Grief on account of deprived truth

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Selection from Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel SwedenborgThe state of desolation of truth, and also of removal from truths
with those who are becoming spiritual

Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’  And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (Matthew 7:21-23)

How these things are to be understood shall be briefly told:
Those who cannot be reformed do not at all know what it is to grieve on account of being deprived of truths; for they suppose that no one can feel in the least anxious about such a thing. The only anxiety they believe to be possible is on account of being deprived of the goods of the body and the world; such as health, honors, reputation, wealth, and life.

But they who can be reformed believe altogether differently: these are kept by the Lord in the affection of good and in the thought of truth; and therefore they come into anxiety when deprived of this thought and affection.

It is known that all anxiety and grief arise from being deprived of the things with which we are affected, or which we love.

They who are affected only with corporeal and worldly things, or who love such things only, grieve when they are deprived of them; but they who are affected with spiritual goods and truths and love them, grieve when they are deprived of them. Everyone’s life is nothing but affection or love. Hence it is evident what is the state of those who are desolated as to the goods and truths with which they are affected, or which they love, namely, that their state of grief is more severe, because more internal; and in the deprivation of good and truth they do not regard the death of the body, for which they do not care, but eternal death. It is their state which is here described.

That it may be known who those are that can be kept by the Lord in the affection of good and truth, and thus be reformed and become spiritual, and who those are that cannot, we will briefly state that-

During childhood, while being for the first time imbued with goods and truths, everyone is kept by the Lord in the affirmative idea that what he is told and taught by his parents and masters is true. With those who can become spiritual men this affirmative is confirmed by means of knowledges [scientifica et cognitiones]; for whatever they afterwards learn that has an affinity with it, insinuates itself into this affirmative, and corroborates it; and this more and more, even to affection. These are they who become spiritual men in accordance with the essence of the truth in which they have faith, and who conquer in temptations.

But it is otherwise with those who cannot become spiritual men. Although during their childhood these are in the affirmative, yet in the age that follows they admit doubts, and thus trench upon the affirmative of good and truth; and when they come to adult age, they admit negatives, even to the affection of falsity. If these should be brought into temptations, they would wholly yield; and on this account they are exempted from them.

But the real cause of their admitting doubts, and afterwards negatives, is to be found in their life of evil.

They who are in a life of evil cannot possibly do otherwise; for as before said the life of everyone is his affection or love; and such as is the affection or love, such is the thought. The affection of evil and the thought of truth never conjoin themselves together. With those in whom there is an appearance of this conjunction, there is really no such conjunction, but only the thought of truth without the affection of it; and therefore with such persons truth is not truth, but only something of sound, or of the mouth, from which the heart is absent. Such truth even the worst can know, and sometimes better than others. With some also there is found a persuasion of truth, of such a nature that no one can know but that it is genuine; and yet it is not so if there is no life of good: it is an affection of the love of self or of the world, which induces such a persuasion that they defend it even with the vehemence of apparent zeal; nay, they will even go so far as to condemn those who do not receive it, or believe in the same way. But this truth is of such a quality as is the principle with each person from which it starts, being strong in proportion as the love of self or of the world is strong. It indeed attaches itself to evil, but does not conjoin itself with it, and is therefore extirpated in the other life. Very different is it with those who are in the life of good. With these truth itself has its own ground and heart, and has its life from the Lord.(from Arcana Coelestia 2689)

Achieving Work and (Spiritual) Life Balance

Swedenborg Foundation

 

By Morgan Beard

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

work+spirituality

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

http://www.swedenborg.com/

Chapter XXIII. The Second Degree of Regeneration.

< Chapter XXII. Adult Life. – First Degree of Regeneration. ^ Discrete Degrees ^ Chapter XXIV. The Third Degree of Regenerat

RECALLING Chapter XXII, the present diagram will need but little explanation. It represents man at the close of the second great step in regeneration. Dying at this stage he ascends to the spiritual or middle heaven. During this period man is brought into combat with deeper evils and falsities than in the first stage namely the evils and falsities of the second degree of the natural mind d and of the limbus f but he is sustained by more interior goods and truths in the second degree of the spiritual mind, a. Thus the second degree of the spiritual mind becomes founded on the cleansed and regenerate second degree of the natural mind and of the limbus. The middle degree of the natural mind is filled by an influx of good and truth from the middle degree of the spiritual mind and is conjoined to that degree and makes one with it. The interior seat of thought and affection and of spiritual power is now elevated into and fixed in the middle degree of the spiritual mind. Here also conscience holds its interior seat; its exterior seat being in d.

The warfare against the evils of the middle degrees of the natural d and f, causing their removal, was not carried on by the goods and truths of the spiritual mind directly upon those evils but through goods and truths stored as remains in the natural.

When the regenerate man rises after death into his appropriate heaven are his lower degrees elevated into that higher plane? No. -His lower degrees necessarily remain in their proper planes with which they agree in substance, structure and quality. These are conjoined with and quiescent under the higher. Nevertheless the man, now an angel, appears in the higher plane opened for his conscious enjoyment.

Opening a higher or a lower degree in an angel or a spirit causes his appearance in that degree, and closing the degree causes his disappearance. So it is that angels and spirits ascend and descend on that great Ladder (or way with steps) within themselves which was set on the earth with its head reaching to heaven.

With the wicked the natural degrees are closed above and opened below. In the good those degrees are open above and closed below. These opposite states cause separation and cause the good to appear above and the evil below. This with change of locality by change of thought, answers the question on page 59.

How can spirits travel in the spiritual world clothed as they are with the limbus belonging to the natural world? Their travel is effected by change of state causing also an outward sensation and appearance of travel as with man. To such travel the limbus is no impediment. Swedenborg and the prophets experienced such travel in spirit even while clothed with the gross body. (HH 191-199; TCR 280; Inv. 43, 52; U. 127, 128, 129.)


Previous: Chapter XXII. Adult Life. – First Degree of Regeneration. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Chapter XXIV. The Third Degree of Regeneration.

Will it turn out all right?

worryWill it turn out alright? This question repeats itself in my mind on many occasions and levels. Will my children be alright? Will the next event I facilitate go OK? What might go wrong!

I could go on at length on this track and do habitually get stuck in this grove of projecting my fears onto the future.

It’s very depleting, energetically, and does no good at all; I feel like a hamster on a treadmill. Things are out of my control and the whole worrying bit is pointless.  When I am in more rational moments and less stressed I can see that this is so.

One of the tools I use is to ask myself ‘does it really matter?’ In the great scheme of things does it really matter if things don’t go the way I want them to or turn out different from what I intended. At times I get hung up on the little things and forget the bigger picture.

With hindsight I recognise that when things go pear-shaped it is often a huge learning opportunity. When I wasn’t employed in a job that I had trained for it set me free to explore other possibilities and work in a different way. Often what I was stressing about never actually happened – all that wasted energy worrying!

Another tool I have come to use and remember is to be in the moment. If I’m focused on the future (or past for that matter) I’m never actually living in the moment. Very young children have a wonderful way of just being in the moment – in watching the attention of a little child placing toy bricks in a bag and taking them out again I see this played out. All the child’s focus is on what is happening in the now. How often do we adults give ourselves to the moment like this? I guess that a painter or other creative person does get lost in the energy of creating – in self-forgetfulness.

Life is for living not frittering it away in placing one’s attention in past or future. Each moment is precious and pregnant with opportunity.

However by far the greatest tool is to remind oneself that Divine Love is constant and has its focus on bringing goodness and happiness to each person whatever their circumstances. When I view things from ego this doesn’t seem to be the case when things don’t go my way or what I think is right doesn’t occur. To let that go and trust in the Divine plan that I cannot see may seem impossible and foolhardy if viewed from a worldly or superficial mindset. To love what is the highest good for all brings me into alignment and may be acceptance that difficult times are part of the way forward.

All this reminds me of the prayer below….

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Furthermore this quote from Swedenborg highlights the importance of trust in the Divine ……

There are many currents in people’s lives. One current is stronger and at the same time gentler than the rest, though this may seem like a paradox. It is the stream of Divine providence. Sometimes the quest for the spiritual life isn’t so much a matter of a tenacious search or struggle to change, but rather a letting go. Simply acknowledging and accepting that God is leading and that we are following can change us.                                                  ( Way of Wisdom)

 

Copyright 2013 Helen Brown

Nurturing the Soul blog

Posted on13th July 2013CategoriesEnlightenmentTags, ,, , , ,,Leave a comment

 

 

How do I find a new direction?

Do you need to find a new direction in your life? One sign is when you feeling a bit empty or discontented. Lacking much in the way of a sense of fulfillment in what you do?  Perhaps you are drifting through life without a clear sense of where you are going.

Having a meaningful sense of direction makes everything you do and see come alive in terms of what you are making of your life. But just how is this found?

Self-actualising motivation

New direction
Abraham Maslow

Abraham Maslow’s focus for psychological research was people who seemed healthy and creative, rather than those who were disturbed. He developed his well-known hierarchy of needs which included hunger, sleep, safety, belonging, love, self-respect and recognition. The hierarchy culminated in the need for what he called self-actualisation by which he meant wanting to make full use of one’s talents, capacities and potentialities. He reckoned we all have this desire deep within to find a new direction in life.

Of course there are limits to what anyone can achieve. With my eyesight problem, I would never have passed the R.A.F medical to get into jet pilot training which was my teenage dream. My article Drifting — how to stop deals with limitations on our aspirations due to nature and nurture.

Opportunities for a new direction

However, how open-minded are you to new realistic possibilities? Do you notice prospects for change? Or perhaps you are too set in your ways and too fixed in your ideas to take up new personal contacts, new avenues of information?

According to your interests you could join a relevant social network looking for personal contacts that might lead to something worth trying, whether it be a local voluntary project, a new type of skills training, a business venture in a new market. Some people are prepared to pursue any unexpected job break however humble with the hope it might lead towards something better.

Others sadly allow the obvious difficulties they face to overwhelm them and turn them into victims of their circumstances.

From a spiritual angle, I would suggest you will fail to perceive any meaning in what you do in so far as you lack a basic love of life. Not having enough feeling would sadly confirm Paul Sartre’s famous phrase ‘Man is a useless passion’. This is a denial of any meaning to existence and it simply adds to a sense of futility and boredom.

In contrast, one spiritual dictum I rather like is

The more you put into life then the more you will get out of it.

In other words, the more you go out of your way to try something then the more chance you have of finding something that suits you whether it be a hobby, a job, or a partner. I would suggest looking for a meaningful fulfilling role is like looking for a mate —  creating opportunities, looking around, kissing frogs.

So with all your heartfelt desire why not search out for opportunities to pursue?

What hinders us from finding a new direction

We are quite good at deceiving ourselves as to any higher calling which apparently is at odds with the prevailing climate of opinion and conventional styles of living. Don’t all these throw a blanket over the anxiety generated by the impermanence and uncertainty that only a deeper perception of life reveals?

Unfortunately, when feeling anxious we tend to escape or avoid whatever feels threatening. We play down our chances in life when it feels too much of a challenge; when our complacency, our fears, our resistance to change are all threatened.

Openness to a new direction means accepting this anxiety and not hiding from it.  It means being open to possible failure as well as success.

Story of Aung San Suu Kyi

How would it feel to build a life away from your own country and then return there to find it in turmoil? How would you respond to being asked to lead a protest to save your country, knowing the personal sacrifice that will involve? Aung San Suu Kyi is the daughter of a dead national figure in Burma who was called to lead Burma’s democracy movement in opposition to its military dictatorship. Despite their loving relationship, she and her husband were willing to suffer long separations, and a dangerously hostile regime, for the sake of trying to help the country find peace in a situation of political turmoil which continues today. She exemplifies finding meaning and purpose in life in terms of ‘looking above’ self which is discussed in How do I find meaning and purpose for my life?

The transpersonal dimension beyond the individual

Few people these days seem to gain a sense of ultimate meaning or direction from their understanding of traditional religious beliefs. However, in his research Maslow found that self-actualisers often had the ability to have mystical experiences. As a non-religious person he nevertheless supported the notion of ‘transpersonal psychology’ a field of study of human experience concerned with something which is beyond and bigger than the individual person — something many call the spiritual dimension.

What fulfillment is

People who feel fulfilled in what they do live fully in each moment. They put their trust in doing what feels right for them rather than living up to the expectations of others. There is often an acknowledgment of a spiritual reality within the physical universe. This for many means intending well towards others for the sake of the common good rather than for the sake of self.

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, there is a different Divine purpose uniquely there for each of us if we allow ourselves to be carried along by the stream of Providence. He adds the idea that there is a heavenly role prepared for each of us if only we try to find it.

Everyone there does something specifically useful, for the Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of uses. (Swedenborg HH 387)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

What is the meaning of food for you?

meaning of foodThe meaning of food varies from person to person. Like religion and politics, food can be topic of conversation not easily mentioned in a social context. It can touch on some raw emotions whether you happen to mention junk food, meat-eating, the long food chain, child malnutrition, factory farming, or genetically engineered crops.

In his book A Greedy Man in a Hungry World Jay Rayner writes about the industry of self-help books, magazines and cookbooks focusing on weight-loss. He says this serves ‘a desperate mixture of fear, guilt and shame’ about how fat we look.

With the growth of meat-eating and bio-fuels together with an ever growing world population, the price of grain for human food has shot up on the world’s market. And so in contrast to over-consumption in the West, we find food poverty in some other parts of the world: in parts of Africa eating non-nutritious food makes one dangerously non-resistant to such things as malaria and pneumonia.

Yet obesity-related disease is a major health problem in some Western world countries one example being the dramatic rise in the rate of type 2 diabetes in the UK.

More die in the United States of too much food than of too little.
(John Kenneth Galbraith)

And so food is something that is important to many of us. This raises the question about your relationship to what you eat. What does hunger mean to you? What is the emotional meaning of food for you?

Symbolic meaning of food

Not every act of eating has a deeper meaning. Yet what we need and what we want are not always the same thing. We may have engaged in some form of comfort eating or have struggled with appetite. It can be hard to put one’s finger on what food symbolises for us personally. Trying to uncover this meaning of food you might want to think about any words, sensations or memories you associate with your favourite food. For some people, spicy food might possibly represent for them a longing for excitement, a sense of adventure, or a fiery spirit trying to assert itself within the confines of a more structured life.

For others, the richness and creaminess of ice cream may possibly represent envelopment and safety offering a feeling of physical and emotional fullness and speaking of warm summer days.

When trying to overcome a craving for food one needs to ask about what one is really hungry for. I suspect some or all of the following is in some sort of way relevant to me.

  • Bored so hungry for a bit of excitement
  • Frustrated so hungry for success
  • Tense with anger or anxiety so hungry for calm relaxation
  • Fed up and depressed so hungry for something pleasant and rewarding

The trouble is emotional hunger isn’t satisfied for very long by eating. Despite the few moments of being lost in the euphoria of a favourite comfort food, one usually ends up feeling similar to the plate — empty!

Arguably, we need to watch out to see if food might be acting as an illusory substitute to meet an inner hunger which we need to learn to deal with more honestly. In other words mindless eating, if a regular habit, not only misleads us away from dealing with our inner emotional state but over time can add pounds to body weight.

In contrast, mindful eating is being more connected to oneself: more aware of when you are hungry and when you are full: not allowing your eating to be determined by the amount of food available, what others are eating, or by your emotions but rather being mindful of what’s right for your body in the moment.

The meaning of food for the soul

I would like to suggest that from a spiritual perspective, it is okay to enjoy food as something for a healthy body and as a focus for a social occasion. However, to crave food is not spiritually healthy. It means indulging the stomach, and making the height of pleasure to consist in what you eat. Is this not being externally-orientated? In contrast, food for the mind meets our need for factual knowledge and comprehension, sustaining our appetite of curiosity. And food for the soul meets our hunger to know and gain insight into what is deeply true about life e.g. about principled ideas that connect with useful action.

This reflects what Christ said:

Man shall not live on bread alone, but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, in the next life, although other senses are sharpened, our sense of taste will be dimmed. He points out that food is not something physically needed for its own sake; the afterlife being a spiritual and not a material realm. However, food for the soul is needed in the sense of love and wisdom feeding the ethical and spiritual side of our personal life: for example nourishing the growth of good sense, sincerity, caring attitudes and other good qualities of character.

  Spiritual food, …consists in everything that is of use, and everything that is conducive to use. That which is conducive to use is to know what is good and true; that which is of use is to will and do what is good and true.” (AC 5293)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Are we a victim of circumstance?

Do you believe you are a victim of circumstance? This attitude can develop when you feel out of control of your life? That events and the situations around you  dictate how you feel. That your appetites or fears are in charge of you rather than you being in charge of them. That you are not free to break away from their hold and that life is a powerful current that you are helpless to swim against. victim of circumstanceMany have wondered about just how free anyone is to determine one’s personal destiny. Are you a victim of circumstance or have you the freedom to transcend it?

Limiting factors

We are all only too aware of the way personal freedom is restricted by lack of money, demands of parenting, or the economic recession, to mention just a few limitations commonly encountered in everyday life. From an academic viewpoint, scientists point out the myriad of factors which influence our behaviour and thus curb our liberty to do and be what we want. These factors include — to name just a few — your bodily constitution and family upbringing, any physical impairment, the chemical effects of medication and the social values of our culture. According to some scientists we are all each to some extent a victim of circumstance.

Reciprocal determinism

Yet, although the environment can be seen to determine behaviour, psychologists also talk about how we shape our own individual environment. This they call ‘reciprocal determinism’. One example is the experience of mass media. People can affect this by what video and television they individually choose to watch and what magazines they  choose to read. Another example is to do with personal interactions. We have all come across those people who seem to cope well with problems. They can be easy individuals to be with because of their rewarding conduct and charming and sincere way of dealing with others. They predictably bring about a positive social atmosphere wherever they go.

In other words although the environment around them may play an important role in determining what they do, nevertheless to some extent they make this environment themselves in how they interact with it. Perhaps we have some say in controlling our lives after all.

Inner versus outer freedom

Another reason for supposing we have more chance to take control over life is the sense of inner freedom we can experience. For example how you choose to think is something you are free to inwardly do regardless of your outward activity. You can  manufacture a self-fulfilling prophecy by the way you look for the worst or the best in others, or in the way you focus on the threats or the opportunities in any new challenge.

My favourite Greek once said:

I must die. I must be imprisoned. I must suffer exile. But must I die groaning? Must I whine as well? Can anyone hinder me from going into exile with a smile?” (Epictetus)

Not even the god Zeus could conquer his inner freedom of will.

A patient of the psychotherapist Irvin Yalom had a serious physical deformity. She believed that life without a love-sexual relationship with a man was without value — that one is either coupled or one is nothing. So she shut down many options for herself including a close non-sexual friendship. Through therapy she eventually realised that although she was not free to escape her deformity, nevertheless she was inwardly free to adopt a different attitude towards it.

Illusions of freedom

We can get ourselves caught up by negative attitudes and corrupting habits. Fears and obsessive cravings can become reinforced if repeatedly adopted. The sufferer does not realise how much of life is dictated by these feelings.

Some people drift into self-centredness. They can be caught up in the desire to exercise manipulate and control, to get even with anyone who does not please them, and get hold of anything that they fancy having by foul or fair means.

When one wants to carry on in this way it seems like one is acting freely. But I would suggest that anyone who has allowed bad desires and self-delusional thinking to predominate is actually in a state of spiritual slavery. When you are carried away with delight in something it seems like you are a free person to have chosen it. But this is self-deception.

None are more hopelessly enslaved than those who falsely believe they are free.” (Johann Wolfgang von Goethe)

Real freedom

According to philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, real freedom is something very different. It is having the heavenly state of mind and character to be able to receive the spiritual life unspoilt by all the negative stuff that blocks out the heat of love and light of wisdom.

Those who are free of resentful thoughts surely find peace.
(Buddha)

As long as we remain attached to envy, greed, resentment and other selfish attitudes we are not free to experience deep happiness. The negative stuff first needs to be set aside if we are to gain unfettered access to the divine source of all that is good.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Work life balance – How do I achieve it?

A poor work life balance can be addressed through psycho-spiritual considerations as well as renegotiation.

work life balance

The signs of poor work life balance are feeling overloaded, taken for granted, and drained. Working parents may become a little detached from the children and feel what they do is not good enough. So what causes this state of affairs and what can you do about it?

Cultural change and the work life balance

Until a few years ago professional workers who were obliged to take work home, set aside time there in order to get the work done when it would not impinge upon their personal life.

Since then technology has become more sophisticated. The “2015 Workplace Flexibility Study.” was based on a survey in the USA. It found that 64% of managers expect their employees to be reachable outside of the office in their personal time. This trend has now reached Europe.

The lack of work life balance becomes more acute for parents, particularly mothers. This is because of the increase in their numbers in the workforce, together with the unwitting expectation that they will continue to shoulder most of the responsibilities of child-rearing and domesticity.

Self-care and the work life balance

Most of us know only too well that looking after oneself is crucial for health and well-being. This means time to get a proper night’s rest – doctors recommend 7-8 hours: time to have a little regular physical exercise which helps to relieve stress: and time to renew batteries through being on one’s own and having meaningful contact with family and friends.

These sound like the bare minimum for self-care. Yet, even these are under threat from the office email demanding some immediate response. How can one switch off one’s mind from the demands of the world if one’s smart phone is always switched on? And even if you do turn it off, you are likely to regularly turn it back on just to see if anything has turned up whilst it was off.

“Technology has expanded the 9-to-5 workday into the 24/7 workday, which has made it extremely difficult for employees to have personal time”
(Dan Schawbel, Founder of WorkplaceTrends.com)

Addictive technology and the work life balance

When people use this technology at work it can be adopted for their interests at home e.g. social media and use of search engines. Often a lot of this is in some way work-related e.g. professional networking, and information gathering. There is thus a blurred line between work responsibilities and personal life. The frequent use of Twitter, Facebook, Google etc at home can be so habit-forming as to even be seen as an addiction.

Fear and the work life balance

The fear is in missing something important through not being constantly connected. What if a crisis occurred and they couldn’t contact me? Or something happening which I feel I need to know about?

Often the fear is partly rational with some element of exaggeration. Is it really the end of the world if you don’t respond to that enquiry during unsocial hours? Or to that international customer from another time zone? Unless you are on call and working for an emergency service, you are not going to respond to a text message during the middle of the night – or are you?

An underlying unreasonable fear may be one of catastrophic failure, making obvious mistakes, not meeting people’s expectations, and being criticized. Why not replace this desire for faultlessness with being “good enough.” After all no one is perfect.

Negotiation with the boss about work life balance

Re-negotiating boundaries should not be considered as negative. Rather, it is a way of affirming something about one’s own self-worth and is a path to sanity. Saying ‘no’ to unreasonable demands can be an important first step in bargaining. One compromise deal might be not taking the work smart phone on holiday but giving your private phone number just to the boss on the understanding you may be called only in a dire emergency.

A reasonable boss, who values your work, may be willing to do a deal. If there is no organisational policy regarding a general flexibility for employees’ work life balance, this may be just a private understanding only with you. Such a deal may or may not be at the cost of reducing your further advancement within the company.

Other managers, however, may be intransigent and refuse to compromise. And so it may not be possible to strike a compromise in favour of a better work life balance. In such a scenario you possibly will need to consider looking for another job where the need for worker flexibility is better understood and where work goals better resonate with you. However this could mean having to accept lower pay.

Staying attuned spiritually and the work life balance

One way of dealing with our fears is to get some perspective on them by getting in touch with the higher dimension to life.

With late night and Sunday opening, modern secular life doesn’t allow for any special day of the week. Yet, according to the biblical legend, even God rested on the seventh day of creation! Perhaps we do need permission to keep one day for ourselves. A chance, without the ubiquitous smart phone, to get out into the fresh air, connect to nature, or listen to music. This creates space for personal reflection focusing on the deeper things of life: considering what really matters.

Look at what the world’s religions teach about the importance of meditation and prayer. Such spiritual disciplines calm the spirit and help you focus less on mistakes and the bad things and instead remember what is going right and what it means to you.

“The unexamined life is not worth living.” (Socrates)

Swedenborg on the work life balance

Spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg wrote about the religious significance of the seventh day of the week. According to him, people with inner religious faith want regular time to devote themselves to getting in touch with their image of God. This means reflecting on spiritual lessons and allowing oneself to be led by the ‘Divine within’ rather than by the demands of the world. In so doing they are said to find the tranquillity of ‘peace that passes all understanding’

Copyright 2015 Stephen & Carole Russell-Lacy

Stephen Russell-Lacy is author Heart, Head & Hands (http://spiritualquestions.org.uk/2012/10/heart-head-hands-ebook/)

Spiritual awakening – How to discover it?

Who doesn’t wonder whether happiness that lasts is ever possible and if so what does one have to do to bring it about? Will this need to involve some form of spiritual awakening and if so how do you discover it?

Spiritual awakening and contemporary culture

Much of materialist science has it that we are slaves to our inherited nature, family upbringing and economic constraints of adult life. In other words we are led to believe that our personal destiny is more or less already predictable and that we have little or no personal choice in the matter. Contemporary commentators thus suggest that the only way for improving things is to try to change the external world and thus the circumstances of the people in it – their economic, social and political experience and so on.  As a result, knowledge and understanding of spiritual ideas are often sidelined.

It may be the case that the very need for spiritual awakening is challenged implicitly in our Western culture. Nevertheless, I suspect many people privately wonder whether they need to undergo some sort of personal transformation if they are to be really happy. This would be very much in line with what deep thinkers say about the need for spiritual awakening if one is ever to become a better person.

The trouble is this deeper form of personal change can seem to be a mystifying process.

Spiritual awakening and Observing Spirit

In the book Observing Spirit, Peter Rhodes however clarifies the process; for example showing how spiritual awakening involves self-awareness and being fully alert to inner experience.

spiritual awakeningObserving Spirit: Evaluating your daily progress on the path to heaven with Gurdjieff and Swedenborg by Peter Rhodes, 2005 Chrysalis Books ISBN 0-87785-316-9

The reader is offered a series of useful spiritual exercises and the necessary theoretical understanding to foster spiritual awakening and the personal benefits it can bring. These can be substantial; including heightened awareness and vitality, a focusing of one’s energy and sense of individuality and authenticity.

Personal self-help books are in plentiful supply. Often they beg the question whether it is possible to use a technique or task apart from the framework of spiritual ideas which underlie it. For example do we need spiritual beliefs regarding what states of mind spiritual awakening can lead us into?

Spiritual awakening and world religions

The world’s religions have plenty to say about human destiny, and morality. The unavoidable experience of confronting death is seen as a key spiritual test for liberating us from excessive material preoccupation.

In the three Abrahamic religions, Judaism, Christianity and Islam, destiny is framed in terms of our individual identity surviving death in an eternal afterlife. Phillip Sheldrake has pointed out that this vision, in broader terms, embraces judgement in relation to our conduct of life, sometimes an intermediate state of waiting or re-schooling and then, either ultimate union with the divine (called heaven or paradise), or in a state of ultimate separation from the divine (referred to as hell). In Hinduism there is said to be a continuous cycle of birth, death, and rebirth (reincarnation) until – through right action, an increase in selflessness and the practice of a spiritual path – the cycle eventually ends in release from suffering and merging with the divine.

But such religious traditions have less to show how their teachings can be applied by the spiritual seeker who lives outside of the sacred customs, practices and rites of a religious culture: how can such a person use theology to engage in healing of the spirit?

Peter Rhodes offers an answer. On a personal level he had found what to believe about life and death in the Bible and Emanuel Swedenborg’s interpretation of it. However, it was in the books of Gurdjieff and his associates that Rhodes discovered a very practical spiritual methodology for applying Swedenborg’s religious thought to the difficulties of personal change.

Deeper ideas and tasks for spiritual awakening

Once central idea in the Swedenborgian approach, is that effort must be made to turn away from or put aside whatever is not good about the way one is living. Observing Spirit offers both some deeper ideas and tasks in relation to waking up to :-

  • Where you are and where you want to go,
  • Your effects on others,
  • Prevailing negatives in your character,
  • Your developing aims,
  • Your natural side in service to your spiritual side,
  • Freedom from natural time,
  • Space for a spiritual life,
  • Remembering yourself,
  • Being conscious of another person’s difficulties
  • Removing barriers,
  • A real sense of self,
  • Being shocked by what is true,

For me this inspiring book shows that it is essential to wake up to the nature of our illusions and false attachments and to gain spiritual knowledge and understanding about ourselves and the divine source of all that is good and true. At the same time what is also needed is a heartfelt acceptance of the factors that stand in the way of our journey of personal transformation and a willingness to work on personal change.

The process of spiritual growth described in Observing Spirit is challenging. It takes effort, and there are times when spiritual enlightenment about yourself will not be a particularly pleasant experience. But that with the spiritual power of the divine working within oneself, it is so much easier for you to see your true intentions and to listen to other people and appreciate the goodness in them.

I believe the book will greatly help its readers to behave more in accordance with their true values and to pay better attention to the subtle yet inspiring thoughts and feelings present within the human soul.

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Helping Others is Good for You

The website inCharacter.org has an interview with Dr. Stephen G. Post, author of Why Good Things Happen to Good People: How to Live a Longer, Healthier, Happier Life by the Simple Act of Giving, and president of the Institute for Research on Unlimited Love. (Call me a cynic, but the name “Institute for Research on Unlimited Love” does not instil in me a lot of confidence; it sounds like a hippie farm or a horrific Orwellian government office.)  An excerpt:

IC: What about altruism and longevity?

POST: A remarkable fact is that giving, even in later years, can delay death. The impact of giving is just as significant as not smoking and avoiding obesity. A 2005 study conducted by Alex Harris and Carl Thoresen of Stanford University found that frequent volunteering is strongly linked to later mortality. Called the Longitudinal Study on Aging, it followed more than 7,500 older people for six years. Volunteering was a powerful protector of mental and physical health. Another study, a 1992 survey of older people by Neal Krause of the University of Michigan found that helping others lowers depression. Krause found that, for older men, ten years of volunteering can dramatically slash mortality rates. Another researcher, Doug Oman and his colleagues did a study involving 2,025 older residents of California and found that those who volunteered had a 44 percent reduction in mortality-and those who volunteered for two or more organizations had an astonishing 63 percent lower mortality rate than non-volunteers. If you are an older adult, I have one recommendation: volunteer!

I like that research like this is being done.  As with any study like this you have to be careful not to mistake correlation with causation, but I would guess that these studies at least attempted to control for this, and I would guess that there is SOME element of volunteerism actually causing longer life.  Serving others – performing a use for society – gives a person purpose and a drive to keep living.

Studies like this – and like the marriage study I blogged about a few months ago – have helped me understand a passage from Conjugial Love that confused me the first time I read it.  Conjugial Love n. 130 says,

In brief summary, [wisdom of life] is this: to flee evils because they are harmful to the soul, harmful to the civil state, and harmful to the body, and to do good things because they are of benefit to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body.

The soul and the civil state made sense – the body, not so much.  But more and more research confirms this: things like anger and deceit are harmful to the body, whereas things like doing good are beneficial to the body.  Research like this contributes directly to “wisdom of life” in that it shows just how evil is bad for the body and good is good for it.

That said, it seems like there must be a point where over-volunteering becomes a health risk, rather than a benefit.  I’ve talked to several people who have had doctors tell them that for the sake of their health, they have to stop doing so much.  And I think over-volunteering is often tied with the falsity that we have to do enough good works to merit heaven (Swedenborg has a great description of people in the spiritual world who fell into this fallacy in Arcana Coelestia n. 1110).  I’d like to see research into where that healthy balance is and how people can find it.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/ac/index.htm (Arcana Coelestia)

(http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/cjl/index.htm (Conjugial love)

MARRIAGE WITHIN THE CHURCH

MARRIAGE WITHIN THE CHURCH A Sermon by Rev Douglas M. Taylor

April 25, 1997

“Neither shalt thou make marriage with them; thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor his daughter shalt thou take unto thy son” (Deut. 7:3).

Moses, the Divinely appointed leader and governor of the Hebrew nation, was speaking in the name of the Lord when he relayed this Divine commandment to the assembled congregation just prior to their entry into the promised land. In the name of the Lord he was warning them of the grave danger to which they would expose themselves if they were to intermarry with the idolatrous nations round about them in the land “the Hittites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, the Canaanites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.” These nations worshiped various idols, so we can readily understand the reason given for not intermarrying with them, namely, “for they will turn away thy son from following Me, that they may serve other gods; so will the anger of the Lord be kindled against you, and destroy thee suddenly” (Deut. 7:4).

There was no hope of these nations’ coming to the worship of the one God, Jehovah. They were utterly and irrevocably devoted to the worship of strange gods and idols. Therefore the Lord commanded through Moses that there was to be absolutely no inter-marriage with them. If once marriages with the idolatrous nations that would surround them on all sides when they entered into the land were allowed to begin, grave national and spiritual consequences would surely ensue, and, worst of all, would grow.

The national consequence of intermarriage was quite obvious. If it became the general rule, the nation would soon disappear. It would lose its independent identity; it would be swallowed up by the surrounding nations. In a later period in the history of the nation, this is exactly what did happen. What are now known as the ten lost tribes of Israel were apparently swallowed up by intermarriage with the surrounding nations when carried into captivity by the Assyrians. This is also what happened to those left behind in Israel at the time of the captivity in Babylon. They intermarried with neighboring peoples and produced the very confused people known as the Samaritans, who were universally despised by the pure Jews. The pure Jews were those who, in marked contrast, refused to intermarry with their Babylonian captors, who in face of considerable hardship and external pressure remained loyal to the Lord and His commandments, including the one set forth in our text. They obeyed and they survived.

And the church survived with them. The spiritual consequences followed inevitably from the national consequences. For, as the Lord said repeatedly to the Hebrews through Moses: “Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God; the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto Himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth” (Deut. 6; see also 14:2, Ex. 19:6). It would never have done for the Israelitish or Jewish nation to have disappeared before the Christian Church could be set up, because the representative of a church would have vanished, causing the vital link between heaven and earth to be sundered.

But despite the very definite prohibition of marriages between the people of the representative church and those who were in idolatrous and heathen worship, they were by no means forbidden to intermarry with the nations who accepted their worship, and who, after being initiated into it, acknowledged Jehovah. This truth is vitally important to know and understand if we are to achieve a balanced view of this matter of marriage within the church. The Jews were never forbidden to intermarry with those who, after instruction, could receive their worship. Dedicated idolaters could never do that, but strangers who sojourned or dwelt with them could. They were called “strangers” or “sojourners.” The law concerning them reads: “And when a stranger shall sojourn with thee, and will keep the Passover to the Lord, let all his males be circumcised, and then let him come near and keep it; and he shall be as one that is born in the land . . . . One law shall be to him that is homeborn, and unto the stranger that sojourneth among you” (Exodus 12:48,49).

The acid test, you see, was whether or not they could come into their doctrine and worship wholeheartedly. If they could, marriage with them was not forbidden; if they could not, it was forbidden in the clearest and strongest terms.

It was only to be expected that the Christian Church in its early integrity observed this law. Some of the stronger denominations still remain faithful to it. Their authority for this stand lies in the passages referred to in the Old Testament, to which they have added this very forthright utterance of Paul in his second letter to the members of the church in Corinth: “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols?” (II Corinthians 6, 7)

The same Divine law is given in the Heavenly Doctrine of the New Jerusalem, but it is there amplified and explained so that we may understand why it is forbidden to marry those who are devoted to other gods than the one, only God, the Lord Jesus Christ in His glorified, Divine Human.

Before considering those teachings, let us recall something we already know and believe, so that it will be in the forefront of our minds: that is, that this is in very truth a Divine law. It is the voice of the Lord that says, “Neither shalt thou make marriages with them” (text). It was not Moses who thought it up, though he spoke it; it was not the Levites, who served the use of the priesthood in that church, who decided on this law and decreed and proclaimed it from themselves, though many generations of them have since upheld it; it was not the congregation of the church as a whole that decided to impose this law upon itself like some kind of regulation. It was the Lord, in His love and wisdom, who commanded this commanded it, not merely recommended it commanded it from His eternal wish to give the human race, in general and individually, the greatest happiness possible.

So with the New Church. It is not Swedenborg who thought up the deeper explanation of this law, though he delivered it from the Lord; it is not any individual priest or bishop who thought this a useful requirement to introduce into the church organization; it is not even the united voice of the Council of the Clergy that decreed this law, although every member of the priesthood worthy of his sacred trust and use proclaims it from the Lord as clearly and as conscientiously as he can; nor is it the voice of the whole assembly of the church that says it from itself. It is the Lord alone, from His love and wisdom, who says it. He says it for the sake of establishing the New Church, meant by the New Jerusalem in the book of Revelation establishing it in the individual and in the world at large. He says it for the sake of our greater and more lasting happiness.

Our obedience to this concept of marriage within the church is, therefore, obedience to the voice of the Lord; it is a willingness to be led by Him. It is innocence which is the essence of heavenly joy and heavenly peace (see HH 288).

Because the Lord has said these things, it is the duty of the priesthood to teach them. In general, it is the sacred duty, use and function of the priesthood to teach the truth and so lead to the good of life (see NJHD 314, 315). This means all the truth that the Lord has revealed; there can be no willful withholding of the Lord’s Word, no hiding His Divine Light under a bushel. The Word must be preached with a view to goodness of life.

Still, priests must not compel anyone (see NJHD 318). There must be a free and rational acceptance of what the Lord says should be done. In the Word, the priest is compared to a watchman, as in these verses in Ezekiel: “So thou, O son of man, I have set thee a watchman unto the house of Israel: therefore thou shalt hear the word at my mouth, and warn them from Me. When I say unto the wicked, O wicked man, thou shalt surely die; if thou dost not speak to warn the wicked from his way, that wicked man shall die in his iniquity, but his blood will I require at thine hand. Nevertheless, if thou warn the wicked of his way to turn from it, and if he does not turn from his way, he shall die in his iniquity, but thou hast delivered thy soul” (Ezekiel 33:7-9).

Those who are priests, then, have a sacred duty to teach the Word with all its warnings; those who are laymen of the church likewise have a sacred duty to hearken to the Word of the Lord. In this spirit of willingness to be led by the Lord, let us look into the further explanation that the Lord has provided for the New Church.

In the explanation of the internal sense of our text we find this teaching: “That the Israelites were not to contract marriages with the daughters of the Canaanites also had regard to the spiritual laws that good and falsity, and evil and truth, are not to be joined together, for from that comes profanation” (AC 3024:7).

Whatever refers in the sense of the letter to marriage and conjugial love refers in the internal sense to spiritual conjunction, that is, to the heavenly marriage of truth and good, and good and truth. The reason is that conjugial love derives its origin from this marriage of truth and good, and good and truth (see AC 4434). So it is further explained: “If good were conjoined with any other truth than its own it would not subsist at all, but would be rent asunder and so would perish. In the spiritual church the wife represents good and the man represents truth . . . and . . . they not only represent, but also in all their activities correspond to them” (ibid., section 9). In other words: the state of the marriage depends on the good that is with the wife, and the truth (the moral wisdom, the truth in act) with the husband. But if they are discordant if the good and truth do not agree there will be an interior coldness in the marriage.

In the work Conjugial Love, which satisfies the human longing for a spiritual kind of marriage love by setting forth the truths, the Divine doctrine concerning love truly conjugial, there is a whole chapter on the causes of coldness and consequent separations in marriage. We learn that there are external causes and internal causes of this coldness. The external causes, which need not concern us here, are various natural differences (such as differences of education and upbringing, etc.). But the internal causes are all from religion. This is because conjugial love is according to the state of the church (see CL 130). Four different causes of an interior coldness between married partners are enumerated (see CL 238-244).

These are: (1) the rejection of religion by both partners; (2) that one has religion and not the other; (3) that one is of one religion and the other of another; (4) that there is falsity of religion.

The first and the last of these causes do not seem to apply as directly as the second and third; that is, an absence of religion in one of the partners, and a difference of religion between them. Let us see, then, what is said about these two.

As to an absence of religion in one of the partners, this causes an interior coldness because their souls do not agree. In the case of the one who has no religion, it is closed against the reception of conjugial love, while in the case of the other the soul is open. “Hence in the soul there can be no cohabitation,” we read (CL 241). “This coldness is not dissipated except by the reception of a religion that agrees with that of the other, if this be true” (ibid.).

In the case where one is of one religion and the other of another, the interior coldness arises from the fact that “with them, good cannot be conjoined with its correspondent truth. For a wife is the good of the husband’s truth and he is the truth of the wife’s good . . . . Hence from the two souls there cannot come to be one soul; consequently the fountain of that love is closed” (CL 242). The same passage goes on to give an experience of Swedenborg that shows, perhaps more clearly than any passage from the Heavenly Doctrine so far brought forward, why the Lord in His mercy has forbidden marriage outside the church: “I [Swedenborg] was once wandering through the streets of a great city seeking a place of lodging; and I entered a house where dwelt married partners who were of different religions. While I was ignorant of the fact, the angels spoke to me and said, We cannot stay with you in this house, because the married partners are in discordant religion.’ They perceived this from the internal disunion of their souls” (ibid.).

From all this we can appreciate that the statement in our lesson from the Arcana Coelestia is no exaggeration: “Marriages on earth between those who are of different religions are accounted in heaven as heinous, and still more so marriages between those who are of the church and those who are outside the church” (AC 8998).

The Lord’s wise and loving reasons for making this prohibition ought now to be manifest. He wants to give us the greatest happiness not just a partial, incomplete happiness. He wants each individual to enjoy a marriage of love truly conjugial. He wants to give us complete happiness. In love truly conjugial there is the greatest happiness. It is the good from which all other goods are derived.

This applies to the individual marriage within the church. But it also has a most profound bearing on the future growth of the church (the Lord’s kingdom) on earth. The church as an organization exists for the sake of extending the Lord’s kingdom, extending both widely and deeply the realm where the Lord is King, encouraging the reception of the good and truth that make His kingdom. In the light of that, let us consider this most heartening and inspiring teaching, again from the work Conjugial Love: “The offspring born of two who are in love truly conjugial derive from their parents the conjugial of good and truth, from which they have an inclination and a faculty, if a son for perceiving the things that are of wisdom, and if a daughter for loving what wisdom teaches” (CL 202). What a wonderful prospect this opens up for the real growth of the Lord’s kingdom, for a deepening reception of those qualities that make heaven and the church! What a hope this raises for the deeper reception of the Heavenly Doctrine in heart and life as well as mind! Can we not see here the great use performed by marriage within the church, in that it increases the possibility of marriages of love truly conjugial, with the consequent improvement in the hereditary inclinations of the offspring of those marriages? Can we not see here the surest way to rectify the perverse and twisted inclinations that have been handed down through the ages in a great accumulation of tendencies to evil? Can we not see what a boon the Heavenly Doctrine is to the whole human race if only it is accepted and practiced, beginning with ourselves?

Obviously marriages outside the church to those who are completely devoted to some other god or some other end that they love above all else destroys or at least delays the fulfilment of that beautiful hope. Such marriages may indeed enjoy conjunctions of the lower mind, but they do not conjoin souls. Consequently, those in them, we read, “know nothing of the loveliness and joyousness, still less of the felicity and blessedness, of love truly conjugial” (CL 244).

Besides this, they create practical problems for the individual marriage and for the church organization. In the individual marriage, at the best there is perforce a lack of sharing in the inmost things, the most precious of all and this can only make the heart ache. At the worst, there are disagreements, resentments, and even a striving for dominion. Moreover, the risk is increased that the children will be lost to the church and the Lord’s kingdom.

What, then, shall we do about this Divine teaching?

One thing is certain: We cannot ignore it, or neglect it, or try to get around it. We cannot do these things without grave spiritual danger and harm to the church in ourselves and in the world.

In the first place, we must continue to instruct the people of the church, especially our young people, in what is involved in marriage in the New Church. We must continue to hold out the ideal presented by the Lord in the Writings as something that is not just desirable but actually attainable in the Lord’s strength. We must make it possible to see how neglect of this commandment is not a little matter.

Second, we must encourage those of marriageable age to seek their partners within the church; or, if this is not possible, encourage them to choose only those who are “sojourners,” not idolaters, that is, those who can be instructed and can come to accept the New Church doctrine and worship and so acknowledge the Lord Jesus Christ. In their efforts to interest their future partner in the doctrine, let them remember that the New Church partner has far more strength than he or she realizes for the Lord is in the true things of faith.

Third, let us strive to find those in the community who are “sojourners” those who are willing to be instructed, so that we may enlarge the choice available to our young people.

Fourth, let us continue our efforts to have as many of our young people as possible attend the Academy of the New Church through college age, where in addition to becoming educated under the auspices of the church, they will also find themselves in the company of many who are the offspring of parents who have been striving after love truly conjugial, young people who are most likely to have inherited an inclination to perceive and love the things of wisdom.

Fifth, we must help and encourage those who married before they knew about what the Lord wishes in the matter, and who have found that their partner does not share their religion. We must encourage them to interest their partner in the Heavenly Doctrine, so that their souls also may be conjoined. The more clearly we visualize the ideal that the Lord places before us for our greatest happiness, the more willing will we be to try, and the more persistent will our efforts become.

In summary, then: the Lord teaches that marriage within the church is not only the ideal that we must all strive to make real, but it is also the greatest blessing and the surest way of having the Lord’s kingdom come on earth. Consequently, marriage to one who is quite unwilling to be instructed, one who is devoted absolutely to some other god, necessarily an imaginary god, is forbidden by the Lord for the sake or our happiness, both temporal and eternal. But marriage with one who is willing to receive the teaching and worship of the church is not forbidden. Amen.

Lessons: Deuteronomy 7:1-6, Revelation 22:12-17, AC 8998


Arcana Coelestia

8998. In regard to this, the case is that those who have been born within the church, and from infancy have been imbued with the principles of the truth of the church, ought not to contract marriages with those who are outside of the church, and have thus been imbued with such things as are not of the church. The reason is that there is no conjunction between them in the spiritual world, for everyone in that world is in consociation according to his good and the truth thence derived: and as there is no conjunction between such in the spiritual world, neither ought there to be any conjunction on earth. For regarded in themselves marriages are conjunctions of dispositions and of minds, the spiritual life of which is from the truths and goods of faith and charity. On this account, moreover, marriages on earth between those who are of a different religion are accounted in heaven as heinous, and still more so marriages between those who are outside of the church. This also was the reason why the Jewish and Israelitish nation was forbidden to commit whoredom with them.

This appears still more evidently from the origin of conjugial love, which is from the marriage of good and truth. When conjugial love descends from this source, it is heaven itself in man. This is destroyed when two consorts are of unlike heart from unlike faith.

VISIONS AND DREAMS

VISIONS AND DREAMS

A Sermon by Rev. Lawson M. Smith Preached in Mitchellville, Maryland, January 4, 1987

“And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

It is the beginning of a new year. We seek a vision from the Lord, to show us where we are to go in the days and months ahead. In many areas of life, people speak of “visions” and “dreams”: a vision for a business, financial vision; to have a dream for one’s life; dreams for our marriages, and for our children; a vision for the church. To be a man of vision is a wonderful thing. What is it that we seek when we wish for “vision”? How can we receive it? Let us look at what the Heavenly Doctrine teaches about visions and dreams, and then see what the prophecy of Joel can teach us today.

The Lord taught the people of the Most Ancient Church by dreams and visions. These were their primary means of Divine revelation. Angels came to them in their dreams and showed them delightful paradisal gardens and many other things, and at the same time taught them what these dreams meant. Through such visions and dreams, the Most Ancient people learned the most fundamental truths, such as that all life and all goodness and truth are from the Lord alone and none from man. Having been given to understand these fundamentals, from their love to the Lord they perceived countless applications to their lives.

Later, men turned away from the Lord and closed their open communication with heaven. Then the Lord sent an angel to certain people to teach them about Himself and the life after death. The Lord filled an angel with His presence, so that the angel could represent Him to men and speak from the Divine, not from himself. The angel of the Lord came to men in visions during the day, in dreams at night, or sometimes simply spoke to them without being seen. The men to whom the Lord granted visions and dreams then taught others what the Lord had taught them. They were prophets, spokesmen for the Lord. Through them the Lord wrote the Ancient Word and then the Old Testament. The written Word began to be an important means of Divine revelation, though as yet few could read, and the Word was still transmitted mainly by oral tradition.

In Old Testament times the Lord appeared by means of angels to Abraham, Joshua, Gideon and others. The Writings point out that such visions took place by the opening of people’s spiritual eyes, not by their natural eyesight, for the subjects of the visions were in the spiritual world.

Dreams are an important part of the stories of Joseph and Daniel. The Lord used dreams to show them what He was going to do. The Lord also spoke to Solomon twice in dreams, and Solomon also answered the Lord in his dreams.

Later on in Israel’s history, the Lord gave some of the prophets remarkable visions, especially Daniel, Ezekiel and Zechariah, and later the apostle John, who wrote the Apocalypse. But these visions, along with many other things revealed through the prophets, can scarcely be understood, even in our day, without the help of the Writings. Relatively few people were given visions, and the Lord sent prophets infrequently. Compared to the days of the Most Ancient Church, few people were in a suitable state to accept revelation from the Lord. In Samuel’s day it is said, “And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no open vision” (I Samuel 3:1).

Having a vision of what we should do with our lives is very important. But sometimes the word of the Lord seems to come to us rarely, if at all. Then some people will seek visions by other ways than from the Lord.

For example, when the Lord refused to speak to King Saul, Saul turned to a witch or medium to contact Samuel, then deceased. But the law of Moses strictly forbids necromancy and witchcraft: “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” a law which even in our day, the Writings say, is altogether to be observed and done (see Exodus 22:18; AC 9349). So Isaiah warned the people, “And when they say to you, `Seek those who are mediums and wizards, who whisper and mutter,’ should not a people seek their God? Should they seek the dead on behalf of the living? [Go] to the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them” (8:19,20). This is good advice for us too. It is always unprofitable in the long run to seek guidance by a means which is not according to the Lord’s law, because there is no other source of light and vision than the Lord.

So the Old Testament warns the people to be on guard against false prophets, and to test their words by seeing whether they come true (see Deut.13:1-5). In the days when Jerusalem was under the Babylonian siege, the Lord through Jeremiah commanded the people to surrender, and then they would be well treated in Babylon. But false prophets arose claiming to have been told that there would be peace in the land again soon. Jeremiah urged the people, “Thus says the Lord of hosts: `Do not listen to the words of the prophets who prophesy to you. … They speak a vision of their own heart, not from the mouth of the Lord. … I have heard what the prophets have said who prophesy lies in My name, saying, “I have dreamed; I have dreamed!” … Indeed, they are prophets of the deceit of their own heart, who try to make My people forget My name by their dreams which everyone tells his neighbor, as their fathers forgot My name for Baal'” (23:16, 25-27). The people, sadly, followed the advice of the false prophets, but the word given through Jeremiah came true.

The Lord Himself came into the world when almost all spiritual light and vision had been cut off. He came to bring light to those who sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, so that we could see a true vision of our God. He did away with the need for representations of Himself through the angel of the Lord. In the Lord’s parable of the rich man and Lazarus, the rich man begs Abraham to send Lazarus, now an angel, to warn his brothers; but in Jesus’ words, Abraham says, “If they do not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded though one rise from the dead” (Luke 16:31).

The Writings cite this parable in explaining the law of the Divine Providence that men must not be compelled in the things of religion. “No one is reformed by visions and dreams,” we read, “because they compel” (DP 134). That is, they compel an outward, temporary, grudging acknowledgment that fades away with time, and leaves a man no better than before. Therefore the Lord does not make use of conversations with the dead to teach us today. This is not the kind of vision we should seek.

Speech with spirits is still possible, and it would not be harmful with those who are regenerate and established in a true faith based in a life of charity. But spirits do not try to teach people anything, but only speak a few words. In general, spirits speak only out of the things in the person’s own memory, and tend to reflect our own states of mind, or what a part of us wants to hear them say, whereas the written Word is an objective standard.

Some people have criticized Swedenborg as violating the Lord’s warning against conversations with the dead. Many others have been attracted to him merely as, in their eyes, a successful spiritist. But several things set Swedenborg apart from spiritists. First, he never sought contact with the other world. The Lord opened his spiritual eyes in order to reveal things to mankind which could not be made known in any other way, as He opened the eyes of the apostle John and other prophets. Second, all of the Writings rest firmly in the Old and New Testaments. Third, Swedenborg never tried to draw attention to himself. Even the Writings themselves were published anonymously until the last two works, when their authorship was already generally known. Instead, the Heavenly Doctrine always leads us to the Lord.

The Writings say there are several false kinds of visions. There are delusions induced by spirits, affecting our natural sight of things in this world. People who are not strong-minded are prone to this kind of vision. Another kind of vision is inspired by fanatical spirits who believe themselves filled with the Holy Spirit. They insist that what they teach must be believed.

All evil spirits see in a false light. An evil spirit is nothing but a collection of lusts and the fantasies of his lusts. He imagines that what is good is bad, and that what is bad is good; he takes delight in filthy and wicked things, and believes these will make him happy. In hell, one spirit miserably torments another by delusions. They also torment us on earth, inspiring similar fantasies in us, such as the feeling that “only if” I can have or do some selfish thing will I be happy.

On the other hand, when a person has a genuine vision, he actually sees things that really exist in the other life. He sees in the light of heaven from the Lord. The things of the heavens all represent the one and only reality in the Lord (see AC 1966ff). Even though today the Lord does not give us visions and dreams involving the opening of our spiritual eyes, He still does give us spiritual light to distinguish what is real and eternal from what is delusive and fleeting, if we sincerely look to Him for enlightenment.

The prophecy of Joel really looks forward to the New Church. In its spiritual sense, it shows us how we can receive vision from the Lord. The prophecy begins with the devastation of the land of Israel by locusts and invading armies. The Lord through Joel explains the reason these disasters have occurred: Israel has been unfaithful. Then comes a beautiful, clear call to repentance: “`Now, therefore,’ says the Lord, `turn to Me with all your heart … Rend your heart and not your garments'” (2:12,13). The beginning of every true state of the church, or the way to prepare for every gift from the Lord, is to repent of evils that we aware of.

But then the Lord promises to drive Israel’s enemies away, and to bless her with the former and latter rain, so that the crops bring forth abundantly. Then comes the text: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29).

This describes a state in which we are being regenerated. The Lord pours out His Spirit or breath upon us, the breath of life, when we are ready to receive His Holy Spirit. “Upon all flesh” means upon all mankind. In the spiritual sense, “flesh” means all human states, particularly states oriented to bodily and worldly things, which need to be reformed and regenerated by the Spirit of the Lord. The individual groups sons and daughters, old and young, and servants stand for each of the levels of our minds and hearts in which we need to receive the Lord, in order to see Him clearly. “The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together, for the mouth of the Lord has spoken” (Isaiah 40:5; AC 574).

The Lord pours out His spirit upon us by teaching and enlightening us in truths. A man who is being regenerated then “prophesies,” that is, he understands so clearly that he could teach these truths to others. We prophesy to ourselves when from the rational level of our minds we form an idea of what the Lord is saying to us and how we should act, and then tell ourselves that this is how we are going to act.

Sons and daughters are both mentioned, standing for the understanding and the will. The Writings say that our state of enlightenment depends on the state of our minds as formed by doctrinal teachings from the Word, signified by the sons. The more clearly we have the teachings of the Word in our minds, from current, regular reading of the Word, the more clearly the Lord can enlighten us. Faith is perfected by the number and coherence of truths. We can picture a chandelier: the more lights and prisms, the more bright and beautiful a light it will give. There is no substitute for a clear knowledge and understanding of the facts of Divine revelation.

Enlightenment and vision also depend on the disposition of our will, represented by the daughters. For example, we need to be willing to face a vision that calls us to repentance, not just cries of “Peace, peace” when there is no peace.

Each person is different from every other, both in his knowledge of the Word and experience, and in his love’s interests. Accordingly there is a variety of vision as to the uses of life. This variety perfects society as a whole, as long as each man’s vision comes from the Lord.

The old men, who will dream dreams, stand for the gentle, peaceful wisdom of old age, the interior sight that comes from a lifetime of following the Lord. The most ancients received their instruction in dreams. The young men’s visions represent intelligence and an interest in understanding the Word rightly. The men of the Ancient Church received revelation through visions. It is good for us to recognize and value the contributions that each state of life can bring to the church.

The male and female servants stand for rational and natural truths, with their affections. Natural truths are facts, and rational truths are concepts formed from them. Such facts and concepts are servants to visions of spiritual things and dreams of celestial wisdom. When we set our knowledge and our interest in information in subordination to the uses of life rather than making it an end in itself, then the spirit of the Lord is poured out even upon the menservants and maidservants with us.

From this prophecy through Joel the Lord is showing us how we can receive His spirit of regeneration in our lives, and so be blessed with dreams and visions of the goals to which the Lord is leading us. What we really want is a vision of the Lord so that we can cooperate with Him in His purposes. The Lord is always offering us such a vision, as light is always streaming from the sun, but we receive it according to our state. Our vision is always very limited. We don’t see where Divine Providence is leading us; we only glimpse a little of what the Lord hopes and intends for us. But what we can see is enough for us to advance into clearer and clearer light. Our source of vision is the Lord in His Word. If we read the Word, and think about its application to life in whatever uses we seek guidance whether our careers, our marriages, our families, or our church and if we act on what we see with courage and zeal, then the Lord will be able to guide us into the right paths, and into greater light. The prophecy of Joel will be fulfilled: “And it shall come to pass afterward that I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh; and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, your old men shall dream dreams, your young men shall see visions; and also on menservants and maidservants I will pour out My Spirit in those days” (Joel 2:28,29). Amen.


Lessons: Joel 2:12-32; Matthew 2:1-12; AR 224:1-4e

Apocalypse Revealed 224:1-4e

I saw an assembly of spirits, all upon their knees, praying to God to send angels to them, that they might converse with them face to face, and open to them the thoughts of their hearts. And when they arose, there appeared three angels in fine linen, standing before them, and they said, “The Lord Jesus Christ has heard your prayers, and has therefore sent us to you; open unto us the thoughts of your hearts.” And they answered, “We have been told by our priests that in matters of a theological nature the understanding avails nothing, but only faith, and that in such things intellectual faith is of no service to anyone, because it is derived from man. We are Englishmen, and have heard many things from our sacred ministry which we believed; but when we have conversed with others, who also called themselves the Reformed, and with others who called themselves the Roman Catholics, and likewise with sectaries, they all appeared to us learned, and yet in many things one did not agree with another, and still they all said, `Believe us’; and some of them, `We are God’s ministers, and know.’ But as we know that the Divine truths, which are called truths of faith, and which appertain to the church, are not derived to anyone from his native soil, nor by inheritance, but out of heaven from God; and as these show the way to heaven, and enter into the life together with the good of charity, and so lead to eternal life, we became anxious, and prayed to God upon our knees.” Then the angels answered, “Read the Word, and believe in the Lord, and you will see the truths which should constitute your faith and life; for all in the Christian world draw their doctrinals from the Word as from the only fountain.” But two of the company said, “We have read, but did not understand.” And the angels replied, “You did not approach the Lord, and you have also confirmed yourselves in falsities”; and the angels said further, “What is faith without light, and what signifies thinking without understanding? this is not human; even magpies and ravens can learn to speak without understanding. We can affirm to you that every man whose soul desires it is capable of seeing the truths of the Word in the light; there does not exist an animal that does not know the food proper to its life when it sees it, and man is a rational and spiritual animal, who sees the food of his life, not that of his body but of his soul, which is the truth of faith, provided indeed he hungers after it and seeks it from the Lord; whatsoever is not received also in the understanding is not fixed in the memory in reality but only verbally; therefore, when we have looked down out of heaven into the world, we have not seen anything, but have only heard sounds that are for the most part dissonant. But we will enumerate some things which the learned among the clergy have removed from the understanding, not knowing that there are two ways to the understanding: one from the world and the other from heaven, and that the Lord withdraws the understanding from the world when He enlightens it; but if the understanding be closed by religion, the way into it from heaven is closed, and then man sees no more in the Word than a blind person. We have seen many such fall into pits, out of which they have never risen again. Examples must serve for illustration: are you not able to understand what charity is and what faith is? that charity consists in doing well by your neighbor, and that faith consists in thinking well of God and of the essentials of the church, and therefore that he who does well and thinks well, that is, who lives well and believes well, is saved?” … And then they solicited the angels to give them further information, and especially concerning God, the immortality of the soul, regeneration and baptism. To this the angels replied, “We will not say anything but what you can understand; otherwise our discourse will fall like rain upon sand, and upon seeds therein, which although watered from heaven, still wither and perish.” Concerning God they said, “All who come into heaven have their place allotted them there, and thence eternal joy, according to their idea of God, because this idea reigns universally in every particular of worship. The idea of an invisible God is not determined to anyone, nor does it terminate in any; therefore it ceases and perishes …

Concerning Regeneration: “Who does not see that everyone is at liberty to think of God or not to think of Him, provided he be instructed that there is a God; so that everyone has liberty in spiritual things, equally as in things civil and moral; the Lord gives this liberty to all continually, for which reason he becomes guilty if he does not think of God. Man is man from this ability, but a beast is a beast from not having this ability; therefore man can reform and regenerate himself as from himself, provided he acknowledges in heart that it is from the Lord. Everyone who does the work of repentance and believes in the Lord is reformed and regenerated. Man must do both as from himself, but this as-from-himself is from the Lord …

Concerning baptism, they said that it is spiritual washing, which is reformation and regeneration; and that an infant is reformed and regenerated when, on becoming an adult, he does the things which his sponsors promised for him, which are two, repentance and faith in God; for they promise first that he shall renounce the devil and all his works; and second, that he shall believe in God. All infants in heaven are initiated into these two, but to them the devil is hell, and God is the Lord. Moreover, baptism is a sign before the angels that a man is of the church.” On hearing these things, some of the assembly said, “This we understand.” But a voice was heard from one side, exclaiming, “We do not understand”; and another voice, “We will not understand”; and inquiry was made from whence these voices proceeded, and it was found that they came from those who had confirmed themselves in falsities of faith, and who wished to be believed as oracles, and thus to be adored. The angels said, “Be not surprised: there are very many such at this day; they appear to us from heaven like graven images, made with such art as to be able to move the lips and utter sounds like organs, but without knowing whether the breath, by means of which they utter these sounds, comes from hell or from heaven, because they do not know whether a thing be false or true. They reason and reason; they confirm and confirm, nor do they ever see whether it is so. But know that human ingenuity can confirm whatsoever one wishes, even until it appears to be so; therefore heretics and impious persons, yea atheists, can confirm that there is no God, but nature only” …

And after the angels had taught them something concerning correspondence and its effect, some of the company said, “Now for the first time we understand.” And when they said, “We understand,” behold a flame with light descending from heaven consociated them with the angels, and they loved one another.

Spiritual Frontier – Emanuel Swedenborg

THE LOVE OF RULING

THE LOVE OF RULING

A Sermon by Rev. Donald L. Rose Preached in Bryn Athyn July 23, 1995

The subject of this sermon is the love of ruling other people, a love stemming from the love of self. It is about a selfish inclination to control other people or dominate them. There is a passage about this love in the book Divine Providence which says: “This [love] has its abode in the interiors of every man from his birth; if you do not recognize it (for it does not wish to be recognized) [vult enim non cognosci it does not want to be known] it dwells securely, and guards the door lest man should open it and the Lord should thereby cast it out” (DP 210).

In contrast to this love there is a beautiful thought articulated by Gideon when he was asked to be leader of his people. “And Gideon said to them, `I shall not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the Lord shall rule over you'” (Judges 8:23). How beneficial if people would say (not out loud) as they deal with other people, “I shall not rule over you the Lord shall rule over you.”

There is an invitation in the Writings: “Let those who are in this evil explore it in themselves” (CL 262, TCR 661:4). The Writings call this evil the head of all infernal loves (see DLW 141). Compared to this love all other evil loves are easy (see DP 146). And of course we have already mentioned the saying that if you do not recognize it (and it does not want to be recognized) it dwells securely and guards the door.

What is this selfish love like? We might say, “Oh yes, I know some bossy people. I know some obviously selfish people, people who brag a lot, people who are stubborn about getting their own way.” There are personality traits that are caricatures of evil loves. There are historical figures that seem to epitomize the loves: Adolph Hitler, Alexander the Great, Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar. The Writings do talk about such extraordinary people, not that they differ from us in having these loves, but they differ from us in having the opportunity to let it go on without restraint. When we look at someone who goes to great extremes, we are not seeing a different love but we are seeing a common love and what it looks like when it goes on to its extremes (see HH 559).

Here is what the love of self is like: ” … so far as external restraints are removed, which are fears of the law and its penalties … so far it rushes on until it finally wants to rule not only over the whole terrestrial globe but also over the entire heaven, and over the Divine Himself, knowing no limit or end. This propensity lurks hidden in everyone who is in the love of self, although it is not manifest to the world” (HH 559).

Looking into evil loves brings surprises. It surprised Swedenborg. “At first I wondered how it is that love of self and love of the world could be so diabolical, and how those who are in these loves could be such monsters in appearance; for in the world there is little reflection on the love of self, but only on that elated state of mind in external matters which is called haughtiness, which because it is so apparent to the sight, is regarded as the only love of self” (HH 555).

Let us look for a moment at our own experience of the more evident traits of selfishness, bossiness and pride. If you encounter someone who is constantly calling attention to his accomplishments and superiority, you might sense that rather than an unusually evil person you are encountering an insecure person, perhaps a person who suffers feelings of inferiority. This can be especially evident in a young person who brags about himself.

We read in the Arcana: “The love of self is not always that which in the external form appears like haughtiness and pride, for such persons may sometimes have charity toward the neighbor, for such an external is born with some, and with others is contracted at an early age, but afterwards is brought into subjection, the externals still remaining” (AC 2219:5). The number says the love of self is much uglier than that.

Another passage in the Arcana says that the exteriors of the love of self are “contempt for others in comparison with self, and an aversion to those who are in spiritual good, and this sometimes with manifest elation or pride, and sometimes without it” (AC 4750:5).

In our lesson (AC 1505-1508) we read of some who have a kind of overbearing sphere they have contracted but it is conjoined with a sphere of goodness. It is a sphere which they are able eventually to get rid of (see AC 1508).

It makes good sense to get rid of the external characteristics of bossiness or of the habit of imposing on the freedom of others. It is good for your popularity and for effectiveness in your work. A good, competent marriage counsellor who may have no belief in God or in the spiritual side of marriage will rightly advise you in this regard.

On another level the love of dominion of one partner over the other “entirely takes away conjugial love and its heavenly delight” (HH 380). “Where there is dominion no one has freedom; one is a servant, and the other who rules is also a servant, for he is led as a servant by the lust of domineering” (Ibid.).

Here is a story of Swedenborg’s experience relating to the love of dominating. Once when he was meditating, there came upon him the wish to understand the universals of heaven and of hell or a general knowledge of each. He asked a wise teacher what those universals were, and he was told of three sets of opposites. The universals of hell are: 1) the love of ruling from the love of self; 2) the greedy love of possessing the goods of others, and 3) obscene love. The three loves of heaven were three opposites: 1) the love of ruling from the love of being useful; 2) the love of having the wherewithal to be useful; 3) true conjugial love (see TCR 661).

He went home with this thought and a voice from heaven said, “Examine those three universals that prevail above and below, and afterward we shall see them on your hand.” He realized that when you examine something until you understand it, the angels can see it as if it were written on the hands.

He began with the love of ruling from the love of self. “While I was studying [it] a perception was given to me that this love is in the highest degree infernal, and therefore prevails with those who are in the deepest hell … This love is such that so far as loose rein is given it, which is done when no impossibility is in the way, it rushes on from step to step, and even to the most extreme; neither does it stop there … But on the other hand, those who wish to rule from the love of uses have no wish to rule from themselves but only from the Lord, since the love of uses is from the Lord Himself …

“While I was meditating upon these things it was said to me through an angel from the Lord, `Now you shall see, and it shall be proved to you by sight what the infernal love is.'” Then there arose a devil from hell so ugly that he did not wish him to come near. This devil said he came from where they are all emperors of emperors, kings of kings. At first Swedenborg started to reason with him and to say that this was insane, but then he realized that he was addressing an impossible insanity.

Then as he beheld this overbearing insane monster it was made known to him that he was not talking to someone who had been a world leader or a prominent figure. In fact he had been a house servant, but had nursed a contempt for other people.

Then another devil arose even more terrible, with ecclesiastical trappings. The first devil fell down on his knees and worshipped him. When asked why he did so, he said, He is God. Swedenborg asked the one who was being worshipped what he said to that. The reply: “What can I say? I have all power over heaven and hell; the fate of all souls in my hand.” Swedenborg was allowed to scold him and say, “How can you rave so? In the world you were merely an ecclesiastic … You have worked up your spirit to such a height of madness that you now believe that you are God Himself.” Being angry at this, he swore that he was God and that the Lord had no power.

This experience gave a glimpse of the political and ecclesiastical love of self. We are taught that priests ought to teach “but still they ought to compel no one, since no one can be compelled to believe contrary to what he thinks from his heart is true” (HD 318). They “ought not” to compel and they cannot compel. Do not do what you are unable to do anyway! Actually the love of dominating is a love of the impossible. Do not try. Do not want to compel. Say, rather, “I shall not rule. The Lord shall rule.”

The encounter with the ugly domineering spirits was followed by a beautiful experience. Swedenborg encountered two angels. He found in them no desire to domineer. They conversed about what it is to serve uses. They said that they had actually sought out their positions, but only so that they could be of more service. They talked of the difference between doing something from a selfish motive and doing it from an unselfish motive. They were asked the question: How can the individual know what his motives are? The answer was that we cannot decisively tell, but “All who believe in the Lord and shun evils as sins perform uses from the Lord; but all who do not believe in the Lord and do not shun evils as sins perform uses from themselves and for their own sake” (TCR 661).

The shunning of evil involves the acknowledgment that evil exists. Most of the time we are unaware of evil in ourselves. Who among us has any sense that he desires to rule over the whole universe? Who among us can say that he has within himself the hatred of God? But there is no one with open eyes who is not aware of evil in the world and its horrible results. In a way we are like Belshazzar in knowing second hand about evil. He knew all about Nebuchadnezzar and how his arrogance had been humbled. As Daniel said, “You knew all this” (Daniel 5:22). He knew it and yet he had not humbled himself.

When we observe the result of evil love, such as the horrible devastation of war (and wars are taking place right now), we are observing the effect of evil loves which have a dwelling place with us. We need not say as we view atrocities, “There go I.” We can say, “There goes it.” “It” is the love of self. “If you do not recognize it (for it does not wish to be recognized), it dwells securely, and guards the door lest man should open it and the Lord should thereby cast it out. Man opens the door by shunning evils as sins as if from himself, with the acknowledgment that he does it from the Lord” (DP 210).

Put the Lord in the picture as you go about your life, and in the name of the Lord renounce the love of self and the love of dominion. Inwardly say over and over again. “I shall not rule over you … The Lord shall rule over you.” Amen.


Lessons: Daniel 5:18-30, Matt. 20:20-27, AC 1505-1508

Arcana Coelestia 1505-1508

1505. I have also been informed how these spheres, which in the other life become so perceptible to the senses, are acquired. Take as an example one who has formed a high opinion of himself and of his own pre-eminent excellence. He at last becomes imbued with such a habit, and as it were with such a nature, that wherever he goes, though he looks at others and speaks with them, he keeps himself in view; and this at first manifestly, but afterwards not manifestly, so that he is not aware of it; but still it is regnant, both in the particulars of his affection and thought and in those of his bearing and speech. Men can see this in others. And this is the kind of thing that in the other life makes a sphere, which is perceived, but no more frequently than the Lord permits. The same is the case with other affections; and therefore there are as many spheres as there are affections and combinations of affections, which are innumerable. The sphere is as it were the man’s image extended outside of himself, the image in fact of all things that are in him. In the world of spirits, that which is presented to the view or perception is only something general; what the man is as to particulars is known in heaven; but what as to the least particulars is known to none but the Lord.

1506. In order that the nature of spheres may be known, I may adduce some things from experience. A certain spirit who had been known to me and with whom I had conversed while he lived in the body appeared many times afterwards among the evil; and as he had a high opinion of himself, he had acquired a sphere of pre-eminent excellence, because of which the spirits suddenly fled away, so that none appeared but himself alone; and he filled the whole surrounding sphere, which was one of self-regard. Being deprived of companions, he presently fell into another state; for in the other life one who is deprived of the society in which he is, at first becomes as if he were half dead, for his life is then supported solely by the influx of heaven into his interiors. He then began to lament and feel torment. The other spirits afterwards said that they could not endure his presence because he desired to be greater than others. Being at last brought into association with others, he was carried up on high, so that it seemed to him that he alone governed the universe; to such a degree does the love of self puff itself up when left to itself. He was then cast down among the infernals. Such a lot awaits those who think themselves greater than others. More than any other love is the love of self contrary to mutual love, which is the life of heaven.

1507. A certain person during his bodily life had seemed to himself to be greater and wiser than others; in other respects he was well disposed, and not much given to despising others in comparison with himself; but as he had been born of high rank, he had contracted a sphere of supereminence and authority. In this character he came to me, and for a long time spoke not, but I notied that he was encompassed as with a mist, which going forth from him began to cover the other spirits, at which they began to be distressed. Thereupon, addressing me, they said that they could not possibly stay there, for they were deprived of all their freedom, so that they did not dare to say anything. He also began to speak to them, calling them his sons, and at times instructing them, but with the authority that he had contracted. This showed the nature in the other life of a sphere of authority.

1508. Many times has it been given me to observe that those who in the world had been endowed with high rank could not help contracting thereby a sphere of authority, and therefore in the other life they could neither hide nor get rid of it. In those of them who had been endowed with faith and charity, the sphere of authority is in a wonderful way conjoined with a sphere of goodness, so that it is not troublesome to anyone; indeed a kind of corresponding subordination is shown them by well-behaved spirits; and in fact they have no sphere of commanding, but only a sphere that is natural to them from their high birth, and which after some delay they put off; for they are good, and strive to put it off.

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LOVE IS LIFE

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Welcome to the website of the Swedenborgian Church. We’re glad you stopped by! The Swedenborgian Church is an open-minded, forward looking Christian church drawing its faith from the Bible as illuminated by the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). If you have serious questions about traditional Christian theology, yet wish to explore the deeper aspects of the Bible and the Christian faith, we may be what you are looking for. We worship a God of unconditional love, whose warmth and light can deepen your inner life and give direction to your spiritual journey.

We invite you to explore our growing website to learn more about our church and its ministries. And may God bless you on your spiritual journey!

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Lasting Memories

Lasting Memories

There are other important influences which contribute to our rebirth from above. They are good states of our emotions starting in infancy and going right through to old age, which make us able to have a positive reaction to Divine influences.

Swedenborg describes these helpful states as “lasting memories,” meaning conditions deeply impressed on our nature. They are emotions which form a holy remnant deep inside us and are called on and strengthened as our lives develop.

These “lasting memories” are described as “not just the good and true things learned from childhood out of the Lord’s Word and impressed on the memory, but also all the states of being which come from this, such as innocent times from infancy; times of love toward parents, brothers and sisters, teachers and friends; times of kindness to other people, and also of pity for poor and needy people; in a word, every experience of goodness and truth.”

Swedenborg also says and his statement can be proved by observation that “these lasting memories are saved up in the person by the Lord and stored in his inner self while he has no consciousness of it. They are carefully separated from the things which belong to the person’s ego, that is, from evils and falsities.”

In another place Swedenborg says, “It is impossible for any person to live, and especially to live as a human being, if he does not have something alive inside of him, that is, unless he has at least some innocence, kindness, and mercy, or something from them which is like them. The person receives this share of innocence, kindness, and mercy from the Lord during infancy and childhood. What the person receives then is saved up inside him. It is these saved-up impressions which make a person capable of becoming a truly human being when he reaches adulthood.” We are also told that while we are being reborn, we receive new “lasting memories” in addition to the ones kept from early life. These “lasting memories” which “are carefully separated from the things that belong to the person’s ego” form what is known in modern psychological terminology as a “complex.” They are arranged into a unified whole which, under the Divine eye, is valuable in our rebirth process. They are a very powerful factor in our rebirth one which is not usually recognized by psychologists.