15 Mental Causes of Disease

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15 Mental Causes of Disease

“A cheerful heart is a good medicine, but a downcast spirit dries up the bones.” A Hebrew Proverb

Is Illness the Fault of Man?

Many Christians believe that all accidents and diseases are retributions of Providence for personal sins. This idea was common among the Jews, who conceived of no higher good than health and prosperity, nor any higher destiny than a long life on earth. The Lord sought to disabuse the minds of the disciples of this fallacy when he said concerning the man who had been born blind, “Neither hath this man sinned nor his parents: but that the works of God should be made manifest in him”; and when He said that the eighteen killed by the fall of the tower in Siloam were not sinners above others in Jerusalem.381

Men—from no individual fault of their own—may fall sick from natural causes which in turn come from spiritual causes hidden from man’s understanding. And by natural remedies he may be restored. But while the disease lasts, evil spirits are able to extend their operations from the realm of the mind into the body, working against a cure by inflowing into the unclean things which belong to the disease, which they aggravate. The stress of the Writings is laid upon the fact that without the influx from the hells there would be no actual disease. “Every disease in the human race” comes from sin, which is spiritual disease.382 We cannot take this to mean that it is always a man’s fault if he is sick, any more than it is his fault that he has hereditary tendencies to evil. But even as sin bred disease in the human race as a whole, so it is the tendency of a man’s own individual states of evil to lead into corresponding diseases of the body. “If his spiritual life sickens, evil is derived therefrom into the natural life also, and becomes there a disease.”383

It does not follow that an evil man is always, or necessarily, sick, or cannot remain in what appears as perfect bodily health. But actually, the things that come to belong to man’s life are not only of his mind but of his whole body, from head to foot.384 And therefore it is disclosed in the Writings that the blood in the lungs purifies and nourishes itself correspondently to the affections of the mind, and that in evil states it absorbs a subtle food of unwholesome quality, unsuitable to serve the soul in its impartial and wise economy. Yet no one can ascertain this quality of the blood by any qualitative chemical analysis since “it is a purer blood, called by some ‘the animal spirit,’ which is purified” with the regenerating man.385

Certain “lusts and passions of the mind” are more prone than others to “destroy man’s interiors,” and thus to “drag” man into disease and death.388 Such passions may be classed as breaches of the moral law.

Intemperance, drunkenness, gluttony, luxuries of various kinds, and pleasures that cater to bodily enjoyments alone, head the list. For these upset the routine of use and the balance of the body functions; denying to the body the proper exercise or the proper sleep; or compelling the stomach to absorb useless food or drink, for the sake of the transient pleasures of the senses. Drunkenness causes a man to lose his manhood, since it is his intellectual faculty that marks him a man. It not only brings damage on his body and so hastens his death, but it wastes in extravagance what might be of use to many.387 Envies, fears, and anxieties about the future without proper trust in Divine provision, keep the nerves taut by a constant reliance upon prudence. It is a remarkable thing that the human body and brain can rise to emergencies and prolonged strain, and that men in executive positions can do work which even in amount shames others; but this only so long as states of frustration and personal anxiety do not affect them. For generally it is not work but fretting worry and vexation which cause health to break down.

Hatred and revenge also visibly poison the body and heat the blood, as well as warping the judgments of the mind. States of bitterness and brutality have always been compared to gall—the bile rejected from the liver and longing to punish the stubborn food in the intestinal tract. Lasciviousness— when given rein—leads to sexual diseases of varied types, affecting the glands, tissues, and nerves, and even infecting the blood itself. Hypocrisy and deception tax the nervous system by inducing constant fear of detection.

Mental states can so influence the body as to create organic disorders therein into which the hells can operate because the mind or spirit while man lives on earth is not apart from his body nor present only in the brain, but is within the whole body and animates it with life. “The spiritual,” we read, “accompanies every stamen [of me viscera, organs, and members of man] from outmost to inmost, and therefore all the minute structures and fibres of the heart and lungs.” This is the reason given for the fact that the spiritual body, which is formed within the natural body, rises at death in a similar form. Death “is merely the separation of the spiritual substance from the material.”388 The spiritual which is present in the body and its brain, and thus acts into nature, is called, in the Writings, the “ultimate-spiritual” and also the “spiritual-natural degree”; for it is the ultimate degree of the spiritual.389 In the inmost of the brain and body of man this ultimate spiritual is clothed with natural substances from the very inmost of nature,390 and thereby is given the power to separate itself from the higher spiritual degrees and to act against them. When such a perversion sets in it becomes evil.391 By paternal heredity, this lowest degree of the spiritual is now from birth contrary to the order of heaven and open to the influx of hell.392

It is the natural mind that is formed in direct contact with the natural substances of the body. And although the natural mind or the “spiritual-natural” in man is perverted by heredity, yet it is none the less ruled by the superior spiritual degrees in such a way that these can act by it in creating the body into the general image of the soul and usually maintaining it in seeming health. The perversion of the substance of the “ultimate spiritual” is thus of such a nature that its essential function of conveying life is outwardly unimpaired.

This ultimate spiritual degree with man unfolds itself as the natural mind—which is itself of three degrees, sensual, natural and rational. There is need in the body, then, for various planes of organics which shall serve to express the powers of that mind. For no life, no thought or affection, could possibly manifest itself in the realm of nature, unless nature furnished a receptive vessel, responsive to its influx.

Swedenborg’s Early Views on Diseases

In the Writings, little is said of these body-planes which display the powers of the spirit. But in his philosophical works, Swedenborg gives much thoughtful attention to them. What he says therein cannot be taken as revealed doctrine and is not binding on our minds. But what served him for a rational ultimate in receiving the inspired doctrine, might help us to understand its meaning more fully.

His general theory was that there are, in the body, three vital fluids. Each builds for itself a center, or principal court. The grossest of the vital fluids we call “the red blood,” and its center is the heart. The fluid of middle degree Swedenborg calls by various names—the “animal spirit,” the “purer blood” —and for its centers are prepared uncounted millions of cortical “glands” in the brain. Thence it flows at incredible speed through the nervous system and also enters into the composition of blood and tissues in various ways. The third and highest vital fluid—the “spirituous fluid” or “purest blood”—has innumerable centers in each cortical gland—centers which are called “simple corteces,” and thence it flashes like rays of force through the simplest invisible fibres, and through nerve fibres and blood vessels into the entire body. Indeed, the body is the product solely of the ineffable formative activities of these simplest fibrillae. For this “spirituous fluid” is the servant of the soul itself, and may indeed be called “the soul of the body.”392b

Into this framework of vital fluids and fibres, formed by the soul itself out of the best of nature’s gifts, Swedenborg then places the degrees of that mind which man employs in the world. The blood serves as the plane of the vegetative and most sensuous life of the mind. The cortical glands, with their vital nerve juices, are made the plane for the animus, its sensations, imaginations and passions. The simple cortex and simplest fibre and thus the highest vital substances of the body, are cited as the organic instruments of the rational mind and the pure natural intellect.

Diseases are affections of the various natural organics mentioned above. But the spiritual soul itself, which is the immaterial essence of man’s immortal spirit and is above these natural forms, can also suffer a vitiation or a perverse change of state—as to the reception of life. This cannot be counted as a disease, but as “guilt” (reatus).393

Yet the afflictions of the “purest blood” cause a sickness which affects the workings of man’s intellectual mind: it shows itself, not as a disease, but as a perversity in will and judgment—as vain ambition, malice, and a banishing of conscience. Thus insanities and vices result.394 The cure for such irrational states, Swedenborg suggests, is to gain health of body and animus, and then to enlighten one’s mind through masters who have saner judgment; but also to learn from revealed and rational theology, and to exercise freedom of thought and especially self-control !395 (And in the Writings it is added that “all who love uses think sanely in their spirit, and their spirit thinks sanely in their body).”396

If the “purer blood,” which runs through the cortical glands and the nervous fibres, becomes vitiated, there arises not disease as such, but “passions of the animus,” such as moody anger, jealousy, foolish prides or fears, melancholy, fickleness, weakness of the imagination, loss of memory, and many other ills which depend on the state of the brain and its various parts.397

All the natural affections or the mediate loves of the animus are in themselves healthy instincts.398 But when taken as ends-in-themselves, and indulged not for the sake of uses or for the sake of higher ends, but only for selfish satisfaction, then some of them become intemperate and urge us to excesses. We may call these natural affections, “natural goods,” because they are implanted in the natural mind from birth. Each love finds its own expression under the form of some virtue. Some individuals inherit prominent qualities of pity or generosity or courage, or on the other hand, their complements, prudence, thrift, or caution. Curiosity, hope, zeal, the love of the sex, are other examples of natural affections. Within such tendencies there lies hidden hereditary evil, which tends to upset that delicate balance of judgment which should make out of them all a harmonious and perfect whole—a moral life of use. From hereditary evil, the affections of the animus awake gradually into a mutual conflict. If—through intemperance—some of these loves of the animus are given loose rein, they turn from apparent goods into vices or grave faults, into searing passions which disturb the mind. But so long as man keeps them in balance and due proportion the mind is normal, and its natural affections do not then bring about any disease in the body, or any poisoning of the nervous fluid or the organics of the brain.

Swedenborg also suggests remedies for the sicknesses and upsets of the animus. Medicines, he says, may be employed to purify and restore the red blood; for it may be some external condition of the body and its blood that accounts for the mental state. Yet if the cause is not in the body, the state might be amended by an improvement of the mental environment : agreeable feasts, convivial companionships, and broader social contacts may put one in a more normal frame of mind! If this does not help, let the sufferer seek recourse to moral philosophy and in a bit of practical self-analysis, so that he rectifies the mistakes into which he has drifted.399 On the other hand, the trouble may be derived from perversities of the intellectual and rational mind—and then repentance is called for!

Health cannot truly exist, unless all the planes of the body and mind are in harmony and cooperation! If the inner mind is cheated of its ends, the animus may become angered, the blood hot, and a bilious fever may seize the viscera !400

Lack of harmony with interior planes is therefore a cause of bodily disease—disease “properly so called.” But not the only cause; for the body is affected by any organic deterioration of blood, serum, or tissue.401 And the principal and most common cause of bodily disease has to do with the lack of proper nourishment or with the food that we eat; and also with the subtle food which we draw in by breathing the air, and even the still more subtle nourishment which the “purer blood” drinks in from the ether.402 For the blood must be provided with aliments of sufficient quantity and the right quality. Our philosopher therefore classes—among the remedies for the body—not only various drugs, drawn from the three kingdoms of nature, and moderate diet, exercise, rest, sleep, moderate temperature; but also mental calm. And he leaves the field open for new discoveries of ways by which the blood may be purified, amended and renewed.403

The Theological Writings on the Causes of Organic Disease

We have cited these observations which Swedenborg made before he was called to his religious mission, in the hope that they might help us to understand more clearly certain statements made in the Arcana, the Spiritual Diary and the other theological works.

In the Arcana Coelestia we read that evils “close the smallest and altogether invisible vessels of which the next larger, also invisible, are woven; for the vessels which are smallest of all and wholly invisible, are continued from man’s interiors. Thence comes the first and inmost obstruction and thence the first and inmost vitiation of the blood. This vitiation, when it increases, causes disease and at length death. . . . “404 It is difficult to ascertain whether the inmost vessels which evil closes are to be conceived as physical or as spiritual substances, for they seem to be combinations of both. They are called vessels “on account of the correspondence,”405 and indeed “vessels in man’s rational and in his natural,” and are said to be in “contrary position” within him relatively to the inflowing life which none the less still can dispose them. Man perceives the variations of their form as truths.406 And a cross-reference suggests that it is in these “substances which are the beginnings of the fibres” that the objects of sense are organized as memory. They might perhaps be identified with the twists of the spiritual and natural substances of the natural mind which are turned in a sinister order before reformation has occurred.407 The evil heredity of the race is carried over from generation to generation by such correspondent disorders in the lowest spiritual degree present in the germ-plasm.408 And there must be a natural basis for such hereditary evils, since it is only in conjunction with natural substance—thus only in the natural mind while on earth—that evils can arise.409 The reason for this is that it is the very nature of natural substance to resist and react against spiritual substances.410 And owing to this resistance the lowest spiritual can there be separate from its higher degrees, and become perverted into “spiritual substances such as are in hell.”411

Hereditary evils, it is well to note, are not “guilt” or “sin” or “original sin,” but only tendencies or inclinations to evil. It would seem to follow, that with the newborn infant the “smallest and invisible vessels” which are receptive of the spirit and undoubtedly carry the marks of heredity, are not closed but have the tendency to close themselves against the spiritual mind; nor is there as yet any “inmost vitiation of the blood.” So far as the child, and later the man, does not prevent, the Lord continues to hold him in innocence and mental health, by a general influx. With infants and well-disposed children, even the worst spirits, if present, would be compelled to serve the Lord’s will and cannot introduce any evil. It is when the child begins to acquire a sphere of evil that the inmost vessels are “closed” to the influx of the un-perverted spiritual412 and become opened to an influx of cupidity from evil spirits; and then the “animal spirit” begins to absorb the malignities to which it had formerly been immune.

While an evil inheritance may thus give a predisposition to certain diseases, most babes are born healthy; unless some deficiency in maternal nourishment or some accident in the womb has interfered with the execution of the soul’s pattern of the embryonic body—that marvelous four-dimensional pattern which is latent in the germ-cells and which Dr. Schroedinger has described as a code-script for the individual’s entire future development.413 Hereditary evil does not affect the physiological functions of the soul in the body, for the inmost natural vessels are utterly obsequious to the soul in its general influx. Swedenborg therefore stated in the Economy of the Animal Kingdom that the spirituous fluid which is present as a formative substance in the parental seed cannot be perverted or injured or essentially changed in its form except with reference to a variant reception of life and wisdom.414

If this be so, it may be surprising that any one could be born an idiot. Yet even if the “spirituous fluid” is perfect in its physiological action there can be congenital defects in the derivative organisms or injuries to the nervous tissues due to malnutrition or to some trauma experienced either before or after birth. There are no doubt special reasons in the Divine providence why idiots should remain in the state of innocence for their entire life time, or why those who lose their rational balance through disease should be arrested for a time in their mental development. But the law is that “life . . . acts according to the ultimate determinations, but not from them.”415

The internal man may be quite rational even when the mind cannot be rightly channelled into corresponding imaginations, words, or acts. In a private letter, Swedenborg observed that “real madness and insanity resides in the external or natural, not in the internal or spiritual man.” There are no natural diseases among spirits in the other life, nor any hospitals; although there are spiritual asylums for spirits who become insane and idiotic from a denial of God. Natural diseases, blindness, lameness, insanity, etc., are cured when man sheds his externals and his internals are opened in the other life.416

Yet natural insanity may be caused or abetted by unwholesome mental habits and by the leading of evil spirits. For if our rational mind is not in control, spirits will lead man and cause mental fixations and monomanias.417

Nerves, Glands, and Spirits

There are two general ways by which mental and emotional states can affect the body. One is through the nervous system, the other is through the secretions which the glands communicate to the blood. Both originate in the brain. Swedenborg explained that the brain is not only a common sensory and a common motory for the body, but is also a complex gland which acts as a chemical laboratory. And the soul and the mind exercise their special functions, both conscious and unconscious, through the brain. The influence of our spiritual environment thus affects us first of all through the brain. And even as speech corresponds to the thought of the mind, so the influx of the mind into the body always expresses itself according to laws of correspondence.

It is a particular influx from hells attracted by our chosen states that stirs up partiality and dissension among the affections of the natural mind, causes mental symptoms, emotional moods, psychic disturbances and disorders in the functions of the braincells, and upsets the balance in the products of the endocrine glands.

The conscious part of the mind, or the voluntary, by its deliberate or at least perceptible decisions moves the body by means of the central nervous system. Our errors of judgment or intent may thus cause injury to the body by overstraining it or leading it into perils with which it is not equipped to cope. But emotional states may cause illness even when man is not really aware of them except as a frame of mind; and they may affect the body through the autonomic nervous system centered in the hypothalamus and midbrain, causing unwanted muscle tensions and pains in the oesophagus and stomach and in various parts of the alimentary canal, resulting in symptoms like those of peptic ulcers or gas or appendicitis. The breathing may be affected and cause undesirable changes in the blood. The blood vessels are most sensitive to emotions, as in blushing or in headaches, and the heart beats faster when one is deeply moved. Certain prejudices or constant irritations may cause outbreaks on the skin or rheumatic ailments. Frustrations may explode in hysterical weeping or laughter, or in violent actions not intended. Anger may lead to hemorrhages on the brain and possible death through coronary occlusions.

The second bodily agency to respond to our mental states is the glandular system. In his physiological works and later in the Writings Swedenborg called attention to the important functions of what is now called the endocrine glands—anticipating many discoveries by more than a century. In fact he noted that there is no viscus which does not contribute a secretion to the bloodstream.418 Chief of all the glands he considered the brain with its constituent “cortical glands,” some of the products of which were strained through the region of the hypothalamus into the pituitary gland at the base of the brain and thence—modified in various ways—into the jugular vein, thereby vivifying the blood with “animal spirit.” Health depends on the proper balance and purity of these fluids, and many diseases result from their deficiency or wrong distribution.419

Swedenborg concluded that the “animal spirit” which is so essential for the balance of all body functions contains within it a life-carrying “spirituous fluid” which is generated in the inmost structures of the cortical cells. All the ductless glands in the body are regulated through the pituitary gland which is the outlet for this subtle nerve-product. In his various treatises he points especially to the uses of the thymus, the adrenals, the spleen, the pancreas, the liver and the testicles; which all aid in modifying, tempering, and salvaging the animal spirit. And in the Diary he says of the learned of his time: “So long as they dispute whether there exists an animal spirit in the fibres, which they may still do for a thousand years, they can never come to the courtyard of knowledge, but will stand far away.”420

It can hardly be doubted that what Swedenborg called “animal spirit” is closely related to what medical science in this century refers to as hormones produced by internal secretory glands. The pituitary is now acknowledged as the master gland and the source for a number of hormones which regulate almost every process in the body and condition the various organs to avert any threats to bodily well-being. Most important, however, is the finding that these glands are so sensitive to emotional stresses and psychic states (such as mental blocks and aversions) that they can cause corresponding illnesses and symptoms in the body. The relation of the endocrine glands to our inner states is so close that some have named them “the glands of personality.” The accumulating evidence of symbolic symptoms in psychosomatic diseases is not surprising to the New Church man who is familiar with the universal correspondence of the natural to the spiritual and knows the body as the instrument and clothing of the mind. Yet we may sometimes forget the further truth—that our inner life does not originate with ourselves but is induced by the spirits who are attracted by the contents of our mind.

Correspondential Symptoms

Our morbid psychic states need not at once, nor necessarily, cause disease in the body. But when a disorder exists in the body itself, the sphere of evil spirits acts spontaneously by a law of correspondence. In certain cases, they can cause disease only when men invite the evil which these spirits represent; and in such cases the Lord cannot avert their sphere.421

We read strange things in the Writings about this correspondent influx—things which can be appreciated only after reflection and a study of the doctrine of the Grand Man. Thus hypocritical spirits—who wish to evade judgment— tend to inflow to produce toothache and what appears to be neuralgia.422 Certain dominating, pompous and impatient spirits induce great pain and weakness and weariness of mind and body.423 The sphere of selfish and slothful spirits produce numbness and oppression in the stomach. Spirits who have been in much solicitude or are inclined to avarice and are unwilling to leave “the state of externals” in which newcomers are in the other life, affect the stomach with nervous indigestion.424 Revengeful spirits aggravate superacidity in the stomach.425 Those who make everything a matter of conscience also induce abdominal anxieties.426 In each instance there are profound correspondential reasons for such influxes.

Anxieties of a different kind are due to the presence of unworldly female spirits of the province of the adrenal glands who are in solicitude from a life lacking in variety. But these spirits, who also act on newly born infants, are merely concerned to hold the mind in some line of thought that excludes what is worldly. Certain other spirits, who in the Grand Man relate to the infundibulum, are—like the fluids in the ventricles—inconstant and undetermined, and cause in man states of impatience and suspicion.427 Those who do not like work but seek social prominence and pleasures as their sole gratification, correspond to obstructions in the brain, and their presence causes stupidity, dullness and loss of affection.428 Those who relate to the viscid humors of the brain with which vital fluids are mixed, love to incite scruples of conscience in trivial matters. Such rather narrow-minded spirits induce a sensible anxiety in the upper abdomen; and they are also wont to come to a man during temptations and make them unbearable.429

When sickness coincides with temptation, man’s lot is unenviable. “Temptations,” we read, “are most grievous when they are accompanied with bodily pains, and still more so when those pains continue for a long time and no deliverance is granted even though the Divine mercy is implored.”430 Yet illness itself, even when the mind is anxious and moody, is very different from spiritual temptation. Real temptations have a spiritual issue involved—a struggle to retain spiritual health and faith and charity. Still, moods of sadness may break like a flood upon a man who has lived in good when he relapses into the sphere of his proprium; and then he may become indignant and angry. He thinks restlessly and his desires become impetuous; although when this flood is lifted, he returns to a serene and cheerful state. Such temptations affect the animus and perhaps the body. In the case of the last posterity of the Most Ancient Church, such a profane flood of evil and insanity was let loose that people perished physically, by a species of suffocation. This, therefore, was actually a death of sin, and—as was shown above—was described by the great Deluge.431

The indications are that diseases are usually receptive of an influx from particular spirits, who then inflow by their sphere into a particular part of man’s body. But a localized disease may become general, or may attract a more general influx.

This is noted in the case of fevers. Many places in the hells, among obstinate and pernicious spirits, exude an excessive heat, impure and corporeal. This sphere inflows partly into the mind of man, by means of particular spirits, to inflame him with cruelty or adulterous lust; but partly also it may, by a “general sphere or a general influx,” produce a febrile heat in the diseased parts of the body as well as a delirium in the mind.432 Indeed it is stated that “the sick man summons” those who infuse such heat, and that spirits most marvelously know how to determine their sphere into the body, and this despite the fact that spirits do not know the man with whom they are. Fortunately the Lord controls them under laws of order, withdrawing them periodically; “wherefore several fevers have stated alternations.”433 It is generally admitted that the rise of body temperature into fever heat is a defensive reaction of the body in its resistance to disease.

Spiritual Uses of Sickness

Disease and melancholic anxiety may be classed among “natural temptations.”434 But the difference between an illness and a state of spiritual temptation is well illustrated in the case of certain spirits who relate to the province of the stomach and especially to the undigested things therein. The general action of these spirits is to instill feelings of oppressive sadness and uncomfortable melancholy for which no perceptible cause or occasion can be recognized. The spirits who thus inflow are not the spirits who are with man as his attendants and who resemble him as to affections; but they are strange spirits who have been sent forth from some infernal society into the sphere of his life. They flow in by a more general influx to produce these effects, which are contrary to man’s own affections. Such spirits may also infest man during a spiritual temptation; but then they would not only inflow “in general,” for the temptations themselves are produced by particular spirits who excite certain evils that man has done and put a wrong interpretation on the good things in his mind. Only by such a “particular” influx can the man be placed in freedom to resist, and his guardian angels then engage in combat on his behalf.435

What has been said may aid us to understand the teaching that a man cannot be reformed—or he cannot change his ruling love—while in states of sickness of mind or body.436 While ill, the mind is not always rational, and if rational yet is not free. Man then lives apart from his world of uses and duties and is withdrawn in his spirit. The Writings liken such a man to a religious recluse, a hermit bent on thoughts about his own salvation; and the same is the state of one who is in some extreme danger or in sudden misfortune. Besides, the sick man may be oppressed by moods beyond his control, and is released from his usual responsibilities and from the pressure of many of the affections that normally wage their silent warfare for predominance.

So far as a man can carry on his uses, he cannot be called sick in the above sense. Nor does illness prevent a person already on the road of reformation from being strengthened in his good resolutions by the reflections on his sick-bed. There is therefore room for the further teaching that a very large class of men (who are represented in the Word by the Hebrew manservant) “cannot be reformed otherwise” than through the hardships of life, such as anxieties, misfortunes, and even sicknesses! These are they who from infancy have given little thought to anything but worldly life and success, yet have lived morally and accepted the doctrine of their church on hearsay. With them, sickness is turned into an opportunity to review life’s real purposes, and something of spiritual good may then adjoin itself to their thought. They may turn again to the consolation offered by their church, and confirm their faith more deeply while their worldly loves lie dormant for a while.437

Even like gifts of wealth and peace, the gift of health is happily in the Lord’s hands to dispense—for those to whom health may be a blessing. In our hearts we all pray for health when it eludes us. Yet it is the Lord’s admonition that we should seek first the kingdom of God and His justice. “He who is in faith from the Lord asks for nothing but what contributes to the Lord’s kingdom and to himself for salvation.” The angels told Swedenborg that if they should pray for anything else, they could have no faith that they would receive it.438

Sickness is not a total waste in the Lord’s sight. We are encouraged to practice foresight and to seek to maintain our health by prudence as well as by medicine. But to be brooding constantly upon the possible ailments of our body and to delve intently into anatomical details all one’s life, is not in itself an aid to health.439 “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” The regenerating man, even in his pastimes, looks to uses as an end. He loves the things of his body for the sake of having a healthy mind, and consults for his body as the first requirement for usefulness; and he “loves his mind and its health for the sake of an end still more interior—that he may have a relish for good and may understand truth.”440 This is further explained as follows:

“He who is in merely external pleasures makes much of himself, indulges his stomach, loves to live sumptuously, and makes the height of pleasure to consist in things to eat and drink. One who is in internal things also finds pleasure in these things, but his ruling affection is to nourish his body with food pleasurably for the sake of its health, to the end that he may have a sound mind in a sound body; thus chiefly for the sake of the health of the mind, to which the health of the body serves as a means. One who is a spiritual man does not rest here, but regards the health of the mind or soul as a means for acquiring intelligence and wisdom—not for the sake of reputation, honors, and gain, but for the sake of the life after death. One who is spiritual in a more interior degree regards intelligence and wisdom as a mediate end having for its object that he may serve as a useful member in the Lord’s kingdom; and one who is a celestial man, that he may serve the Lord. To such a one bodily food is the means for the enjoyment of spiritual food, and spiritual food is a means for the enjoyment of celestial food; and as they ought to serve in this manner, these foods also correspond, and are therefore called ‘foods’ ” (AC 4459:6).

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

But is this really so?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

For an article on time and spiritual state follow this link: Time and Spiritual State

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http://www.spiritualwisdom.org.uk/two-worlds-meaning.htm

Conjunction of the Lord with Angels

  Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose
Selection from Divine Providence ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

All conjunction in the spiritual world is effected by means of looking [*by intent regard]. When any one there is thinking about another from a desire to speak with him, the other immediately becomes present, and they see each other face to face. It is the same when any one is thinking about another from an affection of love; but this affection produces conjunction, while the other produces presence only. This is peculiar to the spiritual world, for the reason that all there are spiritual beings; in the natural world, in which all are material beings, it is otherwise.

With men in the natural world the same takes place in the affections and thoughts of their spirit; but inasmuch as there are spaces in the natural world, while in the spiritual world the spaces are merely appearances, that which takes place in the thought of every one’s spirit, in the spiritual world takes place actually.

This has been said to make known how the conjunction of the Lord with angels is effected, and how the apparent reciprocal conjunction of angels with the Lord is effected. For all angels turn their faces to the Lord, and the Lord’s look is upon the forehead, because the forehead corresponds to love and its affections, while angels behold the Lord with the eyes, because the eyes correspond to wisdom and its perceptions. Nevertheless angels do not, from themselves, turn their faces to the Lord, but the Lord turns them to Himself; and He turns them by influx into their life’s love, and through that love enters into the perceptions and thoughts; and thus He turns them about.

Such a circle of love to thoughts and from thoughts to love from love, is in all things of the human mind. This circle may be called the circle of life. About this something may be seen in the work on The Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom, as the following:

Angels constantly turn their faces to the Lord as a sun. All the interior things of the angels, both of mind and of body, are likewise turned to the Lord as a sun. Every spirit, of whatever quality, turns himself likewise to his ruling love. Love conjoins itself to wisdom, and causes wisdom to be reciprocally conjoined with it. Angels are in the Lord, and the Lord is in them; and because angels are recipients the Lord alone is heaven.

The Lord’s heaven in the natural world is called the church; and an angel of that heaven is a man of the church who is conjoined with the Lord, and who becomes an angel of the spiritual heaven after he leaves this world. From this it is clear that what has been said of the angelic heaven applies equally to the human heaven that is called the church. That reciprocal conjunction with the Lord which makes heaven in man is revealed by the Lord in these words:-

Abide in Me and I in you. He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for apart from Me ye can do nothing (John 15:4, 5, 7).

(Divine Providence 29, 30)
(*emphasis by editor)
June 9, 2017
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The Doctrines Of The New Church

HR90THE SCIENCE OF CORRESPONDENCE

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PSK734b<< THE DOCTRINES OF THE NEW CHURCH >>
A SPIRITUAL SCIENCE.

“Behold, I make all things new.”—Revelation xxi. 5.

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WE live in a miraculous age. Our lot has been cast in the midst of those tremendous changes in man’s spiritual condition which could be fitly typified only by the most stupendous convulsions in the material world, —by the darkening of the sun in the heavens, the falling of the stars from their places ; by conflagrations and cosmic storms ; and by the creation of new heavens and a new earth.

It is our happiness as New-Churchmen to know the meaning of these prophetic symbols, and, secure from harm from these convulsions, and unterrified by the noise and wild fury of old systems falling to ruin, and the collision of chaotic forms of belief, to stand upon the new earth rising fresh and fair from the ruins of the old, and to see the new heavens, clear and serene, overarching human life,—heavens whose moon is brighter than the sun of the former age, and whose sun shines with seven-fold splendor.

I ask your attention to one of the distinct and peculiar characteristics of this age, one which clearly entitles it to the claim of being the fulfilment of the Divine promise, ”Behold, I make all things new;” which will make it enduring as the power of the Lord to create human souls, will give it the excellence of heavenly graces, the beauty of heavenly forms, the power and glory of Divine truth, and imbue it with the blessedness of heavenly peace ; which will make it the Lord’s kingdom on earth. I say, “will make it,” for this new day of the Lord, even to the most advanced minds, is yet only in the gray of the morning. Its full-orbed sun is yet below the horizon, and the mass of the people are still asleep in the shadow of the valley. Some of them are indeed stirred by a new breath of power, but “whence it cometh and whither it goeth” they cannot tell. It is the unconscious influence of the Divine force which precedes the light, which opens the eyes and prepares them for its reception. But enough of the light has been seen by some minds, watching for the morning, to reveal its true nature and to give undoubted assurance that it is not the twilight of an age passing away, but the morning of a spiritual age which is new in spirit, new in form, new in power, and will be new in life. The characteristic of the new age to which I invite your attention is one peculiar to its genius, which gives it a surpassing excellence. I propose to speak of the truths of the New Church as a spiritual science.

By science I mean the laws of the Divine order as they exist in the creation, the methods of the Divine wisdom in effecting the purposes of the Divine love in their connections and relations. The Lord’s methods of working in nature constitute natural science. When we discover those methods and the relation of one substance and of one form to another, and of causes to their effects, that knowledge constitutes science. Science treats of substances and forces and forms in their connections and relations, and reveals the laws and methods by which many things make one. Science is spiritual when it relates to spiritual subjects. The same conditions are essential to a spiritual as to a natural science. Let us consider what those conditions are. . First, science must be based upon facts. It is as impossible to construct a science without facts as it is to build a stone wall without stones. Science cannot be constructed with fancies, or opinions, or of facts even as they appear to the senses. Nor can it be formed by a mere accumulation of facts. Science is formed by insight into the intrinsic forms and qualities of isolated facts, by which their relations to other facts are seen, and the higher laws and qualities common to all the particular facts are discovered.

It is now known that all the kingdoms of nature, and all the individuals in each kingdom, are bound together, penetrated, and moved by substances and forces of a finer and more subtile nature than the coarse concrete forms which clothe and hide them. The knowledge of these forces and the laws according to which they act upon every particular object, and of how the stone and plant and animal welcome and treat, receive or reject, use or reflect these, to them, heavenly visitors, is the science of nature.

Spiritual science requires spiritual facts. These are given us in the doctrines of the New Church. Swedenborg’s introduction into the spiritual world, and his statement, from living experience, of what is done there by the Lord and angels and spirits, was just as necessary to a spiritual science as a man’s introduction into this world and the ability to see and hear what the Lord is doing here, and what men are doing, and how they are doing it, is an essential condition of any natural science. The claim of Swedenborg to have done this, a claim to which men take strong exceptions, is absolutely essential to the work he performed. His doctrines of man’s nature and relations are not based upon fancies or opinions, but upon facts, upon what takes place in the spirit. He has also rendered to men this further service and given this larger evidence of the truth of his claims ; he has shown us how to descend from the palaces of spiritual truth into the paradise of nature, and to find the higher laws of the spirit ruling in corresponding forms and working by similar methods in animal, plant, and mineral.

One of the causes which has made the endless discussion of religious questions so fruitless in results is the want of any fixed and clearly-defined subject of spiritual knowledge. The New Church stands on the solid basis of spiritual substance. It deals with realities. The spiritual world is the real world, the spirit is the real man ; its laws of culture and development are as definite and immutable as the laws of nature ; they are also ascertainable and capable of precise application. We have the same basis for progress in spiritual knowledge and life that we have for progress in natural knowledge and life in this world. The spiritual body is presented to us for examination, as real and substantial as the material body which is presented to the physiologist for his study.

We are introduced into a distinct and substantial world, and we are furnished with true principles for our guidance. So far as regards a substantial basis, therefore, we are as thoroughly equipped for progress in spiritual knowledge for the attainment of some distinct and desirable end as the men of science are for knowledge of physical laws and their use in our natural progress.

There is also no dearth of material for endless advance in spiritual knowledge. The science of correspondences, which reveals the definite relation between natural effects and spiritual causes, opens in nature, and especially in the natural symbols of the Sacred Scriptures, exhaustless depths of spiritual knowledge. Every natural object and act mentioned in the Scriptures is the outward form and expression of a spiritual fact or a series of facts, one lying within the other, and all so connected and related that they reveal the means and the order of man’s spiritual creation and of his relations to the Source of life. We shall never want for facts, therefore. Science will sooner exhaust nature than any finite mind can exhaust the forms of spiritual truth contained in the Sacred Scriptures.

The doctrines of the new age possess also in an eminent degree the second essential of a true science ; they are organized truth. They are not assertions made upon personal authority ; they are not detached and unrelated truths ; much less are they conflicting statements which destroy one another. They bear the same relation to spiritual facts that a house does to the materials of which it is constructed, or that the wonderful structure of the body bears to the food which nourishes it. They are a symmetrical whole, composed of intimately related parts, a house fitted to be the home of heavenly affections and the indwelling life of the Lord.

Science teaches us how to use facts. Rational knowledge shows the ratio or relation of one thing or of one being to another, by which the unity of life is discovered. The plan and form and function of the various mental faculties are shown by true spiritual science. In this respect we are better equipped for spiritual progress than the scientific man is for natural progress. Here we find again the inestimable service which Swedenborg has rendered us. He has given us the laws of spiritual life as they are derived from the Lord and exist in man. We have only to learn them and to examine spiritual facts in their light to see their true nature and relations. We can verify the general law by particular facts. The principle is seen at first in outline more or less distinctly ; but every new particular fills up the outline, brings new light to it, and is a new witness to its truth. Having rational knowledge we know how to dispose of the facts as we learn them. We see their relations to other facts and to the central principle which underlies the whole. They fall into their places and tend to unity. Beneath the illusion of appearances we see order, harmony, and the most powerful forces working according to immutable law for human good.

This is a new and distinct step, and gives man the same help in spiritual progress that a rational knowledge of the substances and forces of nature has given him in natural progress. It forms a basis on which he can stand. It gives him power to wield his materials, to build up his life, and to come into orderly and helpful relations to others. His knowledge changes from a thicket, in which he gets entangled by a multiplicity of apparently unrelated and incongruous forms, to a garden with sure paths which lead from blossom to fruit, from labor to attainment. He comes out of confusion and chaos into harmonious and established order.

The doctrines of the New Church are a statement of the laws of man’s regeneration, spiritual culture, and growth in heavenly life, and of his relations to the Lord, to angels, spirits, and men ; to the spiritual world on one side of his nature, and to the material world on the other. They possess all the qualities of a true science of the spirit ; they will meet every requirement for the most varied and fullest development of our spiritual faculties and the attainment of every natural, spiritual, and heavenly good which man can conceive and the Lord can give.

Science not only introduces us into a world of new truths, gives us clearer light, enlarges the horizon of thought, and reveals to us the beauty and harmony of the Divine order, but it teaches us how to employ the substances and forces we have discovered for our own use. We are all familiar with the achievements of natural science in this respect. It has discovered and brought into common use tireless forces of exhaustless power which bear our burdens, run upon our errands, do our work, and minister to our comfort in manifold ways. Science has not only revealed them, but it has taught us how to use them. It has harnessed them to our service ; it has put the reins into our hands by which we can control and guide them. Spiritual science will render the same service to us on the spiritual plane of life. It not only introduces us into a new world of spiritual truth, illuminates the understanding with its light, and charms the soul with its beauty ; it not only places us in the midst of the Divine harmonies and unveils the forms of spiritual substances and forces as much superior to natural forces in power and capacity for human good as the soul is more excellent than the body, but it teaches us how to use them to overcome our spiritual enemies, to remove the obstacles to our progress, and to help us in the development of our noblest faculties and the attainment of our highest good.

There is conclusive evidence that men, urged by their needs and stimulated by their hopes, are demanding a knowledge of spiritual truth which is based on facts, which is logically consistent, and leads to practical results. Wearied with fruitless labor, distracted with doubts, tormented by conflicting passions, despairing of help from the past, hungry for meat that will feed their famished souls, and with aspirations for a higher life than they have found the method and means of obtaining, they are waiting in despair or turning with hope to a new day. They find that all things in the material world are related and indissolubly bound together ; that unconnected existence, even for the stone, is impossible. They see method, order, subordination existing in all things great and small, and immutable law governing all the Lord’s operations in nature, and they logically conclude that the same principles and methods rule in the realm of spirit. They see that the Lord does not work at random in the creation and development of the plant and the material body, and they pertinently ask why He should do it in the formation of the spirit. All the tendencies of the age, all its movements, its hopes, and even its doubt and denial and despair, and all those subtile and delicate but powerful currents which sway the feelings before they awaken thought, which kindle hope and turn the face in the direction of the new light, point with unerring finger to a scientific and rational knowledge of spiritual truth ; they prophesy the existence of an order, method, and law of the spirit, of the same nature as those which exist in the material universe. The claim that a spiritual science is possible does not come from a few minds alone disaffected with the confusion and comparatively fruitless religious doctrines of the past ; it comes from every form and movement in nature ; the stone embodies it, the grass and the vine and every tree of the forest speak of it, the instinct of the animal proclaims it. Every principle in man’ s nature declares the possibility of a spiritual science, because it is itself the embodiment of it. But especially the rational faculties of the mind demand rational knowledge as the eye demands light, the fin water, the wing air, and the body food ; and whatever the Lord has given man the power to want. He has provided the means to supply. The existence of a Divine order in spiritual growth and attainment is certain, and the ability of man to receive and understand the knowledge of it and come into the Hfe and joy of it is as sure as that plants will blossom and bear fruit, and that seedtime and harvest will continue.

Let us then notice some of the effects which a rational knowledge of spiritual truth and a life conformable to that knowledge must legitimately and certainly produce. Fortunately we are not left to conjecture concerning these results. We have a complete demonstration of the power of rational knowledge in the miracles which science has wrought on the natural plane of life. If a true knowledge of the forms, forces, and qualities of nature can change the face of the world, modify all human conditions, and bring into the service of man a multitude of powerful, tireless forces to bear his burdens, run upon his errands, and in manifold ways minister to his wants, what limits can we assign to the power of a rational knowledge of spiritual substances and the laws of their activities and relations? The results of such knowledge must be as much greater and more beneficent in the spiritual realm of life as the knowledge itself is higher in degree and more excellent in its forms. It is not possible to overestimate its beneficent effects, for it is a knowledge of causes, of vital forces ; it deals with the sources of power; it is the true knowledge of God and of man and of theirrelations to each other.

The effects of a rational knowledge of spiritual truth will be both negative and positive. The truth not only gives man power and light, but it frees him from many obstacles to his progress. The truth makes him free. It frees him from groundless fears. When we do not know the way we fear that every step may lead to danger. It is natural for us to fill the unknown with terrors. Before the light of science had dawned upon the earth, any deviation from the accustomed order of nature, as an eclipse of the sun or moon, filled the minds of men with superstitious fears. They trembled at the dire calamities which they supposed such phenomena to forebode. The same occurrence now gives pleasure to millions, and is the means of much useful knowledge. In spiritual life men are tormented and held in cruel bondage by groundless fears. There is the fear of coming evils which never come and have no existence ; the fear that the Lord is our enemy when He is our infinite and unchangeable Friend ; the fear of death as the most terrible calamity, when it is an orderly step in life ; and a multitude of other fears, wholly groundless, which destroy man’s peace and paralyze his power. A knowledge of spiritual truth will disperse the darkness of ignorance in which these spiritual fears are bred, chase them away as the coming sun dispels the night and all its hideous forms.

Again, genuine spiritual knowledge will free the mind from doubt. Man’s progress in spiritual life is constantly retarded by doubts. He goes to and fro instead of moving on to new attainments ; he stands still instead of advancing ; he rejects the truth when offered to him ; his steps are halting, his courage weak ; he hesitates and lingers and is distracted by conflicting influences, misses the chances of life, and fails of any great attainment in spiritual development, because he is not sure of the path which leads to it. The misgivings, the fears and torments which the noblest minds have suffered from this cause are one of the most mournful phases in the sad history of humanity. Men do not doubt about what they know ; it is when they do not know, or when they see in the twilight only the flitting forms of appearances that they doubt. Genuine knowledge carries the conviction of certainty with it. This is the eflect of the doctrines of the New Church upon those who know them. This benign power will increase until all doubts are dispelledand man will walk in the freedom and joy of the new light, with firm and sure steps, in a straight path to the attainment of the highest ends.

A result of rational knowledge is constant increase of light. Every new truth verifies the principle to which it relates. Every new truth is a new star in the firmament of the mind. All progress in knowledge, natural as well as spiritual, is from evening to morning, and from morning to bright day. Many have accepted the doctrines of the New Church, at first with a hope tremulous with fear that they might come to a point where they would find their way obstructed with insoluble problems and darkness again gathering over them. But it has been their blessed experience to find the way becoming clearer ; difficulties vanish, problems which were supposed to be beyond human skill to solve yield readily to the new power, paths open into broad spaces which seemed closed to human approach, mysteries are understood, and light increases at every step. When we come into the harmonies of the Divine order we begin to see truth in the light of truth. Genuine truth is its own witness ; it shines with its own light, it reveals its own nature, and it fills the mind with light. This is the history of science, and it accords with the experience of every man and woman who has come into the light of the new age.

This gradual and constant increase of light also produces a conviction, which finally amounts to a certainty, that we are on the right road to the attainment of the end we are seeking. When we discover new truths in harmony with those already known, we get new and stronger confirmations of what we have already learned ; we are attracted by the new beauty, we are stimulated to new activity, we are always attaining ; new gates open into broader fields of truth, and the’ certainty of conviction that we are on the right path which leads to the everreceding goal of perfection fills the mind with a sweet and profound peace. We are coming into the order of the Divine wisdom ; we see the way to make ourselves a part of the Divine harmony.

It is a remarkable fact in the history of humanity that men have regarded those who were the most friendly to them as their direst enemies, and those steps in life which have been provided by infinite love and wisdom for their highest good as the most terrible calamities. They have fled from their friends, they have been blind to the richest treasures of truth which lay before them, they have been tormented with groundless fears, have wandered in darkness when the light was shining all around them, and have been crushed with self-imposed burdens when almighty power was offered to lift them from their shoulders.

The rational knowledge of the new age clears away all these shadows, dispels the appearances which have surrounded human life with illusions, and places man in the midst of forces of omnipotent power friendly to every human interest, and teaches him how to use them for the development of the highest plane of his being. It gives him definite, practical knowledge. It reveals to him the true ends of life, puts the means of attaining them into his hand, and shows him how to use them. It must, therefore, render him the same service as a spiritual being, as a citizen of a spiritual world in which he is to find his home and to dwell forever, that a knowledge of the finer substances and forces of nature has rendered him as a material being- and son of earth and time. It must change the whole aspect of human life ; it must give an immense impulse to progress in spiritual knowledge ; it must give fulness, clearness, directness, and precision to every effort for spiritual culture ; it must bring man into such relations to the Lord that he will know what to do and how to do it to come into orderly relations with Plim, and to open every faculty of the soul to Divine influence, to be with the Lord where He is, and thus to dwell in the centres of life and move in the peaceful currents of the Divine order to the attainment of new joys and the rest of an ever-deepening peace. It must make all things new. We stand in the morning of this new day ; its privileges and its responsibilities rest upon us. No men ever had greater interests committed to them ; no men ever possessed larger means and grander opportunities for their own spiritual attainment and to make themselves a blessing to humanity. Much has been given to us ; much will be required of us. Let us be faithful to our trusts ; let us counsel wisely and labor diligently to make known to men those spiritual and Divine truths in which the Lord is making His second coming to men, and by which He will subdue all things unto Himself

Author: Chauncey Giles, From Progress in Spiritual Knowledge, 1895

http://www.scienceofcorrespondences.com/doctrines.htm

Copyright © 2007-2013 A. J. Coriat All rights reserved.

 

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Atheism – No Proof of God

 

           Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeImage result for proof of god

               Atheism – No Proof of God

Rev. Dr. Erik E. Sandstrom

November 2008

Editorial

New Church Life
A MONTHLY MAGAZINE DEVOTED TO THE TEACHINGS
REVEALED THROUGH EMANUEL SWEDENBORG


Atheism supposedly exists now also among some young people of New Church upbringing, those who have been educated in our system! We do not wish to insult anyone’s intelligence by claiming how wrong they are, or how they are burying their heads in the sand, because they are of course absolutely right! There never was, never has been, any proof of God’s existence. Why should they believe what cannot be proved? There is however a childishly simple proof of God’s existence. More of that later.

     Just think for a moment, how infinitely clever, indeed wise, God is for not leaving any witnesses for His existence. He created the universe so there is no signature! Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) called this thunderous absence of a “signature” a sign of the “anonymous author cunningly concealing himself” and no one can be “more carefully withdrawn from direct relationship [to people] than God.” Just look, he says in other words, how carefully He has concealed Himself! To the conclusion of this lack of a signature, Kierkegaard concedes that God “is not there.” But the proof, he continued in another direction, consisted in turning to one’s “inner self, and once only in the inwardness of self-activity, does he have his attention aroused, and is enable to see God.” (Soren Kierkegaard, Concluding Unscientific Postscript).

     This inner self is also fallacious, however. This however has to avoid Ludwig Feuerbach’s (1804-1872) denial of God as worthy of discussion, since only “man himself, and nature” are proper objects of “philosophical study,” not God, a subject that “transcends human experience.” Here he is similar to his predecessor David Hume (1711-1776). The next generation from Swedenborg, Hume was an empiricist thinly disguised as a Deist. The mind alone was real, said Hume, but a miniature of God’s mind. We must therefore trust human reason. This however led to doubting that even the world was the way we saw it, a skepticism which lent fire to later naturalistic arguments, doubting God also. Biblical criticism had with Hume’s contemporaries, Hermann Samuel Reimarus (1694 – 1768), and Gotthold Ephraim Lessing (1729-1781) already used this approach to cast doubt on the historical existence of Jesus, Moses and Muhammad. There was a “ditch” between faith and history. The Bible could not be trusted as a source or description of any truth, let alone that of God. The Gospels were hence irrelevant as history because of the lack of miracles verifying the same truths today. Jesus himself was doubted as an historical figure, but was more the enthusiastic or kerygmatic projection of faith in some ancient outstanding individual.

     These are just a few strands of the arguments paving the way for atheism. Only faith has maintained the Bible as the all time best seller for all centuries. That says something about the persistent clarity of truth, both concealed in scripture, but self-evident here and there as well. Astoundingly enough, it was in this Age of Reason era of final doubt in the Word of God, that all the self-evident truth was drawn out and published for all to witness, if they willed. Atheism today is easily read out of existence in the Heavenly Doctrines (1749-1771).

     So it was up to around 1800 that everyone thought of God or the gods as controlling everything, from wind to thunder, to war and disease, to the stars in the sky. God caused everything, and His ways were often mysterious. But God was now relegated to a “god of the gaps” argued “from ignorance.” There are other explanations of everything today, and science provides them! Science has left only a few “gaps” where God might still exist, “growing smaller and smaller.” Lightning is caused by electrons, not by Thor or Zeus! Science explains and solves more things than God or faith in Him does. So they say.

     The Writings warned against this whole line of reasoning, in fact ridiculed it, just when the Age of Reason and the Enlightenment were peaking: naturalism is not willing to acknowledge the possibility of “influx from the Lord’s Divine through the spiritual world.” That is why naturalism has “overwhelmed” the Church (Apocalypse Explained 1220) and favored thinking “about Divine things from things proper to nature, that is space and time” (Arcana Coelestia 5116:3). Then, however, “one infinite God” cannot be comprehended at all, nor the entire creation of the universe, which becomes a “foolish” notion (Canons 4). The consequence would be the “worship of nature” which leads “automatically to atheism” (True Christian Religion 771). That is why “naturalism and atheism rush forth together” (Coronis XVI).

     We of course cannot condemn outright all that science does, nor the scientific principles which have “created” the world of technology we all enjoy, deemed to be the most advanced and civilized since the world began. We count “civilized” by such modern standards as electronic equipment and new model cars. What is denounced is eliminating God and heaven, just because they cannot be seen from the natural “lumen” of science (cf. Divine Love and Wisdom 69)! Just because the scientific method which is now a norm to all learning throughout the world, absorbs information just as easily as a sponge absorbs water (Interaction 9) does not mean that science is only harmful. It just should not deny God! For natural theology can never enter into “spiritual theology,” while the reverse, however, cannot be said. For spiritual theology easily enters into the natural scientific techniques (De Verbo 6:4). From spiritual things, all natural things can be seen in order, while from natural things, nothing spiritual at all is witnessed. There are indeed two foundations of truth, the Word and Nature (Spiritual Experiences 5709), yet from the foundation of truth based on nature, nothing of the foundation of truth based on the Word can be seen. “Nothing can be founded upon Scientifics except it be previously founded upon the Word” (Spiritual Experiences 5710). This is repeatedly given as the method:

     “When a person’s basic assumption is to believe nothing until he sees and understands it, he cannot possibly believe; for spiritual and celestial things are neither visible to the eyes nor comprehensible in mental images. But the true order is for a person to become wise from the Lord, that is, from His Word. In that case everything follows as it should…. the premise of belief in the Lord’s Word and of confirming spiritual and celestial truths by means of natural truths, using as far as is possible the terminology of the learned world” (Arcana Coelestia 129).

     Some have seen the need to see God from a premise of prior existence, as Barth, for example, who thundered “Let God be God.” There is no “regenerative soteriology” i.e. human approach to God that generates its own view of Him. This is because “God sought humanity, not the other way around,” he said. Similarly, to the extent that atheism is based on lack of proof of God’s existence, it is just declaring that the method of discovering reality obviates spiritual reality. You can no more prove that God exists than prove that the “idea of God” is itself real. After all how real is an idea? And so it goes.

     It is supremely ironical that the Lord Himself on earth addressed the impossibility of proving God’s existence. Can you guess where? It is of course where He says, “Blessed are those who have not seen, yet believe” (John 20:29) He was talking to Thomas, who had just fallen on his knees and said, “My Lord and my God.” Thomas having earlier witnessed the Lord’s crucifixion and death, had here witnessed the resurrected Lord. Here was the proof, the nail marks, he asked for. Still, the risen Jesus rebuked him: “Because you have seen Me, you believe.” Part of the irony, is that Thomas “saw” the Lord with his spiritual eyes. He was seen only with the spiritual eyes after the Resurrection, saying “their eyes were opened” (True Christian Religion 777, Conjugial Love 30, Apocalypse Revealed 36). Only when they are opened, is there any “proof” of spiritual reality. And every single night, that proof of spiritual reality is supplied to practically all human beings, as quickly and quietly as the earth turns from light into darkness. We dream. Where does the “light” of a dream come from? The room is dark, yet the dream has light! That is seeing with our spiritual eyes. Besides this “proof” which we leave you to ponder, the Lord when He said, “Blessed are those who do not see yet believe,” meant the very fact that no one can prove God’s existence: “They are blessed who do not see the Lord with their eyes, as Thomas did, and yet believe that He is; for this is seen in the light of truth from the Word” (Faith 10).

     “Believe that He is.” That is God’s existence. The Only “proof” of God comes from the Word of God, which is the “light of truth.” Only the Word can “prove” God’s existence. Only revelation can tell us of God (Sacred Scripture 114). Well, does the Word of the Lord exist? Yes. The Word of God exists: Ergo, God its Author exists. We too “are because God is” (Divine Providence 46e)…

     Another argument: How can such a majestic universe exist without proof of a cause or Maker? Who is clever enough to create a universe without leaving a trace, but God? And as if to have the last laugh, the Lord made His Advent by the same method: spontaneous germination in the womb of Mary: “Only by means of conception from His Divine and by birth from a virgin…” (Divine Love and Wisdom 234, Lord 29) To think the Lord could have come any other way is insane. (True Christian Religion 502)

      Still, people ask “Where is the evidence? Unless I see it for myself…” However, because the “reaction appear[s] as though it were a property of the thing created because it occurs when the thing is acted upon,” (Divine Love and Wisdom 68) the spiritual acting on the natural is so subtle that it escapes empirical detection. Yet ever since paleo-history, man has known God was behind it all: wise people knew the land was “impregnated by the most subtle substances (which can have no other than a spiritual origin), and through this they have power to conjoin themselves to use, from which comes their prolific principle” (Divine Love and Wisdom 310). “There is present both the spiritual which provides a soul and the material which provides a body. Also within everything spiritual there is a conatus to clothe itself with a body” (Divine Love and Wisdom 343). People have known that for ages, as part of the wisdom and lore of culture.

     Well, if so, is there in fact any tangible evidence of God being the source of life? What could constitute “empirical evidence” of God’s Creative hand? Can we see when life began? Was it suddenly? Would evidence of a sudden beginning of life constitute a “smoking gun” for Creation, a finger-print of the Intelligent Designer? Is there any hard evidence of a SUDDEN beginning? Well, ahem, ahem:

The period of biological innovation occurred at virtually the same instant in geologic time all around the world….evolution at supersonic speed.” (Time, When Life Exploded, Dec.4, 1995, p.68)

Life did explode “instantly,” no not on Dec. 4 1995 but from 543 to 510 million years ago. That is a mere 33 “eons,” called by Time “virtually the same instant.” Now the current estimation of the age of the universe is 13.7 giga-years, i.e. billions of years. Dividing 543 million minus 510 million equals 33 million, into 13.7 billion, equals ca. one 400,000th.

     The “instant” of 33 million years when measurable organic life began all over this planet, is one 400,000th of the total time elapsed since creation. That is awfully quick.

     So does that do it? Is this proof? “Life” began suddenly, everywhere, simultaneously! Is this not only God’s signature, but entire palm-print in creation? What else could cause such a sudden arrival of life all at once all over the planet? It is scientifically verifiable evidence. The Lord made His Advent only on this planet (Earths in Universe 113) just because here it can be known that God is Man both from the Word and from experience (Spiritual Experience 4782). God the Creator of the universe was born onto our planet, but 543 million years ago, He left His mark already. Now we can appreciate why the Lord “loves this earth more than others” because here “heavenly truths can be rooted in truths of nature.” (Spiritual Experience 1531) Fossils and mathematics match revelation, the foundation of nature matches how creation happened as revealed in Divine Love and Wisdom, published by Swedenborg in Amsterdam, at the print-shop of Fran ois Changuion, in 1763. “I AM” acts and the time and space universe began.

     If Theists and Atheists met and discussed belief, no solution would likely ensue. There just is no proof. The decision to believe, however, is in the New Church dependent on reading the Writings or not. When Theists are also New Church members, the discussion would revolve around what proof there is that Heaven and Hell or all of the Writings are, in fact, so? However, that is one question that can only be answered by reading for oneself! As Swedenborg himself advised, “Read my books and see for yourself.” After reading them, another question can be asked: who has any shadow of a doubt left that everything said there is so? There is no doubt left whatever. “Life after death is a dead certainty.” Generations of New Church people have faced death content with the certainty of what is said about the afterlife. It is true.

     The same goes for God’s existence. After the Lord is studied in all the Doctrines, the question of God’s existence becomes pass . God is the Divine Itself, the Father, acting as the soul to the Divine Human, the Son, who is the risen Lord. The Holy Spirit comes from Him when He, as the visible God, One both in Person and Essence, speaks. That Divine speech is the “Spirit of Truth leading to all truth,” the source of the Writings, the Heavenly Doctrines. The only proof of God comes from all that He has now said, namely the Word of God in the Heavenly Doctrine.

     We close with the childishly simple proof of God.  There have been so many proofs of God put forward that they become frivolous. But there is some substance to them.

  • The Transcendental Argument says (1) If reason exists then God exists, (2) Reason exists, (3) Therefore, God exists.

  • The Cosmological or first cause Argument says, (1) If I say something must have a cause, it has a cause. (2) I say the universe must have a cause. (3) Therefore, the universe has cause. (4) Therefore, God exists.

    A couple more:

  • The Argument from Beauty or Design (Teleology): (1) Isn’t that baby/sunset/flower/tree beautiful? (2) Only God could have made them so beautiful. (3) Therefore, God exists.

  • Finally a rather cynical argument from the Bible: (1) [arbitrary passage from OT] (2) [arbitrary passage from NT] (3) Therefore, God exists.*

    All of these can be stated more philosophically, but also easily be disproved and so discounted.

     * http://www.godlessgeeks.com/LINKS/GodProof.htm

         But there is a new argument we mentioned at first: How can people for thousands of year, all over the world, without contacting or even knowing of each other, all reach the same doubt over God’s existence, unless there does indeed exist a God as the object of all such doubt? You just cannot doubt something that actually does not exist, not for that many millennia, in so many scattered locations. In any case, if God actually did not exist, then the doubt of His existence would not even arise. There would be no belief to begin with. This is proved by children who are taught nothing, ending up believing – nothing! However, if God really did not exist, then there would be no universe nor people who could believe, either! But doubt of God has persisted. God has become the permanent object of human doubt. The very persistence of human doubt thereby makes God’s existence permanent! One could put this in Cartesian terms, using Dubito, ergo sum. Transposing, we have, Dubito Deum longeque per orbis terrarum, Ergo Deus est. I doubt God over time and through all the earth, therefore God is.

         However, the only proof of God is found from the “light of truth from the Word.” There is also an influx into the souls of all people that there is a God and that He is one (Canons 4). This influx can only reinforce a true belief when this is expounded from the Word. You can’t see it in your inner self, as Kierkegaard postulated, since the inner self has no answers which have not entered through the senses. There too there is a proof of God, since the idea of God has to enter through the senses. That means God has to reveal Himself in order for anyone to see and then believe in Him. Once the Word has come about through such experiences, the Word of God stands in for the original personal presence and revelation of God. And the existence of the Word of God cannot be denied, however strongly anyone is confirmed in Atheism or not. If the Bible’s existence cannot be denied, neither can God’s existence be denied, since only the Word shows God to be. For God’s existence, His nature, Advent, Salvation of the human race, all this must be revealed from the Word of God alone (Sacred Scripture 114, 115). No one can come up with this information on one’s own, by natural deduction. “No one can see from below the things which are in the heavens” (De Verbo 6:4). They must be revealed. With the Second Coming having taken place in the revealed Writings, the conclusion that “God is” and that “we are because God is” (Divine Providence 46e), is almost a foregone conclusion, but apparently not with 100% of witnesses. Therefore, “Blessed is the man who has not seen, yet believes” (John 20:29, Faith 10)

 

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Emanuel Swedenborg

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EMANUEL SWEDENBORGSwedenborg7

As of the Lord‘s Divine mercy it has been given me to know the internal meaning of the Word, in which are contained deepest arcana that have not before come to any one’s knowledge, nor can come unless the nature of the other life is known (for very many things of the Word‘s internal sense have regard to, describe, and involve those of that life), I am permitted to disclose what I have heard and seen during some years in which it has been granted me to be in the company of spirits and angels. [AC 67]

I am well aware that many will say that no one can possibly speak with spirits and angels so long as he lives in the body; and many will say that it is all fancy, others that I relate such things in order to gain credence, and others will make other objections. But by all this I am not deterred, for I have seen, I have heard, I have felt. [AC 68]

Man was so created by the Lord as to be able while living in the body to speak with spirits and angels, as in fact was done in the most ancient times; for, being a spirit clothed with a body, he is one with them. But because in process of time men so immersed themselves in corporeal and worldly things as to care almost nothing for aught besides, the way was closed. Yet as soon as the corporeal things recede in which man is immersed, the way is again opened, and he is among spirits, and in a common life with them. [AC 69]

As it is permitted me to disclose what for several years I have heard and seen, it shall here be told, first, how the case is with man when he is being resuscitated; or how he enters from the life of the body into the life of eternity. In order that I might know that men live after death, it has been given me to speak and be in company with many who were known to me during their life in the body; and this not merely for a day or a week, but for months, and almost a year, speaking and associating with them just as in this world. They wondered exceedingly that while they lived in the body they were, and that very many others are, in such incredulity as to believe that they will not live after death; when in fact scarcely a day intervenes after the death of the body before they are in the other life; for death is a continuation of life. [AC 70]
THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGE, THE COMING OF THE LORD,
AND THE NEW HEAVEN AND NEW CHURCH.

THE CONSUMMATION OF THE AGE IS THE LAST TIME OF THE CHURCH OR ITS END.
There have been several churches on this earth, and in the course of time they have all been consummated, and after their consummation new churches have arisen, and so on to the present time. The consummation of the church takes place when there is no Divine truth left except what has been falsified or set aside; and when there is no genuine truth no genuine good is possible, since every quality of good is formed by means of truths; for good is the essence of truth, and truth is the form of good, and without form there can be no quality. Good and truth can no more be separated than will and understanding, or what is the same thing, than love’s affection and the thought therefrom. Consequently when truth is consummated in a church, good is also consummated there; and when this takes place, the church comes to an end, that is, is consummated. [TCR753]

The church is consummated by various means, especially by such things as cause falsity to appear to be truth; and when falsity appears to be truth, good that is essentially good, such as is called spiritual good, is no longer possible. The good that is then believed to be good is merely natural good, such as is brought forth by a moral life. The chief cause of the consummation of truth and of good along with it, is the two natural loves that are diametrically opposed to the two spiritual loves, and that are called love of self and love of the world. Love of self when it is predominant is the opposite of love to God, and love of the world when it is predominant is the opposite of love to the neighbor. Love of self is a wishing well to oneself alone, and not to any other except for the sake of self; and the same is true of love of the world; and these loves when they are fostered spread like gangrene through the body, gradually destroying every part of it. That such love has invaded the churches is manifest from Babylon and the way it is described (Gen. 11:1-9; Isa. 13; 14; 47; Jer. 50; Dan. 2:31-47; 3:1-7 seq.; 5; 6:8-28; 7:1-14; and Rev. 17 and 18 from beginning to end of both). Babylon has finally exalted itself to such a degree as not only to transfer the Lord’s Divine power to itself, but also to strive with the utmost energy to grasp all the riches of the world. That like loves would break forth from many of the leaders of the churches outside the pale of Babylon, if their power were not restricted and thus curbed, may be deduced from certain signs and appearances not altogether without meaning. What then follows but that such a man will regard himself as God and the world as heaven, and will pervert all the truth of the church? For it is impossible for the merely natural man to recognize and acknowledge real truth, which is truth in itself, nor can such truth be given him by God, because it falls into what is inverse to it and becomes falsity. Besides these two loves there are still other causes of the consummation of truth and good, and consequently of the church; but those causes are secondary and subordinate to these two. [TCR754]
THIS SECOND COMING OF THE LORD IS NOT A COMING IN PERSON,

BUT IN THE WORD, WHICH IS FROM HIM, AND IS HIMSELF.
It is written in many places that the Lord will come in the clouds of heaven (as in Matt. 17:5; 24:30; 26:64; Mark 14:62; Luke 9:34, 35; 21:27; Rev. 1:7; 14:14; Dan. 7:13). And as no one has hitherto known what is meant by “the clouds of heaven,” it has been believed that the Lord would appear in them in Person. Heretofore it has not been known that “the clouds of heaven” mean the Word in the sense of the letter, and that the “glory and power” in which He is then to come (Matt. 24:30), mean the spiritual sense of the Word, because no one as yet has had the least conjecture that there is a spiritual sense in the Word, such as this sense is in itself. But as the Lord has now opened to me the spiritual sense of the Word, and has granted me to be associated with angels and spirits in their world as one of them, it is disclosed that “a cloud of heaven” means the Word in the natural sense, and “glory” the Word in the spiritual sense, and “power” the Lord’s power through the Word. That such is the signification of “the clouds of heaven” may be seen from the following passages in the Word:

There is none like unto the God of Jeshurun who rideth in the heaven, and in magnificence upon the clouds (Deut. 33:26-27).
Sing unto God, praise His name; extol Him that rideth upon the clouds (Ps. 68:4).
Jehovah rideth upon a light cloud (Isa. 19:1).

[2] “To ride” signifies to instruct in Divine truths from the Word, for “a horse” signifies understanding of the Word (see Apocalypse Revealed, n. 298). Who does not see that God does not ride upon the clouds?

Again:

God rode upon cherubs. He made His pavilion thick clouds of the heavens (Ps. 18:10, 11).

“Cherubs” also signify the Word (see Apocalypse Revealed, n. 239, 672).

Jehovah bindeth up the waters in His clouds; Him spreadeth His cloud over His throne (Job 26:8, 9).
Give ye strength unto God; His strength is in the clouds (Ps. 68:34).
Jehovah will create over every dwelling of Mount Zion a cloud by day; for over all the glory shall be a covering (Isa. 4:5).

The Word in the sense of the letter was also represented by the cloud in which Jehovah descended upon Mount Sinai, when He promulgated the law; the principles of the law that were then promulgated were the first fruits of the Word.

[3] As further proof, the following may also be added: In the spiritual world as well as in the natural world there are clouds, but from a different origin. In the spiritual world there are sometimes bright clouds over the angelic heavens, but dusky cloud over the hells. The bright clouds over the angelic heaven signify obscurity there arising from the literal sense of the Word; but when these clouds are dispersed, it signifies that they are in the clear light of the Word from the spiritual sense; while the dusky clouds over the hells signify the falsification and profanation of the Word. This signification of “clouds” in the spiritual world has its origin in the fact that the light which there goes forth from the Lord as a sun, signifies Divine truth; for which reason He is called “the Light” (John 1:9; 12:35). And for the same reason the Word itself there which is kept in the sacred recesses of the temples, appears surrounded by a clear white light, and its obscurity is induced by clouds. [TCR776]
THIS SECOND COMING OF THE LORD IS EFFECTED BY MEANS OF A MAN TO WHOM THE LORD HAS MANIFESTED HIMSELF IN PERSON, AND WHOM HE HAS FILLED WITH HIS SPIRIT,
THAT HE MAY TEACH THE DOCTRINES OF THE NEW CHURCH FROM THE LORD BY MEANS OF THE WORD
Since the Lord cannot manifest Himself in Person, as shown just above, and nevertheless has foretold that He was to come and establish a new church, which is the New Jerusalem, it follows that He will do this by means of a man, who is able not only to receive these doctrines in his understanding but also to publish them by the press. That the Lord manifested Himself before me, His servant, and sent me to this office, that He afterward opened the eyes of my spirit and thus introduced me into the spiritual world and granted me to see the heavens and the hells, and to talk with angels and spirits, and this now continuously for several years, I affirm in truth; as also that from the first day of that call I have not received anything whatever pertaining to the doctrines of that church from any angel, but from the Lord alone while I have read the Word. [TCR779]

In order that the Lord might be continuously present with me He has unfolded to me the spiritual sense of His Word, wherein is Divine truth in its very light, and it is in this light that He is continually present. For His presence in the Word is by means of the spiritual sense and in no other way; through the light of this sense He passes into the obscurity of the literal sense, which is like what takes place when the light of the sun in day-time is passing through an interposing cloud. That the sense of the letter of the Word is like a cloud, and the spiritual sense is the glory, the Lord Himself being the sun from which the light comes, and that thus the Lord is the Word, has been shown above. That “the glory” in which He is to come (Matt. 24:30), signifies Divine truth in its light, in which light the spiritual sense of the Word is, can be clearly seen from the following passages:

The voice of one crying in the desert, prepare ye the way of Jehovah; the glory of Jehovah shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it (Isa. 40:3, 5).
Shine; for thy light is come, and the glory of Jehovah is risen upon thee (Isa. 40:1 to the end).
I will give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles, and My glory will I not give to another (Isa. 42:6, 8; 48:11).
Thy light shall break forth as the morning; the glory of Jehovah shall gather thee up (Isa. 48:8).
All the earth shall be filled with the glory of Jehovah (Num. 14:21; Isa. 6:1-3; 46:18).
In the beginning was the Word; in Him was life, and the life was the light of men. That was the true Light. And the Word was made flesh, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father (John 1:1, 4, 9, 14).
The heavens declare the glory of God (Ps. 19:1).
The glory of God will lighten the Holy Jerusalem, and the Lamb is the light thereof, and the nations that are saved shall walk in the light of it (Apoc. 21:23, 24).

Besides in many other places. “Glory” signifies Divine truth its fullness, because all that is magnificent in heaven is from the light that goes forth from the Lord, and the light going forth from Him as the sun there, is in its essence Divine truth.[TCR780]

Author: EMANUEL SWEDENBORG (1688-1772)

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10 Spiritual Causes of Fortune

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10 Spiritual Causes of Fortune

“The very hairs of your head are all numbered.” Matthew 10:30

There is No Blind Chance

As was pointed out in another chapter, man is not responsible for all his general states. A child is not responsible for his childishness, and no adult can be blamed for having passed into maturity or old age. Neither can any arguments or any deliberate effort bring a woman into the state of a man or a wife into the state of her girlhood. Whenever our bodies grow tired after a day of activity, our minds inevitably come into new states, less strenuous; until we sink into oblivion of all cares, and spirits of a celestial type environ us.

How little we are (at least consciously) responsible for certain of our general states, seems to be clear from that which is called “fortune” or “luck.” Men commonly blame many of their disappointments on “bad luck,” or ascribe their windfalls to a lucky chance. But the Writings declare to us that there is no such thing as blind chance. For the Divine providence operates even in the least and most detailed circumstances of our lives, and thus “in the most singular things of man’s thoughts and actions.”250

It is easy to see that the real causes behind man’s general states lie in the presence with him of spirits of different types, and thus in the different spiritual mediations which modify the influx of the Lord’s life into men. We can also see that evil spirits could lead men into many kinds of accidents and misfortunes. Swedenborg records that such spirits at times caused his feet to stumble, and that they were responsible for certain slips and errors in his manuscript. Not that they actually willed such particular results—a thing which they entirely denied—but that they held him in a state of ignorance and obscurity which led to the errors. The common evil which flowed from the self-love of these spirits naturally produced such effects! Certain spirits, by their arts, have a special skill to produce a sphere from which unfortunate circumstances naturally flowed in a way which wholly resembled pure chance. Such spirits do not foresee the misfortunes they cause with a man, but they are nevertheless punished for producing such spheres from an effort to be destructive.251 “Unforeseen misfortunes are nothing else than the perpetual endeavors of evil spirits . . . and unforeseen goods come forth from the Lord. This appears incredible; but still it is so.”252

“They who trust in the Lord continually receive good from Him.” For whatever happens, whether it appears as prosperous or not, is still good for them, conducing to their eternal happiness. But with the wicked the unforeseen goods which come from the Lord are turned into an evil effect.253

Swedenborg comments that it seems incredible that spirits should be the cause of misfortunes. Yet it may seem still more incredible that even the course of what is called “a streak of luck” in cards, dice-games, etc., is intermediated through the spiritual world. “Hardly any one” knows this. But spirits convinced Swedenborg that the turns of fortune in a game of dice could be predicted by them from the unfailing appearance of certain signs—a dark cloud about him if he was to lose, a white one if he was to win!254 The “dark cloud” was of course not the cause of the misfortune; but it was a spiritual manifestation or representation of the state in which he was—a state which because of his own needs permitted him to immerse himself into a natural series of events which in their very nature would lead to “bad luck.”

Seemingly there is nothing less determined beforehand than the outcome of a lottery or the fall of a pair of dice. The only predictable factor in the fall of the dice seems to be a definite ratio of probabilities which in the long run is almost fixed, but which leaves the outcome of each single throw in uncertainty. There appear to be certain natural laws which limit the uncertainties and operate to balance the probabilities. And the more we analyze a situation, the clearer it becomes that to an all-seeing eye there is no “chance”; but that for the sake of man’s freedom it is not given him to see all the contributing contingencies or all the operations even of the natural laws involved. Swedenborg learned things about this which he was forbidden to make known.255

Providence in the Ultimate of Order

“Chance” is defined in the Writings as the operation or influx of the Divine providence into “the ultimate of order, in which all things are comparatively inconstant.”256

The Lord rules, and has always ruled, human minds, and thus the heavens and the hells, from primes through ultimates. In the ultimates of the world we may observe a fixed and constant order founded on space and time. We find orderly changes and progressions over which man has no power, and inevitable chains of cause and effect which will and thought cannot budge. Untold subatomic units moving ceaselessly at random without any purpose are gathered into great mass-actions which apparently have both order and use and which fall under the inexorable cycles of changes and of seasons. Countless data of knowledge without seeming order or connection are gathered into man’s mind. Yet in the view of man’s rational mind they may be arranged into categories and classifications which reveal a purpose or a law. One can examine the scattered details by themselves, and see only blind chance and chaos in their “comparative inconstancies.” Or one can behold the ordered movements and groupings as a whole in their constant recurrence and static presentation, and see therein an evidence of Divine government and providence which “by things constant and things inconstant deals wonderfully with human prudence and yet conceals itself.”257 So far as we can see, the constant and regular effects of natural law by which Providence operates in the ultimates of its complex order, are not disturbed in favor of man. Despite the varied states of the human mind the seasons of summer and winter come and go in their independent and fixed routine. The sun shines on the evil and on the good. The rain falls on the just and on the unjust. It is as if the life of man has been fitted into a set of disciplinary circumstances of external law or into a general fixed mould of natural routine in time and space.

If the Lord rules our minds from ultimates, it would seemingly be a contradiction to say that fortune and chance depended on the kind of spirits which are with man. But, actually, spirits need certain kinds of ultimates, depending on their states. And in various ways, hidden to man, they lead him through his own affections to seek such correspondent ultimates. In the apparent inconstancies and details of nature there is a profusion of correspondent foci. According as man places undue value on selected external objects or objectives, he becomes a source of delight for either good or evil spirits. Their sphere affects him. He steps into an unknown and uncontrollable stream of events. Evil spirits would then distract his attention from truthful circumstances and would find a way of avoiding the order and purpose of the whole by taking the parts and constructing out of them a series or order of their own—an order conducive to “ill luck” or apparent misfortune.

What we know as the laws of nature are formulations of the series of physical causes and effects from the cumulative experience of human observers ; although actually natural laws should be regarded as the effects of spiritual laws. Men are apt to think of the government of Providence from the picture which they have of nature, in which one thing occasions another in a chain of fixed “necessities.” To counter this viewpoint, the Writings record some conversations which Swedenborg had with angels and spirits.253 He tells of certain spirits who, knowing that the Lord leads men through apparent necessities,259 had the idea of a preordained fate or absolute necessity by which the entire life is necessity, so that even the Lord was bound by necessity. But since this idea of the Divine was colored by our concepts of human necessities, attention was called to the fact that man has freedom, and he who acts from freedom of choice is not under necessity; the very idea of choice implies this. There converge many circumstances—”contingencies” or happenings—which can carry man in opposite directions. The moments of a man’s life are like pebbles which a man scatters at pleasure, from freedom rather than from any necessity. Yet the Lord foresees the form in which man will eventually arrange his life, and His providence is in every single detail, “but not according to such an order as man proposes to himself.” From the Divine foresight the Lord sees the relationships between the “pebbles”— as an architect sees the design behind a heap of building materials—and fills in what is lacking, to provide for consequences a thousand years later. “All the things which are from the Lord are most essential, but they do not follow in order from necessity, but in application to the freedom of man.”260

Thus the Lord “foresees with an unceasing accommodation” how man as it were leads himself.261 Every change and variation in the human mind produces a change in the series of things that follow, and this progressively to eternity. But the drift of all the sequences of human states which man determines, would go far wide of the goal of creation “if the Lord did not lead the states of human minds every least moment”—and this through spirits and angels. This leading is secret and does not interfere with human prudence or choice, but is “accommodated” to man’s free agency. For each single thing which man does, sees, or thinks, the Lord does and sees infinite things. On the surface, the history of the race and the life of each man and each church seems to be determined by human decisions. If it were not so, man might just as well not exist, for he would have no sense of accomplishment, no incentive either to will or to think, still less to work or take responsibility. But the Lord acts to correct human mistakes, through unforeseeable things. He acts through heaven, mediately, and also immediately from Himself, not only into the will and thought of man, with or without man’s consent, “but also at the same time into the many things which befall him.”262 These “contingent” things, or providential circumstances, are the means by which the Lord, from His infinite resources, supplies the links between the moments of human decision, and by which He fills in the interstices which man has not thought of !

Yet man speaks of “chance.” We do not believe that spirits have any power over nature or nature’s laws. They did not even know beforehand how the dice would fall at Swedenborg’s backgammon table. But such is the inscrutable intricacy and detail of the Providence of God, that the “white cloud” of good fortune or the “dusky cloud” of warning are tokens before spirits of His foreknowledge of the chances which shall befall; unpredictable events into which He permits a man to be led for eternal reasons which look to the needs of spirits and also to the needs of the man—lest he should become the prey of morose disappointment, or lest he should come to rely on his “luck” rather than on his reason and his labor.

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