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INTRODUCTION
to Higher Meaning web site.

What do we mean by “higher meaning”?

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

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

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

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

What do we mean by “correspondence”?

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

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

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Sacred things – Do they matter?

Ordinary life is filled with cares and concerns. We each get taken up with earning a living, the needs of our family, the problems of where we live or whatever. Don’t you sometimes yearn to re-discover a sense of balance and composure? Many people do this by re-connecting with a magical place where they have experienced a special moment. A place they have come to regard as sacred.

The word ‘sacred’

The word ‘sacred’ is a religious word. Whether you are a member of a faith tradition or none, any place can be seen as sacred if it is especially important to you. One person’s religion may be another’s superstition or folk belief, eg good-luck charms or religious relics may be imbued by some with mystical powers.

According to spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg, in the distant past, ancient people would be reminded of inward human qualities by physical things e.g. a heart – representing love; a snake – sensory pleasure; a sword – integrity in fighting for what is right. But in the course of time, he says, this symbolic knowledge was lost. Later generations mistakenly assumed there was supposed to be something inherently holy in such things and thus began to superstitiously revere them as idols.

What is sacred

What you regard as sacred doesn’t have to be what you have you been told by others but what you experience within. It is a very personal matter. It might not be a place at all but rather an activity, an object or even an idea.

“What is sacred can refer to something that one cherishes, that is precious” (Rick Hanson, neuropsychologist)

sacredPerhaps it is something you respect that is so different from what is ordinary & mundane that it is beyond language to describe. This might be because it makes you feel safe. Or perhaps it reminds you of your deeper values. Or perhaps it inspires a sense of wonder and awe that touched your soul. And so you want to keep whatever it is unspoilt and pure.

Sacred activity

What is a blessing to you might be a walk in the woods that you love. It could be meditating – there is a sacred space in the mindful moment. Maybe its when listening to that special piece of music or reading that favourite book that deeply affects you.

Some say you know what it is when you feel connected with a sense of what is profoundly good and wise.

“Whether we’re religious or not, a prayer is the acknowledgment of something greater than ourselves. It is a ritual that allows us to create space for hope even in the tiniest prison, including the prison of our mind.” (Tim Leberecht, spiritual writer)

Sacred ideas

What is revered by you might simply be an idea that you value and regard as precious; for example a specific thing that reminds you of the principle of honesty with your life partner, the innocence of childhood, your sense of vocation, or the value of social justice. When you recall the idea, it stands apart in its significance for you giving a renewed sense of purpose and hope.

Why we need something sacred

Don’t we all need to get in touch with something, in our heart of hearts, that is really dear to us and worth dedicating ourselves to? Something that goes beyond the self and that is very real and powerful, pure and good. Imagine a life in which nothing was consecrated for you – or to anyone else. To me, such a life would be empty and sterile.

Responding to the sacred

Whatever it is that you feel is worthy of veneration why not return to it? You can then get to know what it is like to be touched by it. I happen to believe that by setting aside a little time to do this, on a regular basis, you can be taken away from your ordinary concerns so that your mood and mind is lifted to a higher plane.
I really believe there is something divine in everything if you want to find it. Whether it’s in the smile of a child, the handshake of a stranger, the sound of birdsong, or the newly opening buds of a snowdrop.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands

 

Do spiritual symbols mean anything today?

One example of a spiritual symbol is the image of a tree of life.  This is a universal symbol – appearing in ancient wisdom. We find it across cultures, religions and mythology. It turns up as the Yggdrasil (the world tree) of Norse religion, as part of the Jewish Kabbalah and as an Armenian religious symbol, to mention just a few examples.

What does the Tree of life mean to us now?

The Tree of Life appears in the first book of the Bible, Genesis, and also the last – the book of Revelation. At the beginning and the end. It’s almost as if it’s the framework into which the rest of the Bible fits.

We find the Tree of Life at the beginning at the centre of a garden and at the end at the centre of a holy city that descends from heaven. Swedenborg’s interpretation of this spiritual symbolism helps me relate to this; it reflects my changing relationship with the Divine; it is different at the beginning from what it becomes or grows into at the end.

For me, the bits in-between are a depiction of my spiritual wanderings and challenges to reach a spiritual maturity; a deeper connection with my experience of what is spiritual and a living relationship with the Divine Creator.

What is the beginning of our life like?

God has no beginning but we as his finite creations definitely do begin at a point in time. Our beginnings start in an experience of unity and connection, in the oneness of the Divine, yet it is necessary for us to develop into conscious independent individuals in order to choose to return to the forgotten, lost unity and connection of the One Life that creates, loves and sustains us.

This wonderful unity and connection with all that is living, I see in the beautiful Garden of Eden. This undoubtedly idyllic and innocent picture relates to what we experience in the infancy of our spiritual life. It is in the centre of this Garden where we discover or experience the Tree of Life.

Trees are powerful symbols of enduring, substantial mental and spiritual attitudes.
For me, the Tree of Life symbolises the perception that we are all united and connected by the Creative Love that gives life to all. To have this at the centre of one’s life is to perceive that the One Life can be experienced in many facets in other people and the world of nature; the One in the many.

What is the journey through life like?

Another tree appears in the Garden – the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and this is very attractive to us. What sort of perception do we gain from eating its fruit? Its presence gives us a choice; do we decide what is good and true for ourselves or depend purely on it being revealed to us by God? We have minds of our own; surely we can decide for ourselves what we should do?

It is almost inevitable that we turn away from dependence on the Divine to choose and develop our own sense of identity, our ego. Life is then identified as being in the separate individual, myself, because that is what I experience. Therefore I no longer wish to be a part of the Garden of Eden experience which is about being receptive and dependant on Divine revelation.

So I embark on a long spiritual journey passing thought many trials and challenges in order to learn about myself and be self-sufficient.

A part of this quest for enlightenment is expressed in the following quotation from an article in Chrysalis magazine entitled Odyssey by David Garrett:

The loneliness of “coming to oneself” is acutely painful. At some point, in a mysterious way, the seeker dares to consider the possibility that the loneliness and the failure are because the quest was attempted entirely by his own efforts….For the first time, the seeker becomes experientially aware of an inner source that is deeper and more resourceful than the ego. As he/she turns to it, the feeling of being stuck recedes. The cold and barren world tingles and warms. The inner earth sprouts green shoots. Each time she/he consciously relates to the inner wise one, life quickens. When he /she ignores it, vitality ceases.

What is the end of my life like?

There is the possibility of discovering afresh the ‘tree of life’ perception in one’s spiritual maturity – but not in a garden. Now it is at the centre of a city. The Holy City at the end of the Bible is always descending from heaven, therefore I am once again open to Divine revelation coming from a God-given rationality, structured yet full of vitality and dynamism. This is an integration of all that has previously taken place in my experience and comes from heart, mind and service to others.

At the end of the journey one can re-discover what had been lost, and make one’s way back to the beginning to the Tree of Life – but it is different yet paradoxically the same. Perhaps what is to be discovered is always the same, eternal and enduring, but the change has taken place in oneself. This reminds me of the T.S. Eliot poem, Four Quartets, as follows;

We shall not cease from exploration
And at the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.
Through the unknown, remembered gate
When the last of the earth left to discover
Is that which was the beginning;
At the source of the longest river
The voice of the hidden waterfall
And the children in the apple-tree
Not known, because not looked for
But heard, half-heard, in the stillness
Between two waves of the sea.
Quick now, here, now, always –
A condition of complete simplicity
(Costing not less than everything)
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well….

Copyright 2010 Helen Brown

Soul Symbols

Soul Symbols Cover

by Helen Newton and Becky Jarratt

Published by spiritualwisdom.org.uk 2008 pp 157 £10

To purchase

This book encourages us to stop, take notice of the world around us and reflect on the inner reality it contains.  Everything in nature is said to exist because it is a reflection of something of spirit. The book mainly comprises photographs of scenes and objects together with commentary regarding their psycho-spiritual significance. Some of these pictures can also be purchased as separate cards.
The suggestion is we reflect on what each picture might be saying to us about ourselves, and then read the comments provided including quotes from a variety of sources including from Swedenborg, who wrote in depth about the meaning of symbols. The authors claim that the thirty six symbols that form the heart of this book are just a start to understanding this key to both the Divine and our own personal, spiritual transformation.
I can highly recommend this book to all those interested in tuning into this higher reality, enabling more light and love to shine into our lives.                            Stephen Russell-Lacy

In engaging with symbols I can key into a universal wisdom and spirituality which I can also relate to on a personal level.  I would recommend this set of cards and book as an aid to each person’s journey towards wholeness – it’s both enriching and freeing.                                                       Helen Brown, Jungian therapist

Communication of higher awareness.

Has a new kind of uplifting perception or intuition ever come to you? Perhaps a sense of wholeness or timelessness, or an encounter with a side to reality that goes beyond the world as we usually know it. A short moment when you sensed that something new has been revealed – something usually hidden? Communication of such illumination can be problematic.

Trying to remember this sort of deep experience can be difficult because ordinary language seems unable to capture the essence of the thing. Perhaps you would love to convey something of the positive nature of what you have gone through to your partner or close friend. But how do you do this? How does one communicate something which seems to be different from common life?

communicationVerbal and non-verbal communication

You may talk about and show your feelings using tone of voice and facial expression. But this is only a communication about how you have reacted to the experience rather than saying anything about the experience itself. You may try to use the language of religion or mysticism to describe it but often the words used by these are off-putting, ambiguous or carry connotations that are not what you are trying to get at.

In communicating your experience one approach you might try is to write a poem. This isn’t quite as daft as it seems. A lot of the world’s mystical writing is couched in verse using poetic licence to convey impressions and ideas. You don’t even have to use poetry. Prose can also employ imagery to communicate something of a deeper side to existence.

In choosing imagery you might try using simile or metaphor as follows:

Using image of mountains for communication

For example perhaps your extraordinary consciousness showed you a higher and wider perspective on things, in which case you might refer to it as a ‘mountain-top’ experience e.g. glimpsing a higher aspiration in life for yourself which might become the summit of your achievement and worth all your effort to climb to the peak. We speak of ‘faith being able to move mountains’; and so if you believe in what you are doing, you can overcome any obstacle.

Using image of olive oil for communication

Alternatively, your moment of higher awareness may have been a sense of kindness and harmony. This perception might be conveyed in terms of olive oil. Don’t we speak of ‘pouring oil on troubled waters’. This image reflects a concern for resolving discord and conflict so that calm and agreement is restored. A small act of kindness can ‘oil the wheels’ of social interaction and make things run more smoothly.

Using image of lions for communication

Your special illumination may have been catching sight of that intangible thing we call courage – perhaps having a foretaste of the kind of confidence needed to turn round and face one’s personal difficulties. Using an image of the lion may express this positive feeling, for we speak of being ‘brave as a lion’ – a creature which has every reason to be a confident being, as it is, the top predator in its natural habitat. To ‘beard the lion’ would indeed be to confront danger using divine power within.

Using image of pearls for communication

Or perhaps you have had a deep experience of inner safety and stillness. The pearl comes to mind. The pearl is valued for its lustre. We speak of an important piece of advice as a pearl of wisdom. Protected by its oyster shell, it had laid quiet and still on the sea bed. You may come to value the perception about divine protection you gained in the quietness and stillness of your meditating mind.

Using image of the sun for communication

One of the most inspiring of all inner experiences is to feel in the presence of the source of all life – the love and light without which nothing that is good could exist. This is a consciousness of cosmic energy originating and sustaining not only our physical life but also our spiritual one. The light and warmth can go out of our life when we lose a loved one. We also feel in the dark and cold when we lose a sense of the spiritual light and heat which is the source of our soul. The sun with its heat and light is a wonderful emblem of this power house for all our creativity and growth.

Swedenborg on correspondence

The well known maxim ‘As above, so below‘ means that the elements of our higher consciousness correspond to the things of nature. In his exploration of this esoteric idea, the spiritual philosopher Emanuel Swedenborg shows in a lot of detail how our higher thoughts can be communicated in terms of the natural things of the world.

Furthermore he maintains that because natural things – such as in the mineral, plant and animal kingdoms – are created by God, they can reflect what is good that comes from God.

“The whole natural order is a theatre representative of the Lord’s kingdom.” (Emanuel Swedenborg)

Corruption

However, one needs to bear in mind what he also says about some parts of nature which can represent a corruption of what comes from the Divine Source – hence the existence of what is noxious, poisonous, or otherwise harmful as well as that which is nourishing, delightful, and protective.

Communication of images from animal kingdom

Alive and moving, animals in a good sense such as the lion he says can represent human desires including higher feelings.

Communication of images from vegetable kingdom

Swedenborg maintains that plants, which have growth but not movement, like the olive tree, can represent what needs inwardly nourishing and enlivening in human beings and thus potential stages of their spiritual growth.

Communication of images from mineral kingdom

There are non-living natural things such as mountains and the sun which neither move nor grow. He says these can represent spiritual resources for human nurturing and growth and thus both the ends and beginning of human endeavour.

In other words images of natural things can convey to others our higher awareness of spiritual reality.

Copyright 2015 Stephen Russell-Lacy

Author Heart, Head & Hands

Posted on9th November 2015CategoriesConsciousness, Latest post, Meaning of life,Mystical experience, SymbolismTags, , , ,

What was the mystical knowledge of Ancient Egypt?

meaning of mystical knowledgeThe Egyptian artist was never a literalist, but used symbols to represent inner concepts. He was free to combine human and animal parts, yet show the resulting image in a ‘seamless harmony’. A simple example of this is shown in Egyptian grammar. To write the single personal pronoun ‘I’ the writer would draw a human figure. But to express the reflexive ‘myself’, he would add a snake in front of the figure. The snake is a world-wide emblem which appears as something to be both feared and revered. Is this because it symbolises something of the deeper self, the roots of personality. If so, why?

The snake crawls along the whole length of its body. Its movements are sinuous, sensuous and so it can readily be seen to represent the lower levels of our experience, just as birds more fittingly represent higher levels of thought and detachment. Here are three examples from the Bible.

The cunning seducer in the Garden of Eden

This story (Genesis 3) is par excellence the moment which sets the serpent as enmity with mankind. Adam and Eve are thought to represent the innocence of mankind who lived in obedience. But the serpent begins to whisper that we can decide for ourselves what is right and wrong. This explanation means that Eve is not to be seen as the cause of ‘original sin’, but the feeling part of our nature. Our own desires are seduced by our senses into unwise behaviour. Eating from the forbidden tree of the knowledge of good and evil shows that people have decided what they themselves will call good or evil without reference to higher authority.

The staff of Moses becomes a serpent

Moses had been chosen by God to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. God gives him a sign and asks him to cast the staff in his hand on the ground. There it becomes a serpent and Moses runs away in terror. The useful, reliable staff in the hand of Moses, once he lets go of it, can have a life of its own! He is commanded to take hold of it, and it becomes the familiar staff again (Exodus 3 & 7).

One way of understanding the meaning of this is to say it shows the orderly function of the senses in our life. Whatever we first learn after birth we absorb entirely through our senses. Our mind opens out to absorb, to enjoy these sensations and to realise our identity through them. When the Egyptian royal crown was adorned by a raised cobra, it showed the benevolent aspect of knowledge and power (our staff) which we gain through our senses. Only when our senses get out of control do they become dangerous. They have assumed a life of their own.

The words of Jesus to his disciples

Jesus told his followers that they should be ‘as wise as serpents and innocent as doves.’ (Matt 19:16) These words can be understood to mean that the serpent in us is our strength, our protection, circumspection, our sensation of all things beautiful; and our healing touch. Within it lies the very experience of our selfhood and these sensations will grow purer and more refined when they are linked with the higher wisdom and the kingly power which exercises self-control through the innocence of a dove.

The Tet Pillar

mystical knowledge of Egypt
Tet Pillar

The exact meaning of this symbol is not known, but it has been called the emblem of stability.

The four horizontal planes leave three openings and, if we look for other parallels, we are reminded of the three storeys in Noah’s Ark, and the three defined areas in the Tabernacle. Swedenborg tells us that these universally used patterns reveal that the human mind exists on three levels.

1. As we have seen, our life begins on the level of the senses. This enables us to develop our memory and from that we can accumulate knowledge.

2. When we have sufficient knowledge, then our thoughts can begin to be formed. Thought is quite a different function from memory!

3. The highest degree is the ability of judgment and reason.

These are the three separate storeys of the mind. In the truly mature individual the higher levels control the lower ones. The Tet pillar can be seen as a reassuring symbol of such stability.

The Magic Eye

meaning of mystical knowledgeOne of the marvels of the hieroglyphs is their stylised simplicity which nevertheless has strength and impact. The eye symbol really looks at you in a penetrating way. It is the all-seeing eye of God from whom nothing is hidden. In ancient Egypt it was known as Utchat.

The Psalmist says, “He who formed the eye, shall he not see?” (Psalm 94,9) If the eye of the all-seeing Providence is looking, then there can be no lack of purpose in a person’s life. Whilst the cynic may see in the Utchat mere superstition, the spiritually minded person knows that it is a representation of the reality of the Divine in human life.

The insight is that the human spirit is not separated from the body. They are in correspondence with each other. This why the knowledge of symbols is of practical value for all of us today. Those who deny the life of the spirit within themselves will naturally see no sense in this mystical knowledge, because it does not connect up with their own ‘reality’. It is like showing a musical score to a profoundly deaf person, or like describing colours to the blind. But as Helen Keller remarked, “None are as blind as those who will not see — those who shut the eyes to the spiritual vision.”

Based on material by Christopher Hasler first published by the Swedenborg Movement.