My name is Solomon Keal. I am a minister for the General Church of the New Jerusalem, which is a Swedenborgian Christian denomination. These are some of my thoughts about the Lord, the symbolic meanings in the Bible, life after death, faith, charity, usefulness, loving the Lord and one's neighbor, the 2nd Coming, Swedenborg's Writings, and other theological stuff.
Monday, August 23, 2010
My World View
Based on the book Divine Providence, by Emanuel Swedenborg.
(If you would like to look up the references that appear throughout this paper, copy and paste them into Small Canon Search.)
Is there a God, and who is He?
There is one God, and He is Human. He is the Lord, Jesus Christ, who is Jehovah. He is the Trinity in one Person. He is Divine love and wisdom united. He is Life itself. He is the infinite and eternal. He is the Creator of the universe, and our own personal Savior. His hand is the hand of Divine Providence. He is omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. (see DP 3, 46)
What is creation, the world, the universe?
The universe was created by - and out of - the Lord, and not out of nothing. Because it was created out of the Lord, it is necessarily a reflection (an image and likeness) of His Divine love and wisdom. Because the Lord is life, and creation has no life of itself, everything in creation is a vessel or container for the Lord’s life and His Divine love and wisdom. Creation only has life because the Lord is in it. (see DP 1) We are closer to the Lord the more we reflect the conjunction of love and wisdom, and we are further from the Lord the more we reflects their separation. (see DP 7-9)
The Lord created the sun of the spiritual world out of Himself, and by means of the substance of that sun He created everything in the universe. This means that the spiritual sun is the first and only true substance, which all things in creation come from. It is the “particles” of that sun that we would see if we could use a spiritual microscope on matter. But contrary to what might be believed, this basic substance is not more simple than the creation that is made from it, but rather it is more full and complex, since it is closer to God who is infinite. (see DP 5, 6)
This natural universe is governed by the laws of time and space. Time and space are the finite versions of eternity and infinity. Eternity and infinity are properties of God and not of creation. Our understanding of the natural world is based on time and space, but our understanding of God cannot be based on time and space because He is outside of them and bigger than them. (Even the terms ‘outside’ and ‘bigger’ imply spatial thought which we humans have a hard time breaking from) (see DP 48-51)
What is humanity?
Humans were created by the Lord, in the image and likeness of the Lord. (see DP 27) “In short, we are because God is.” (DP 46) Spiritually we are a ‘will and understanding,‘ which means that we have the ability to intend things, and we have the ability to know things. (see DP 15). Another way of describing this human duality is that we are ‘freedom and rationality.’ (see DP 72) We are the ability to choose, and the ability to figure things out with our minds. Ultimately these abilities mean that we can be vessels for the Lord’s love and wisdom. It is possible (and necessary) for our will and understanding to be at odds with each other; for us to know what is right, and intend what is evil, or to think what is false, and intend what is good. This is when our will and understanding are separated. This is necessary for our freedom. But when we know what is right, and intend what is good, our will and understanding become conjoined and we become closer to God. (see DP 16)
We are born into a sort of paradoxical life. We are given the ability to feel like life is our own, while at the same time we are given the ability to know that life is not our own, but is the Lord’s. Because we are born into the feeling that life is our own, without any knowledge that life is the Lord’s, we begin life focussed on ourselves and on what we know only from our senses. This means that our ‘will’ is not born heavenly, but earthly. As we learn about heaven with our understanding, we can be given a new ‘will’ which is heavenly, and which is truly capable of loving others and the Lord.
Humans are alive because “love is what constitutes our life.” (DP 13) The Lord’s love is what gives us life in general, and our specific loves are what drive our life. Without love, we would not be alive, and we would not be driven to live our lives. Our life therefore is defined by our thoughts and feelings. (see DP 50) And yet, we are not the source of our own thoughts and feelings. Our thoughts and feelings come from either heaven (goodness) or hell (evil), and we have the ability to choose to make them our own. (see DP 308) We are also immortal beings because since we are vessels capable of holding God’s life, our spirits can live forever after the death of our bodies. (see DP 324:3) But despite that fact that we are vessels for God’s life, we will never become God. We are, and always will be finite, and the Lord is, was, and always will be infinite. (see DP 32, 57) We will never completely comprehend the infinite wisdom and love of God, but we can begin to, and we can continue to grow in love and wisdom forever.
Why are we here? What is the meaning of life?
Because God is pure love, He naturally wants to love others. So, the reason we are here is so that we can become angels in heaven, and experience the Lord’s love forever. This means that if we accept the Lord’s love, we will become wiser, happier and more fully alive to eternity in heaven. This relationship with God is what heaven is. (see DP 27) The reason we are here on earth is because we can’t truly be happy in heaven unless we’ve freely chosen the Lord’s love for ourselves. And we can’t freely choose it for ourselves unless we have freedom, and are given the opportunity to refuse the Lord’s love. And we won’t have that opportunity unless we live in a world where good and evil seem equally desirable, and the existence of God is not provable. (see DP 129)
This earthly life is the training ground for heaven. Hell exists because people truly are free to reject God’s love. But heaven is the Lord’s goal for everyone, because He is love itself, and we are created in His image. (see DP 322) We become trained for heaven when our ‘understanding’ accepts that there is a God, and our ‘will’ accepts that we should love other people. The Lord provides that every religion and culture is capable of teaching people these basic things, so that everyone has the opportunity of getting to heaven. (see DP 322)
How do we attain our goals? How to we achieve happiness?
We are born with a will that tends to love ourselves and believe only our five senses. Because of this it takes some major changes to become people who have a will to love others and a belief in spiritual ‘unseen’ things. Mercifully, the Lord gives us the whole span of this early life to make those changes. We can’t be changed into angels instantly. We have to gradually become angels. (see DP 331). We do this by a process called regeneration (see DP 83, 92). ‘Regeneration’ means our spiritual rebirth. We are ‘born again’ when we have been given a new will to love other people and the Lord. This transformation is accomplished by the Lord alone, but it can only be done if we cooperate with the Lord. Our part of this process comes in two parts. First: we need to choose to have the Lord in our lives (often called ‘faith’). Second: we need to resist evil thoughts, feelings and actions because they are opposed to the heavenly life we wish to receive from the Lord (often called ‘charity’). This resisting is often called repentance, and it is possible because we have the ability to feel like life is our own, the freedom to choose between good or evil, and the rationality to see why evils are bad for our spiritual health. (see DP 102) When we begin this process, the Lord can reform and regenerate us.
What is knowledge? How do we acquire it?
All knowledge comes from the Lord. The Lord places knowledge in the world by means of Divine revelation. This revelation has been available to everyone to varying degrees depending on the freedom of the people who use it and pass it on. But the basic knowledge that allows us to get to heaven - the belief in a God and a belief in a life of love and not evil - is available to everyone. (see DP 325-328) The Lord’s divine truth comes to us both externally through the knowledge in the world that stems from the Word (Divine revelation), and also internally, directly from the Lord by enlightenment. (see DP 154). In both cases we receive truth directly from the Lord, because the Divine truth everywhere is the Lord.
Since we are free beings, we are capable of taking a truth from the Lord and twisting it into falsity. Because of this, we can be misled by the false understandings of ourselves and other people. For this reason, we should use our freedom and rationality to only accept truth from the Lord by means of what we see as His revelation, and what we see as enlightenment directly from Him. We should not accept truth from other people, unless it agrees with our understanding of truth from revelation and enlightenment. (see DP 129)
Where do good and evil come from?
The Lord is the source of all goodness, because He is Love itself. The Lord is not the source of evil. (see DP 286) Evil comes about because we are free to reject the Lord’s goodness. When we reject goodness, evil is created. Evil is really just the absence of the Lord’s goodness. Evil appears to have power on its own because when people and spirits around us choose evil (or when we choose evil for ourselves), that can have an effect on us. However it can never harm our souls, because our souls belong to the Lord alone. (see DP 19) People who are able to maintain happiness and love throughout something horrible - like suffering from cancer, or losing a loved one in an accident - are people who recognize this truth.
How much can we know of the future?
We can’t ever know the future for certain, because everyone is free to make their own decisions. And the Lord will never tell us the future, because He doesn’t want us to feel boxed in by a sense of predestination. (see DP 175) If we had true foresight, we would lose the abilities to hope and trust, which are essential driving forces in our spiritual growth. (see DP 178)
How much does the Lord know of the future?
The Lord knows the future; He has Divine foresight of everything. But this does not mean that we are predestined to Heaven or Hell. (If we were to be considered ‘predestined’ to anywhere it would be to Heaven, because the Lord wants us to be happy. See DP 329) We do actually have free will, and we are able to choose our spiritual path. But the Lord also knows what choices we will make. This may sound paradoxical. How can the Lord know where we will end up, and yet we are not predestined? Part of the problem is that we tend to think of God in the context of time. And yet God is outside of time. For Him, all time is the present. So it’s not that He knows what we will choose in the future, it’s that He sees all the choices that we make from a perspective outside of time, and therefore He is omniscient. (see DP 333)
Why do things happen the way they happen? Why do bad things happen to good people?
Every tiniest detail of our lives, and in all of creation, is governed by the Lord’s Divine Providence. (see DP 287) Nothing that happens is outside of the Lord’s jurisdiction. Everything that happens, happens for a reason that fits into God’s plan. We just don’t always see what that Divine eternal plan is. (see DP 175) But we can begin to get a sense of it, when we remember that the Lord’s goal is: a heaven from the human race. (see DP 27) Sometimes we can look back on something bad that happened in our life, and see the good that came out of it; the way that we learned a hard lesson, or the surprising benefits that came from going through a really hard time of life. This is all part of the Lord’s providence.
The Lord governs the world by means of five basic laws: 1. We have the spiritual ability to act from freedom according to reason. 2. We have the ability to resist evil in us, because we have been given the feeling that our life is our own. 3. The existence of God can’t be proven, because that would take away our freedom. 4. The Lord has provided that the truths of the Word, the means of salvation, are available to everyone. 5. We can’t see or understand the workings of Divine Providence, except in hindsight. (see DP 71-190)
Bad things can happen to good people because everyone is free to choose evil. So when some people choose evil, other people can get hurt. We might ask: ‘If the Lord is pure love, why doesn’t He stop that evil from happening?’ The Lord never wants bad things to happen. But if He didn’t allow them to happen, He would be removing people’s freedom. But the good thing is that the Lord only allows bad things to happen if good can come out of it. (see DP 296:8)
Our goal tends to be: ‘What will make me happy now?’ The Lord’s goal is: ‘What will make people eternally happy?‘ The Lord will allow our (often selfish) natural happiness to be sacrificed for our eternal happiness. (see DP 234) It’s like a parent that prevents their child from running out into the street. The child thinks that they will only be free and happy if they can run out into the street. The parent is thinking of their long-term freedom and happiness. But the child doesn’t understand that, and they feel like their parent is restricting their freedom and making them unhappy. Similarly we often don’t understand the Lord’s providence. The Lord also allows bad things to happen because unless we were free to see evils in ourselves and others, we would not be free to choose to reject it. (see DP 276)
Is There Such a Thing as Luck or Chance?
Because the world is governed in such a way as to preserve our freedom, it can often appear like things happen by chance or luck. But even what appears to be chance or luck, is really Divine Providence. (see DP 212)
God is Love. The Universe was created by that God. All life is from God. God is “outside” of time and space. Humans were created by God so that they could become angels in Heaven and experience His love eternity. Humans have free will, and the ability to reason. Humans are vessels made for God’s life and love. We get closer to God, love, and happiness through a process of freely rejecting evil and choosing good. Everyone is capable of finding the knowledge they need for this process. God is the source of all goodness, but is not the source of evil. Evil was created by humans. The potential for evil was allowed by God in order for us to be free. God always intends good for everyone, and only allows evil if good can be brought out of it.