Aging

September 22, 2017 § Leave a comment

There are many aspects of aging that are not fun. There is more pain, one does not heal as fast, nor can one do as much. There are some benefits to getting older also. Grandchildren are a blessing. Seeing their smiles and delights, getting a kiss or a hug — precious!

There are also spiritual benefits to aging, as can be seen from this passage in the Arcana Celestia:

‘So it was, that Isaac was old’ means when the state was reached. This is clear from the meaning of ‘growing old’ as the arrival and presence of a new state; for ‘old age’ in the Word means both the casting aside of the previous state and the assumption of the new one. The reason it has these two meanings is that old age is the final stage of life, when bodily things start to be cast aside together with the loves which belong to the preceding stage, and so when interior things start to be enlightened; for once bodily things have been removed interior things are enlightened. And a further reason for the two meanings is that angels, who perceive spiritually the things that are in the Word, no longer have the concept of old age but instead the concept of new life. Thus by Isaac’s being old they perceive that the state was reached, that is to say, when the Divine Rational, represented by Isaac, desired the Natural which corresponded to itself, that is, that the Natural too should be Divine. (AC 3492)

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Retrospectively

August 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

I just finished reading a marvelous book. Echoes of Scripture in the Gospels by Richard B. Hays, published by Baylor University Press; Waco, Texas; 2016. I wish I had read it many years ago, so that I could have used the knowledge and insight gained by this book all that time. Unfortunately, as noted above, the book was only published last year.

In brief, the book shows how each Gospel uses the Old Testament, mostly the LXX. It comments on the quotes, the allusions, the references, and even the very slight echoes of Scripture found in the Gospel. The echoes of scripture are a metaphor for a literary device used by the Gospel writers called metalepsis, which is “quoting a piece of text that beckons the reader to discover more of the original context from which the fragmentary citation came.” Richard Hays goes on to explain this term:

It’s a term I learned from the literary scholar and poet John Hollander, who had written an elegant book called The Figure of Echo: A Mode of Allusion in Milton and After. Hollander made the point that all great literature is densely allusive and that very often poetic texts are full of echoes of earlier texts. A sensitive reading requires us to recognize that and to see where the echoes come from.

http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/2016/novdec/deep-and-subtle-unity-of-bible.html?start=2

His explanations and commentary provide profound insight into what the Gospels are teaching and showing us.

To the best of my knowledge Richard Hays is not New Church and has never read any of Swedenborg’s books. But the insights he has gained from his studies is very compatible with the teachings of the Heavenly Doctrines. By compatible I mean that while his understanding of what he says is not New Church, and I am sure quite different from our beliefs; but his words can be infilled with New Church ideas.

One example of this is the identity of Jesus Christ:

The more deeply we probe the Jewish and Old Testament roots of the Gospel narratives, the more clearly we see that each of the four Evangelists, in their diverse portrayals, identifies Jesus as the embodiment of the God of Israel. (p. 363)

While worded very differently, this is conveying the same idea as the Heavenly Doctrines, see for example AR 67:

THE FAITH OF THE NEW HEAVEN AND THE NEW CHURCH, IN ONE UNIVERSAL IDEA, is this, that the Lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world (See also LJp 366;F 34; DP124.4; AR 548; BE 116 & TCR 2)

An intriguing observation that Richard Hays makes is:

. . . the Evangelists received Scripture as a complex body of texts given to the community by God, who had scripted the whole biblical drama in such a way that it had multiple senses. Some of these senses are hidden, so they come into focus only retrospectively. (p. 358)

Richard Hays, as far as I know, is unaware that Old and New Testaments have a spiritual meaning, that was hidden and which is now revealed in the Heavenly Doctrines. Yet what he says about the meaning which the Evangelists saw retrospectively in Scriptures is also true of the Spiritual Meaning.

  • The spiritual meaning was hidden within the literal meaning of the Old and New Testaments.
  • And the spiritual meaning can only be seen retrospectively from the Heavenly Doctrines.

This last point is thought provoking. From the Heavenly Doctrines we can see in the Old and New Testaments a spiritual meaning. One of the things that the Heavenly Doctrines do when they reveal the spiritual meaning of a passage, is that they often confirm that meaning by citing numerous other verses in the Old and New Testaments. As laborious as it often is to read through all these citations, it is often only by reading through them and seeing how a given term is used in many verses, that we can see that the term must have a spiritual meaning. Further, as you read through the Arcana Celestia or the Apocalypse Revealed, you begin to get a glimmer that the spiritual meaning reveals an overarching narrative. From the Heavenly Doctrines and their revelation of the spiritual meaning, we can see a unity of structure in the Old and New Testaments that is not evident from the literal meaning alone. The literal meaning appears to separate stories and histories, often with conflicting views and information.

It is the revelation of the the spiritual meaning of the Old and New Testaments that tie the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Heavenly Doctrines into a unitary Word or Divine Revelation. This for me explains why the Arcana Celestia had to be the first  work of the Heavenly Doctrines published.

The Writings are also filled with quotations, references, allusions, and echos of other passages in themselves, and of verse in the letter of the Word that deepen and enrich their teachings. The Heavenly Doctrines become more alive as our familiarity with them the letter of the Word grows.

 

It is not enough to be within the church

August 15, 2017 § Leave a comment

 

 

The Lord teaches us  about two groups of people who demand sensory evidence  or who  reason from factual knowledge about the truths of faith. One group are those whom “ unable to believe anything unless they grasp that it is so through sensory evidence or through factual knowledge.” (AC 2832) The other group are those who “say that they believe even though they do not apprehend. But secretly within themselves these reason no less than others from sensory evidence and factual knowledge regarding the truths of faith whether the thing is so.” (AC 2832

Both groups of people are indeed within the Lord’s spiritual Church, yet they are not of the Church. They are of the Church however when the life of good is present in them and they have faith in truths. (AC 2832)

Clearly it is not enough to be within the church, we need also to be of the church!

 

Psychological Revelations

July 31, 2017 § Leave a comment

people may be helped by being able to express their feelings (sensa animi), which usually does them good, see 1701, 1931. (AC 2693)
This is clear from the meaning of ‘do not be afraid’ as not despairing, for once fear is removed hope is at hand; (AC 2694)
for the thought receives its conviction and its life from the affection. (AC 2694.3)
Those who experience such vastation or desolation are brought to the point of despair, and when in that state they receive comfort and help from the Lord, and at length are taken away out of that state into heaven, where in the presence of angels they are taught so to speak anew the goods and truths of faith. The primary reason why they undergo vastation or desolation is so that the things of which they are firmly persuaded, originating in what is properly their own, may crumble, see 2682, and also that they may receive the perception of good and truth, which perception they are not able to receive until those false persuasions originating in what is their own are so to speak softened. And it is the state of distress and grief even to the point of despair that effects this change. What good is, and indeed what blessedness and happiness are, nobody with even the sharpest mind is able to perceive unless he has experienced the state of being deprived of good, blessedness, and happiness. (2694.2)

The Four Gospels, like a Heavenly Choir

July 27, 2017 § Leave a comment

Some people get disturbed because the four Gospels tell slightly different stories and have different sequences. They feel, surely if the Gospels were true, they would speak in one voice. But singing in unison is as rich as harmonic polyphonic singing.

Angelic choirs were once praising the Lord and doing so with heartfelt joy. Their praises were heard sometimes as sweet singing, for to one another spirits and angels have resounding voices and they hear one another as well as men hear one another. But no human singing, however heavenly its sweetness and harmony, can compare with that of those angelic choirs. (AC 3893)

As we have seen, the Gospels offer us four distinctive voices; they do not speak in unison as some interpreters of the Old Testament. Rather, we should hear their testimonies as four distinctive voices singing in polyphony. If that is correct, the art of reading the Gospels is like the art listening to choral singing. Each section in a choir must learn to hear and sing its own part. The choir director does not want everyone gravitating to singing the melody in unison; if that happens, the polyphony and the harmonic texture will be lost. So it is with the fourfold Gospel witness of the New Testament canon. To be sure, in a complex choral work, there may be moments of dissonance between the different parts. Discerning hearers do not want to eliminate the dissonances; rather, the task of appreciation is to develop a nuanced ability to hear how the dissonances belong to a larger artistic design. With that metaphor in mind, then, let us review each of the four parts, each of the four Gospel witnesses, and ask whether they finally cohere in their polyphonic evocations of Israel’s Scripture. (ECHOES OF SCRIPTURE IN THE GOSPELS, Richard B. Hays, Baylor University Press, copyright 2016, page 349.)

 

 

 

 

The Well Connected Person

July 15, 2017 § Leave a comment

A successful person is usually a well connected person, having a large network of friends and business relationships.  A spiritual person is also a well connected person, but in a totally different way:

‘Also she is truly my sister’ means that rational truth possessed such a relationship. This is clear from the representation of ‘Sarah when a sister’ as rational truth, dealt with in 2508, and also from what follows next where the subject is the birth of the rational and its consequent relationship. In general it should be kept in mind that all things which exist with a truly rational, that is, regenerate, person – all that constitutes his affections, his perceptions, and his thoughts – are interconnected as in blood-relationships and relationships by marriage; for those things have been arranged in such a way that they mutually regard one another as families do which make up one house, and this in a most clear and distinct manner. Consequently when they reappear they do so in accordance with the relationships in which they exist. This ordered relationship with one another they receive from heaven – that is, from the Lord by way of heaven – flowing into them. With a person who is truly rational, that is, regenerate, everything has been arranged into order such as exists in heaven; and this ordered arrangement of everything within him comes as a result of heaven flowing into him. From that ordered arrangement within him a person possesses a power of thought, deduction, judgement, and reflection, which is so marvelous that it surpasses all human knowledge and wisdom, infinitely surpassing the conclusions which by analysis human effort draws from these sources. The reason these facts have not been known up to now is that people have not believed that all the things which constitute their affections, perceptions, and thoughts flow in – evil ones from hell, decent ones from heaven. Thus these have a connection with the things that are outside of them; yet the fact of the matter is that man, as regards his spirit, is joined to those outside of him in such a way that if he were deprived of that connection he would not remain alive for a single instant. This may also be recognized from the consideration that anything unconnected cannot possibly exist, and that anything unconnected perishes in an instant. (AC 2556; Elliot)

The Wisdom of Angels and Men

July 13, 2017 § Leave a comment

The reason why the perception which the Lord had when He was in the Human, and why His thought concerning that which was rational with the doctrine of faith, are dealt with so extensively in the internal sense is that stated above. A further reason is that it is angel-like to think in a distinct manner about the various aspects of the Lord’s life in the world, and about how He cast off the human rational and by His own power made it Divine, and at the same time to think about the nature of the doctrine of charity and faith when the rational mixes with it, besides many more things dependent on these, which are interior features of the Church and of man. To anyone whose heart and mind are set on worldly and bodily interests, such matters seem of little importance, and perhaps of no advantage to him; whereas to angels whose hearts and minds are set on celestial and spiritual interests, those same matters are precious. Their ideas and perceptions regarding them are beyond description. From this it is evident that very many matters which to man are of little importance because they are above and beyond his grasp of things are to angels of the highest worth since those matters come within the light of their wisdom; and conversely, the matters of highest worth to man, because they are worldly and so come within his grasp of things, are to angels of little importance since those matters go on away from the light of angels’ wisdom. This difference between angels and men with regard to the internal sense of the Word occurs in many places. (AC 2540.2; Elliot)