Why be a slave?

April 22, 2018 § Leave a comment

 ‘And we will live, and our ground, as Pharaoh’s slaves’ means total submission. This is clear from the meaning of ‘us and our ground’ as the receptacles of goodness and truth, as immediately above in Arcana Coelestia 6135-6137; and from the meaning of ‘slaves’ as existing without any freedom of one’s own, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 57605763, thus total submission. By receptacles are meant human forms themselves. For human beings are nothing else than forms receiving life from the Lord; yet the nature of those forms is such, owing to people’s heredity and their own actions, that they refuse spiritual life coming from the Lord. But once those receptacles have been renounced so completely that they no longer claim any freedom of their own, there is total submission. The person who is being regenerated is brought at length, through the repeated experiences of desolation and sustainment, to a point at which he no longer wishes to be his own man but the Lord’s. And once he has become the Lord’s he passes into a state in which, if left to himself, he is dejected and gripped by anxiety. But when he is brought out of that state he returns to the bliss and happiness that are his, to the kind of state all the angels experience.

[2] The Lord desires any person’s total submission so that He can make him blissful and happy. That is, He does not want him to be partly his own man and partly the Lord’s, for then there are two masters whom a person cannot serve simultaneously, Matthew 6:24. Total submission is again meant by the Lord’s words in Matthew,

Whoever loves father or mother above Me is not worthy of Me; and whoever loves son or daughter above Me is not worthy of Me. Matthew 10:37.

‘Father or mother’ in general means those aspects of a person essentially his own by virtue of his heredity, and ‘son or daughter’ those essentially his own by virtue of his own actions. What is essentially a person’s own is also meant by his ‘soul’ in John,

He who loves his soul will lose it, and he who hates his soul in this world will keep it into eternal life. If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there My servant will be also. John 11:2526.

Total submission is also meant by the Lord’s words in Matthew,

Another disciple said, Lord, let me first go away and bury my father. But Jesus said to him, Follow Me, and leave the dead to bury their dead. Matthew 8:2122.

[3] The need for total submission is perfectly clear from the Church’s first commandment,

You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength. This is the first commandment. Mark 12:30.

Thus since love to the Lord does not come from man but from the Lord Himself, all his heart, all his soul, all his mind, and all his strength, which are recipients, must be the Lord’s; they must therefore be submitted totally to Him. Such a submission is what is meant by ‘we will live, and our ground, as Pharaoh’s slaves’; for ‘Pharaoh’ represents the natural in general, which is subject to the control of the internal celestial, in the highest sense to the control of the Lord, who is ‘Joseph’ in that highest sense. (AC 6138)



April 15, 2018 § Leave a comment

For what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul? (Mk. 8: 36)

Scarcely anyone in the world can believe that the angelic heaven can have so great a yearning for truths and forms of good, and for cognitions of them. For people whose minds are set on nothing else than gain and glory, and who are given up to worldly pleasures, will be amazed to learn that those things constitute angelic life. ‘What use they will say ‘are cognitions of goodness and truth to me? What life can they give me? The things that bring me life and my life’s delight are wealth, position, and worldly pleasures!’ But let those who speak like this know that the life these things bring is that of the body, not that of the soul, and that the former kind of life perishes along with the body, whereas the latter kind remains for ever. Let them also know that people are ill-advised if while in the world they do not give any thought to spiritual life. (AC 6110.2)

Why Abstract Language

April 13, 2018 § Leave a comment

The Heavenly Doctrines often use abstract language even when speaking of concrete things. The passage below explains why:

The reason why the expression ‘a perception by the truths in the natural’ is used and not a perception by people in possession of those truths is that spiritual language employs that kind of expression. For such a usage draws the ideas composing one’s thought away from persons and fixes them on spiritual realities; and those realities, which are truths and forms of good, are what possess life in a person and cause him to have life. For those realities are derived from the Lord, the Source of life in its entirety. That kind of usage also leads one’s mind away from ascribing truths and forms of good to a person. Such spiritual language also enables one to form an overall idea that extends further and wider than when the idea of a person is tied up with it. If for example one speaks of perception by people in possession of truths in the natural one’s ideas become fixed at the same time on people like that – a common occurrence – and so one’s ideas are drawn away from the overall idea, with the result that the light of truth is diminished. Furthermore, in the next life thought about persons disturbs such persons, for in that life all thought is communicated. These are the reasons why impersonal expressions like the one here – ‘a perception by the truths in the natural’ are used. (AC 6040.2)

Levels of Knowledge

April 4, 2018 § Leave a comment

 There is factual knowledge which has to do with earthly, bodily, and worldly matters; this occupies the lowest position since it consists of impressions received directly from the external or bodily senses. There is also factual knowledge which has to do with one’s country, its system of government, and laws and statutes, which occupies a slightly more internal position. There is factual knowledge which has to do with matters of right conduct, which occupies a position still more internal. And there is knowledge which has to do with spiritual life occupying positions interior to them all; this consists of the truths known to the Church. To the extent that these truths exist with a person solely as a result of religious teaching they are no more than factual knowledge; but once they stem from the good of love in him they go onto a level above factual knowledge, for they now dwell in spiritual light, from which they can look at factual knowledge arrayed in proper order beneath them. By means of such rising degrees of factual knowledge a person attains intelligence; for factual knowledge at each level opens the mind so that light from the spiritual world may flow in. From all this one may now see what is meant by the truths of the Church within the natural being present. (AC 5934)

The stream(s) of Providence

March 31, 2018 § Leave a comment

There is a beautiful  passage in the Heavenly Doctrines about being in the stream of  Providence:

They know that for those who trust in the Divine all things advance toward a happy state to eternity, and that whatever befalls them in time is still conducive thereto.

[4] Be it known that the Divine Providence is universal, that is, in things the most minute; and that they who are in the stream of Providence are all the time carried along toward everything that is happy, whatever may be the appearance of the means; and that those are in the stream of Providence who put their trust in the Divine and attribute all things to Him; and that those are not in the stream of Providence who trust in themselves alone and attribute all things to themselves, because they are in the opposite, for they take away providence from the Divine, and claim it for themselves. Be it known also that insofar as anyone is in the stream of Providence, so far he is in a state of peace; also that insofar as anyone is in a state of peace from the good of faith, so far he is in the Divine Providence. These alone know and believe that the Divine Providence of the Lord is in everything both in general and in particular, nay, is in the most minute things of all. (AC 8478)

But what may seem like one stream to us, is really countless number of streams converging into one:

For he refuses to recognize the existence of providence in every detail of life, when in fact it exists in the smallest details of all from the earliest stage of a person’s life through to the last, and for evermore after that. The streams of providence coming together at any one point in each person’s life are more than any conceivable number. This I know from heaven. (AC 5894)

What Meaning is being Explained?

March 26, 2018 § Leave a comment

As I have said in a previous blog, it is interesting to observe not just what the Heavenly Doctrines say, but what they do.

We know that the Word is inspired in every jot and tittle, in every least word. (cf. WH 6), and that the spiritual meaning is in every single detail (cf. AC AC 49).

Yet even in the Arcana Celestia, which expounds the books of Genesis and Exodus verse by verse, the spiritual meaning of a word or phrase is not always given. Sometimes the Lord explains the implications of the literal meaning with no explanation of the spiritual meaning. Sometimes He explains the spiritual meaning with no explanation of the literal meaning. Sometimes He explains both.

This is nicely illustrated in the exposition of the Genesis 44: 11 and 12.

Let me confess, I have no enlightenment on why the Lord does this, or what its significance is.


Literal Meaning

Spiritual Meaning


 ‘And they hurried’

means an unwillingness to wait. This is clear from the meaning of ‘hurrying, when they are eager to prove their innocence, as an unwillingness to wait.

AC 5766

‘And caused to come down, each one his pouch to the earth’

means that they brought the contents of the natural down to the level of sensory impressions

AC 5767

 ‘And they opened, each one his pouch’

 means so that they might thereby make the matter clear to themselves.

This is clear from the meaning of ‘opening a pouch’ as opening up the contents of the natural, thus making the matter clear.

AC 5768

‘And he searched’

means an investigation.

AC 5769

‘And he began with the oldest and finished with the youngest’

 means order.

AC 5770

 ‘And the cup was found in Benjamin’s pouch’

 means that interior truth from the celestial existed with the intermediary.

AC 5771

Humility and Mercy

March 25, 2018 § Leave a comment

We may not like to acknowledge that of ourselves we are nothing but evil, but it is very important that we do acknowledge this.

 ‘And how could we steal from your lord’s house silver or gold? means, Why should we lay claim to truth or good that comes from the Divine celestial? This is clear from the meaning of ‘stealing’ in the spiritual sense as laying claim to what is the Lord’s, dealt with above in Arcana Coelestia 5749; from the meaning of ‘silver’ as truth, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 155129545658; and from the meaning of ‘gold’ as good, dealt with in Arcana Coelestia 113155115525658. The whole of this chapter has as its subject spiritual theft, which consists in laying claim to good and truth that come from the Lord. This is a matter of consequence so great that after death a person cannot be admitted into heaven until he acknowledges in his heart that nothing good or true originates in himself, only in the Lord, and that whatever does originate in himself is nothing but evil. The truth of this is proved to a person after death by means of many experiences. The angels in heaven perceive quite clearly that everything good and true comes from the Lord, in addition they perceive that the Lord is the one who withholds them from evil and maintains in them what is good and therefore what is true, which He does with great force. 

[2] I too have been allowed to perceive the same things quite plainly for many years now, and also to perceive that to the extent that I have been left to my proprium or on my own I have been swamped by evils, but to the extent that I have been withheld from this by the Lord I have been raised from evil to good. Laying claim therefore to truth or good as one’s own is the opposite of the attitude of mind that reigns universally in heaven. It is also the opposite of the acknowledgement that all salvation is due to mercy, that is, that a person left to himself is in hell, but the Lord in His mercy pulls him out of there. Nor can a person have humility or consequently accept the Lord’s mercy – for mercy can enter only where there is humility, that is, into a humble heart – unless he acknowledges that left to himself he produces nothing but evil and that the Lord is the source of all good. Moreover he otherwise thinks that the deeds he performs earn him merit and eventually righteousness; for to claim as one’s own truth and good which come from the Lord is self-righteousness, from which many evils well up. Thinking in that way a person sees himself in every specific deed he performs for his neighbour; and when he does this he loves himself more than everyone else, whom he thus holds in contempt which, though he may not express it verbally, is nevertheless present in his heart. (AC 5758)