Calm mind – How to find it in daily life?

calmI was on holiday in the French Vendėe looking for peace and calm. The family had caught the ferry and located the camp site. And now on a lovely day without a cloud in the sky, I shouldn’t have had a care in the world. My daughter passed by and said “Oh Dad, you look relaxed”.

Outwardly I probably did – she’s not used to seeing me lazing in shorts and tee shirt. But inwardly, I was still bothered about not finding the best shady spot away from the hot sun. I was focusing on other minor inconveniences, such as sand in the tent, the grandchildren squabbling in the background, and not immediately finding that wretched bottle opener for a refreshing bottle of beer.

I know that finding inner calm should be less difficult when you are on holiday. But how do we achieve this in ordinary life at home and at work? How does one find peace and calm in times of bother and responsibility?

Mindfulness and calm

Therapists, as well as spiritual teachers, all say to experience a state of emotional calm one must be in a receptive state and this means learning a little self-discipline. So I try to take an attitude of mindfulness: focusing my awareness on the present moment, while calmly observing my feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations. This discipline enables one to take an emotional step back from what is going on around oneself.

For me it also means trying to be receptive to what I believe to be an available in-flowing spirit of calm and contentment. I’ve discovered that this level of consciousness replaces thoughts that dwell on minor irritants, it raises the mind above whims that would otherwise comes flitting into the head, and it prevents falling for each sense of frustration.

Calm and the Divine-within

I happen to believe that quietening the mind to all the things of self and the world can be hard. A higher awareness is easy to miss when I am preoccupied with the things of the material side of life and self-centred cares.

I find it helpful to direct my thought to what I’ve learned to term ‘the Divine within’, and to listen carefully to its inner voice.

I’m reminded of the Old Testament story of the child Samuel who was lying down at night in the Temple. He heard a voice calling his name. The narrator tells us that the boy, not knowing God, mistakenly supposed it was Eli the priest who had spoken. Only when he was told to direct his thoughts to the Lord did Samuel respond:

“Speak, for your servant is listening”. (1 Samuel 3:3-10)

Listening to this inner voice might be said to amount to prayer. Yet, when doing so, to all appearances, one is merely in a reflective mood quietly going about one’s business. This prayerful state of mind is allowing the universal spirit of love as the ‘Divine within’ to lift one from an ego level of mind to a spiritual one.

A human picture of the Divine

Everyone has some sort of idea of God. Mine came from when I was a boy. Then, every night my mother would tuck me in, and say the Lord’s Prayer with me, before kissing me good night and turning off the light. And, as a teenager and later, I would silently rehearse those few sentences alone when going to sleep. And as a consequence feeling the peaceful presence of my idea of the Lord Jesus Christ.

This was and is an impression of a very personal deity. Not just a cosmic powerhouse but an essentially humane entity. Not a punitive harsh idea of God but rather a compassionate figure – who I see as the true source of humane love. One with whom I can take my troubles and feel comfort, encouragement, and guidance.  This is a personal image of the Divine with whom one can have a relationship.

Conclusion about finding calm

Many years later I find that I do lose my way and sometimes forget to keep up the inner conversation.  But I have learned that when I re-direct my attention away from immediate concerns and focus on this Christ-within – a spirit who is present within me but at the same time coming from beyond myself – I can directly experience calm.

I would say that to really know this Divine presence is not just to possess a memory about it. Nor is it to just have some level of enlightened thought. Neither is it to simply have a strong spiritual belief. I feel to truly know the ‘Divine within’ means to base one’ life on this presence and be transformed.

Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

http://www.spiritualquestions.org.uk/

Posted on 5th September 2016 Categories Consciousness, Latest post, Mystical experience Tags , , , , , ,

“I Am The Lord Your God”

“I Am The Lord Your God”

A Sermon by the Rev. Peter M. Buss, Jr.
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Life progresses. I’d like you to think for a moment about what
your life may be like a year from now. Countless things will happen to
all of us between now and then. We will all experience another
Easter, another Thanksgiving, another Christmas. Some of us may
retire. Others may change jobs, or become grandparents for the first
time, or move. Those of us who are married will celebrate an
anniversary; it may be a third anniversary, or a thirtieth or fortieth
anniversary. Those of us who are parents will notice that our children
will develop substantially: they will become more independent and
more competent. This might be the year for a child to move out of the
house – even get married. We will all celebrate a birthday this year.
Whatever activities or landmarks fill our time, we can be
assured that life will keep rolling by. Each day brings with it new
experiences and challenges; some which give us joy, and others
which test our endurance.
Through it all we will be developing as people. Our perspectives
will change as we see more of life. We know that beyond the various
things which fill up our day, we are supposed to be making spiritual
progress. Each year we get closer to the time when our lives in this
world will be over, and we will enter the spiritual world, which includes
heaven and hell. Our primary goal in this world should be to prepare
for that time – to be led by the Lord towards heaven. From time to
time, then, it’s useful to reflect on how religion will play a part in our
lives. How will the Lord Himself help us to make some spiritual
progress this year? What is He leading us towards? What does He
want us to see about our choices and ways of acting, and consider
changing? What is most important to Him?
The First Commandment. Today’s focus is on the most central
religious principle to keep in mind as we strive to make progress in
our spiritual lives: dedication to the Lord our God. That is why we will
look at the First Commandment today – the first thing, and in one
sense the most important, which the Lord commanded from Mt. Sinai.
He said:
“I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt,
out of the house of bondage. You shall have no other gods before My
face. You shall not make for yourself a carved image, or any likeness
of anything that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or
that is in the water under the earth; you shall not bow down to them
nor serve them. For I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting
the iniquity of the fathers on the children to the third and fourth
generations of those who hate Me, but showing mercy to thousands,
to those who love Me and keep My commandments (Exodus 20:2-6).
“That which reigns universally.” There is a teaching in the
Writings for the New Church which says: “What is stated first must be
held in mind and must be seen to reside universally in everything that
follows” (Arcana Caelestia 8864:3). In one sense this means that the
First Commandment must be held in mind when we look at the rest of
the commandments, for it “reigns universally” in them. For example:
• The next two commandments teach us how to worship the Lord
alone or have no other gods before His face: we are not to take
His name in vain, which means that we honor and revere Him;
and we are to remember the Sabbath day, or take time to focus
on the Lord and make Him a priority.
• We are not to steal, because the God whom we worship forbids it.
• He commands us not to commit adultery because He is the God
of marriage.
• We are not to murder, lie, or covet because in doing so we are not
loving the Lord nor keeping His commandments, as the First
Commandment requires.
In general, the First Commandment calls us to commit
ourselves to the Lord to let Him reign in our lives. If we think about it,
we need this command. For religion to make any sense, we have to
know who the Lord is – He is the central focus, and the object of all
our religious devotion. For us to see value in the Bible we have to
know the Revelator – then it can be a Divinely authoritative guide for
us. If we are to accept the path of regeneration or spiritual rebirth, we
need to worship the Savior who makes it all happen.
One teaching in the Writings for the New Church says: “What
reigns universally with a person is that which is present in every idea
of his thought and every desire of his will… That which reigns
universally within a person should be the Lord” (emphasis added,
Arcana Caelestia 8865). Another teaching says: “A person’s whole
character is determined by the nature of whatever dominates his life”
(Arcana Caelestia 8858). The Lord asks us to let Him “dominate” our
lives. He asks that we love Him above all things, that we make Him
and His ways the priority in our lives, for He is the Source, the
Beginning, the Lord our God.
The Tone. One of the things we notice about the First
Commandment is that it is stated in the negative: “You shall have no
other gods before My face,” rather than “You shall worship the Lord
your God alone.” If we fail, He will “visit the iniquity of the fathers on
the children to the third and fourth generations of those who hate
[Him].” For He is a jealous God and one whom we should fear. We
might wonder why this is the case. If worshiping the Lord alone is so
important, why does He appear so foreboding, commanding, and
manipulative – so distant? As you may suspect, there are several
reasons for such a tone. First, the Israelites, to whom the Ten
Commandments were first revealed, needed such an image. They
would not have listened unless a powerful, jealous God was
speaking. Such an image caused them to pay attention!
But another reason for the tone is that it teaches us how to
make the Lord our central focus. “You shall have no other gods
before My face,” it says. How? By not carving any images, or making
any likenesses of anything in heaven, on earth, or in the waters
below. All these represent things which stand in the way of letting the
Lord reign in us. “Gods” can mean selfishness – putting ourselves
before the Lord, which is the root of all evil. They can also mean
worldliness, or a lack of concern for anything beyond what we can
see and experience, namely the Lord and heaven. A “likeness in the
heavens above or the earth beneath” means pretending to be a good
person. A person who acts like a spiritual and moral person
externally, is making a likeness or putting on a façade (see Arcana
Caelestia 8871:1). The Lord calls such people hypocrites.
When we get to “the waters under the earth” we come to the
direct opposite to worshiping the Lord. The waters and the things they
contain represent a bodily-oriented person, who cares only for
external pleasures (Arcana Caelestia 8872). Such a person is
dominated by appetites for worldly things such things as food or
possessions, or for physical, lustful pleasure. This is a far cry from
what is orderly, with the Lord at the top, and these cravings much
further down the list in their appropriate places (see Arcana Caelestia
911:3).
The purpose of stating the First Commandment in the negative
is to warn us that we all have tendencies to love ourselves, to make
ourselves appear like good people, to seek pleasure. If we focus on
these things alone, the Lord cannot help us. Without Him, we live
lives which are pictured by the Israelites in the land of Egypt-in
bondage, controlled by negative influences which come to us by
means of hell. Our lives will have qualities to them which don’t bring
us happiness, but instead make us feel miserable. We will act in
selfish and manipulative ways, and cause harm to the people around
us. But the Lord wants us to realize that it doesn’t have to be that
way. He can free us from these negative influences. If we put Him
first, He delivers us from the influences of hell (see Arcana Caelestia
8866). He gives us a rationale for the way things should be, with
Himself at the top governing and directing our lives, with charity to
other people next, as He commands. Then we can take care of our
own needs, and experience pleasures in their proper measure, with
appropriate goals: eating to remain healthy, earning money to support
a family or even to live comfortably.
Amen.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“A person is totally unaware of the fact that the Lord is governing them by means of angels and spirits.”

Arcana Coelestia 50

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12 Dreams

Swedenborg Study.comOnline works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg

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12 Dreams

“So He giveth His beloved in sleep.” Psalm 127:2

The Blessing of Sleep

The stream of man’s conscious life is intermittent, broken by recurring lapses into the unconscious state of sleep, from which he wakens with a new vigor of mind and body, in a new state and with a new start. The state of yesterday is still with us in the morning, as a memory that calls to us for a resumption of our duties or our routine; but it does not bind us entirely. Much is happily forgotten, and the thought of the burden and the heat of yesterday is not so oppressively present. Gradually we pick up the threads of former thoughts, discarding much that is unimportant.

It might seem as if our life was cut up into disjointed segments by these periods of sleep. But nothing is lost from our mind. The stream of consciousness has simply found rest in a limpid pool where its waters are clarified for its further progress. It is the conscious mind—the self-directed thought —that is affected by the apparent death of sleep. “Love does not sleep,” we read in the Arcana Coelestia.283The affections, the subconscious yearnings, instincts, and delights of the will provide a continuity of the whole personality. Man wakes the same man. And through the miracle of memory he has still at his disposal all his past experience and knowledge.

The function of sleep is so important that even the angels, in their evening states, find comfort and refreshment in slumher. For their bodies and their minds—though both spiritual —are yet finite, and all finite things have limits of endurance.

Man’s body, during the day, is largely governed by the caprice of his own will, by his voluntary decisions, which are not always rational. If man could know the exact degree of strain which each part of his body could bear without injury, he might avoid some of the abuses to which he actually exposes his organism. But even so there would be need for relaxation of body and brain and for a restoral of equilibrium after every sustained exertion.

In his philosophical works, Swedenborg offers an explanation of the physiology of sleep. He states that man’s conscious will (or voluntary) resides in the cerebrum or anterior part of the brain, and that deliberate action is initiated from the “cortical glands” there. These brain-cells, by extending fibres, govern all the muscles of the limbs and of the skeletal frame, and force the body into motion and position. The cerebellum or hind-brain, on the other hand, has control of all the viscera and their internal workings, quite independently of man’s will and unbeknown to his consciousness. The cerebellum also causes “antagonistic” muscles to counterpoise, makes smooth the workings of the muscles controlled by the cerebrum, and restores the natural equilibrium of forces which the conscious will has disturbed. In wakefulness, the cerebellum is relatively overruled and not active to its fullest extent. But in sleep, which comes over a man when the abused fibres of body and brain are no longer responsive to his will, the little cells of the cerebrum become relaxed. They are then isolated from the continual stream of subtle nourishment which is offered them through the arteries; so that they no longer receive the “purer blood” which they otherwise renovate and propel into the fibres. They continue indeed to receive, for their own future need, constant supplies of what Swedenborg calls “etherial chyle” through the “corporeal fibres”; and the inmost circulation of the “spirituous fluid”— the soul’s own vice-regent—continues as before. But the connections between the various glands and between the cortex and the body, are temporarily broken. And thus there are but slight muscular motions and no voluntary action. Sensations cannot reach the seat of consciousness, and the sceptre of the body is handed over to the cerebellum.284

In sleep, therefore, the soul, acting through the cerebellum, restores the order of nature. Acting by involuntary fibres it mends the broken or strained tissues, reestablishes a balance in the metabolism of the cells of the whole body, and improves the spontaneity of the various organs.285

The Arcana states that “the cerebellum is awake in time of sleep when the cerebrum slumbers.”286 “The Lord guards man with most especial care during his sleep,” for without sleep “the human race would perish.” In sleep, the Lord Himself watches even over His enemies and does them good.287 He loves all, and “He giveth His beloved in sleep.”288

Sleep bears a certain likeness to death. In sleep man retires from the world and its anxieties and departs from all his fellowmen. His senses being inactive, he not only becomes oblivious to the fixed world about him, but his memory of it also sinks into quiescence. Up to a certain point, physical pain and states of emotion which stir up his blood may prevent such a retirement. But when he finally gives way to sleep, he enters a world without sense of time and indifferent to space.

Even as the angels of the resurrection are celestial in type, so also are the angels whom the Lord appoints to guard man in sleep. They are in fact angelic spirits of the province of the cerebellum; for the cerebellum perceives the states of the body by an “involuntary sense.” It is their duty to prevent evil spirits from infesting man during his slumbers—a duty which they perform with the greatest delight, so that there is a rivalry among them as to who should be present. Only persons who have “delighted, and loved in every way and with the utmost effort, to make the life of others delightful,” are eligible to serve such offices after death.289

The World of Dreams

Sleep is a state of unconsciousness. Yet there are certain factors—conditions which we cannot catalogue—which cause the return of consciousness in a strange and partial way. “To sleep—perchance to dream.” The natural memory may be aroused in a new manner, and man comes into that state on the borderland of the unconscious which we call the world of dreams: a strange world of fancy, built up from the broken fragments of experience into sequences which defy the logic by which we discipline our conscious thinking.

The fact of this dream-world has ever fascinated men. Primitive peoples saw in it a sign that there existed another world—a world of “doubles”—which they mostly confused with the spiritual world itself, but in which they saw themselves as actors. For in dreams the spirit of man seems to be released from the body to wander abroad in wider fields. The ancients also attached special meanings to their dreams, seeing obscure warnings and predictions in the jumbled recollections of their nocturnal experiences. Plato believed that our dreams gave us intimations of the various appetites and instincts which lay hidden in our nature; including bestial desires which the self-rebuke of reason kept out of our consciously directed thoughts, but which were given free rein during sleep.290 And in these modern days the Platonic view has again become the vogue. Dr. Sigmund Freud of Vienna founded upon it a new school of psycho-therapy, by analyzing the repressed longings and forgotten fears of the “subconscious mind” from the dreams in which these secret emotions reveal themselves in symbolic forms. The fact that Dr. Freud cynically traced all such emotions to a sexual origin does not take away all truth from Plato’s sage observations, nor does it lessen the value of further studies along this line.

Indeed, behind all these traditional views of dreams there lies a substratum of truth. Dreams do touch the fringe of the spiritual world. Dreams do at times have a prophetic burden or some special significance. Dreams occasionally reveal to man some of the longings and delights that are submerged and repressed in the depths of his being. Robsahm writes in his memoirs: “I asked Swedenborg whether, in our times, it was worth while to pay attention to dreams; upon which he answered that the Lord no longer at the present day makes revelations by dreams, but that nevertheless it may happen that one who understands correspondences may derive advantage from his dreams; just as a person who is awake may examine his own state by comparing his own will with God’s commandments.”291

This account by Robsahm cannot be taken as entirely correct, but is none the less interesting when we consider that in the period when Swedenborg’s spiritual faculties were first being opened he kept a private record of his dreams and of the interpretations that he put upon them. He instinctively felt that his dreams were—like his commencing visions—significative and symbolic. In his humility he did not spare himself in these interpretations. Yet it may be questioned whether he as yet knew the science of correspondences sufficiently to make those dreams more than the background for his own perceptions about his state while he was grasping for some indications of the work into which the Lord was leading him. (See his Journal of 1744).

That dreams, whether they are orderly or incoherent, are significant is as true as that the whole world is a theater representative of uses. Everything in both worlds, and in both body and mind, is symbolic of the forces at work—could we but know what these are. In the Writings these forces are described. And it appears from the teachings that no blame is attached to man for things occurring during sleep. For then man relinquishes his command. His will, or proprium, is taken away, and his natural understanding is laid asleep.292 In dreams, his “spiritual sight” is helpless and irresponsible and therefore usually quite impersonal, while the contents of his memory are being reconstructed into vivid imagery and into situations which symbolize states that are not his own, but which belong to spirits, and perhaps to angels, who are with him.

“Such stuff as dreams are made on” comes from the man. Nothing actually new—never before seen or felt—comes through dreams. But because man’s internal sight then is only a beholder,292 and man not really a responsible actor, the most strange and impossible situations usually cause him no surprise, the most ridiculous happenings cause no amusement, terrors may cause no fear. His memory may retain the dream in part, or he may—like Nebuchadnezzar—be unable to remember it. When an emotion, such as fear or shame, is felt in a dream, the man on waking need not take any responsibility for it. The thing is a matter of record, but not a part of his nature. In other words, if his external memory retains an impress of the dream, yet his internal memory, his interior thought and affection, has felt no influx and received no stain.

Paradisal Dreams

We have been treating of dreams in general. But the Writings tell us that there are at least three distinct kinds of dreams, or dreams from three sources.293

The first type is a dream which comes from the Lord Himself, either immediately or mediately through heaven.294 Such were the prophetic dreams mentioned in the Word. This is a form of Divine revelation. Thus an angel was filled with the Divine to the exclusion of his own proprium and consciousness, and appeared in a dream to a prophet on earth, clothing himself in the mental imagery of the man’s external memory and, thus seen, impressed the man with a series of representations which were adopted as the direct symbols of the Lord’s Divine truth. Such dream-visions sometimes conveyed to the prophet’s mind an external significance, as for instance a prediction of some future event. But the spiritual meaning of dreams was seen only by internal men such as the people of the most ancient church.295

One class of dreams stands by itself, although it somewhat resembles the prophetical. We refer to a dream in which the Lord was seen by Swedenborg. The actual call to his mission had occurred in a state of vision.296 But in the Diary he jotted down the following remarkable memorandum: “The Lord was seen by me in a dream with the face and form in which He was in the world. It was such that it was interiorly full and thus so that He could rule the whole heaven within. . . . And He often as it were slept with His eyes when He was inwardly within Himself. . . . And it was said that such had been His appearance. In a word, He was full of heaven and the Divine. (The night between Nov. 18 and 19, 1751).”297

The second kind of dream comes through angelic spirits who from an ardor for the happiness of others serve as guardians over those who sleep. These angels are at the entrance of those heavenly “paradises” which to the angels represent only celestial and spiritual things, but which spirits delight in for their own sake. These paradises appear in the externals of heaven, or are created there when angels of a superior heaven converse together intellectually about truths of wisdom and faith. The angelic spirits in question love to affect a man who is asleep and thus receptive, with the enjoyable and delightful things which they see in his affection and genius. They arouse from the dreamer’s mind beautiful and pleasant representations which refresh him with tranquil charm. But Swedenborg observed that they did not themselves know whence such beautiful presentations came to them “all in a moment,” except that they came “from heaven.” Nor is it orderly that they should know the man whom they are watching over.298

Presumably all men, when asleep, have such heavenly guardians, more or less distantly present. Yet the statement is that these are “entrusted with the duty of watching over certain men”—as if all were not equally favored. And this suggests that the Lord may have a particular concern about those in this world who perform more eminent or responsible uses; whose reliance on the spiritual reserves of the other world and of the subconscious processes of the mind must be greater. Such men, by day, enjoy the illustration of their use, which comes from their being spiritually present in the societies of such use in the other world. But at night their reserve powers must be filled up, and this by the angels of sleep.

Dreams such as are induced by these angelic spirits actually originate in angelic discourse—in conversations between angels on spiritual subjects. The order of the angelic ideas is at once presented in the world of spirits in representatives of great variety, differently in every group of spirits that is affected. Thus with Swedenborg and the spirits associated with him as a man—spirits who were using his memory —the forms of the dream which resulted were shaped according to his memory and his general affection. From the same spiritual origin can thus arise dreams totally different, yea, opposite. For what may cause joy to one man, may to others call up tedium and nausea, shame or horror.299 The reason for this lies in the universal spiritual law that no influx from spirits or angels can introduce new persuasions or alter the faith or memory of spirit or man.

On some occasions, Swedenborg related his dreams to the angelic spirits who caused them, and they recognized in his mental pictures and states the correspondential representations of their own conversation.300 Yet he also saw the diversified dreams caused in various spirits from the same origin, and confessed that it could never be known from the natural imagery of their dreams what the spiritual influx involved or contained; and he suggests that the influx was not always strictly “an influx by correspondences.” The imagery was not purely correspondential. Yet it was representative. Strictly speaking, “correspondences” are true creative relations of cause and effect, the same everywhere. So for instance, light corresponds to truth and heat to love—always. But the objects of the dreams represented different things to different spirits; for every man clothes familiar objects with a sphere of ideas and a meaning all his own. The things of man’s affection as well as his memory invite dreams of varying type. But in his dreams the objects are arranged with reference to the angelic ideas which inflow—thus as symbols of their corresponding states, symbols which indeed represent, but do not correspond; and which mean one thing to the angels, and quite another to the man. Only the angels could recognize the relation of the dream to their own ideas.301 We may doubt, therefore, whether New Church men will ever attempt to become interpreters of dreams; although—strange to say—one of the very first volumes in the vast collateral literature of the New Church was entitled “Oneiromancy !”302 But its anonymous author merely used the science of correspondences as a guide for interpreting the bewildering phenomena of the world of dreams.

The dreams introduced by angelic spirits contain within them the order of heaven, even if man cannot discern it. Normally the dreams they induce are pleasant, sweet, and peaceful ; but with the man they may also be turned into warnings, as is often done on some other planets when men fall into evil. Such dreams can be induced not only upon men, but even upon spirits. Swedenborg relates a strange thing—that while he was among the cerebellar spirits as a spirit, he also was able, repeatedly, to introduce dreams into a sleeper.303 He checked the experiment with the man upon whom he had acted—which spirits can, of course, not do. Yet men also can impose dreams upon their fellow-men, by using hypnotic methods.

Dreams Induced by Spirits

The third type of dreams spoken of in the Writings is not produced through angels, but through the spirits who are near man while he sleeps.304 Such dreams are also significative, for the influx calls forth from man’s memory such things as have a special significance, but a significance to the spirits, not to the man.

Angels produce dreams that please, because they take care that what they draw forth should be associated with delight in the man’s mind. They look for such ultimates in man because they always consider first the freedom of man, and lead him only so far as his own affections respond. But spirits in the world of spirits are not so considerate. Fortunately they have no power to harm man while he sleeps, although they use his mind as their own. But if they could, they would exclude everything from a man’s waking life which is not in line with their own delights. They would impose their own will upon him and sometimes desire to obsess him utterly—and if he should then resist them they would seek to destroy him. For this reason spirits who are with men are kept quite ignorant of the fact. They know not the man, but believe that they think quite independently of men. Yet they think and converse among themselves by using the ideas of the men with whom they are associated; and—as has been pointed out repeatedly—the spirits most closely adjoined to a man assume his whole memory and think themselves to be the man. They become so immersed in man’s attitudes and memory that they may even impersonate him in the other world—look like him in dress and demeanor. Each man has at least one such “consociate spirit.”305

When a spirit is asleep, good spirits can act through him. It is therefore provided that when a man falls asleep, his closer attendant spirits will also fall asleep, since the memory of the man then becomes inactive. If the spirits are evil they are indeed compelled to sleep, for as long as they are awake, man’s affections are being stimulated.306 The state of a man’s ruling love would not be disturbed, but he would no longer be receptive of the influx from the society closest to his inner delights, but would remain conscious of the irritations and anxieties of his external mind so that sleep would be impossible.

But while the attendant spirits dwelling in his superficial spheres of thought fall asleep along with the man, other spirits, more distant from the ordinary states of his life, may still exert their influence upon him. They have indeed no power to stir up his interior thought or affection; for if they did the man would awake in a moment.307 But they can use the memory of man quite freely, although it is the Lord Himself who gives the final permission and prevents abuses.

And now there commences in man—and somewhat similarly in his consociate spirits—the strange fantasmagoria of dreams. Each spirit takes on from man’s memory whatever objects or sensory stimuli that agree with his own life. It is a characteristic of such dreams that, if persons should figure in the scene, each spirit assumes all that a man knows about a certain individual, and actually impersonates him and acts his part in the mental drama. And some may also impersonate the sleeper himself, and speak to other spirits in his tone of voice; but the contents of the speech may not at all be what the man would normally say, but the most stupid nonsense or the grossest falsehood.308

At times, actual spirits may themselves, by the Lord’s leave, be seen in a dream under an appearance that is familiar to the sleeping man. It is told of Louis XIV that he gave warnings to one of his descendants in a dream; and Swedenborg once saw Peter the Great and spoke to him during a dream.309

And Spirits who sleep simultaneously with man sometimes oversleep! Swedenborg found them sleeping, yes, and dreaming, after he himself had awakened. He compared experiences with them and found that they sometimes dreamt when man was not dreaming—which no doubt allows man to change his state.310 Yet the rule is that their dreams are mostly garbed in the ideas of man’s memory. The dreams of spirits are generally caused by spirits who are in a more interior state than they are themselves. But sometimes evil spirits can induce bad dreams upon spirits that are to be vastated.311

Fantastic Dreams

Apart from these three types of dreams—those caused by the Lord, those induced through angels, and those which spirits inject—the Arcana Coelestia speaks of “fantastic dreams.”312 This class is dismissed with a bare mention. But with us mortals here below, such fantastic dreams may be quite disturbing. They seem as disordered processions of fragmentary thoughts, unconnected pictures, ludicrous figments of a fevered imagination, meaningless, isolated; or perhaps as images and situations that rise up to strike us with horror, as in nightmares or in some delirium that attends an illness. That their origin is from the other world is of course necessarily true. No emotion or consciousness is possible with man except from the presence of spirits. Yet these fantastic dreams are, we surmise, not characteristic of the true sleeping state in which the natural memory is closed from below and is moved only from within. Our nocturnal fancies may at times be symptomatic of disturbing desires or secret fears which gnaw the mind in our wakeful state but are not released in our imagination except in the symbolism of dreams. But grave injury might be done if man made himself responsible for the disorders of his dream-life which after all occur after he has relinquished his control.

In states of disease or discomfort such as may result from overstrain or from too rich food or from the use of various drugs, the senses are sometimes still pounding from below upon our consciousness even after we have fallen asleep. And while the state of the blood and the senses is such that the brain cannot find continual repose, there are countless opportunities on the part of hordes of wandering spirits—such as the curious spirits belonging to the “province of the chyle-duct”—to seek a temporary lodgment in the mind of a man. But this kind of influx touches closely upon another phase of our general subject, namely, the connection of spirits with disease.

The teachings concerning dreams may not appear to be, by themselves, an important part of the doctrine of the church. Yet they present another aspect of the marvelous economy of human life, which is ordered by infinite protective agencies and is ruled in every detail by the Lord of creation.

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The Lord

Swedenborg Foundation

TheLord

Jump to:

God as Human
The Incarnation and the Redemption of the Human Race
The Trinity
God in Other Religions

In his short work The Lord, published about midway through his theological career, Swedenborg opens by quoting the book of John:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and nothing that was made came about without him. . . . And the Word became flesh and lived among us; and we saw his glory, glory like that of the only-begotten child of the Father. (John 1:1-3, 14; as quoted in The Lord #1)

“We can see from this,” Swedenborg concludes, “that the Lord is God from eternity and that he himself is that Lord who was born into the world” (The Lord #1).

Throughout his writings, Swedenborg consistently uses the term the Lord (Latin Dominus) to refer equally to the infinite, omnipotent creator of the universe and to the human incarnation known as Jesus Christ. However, in works where he discusses the nature of Deity in detail, he often uses the name Jehovah, the Latin Deus (God), or the neuter Divinum (the Divine) to refer specifically to the infinite and uncreated aspect of Deity, while the Lord refers to Jesus. He only occasionally uses the name Jesus Christ.

God as Human

Swedenborg asserts in many places that God is not only human, but uniquely, definitively so. We in fact are truly human only to the extent that we live according to divine principles. Swedenborg therefore rejects the notion of a single human being who lives in heaven and walks around performing miraculous feats. God’s essence, Swedenborg tells us, exists outside of space and time, and therefore is truly infinite and eternal. God is human in the sense that that he is the source of all love and wisdom:

God, as the source of what is good and true, is their essence. Since we cannot deny this, we cannot deny that God is a person, since none of these things can exist apart from a person. (Divine Love and Wisdom #286)

Likewise, a human being living on earth is not human because of his or her body, but because of his or her ability to embody this divine nature:

All earthly individuals are born in the human form as to their physical bodies. This is because our spirit, which is also called our soul, is a person; and it is a person because it is receptive of love and wisdom from the Lord. To the extent that our spirit or soul actually accepts love and wisdom, we become human after the death of these material bodies that we are carrying around. To the extent that we do not accept love and wisdom we become grotesque creatures, retaining some trace of humanity because of our ability to accept them. (Divine Love and Wisdom #287)

Swedenborg goes on to say that God created the universe out of his eternal essence, and all things in the universe reflect a divine design that leads back to love and wisdom. That design encompasses all the functions that we see at work in our own bodies: perception (understanding truth), digestion and breathing (taking in what is good and releasing what is not useful), circulating the good and useful to all parts of the whole, and many more.

This design is in its purest form in the spiritual world, where the angels form communities that perform these functions for the benefit of all beings. Those who prefer to live only for their own selfish concerns remove themselves from the design and consign themselves to hell.

Rationality—that is, the ability to consciously choose either good or evil—is part of God’s design, and the freedom to choose is given to all humans, that is, to all beings capable of love and wisdom regardless of origin. (In his short work Other Planets, Swedenborg describes beings from other worlds who also fit this description.) After we are born, our rational ability grows along with our bodies, until we reach the point where we can consciously choose the path to heaven or the path to hell. Eventually, we can come to realize that this freedom is not really ours, but is the Lord’s gift within us. The more that we choose to close themselves off from God and reject his love and wisdom, the more we place ourselves outside of the divine design.

God’s essence sustains even the people in the deepest hell, as it sustains the existence of everything in the universe. However, the inhabitants of hell are so far removed from God that if he were to attempt to interact with them in his pure essence, they would be destroyed instantly. God’s love for all beings is too great to permit that. Thus when the evil in hell became so great that the Lord had to intervene in order to protect the good people in heaven and everyone on earth, it was necessary for him to incarnate in the physical world as a human being.

The Incarnation and the Redemption of the Human Race

Swedenborg emphasizes that because the universe was created according to the divine design, God himself is bound to follow that design. How could God act against his own nature?

“To redeem people without a human manifestation,” Swedenborg writes, “would have been as impossible for God . . . as growing trees on heat and light alone if air had not been created as a medium through which they travel and earth had not been created in which the trees could grow” (True Christianity #84).

Swedenborg divides the history of humankind into a series of spiritual ages or “churches,” each of which ends with a catastrophic reckoning that results in a new relationship between human beings and God. At the start of the Christian era, he writes, human beings had so many misconceptions about God that very few were able to enter heaven, and hell was overflowing, threatening to overwhelm the good people both in heaven and on earth. It became necessary to bring genuine teachings to the people on earth, and the only way to do that was to manifest as a human being. To put it another way, divinity had to become manifest on the material level because humanity had become so materialistic.

Jesus, then, was born as a normal, physical human being to all intents and purposes, gradually growing into his full divine nature. In this process he followed the same steps as any human who undergoes spiritual rebirth, or regeneration: Through personal struggles temptations, Jesus’s ego-focused self was emptied out, making room for divine influence to flow in. This process culminated in his crucifixion: “It was not the Lord’s divine nature that suffered, it was his human nature; and then the deepest union, a complete union, took place” (True Christianity #126).

He was unique in that he was born of the Holy Spirit, with an inner divinity he called “the Father who dwells within me” (John 14:10). The ultimate union was so complete that he rose from the dead even physically.

Swedenborg argues that the suffering on the cross is not what redeemed the human race; it was what glorified the Lord. Once glorified, the Lord was able to subdue the denizens of hell, restoring balance to both heaven and earth. That was the redemption.

The Trinity

Raised in a devout Lutheran household (his father would become a bishop), Swedenborg was taught the concept of the Trinity from an early age. However, he was adamantly opposed to the Lutheran teaching that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were such separate beings that the Son could placate the Father’s righteous wrath. He felt that this completely destroyed any thought of God’s oneness and ultimately led people to think of three gods rather than a single One who is the source of all creation.

Swedenborg compared Father, Son, and Holy Spirit to a person’s soul, body, and the effects that their actions produce: three different aspects of a whole that springs from a single source and acts with a unified intent.

God in Other Religions

Swedenborg was ahead of his time in that he saw the common ground between Christianity and other religions, and he asserts that all religions, from the ancient Greeks and Romans to the contemporary religions of Asia and Africa, started from a core belief in one God, even if they misunderstood some aspects of divine teachings and came to believe in many gods. For this reason, he said, all people of good heart and good faith, regardless of their religion or place of birth, could go to heaven after they pass out of this world.

Further Reading

The “Swedenborg on the Lord” page has videos, excerpts, and downloads that explore this topic.

For more information, check out our videos about God from our weekly webcast, Swedenborg and Life.

On our blog, check out “Why Swedenborg Says You Don’t Have to Be Christian to Be Good.”

Divine Love and Wisdom, perhaps Swedenborg’s most philosophical work, has an extensive commentary on God as the infinite, uncreated essence that is the source of the created universe.

Swedenborg’s shorter work The Lord focuses more specifically on Jesus’s incarnation on earth and the reasons for it, including a description of the spiritual age that is now unfolding.

Person to Person: The Gospel of Mark by Paul Vickers is a detailed commentary on the life of Jesus from a Swedenborgian perspective.

A Thoughtful Soul: Reflections from Swedenborg by George Dole is an overview of Swedenborg’s theology that includes a chapter on the nature of God.

http://www.swedenborg.com/

Uses

New Christian Bible StudyNew Christian Bible Study

By Mr. Joseph S. David

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Women in the Wheat Fields, by Charles Caryl Coleman

Uses are the tangible, expressed forms of love to the neighbor. We can think of things we might do to help a neighbor, and we can want to do something to help, but it’s not until we deploy the thoughts and act on our will, that we actually perform a use.

Doing actual useful service completes the trilogy of end, cause, and effect, the action being the effect. Furthermore, we are taught in the doctrines of the New Church that the primary theater for charity is not the giving of alms to various people or causes, though that is important, but to do the job or fill out the office we are in honestly, justly, and industriously as best we can, not because it helps us but because it helps the common good. And because this is what the Lord requires of us.

Heaven is called a kingdom of uses because all angels are busy doing a useful task every day, and angels love it so, because these tasks are perfectly suited to the angel doing them, allowing each angel to delight in what he is doing every day to his or her heart’s content.

One of the key descriptions of heaven in the doctrines is that of a single grand human being, not because of shape but because of function. Modern science has learned a lot about the human body. We can know that we are made up of billions of different kinds of cells, brain cells, muscle cells, bone cells, and on and on, and that all these cells are busy little shops, taking in raw materials from the blood and turning out products the body needs and sending them around. We can see that each cell in our body is analogous to a society of angels, as we are told that there are societies in the provinces of all parts of the body performing the spiritual correspondent of what the various body parts do in an anatomic or physiologic way. So just as our cells all perform uses in our body to keep the whole body healthy and active, so do all angelic societies, and within those individual angels. Thus heaven can continue to exist, grow and perform its uses toward those of us still down here in the material world.

A similar kind of picture, though in a more imperfect way, shows how a political entity, a country, or state, or city can operate with all the various jobs contributing to a vibrant commonwealth, with people trading goods and services and doing all the things that make a community live. But it works better when all the citizens are led internally by love to the neighbor rather than love of self.

(References: Arcana Coelestia 454, 997, 4222, 4984, 7038; Divine Love and Wisdom 65, 213, 297; Heaven and Hell 64, 387, 403; Heaven and Hell 517 [2])

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Does God withdraw from us and test us?

The answer is, “no.” God never withdraws from us – He is always present and loving us. We are however, left in freedom and we can use that freedom to turn away from the Lord if we choose. The Writings for the New Church also teach that when we are going through temptation that the Lord draws even closer to us, but that it can feel like He’s farther away. This is because the closer the Lord is to us, the more freedom we are in, and the more it feels like we are doing things on our own. The bottom line is that God is all loving and ever present. He doesn’t choose to leave us or back away.

“I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Joshua 1:5

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Love and wisdom, apart from usefulness, are only imaginary things. That is, they do not become real unless they are used.”

Apocalypse Revealed 875

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Only One Fountain of Life

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeFrom Heaven and Hell ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

Abide in Me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself except it abide in the vine, no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the vine, ye are the branches. He that abideth in Me and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit, for without Me, ye can do nothing. John 15:4, 5.

… from that one fountain of life, which is the Lord, nothing proceeds except Divine Good and Divine Truth which affect each one in accordance with the reception. Those who receive them in faith and life find heaven in them, but those who reject and suffocate them turn them into hell, for they turn good into evil and truth into falsity, thus life into death. The fact also that everything of life is from the Lord … all things in the universe have reference to good and truth – the life of a man’s will, which is the life of his love, relating to good, and the life of a man’s understanding, which is the life of his faith, relating to truth. Therefore, since everything good and true comes from above, it follows that so does everything of life.

This being the belief of the angels, they refuse all thanks for the good that they do and are indignant and withdraw if anyone attributes good to them. They are astonished that anyone believes that he is wise from himself or does good from himself. Doing good for one’s own sake they do not call good because it is from self; but doing good for the sake of good, they call good from the Divine, and they say it is this good that makes heaven because this Good is the Lord.

Such spirits as have confirmed themselves during their life in the world in the belief that the good that they do and the truth that they believe are from themselves or are appropriated to them as their own – which is the belief of all who attach merit to good actions and claim righteousness to themselves – are not received into heaven. The angels avoid them, regarding them as stupid and as thieves, stupid because they continually have themselves in view and not the Divine, thieves because they would take away from the Lord that which is His. These are opposed to the faith of heaven that the Divine of the Lord present with the angels makes heaven.

(Heaven and Hell 9-11)
April 26, 2017