Chapter VIII. The Mind in Three Degrees

 

THIS diagram presents the three degrees of the mind B C D as described in Angelic Wisdom concerning the Divine Love and concerning the Divine Wisdom,

“The nature of man’s initiament or primitive in the womb, after conception, no one can know because it cannot be seen, and it is also of spiritual substance, which is not visible by natural light. Now because some in the world are such that they direct the mind even to an investigation of man’s primitive which is the seed of the father from which conception takes place, and because many of them have fallen into the error that man is in his fullness from his first which is the beginning [inchoamentuni] and is afterward perfected by growth; therefore the quality of this beginning or first, in its form, has been disclosed to me. This was done by the angels, to whom it was revealed by the LORD. They, have made this of their wisdom, and the joy of their wisdom is to communicate to others what they know; and therefore by leave granted them, they presented before my eyes in the light of heaven a type of man’s initial form, which was as follows:- There appeared something like a very small image of a brain with a delicate delineation of a certain face in front without appendage : this primitive in its upper convex part was compacted of contiguous globules or spherules, and every one of these spherules was compacted of still smaller ones, and every one of these again of the smallest; it was thus of three degrees; anteriorly in the flat part something delineated appeared for the face. The convex part was covered about with a very thin membrane or meninge, which was transparent; this convex part, which was a type of a brain in its leasts, was also divided into two cushions. as it were, as the brain in its largest [forrns] is divided into two hemispheres; and I was told that the- right cushion was the receptacle of love and the left the receptacle of wisdom, and that by marvelous interweavings they were like consorts and comrades. It was farther shown in the heavenly light which beamed upon it, that the structure of this little brainlet was interiorly, as to its situation and fluxion, in the order and in the form of heaven, and that its exterior structure was, on the contrary, opposed to that order and that form. After these things had been seen and shown, the angels said that the two interior degrees 1 which were in the order and form of heaven, were the receptacles of love and wisdom from the LORD.; and that the exterior degree, which was in the opposition to these, contrary to the order and form of heaven, was the receptacle of infernal love and insanity. This is because man by hereditary taint is born into all kinds of evil, and these evils reside there in the extremities; and that taint cannot be removed unless the two superior degrees are opened, which, as before stated, are receptacles of love and wisdom from the LORD. And as love and wisdom are the real man, – for love and wisdom in their essence are the LORD, – and as this primitive of man is their receptacle it follows that in this primitive there is a continuous effort toward the human form, which it also gradually assumes.”- DLW 432

This primitive or beginning of man is also described in Divine Wisdom in Apocalypse Explained, III, 4.

In the above extract the inmost A is neither described nor mentioned, yet we know from the Writings that it is within this primitive, it being the very primitive of the primitive.

The two higher degrees B and C constitute the whole internal mind and represent that mind in its two aspects of celestial and spiritual, and in the individual are equivalent to the two kingdoms in heaven; and they produce from themselves the external or natural degree D as their ultimate and base, answering to the world of spirits.

In this passage (DLW 432) these three degrees are presented in their strictly initial form as at conception. The two interior or superior degrees are represented in the diagram by B and C and the external degree by D. In Divine Wisdom III, 4, the two higher degrees B and C are said to be in the order and form of heaven, but the mass of the lowest degree, by virtue of hereditary decline, in the order and form of hell.

In Divine Love and Wisdom we read,

“The natural mind of man consists of spiritual substances, and at the same time of natural substances; from it; spiritual substances thought is produced, but not from its natural substances.”- DLW 257.

Of this natural mind, only that part which is organized of spiritual substances and called the lowest degree of the human primitive described above, is here represented by D; that part composed of natural substances which the above primitive afterward takes on from the mother, is not here separately drawn, though included in E, but it will be distinctly presented in Diagram XV.

The reader will bear in mind that the human primitive which is the paternal seed, already described from the Writings and here represented by B C D, is composed entirely of spiritual substance not visible in natural light; the material substance commonly regarded as the human seed is not the true seed, but merely its containant and preservative. (TCR 103, 92.)

NOTE. – The initial form of man in a type seen in the light of heaven, (described in DLW 432), is not man’s inmost presented in Diagram III and meant in Heaven and Hell 39 and other like passages in the Writings, but is the mind derived from the inmost, – the mind with its three degrees, in a germinal state.

This agrees with the fact that the “inmost, the LORD’S veriest abode in man,” (HH 39), is above the sphere of angelic consciousness, and with the fact that the heaven of human internals,” which is the complex of these supreme degrees of all the individual angels, is above the angelic heaven (AC 1999), because, above angelic consciousness, above the highest degree of the mind of the angel, as distinguished from his soul. (See Inf. 8.)

 

Chapter III. The Inmost or the Soul Proper.

 

THIS diagram presents that supreme or inmost degree A which is absolutely the first or initial structure in every man, spirit and angel.

Though all of man except the natural body is commonly called soul, yet.technically only this supreme or inmost degree is the soul. (TCR 697, 103; DLW 388.)

This soul is the veriest dwelling-place of the LORD. The LORD flows’ into this degree with love and wisdom as one, and thence forms, flows into, orders and preserves all the degrees below. (Inf. 8; HH 39; LJ 25.)

This inmost is composed of the highest and purest spiritual substances in man and lies above the plane of either human or angelic consciousness. The mind B, which is below this supreme degree and formed from it, is composed of grosser spiritual substances, and the spiritual body C of still grosser. (HH 39; LJ 25; Inf. 8, 14; S.D. 5548.)

Influx from the LORD enters first into this supreme or inmost degree, thence into the mind, thence into the spiritual body and from this into the natural body. (CL 101.)

This inmost is the primal and unconscious origin of the two great faculties of spiritual liberty and rationality by which man is distinguished from the brute, which faculties are essential elements of his nature, – liberty inhering in the will, rationality in the understanding. (LJ 25 ; DLW 240, 247; AC 1707; TCR 697 end.)

In Arcana Coelestia AC (n. 1940, 1889, 1707) this highest degree is called the internal man, all the planes below it being relatively the external man. It is also called the “human internal;” – the human internals of all men, spirits and angels form in the aggregate a vast complex degree called the heaven of human internals, which is above the inmost angelic heaven. (AC 1999.)

The angelic heavens lie within the region of consciousness. What transcends this region is above the angelic heavens and so appears in the sight of the LORD.

This supreme degree is the very Alpha of man, the material body is his Omega.

Doubtless it was from His residence in this highest degree that the LORD inflowed and filled the angels with His Divine when He appeared and spoke through them to the patriarchs and prophets. The private consciousness of the angel, in whatever plane below, being for the time suspended, the utterances were not his own but the LORD’S through him. (AC 1 745, 1925; AE 1228; DP 96.)

This supreme degree being the source of all the others is drawn in gold to represent sun Colour, because sun Colour, the perfect union of red and white, is the source of all other Colours. (See “Colour in the Diagrams,” page 12.)

Chapter II. The Spirit Two-fold, Mind and Spiritual Body.

Chapter Il. The Spirit Two-fold, Mind and Spiritual Body.

THE spirit consists of the mind and the spiritual body. The mind (a) is the higher and dominant part and is therefore the very man himself; the spiritual body (b) which is the lower part, being a derivative from the mind, is like the mind in form and quality.

The mind is the primal organism. The spiritual body is formed from it and is its organ of sense and instrument of action in the spiritual world. These together clothe themselves with the material body.

The mind being first in the order of creation and formed of purer spiritual substances is placed at the head of the successive series in this diagram and is drawn in white.

The spiritual body, formed of grosser spiritual substances and being lower in degree is drawn in dull white. Not only is the spiritual body the mind’s organ of sense and instrument of action in the spiritual world but it is also its containant, and is as necessary, to preserve it in form and function as are the solids of the material body to preserve its softer parts and its vital fluids.

When the mind, the spiritual body, and the natural body have been thus successively produced, they then subsist simultaneously one within another, – the highest in successive order becoming the central in simultaneous order and thus the essential organism and the first recipient of life in the series, while the lowest becomes the outmost, the containant and the preservative of those within. (AC 6465, 3739, 9211; CL 313, 314)

Things superior and inferior are the same as things interior and exterior; superior and inferior relating to the order of creation, interior and exterior to the order of preservation. (AC 3739, 3695, 5897, 6451 8603, 10099; AR 900.),

That the mind, the spiritual body, and the natural body are produced in successive order and sustained in simultaneous order, was shown above.

Conceive now the existence of these two orders in the work of regeneration and salvation.

Love and wisdom, good and truth, charity and faith are implanted in the mind as the first and fluent principles of the new. These are from “the breath of the LORD” and are breathed life into the mind in their initial forms when the LORD creates man anew in the womb of the Church his spiritual mother. And being too evanescent to abide in form without a firmer clothing than is supplied by the delicate substances of the mind, they descend into the spiritual body and take on therein a more ultimate form suited to sensation and action in the spiritual world; and descending a step lower, even into the material body, the very ultimate plane of human life, they there clothe themselves with a form suited to the natural world, and thus become fixed and enduring. The order has now become simultaneous. Within the renovated natural body exists the renovated spiritual body and within the spiritual body the central forces of the regenerate mind. Surveying this regenerate state from within out we behold love and wisdom in the mind their primal abode, love and wisdom clothed in their firmer organism in the spiritual body, and lastly love and wisdom embodied in fixed form in the very outmost degree such that it can and will preserve the interior and the inmost in form and order to eternity.

The reader should study well the nature and universality of these two orders of discrete degrees, that he may obtain a thorough and familiar comprehension of the structural philosophy of the spiritual and natural universe and especially of man and the heavens.

  

What is wisdom?

I must have glared at the complete stranger and she sharply asked me why.

I was walking behind her and her male companion neither of whom had I seen before. We were going across the car park at my place of work ? a tidy new public building set near attractive woodland and playing fields. A place I suppose I was rather proud of. I happened to notice her popping something into her mouth and tossing aside a tiny piece of what I took to be a sweet wrapping paper. Although the car park was well swept, any litter she had made was so tiny it could be barely seen!

Being challenged, I voiced my indignation — not rudely — but admittedly with a strong note of irritation in my voice. Immediately her companion launched into a hostile volley of foul language at me. Not wanting to escalate the confrontation, I said nothing and walked away, steaming inside.

Thinking about the incident later, when I had calmed down, I started to wonder if I could have responded more wisely to what had been the most trivial of misdemeanours. I’m afraid I do tend to jump in where angels fear to tread. Or perhaps a bull in a china shop might be a better way of putting it. Clearly I had over-reacted and I could have spoken differently. But no, I had to respond on impulse without any thought.

In contrast, when an Asian friend found herself on a crowded train, she noticed some kids dropping litter on to the carriage floor. She felt anxious about saying anything but reflected that unless someone did the youngsters would never learn proper conduct. So she spoke in a reasonable tone of voice saying to the lads ‘You might not have noticed ? actually there is a litter bin here.’ And was pleased to see them pick up what they had dropped and place the bits into the bin.

Of course sometimes it’s wise to keep quiet. On another occasion she told me that on the rush hour train there was a group of college teenagers ‘effing and blinding’ and she looked at them and decided it would be futile to say something to them but when she got to work, as she had overheard what college they were at, she telephoned the principle to describe their inappropriate behaviour asking him to raise this with the students.

We all put our foot in it from time to time, some of us more than others. I’m thinking about social gaffs, ill-judged decisions, or reaching an unfair conclusion about someone. When we do unwise things, we usually have to pay the price. Our foolish mistakes often seem to bounce back at us.

I imagine wiser people are less likely to make such errors of judgement. So how can we acquire more wisdom?

Do we need to gain more knowledge? This is often what people assume. They may turn to scholars with academic learning for the right answers. Or seek understanding from professionals such as psychotherapists, personal skills coaches, or religious advisors who have psychological or spiritual knowledge. The British shadow chancellor of the exchequer got into hot water by joking about his ignorance of economics. Clearly appreciation of the working of banking, the business cycle and the tax system is important for wise political decisions regarding the economy. The same is true for all walks of life – you can’t expect wisdom from those who lack knowledge and understanding.

In these materialistic times, the world of commerce and government emphasise understanding about competitive performance and efficiency. Likewise the media emphasise information concerning the arts, science and technology. In this climate, wisdom tends to be dismissed as something ethereal. But I would suggest it is really needed if we are to solve our personal and social problems.

So what is this intangible thing we call wisdom? Foolishness is often associated with youth who lack knowledge of the world and its ways. But I would suggest wisdom involves something much more than mere knowledge, understanding or skill – important as these are.

In ancient cultures wisdom was often associated with old age, not just because older people have more experience of life, but because they have had the chance to learn from their mistakes and develop virtues of character. We only reach our potential by making a spiritual journey.

According to this view, true wisdom is not the same as intellectual reasoning. It is a spiritual gift that comes to those who are good at heart. How can we hope to be wise if we do not have sympathy for others and the humility that enables us to laugh at ourselves? I believe that when concern for oneself doesn’t come first, then there can be an opening up of a spiritual consciousness; a higher level of the human mind that can receive clearer light.

How could I hope to wisely respond to people who drop litter without giving offence, unless I have a friendly respectful attitude based on concern for them? If you really want to put your foot in it, not only point out the misconduct of others, but also be sure in your indignation to set yourself up in judgment over them.

“Wisdom ceases to be wisdom when it becomes too proud to weep, too grave to laugh, and too selfish to seek other than itself.” (Kahlil Gilbran)

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

First published as Putting your foot in it in January 2011 Edition of New Vision magazine.

Rational and Moral Wisdom

Rational and Moral Wisdom

      A Sermon by the Rev. James P. Cooper

Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” And the servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. (Genesis 24:64, 65)

The general topic of today’s sermon is marriage. The particular aspect of marriage that we will consider is the conjunction that can take place between a husband and wife when together they look to the Lord, and shun evils as sins. It is important that we take the time to remind ourselves about these things now and again, for without some spiritual refreshment we may find that the idealistic view that we originally had has been eroded by time and the cares of the world. The Writings themselves put it this way:

Take as an example the conjugial, which in the beginning some one regards as heavenly, but afterwards one of the married partners or both of them suffer themselves to be persuaded that it is only for the sake of order in the world, and for the education and individual care of children, and for the sake of inheritance; and further that the bond of marriage is nothing but a matter of compact, which may be dissolved or relaxed by either party, provided that it is done by consent; the result being that after he has received this persuasion the individual has no heavenly idea of marriage. (AC4171:4)

In other words, unless we continually refresh ourselves with the ideals of love truly conjugial, we are in danger of allowing the weight of the cares of everyday life deprive us of the delights that we once felt when we were first married. We may be tempted to no longer think of marriage as a heavenly gift from a loving God, but instead think of it as a form imposed on men and women by society for the sake of order in society, for producing children, and for passing on properties acquired during life. We may become bored, and begin to daydream about how we would change our lives if we were free of these oppressive obligations. We may even have fantasies about ending the marriage. These are states brought on by those particular hells that love to destroy marriage. We need to be aware of them so that we can fight them, and, with the Lord’s help, defeat them. We can be thankful that the Lord has given us a way to conquer these hellish inclinations: rational and moral wisdom.

In order to see how rational and moral wisdom can supply our spiritual needs and protect the spheres of marriage with us, we must first have a clear picture of what rational and spiritual wisdom are. As we all well know, wisdom is not just acquired knowledge and experience. It is knowledge and experience brought into life. Our lesson from the Old Testament today speaks to this very point in the internal sense. Rebekah represents the affection of truth. Her brother Laban, with whom she lived and was therefore distantly conjoined, represents the natural man. The camel on which she was riding represents memory-knowledges, the facts about the natural world and life in it that we learn without discrimination, without reflection. When Rebekah gets down off the camel, it represents a state of separation. When these ideas are all brought together, the internal sense tells us that the affection of truth (Rebekah) is separated from the natural man (Laban) when the natural man no longer guides his life simply from memory-knowledges, but instead he lives according to truths that are a part of his life. This new state is represented by Rebekah’s new husband, Isaac. What this means when applied to life is that when we are first learning a new skill, we find it quite difficult and it requires our full attention, but once we have mastered it, we can do it without thinking. Touch-typing and driving a car are two common examples.

It works in a similar way with the knowledges of spiritual good and truth with people who are being regenerated by the Lord. At first we are like children, and spiritual truths are like memory-knowledges (for example the fact that water corresponds to truth is in itself a spiritual truth, but the phrase can be learned by little children as a memory-knowledge to be later infilled with meaning to become a spiritual truth with them). In order for adults learn deep doctrinal truths, the truths from the Lord through the Word must first enter the mind as memory-knowledges. Once in the mind, however, the Lord uses them, associates them with affections and remains, and eventually, in secret ways, they are implanted by the Lord in a person’s life, that is, in their will.

When this happens, there is a turning point in our lives, for we no longer act only from truth, but instead we now act from the good that is associated with the truth. So, we can see that there is a parallel between the states of regeneration and the states of growth from childhood to old age: We act first from simple facts, then from the delights we have come to associate with living according to the Lord’s truth, and then finally from charity itself. When a person no longer acts from what is doctrinal, but from charity, he is then for the first time in wisdom.

The Heavenly Doctrines further distinguish between kinds of wisdom, in particular, they define Rational and Moral wisdom especially in relation to the conjunction of husband and wife in a heavenly marriage. Rational wisdom belongs to the understanding alone. In general, it is known as science, intelligence, and wisdom. In particular it is known as rationality, judgment, genius, and learning, and its application is familiar according to its use in various offices, such as those of the priesthood, the government, the courts of law, soldiers, farmers, shopkeepers, and so forth. Also included are all those subjects which are studied at universities for the purpose of giving form and structure to the mind, such as Philosophy, Physics, Mathematics, Astronomy, History, and so forth. In general, rational wisdom has to do with the application of pure thought to theoretical problems and the discussion of the probable results of possible actions.

On the other hand, moral wisdom belongs to the understanding and at the same time to life. Again, a few examples will serve to illustrate the point. These are some of the virtues which pertain to moral wisdom: Temperance, Benevolence, Friendship, Modesty, Sincerity, Readiness to Serve, Courtesy, Diligence, Industry, Cheerfulness, Generosity, Courage, Prudence, and so forth.

Having briefly described the difference between rational wisdom and moral wisdom, we can now consider the function of rational and moral wisdom in a marriage. We know that the mind is opened in a series of changes that take place from infancy to old age. At first an infant lives totally in the world of the bodily senses, so we say that a person is born corporeal. When the next degree is developed and opened, we say that he becomes rational. As this degree is by stages purified of the falsities and confusion that enter from bodily sense and the delights of the flesh, the rational is opened. This opening of the rational degree is done solely by means of truths lived, that is, by means of wisdom. Then, when the interiors of the rational mind are opened, then the person becomes a form of wisdom – a form which is suitable to receive love truly conjugial. The wisdom which makes this form and receives this love is rational and at the same time moral. Rational wisdom regards the truths and goods which appear interiorly in a person, not as his own but as flowing in from the Lord; and moral wisdom shuns evils and falsities as leprosies, shunning especially things lascivious which contaminate its conjugial love.

As the husband and wife individually and together fight their battles with evil and shun sins they will draw ever closer to the Lord and His kingdom. As they draw closer to the Lord, they must also draw closer to each other as their states of conjunction grow, and there are more and more affections of good and knowledges of truth that they share with each other.

The importance of developing rational and moral wisdom becomes even more clear when we see that the conjugial relationship, the inmost conjunction of a husband and wife, depends on rational and moral wisdom, for a wife is conjoined to the rational wisdom of her husband “from within,” and to his moral wisdom “from without.”

Rational wisdom is what we might call “typically masculine thought,” the kind of exercise where argument is added to argument, seemingly without end or purpose. The Heavenly Doctrines call this a particularly masculine trait, and further state that women seldom take part in such discussions – because they are seen as pointless. Frequently, the wives have already perceived the solution and are wondering what is taking the men so long. And yet we must be very careful not to hold this process in ridicule for it is important that the rational be exercised and truths be examined in detail and in their relationship to each other. This dedication to examining truths and their relationship to each other before they are brought into the life is precisely what attracts a true wife to her husband’s mind. This is what is meant when the Writings say that a wife is a form of love of her husband’s wisdom. While she may not wish to do it herself, she loves and respects her husband to the extent that he searches out new truths to bring into their marriage and life and struggles to see their relationship one to another.

Rational things are what make up the husband’s understanding, while things pertaining to moral wisdom make up his will. It is the things of his will, the love and desire he has for bringing truth into his life, that the wife can share with him, and actually make her own, for they are one with her own life. In fact, they are so close to her own life that it is said that the wife knows these virtues in a man better than the man knows them in himself.

When a wife seeks to have her moral wisdom conjoined with the moral wisdom of her husband, that is, when a wife seeks to be one with her husband in their life’s decisions, she is given a perception of the affections that are present with her husband. The wife is then able to use this intimate, tender knowledge of her husband to gently lead and guide him in the path indicated by his reasonings, at the same time protecting him from wild deviations from their path in life. He is the guardian of the truth, she the guardian of its application to life. In this, they are one, conjoined. In confirmation and illustration of this, we close with this passage from Conjugial Love 137 which is a portion of Swedenborg’s conversation with the married couple that appeared as a little child when seen from a distance:

“We have been married for centuries now,” they said, “and we have remained continually in this bloom of youth in which you see us.

“At first our state was similar to the initial state of a maiden and youth when they first come together in marriage. Moreover, we believed at the time that that state was the most blissful state we could experience in life. But we were told by others in our heaven, and we afterwards perceived for ourselves, that it was a state of heat not yet tempered with light. We found that it is gradually tempered as the husband is perfected in wisdom and as the wife grows to love that wisdom in her husband, which is achieved through and according to the useful services which each of them performs in society with the other’s help. We also found that new delights then follow as heat and light or wisdom and its accompanying love are tempered each with the other.

“A seemingly springlike warmth wafted over you when we approached because in our heaven conjugial love and that warmth go hand in hand. … For men were created to be receivers of light from the Lord, meaning the light of wisdom, and women were created to be receivers of warmth from the Lord, meaning the warmth of love for the wisdom in a man.” (CL 137: port.)

AMEN.


First Lesson: GEN 24:50-67

Then Laban and Bethuel answered and said, “The thing comes from the LORD; we cannot speak to you either bad or good. {51} “Here is Rebekah before you; take her and go, and let her be your master’s son’s wife, as the LORD has spoken.” {52} And it came to pass, when Abraham’s servant heard their words, that he worshiped the LORD, bowing himself to the earth. {53} Then the servant brought out jewelry of silver, jewelry of gold, and clothing, and gave them to Rebekah. He also gave precious things to her brother and to her mother. {54} And he and the men who were with him ate and drank and stayed all night. Then they arose in the morning, and he said, “Send me away to my master.” {55} But her brother and her mother said, “Let the young woman stay with us a few days, at least ten; after that she may go.” {56} And he said to them, “Do not hinder me, since the LORD has prospered my way; send me away so that I may go to my master.” {57} So they said, “We will call the young woman and ask her personally.” {58} Then they called Rebekah and said to her, “Will you go with this man?” And she said, “I will go.” {59} So they sent away Rebekah their sister and her nurse, and Abraham’s servant and his men. {60} And they blessed Rebekah and said to her: “Our sister, may you become The mother of thousands of ten thousands; And may your descendants possess The gates of those who hate them.” {61} Then Rebekah and her maids arose, and they rode on the camels and followed the man. So the servant took Rebekah and departed. {62} Now Isaac came from the way of Beer Lahai Roi, for he dwelt in the South. {63} And Isaac went out to meditate in the field in the evening; and he lifted his eyes and looked, and there, the camels were coming. {64} Then Rebekah lifted her eyes, and when she saw Isaac she dismounted from her camel; {65} for she had said to the servant, “Who is this man walking in the field to meet us?” The servant said, “It is my master.” So she took a veil and covered herself. {66} And the servant told Isaac all the things that he had done. {67} Then Isaac brought her into his mother Sarah’s tent; and he took Rebekah and she became his wife, and he loved her. So Isaac was comforted after his mother’s death.

Second Lesson: Mat 5:38-48

“You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ {39} “But I tell you not to resist an evil person. But whoever slaps you on your right cheek, turn the other to him also. {40} “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also. {41} “And whoever compels you to go one mile, go with him two. {42} “Give to him who asks you, and from him who wants to borrow from you do not turn away. {43} “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ {44} “But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, {45} “that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust. {46} “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? {47} “And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so? {48} “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.

Third Lesson: CL 130:1, 4

130. …Wisdom … has to do with both reason and life together. It is on the way to becoming wisdom when it is a matter of reason first and consequently of life; but it is wisdom when it has become a matter of life first and consequently of reason.

The most ancient people in this world did not acknowledge any other wisdom than wisdom of life.

[4] Since wisdom is, as we said above, a matter of life first and consequently of reason, the question arises, what wisdom of life is. In brief summary, it is this: to refrain from evils because they are harmful to the soul, harmful to the civil state, and harmful to the body, and to do good things because they are of benefit to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body.

This is the wisdom that is meant by the wisdom to which conjugial love attaches itself. For it attaches itself through wisdom’s shunning the evil of adultery as a pestilence injurious to the soul, to the civil state, and to the body. And because this wisdom springs from spiritual concerns which have to do with the church, it follows that conjugial love depends on the state of the church in a person, because it depends on the state of his wisdom. This also means, as we have frequently said before, that a person is in a state of truly conjugial love to the degree that he becomes spiritual. For a person becomes spiritual through the spiritual things of the church.

Growing in Wisdom

Sermon: Growing in Wisdom

Posted on March 19, 2012 by Coleman Glenn

GROWING IN WISDOM
A Sermon by Rev. Coleman S. Glenn

18 March 2012

Dawson Creek, BC

Readings: 1 Samuel 3:1-21; Luke 2:40-52; True Christian Religion 387

“And Jesus increased in wisdom and in age, and in grace with God and men.” Luke 2:52

Picture someone wise. Try to make it someone you know, someone who really exemplifies wisdom for you. If you’re not able to think of someone you know, then try to think of the kind of person who comes to mind when you think of wisdom. Now think about what it is that makes that person wise. Why did they come to mind and not someone else? Did you think of someone with a lot of education, a lot of knowledge? May so – that can be part of wisdom. But that’s probably not the only thing you thought of – there’s a good chance that the smartest person you know is not the wisest person you know.  So, what other qualities make a person wise? What else made you think of the person you did? Maybe the person you thought of has a real humility – a quiet acknowledgment that they don’t know everything. If you told them they were wise, chances are they’d brush it aside and deny it.  Chances are they’re not the loudest person you know, or the most argumentative, although they could be.  When we think of someone wise, we often think of someone who speaks from their heart, with real warmth in their voice. We think of someone who speaks from life, not just from knowledge. We think of someone who speaks the truth from love.

How old was the person you thought of? Many of us probably thought of people older than us – parents or grandparents, elders who have seen a lot of life and speak from a lifetime of experience.  There is wisdom in old age, as people become humbled by life, and start to gain true wisdom. But some of us might also have thought of children. Most teachers will tell you that they learn as much from their students as their students do from them. There is a special kind of wisdom that comes along with childhood – a sense of wonder about the world that a lot of us lose as we get older. In young children, we see some of that same humility we do in old age – a willingness to ask questions, to admit that they don’t know everything.  There’s a wisdom of innocence in children – they aren’t afraid to say things as they see them, because they don’t even know that they are supposed to see things differently.  It’s not yet the true innocence and true wisdom of old age, but it’s a picture of it. That innocent childhood wisdom is reflected in the words of a Psalm: “Out of the mouth of babes and nursing infants, You have ordained strength” (Psalm 8:2). That childhood wisdom is the image of the true wisdom that comes with age.

But all wisdom comes from the Lord; and the wisdom of the wisest person we know pales in comparison with the Lord’s wisdom. When He was in the world, though, the Lord did not immediately come into wisdom. He had to gain wisdom gradually – He had to walk the same path that we do. That’s why we read. “And Jesus increased in wisdom and age, and in grace with God and men” (Luke 2:52).

But if Jesus is God, why does He need to increase in wisdom? The reason is that at the Lord’s birth, His soul was Divine, but His body and the lower levels of His mind were merely human. Throughout His life, He went through a process of opening up those lower levels of His mind to the Divinity within Himself, until He replaced everything that was merely human with His Divine Human. And because He went through that process, He can lead all of us through a similar process – not that we ever become Divine or have anything Divine that belongs to us, but that He opens up our minds and hearts to Him more and more to eternity.

So in the Lord’s childhood, He needed to progress just as we progress. The book True Christian Religion describes this: “In respect to His Human He was, for this reason, an infant like other infants, a boy like other boys, and so on; with the sole difference that this development was accomplished in Him more quickly, more fully, and more perfectly than in others” (TCR 89). We see that in the story we read today – He was still growing in wisdom, had not become omniscient on all levels of His mind – but even at twelve He had gained an astonishing amount of wisdom.

So, we return to our story with this in mind – that we can look to the Lord here in this story and ask how we can follow in His footsteps, what He is teaching us here, and specifically what He is showing us about growing in wisdom.

In the story, Mary and Joseph had gone to Jerusalem to celebrate Passover, along with many of their relatives; and when they left, they assumed Jesus was with someone else in their company. A day later, discovering that He was missing, they rushed back to Jerusalem, and searched for him for three days. Finally they found Him – not lost somewhere in the streets, but sitting in the temple in the middle of the teachers of Israel.

It says that they saw Him there in the midst of the teachers, “both listening to them and asking them questions.” And here we find something that may be surprising – the Lord is described first, not as teaching these teachers, but as listening to them and questioning them. And again, remember, the Lord really did need to learn things. And this attitude that He expressed here shows us one of the most important things about wisdom – we can only grow in wisdom if we acknowledge that we do not know everything, that we have something to learn from others. This was the God of the universe in human form – and He needed to ask questions, to listen! If we think that we can figure everything out on our own, we have not even reached the foothills of wisdom. We just read a story that Emanuel Swedenborg related about the Temple of Wisdom that he saw in heaven. He spoke to angels about it, and they told him that the only people who could see this temple were those who acknowledged that they knew nothing from themselves, and that what they knew was nothing compared to what they didn’t know. That is the beginning of wisdom.

There’s humility on both sides of the conversation in this story. It took humility for the Lord to ask these great teachers questions; but think of the humility also that it would have taken for those teachers to listen to this twelve-year-old Boy, who hadn’t been trained in their schools, who to all appearances was only a carpenter’s son. Looking in at this story from their point of view, we realize something else – we may not always find wisdom where we expect it. We tend to put people into categories, to judge them as wise or foolish – and once we’ve judged someone as foolish or not worth listening to, we can dismiss the things that they say simply because we don’t like them. If we heard those same things from the mouth of someone we regard as wise, though, we realize the wisdom in them. We need to know that the Lord can talk to us through anyone.

This was true for those teachers, and it was true for the Lord as a twelve-year-old. Many of those teachers in the temple were corrupt – as an adult the Lord often criticized the teachers of Israel. And yet they did know the Old Testament well – the Lord could learn important things from them about it. He could listen for the wisdom in what they were saying, for God’s voice speaking even through imperfect vessels. Again, God can speak even through imperfect vessels, and we need to be open to hearing His voice from anyone.

So far we’ve been focusing mostly on the humility it takes to advance in wisdom, the acknowledgment that we don’t know everything and that we need to listen to others. But sometimes people can take this too far, and to think that they are wise because they question everything, because they never come to any conclusions on anything. This is not the case. The Lord was in the temple listening and asking questions – but the people were astonished at His understanding and His answers. True wisdom means that we do have a sight of the truth. We never think that we know all there is to know, but at the same time, we do not become nihilistic and say that we can never know anything.

There’s a great story that Emanuel Swedenborg relates about a group of spirits he saw in the world of spirits. He heard voices saying, “O how learned,” and came down to find a group of people stamping on the ground, not moving at all. When Swedenborg asked an angel why they were doing it, the angel replied that it was because these people never came to any conclusion about anything, but only discussed and questioned whether something existed, and so they never progressed in wisdom at all.  When Swedenborg asked, “What must the religion be that saves a person?” they spent hours discussing whether religion even existed, or whether salvation even existed, and came to no conclusion at all. When he asked whether they would answer the question within a year, they answered that they couldn’t answer it within a hundred years. Swedenborg replied, “And meanwhile you are without religion!” He said to them, “You are anything but learned, for you are only able to think whether a thing is, and to turn it this way and that. Who can become learned unless he knows something for certain, and goes forward in that as a man advances from step to step, and so on successively into wisdom. Otherwise you do not so much as touch truths with the finger-nail, but put them more and more out of sight.” (True Christian Religion 333). To grow in wisdom, we do have to reach conclusions; acknowledging that we know nothing compared to the Lord’s infinite wisdom does not mean that we deny our ability to know anything at all.

And so the Lord as a twelve year old did not only ask questions, he also answered them, and demonstrated His wisdom – already a wisdom superior to that of the most learned people in Israel.  This is what He was doing when Mary and Joseph found Him, after searching for Him throughout the city. When they asked why he had done this, causing them such anxiety, He replied, “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be in what is my Father’s?” The Lord knew even then, as a twelve-year-old, that His soul was Divine, that His role in the world was to exemplify wisdom, as well as to teach it. And so it was the Father’s will – that is, the will of the Divine Love within Himself – that He learn truth and teach it, to advance more in wisdom, to show people how to live in goodness toward their neighbour.

We might expect the Lord’s ministry to begin then and there – but this is not what happens. The Lord still had years ahead of Him to grow to the point where He could teach Divine Truth, where He could be an embodiment of it. And there’s encouragement here. Learning how to live in this world is supposed to be a process. We are not supposed to know everything right away. When God Himself came into the world in human form, even He needed decades to reach His full potential of wisdom. How could we possibly expect it to be any different for us? The fact that we feel like progress is slow does not mean that we’re failing. And it’s a process that continues for ever. We’ll never reach a point where we say, “I’ve arrived – I know everything I need to know.” If we do reach that point, we’re in serious danger, because it’s at that point that we fall in love with our own wisdom, and stop seeking to become more wise – and loving our own wisdom is the height of foolishness.

So the Lord does go back home with Mary and Joseph – and He was subject to them, that is, He was obedient to them. And here’s the final piece of wisdom. In childhood, we learn obedience by obeying our parents – and that prepares us to obey the Lord’s Word. Because it is in living by the wisdom we’ve gained that that wisdom truly becomes part of us. It’s by trying to obey the Lord’s Word that we start to understand it. The Lord said that those who hear His Word and do not do it are like people building their house on the sand. They’re still doing something, building some kind of understanding – but if they don’t do it, that all falls to the ground when struggles and temptations come. But those who do His Word, who act in obedience to it, are like those who build their house on the rock. It does not fall down in times of struggle – it stands strong, because it is built on a rock.

True wisdom comes from building on the rock – that is, on hearing the Lord’s Word and doing it. And we are given the ability to do that because the Lord Himself walked that path for us. He is with us as we learn truth, as we see His wisdom in His word, as we learn also from the people around us. He is with us in that attitude of humility, the attitude that of ourselves we know nothing. He is with us in that willingness to listen for His voice even in unexpected places. He is with us in that childlike innocence, that excitement to learn, the willingness to ask even stupid questions over and over again, from a love of becoming truly wise. And that true wisdom is not about knowing more than someone else – that true wisdom is a wisdom of life, a wisdom of loving our neighbour, and loving the Lord above all else.

The final and most important step is acknowledging that none of our wisdom comes from ourselves. The Lord is the source of all wisdom – and in the world, He became Divine love and Divine wisdom in Human form. He is the Truth itself, that is, Wisdom itself; He is the way Itself, that is, the path that leads to wisdom; and He is life itself, that is, the life that comes from living in love and wisdom. Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). Amen.

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Coleman’s Blog | The thoughts and reflections of a New Church (Swedenborgian) minister

REBIRTH

REBIRTH
A Sermon by Rev. Daniel W. Heinrichs
Preached in Boynton Beach, Florida, September 27, 1992

“Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and of the spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again”‘ (John 3:5-7).

The purpose in creation is a heaven from the human race. We are born into this world in order that we may be prepared for eternal life in heaven. Since the fall of man in the days of the Most Ancient Church, represented in the Word by Adam’s and Eve’s fall from integrity, man is born with a tendency to evils which have been increased in a long line from parents, grandparents, and ancestors. We read: “Everyone who is born is born into all these inherited evils thus increased in succession” and consequently by nature he loves nothing but evil (AC5280:2).

This being the case, how can we be prepared for heavenly life? Heavenly life, by its very nature, can have nothing in common with a life of evil. The Lord, addressing Nicodemus, answered this question directly and simply, saying: “Unless one be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3).

“‘To be born,”‘ the Writings state, “is to be regenerated, because … spiritual birth is regeneration, which is also called rebirth … It is by one’s being born again, or regenerated, that man becomes man,” that is, truly human (AC 5160). This is the essential teaching of all Divine revelation. It is implied throughout the Old Testament. It is plainly stated in the New Testament, and it is thoroughly explained in the Writings. Our life on earth begins by natural birth. Our spiritual life begins by spiritual birth or regeneration.

It is commonly believed by many that people enter into heaven simply by the Lord’s admitting them. “But,” the Writings say, “he who holds this belief is much mistaken. For no one can be received into heaven who has not received heaven into himself, which is done by means of rebirth, or regeneration” (AC 5342:4). Heaven is not merely a place; it is a state of life. The state is the reality; the place is where those are who are in the state of heaven. Only those enter heaven who are in the state of heaven; these are people who have received heaven into themselves by rebirth, or regeneration.

The Writings declare that a person who is in good is being reborn every moment, from early infancy to the end of life on earth and thereafter to eternity. The processes by which this takes place are said to be both intricate and amazing, and it is these processes which are the subject of the internal, spiritual sense of the Word (see AC 5202:4).

Since the interiors of the Word have now been laid open to the sight of the understanding, we need no longer grope our way through life in obscurity and darkness. If we will regularly and conscientiously read the Word, especially the Writings, and make their light our light, we will be able to cooperate intelligently with the Lord in the process of regeneration. “No one can be regenerated except through the good of life conjoined with the truth of doctrine; from this one has spiritual life.”

Let us consider some of those teachings in the Word which throw light on this subject, so that, by a better understanding of these marvelous processes, we may willingly and intelligently enter into the process of regeneration and progress along the way that leads to heaven.

In infancy and childhood we are, as to our quality, completely sensuous. That is, our ideas and thoughts are formed entirely from impressions entering our minds through the five senses. The innocence of this state is not genuine but external, for true innocence is the product of wisdom. By this innocence, in which infants and children are kept, the Lord disposes into order those impressions which come in through the senses so that they may form a basis, or foundation, upon which the rational mind can be built in later life. The Writings state that without the influx of external innocence in this first age, rationality could never develop (see AC 5126:2).

From childhood to early youth, by instruction from parents and teachers and by individual study, the mind takes on a new quality. Not only are the ideas and thoughts received through the bodily senses, but abstract ideas are also received and partially comprehended. In this state of life, concepts of right and wrong can be appreciated. The obligations placed on us by the civil law are learned and understood. Thus a higher plane of the mind is formed, which is called in the Writings the “natural” to distinguish it from the lower plane, established in infancy and early childhood, called the sensuous (see AC 5126:2).

“From youth to early adulthood communication is opened between the natural and the rational by the learning of truths and goods of civil and moral life, and especially the truths and goods of spiritual life, through the hearing and reading of the Word” (AC 5126:2, emphasis added). When a young person lives according to the civil, moral and spiritual truths which have been learned, he becomes rational, that is, the rational plane is opened and established.

On the other hand, if one does not learn spiritual truths, or if one does not live according to them, the person does not become rational. Such a person merely stands on the threshold of rationality. The knowledges possessed by the person are a matter of memory only, not of insight, perception and life.

If then and in subsequent years the truths and goods of spiritual life are disregarded and denied, and the person lives contrary to them, then the rational is closed and also the natural which had previously been established. The person reverts to the plane of the sensuous. The person’s thoughts proceed from the same plane as that of the infant and child, despite the fact that the person may be of mature age and have a great fund of knowledge. “Nevertheless,” the Writings say, “of the Lord’s Divine providence, so much of communication still remains as to enable the person to understand goods and truths with some degree of understanding, yet not to make them one’s own unless he performs serious repentance and for a long while afterward struggles with falsities and evils” (ibid.).

If, however, a young person learns the truths of life – especially those of spiritual life – by instruction and study, and if the person lives the truths learned, then the rational mind is successively opened in the person. Since the activity of thought then originates in the rational, the person becomes more and more rational. When this state is reached, the natural degree is made subordinate to the rational, and the sensuous subordinate to the natural. “This takes place,” we read, “especially in youth up to adult age, and progressively to the last years of … life, and afterward in heaven to eternity” (AC 5126).

What is maturity, true maturity? Maturity is reached when the sensuous plane is subordinate to and serves the natural, and when the natural is subordinate to the rational and serves it. Maturity is not a matter of age; it is a matter of state. It is not reached until a person begins regeneration, until a person learns truths from the Word and lives them.

A sad note is sounded in the Writings. They say that few in the world progress to this stage. Many indeed learn truth from the Word and begin to be reformed. “But,” it is stated, “as soon as they come to the age of early adulthood they suffer themselves to be carried away by the world, and thus go over to the side of infernal spirits, by whom they are gradually so estranged from heaven that they scarcely believe any longer that there is a heaven” (AC 5280:4, emphasis added).

We are all born with the tendency to love self and the world more than the Lord and our neighbor. In the course of growing up we have all acted in accord with this natural tendency. Since we have confirmed some of these perverse tendencies by giving in to them and acting from them, we cannot be regenerated without combat and struggle. Why is this so?

When a regenerating person begins to live the truths which have been learned from the Word, and doctrine from it, one begins to recede from the evils of one’s former life. When this happens, the evil spirits who perceived their delight in the activity of this evil arouse and excite the evils one has done in previous states, and the false things one formerly thought. In this way they seek to maintain their influence over the person who is beginning to regenerate.

But the Lord never deserts us. The person is defended from within by the Lord through angels. They flow into the truths of doctrine which the person has acquired, and arouse, or bring to consciousness, those truths which can conquer the evils which have been awakened and stirred.

This combat between the angels and evil spirits with the person produces anxiety. The person does not realize one thousandth part of what is actually involved in the struggle, and yet the battle is being waged for the person’s eternal salvation. It is fought by the angels from the person. The weapons which the angels use to defend one against the attacks of evil are the truths of doctrine which the person possesses. We should, therefore, never underestimate the importance of knowing and understanding truth if we are to survive spiritual trials and combats.

When a person has overcome in these spiritual trials by strenuously resisting as of self the evils which seethed within, the person undergoes a gradual transformation. Little by little the interior organic forms of the mind are changed; they are reordered. As a result of this reorganization of the mind the person ceases to be a slave to natural passions and desires, as formerly was the case. One state has ended and a new one begun. We are told: “A new state begins in the one who is being regenerated when the order is changed, as takes place when interior things obtain dominion over exterior things, and the exterior things begin to serve the interior … With those who are being regenerated, this is observed from the fact that something within dissuades them from allowing sensuous delights and bodily or earthly pleasure to rule, and to draw over to their side the things of intellect to confirm them” (AC 5159).

This passage draws a remarkably clear distinction between a regenerating person and one who is not regenerating. A person who is regenerating is distinguished from one who is not regenerating by the fact that something within – a love for Divine truth – dissuades him from allowing bodily and worldly pleasures to rule, and from using one’s intellect and knowledge to justify and excuse selfish indulgence. Eternal things – the things of the spirit -come first with such a person, and the things of the world and of the body serve.

We might well ask ourselves: Is this the case with us? Whatever the answer, let us resolve that it shall be so! That is why we are here – to make choices: to choose to put the things of heaven above those temporal things of the world and the body! If this is our choice, the things of heaven will descend into the natural and impart their delight to the natural. They will no longer be in conflict but will work in harmony. The joys of heaven will be perceived externally. The delights of the body and of the world, because ordered from within, will enter into and penetrate the interiors of the mind, affecting them with joy and gladness. Thus heaven and the world will be conjoined in us, and from this conjunction will come the peace and blessedness that only those can experience who have been born of water and of the spirit. Amen.

Lessons: Mark 8:27-38, John 3:1-15, AC 1555:2,3

Arcana Coelestia 1555:2,3

Few, if any, know how man is brought to true wisdom. Intelligence is not wisdom, but leads to wisdom; for to understand what is true and good is not to be true and good, but to be wise is to be so. Wisdom is predicated only of the life – that the man is such. A man is introduced to wisdom or to life by means of knowing (scire et nosse), that is, by means of knowledges (scientiae et cognitiones). In every man there are two parts, the will and the understanding; the will is the primary part, the understanding is the secondary one. Man’s life after death is according to his will part, not according to his intellectual part. The will is being formed in man by the Lord from infancy to childhood, which is effected by means of the innocence that is insinuated, and by means of charity toward parents, nurses, and little children of a like age, and by means of many other things that man knows nothing of, and which are celestial. Unless these celestial things were first insinuated into a man while an infant and a child, he could by no means become a man. Thus is formed the first plane.

But as a man is not a man unless he is endowed also with understanding, will alone does not make the man, but understanding together with will; and understanding cannot be acquired except by means of knowledges and therefore he must, from his childhood, be gradually imbued with these. Thus is formed the second plane. When the intellectual part has been instructed in knowledges, especially in the knowledges of truth and good, then first can the man be regenerated; and when he is being regenerated, truths and goods are implanted by the Lord by means of knowledges in the celestial things with which he had been endowed by the Lord from infancy, so that his intellectual things make a one with his celestial things; and when the Lord has thus conjoined these, the man is endowed with charity, from which he begins to act, this charity being of conscience. In this way he for the first time receives new life, and this by degrees. The light of this life is called wisdom, which then takes the first place, and is set over the intelligence. Thus is formed the third plane. When a man has become like this during his bodily life, he is then in the other life being continually perfected. These considerations show what is the light of intelligence, and what the light of wisdom.