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)

None good but One

June 16, 2017 § 1 Comment

Our western culture appears to worship self-worth. We are encouraged to have a positive self-image of ourselves. Yet the Heavenly Doctrines teach us repeatedly that we are all nothing but evil. This is not a popular teaching. Yet the acknowledgement that we are nothing but evil is necessary if we are to live angelic lives.

It is true that evil spirits associated with us don’t mind if we cripple ourselves with overwhelming guilt and depression over this fact. But the acknowledgement of our evil nature does not have to involve such guilt and depression. It can be a simple recognition of a fact.

People who die in childhood do not have actual evils, as those who die in adulthood; but they do have hereditary inclinations to evils. Since they have not acquire any actual evil, it is easy for those who died in childhood to think that they are good. They have to be disabused of that idea.

I have spoken to angels about young children, whether these are free from evils since no evil of their own doing clings to them as it does to adults. But I have been told that they are just as much immersed in evil; indeed that they too are nothing but evil, but that as with all angels they are withheld from evil and maintained by the Lord in good, so much so that it seems to them as though they abode in good from themselves. This also is why, after young children have become adult in heaven, they are sometimes allowed to return to their evils which they acquired by heredity – lest any false notion should exist in them that good with them is derived from themselves and not from the Lord; and they are left immersed in those evils until they come to know, acknowledge, and believe that the truth is as has just been indicated. A certain person also who had died as a young child but who had grown up in heaven possessed a similar notion and was therefore taken back to the life of evils that was innate within him. At this point I was given to perceive from his sphere that he had an inclination to dominate others and that he thought nothing of lustful acts, which were evils that he possessed by heredity from his parents. But after he acknowledged that such was his character he was received back again among the angels with whom he had been previously. (AC 2207)


June 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Who of us, as parents and grandparents, who watch and care for children has not grown frustrated by their being uncooperative? The passage below suggests that there may be more good in their uncooperativeness than we are aware of!

On many occasions when young children who were still mere infants were present with me in groups (chorus) they have sounded as something gentle but without order, so that they were not yet acting as one in the way they would do later on when they had become more grown up. And what astonished me, the spirits present with me could not refrain from trying to direct their thought and speech. Such a desire comes naturally to spirits, but I have noticed every time that the young children resisted, being unwilling to think or to speak as the spirits directed. Quite often I have detected a kind of anger accompanying such refusal and resistance; and once they were able to say anything at all they merely said, No! I have been told that young children undergo such temptation in the next life so that they may become accustomed and disciplined not only to resist falsity and evil but also not to think, speak, and act from any other, and so not to allow themselves to be directed by anyone but the Lord alone. (AC 2294)

Why teach children the Lord’s prayer

June 16, 2017 § Leave a comment

Below is a telling revelation of how children in heaven are educated to become angels. I cannot but help believe that when children on earth say or hear the Lord’s prayer, the angels who are with them are also instilling tender ideas.

People who know nothing about the state of the life after death may think that young children acquire angelic intelligence and wisdom the moment they enter the next life. But I have learned through much experience that this is not so at all. Those who die not long after birth have the minds of young children, almost the same as on earth. Nor is the amount of what they know any greater, for they possess no more than the capacity to know, and from this to have intelligence and from this to be wise. Yet that capacity is more perfect because they are not living in the body but are spirits. That this is the mental condition of young children when they first enter heaven I have not merely been told but have also been shown, for on several occasions, in the Lord’s Divine mercy, groups of young children have been sent to me, and I have been allowed to read the Lord’s Prayer to them. As I did so I was given to perceive how the angels whose company they were in were instilling into their tender and newly-formed ideas the meaning of the things that are in the Lord’s Prayer – filling their ideas with it in the measure that the young children were able to receive it – and after that how the young children were given the capacity to think about things such as these as if from themselves. (AC 2290)

Only when reading the Heavenly Doctrines

June 10, 2017 § 1 Comment

The teaching below, it seems to me, can mostly only be done when reading the Heavenly Doctrines.

‘Jehovah appeared to him’ means the Lord’s perception. This becomes clear from the fact that historical events as described in the Word are representative, and nothing else, and the actual words used there serve to mean the things that occur in the internal sense. Featured at this point in the internal sense are the Lord and His perception; and that perception was represented by the event of Jehovah’s appearing to Abraham. Every appearance, every utterance, and every deed recorded in the historical sections of the Word is in this manner representative. But what each represents becomes apparent only if attention is paid to historical descriptions solely as objects – as when objects of sight serve solely to give one an opportunity and the ability to think about more sublime things, as for example when people look at gardens and yet think solely of fruits and their uses, and also of the delight of life given by these, and think still more sublimely of the happiness of paradise, or heaven. When their thoughts are on those things they do, it is true, behold the particular objects in the gardens, yet with so little interest in them as mere objects that they pay no attention to them. It is similar with the historical descriptions in the Word. When people’s thoughts are on the celestial and spiritual things contained in the internal sense, just as little attention is paid to the historical events described or to the words themselves used to describe them. (AC 2143)

I am often struck by the beauty and wonders of the Lord’s creation, but I seldom think about their celestial and spiritual meanings. This is largely due to not knowing what their celestial and spiritual meanings.

I confess, my knowledge of correspondences is too general to have any really coherent thought about the celestial and spiritual meanings of what I am seeing around me.

The same is true when I read the Old and New Testaments. For the most part, my knowledge of correspondences is too general for me to have any really profound and extensive thoughts about the celestial or spiritual means of the passages I am reading.

On the other hand, when I am reading the Heavenly Doctrines my mind focuses on the celestial and spiritual meanings being revealed. I do not pay much attention historical meanings of the passages from the Testaments that are being quoted.

It seems to me that while the above teaching is outwardly referring to our reading of the Old and New Testaments, it is speaking more to our reading of the Heavenly Doctrines themselves.