown by you in the dream. Less conscious aspects are represented by others eg one’s future potential, choice points, what is hoped for. See what you associate with each person, place or thing in the dream.
- Summarise the dream and listen to the summary for its meaning.
- Reflect a little on the rest of the dream’s connections during the day and you may find the remaining meanings.
- The only valid interpretation of a dream is that which you, the dreamer, give to it.
Revelatory nature of dreams
In using images in a symbolic way it is as if the dream is allowing you, the dreamer, to remain in freedom to listen or ignore its message. If your dream simply said you boast too much or waste too much money, it would not only would be a distressing insult but one you could not fail to see. Instead it offers an intriguing drama you can try to remember and work out only if you wish.
Carl Gustav Jung suggested that dreams come from a level more objective than one’s subjective point of view. Dream images are not from the dreamer’s usual subjective sphere of thought and language. It is as if what the dream is saying goes beyond our daytime conscious understanding to reveal something true about the inner quality of our life. It possesses a higher wisdom and knowledge about all our memories, hopes and fears.
The reality of our inner mind
In his books The Natural Depth In Man and The Presence Of Other Worlds, Van Dusen gives a clear picture of the hidden reality of our inner world. His understanding not only comes from his own experience as a psychotherapist working with his patients dreams but also his study of Eastern and Western philosophy, particularly the extraordinary insights and often frightening experiences of Emanuel Swedenborg. Van Dusen concludes that in a wide range of states of consciousness (including that of dreaming) an inner world is revealed as precisely Swedenborg describes.
This is a hidden realm of spirit which will become fully conscious to us all following our bodily death: a spiritual world which permeates all our human minds, whilst we still live on earth, with inflow of high and low desires, pure and corrupt thoughts, as well as beneficial and harmful impulses; an influx of good and bad influences that are perfectly balanced to preserve our inner human freedom.
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on18th December 2012
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
17 Angelic Intermediary in Divine Revelation
“And when I had heard and seen, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel which showed me these things. Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not; for I am thy fellow servant and of thy brethren the prophets. Worship God.” Revelation 22:8,9
The Need for Divine Revelation
Wherever a true religion has existed among men, its inner goal has been to seek a conjunction, not with spirits or even angels, but with God. But since man cannot of himself know God, the first requisite for such a conjunction had to be a self-revelation by the Creator.
Nature exerts so hypnotic an attraction for us that our attention is largely focussed upon its material objects and objectives. We may admit that other men help to form our opinions and excite our moods and motives through actions and words conveyed to our senses. But we are slow to believe that all our shifting mental states, as well as our deeper loves and convictions, have a spiritual origin. Yet physical sensation, and the words of other men, would cause no feeling and have no meaning unless there inflowed from the spiritual world the light of understanding. And this is mediated by the societies of spirits in whose midst our own mind or spirit unconsciously dwells—spirits closely kindred to our own personality. By their imperceptible influx such spirits actually enable our thinking. They utilize the knowledge in our minds, and in so doing they impart to us a sense of its implication and significance.454
But when mankind invites the presence of evil spirits, the conversion of sensory knowledge into perceptions of truth becomes more difficult. The Lord has therefore provided us with a unique opportunity especially adapted to the needs and peculiar genius of our race: He has given a series of Divine revelations of spiritual truth in the form of a written Word of God—as a means by which we may be led into conjunction with heaven and Himself.
Such written revelation was unnecessary in the primeval age symbolized by “Adam” in paradise—when the race had not as yet become infected with hereditary inclinations to evil, and could even enjoy an open intercourse with angelic spirits.455 Towards the end of the Most Ancient Church open communion with spirits became most dangerous.456 And the Lord then prepared special prophets whom He inspired to write sacred scriptures which revealed the essential truths concerning God, charity, and eternal life.
Man cannot think up a knowledge of God or of heaven from rational thought alone.457 Although there is “an influx into the souls of men” predisposing them to accept the truth that God is and that He is one,458 yet whatever religious knowledge mankind possesses was handed down as traditions stemming from primeval revelations. The reason why many pagan religions show a fundamental similarity is that they preserve, in variously perverted forms, such common traditions. The animistic, idolatrous, and magical features which they present are contorted race memories of the ancient science of the correspondences between natural and spiritual things. For the religious truth of the ancients was conveyed mostly in correspondences, symbolic stories, or ritual forms.
The Sacred Scripture was inspired by the Lord in order to preserve the truth in its purity, stripped of polytheistic imagery yet deeply veiled in symbolic language that would hide its inner message from the worldly-wise and prudent while revealing it “unto babes,” that is, to those who are humble and poor in spirit.459
The Angel of Jehovah
The question arises, whether the Lord in revealing Himself by Scripture would need to employ the agency of spirits and angels. A written Word of God is provided especially to prevent the deceptions that corporeal and evil spirits might impose upon men if spirits were permitted to speak to men openly. But can God reveal Himself without the intermediacy of spirits or angels ?
It is an ancient saying that “no man can see God and live.” Seemingly this would effectively prevent any revelation of the Divine Being as He is in His infinite Esse. But the Being (Esse) of God is revealed in His forthstanding form as Divine Man, and as such He has been worshipped in all ages; even before He descended to become incarnate in an earthly body and by degrees manifested His Divine qualities of love and wisdom. For prior to His advent He had revealed Himself both in the heavens and before appointed prophets. Yet this theophany could not be effected except by means of angels who thus for the occasion entered into the most sublime function which any finite being could serve.
The Word of the Old Testament often relates how patriarchs and prophets in vision saw the glorious form of a man, or “one resembling the son of man,” who proved to be an angel, yet who spoke as if he was the Lord Himself. Such an angel was called “Jehovah” or “the angel of Jehovah.”460 How this angelic mediation took place is described in the Arcana Coelestia:
“… It was an angel who appeared to Moses as a flame in the bush, and he spoke as Jehovah because the Lord or Jehovah spoke through him. For in order that the speech may come to man by words of articulate sound and in ultimate nature, the Lord makes use of the ministry of angels, filling them with the Divine and lulling the things which are their own. . . . “46l “Sometimes an angel does not speak from himself, but from the Lord, and he then does not know but that he is the Lord; but then his externals are quiescent. It is otherwise when his externals are active. The reason is that the internal man of the angels is the Lord’s possession; and so far then as their own things do not impede, it is the Lord’s and even is the Lord.”462
It is also said that in such a case the Lord fills or infills the angel with His Divine aspect so that he does not speak at all from himself but hears the words inspired from the Divine. Yet as soon as such angels are addressed by the man to whom they appear they would become aware of their own distinct individuality and avert any attempt of man to worship them.463
In the ages before the Advent the Lord’s appearance to the prophets through some angel whom He infilled with His Divine Spirit was called His “representative Human.” Each angel portrayed some aspect of the Divine. But such a representative Human borrowed from the heavens could not be fully efficacious for it could not spiritually enlighten the natural minds of men; it could convey no rational idea of the Lord, but only a symbolic picture.464
The “angel of Jehovah” served as a medium in the inspiration of the Word of the Old Testament.
The ancients received the Divine influx into their interiors ; but the prophets of Israel simply felt it as a dictation by a living voice, and sometimes as audible sound which they perceived as coming from an angel appearing before them. “They heard a voice, they saw a vision, and they dreamed a dream; but as they had no perception these were merely verbal or visual revelations, without any perception of what they signified.”465
It is essential to note that although angels served as the instruments by which the Holy Scriptures were dictated, not a single word came from the angels nor was it selected by them. And “as the words came forth immediately from the Lord, each of them was infilled with the Divine” and thus they conceal within them the infinite wisdom of God, as an internal sense of which the biblical writers were unaware.466The angelic intermediacy did not prevent the Old Testament from being Divine as to the very text and syllables. But it did prevent the heavenly truth from appearing except in representative forms and clothed in dark symbols; even as Isaiah suggests when he says, “Verily Thou art a God that hidest Thyself, O God of Israel, the Savior.”467
Revelations after the Advent
The Divinely inspired books of the New Testament—the four Gospels and the Apocalypse—contain some of the words which “the Lord spoke from the Divine itself” in parables and other types of spiritual teaching. His words were indeed pure correspondences, representative and significative of Divine things, yet they referred openly to the things of heaven and the church.468 The entire biography of the Lord, including His own discourses, was also written down by the evangelists under immediate Divine inspiration. The Lord predicted this when He made the promise that the Paraclete, the Holy Spirit, would come: “He shall teach you all things and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said to you.”469
No mention is here made of any angel mediating the apostolic inspiration. When in the world the Lord appeared to men’s physical sight in His own assumed human. After this had been glorified and after His ascension into heaven He appeared in person to men only when their spiritual eyes were opened.470 It is related in the Writings that the Lord manifested Himself “in person,” that is, in His glorified Human, before Swedenborg’s spiritual sight and filled him with His Spirit, in order that he might receive the doctrines of the New Church in the understanding and “teach them through the Word from Him.” In the course of this his mission Swedenborg was introduced into the spiritual world and spoke continually with spirits and angels. Yet, he adds, “I have not received anything that pertains to the doctrine of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone, while reading the Word.”471
Yet the mediation of angels in the giving of Divine revelation had not ceased with the Lord’s ascension into heaven. In the last chapters of the Apocalypse it is plainly shown how John was instructed by the Lord Jesus Christ through an angel filled with the Divine who declared “the true sayings of God.” The angel was not speaking from himself and therefore explained to John that he was only serving as a prophet and was not to be worshipped; but immediately after this he resumes his message: “I am Alpha and Omega the beginning and the end, the first and the last. … I Jesus send My angel to testify unto you these things in the churches. . . . “472
While the Lord, in His person or as to His Divine Human, is constantly encompassed by the heavenly sun, He often presents Himself “by aspect” in and below heaven and among the angels. This is effected through some angel whom He fills “from afar” with His Divine.473 On a number of occasions the Lord so appeared before Swedenborg. The ancient mode has not been abrogated, but is utilized when the states of the angels so require. Yet there is an important difference. For it is the Lord in His glorified Human—”the Divine Natural”—which is now revealed when it pleases the Lord to appear in a borrowed angelic form.474
Swedenborg and the Angels
The inspired writing of the Heavenly Doctrine and the revelation of the spiritual sense of the Word was not accomplished by any dictation by the Lord through angels. To stress this important fact is not to deny that Swedenborg’s mission would have failed unless the Lord had provided for him a constant and open companionship with spirits and angels.
It should be observed that the prophets of old had two specific states which must be well distinguished. While in vision they saw various representations in the other world with the eyes of their spirit, their body being in a passive state of trance. On the other hand, while writing the Scriptures they were “in the body” and enjoyed a Divine inspiration and a dictate by which the words were selected from their memories, in such a way that each writer retained his own peculiar style.475 Their occasional introduction into spiritual vision was necessary to furnish their memory with a field of symbols and correspondences wider than that which their earthly experience and their narrow knowledge of human history could provide.
Swedenborg, for the writing of the Heavenly Doctrine, had to be given a far wider, more prolonged and profound experience of the spiritual world and all its phenomena. Different from any of the prophets, he was to grasp the laws of that world with a rational understanding and, as an official observer, report what he had been “led to perceive.” His memorable narrations of his spiritual experiences therefore occupy a considerable portion of the inspired Writings. He became familiar, in his daily intercourse with spirits, with all manner of spiritual states, those of the angels and also those of the infernals. Even his contact with the most repulsive spirits could add to his knowledge of the truth.
Thus he notes in his journal, “Even those things which I have learned by means of evil spirits, I have learned from the Lord alone, although the spirits spoke.”476 He was forbidden to believe anything that they said, and was held in an inmost reflection on whatever was represented before him, and at the same time given an internal dictate from the Lord as to what was the truth.477 He perceived distinctly what came from angels and spirits and what from the Lord. “What has come from the Lord has been written,” he testified; “what has come from angels has not been written.”478 His spiritual experiences were sometimes recalled to his memory by an angel when he returned into the state of the body and began to write.479 In order to be informed about the way the prophets were inspired, he was brought into certain experimental states when spirits led his pen and dictated the words.480 But he did not write down the doctrine from any verbal dictation by any “angel of Jehovah,” but from an immediate inspiration, or “from the mouth of the Lord alone.” His inspiration came “while reading the Word.”481 Not only was he then given to see the internal sense of the Scriptures which is the doctrine of heaven, but by the same means he was able to recognize and formulate those many principles of “angelic wisdom” which —as an interpretative philosophy—are applied in the Writings to our human situations and problems, such as relate to social uses, government, marriage, education, or to our concepts of creation and the cosmic whole.482
Revelation through the Word
The reason why the written Word was given is that man can no longer profit from immediate or conscious intercourse with the inhabitants of the spiritual world. Since the Old Testament Scriptures, and also the Apocalypse, were clothed in heavy veils of correspondences and sensuous imagery, an ‘angel of Jehovah’ served to convey them to their inspired writers. But in the Gospels and in the Writings, wherein the correspondential and prophetic Word is fulfilled and explained, the Lord speaks directly and more plainly, as the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the glorified Human, the Spirit of Truth which shall lead men into all truth.
The goal of all religion is a conjunction of man with the Lord. Not with spirits or angels, however necessary these are as associates and guardians of our souls. And to the New Christian Church the Lord is at last openly manifested in His Divine Human as the one God of heaven and earth, visible to men and angels even without the mediation of any borrowed angelic form.483
In the literal sense of the Word, when this is understood from the Heavenly Doctrine which is its internal sense, the Lord is present with men and speaks to them directly, and enlightens their rational minds.484 This enlightenment is brought about only when man’s spirit is environed by angelic spheres which hold him in a love of spiritual truth.485 But it is the Lord, not the angels, who is the source of the light. And it is taught that after the Advent this enlightenment is not, as theretofore, “mediate through the angelic heaven,” but “immediate” from the Lord’s Divine Natural.486 The only “mediation” is now the Word itself. The Lord now manifests Himself to men “only” through the Word in its internal sense, for the Word, which is the Divine truth, is the Lord Himself in heaven and in the church.487
The general teaching points out that representatives ceased when the Lord rose from the sepulchre and entered into the power of His Divine Natural, by which He could become visible and “immediately present” with man. For thus He could illustrate man’s natural mind with heavenly light and operate “perceptively” in man by His Holy Spirit, so that man “can comprehend spiritual truths naturally.”488
To see God means to see the truth concerning Him. “They who are in enlightenment when they read the Word, see the Lord; and this takes place from faith and from love. This is effected in the Word only, and not in any other writing whatsoever.”489 “It has been believed that man might be more enlightened and wise if he should have an immediate revelation through speech with spirits and with angels. But the contrary is the case.” Enlightenment by means of the Word is effected by an interior way—through the will into the understanding; while enlightenment from speech with spirits is effected by an exterior way—through the hearing into the understanding. If spirits were permitted to instruct any man they could in any case only speak according to the man’s own religious ideas and could tell him nothing new. This was the reason why the Scribe of the Second Advent—although informed through daily intercourse with spiritual beings—was “not allowed to take anything from the mouth of any spirit, nor from the mouth of any angel, but from the mouth of the Lord alone.”490 And this was the reason why the Lord in His parable cites Abraham as saying, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, though one rose from the dead.”491
It is therefore to the Word in all its forms of Scripture and Doctrine that man must turn for Divine instruction and leading. Through that which the Lord reveals man can be separated from the spheres of evil spirits and introduced as to his affections into a secret yet effective bond with angelic societies. This consociation is brought to pass through the sense of the letter of the Word when this is understood from the doctrine of genuine truth; which is now openly disclosed by the Lord in His second advent—not by any “immediate revelation from spirits or angels” but by an “immediate revelation” “from the mouth of the Lord alone.”492
The new doctrine not only opens the internal depths of Divine wisdom within the inspired Scriptures and displays the arcana of the Lord’s glorification and the provisions for man’s regeneration, but it also discloses the secrets of the afterlife and the relations of spirits and men. It unfolds the mind of God and the ends of His creation. By this doctrine of genuine truth the Lord stands revealed in the very literal sense of His Word. For “the Lord is present with man and enlightens him, and teaches the truths of the church, there and nowhere else.”493
The Word in all its forms, whether given through an “angel of Jehovah” or inspired directly by the Lord in His Divine Human, is the sole means whereby an errant race may find its way back to conjunction with God.
Starting Science From God
The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html
We have all heard about so-called communications purportedly from a spirit world through mediums. However, less well known are those where no medium is involved. These have been called ‘after death communications’ (ADCs) and might be seen as evidence of life after death. An ADC is defined as a spiritual experience that occurs when someone is contacted directly and spontaneously by a deceased family member or friend.
Is Marian’s ADC evidence of life after death?
For example Marian aged 71 years who lives in Florida was in bed reading one evening. Her father had been dead for 33 years but she suddenly heard his voice urgently telling her to get out of the bed. She walked into the family room and sat down for 3 minutes wondering. She then felt the whole house shuddering with things rattling in cupboards and falling off shelves. Going outside she saw why. A heavy branch from her neighbour’s tree had fallen on her roof; a totally unexpected event as it had been a windless night. In her bedroom she discovered three enormous holes in the ceiling and her bed covered with lumber, plaster, and debris.
Are such reports about what dead loved ones say, just the wish fulfilling fantasies and dreams of grieving people as most professional social care and health workers say, or are they genuine communication from the dead and thus evidence of life after death? It is difficult to argue that Marian was grieving for her late father, given the length of time since her bereavement.
The Guggenheim’s evidence of life after death
According to research by Bill and Judy Guggenheim, ADCs happen surprisingly often and many first-hand accounts are reported in their book Hello from Heaven.
They point out that, since many religions specifically warn against summoning ‘spirits’, all experiences that involved seances, Ouija boards, crystal balls etc., were excluded from their study. They advertised for first-hand accounts of after death communications and spoke with 2,000 people in North America filling more than 10,000 pages of interview transcripts.
Perhaps it is only in reading these that one can make an informed judgment about their credibility as evidence of life after death. Confidence about this is increased when the receiver is not in a state of grief and when unknown information is received.
Is Millinda’s ADC evidence of life after death?
Another example is that of Millinda. She and Tom grew up together as next-door neighbours. She lost contact with him after she moved to Texas. Ten years later she woke up one night and saw him standing at the bottom of her bed in a Navy uniform. She had thought he was intending to become a Catholic priest. He said, “Good-bye, Melinda, I’m leaving now.” And he disappeared. After three days she received a letter from her mother saying Tom had been killed in action serving as a chaplain in the Navy. More evidence of life after death?
Are Swedenborg’s ADCs evidence of life after death?
Most people who have an ADC do so only once. However Emanuel Swedenborg was someone who reported having many ADCs from the spirits of dead people. These were not loved ones for whom he had had any sense of loss or grief.
According to his testimony, he did occasionally experience the after-life in a dream or vision, but nearly always it was in a state of full wakefulness so that he could retain his full freedom and exercise his human judgment. He wrote up these extraordinary experiences in meticulous detail and included reports of these in his theological and philosophical books.
The reason people today who experience an ADC is often specific – to warn them of some danger, to prepare them for the shock of a sudden bereavement, to provide them with needed help, and to reassure them about the well-being of a love one who has died. However in the case of Swedenborg the purpose was to provide a comprehensive description of the after-life.
He describes what he calls ‘the spiritual world’ as similar to the life with which we are familiar. He says, however, it does not follow physical laws but rather reflects human feeling and thought.
For all that, it is just as real as our world and in fact he emphasises the solidity of what is seen there and the individual spirit body of each inhabitant.
“After death, we enjoy every sense, memory, thought, and affection we had in the world: we leave nothing behind except our earthly body. Repeated experience has witnessed to me that when we move from the natural world into the spiritual, which happens when we die, we take with us everything that pertains to our character except our earthly body. In fact, when we enter the spiritual world or our life after death, we are in a body as we were in this world. There seems to be no difference, since we do not feel or see any difference. This body is spiritual, though, so it has been separated or purified from earthly matter. Further, when anything spiritual touches and sees something spiritual, it is just like something natural touching and seeing something natural. So when we have become a spirit, we have no sense that we are not in the body we inhabited in the world, and therefore do not realize that we have died.” (Swedenborg Heaven and Hell section 461)
Copyright 2012 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Posted on3rd February 2012
Discovering inner health and transformation
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
Posted on 21st June 2016 22nd June 2016
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
14 Influx and Disease
“Is it easier to say to one sick of the palsy, Thy sins are forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk?” Mark 2:9
Order, Freedom, and the Permission of Evil
“Heaven keeps all things in connection and safety.” But “hell destroys and rends all things asunder.”351 This is the general truth from which the Arcana Coelestia proceeds to its teaching about the origin and nature of disease.
The societies of heaven receive from the Lord an influx of mutual love, which seeks to give happiness to others and allows freedom for the uses of others. Therefore there is a general influx from the Lord through the societies of heaven which maintains the order and health of human society and of the human body. By general influx, the human body is moulded into an organism which corresponds to all the uses of the Grand Man of heaven. Similarly, by general influx, a society is moulded into a replica of the human form. So far as a society is performing the uses of communal life, it is in the order of heaven, and in a noble form. So far as the human body is functioning, it has beauty and grace and nobility, even if man’s mind be perverted. For the Lord spreads the sunshine of health upon the evil and upon the good. Only upon the basis of a sound body can a sound mind be built. Only in states of health and rationality can man’s spiritual reformation proceed. The Lord exerts His providence to provide these ultimates of order for all men, because His primary gift to man—the freedom which makes of man a responsible human soul—can be exercised only where order exists.
But freedom would be but a name, if man could not at all reject or disturb the order which the Lord provides for him. Freedom implies that man can, if he will, disturb that order not only for himself, but for others! Freedom implies that man should be free not only to think and will against the order of God, but that he shall also feel able to carry his purposes into act and set up a plane of disorder in the world. In no other way could his free will be conveyed to the comprehension of others; in no other way could he invoke the cooperation or opposition of others, who, in their turn, are free to respond. Life would not be free if it were confined within the airtight space of one’s own intentions ! Man must be free to commit mistakes, to do actual evil, to spoil the handiwork of the Creator, and abuse His agencies.
When this occurs, and order has been disrupted, the general influx from heaven gives way so far as man insists. Fundamentally, and as to all His final purposes, the Lord alone rules the universe, which cannot be upset by fickle man. It is legitimate to inquire, how far evil can derange the ultimate order of life.
That it can do so in the realm of the mind, is of course plain to see. The two higher degrees of the mind of which we are not cognizant in this life, are indeed in the order of heaven.352 But the natural degree, or the “natural mind” in which man is conscious on earth, becomes perverted as to its thoughts and affections, as to its organic habits, its spontaneous reactions, and its reasonings. Indeed, by birth, or from heredity, the natural mind of present day man is utterly opposed to the gyre and flow of heaven. It is within the various degrees of that natural mind that the hells are formed.353 And for one’s salvation, that mind must be reformed and reconstructed into the order of heaven.
But perversions go further than the mind. The brain and the rest of the body can become disordered, and after death they actually disintegrate in the grave. Not only disease, but “death,” comes from “no other source than sin.”354 But let us here pause a moment to free our minds of several possible misunderstandings.
The Actuality of Evil and the Necessity of Death
Swedenborg did not belong to that school of so-called “idealists” which regards the body and the world of matter as mere projections of the mind. He believed in the reality of the natural world which he describes as existing independently of man or man’s thought. He states that man was created last of all—as the culmination of the organic kingdoms. There is therefore no kinship between the teaching of the Writings and that of Mrs. Mary Baker Eddy (the founder of “Christian Science”). It has recurrently been stated that “Christian Science” was partly derived from Swedenborg. And on the surface, we find a great many phrases and ideas in Science and Health which are obviously borrowed from the Writings. “The three great pioneers of mental-healing, Dr. Quimby, Dr. Evans, and Mrs. Eddy, were readers and students [?] of Swedenborg . . . but they were more influenced by Berkeley. . . . “355 As the late Rev. John Whitehead put it: “Many flowers have been culled from Swedenborg’s garden, but they have been transplanted without roots.” Both Swedenborg and Mrs. Eddy teach that the natural mind (or what she called the “mortal mind”) is the seat of evil and the origin of disease. But Swedenborg shows that the mind is a real organism of finite substances, both spiritual and natural, while Mrs. Eddy regarded her “mortal mind” as an illusion —as “nothing claiming to be something.” The body, to her, was merely an offspring of the delusions of mortal mind!
When the Writings state that death has no other origin than sin, the reference is presumably to death from disease. The language of Scripture alludes to the life of sin as the death of the soul. In the symbolic story of Genesis, death is said to have come upon man because of his eating of “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”; which made him feel like a god who could decide for himself what was good and evil. This was the spiritual death which overcame the first race— those signified by “Adam”—who were of a “celestial” genius. And the Arcana Coelestia explains that the “antediluvians” who perished in the “Flood” meant some of their descendants who could not master their evil passions—with the physical result that they died of a species of suffocation.356
Thus the symbolic prediction became literally fulfilled. And the same still holds of death from disease. But in a wider sense, death antedates both disease and sin. Death, so regarded, is but a part of finite life. Our blood dies and is restored with each breath of the lungs. The cycles of finite things all end in a death of passivity. Endless successions of plants and animals lived and propagated and died before man’s advent on earth. And mankind, before its fall into sin, was not immune to bodily death. Eternally to live on earth could be no reward for virtue. The statement that death is from no other source than from sin, is therefore qualified by the explanation that “if man had lived the life of good … he would be without disease, and would only decline to extreme old age, even until he became a child again, but a wise child ; and when the body could no longer minister to his internal man or spirit, he would pass without disease out of his earthly body into a body such as the angels have. . . . “357 From this we judge that the absence of evil—actual or hereditary— creates a pre-disposition to health. It does not prevent physical death or the wear and tear upon bodily tissues. But it prevents what the Writings call “disease”—a word which we associate with a destructive influx and with states of pain and mental anguish.
A further word might be premised about the reason why evil, which is a mental state, is permitted to extend its influence into the body and the natural world. Evil that is hidden cannot be examined, shunned, and removed. Evil in the mind exists as a desire not only to think and intend, but also to do and speak. It goes out to change the state of others— forcibly to remould the world more nearly to one’s advantage, and to profit despite another’s hurt! Unless it be seen that such indeed is the effect of the evil state of mind, evil could never be recognized. Evil in a man harms uses—his own and those of others—harms his body and the bodies of others.
In an orderly life we see a balance of good uses—such as we observe in a healthy organism. But when evil and its bodily effects came into existence, one evil is used to counterbalance another. We see this in the constant warfare of insect-pests, in the neutralization of extremes, in the balanced germ-life of our own bodies. It is even suggested that evil men do not defeat the Divine government since “one is the remedy of the other, for evil is cured by evil.”358
On earth there is much grumbling against the Divine Providence because evils and bodily sufferings are permitted. Yet in the view of the angels, bodily sufferings are as nothing when the eternal welfare of a man is at stake. The use of pain—as a signal to man that his body is in disorder—is indispensable. Without pain, man could not be warned of his mistakes or recognize his dangers. Pain and disease are thus necessary as long as man governs himself by his fallible prudence. If one still led a spontaneous life in the order of his creation, and were governed by general influx, and thus lived a life of wise instincts, he would no doubt be less liable to mistakes and abuses, less liable to pain and disease; and the fulfilment of his goals might be far easier than today.
The general effect of the teachings of the Writings seems to be that the real origin of disease was evil and self-will. The insistence on breaking the rules of rational moderation, the indulgence to excess, the refusal to curb the appetites, have caused men to turn aside from the “tree of life” and to eat gluttonously of the fruit of knowledge which would make men as gods who determined for themselves what was good or evil for them.
We rightly call disease and its consequent pains evil, because they imply a partial defeat of the ends of life, for they disturb the uses of society. They pull the mind down and make one conscious of his body, which should serve—as it did in most ancient times—merely as an instrument whereby the soul may perform uses for the minds of others.
Evil spirits love material things and attach material values, material meanings, even to spiritual things. Therefore they seek to immerse man’s mind into his bodily life. They rejoice and are in their delights when they can induce man to reflect on his sensual pleasures or pains. Some spirits would indeed obsess man, if they could, and return into the body through men. Such, however, are now confined in their hells, i.e., they are not permitted near men. To cure them of their desire, certain punishing spirits are permitted to induce upon them the feeling that they, too, actually have a material body. And to spirits it is an inconceivable torture to feel themselves bound within an earthly body, for thus they can be subjected to all manner of tormenting fantasies.359
* * *
To assert that “every one draws disease upon himself from the evil of life” may seem a hard saying.360 We may readily admit that many diseases are obviously traceable to overindulgences, passions, or a useless, self-centered life. But there is some comfort in the further teaching of the Writings which shows that the real cause of disease lies in the other world— thus not necessarily in man’s own evils, but in the influx of the hells. “All the infernals induce diseases. … If infernals apply themselves, they induce diseases, and at last death.”361
The idea that illnesses come from the influence of evil spirits is regarded in the world as a superstition. And yet it must be admitted that all man’s passions and lusts are nothing but effects of the spirits whose invisible presence feeds our contrary moods. If disease comes from such a source, it can readily be understood why the miracles which the Lord performed on earth were chiefly works of healing. His mission was to restore order in the spiritual world. What He did on earth corresponded to His work of redeeming mankind from the dominion of evil spirits.362 He did not come to take away all sickness; but each of His miraculous cures marked a step in the battle against the hells—representing on earth what He was doing in the spiritual world. There were many sick and blind in those days, but only a relatively few were healed.363
Many of the early Christians believed that the Lord came to establish a kingdom of God on earth, in which evil would have no place, nor disease or death. Yet after nearly two thousand years have passed, illness and evil persist. But what the Lord came to do was done. This was the ordering of the spiritual world so that men might be free to choose between good and evil, and progress into heaven if they willed. A spiritual judgment was performed, and certain restraints were imposed on the hells. One of the results was, that the obsessing of man’s body by evil spirits was henceforth made impossible.364 Yet disease, and the consequences of disease, were not removed.
The spiritual law now operating is, that selected good spirits and evil spirits are allowed to inflow into men’s minds. The evil spirits thus stir up lusts and falsities, by particular influx, and man feels these changing states as his own. But, as was shown in chapter XIII, the body is governed by a general influx through the societies of the Grand Man of heaven. So far as spirits are performing uses in the Grand Man, so far their societies are assigned as media for the general influx of life into the various corresponding organs and parts of the human body. The influx takes place “into the use of the organ” and so into the organ itself.365 So far as man’s body is in functional order, so far it mirrors and receives the flux of corresponding spiritual uses which make up the Grand Man; and then evil spirits are entirely unable to cause any disorders in the body. “They are not permitted to inflow as far as into the solid things of the body,” thus not into tissues or organs. But if for any reason the order of the body is disturbed, then evil spirits—who are not within the Grand Man, but together compose an opposite spiritual form which might rather be called “the Grand Monstrosity”—are permitted to inflow into the disorder, or “into the unclean things which belong to disease.”366
(The precise meaning of these teachings may be somewhat debatable. In discussing the subject of disease, we are conscious of the imprudence of trespassing on alien ground; for it belongs to the medical profession to form a philosophy of disease and cure. Yet the doctrinal statements that will provide the principles for such a philosophy must be cited, since we set out to treat of the influence of spirits upon human states. Admittedly, in drawing out these statements, a certain personal perspective cannot be avoided).
Causes and Cures, Natural and Spiritual
“Only when a man falls into disease” can spirits inflow into his body, and then only “into those things in the man where the disease is” or “into such unclean things as belong to the disease.”366 What are these unclean things ? And how does a man “fall into disease” ?
That illnesses exist which flow directly from lusts and passions of the mind has already been mentioned.367 But we are also assured that “diseases do indeed exist from natural causes among men . . . but as soon as they exist, spirits flow thither which correspond to that disease.” Swedenborg continues : “For spirits who are in evil and falsity, produce precisely such things as are sensibly perceived in sicknesses, as I have plainly experienced . . . beyond all mistake. . . . Hence it is, since such spirits apply themselves there and aggravate the disease by their presence, that if they should be removed by the Lord, man would at once be restored; for there are evil and false spirits to whom correspond diseases and ailments of every kind.”368We presume that such a sudden restoral is possible only where no member is actually cut off.
Swedenborg himself seems to have been immune to any diseases which came from natural causes. For he adds: “But such a one who is as to the spirit in the other life, is immune so long as the Lord permits him to live in the world.”369 Certainly, his biographers agree that his health in later days was remarkable.
Why was this? Perhaps because natural causes do not appear as natural to one who is sensible of the spiritual realm ! At any rate, he continues: “But, because we do not believe spirits to be about us, all these things are ascribed to natural causes. Medicines help! But still more the Lord’s Providence—as people do confess. And, strange to say, sufferers pray to God that they may be restored, and declare that God has restored them; but still, when they are out of that state, every one of them ascribes [his cure] to nature !”370
If we analyze natural causes, they are bound to resolve into spiritual causes. Even an earthquake could not affect anyone unless a spiritual cause—a mental state—has led him to abide in the zone of danger. And in the spiritual world those causes which on earth seem utterly disconnected and beyond any visible law, may be seen to be marvelously dependent on spiritual laws of Divine foresight and permission.
Yet man on earth, not knowing these spiritual connections and interior causes, must act according to his own judgment and prudence. For Providence, in His leading of man, uses also man’s prudence. Disasters that appear to have natural causes, can be ameliorated—at least for the time—by natural remedies. “Medicines help!” “Diseases”—we read—”can be, and also ought to be cured by natural means, for the Providence of the Lord concurs with such means; and thus also man is the longer kept from faith in a Divine Providence in most particular things: for if man should believe this, and then deny it, he would profane a most sacred truth, which profanation is itself a most dreadful hell.”371
The fact that there are spiritual causes operating within disease, “does not prevent man’s being healed naturally, for the Divine Providence concurs with such means.”372 Even the Lord Himself, in one instance, used an external means of cure, when He made clay of His spittle and laid it on the blind man’s eyes. There is power in ultimates. For influx is according to the vessel that receives. A disorderly plane attracts evil influx. If the disorder is corrected, the forces of the general influx through heaven—which operate in unison with the soul’s healing power and creative, formative influx into the body—will again take charge and restore the broken tissues so far as is possible.
It is important to distinguish between a disorder in the body and the disease which may follow it. A small wound, accidentally incurred, will heal without difficulty if it be kept clean. It is only a wear in the tissues—such as occurs, in different fashion, again and again in normal life; and the formative powers of the soul immediately begin to weave new fibres, new cell-structures, to repair the damage. For the soul is as it were omniscient as to all that happens in its body, and continually creates new cells, and redistributes the functions of the body most wisely while healing is going on. The soul also unifies the action of all the cells and fibres and organs into a single whole. There is no break in what we have called “general influx.” But when decay and infection set in, then the “unclean things of the disease” also attract a corresponding influx from the spiritual world. For life is constantly present—it is never absent, knows no limitations of time or space. “The expanse of life … is not an extense, but is yet within the extense of the natural sun, and is with living subjects there according to reception, and reception is according to forms and states.”373According to the quality of the natural vessel, such is the quality of the influx. Heaven cannot inflow into the unclean things of disease. But the life-spheres of hell can and do, and they act therein negatively— to oppose the human form, which is in the order of heaven, and to shatter the harmony of its uses.
What occurs in man’s body in illness resembles what takes place in a man’s mind, which is subject to spiritual diseases. “The sins retained in an impenitent man may be compared to various diseases in him: unless medicines are brought to bear on them, and the malignities are thereby removed, the man dies.”374
This is more than a comparison. For the mind also is in the human form, and has its ailments, each of which corresponds to some bodily disease. The mind—we must remember—is a spiritual organism. And while we live on earth, our mind is enclosed within the tissues of our material body, so intimately that every state of the mind has an effect on the interiors of the body; and in turn the mind accommodates itself so closely to the state of the body, that it appears as if the body had an effect upon the mind.
Spiritual states—mental states—are actuated from the presence of spirits. These spirits do not see or know the man. They only see the knowledges of man’s memory, and think by their means just as if they were man. And when we say that evil spirits inflow or act upon the diseased things of the body, this is said according to the appearance. Spirits cannot “enter” man’s body, nor do they seem to themselves to do so. But when they act spiritually into evil ideas, fantasies, and emotions, and follow the “ways” of spiritual decay which correspond to opposites of the human body, then the sphere of these spirits causes a maladjustment of the currents regulating growth in the body.373 Swedenborg notes that with one like himself whose interiors were open to sense the spiritual environment, spirits who corresponded to various diseases actually produced—in different parts of his body—the symptoms and sensations of these diseases, and this on their first approach.376 He felt their operation within him in that way,377 yet his organic body was apparently not affected, for he was protected by the Lord.378 Until he became accustomed to it, the pain was often almost unbearable.379 At the same time the spiritual character and function of the spirits were manifested, and Swedenborg spoke to them and felt how they affected his thought and emotion.
It belongs to the various departments of medicine to determine what the influx of spirits effects in the bodies of men during disease. Some of these effects are well known. There may be a sudden multiplication of bacterial colonies. There may be the engendering of poisons that infect the fluids and retard or disturb the tissue processes. There may be misdirected or cancerous growths of certain tissues. There may be upsets of the body-tone and of the harmonious vibratory motions by which life in the body is sustained. There may be deficiencies of some of the simple elements or of the complex organic chemicals which food must contain to supply the cells and tissues with the means of growth and renewal. In many cases there occurs an abnormal rise or fall of the vital heat upon which the chemistry of the body depends for its balance.
Diseases are sometimes attended by the presence of bacteria—germs which multiply with incredible speed to generate poisons and to clog the tissues. The nature of such disease germs was not known in Swedenborg’s day and is therefore not directly discussed in the Writings. But it is clear that these invading micro-organisms are to be included with the “unclean things” of disease.380 For evil spirits can inflow only into organic receptacles which, while in the body, are in some way isolated from the soul’s control. It is important to note the teaching that medicines wisely administered can serve in the Divine providence as an effective means by which the ultimates of evil influx can be weakened, counteracted, or removed, so that the influx is diverted from the body. In extreme cases the surgeon’s scalpel must remove the disordered tissue to prevent the spread of the malignity. But such external remedies do not reach the inner causes of disease which will be further considered in our next chapter.
That the inmost soul has at its disposal many marvelous agencies in the body is obvious in all stages of the formation of the embryo and the growth of the body. The strange appearance of “anti-bodies” to counter disease germs in the blood stream is an example of how the balance of organic life is maintained as if by an omniscient government; as is also the dominant role played by the secretions of the endocrine glands. That this government is mediated by the spiritual world has been the theme of this book. But man’s mind is his own special spiritual world. And health and disease may both depend on his psychical states. The philosophy of disease and cure which will eventually take form among the people of the New Church must account first of all for the relation of the body to the mind, and thus to the spiritual world.
The full text of this book is now online, at http://www.beginningtheisticscience.com/book/index.html
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
“So He giveth His beloved in sleep.” Psalm 127:2
The Blessing of Sleep
The stream of man’s conscious life is intermittent, broken by recurring lapses into the unconscious state of sleep, from which he wakens with a new vigor of mind and body, in a new state and with a new start. The state of yesterday is still with us in the morning, as a memory that calls to us for a resumption of our duties or our routine; but it does not bind us entirely. Much is happily forgotten, and the thought of the burden and the heat of yesterday is not so oppressively present. Gradually we pick up the threads of former thoughts, discarding much that is unimportant.
It might seem as if our life was cut up into disjointed segments by these periods of sleep. But nothing is lost from our mind. The stream of consciousness has simply found rest in a limpid pool where its waters are clarified for its further progress. It is the conscious mind—the self-directed thought —that is affected by the apparent death of sleep. “Love does not sleep,” we read in the Arcana Coelestia.283The affections, the subconscious yearnings, instincts, and delights of the will provide a continuity of the whole personality. Man wakes the same man. And through the miracle of memory he has still at his disposal all his past experience and knowledge.
The function of sleep is so important that even the angels, in their evening states, find comfort and refreshment in slumher. For their bodies and their minds—though both spiritual —are yet finite, and all finite things have limits of endurance.
Man’s body, during the day, is largely governed by the caprice of his own will, by his voluntary decisions, which are not always rational. If man could know the exact degree of strain which each part of his body could bear without injury, he might avoid some of the abuses to which he actually exposes his organism. But even so there would be need for relaxation of body and brain and for a restoral of equilibrium after every sustained exertion.
In his philosophical works, Swedenborg offers an explanation of the physiology of sleep. He states that man’s conscious will (or voluntary) resides in the cerebrum or anterior part of the brain, and that deliberate action is initiated from the “cortical glands” there. These brain-cells, by extending fibres, govern all the muscles of the limbs and of the skeletal frame, and force the body into motion and position. The cerebellum or hind-brain, on the other hand, has control of all the viscera and their internal workings, quite independently of man’s will and unbeknown to his consciousness. The cerebellum also causes “antagonistic” muscles to counterpoise, makes smooth the workings of the muscles controlled by the cerebrum, and restores the natural equilibrium of forces which the conscious will has disturbed. In wakefulness, the cerebellum is relatively overruled and not active to its fullest extent. But in sleep, which comes over a man when the abused fibres of body and brain are no longer responsive to his will, the little cells of the cerebrum become relaxed. They are then isolated from the continual stream of subtle nourishment which is offered them through the arteries; so that they no longer receive the “purer blood” which they otherwise renovate and propel into the fibres. They continue indeed to receive, for their own future need, constant supplies of what Swedenborg calls “etherial chyle” through the “corporeal fibres”; and the inmost circulation of the “spirituous fluid”— the soul’s own vice-regent—continues as before. But the connections between the various glands and between the cortex and the body, are temporarily broken. And thus there are but slight muscular motions and no voluntary action. Sensations cannot reach the seat of consciousness, and the sceptre of the body is handed over to the cerebellum.284
In sleep, therefore, the soul, acting through the cerebellum, restores the order of nature. Acting by involuntary fibres it mends the broken or strained tissues, reestablishes a balance in the metabolism of the cells of the whole body, and improves the spontaneity of the various organs.285
The Arcana states that “the cerebellum is awake in time of sleep when the cerebrum slumbers.”286 “The Lord guards man with most especial care during his sleep,” for without sleep “the human race would perish.” In sleep, the Lord Himself watches even over His enemies and does them good.287 He loves all, and “He giveth His beloved in sleep.”288
Sleep bears a certain likeness to death. In sleep man retires from the world and its anxieties and departs from all his fellowmen. His senses being inactive, he not only becomes oblivious to the fixed world about him, but his memory of it also sinks into quiescence. Up to a certain point, physical pain and states of emotion which stir up his blood may prevent such a retirement. But when he finally gives way to sleep, he enters a world without sense of time and indifferent to space.
Even as the angels of the resurrection are celestial in type, so also are the angels whom the Lord appoints to guard man in sleep. They are in fact angelic spirits of the province of the cerebellum; for the cerebellum perceives the states of the body by an “involuntary sense.” It is their duty to prevent evil spirits from infesting man during his slumbers—a duty which they perform with the greatest delight, so that there is a rivalry among them as to who should be present. Only persons who have “delighted, and loved in every way and with the utmost effort, to make the life of others delightful,” are eligible to serve such offices after death.289
The World of Dreams
Sleep is a state of unconsciousness. Yet there are certain factors—conditions which we cannot catalogue—which cause the return of consciousness in a strange and partial way. “To sleep—perchance to dream.” The natural memory may be aroused in a new manner, and man comes into that state on the borderland of the unconscious which we call the world of dreams: a strange world of fancy, built up from the broken fragments of experience into sequences which defy the logic by which we discipline our conscious thinking.
The fact of this dream-world has ever fascinated men. Primitive peoples saw in it a sign that there existed another world—a world of “doubles”—which they mostly confused with the spiritual world itself, but in which they saw themselves as actors. For in dreams the spirit of man seems to be released from the body to wander abroad in wider fields. The ancients also attached special meanings to their dreams, seeing obscure warnings and predictions in the jumbled recollections of their nocturnal experiences. Plato believed that our dreams gave us intimations of the various appetites and instincts which lay hidden in our nature; including bestial desires which the self-rebuke of reason kept out of our consciously directed thoughts, but which were given free rein during sleep.290 And in these modern days the Platonic view has again become the vogue. Dr. Sigmund Freud of Vienna founded upon it a new school of psycho-therapy, by analyzing the repressed longings and forgotten fears of the “subconscious mind” from the dreams in which these secret emotions reveal themselves in symbolic forms. The fact that Dr. Freud cynically traced all such emotions to a sexual origin does not take away all truth from Plato’s sage observations, nor does it lessen the value of further studies along this line.
Indeed, behind all these traditional views of dreams there lies a substratum of truth. Dreams do touch the fringe of the spiritual world. Dreams do at times have a prophetic burden or some special significance. Dreams occasionally reveal to man some of the longings and delights that are submerged and repressed in the depths of his being. Robsahm writes in his memoirs: “I asked Swedenborg whether, in our times, it was worth while to pay attention to dreams; upon which he answered that the Lord no longer at the present day makes revelations by dreams, but that nevertheless it may happen that one who understands correspondences may derive advantage from his dreams; just as a person who is awake may examine his own state by comparing his own will with God’s commandments.”291
This account by Robsahm cannot be taken as entirely correct, but is none the less interesting when we consider that in the period when Swedenborg’s spiritual faculties were first being opened he kept a private record of his dreams and of the interpretations that he put upon them. He instinctively felt that his dreams were—like his commencing visions—significative and symbolic. In his humility he did not spare himself in these interpretations. Yet it may be questioned whether he as yet knew the science of correspondences sufficiently to make those dreams more than the background for his own perceptions about his state while he was grasping for some indications of the work into which the Lord was leading him. (See his Journal of 1744).
That dreams, whether they are orderly or incoherent, are significant is as true as that the whole world is a theater representative of uses. Everything in both worlds, and in both body and mind, is symbolic of the forces at work—could we but know what these are. In the Writings these forces are described. And it appears from the teachings that no blame is attached to man for things occurring during sleep. For then man relinquishes his command. His will, or proprium, is taken away, and his natural understanding is laid asleep.292 In dreams, his “spiritual sight” is helpless and irresponsible and therefore usually quite impersonal, while the contents of his memory are being reconstructed into vivid imagery and into situations which symbolize states that are not his own, but which belong to spirits, and perhaps to angels, who are with him.
“Such stuff as dreams are made on” comes from the man. Nothing actually new—never before seen or felt—comes through dreams. But because man’s internal sight then is only a beholder,292 and man not really a responsible actor, the most strange and impossible situations usually cause him no surprise, the most ridiculous happenings cause no amusement, terrors may cause no fear. His memory may retain the dream in part, or he may—like Nebuchadnezzar—be unable to remember it. When an emotion, such as fear or shame, is felt in a dream, the man on waking need not take any responsibility for it. The thing is a matter of record, but not a part of his nature. In other words, if his external memory retains an impress of the dream, yet his internal memory, his interior thought and affection, has felt no influx and received no stain.
We have been treating of dreams in general. But the Writings tell us that there are at least three distinct kinds of dreams, or dreams from three sources.293
The first type is a dream which comes from the Lord Himself, either immediately or mediately through heaven.294 Such were the prophetic dreams mentioned in the Word. This is a form of Divine revelation. Thus an angel was filled with the Divine to the exclusion of his own proprium and consciousness, and appeared in a dream to a prophet on earth, clothing himself in the mental imagery of the man’s external memory and, thus seen, impressed the man with a series of representations which were adopted as the direct symbols of the Lord’s Divine truth. Such dream-visions sometimes conveyed to the prophet’s mind an external significance, as for instance a prediction of some future event. But the spiritual meaning of dreams was seen only by internal men such as the people of the most ancient church.295
One class of dreams stands by itself, although it somewhat resembles the prophetical. We refer to a dream in which the Lord was seen by Swedenborg. The actual call to his mission had occurred in a state of vision.296 But in the Diary he jotted down the following remarkable memorandum: “The Lord was seen by me in a dream with the face and form in which He was in the world. It was such that it was interiorly full and thus so that He could rule the whole heaven within. . . . And He often as it were slept with His eyes when He was inwardly within Himself. . . . And it was said that such had been His appearance. In a word, He was full of heaven and the Divine. (The night between Nov. 18 and 19, 1751).”297
The second kind of dream comes through angelic spirits who from an ardor for the happiness of others serve as guardians over those who sleep. These angels are at the entrance of those heavenly “paradises” which to the angels represent only celestial and spiritual things, but which spirits delight in for their own sake. These paradises appear in the externals of heaven, or are created there when angels of a superior heaven converse together intellectually about truths of wisdom and faith. The angelic spirits in question love to affect a man who is asleep and thus receptive, with the enjoyable and delightful things which they see in his affection and genius. They arouse from the dreamer’s mind beautiful and pleasant representations which refresh him with tranquil charm. But Swedenborg observed that they did not themselves know whence such beautiful presentations came to them “all in a moment,” except that they came “from heaven.” Nor is it orderly that they should know the man whom they are watching over.298
Presumably all men, when asleep, have such heavenly guardians, more or less distantly present. Yet the statement is that these are “entrusted with the duty of watching over certain men”—as if all were not equally favored. And this suggests that the Lord may have a particular concern about those in this world who perform more eminent or responsible uses; whose reliance on the spiritual reserves of the other world and of the subconscious processes of the mind must be greater. Such men, by day, enjoy the illustration of their use, which comes from their being spiritually present in the societies of such use in the other world. But at night their reserve powers must be filled up, and this by the angels of sleep.
Dreams such as are induced by these angelic spirits actually originate in angelic discourse—in conversations between angels on spiritual subjects. The order of the angelic ideas is at once presented in the world of spirits in representatives of great variety, differently in every group of spirits that is affected. Thus with Swedenborg and the spirits associated with him as a man—spirits who were using his memory —the forms of the dream which resulted were shaped according to his memory and his general affection. From the same spiritual origin can thus arise dreams totally different, yea, opposite. For what may cause joy to one man, may to others call up tedium and nausea, shame or horror.299 The reason for this lies in the universal spiritual law that no influx from spirits or angels can introduce new persuasions or alter the faith or memory of spirit or man.
On some occasions, Swedenborg related his dreams to the angelic spirits who caused them, and they recognized in his mental pictures and states the correspondential representations of their own conversation.300 Yet he also saw the diversified dreams caused in various spirits from the same origin, and confessed that it could never be known from the natural imagery of their dreams what the spiritual influx involved or contained; and he suggests that the influx was not always strictly “an influx by correspondences.” The imagery was not purely correspondential. Yet it was representative. Strictly speaking, “correspondences” are true creative relations of cause and effect, the same everywhere. So for instance, light corresponds to truth and heat to love—always. But the objects of the dreams represented different things to different spirits; for every man clothes familiar objects with a sphere of ideas and a meaning all his own. The things of man’s affection as well as his memory invite dreams of varying type. But in his dreams the objects are arranged with reference to the angelic ideas which inflow—thus as symbols of their corresponding states, symbols which indeed represent, but do not correspond; and which mean one thing to the angels, and quite another to the man. Only the angels could recognize the relation of the dream to their own ideas.301 We may doubt, therefore, whether New Church men will ever attempt to become interpreters of dreams; although—strange to say—one of the very first volumes in the vast collateral literature of the New Church was entitled “Oneiromancy !”302 But its anonymous author merely used the science of correspondences as a guide for interpreting the bewildering phenomena of the world of dreams.
The dreams introduced by angelic spirits contain within them the order of heaven, even if man cannot discern it. Normally the dreams they induce are pleasant, sweet, and peaceful ; but with the man they may also be turned into warnings, as is often done on some other planets when men fall into evil. Such dreams can be induced not only upon men, but even upon spirits. Swedenborg relates a strange thing—that while he was among the cerebellar spirits as a spirit, he also was able, repeatedly, to introduce dreams into a sleeper.303 He checked the experiment with the man upon whom he had acted—which spirits can, of course, not do. Yet men also can impose dreams upon their fellow-men, by using hypnotic methods.
Dreams Induced by Spirits
The third type of dreams spoken of in the Writings is not produced through angels, but through the spirits who are near man while he sleeps.304 Such dreams are also significative, for the influx calls forth from man’s memory such things as have a special significance, but a significance to the spirits, not to the man.
Angels produce dreams that please, because they take care that what they draw forth should be associated with delight in the man’s mind. They look for such ultimates in man because they always consider first the freedom of man, and lead him only so far as his own affections respond. But spirits in the world of spirits are not so considerate. Fortunately they have no power to harm man while he sleeps, although they use his mind as their own. But if they could, they would exclude everything from a man’s waking life which is not in line with their own delights. They would impose their own will upon him and sometimes desire to obsess him utterly—and if he should then resist them they would seek to destroy him. For this reason spirits who are with men are kept quite ignorant of the fact. They know not the man, but believe that they think quite independently of men. Yet they think and converse among themselves by using the ideas of the men with whom they are associated; and—as has been pointed out repeatedly—the spirits most closely adjoined to a man assume his whole memory and think themselves to be the man. They become so immersed in man’s attitudes and memory that they may even impersonate him in the other world—look like him in dress and demeanor. Each man has at least one such “consociate spirit.”305
When a spirit is asleep, good spirits can act through him. It is therefore provided that when a man falls asleep, his closer attendant spirits will also fall asleep, since the memory of the man then becomes inactive. If the spirits are evil they are indeed compelled to sleep, for as long as they are awake, man’s affections are being stimulated.306 The state of a man’s ruling love would not be disturbed, but he would no longer be receptive of the influx from the society closest to his inner delights, but would remain conscious of the irritations and anxieties of his external mind so that sleep would be impossible.
But while the attendant spirits dwelling in his superficial spheres of thought fall asleep along with the man, other spirits, more distant from the ordinary states of his life, may still exert their influence upon him. They have indeed no power to stir up his interior thought or affection; for if they did the man would awake in a moment.307 But they can use the memory of man quite freely, although it is the Lord Himself who gives the final permission and prevents abuses.
And now there commences in man—and somewhat similarly in his consociate spirits—the strange fantasmagoria of dreams. Each spirit takes on from man’s memory whatever objects or sensory stimuli that agree with his own life. It is a characteristic of such dreams that, if persons should figure in the scene, each spirit assumes all that a man knows about a certain individual, and actually impersonates him and acts his part in the mental drama. And some may also impersonate the sleeper himself, and speak to other spirits in his tone of voice; but the contents of the speech may not at all be what the man would normally say, but the most stupid nonsense or the grossest falsehood.308
At times, actual spirits may themselves, by the Lord’s leave, be seen in a dream under an appearance that is familiar to the sleeping man. It is told of Louis XIV that he gave warnings to one of his descendants in a dream; and Swedenborg once saw Peter the Great and spoke to him during a dream.309
And Spirits who sleep simultaneously with man sometimes oversleep! Swedenborg found them sleeping, yes, and dreaming, after he himself had awakened. He compared experiences with them and found that they sometimes dreamt when man was not dreaming—which no doubt allows man to change his state.310 Yet the rule is that their dreams are mostly garbed in the ideas of man’s memory. The dreams of spirits are generally caused by spirits who are in a more interior state than they are themselves. But sometimes evil spirits can induce bad dreams upon spirits that are to be vastated.311
Apart from these three types of dreams—those caused by the Lord, those induced through angels, and those which spirits inject—the Arcana Coelestia speaks of “fantastic dreams.”312 This class is dismissed with a bare mention. But with us mortals here below, such fantastic dreams may be quite disturbing. They seem as disordered processions of fragmentary thoughts, unconnected pictures, ludicrous figments of a fevered imagination, meaningless, isolated; or perhaps as images and situations that rise up to strike us with horror, as in nightmares or in some delirium that attends an illness. That their origin is from the other world is of course necessarily true. No emotion or consciousness is possible with man except from the presence of spirits. Yet these fantastic dreams are, we surmise, not characteristic of the true sleeping state in which the natural memory is closed from below and is moved only from within. Our nocturnal fancies may at times be symptomatic of disturbing desires or secret fears which gnaw the mind in our wakeful state but are not released in our imagination except in the symbolism of dreams. But grave injury might be done if man made himself responsible for the disorders of his dream-life which after all occur after he has relinquished his control.
In states of disease or discomfort such as may result from overstrain or from too rich food or from the use of various drugs, the senses are sometimes still pounding from below upon our consciousness even after we have fallen asleep. And while the state of the blood and the senses is such that the brain cannot find continual repose, there are countless opportunities on the part of hordes of wandering spirits—such as the curious spirits belonging to the “province of the chyle-duct”—to seek a temporary lodgment in the mind of a man. But this kind of influx touches closely upon another phase of our general subject, namely, the connection of spirits with disease.
The teachings concerning dreams may not appear to be, by themselves, an important part of the doctrine of the church. Yet they present another aspect of the marvelous economy of human life, which is ordered by infinite protective agencies and is ruled in every detail by the Lord of creation.
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