Being part of the whole

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We are conscious of our own sensations, thoughts and feelings. We each have the sense of being a self-contained individual. What makes each of us unique? Our name? Our genes? Our environment? Or the  person we have become as we inwardly determine every moment of our lives?

When we live a self-orientated life, we feel separate from others to some degree or other and lack any wider view on what life is all about. However we are all capable of noticing, within our soul, the divine spark of what is deeply human, revealed to us in e.g.  music,  books, dreams or conversation. In this way our hearts can be stirred to want what is good.  As we choose to do what is helpful for the sake of others and not just for self, we begin to find a sense of fulfilment.

Whilst alive in the world our inmost thoughts and feelings are part of a flow of life linked from one person to another. Emanuel Swedenborg found that after our death, we become much more aware of this shared world of the spirit, as we mix with others with whom we are in harmony.

All good people whatever their race, education and background are united because there is an infinite creative force for all that is humane in the world. This is the underlying divinity of love which integrates together all who receive this inspiration.

Although having different skills, understanding and interests, we can join together in a common purpose. Each religious tradition has its part to play in one universal faith. This idea is similar to the way  different components of the human body fit together to form a whole healthy body. Each part depends on the others as long as they are not diseased, for the whole to function properly.

“A human being is part of a whole, called by us the ‘Universe,’ a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings, as something separated from the rest – a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circles of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”     

Albert Einstein

http://www.spiritualwisdom.org.uk/being-part-whole.htm

 

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We live in two worlds

God is Love

living in two worldsOne of the problems with our busy materialistic world is that we seem to get very little time to think more deeply about what is going on in our lives. Everyday is made up of all sorts of practical and physical activities. We go to the shops and buy food. We cook our meals and wash up. We clean the house and read the newspaper. We mow the lawn or put our feet up in front of the television. We go to work by car or bus or train and come back late and tired. So much can get crammed into one day that we begin to feel unable to cope or at the other end of the scale we may have so little we can do that we feel lonely and cut off from the world around. If we are blessed with all our senses we can see the world around us, we can hear it, touch it, smell it and taste it. And particularly during the spring, when all sorts of flowers are coming into bloom, the physical world around us offers a wonderful array of stimulants for our senses. And we mustn’t forget our interactions with other people: a wave across the street, a smile to a passer-by, a chat over coffee, a lengthy phone call, a letter or text message from a friend, a kind word or a loving kiss. There is so much going on in our physical world that it is not surprising that many people live as though there is nothing else – that everything that goes on in our lives can be explained in physical terms.

But is this really so?

roseImagine you are holding a fragrant rose in your hand. You see the wonderful colour and texture of the flower, you touch its soft and smooth petals and you smell its intoxicating fragrance. So far you have been involved in a physical way with this rose but how does it make you feel? Do you feel happier and a little brighter inside, does a smile come over your face, does it evoke distant memories, do you feel more peaceful, do you feel more loved or more loving? In a wonderful way that rose, out there in the physical world around us, has touched something deep inside you and you have responded.

This is just one example of the countless situations we can find ourselves in when we realise that there is something much deeper to our lives than our physical being. Whilst our lives appear dominated by the physical world around us there is another world within us of feeling and thought where our deepest experiences take place and where we develop our real character. It is our inner world where, for example,  we can feel deep joy when we are very close to someone we love and deep pain when we are separated.

Throughout the ages wise people have realised that we live in two worlds at the same time, a physical outer world and a deeper inner spiritual world. The problem is that we get so absorbed by the state of our physical outer world that we don’t spend enough time on the spiritual world within us. How many people, for example, struggling in a gym to improve their physical well-being, would spend just a little time on spiritual exercises to help them develop their inner world? Is this not a distorted view of our priorities?

Jesus highlighted the need to change our priorities in favour of the inner spiritual life when he said:

Do not seek what you are to eat and what you are to drink, nor be worried. For all the nations of the world seek after these things, and your Father knows that you need them. Instead, seek his kingdom, and these things will be added to you.   Luke 12:29-31 ESV

And the apostle Paul gave some insight into living in two worlds in his first letter to the Corinthians when he wrote

It [the resurrection body]  is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body …  It is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.
[1 Cor 15: 44,46 ESV]

Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, the visionary Jesuit priest, wrote in the 20th century:

We are not human beings having a spiritual experience; we are spiritual beings having a human experience.

George Harrison, the particularly spiritual member of the Beatles, echoed these words when he wrote:

Remember – we are not these bodies – just souls having a bodily experience.

Emanuel Swedenborg not only recognised that we are living in two worlds but also that when we die our real inner spiritual self goes on living:

As regards the soul, which – it is said – goes on living after death, it is nothing else than the actual person living in the body. That is, the soul is the person’s inner self acting in the world by means of the body and imparting life to the body. When his inner self is released from the body the person is called a spirit and then appears in a completely human form. Arcana Caelestia 6054

Should not our emphasis be on developing the quality of our inner life rather than worrying excessively as we do about our outer physical world?

http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/index.htm

http://www.eswedenborg.com/

http://www.god-is-love.org.uk/twelve-key-teachings/we-live-in-two-worlds/

jesus said

jesus said; i have cast fire on the world, and see, i guard it until the world is afire… the truth has to appear only once in one single mind, for it to be impossible for anything ever to prevenByOGixJIMAA0ly0t it from spreading universally and setting everthing ablaze. a lie can travel halfway around the world, while the truth is putting on its shoes.. there is no greater drama in human record than the sight of a few christians, scorned and oppressed by a succession of emperors, bearing all trails with a fierce tenacity multiplying quietly, building order while there enemies generated chaos, fighting the sword with the word, brutality with hope, and at last defeating the strongest state that history has known, caesar and christ had met in the arena, and christ had won.

Consumption – Is this a problem?

consumption

Some commentators have written about consumption in terms of our acquisitive society. Gaining respect — particularly amongst younger people –often depends on wearing fashionable gear and owning the latest electronic gizmo rather than for one’s personal qualities. It seems you are not valued so much for who you are but for what you possess. One might wonder whether an emphasis on consumption is arguably a cause of the problem of looting during the riots in 2011 in some English cities.

Looting and a consumption orientated society

Many people have been shocked, frightened and angry at the breakdown of law and order that has caused great damage in some of the larger cities ; violence against unarmed police, arson and destructive behaviour together with widespread looting and mugging which terrorised shopkeepers and residents. A lot of those going on the rampage were teenagers. How has this happened? How do we make any sense of these disgraceful scenes that have brought shame on a nation? There are probably several complex factors that can throw light on this. Here I am thinking about material consumption.

Talking about the looting, one man said to a television reporter,

‘People round here have got no money man, so people are going to do things like that—it’s opportunity isn’t it.’ A woman said that it is not wrong to loot ‘something that is mass-produced and you can get millions of them from a factory and if I could pick it up, of course I would take it home’

A journalist writing in the Independent newspaper noticed:

“the startling inarticulacy of so many of those now being dragged through the magistrates courts… The great majority appear to be those for whom tertiary education – or even a job – is almost as unlikely as a trip to the moon.”

You might have the illusion that by looting something expensive you can acquire added value to yourself.

Feeling undervalued in a society orientated towards consumption

All of us, including those with little money to spare, are exposed to non-stop advertising and the materialistic values of western culture. Those who can afford it, tend to take nice foreign holidays, drive smart cars, and live in large houses in prestigious areas. All this is well beyond the wildest dreams of the poor. Many people with little or no money feel of no value in a consumption orientate culture which judges worth in terms of money.

Someone talked on a radio phone-in about children overlooked by the educational system because they have practical aptitude but not academic aptitude.

“They get put to the back, they get ignored and they bunk off school. They are not given anything of value to do in a practical sense and have just been told they are useless. And so they go on the downhill spiral.”

Our culture seems to highly value verbal intelligence at the expense of practical skills using the hands although arguably the latter is what our economy needs much more of at this time. Consequently, many kids who have difficulty and thus little interest in reading and writing also lack job opportunities. They haven’t been helped by a national shortage of apprentice-style training that would have provided personal role-models and socialisation as well as other working skills.

Some are unwilling to work for low wages and others are just not employable. Welfare benefits have been thought to provide a perverse incentive not to look for low paid jobs. Each person addicted to the dependency culture will remain on the dole and the vicious circle continues as they each consequently continue to feel and act as a social failure. When you live in a consumption orientated society having no money is pretty much a definition of failure.

What does an emphasis on consumption do to the very poor?

The so-called very poor social underclass are likely to live in inhuman tower blocks or in anonymous sink estates with few if any social amenity buildings. Such people have seen those at the top of society getting away with amoral acts; greedy bankers, who despite their reckless loss-making investments, have exploited public funding for their own extravagant bonuses. They have read all about cheating politicians who have lied over their expenses; a kind of smash and grab of sorts.

Is it so surprising that many poor people in western culture have a sense of entitlement and want some of this wealth too? Of course, just because one is poor, doesn’t make one a criminal and lack morality. There can be no excuse for acting badly.

Gaining appreciation through consumption or through communication

It is not always so obvious that we might be really appreciated for what we do rather than how much money we have. Is there not a tremendous unsung spiritual value in being courteous, giving someone a little time, showing consideration, taking the initiative to do some little job that will be of help to someone else, and generally making oneself useful. What a pity more people cannot experience what it is like to feel respected, appreciated, and esteemed by others for what they do that is good and useful.

Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of  Heart, Head & Hands  Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems