Achieving Work and (Spiritual) Life Balance

Swedenborg Foundation

 

By Morgan Beard

If your goal is to live a spiritual life, then you may also have thought about ways to bring more meaning into your working life: a job that helps people in need, teaches those who are looking for knowledge, creates beauty or inspiring messages, champions truth and fights corruption. Maybe you feel called to make a difference in the world in a way that suits your unique talents. Then reality sets in. There are bills to pay and obligations to fulfill, and the jobs that are most rewarding for your soul are often the least rewarding for your bank account.

work+spirituality

How do you balance a mundane but financially sustainable working life with a desire for spiritual fulfillment? Does choosing one mean sacrificing the other?

When Swedenborg talks about working for a living, it’s usually in the context of charitas, a Latin word that’s often translated charity, but carries a broad sense of caring for or loving other people. In the following excerpt from his writings, the term is translated goodwill.

Goodwill itself is acting justly and faithfully in our position and our work, because all the things we do in this way are useful to the community; and usefulness is goodness, and goodness in an impersonal sense is our neighbor. As I have shown [elsewhere], our neighbor is not only individual people but also our community and the country as a whole.

For example, if monarchs lead the way for their subjects by setting an example of doing good, if they want their people to live by the laws of justice, if they reward people who live that way, if they give all people the consideration they deserve, if they keep their people safe from harm and invasion, if they act like parents to their countries, and take care for the general prosperity of their people—these monarchs have goodwill in their hearts. The things they do are good actions. . . .

Business people who act with honesty and without fraudulence are caring for the neighbor they do business with. So are workers and craftspeople when they do their work uprightly and honestly rather than falsely or deceptively. The same goes for everyone else—for ship captains and sailors, or farm workers and servants. (True Christianity #422)

There’s a real value in doing your job and doing it well, even if the job itself isn’t very spiritually uplifting. You may not have a very high opinion of politicians (and maybe justifiably so!) but if someone in a position of power acts the way that Swedenborg describes above, it could make a tremendous difference in people’s lives. Even people who don’t seem to have much power or influence—farmers, cab drivers, janitors, waiters, admins—can have a positive impact on other people just through the way they do their jobs and how they relate to the people around them.

In the passage above, Swedenborg mentions another key idea: usefulness. Some jobs are useful in big ways: doctors, for example, save lives. But every job has the potential to make someone’s life just a little bit better or easier, or to bring some small joy where there was none before. Think about the people around you. How many people do you help by doing your job well? How many people would you hurt if you did it badly? That’s why Swedenborg says doing things that are useful to others, or to society as a whole, is the same as doing good in the world. It can be that easy.

Ultimately, Swedenborg’s message is that it’s not what we do, but how and why we do it:

Goodwill is doing good to our neighbor daily and constantly—not only to our neighbor as an individual but also to our neighbor collectively. The only way to do this is through practicing goodness and justice in our position and work and with the people with whom we have any interaction, because these are the things we do every day. When we are not doing them, they still stay in our minds all the time; we think about them and intend to do them.

People who practice goodwill in this way become better and better forms of goodwill. Justice and faithfulness shape their minds and the practice of goodwill shapes their bodies. Over time, because of their form, they get to the point where everything they want and think about relates to goodwill. (True Christianity #423)

So maybe the question is not “How do I get a better job?” but “How do I do a better job?” Can you help someone in your workplace, or use good humor or a good attitude to brighten someone’s day? Can you appreciate the usefulness in even the most ordinary tasks? When you start thinking in terms of how to make other people happy instead of how to make yourself happy, Swedenborg says, that’s the first step to finding spiritual fulfillment—no matter where you are or what you do.

http://www.swedenborg.com/

Why Faith Can Never Produce Charity

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose
Selection from Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
[The] will is formed out of goods, and from these man has love and affection … the understanding is formed out of truths therefrom, and from these man has intelligence and wisdom. And as truths are nothing but forms of good, it follows that the understanding is nothing but a form of its will. The only difference is that the understanding sees and the will feels. From this it is clear that such as man’s will of good is, such is his understanding of truth, or what is the same, such as man’s love is such is his intelligence. From this it is evident that although the will and the understanding are two faculties of life, still they act as one, and for this reason these two faculties of life are called one mind. This relates to the natural man.

In the spiritual man also there are a will and an understanding, but much more perfect; and these are also called one mind. This therefore is the spiritual mind, and the other is the natural mind. But these are such with the man whose spiritual mind has been opened and formed; but it is altogether different with the man whose spiritual mind is closed, and only the natural mind opened.

The same can be said of charity and faith as has been said of the will and understanding; for the will is the subject and receptacle of charity as it is the subject and receptacle of good, and the understanding is the subject and receptacle of faith because it is the subject and receptacle of truth; for charity derives all that it is from good, and faith derives all that it is from truth; and this is why it is said the good of charity, and the truth of faith. From this it follows that charity and faith act as one, like will and understanding; and that such as the charity is such is the faith. But these are in the natural mind; but in the spiritual mind there is the love of good in place of charity, and the perception of truth in place of faith.

That spiritual love, which is charity, produces faith, can be seen merely from this, that man after death, who is then called a spirit, is nothing but an affection which is of love, and his thought is from that; consequently the whole angelic heaven is arranged into societies according to the varieties of affections; and everyone in heaven, in whatever society he may be, thinks from his affection; and therefore it is affection, which is love, that produces faith, and such faith as the affection is; for faith is nothing but thinking that a thing is so in truth, while affection means love in its continuation. But at the present day man in the world does not know that his thought is from affection and according to it, for the reason that he sees his thought but does not see his affection, and as his thought is his affection in a visible formtherefore he knows no otherwise than that thought is the whole mind of man. It was otherwise of old with the ancients where the churches were. Because these knew that love produces all things of thought, therefore charity (which is the affection of knowing truths, of understanding them, and of willing them, and thus of becoming wise) was made by them the chief means of salvation. And as that affection makes one with faith they did not know what faith is.

From this it is evident not only how faith is formed with man but also that faith never can produce charity; but charity, which is spiritual love, forms faith as an effigy of itself, and in it presents an image of itself; and for this reason the nature of faith is known from charity and its goods, which are good works, as the nature of a tree is known from its fruit. By a “tree,” however, faith is not meant, but man in respect to his life; while its leaves signify the truths through which there is faith, and its fruits signify goods of life, which are the goods of charity. Besides these arcana respecting the formation of faith by the Lord by means of charity there are innumerable others; but still it is the Lord who works all these arcana, while man knows nothing about it; all that man needs to do is to learn truths from the Word and to live according to them.

(Apocalypse Explained 790:9-14)
April 18, 2017

 

Higher Meaning

 

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 Welcome to

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INTRODUCTION
to Higher Meaning web site.

What do we mean by “higher meaning”?

Symbols (such as words or phrases) are meaningless without some association with contexts (such as definitions). The contexts give the symbol its meaning.   A word can be used in a number of contexts that correspond to its obvious, literal sense.

How “high” a meaning is depends on the importance, or value, of its context.    In order to measure the relative height of corresponding meanings we need to agree upon a value scale.  Of course that is impossible. Not everyone can agree on what is of most value.  However, we can be more objective if we take a global view and consider what is most important to the welfare of the largest number of people. Better yet, let’s take a cosmic view.  The Creator of heaven and earth set the values by creating a universal heaven composed of angelic humans from all globes.

The context values thus proposed in descending order of height are as follows:

o     God in the highest.
o     Next, that which relates to conjunction with Him in heavenly love.
o     Then that which relates to His angels in mutual love.
o     That which relates to human society in the spiritual world.
o     That which relates to human society in the natural world .
o     That which relates to the human mind and those who develop it.
o     That which relates to the human body and to those who stay bound to it.

What do we mean by “correspondence”?

     The term “correspondence” of two symbolic meanings is used frequently in this Higher Meaning web site and generally refers to the mutual symmetry, harmony, correlation, and communication of the symbolic contexts.  For more discussion on definitions of correspondence please see the following:

o     Emanuel Swedenborg, Teachings about Correspondences,  from The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine Index.
o     ANC Anthology, Bringing Correspondences Into the Curriculum, under the subtopic of DEFINITIONS of correspondence.
o     Browse the Papers button on the navigation bar.  All the books and essays have some reference to correspondence(s).  That web page also has a search engine.

http://www.highermeaning.org/

 

Are We Judged by God?

The Lord by His life on earth taught us how to prepare for heaven. He showed us how to cooperate with Him to do the work of changing our character from one that is selfish, self centered, inconsiderate and fearful (living in a hellish way) to one that is kind, giving, generous and confident in the Lord (living in a heavenly way). This is a process and it takes time – a lifetime. As we make choices to turn away from selfish and merely worldly gratification and in turn make choices that are based on the truth, and inspired by generosity and kindness, we develop a desire or will for what is good. It is that will or dominant love within us that determines our place after the death of this body. If we primarily love what is kind, good, and true we will find our happiness in heaven where we can continue to live this way with others of a like mind and heart. If we primarily love what is selfish, hateful and deceitful we will actually find heaven an uncomfortable place, and instead find a place in hell where we can continue to live this way with others of like mind and heart. We therefore essentially judge ourselves – or choose our own eternity.

“I have come as a light into the world, that whoever believes in Me should not abide in darkness. And if anyone hears My words and does not believe, I do not judge him; for I did not come to judge the world but to save the world. He who rejects Me, and does not receive My words, has that which judges him—the word that I have spoken will judge him in the last day.” (John 12:46-48)

 https://newchurch.org/

Using Swedenborg to Understand the Quantum World I: Events

Swedenborg Foundation

By Ian Thompson, PhD, Nuclear Physicist at the Lawrence Livermore National LaboratoryFor the last hundred years, physicists have been using the quantum theory about the universe, but they still do not properly understand of what the quantum world is made.

molecular_thoughts_hires

The previous physics (referred to as “classical” and started by Isaac Newton) used ideas of “waves” and “particles” to picture what makes up the physical world. But now we find that every object in the quantum world sometimes behaves as a particle and sometimes behaves as a wave! Which is it? In quantum physics, objects behave most of the time like waves spreading out as they travel along, but sometimes measurements show objects to be particles with a definite location: not spread out at all. Why is that? It is as though their size and location suddenly change in measurement events. This is quite unlike classical physics, where particles exist continuously with the same fixed shape. In quantum physics, by contrast, objects have fixed locations only intermittently, such as when they are observed.  So they only offer us a discrete series of events that can be measured, not a continuous trajectory. Quantum objects, then, are alternately continuous and discontinuous.

Why would we ever expect such a fickle world? Emanuel Swedenborg (1688–1772) has some ideas that might help us. He describes how all physical processes are produced by something mental, or spiritual, and this can be confirmed by reason of the similarity in patterns between the physical processes and their mental causes. In Swedenborg’s words, there are correspondences between the physical and the mental—that they have similar structures and functions, even though mind and matter are quite distinct.

I need to state what correspondence is. The whole natural world is responsive to the spiritual world—the natural world not just in general, but in detail. So whatever arises in the natural world out of the spiritual one is called “something that corresponds.” It needs to be realized that the natural world arises from and is sustained in being by the spiritual world . . . (Heaven and Hell §89)

Although these ideas are not part of present-day science, I still hope to show below that they may have some implications for how science could usefully develop.

Swedenborg’s theory of mind is easy to begin to understand. He talks about how all mental processes have three common elements: desire, thought, and action. The desire is what persists and motivates what will happen. The thought is the exploration of possibilities for actions and the making of an intention. The action is the determined intention, the product of desire and thought that results in an actual physical event.

The [actions] themselves are in the mind’s enjoyments and their thoughts when the delights are of the will and the thoughts are of the understanding therefrom, thus when there is complete agreement in the mind. The [actions] then belong to the spirit, and even if they do not enter into bodily act still they are as if in the act when there is agreement. (Divine Providence §108)

All of the three spiritual elements are essential. Without desire (love), or ends, nothing would be motivated to occur. Without thought, that love would be blind and mostly fail to cause what it wants. Without determined intention, both the love and thought would be frustrated and fruitless, with no effect achieved at all. In everyday life, this intention is commonly called will, but it is always produced by some desire driving everything that happens. Here is the pattern:

      Spiritual                                                                   Natural
Desire + Thought Mental Action (Intention)  Physical Action, or Event, in the World

Swedenborg summarizes the relationship between these elements as follows:

All activities in the universe proceed from ends through causes into effects. These three elements are in themselves indivisible, although they appear as distinct in idea and thought. Still, even then, unless the effect that is intended is seen at the same time, the end is not anything; nor is either of these anything without a cause to sustain, foster and conjoin them. Such a sequence is engraved on every person, in general and in every particular, just as will, intellect, and action is. Every end there has to do with the will, every cause with the intellect, and every effect with action. (Conjugial Love §400:1–2)

Now consider Swedenborg’s theory of correspondences mentioned above. He says that there is a similar pattern between the details of the effects and the details of the causes. ”As above, so below,” others have said. So if mental action produces some effect in the physical world, then, by correspondence, we would expect a similar pattern between that physical effect and each of the three elements common to all mental processes. We would expect something physical like desire, then something physical like thought, and finally something physical like mental action. Do we recognize these patterns in physics? And if so, do we recognize them better in classical physics or in quantum physics?

I claim we do recognize them in physics:

  • We recognize the “something physical like desire” as energy or propensity. These are what persist physically and produce the result, just like desire does in the mind. They are in both classical and quantum physics.
  • We recognize the “something physical like thought” as the wave function in quantum physics. This describes all the possibilities, propensities, and probabilities for physical events, just like thought does in the mind.
  • We recognize the “something physical like mental action” as the actual specific physical outcome, a selection of just one of the possibilities to be made actual. This is a measurement event in quantum physics, the product of energy or propensity and the wave function, just like the product of desire and thought is the mental action.

We will discuss energy and wave functions in later posts, focusing here on the final step of mental actions and physical events. According to Swedenborg’s ideas, the structure of mental processes and the structure of physical events should be similar. So, too, the function of mental processes and the function of physical events should be similar. Can we tell from this whether we should expect a classical world or a quantum world?

One feature of thought and mental action with which we should be familiar is time. That is, we always need time to think! Without any time gap between desiring and intending, we would be acting instinctively and impulsively. Sometimes that works but not always (at least in my experience!). Most often, there has to be some delay, even some procrastination, between having a desire and fulfilling it. That delay gives us time to deliberate and decide on the best action to select. And, most importantly, if it is we who decide when to act, we feel that we act in some freedom. It feels better.

If the physical world corresponds to those mental processes, according to Swedenborg, what hypothesis do we reach about physics? It is that there will be corresponding time gaps between the beginning of some persisting energy or propensity and the selection of physical outcome. Remember that quantum objects are selected and definite only intermittently—when measured, or observed—while classical objects are continuously definite with no gaps. All this leads us to expect that physical events should not be continuous; that is, we should expect a quantum world rather than a classical world.

http://www.swedenborg.com/

Continue with Part II: Desire and Energy>

Ian Thompson is also the author of Starting Science from God, as well as Nuclear Reactions in Astrophysics (Univ. of Cambridge Press) and more than two hundred refereed professional articles in nuclear physics.

Visit our Swedenborg Studies bookstore page to explore our series of scholarly titles >

Read more posts from the Scholars on Swedenborg series >

Activity in the World of Spirits

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

From Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
In general there are with man spirits of such a quality as is the man himself.  If he is avaricious, there are spirits who are avaricious; if he is haughty, there are haughty spirits; if he is desirous of revenge, there are spirits of this character; if he is deceitful, there are the like spirits. Man summons to himself spirits from hell in accordance with his life. The hells are most exactly distinguished according to evils of cupidities, and according to all the differences of evil. Thus there is never any lack of spirits like himself to be called out and adjoined to a man who is in evil.

The evil spirits with man are indeed from the hells, but while they are with him they are not in hell, but taken out from thence. The place where they then are is midway between hell and heaven, and is called the World Of Spirits…. In this world called the world of spirits there are also good spirits who likewise are with man. Into that world also come men immediately after death, who after tarrying a while there, are either sent away into the lower earth, or are let down into hell, or taken up into heaven, each one according to his life. In that world, the hells are terminated above, being there closed or opened at the good pleasure of the Lord; and in that world, heaven is terminated below; thus it is an interval that distinguishes heaven from hell. From this it may now be known what the world of spirits is. When evil spirits who are with man are in that world, they are not in any infernal torment, but are in the delights of the love of self and of the world, as also of all the pleasures in which the man himself is; for they are in every thought and every affection of the man; but when they are sent back into their hell, they return into their former state.

(Arcana Coelestia 5851, 5852)
 March 20, 2017

Quibbling about Parables

Spiritual Questions & Answers

Discovering inner health and transformation

Parable of the prodigal son.

I am having a spot of bother with parables – nothing serious, you understand; nothing to worry about. Some of them, however, do seem just a little dated.

There is that famous puzzle about the workers in the vineyard, for example – enough to spark a general strike. And what about the story of the lost sheep? I wonder why the shepherd didn’t return to find the rest of his flock scattered over the wilderness. I am also concerned about the humble guest at the banquet: what was the poor fellow supposed to do if all the lowest places were already taken?

The parable of the talents is likewise hardly fair-play and could have turned out very badly: in a less favourable economic climate the investor could have been very glad to find at least part of his capital still intact. Sorry, but I think the whole story simply demonstrates that life is a risky business. I’m not entirely sure about the unforgiving servant either: he was, after all, desperately anxious to pay off his own debt and was prepared to go to any length to do so.

Then there is that strange yarn about a king trying to arrange a wedding feast, only to find that the guests all had prior engagements. The king’s reaction was, to put it mildly, a bit excessive, especially towards the fellow who eventually turned up inappropriately dressed.

But enough of my silly quibbles. The parables, I suggest, were never intended as watertight arguments. I imagine they were throw-away anecdotes delivered off-the-cuff. They make their points brilliantly. I can pick no holes in the parable of the sower, or the prodigal son, or the good Samaritan, or the man who built his house upon a rock.

There are others also that clearly reveal an inspired man speaking plainly to the people of his own time. It is perhaps tempting to reflect on what imagery Jesus might use today if he were speaking to us, now that insurance has softened so many of the blows that life throws at us.

Some scholars, however, would have us believe that there is much more to it than that. The Parables go much deeper, they say, and every word is filled with holy meaning for all time and beyond. One such writer was the prolific 18th century visionary, Emanuel Swedenborg.

He reckoned that this life is some sort of spiritual training ground – nothing very original there! But he went on to say that once established in the next world, our abiding character, for good or evil, is fully formed and thereafter unchangeable. If so, it is surely sensible to make the most of any flexibility this world may have to offer. We need to ‘invest’ in spiritual values while we have the opportunity and not stubbornly nurse our prejudices.

Anyway, that is Swedenborg’s slant on the parable of the talents. Where evil predominates any remnants of goodness will fall away. (i.e. “are given to the one who has ten talents.”) So the parables might all be interpreted as profound psycho-spiritual cameos.

Over the centuries parables have perhaps become shrouded in stifling holiness, but they were certainly never meant to be taken literally at all. It is a neat idea.

Copyright 2010 G Roland Smith