Spiritual Awakening in children-is this possible?

spiritual questions and answers 

discovering Inner Health and transformation

Spiritual awakening in children – Is this possible?

At times children seem untidy, noisy, and demanding. Some appear even empty-headed, selfish, and endlessly bickering. At the same time many of us feel a sense of vague longing for our own childhood. There is something about being a child that pulls at our heart strings. Probably this is to do with how in children the ‘here and now’ is central. They are said to live in the moment and have a natural energy and spontaneity about them. But do children show any signs of spiritual awakening? Do they have transcendent awareness?

William Blake and William Wordsworth in their poetry Songs of Innocence and Ode: Intimations of Immortalityevoked the awakening of a magical freshness of childhood perception as well as a natural kinship with all that is seen.

Ideas about spiritual awakening during childhood

Abraham Maslow who studied ‘peak’ experiences in adults, thought that children also undergo an awakening of visionary experiences but usually lack the words to talk about them. Even if you happen to remember having a deeply moving event many decades ago, you may not recall it with total accuracy.

Dr. Elisabeth Kűbler-Ross, famous for her books about the terminally ill, surprised medical science in the late 1970’s by revealing in her book On Children and Death, the transcendent perceptions of her patients.

“It is impossible to ignore the thousands of stories that dying patients – children and adults – have shared with me. These illuminations cannot be explained in scientific language.”  

Hoffman’s findings about children

Clinical psychologist, Edward Hoffman collected memories from adults regarding inspirational awakening during their early life. He discovered a pattern of childhood spirituality in the memories of early years detailed in his book Visions of Childhood.

These involved deep meaning, beauty and great harmony, often involving the awareness of a different kind of reality. Uplifting experiences happened in ordinary places, as well as whilst encountering nature, and during near death or crisis episodes.

Remembered are spontaneous moments of bliss, and profound insights about life and oneself in childhood: memories having an enduring significance into adulthood.

Profound intuitions in children

Hoffman’s respondents reported accounts of experiences when as children they speculated about life and death, and engaged in reflections regarding personal existence and self-transcendence.

For example a man reported that as a child his family had a mortuary in a small town in Colorado. Consequently, he grew up with a certain familiarity with death. He remembers constantly pondering where dead people go. “Do they just go into a hole in the ground? What does it feel like to be dead?” When aged nine he recalls sitting on a park bench imagining his dead grandfather being in a dark, lonely, black expanse of ‘nothing and no one’ forever and ever.

A terrible and chilling dread came over his entire body. But then instantly it vanished. It was replaced by a warm comfortable, and bright feeling – and a kind and loving presence. “I seemed to hear my grandpa saying, ‘See, it’s all right. I’m just in a place that’s different.’ ”

From that day on he remembers “I never again had a fear of death.”

One woman from Connecticut reported that her older child when aged three would occasionally ask her questions about God. One day he was standing still for a long time next to a window in their home. Just staring and not moving. An unusual thing to see in someone so young. Eventually he moved away and when asked what he was doing he replied in a matter-of-fact way “I was talking with God”. He remained subdued and then went on playing as usual. He didn’t want to share the experience with her and when asked about the incident at a later point in his life apparently didn’t recall it.

How common is spiritual awakening in children?

Are deeper experiences common but stay hidden from ourselves? That would be true if misunderstood by the child experiencing them. Or perhaps they seem unusual because they were never shared with others due to being so private, hard to put into words and unique to the individual. Or perhaps parents and childhood friends reacted negatively causing the child to clam up?

Implanting of spiritual feelings in children

One way of understanding what is going on is the idea of spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg. He suggests the infant mind is especially open to what might be called the heaven of innocence.

spiritual awakening childrenSo states of wonder and trust in life being basically good inflow into little children from a higher spiritual realm. As a result of this inflow the young child looks with eyes of wonder, thinks with a mind of imagination and feels with a heart of innocence.

Part of this state of innocence is a willingness to believe one does not produce all the good things which come to one. It is acknowledging a certain insufficiency.

Also the heavenly trust in the divine reality and consequent sense of the ‘eternal now’ can arguably be seen in the infant’s lack of any sense of time.

He suggests the inflowing higher feelings about the goodness of life vary according to age.

  • Little children trusting in life as good.
  • In middle childhood wanting to know about what is good.
  • In adolescence wanting to understand why it is good.

According to this view when we are young these unconscious feelings and inner awareness forms deep intuitions, like seeds that remain dormant as we grow up. But later we need to draw on them for our spiritual awakening in adulthood.

Importance of re-connecting to our childhood spirituality

These memories of our early years suggest there is ‘a small forgotten child who is our past self’ yet who ‘still lives within each of us’. Hoffman maintains that strengthening the link to our childhood is crucial for achieving greater happiness. Not only connecting to both the wounded child within but also to those moments of spiritual awakening in childhood.

The notion that the innocence of childhood may harbour special intuitive and spiritual sensitivity is reflected in the words of Jesus Christ who said

“Unless you turn and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Copyright 2017 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Daily inspiration

“The knowledges of faith exist for no other purpose than that through them people may receive from the Lord love to him and love towards the neighbor. This is the faith which saves.”
Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 1176

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Copyright 2017, The New Church/General Church of the New Jerusalem. All rights reserved

Verse of the day

 

Galatians 6:7-8


New International Version


Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.

Read at Bible Gateway

Read all of Galatians 6

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica

Satisfaction – how to find and keep it?

spiritual questions and answers discovering inner health and transformation

Satisfaction – How to find and keep it?

satisfactionDo you ever find yourself wondering “Is this all there is? This home? This partner? This job? Shouldn’t things be better?”  The popularity of the song ‘I can’t get no satisfaction’ by the Rolling Stones suggests that a certain element of impatience with life, even futility and disillusionment, is not uncommon.

“I can’t get no satisfaction
‘Cause I try and I try and I try and I try
I can’t get no, I can’t get no
When I’m drivin’ in my car
And that man comes on the radio
And he’s tellin’ me more and more
About some useless information
Supposed to fire my imagination
I can’t get no, oh no no no”

(Rolling Stones) Listen here

So why can’t we find and keep that feeling of satisfaction?

A perspective from positive psychology

The field of positive psychology suggests some obstacles to satisfaction.

The first obstacle is a hedonistic attitude. This is mistakenly assuming personal satisfaction only comes from ‘wine, women and song’. The sensory pleasure of the moment may come from any number of things e.g. watching exciting sport or letting your hair down at a party, or enjoying good drink and food. But by prioritising pleasure one neglects engagement in meaningful activity and personal relationships that furnish a sense of satisfying purpose to your life.

A second obstacle to satisfaction is being focused on possible dangers around us. This is having a negativity bias. For example being more likely to remember and take seriously a putdown, criticism or insult than a piece of positive feedback or compliment. No wonder you are unhappy if this is preoccupying your thoughts.

A third obstacle is the attitude of ‘Keeping up with the Joneses’ Comparing oneself with others often results in feeling diminished e.g. if our furniture, car, holiday, or clothes happen to be less smart than theirs.

A fourth obstacle is having low self-control. We tend to act as if satisfaction results from giving in to our natural desires. So we want something now rather than later. However, it is the controlling of such impulses that actually leads to happiness in the longer run. Putting off pleasures until later is necessary if we are to consistently pursue goals. For example if our aim is to repay a debt, then we may never achieve this if we spend money when we feel like it. Being impulsive can just create problems and frustration.

A spiritual perspective on satisfaction

I would suggest that a deeper appreciation of who we are profoundly influences  our state of happiness.  The obstacle here is our natural minded tendency. We each have a strong natural sense of self-awareness as a self-contained individual.  We think ‘I am myself.’ ‘This is my body’. ‘This is my mind’. So we each seem to have a separate consciousness and life of our own. We live as if we were each an island unto ourselves. Out of contact with the notion of being connected to something bigger.

How then can this self-awareness reduce satisfaction? After all, my sense of self is crucial. It gives me a sense of individuality and thus an important feeling of freedom and responsibility for personal choices.

We feel full of life, we have the experience of feeling and thought. So it comes as a bit of shock to hear it suggested that we’re actually not what we think we are. That all our feelings and thoughts are not our own but come from outside of ourselves.

Yet this is exactly what several spiritual traditions maintain. They say this perception of oneself as independently real is a mistake. Instead, it is suggested that there actually is only one Self. Not myself but rather the Self that is my creative origin and spiritual source. The Self that is for example the higher power of the Alcoholics Anonymous movement which has the ability to transform and heal the addict.

Or the Self of the mystics who speak of the One as the only reality. The one goodness we can all learn to experience. Theravada Buddhists analyse the human mind and soul as a cluster of forces. So they have a doctrine of no-self meaning that one’s self-hood is an illusion. Christians say God created us. Our life is not our own but a gift. For the Christian inspiration, higher thought and good intentions are actually the Spirit of God’s life present in us.

Likewise, the spiritual philosophy of Emanuel Swedenborg teaches that the only real life that gives happiness and satisfaction comes from the Divine Source Itself.  If all of nature on earth is created by this spiritual origin of life, then it follows that we have no life of ourselves and are merely receivers of life from a higher source. In other words, as long as we only rely on ourselves for happiness then we will never gain real peace and satisfaction.

By the way this is not a way of claiming we cannot accept responsibility for how we lead our lives. I would suggest we have been gifted the freedom to choose to turn one way or the other.  Nevertheless, if all goodness comes from the Source of Goodness then it follows that just of ourselves we have no power to do good or make ourselves happy.

Illusion as an obstacle to satisfaction

I’m saying then that this natural fallacy of the senses – that we possess life, abilities, strength and goodness of our own – can lead us astray.

Furthermore, because of the illusion of having life of oneself, we are at risk of falling into self-orientation with its dangers of self-serving and self-interested behaviour.  Aren’t we thus liable to forget the needs of others, of the principles of living we have learned, and lapse into a state of feeling alone, empty and dissatisfied with life?

“In this negative state we are open to all the evils that accompany it. And closed to all that is good and true”(Michael Stanley, spiritual teacher).

Egotistically, believing in only ourselves, we come to assume that happiness can only come from bodily comfort, social status and power.

Copyright 2018 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems