Will and Understanding

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As human beings, we get stuck all the time in conflicts between what we want and what we know. We want to eat that extra piece of pie, but we know over-eating is bad for us. We want to just keep the extra groceries the cashier missed when he was scanning items, but we know it wouldn’t be honest. We’re flattered when the cute new co-worker acts flirtatious, but we know we shouldn’t even play around with anything that could cause us to think outside of marriage.

So the idea that there’s part of us that wants and feels and another part that thinks and knows is not exactly new. But according to Swedenborg, those two parts of us are extremely important, both reflecting the essential duality of the Lord and also making it possible for us to accept the Lord’s love and go to heaven.

That all starts – as everything in Swedenborg does – with the idea that the Lord is love itself, perfect, all-powerful and infinite. That love takes form as wisdom itself, and through His wisdom the Lord can pour His love out on all of us constantly, expressed as ideas that we can grasp and use. So love is the Lord’s “wanting, feeling” part and wisdom is His “thinking, knowing” part.

The Lord’s deepest desire is for us to open our wanting, feeling part – which Swedenborg calls “the will” — to His love, and to opening our thinking, knowing part – which Swedenborg calls “the understanding” – to His wisdom. That way He can fill us with life and be conjoined to us, bringing us all joy and delight in heaven.

But the Lord also created us to be free, and the only way to do that was to open our wills to evil loves as well as good ones. That’s why we are, from our beginnings, so beset by the desire to be selfish, to be greedy, to look out for ourselves and please ourselves above all else.

But the Lord also gave us a mechanism to overcome that selfishness. Our understanding – our ability to think – operates separately from our will. That means we can use our understanding to gather ideas about what is right and good and loving, and can force ourselves to act on them even though they run contrary to our desires. This is, in fact, the great task we face in life.

What the Lord promises, though, is this: If we do that work from a desire to be good people, He will step in and slowly start removing our evil loves so that His perfect love can flow in. It’s a long process – lifelong, actually – but the results are priceless. When our will is cleared of evil and becomes a receptacle for the Lord, then our understanding becomes wisdom and our will becomes love. Then, instead of acting from what we know and over-riding what we want, we can act from love, with the love given form through wisdom. That is the life of angels, and the life of heaven.

http://newchristianbiblestudy.org/

(References: Arcana Coelestia 7179; Divine Love 18; Divine Love and Wisdom 399; True Christian Religion 397)

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Why Swedenborg Says You Don’t Have to Be Christian to Be Good

Swedenborg Foundation

By Karin Alfelt Childs

No bones about it: Emanuel Swedenborg was a Christian. He states in his books that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of God and that Jesus Christ is the one who saves people and brings them to heaven. Swedenborg also wrote that people do not have to be part of the earthly Christian belief system to go to heaven. How do we reconcile these two seemingly opposite statements?

The important thing, from Swedenborg’s perspective, is to be someone who inwardly follows Christ, not outwardly. Someone can belong to the Christian religion and profess a belief in Jesus Christ and yet live in a way that’s totally contrary to Christ’s teachings. Those people, Swedenborg tells us, cannot get into heaven. That is why Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

blog_christian

On the other hand, there can be people who have been born into a religion that worships the Divine by a different name, or who have become so turned off by hypocrisy in the earthly Christian religion that they cannot find God there. But such people can nevertheless be living in the way Christ taught us to live: by loving God and their neighbor (Matthew 22:36–40); by refraining from judging others (Matthew 7:1–5); by resisting evil in their actions, thoughts, and feelings (John 8:34, Matthew 5:22); by working out their differences with others before coming before God (Matthew 5:24); by treating others the way they themselves would like to be treated (Matthew 7:12), etc. Regardless of their outer, earthly beliefs, they are inward followers of Christ, and after death they will recognize the Lord as the one they have been following all along. Swedenborg’s experiences led him to understand that when the Bible talks about the “name” of Jesus Christ, it means the quality or character of Christ. That is what we must follow in order to be able to recognize the Lord after death.

That’s why on earth, we should be paying attention not to someone’s outer belief system, but rather to the kind of life they are leading. This is what is looked at by the Lord and the angels after death, says Swedenborg, and this is supported by others who have had spiritual or mystical experiences. For example, in Lance Richardson’s near-death experience story “The Message” he also describes good people from many different earthly faith traditions having no problem with recognizing the loving presence of the Lord after death. The variety in earthly religion is something that the Lord is pleased with, because the Lord’s love is not petty and exclusive, wanting people to “get it exactly right.” If so, none of us could make it! In fact, Swedenborg saw many Christians in the afterlife unable to get into heaven because they were so sure they already “had it right” that they were unable to open their minds to learn the ways in which they were mistaken about God (which, of course, can happen in any religious belief system).

Swedenborg tells us that God looks at the heart, the intent, the effort. The Lord’s love is big and all-encompassing and all-inclusive. The Lord wants people to be able to follow whatever earthly religion suits them best as being a tool for forging a relationship with God, according to background, circumstances, and disposition. Christ is not the exclusive character that he is often made out to be. Christ is the embodiment of God’s love for the whole human race.

http://www.swedenborg.com/

Personal crisis and spiritual growth

Each of us has faced, or will face, a personal crisis in some form during the course of our lives.

For some of us, it occurs when young, with the loss of a parent or other childhood trauma. For others, crisis comes in adult life. The precipitating event can be compared to the wake of a large ship that passes a little boat. The peaceful waters that were taken for granted now churn with trouble, threatening to overturn our lives.

Personal crisis and spiritual growth

 A crisis is simply defined as a time of intense difficulty or danger, when important decisions are made which may determine the outcome of everything that follows. It is a time when we may feel extremely alone, and ask ourselves: Will my life ever be the same? How will I handle the things I must do? Is there any hope for me in this situation?

The New Church has many hopeful and comforting teachings that support and comfort those in crisis.

One is everything happens for a reason. God does not will anything bad to happen to anyone, but permits a crisis to occur when He knows for certain that good things will come to each and every person who is involved. We may not understand this noble truth in a time of crisis or temptation, but we are taught that even the most difficult experiences in life can lead to spiritual growth. The work Divine Providence says in our darkest hours, when we feel most alone, the Lord is nearest to us, encouraging us to hold our course toward what is right.

Another teaching is we are born for a purpose that extends beyond our life in this world, for our life continues after death in a similar fashion as we lived in the world.

Our life after death is enhanced greatly according to the spiritual attributes that we acquire, attributes such as patience, compassion and the ability to love others. Our life on earth can be thought of as a training-ground, where we have the chance to become more spiritual people.

Human suffering and crisis is not in any way part of the Divine plan. In the midst of it, we have the ability to respond according to spiritual principles of love, loyalty and compassion toward others. We can also find solace and faith in a God who cares for us even when it seems we are most alone. These spiritual principles are the very agents of our spiritual growth and rebirth, and in the big picture, the transformation of the world into a better place for all mankind.

https://newchurch.org/

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Charity is like springtime or summertime warmth, which makes grain, grasses, and trees grow. Without charity, or spiritual warmth, nothing grows.”

Arcana Coelestia 1016:2

The journey of grief

Dealing with crisis and grief

Are you having a hard time, and don’t know where to turn? Can’t seem to move past it?

Each of us has faced, or will face, a personal crisis in some form during the course of our lives. For some of us, it occurs when young, with the loss of a parent or other childhood trauma. For others, crisis comes in adult life. The precipitating event can be compared to the wake of a large ship that passes a little boat. The peaceful waters that were taken for granted now churn with trouble, threatening to overturn our lives.

The journey of grief

 by Rev. Clark Echols

 The teachings for the New Church explain that a belief in a God of love will carry a person through loss to a life that is not diminished, even if there is something missing.

Grief is a person’s spiritual, emotional, intellectual and physical reaction to loss, which can begin before the loss actually occurs and persists until the grief reaction is no longer noticed. People in the helping professions know that a person’s experience of grief is short or long, mild or disruptive, mental or physical, depending on both obvious and subtle influences. You have experienced grief. Perhaps a favorite piece of clothing wore out, you moved away from friends, or a parent died. Perhaps you experienced panic, or depression, or despair, or sadness, or nostalgia, or anger, or something else. Maybe you experienced foggy thinking, an absence of emotions, uncontrolled emotions, a loss of appetite, joint pain, or any number of other sensations.

Your experience of grief will be unique, even though it may include states others experience. That you experience your own grief is wonderful, actually, because the Lord is accommodating His divine love and wisdom to you in a way specific to your spiritual and physical needs. This is the first observation from New Church ideas that can help you. The Lord actively leads you through a process which is governed by His rules of love. This will progress to completion, and He will return you to a balanced state in which you can again experience joy.

As the New Church teaches, love creates and maintains a spiritual connection; the tighter the connection, the more the loss affects us and impacts our spiritual and natural worlds.

Perhaps you have experienced a sudden loss: a pet died accidentally, or you were fired without warning. The experience shocks you, spiritually and physically, disrupting thought and even movement. These effects of the shock of the loss are so significant that researchers found they can be measured in the brain. Perhaps the Lord wants you to stop everything for a moment rather than do something damaging to your process of recovery. Typically, a grieving person either does almost nothing for some time, or merely “goes through the motions” on emotional autopilot. During this static stage, your identity is protected, allowing you to continue through the process without requiring permanent changes to your personality in order to cope. The Lord preserves your eternal welfare, even though you have lost something integral to your spiritual life.

Grieving includes using coping mechanisms to deal with your loss. Not everyone cries, but everyone needs the sphere of love around them. Like many, you may turn inward, reflecting on a picture bigger than you have ever considered before. The Word explains that this happens because what is mortal is put right next to what you want to be immortal in your mind and heart. You sense your own mortality as a new reality. If you experience sudden loss, you may feel a new fear of the future—a worry that you could die tomorrow. You may feel anxiety that you have not become a good person or that you have not achieved your life’s goals.

This tension creates an emotional rollercoaster that comes from resisting the Lord’s care, His providence, which leaves us unsatisfied and weary. The ride only slows and levels out as you acknowledge the reality of the loss and give yourself permission to experience sadness, loneliness or helplessness. Your intellect may find it hard to believe, but the fact is that when you let go and grieve—an act of will—you let God carry you through the process to the end of the ride, when you can walk on your own in the joy of being on solid ground.

Many who grieve notice that the story of the loss runs around in their minds in bits and pieces. Perhaps you have experienced this. Some of the bits are accurate memories of what happened, and you can feel badly, even responsible, for the loss. Some of the memories are inaccurate and cause you unnecessary distress. One way to discover the difference, and to be able to put the story “to bed,” is to tell the story. Of course, there will be more analysis, and perhaps regrets and resentment. But when these are put in the context of your eternal life and the eternal life of your loved one (if that is what you are grieving), the Lord puts the pieces together in a way that helps you overcome any distress. Given time and cooperation, the Lord will finish the puzzle of your life, and you can enjoy a whole picture.

Forgiveness is an important stage of grief for most people. When you forgive another, you let go of a burden. When you experience a loss, it is common to have trouble forgiving both others and oneself. Jesus teaches that forgiving is a spiritual act. But He points out again and again that to the degree that you spiritually let go of any thought or feeling that keeps you from forgiving, to that degree you find security and joy. When you grieve, you can become immersed in the pain of anger, resentment, regret and recrimination. These are all tied to merely natural thoughts and feelings. It is important to face what you really think and feel—what you label good and label bad. When you do, you welcome the Lord’s forgiveness and can then find the strength of heart and clarity of mind to forgive yourself and others.

By letting go and forgiving, you can begin to rebuild your life. Your work now becomes finding your own meaning for your life. Many have a change in faith. Many lose the religious faith that they had held. Many find a new confidence in their faith. The teachings for the New Church explain that a belief in a God of love will carry a person through a loss to a life that is not diminished, even if there is something missing. People who have an inaccurate idea of God (for instance, that He punishes us for our wrongdoings) will not have this resource and will find other ways of processing their grief. Of course, many of these means will work to some extent. But many of them, like abusing alcohol, are not only self destructive, but do not allow the process of grief to proceed.

You can take any number of actions to find meaning in your life. Many people begin new hobbies or return to old ones. Others take on opportunities to be of service. Some become better at their vocation, confirming their delight in doing something they love to do. In this way a person participates in redefining life. Thankfully, the Lord has provided that your loss does not diminish who you are: your personality and your place in His kingdom. However, YOUR world HAS changed! Your place in it has changed. Like an intricate mobile that has lost one of its weights, you experience a jangling, jarring tossing until the new balance is found, and slowly the bouncing settles down. There is balance, but it is a new configuration.

The Lord designed your spirit to seek and eventually achieve this balance. His loving care is always lifting you, countering the depressing effects of your loss. The warmth of His love continually radiates in your spirit. The process of grief is designed to bring your consciousness out of the cold and dark of loss into His presence again. You again take on the responsibility to live your life to its fullest potential.

The stages of grief are predictable but not uniform. They vary among circumstances and people. You have at hand a number of resources. The New Church faith may help you understand what is going on and explain why you feel the anger, despair, sadness, emptiness and pain. The Lord, especially through His Word, allows you to experience the feelings even as He alleviates them. The angels in your life, the loved ones who walk with you, hold you up when your knees buckle. There are many books and pieces of music that salve our wounds. Use them all, and your particular and unique grief process will proceed to a conclusion the Lord has designed just for you in the time He has provided.


By Rev. Clark Echols, counselor and pastor of the Glendale New Church.

This website contains a wealth of information about the New Church, and a practical, spiritual path to happiness. Read more about the beliefs of the New Church.

https://newchurch.org/

Full issue

DAILY INSPIRATION

“Nothing is permitted unless some good may come of it.”

Arcana Coelestia 6574

The Opening of the Spiritual Mind

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeSelection from Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

Something shall now be said about its [the spiritual mind’s] formation. The spiritual mind is formed from those things that are in man’s memory from the Word; for the memory is the storehouse … but these things are elevated therefrom in this manner:
First, there is given to man the affection of truth, which is called the spiritual affection of truth, which is that man loves truth because it is truth. This affection of truth is then given because when evils are removed man is in goods from the Lord, and good loves truth and truth good, and the two will to be conjoined. This affection is given by the Lord alone, because the Lord in heaven is Divine truth; and it is given by the Word, because the Lord in the church is the Word.

Secondly, those things that are from the Word in man’s storehouse … are drawn forth and purified by the Lord, and genuine truths are there discriminated and separated from falsities; for man’s spiritual mind can be formed only out of genuine truths, since heaven is in no other.

Thirdly, those truths are elevated by the Lord in a wonderful manner, and become spiritual; this is effected by the influx of heaven, and thus of spiritual things corresponding to natural; and these truths are there disposed into a heavenly form.

Fourthly, the truths that are elevated into the spiritual mind are not in a natural but in a spiritual form. Truths in a spiritual form are such as are in the spiritual sense of the Word, but truths in a natural form are such as are in the natural sense of the Word…. For this reason, when man after death becomes a spirit and his spiritual mind is opened, he no longer thinks and speaks naturally, but spiritually.

Fifthly, so long as man is living in the world he is wholly ignorant of what he thinks in the spiritual mind; he knows only what he thinks from that mind in the natural; but after death the state is changed, and he then thinks from the spiritual mind, and not from the natural.

(Apocalypse Explained 790:8)
April 16, 2017

The Natural Mind is Formed by the Lord ‘by means of’ The Spiritual Mind

Lastchurch - The Eternal Purpose

 Selection from Apocalypse Explained ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
When a man’s spiritual mind has been opened and formed then the Lord forms the natural mind; for man’s natural mind is formed by the Lord by means of the spiritual mind; and for the reason that man’s spiritual mind is in heaven, and his natural mind is in the world; for it is only from heaven, and when communication and conjunction with heaven have been effected, that the natural can be formed to the idea of such things as are in heaven. This formation is effected by the Lord by an influx out of the spiritual mind into the natural, by means of which the things that are in the natural mind are so arranged as to correspond to those that are in the spiritual mind. (This correspondence is treated of in many places in the Arcana Coelestia, and also in the work on Heaven and Hell.) These things that are in the natural mind out of the spiritual are called rational truths, moral truths, natural truths, and in general, truths of knowledge [vera scientifica]; while the goods that are in the natural mind out of the spiritual are called affections and desires for those truths, and for thinking about, speaking about, and doing those truths from such affections, and these are in general called uses. All those things that are in the natural mind out of the spiritual mind come under man’s intuition and into his perception.

It is to be known that this formation of the two minds with man goes on from his infancy to his old age, and afterwards to eternity; and sometimes from the middle age of man to his last age, and afterwards to eternity; but still in another way after the life in the world than during the life in the world. And as man is formed, so is he perfected in intelligence and wisdom, and becomes a man. For no man is a man from his natural mind; from that he is rather a beast;but he becomes a man through intelligence and wisdom from the Lord, and so far as he is intelligent and wise he is a beautiful man and an angel of heaven. But so far as he rejects, suffocates, and perverts the truths and goods of the Word, thus of heaven and the church, and therefore rejects intelligence and wisdom, so far he is a monster and not a man, because he is so far a devil. From this it can be seen that man is not a man from his parents, but from the Lord, of whom he is born and created anew. This, therefore, is regeneration and a new creation.

(Apocalypse Explained 7,8)
April 17, 2017

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