Marriage is more than friendship

November 5, 2017 § Leave a comment

Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and shall cling to his wife, and they shall be as one flesh. (Gen 2.24; Lexham English Bible)

As regards ‘clinging’ in the external sense, or inner sense nearest to the literal, meaning a joining together, this may be seen without explanation; and as regards ‘clinging’ in the internal sense meaning charity, this is evident from the consideration that charity, or what amounts to the same, mutual love, is a spiritual joining together. For mutual love is a joining together of affections belonging to the will and a consequent agreement of thoughts belonging to the understanding, and so is a joining of minds as to both parts. (AC 3875.1)

Mutual love is different from friendship inasmuch as mutual love has a person’s good in view, and in directing itself towards that good is directed towards the person in whom good is present. Friendship however has the person in view, which is also mutual love when it looks at that person from the point of view of, that is, on account of, that good. But when it does not look at him from the point of view of good or on account of that good but on account of self which it calls good, friendship is not in that case mutual love but something close to the love of self. And insofar as it is close to this it is opposed to mutual love. (AC 3875.5)


We often talk about how our spouse should be our best friend. The above teachings shed a lot of light on how spouses should be best friends.

Married love, mutual love, and friendship are very intimately connected. Genuine married love will involve mutual love and true friendship. Two people can mutually love each other without being married to each other. They too will be true friends to each other. But you can also be friends with someone without mutually loving them.

Friendship without mutual love regards person without regard to good that is in him. It sees only his outward kindness, his regard for you, his behavior. It does not look beyond this to his character, to the good that is in him.  

True friendship comes from mutual love. Mutual love regards the good in the other person and seeks to nurture that good. The nurturing of good in another can take many forms:

  • encouraging good behavior
  • criticism of pettiness
  • explaining what is good and true
  • showing the negative consequences
  • supportiveness
  • withdrawal
  • and so many more.

A genuine marriage requires each person to be looking to the Lord and shunning evils as sins against Him. It also means practicing mutual love, that is, helping each other to become a better person. Genuine marriage means creating a higher common standard, not sinking to the lowest common standard. Each couple, of course, find their own unique ways of helping their spouses. 






Understanding over time

October 3, 2017 § Leave a comment

I am currently reading through the Arcana Celestia for the third time. Right now I am in the story of Jacob and Esau which is about the glorification of the natural.

When I was younger, I understood all of this because I understood the words I read. Now, I don’t understand it. It is difficult to clearly distinguish what thoughts and affections are from the rational and which are from the natural. It is impossible, at least for me, to tell what is coming into the natural directly and what is flowing in indirectly. Without being able to relate what is being taught to what is going on in my own mind, I do not feel that I truly understand what is being taught. 

It is comforting, however, that the Lord so frequently points out our inability to comprehend these things which make sense to the angels.


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)


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.

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.)