Following the Star

Star of Bethlehem

The three wise men from the east followed a star until it took them to the young child, Jesus, who had been born in a lowly stable because there was no room at the inn.

We can also follow a star to find the Divine presence because a star represents the truth coming to us from heaven. The Writings of Swedenborg explain that the star the wise men followed was in fact a community of angels, whose message was clear to the men. They knew that the star signified that a saviour had been born and they were keen to find him. What we now know is that the wise men who came from the east represent characteristics within ourselves. We each have wise qualities which can know through our intuition (the inner promptings of the Spirit) the truth about the deeper meaning of the Word or Sacred Scripture. When we see a truth in the Word it is like a star lighting up in our minds and guiding us closer to heaven.

So when you see a star atop a Christmas tree, think of God’s ever present love and light shining through the angels who are with us into our minds and giving us the message that we can find him in every moment of our lives when we make room for him in our hearts.

Our hearts are like a humble stable when we allow innocence to be born there because a stable is where the gentle animals come to feed. These harmless animals picture our affections for what is good and true. They are like our love for being useful to others and being gentle in our dealings with others.

May you find peace and joy this Christmas in the promise of new life being born into human hearts as we make room for the gentleness of innocence in our busy schedules.

Jenny Keal

Advertisements

Reflections on the Sea

Sea

I love the sea with all its moods and mysteries and I can’t imagine living away from it.  I can sit and just look at it for hours, thinking about and imagining the life that exists beneath its surface.

Besides an interest in the fish that live in it, the sea is fascinating because of its correspondence with the literal sense of the Word.  “The sea corresponds to a knowledge of good and truth such as in the sense of the letter of the Word” (Swedenborg).

Like the sea, the Word has hidden depths within it.  In one sense it deals with the darkest and deepest aspects of our natural mind but it is also a source of food for our minds to grow in spiritual things.  Fish correspond to the living facts that sustain this life.  No wonder fish are called brain food!

When we look at the sea, we can regard it as a medium of separation between lands and people and that is often how some people regard truth.  They apply it in life in a divisive way, to condemn and judge.  However, the sea, like the Word should be seen as a medium of joining people together.  By sailing on the sea we connect to other land masses and peoples just as the Word is the means by which people are to be connected through living a good life according to it.

The storms on the sea are a reminder to us of the inner spiritual struggles we undergo as we battle to live by the Word.  Life can be reduced to chaos as the old is broken free of, but after the storm there is the calm.  Peace and stillness come from the Lord.

Living by the sea is a wonderful blessing, not just for the recreation and fun, but for the profound lessons that can be drawn from seeing it as a true symbol of the Word.  As the sea is vital for natural life on this “watery planet,” so is the Word for our spiritual life.  Therefore it says in Isaiah 12:9, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Richard Keyworth

 

The Body of Humanity

One Humanity

It is not an accident that there is so much diversity in spiritual practice and focus in the world. In God’s eyes, humanity appears as a single body, made up of many and various parts and members. A body could not function if it were, say, just a head, or all legs! Every part has a vital unique function. In a healthy body, these parts are working together in harmony for the benefit of the whole. There are messages passing from one part to another and a sharing of resources; there is a feeling of well being and sense of purpose and fulfilment. At present the earthly body of humanity is not well. There are blockages in communication and inflammation areas, even open wounds. There is starvation and poverty for some and wealth and abundance for others. We are not listening to one another, learning from one another, nor are we sharing. We are trying to make everyone else comply to our way of thinking –be just like us. Some members have been hurt by harsh treatment and are reacting violently. As we know, if any member of our own body is hurting, our whole body is affected. Waging war on the affected parts can only result in more pain. There will never be peace in this world until we are all one.

Being all one does not mean being all the same, as I mentioned before. It means honouring the uniqueness of the individual parts. If we are to bring unity or wholeness to this world, we must bring healing to the hurting parts – embracing our dark side (the wounded emotions behind the violent outbursts), listening, learning, supporting, healing, forgiving, peeling back the layers to find the innocence within, nurturing that goodness, turning ourselves around to the light of God’s love.

Can we really make a difference to the body of humanity? Maybe not all at once on a grand scale but we can start small with the people around us. Little by little the ripples will move out and become examples for others to follow.

Jenny

City of Light

Golden City

The Bible begins in a garden but it ends in a city. Revelation 21 describes it as a holy city, coming down from God out of heaven, beautiful as a bride. The walls shine like clear glass, there are gates all around that are always open, the streets are gold, and the Tree of Life is in the centre on either side of the river of the water of life. There is no night in the city for the glory of God is the light. All the imagery in this depiction of the city add up to one thing – a picture of a beautiful future for the whole human race. It’s a picture of peace and happiness coming to earth, which will become nearer and nearer to reality as we learn to live in harmony with one another, coming together from all directions to do good in the world.

Every time we pray in the Lords’ Prayer “Thy Kingdom come,” we are praying for peace on the earth. But “the kingdom of heaven is within you,” in the world of our thoughts, feelings and intentions. We must first make ourselves an inhabitant of God’s spiritual kingdom before it can be manifested around us. Can we honestly and courageously look for ways to bring the vision of the city into reality? It is not a vision just for Christians but for all people of all races and creeds because the gates are open in all directions inviting all to enter. Only those who are searching for the truth and long to live the life that leads to heaven will find the gates. These are the people of God’s universal sheepfold, who come with God’s love in their hearts and a desire to do what is right and good.

This week, the world celebrated global oneness day, a day for all people of all faiths to unite in their love for humanity. A love for humanity is a love for God because He is the Divine Human Being and all those who unite in love for humanity are part of God’s body on the earth and in heaven. Let every day be a global oneness day so that peace may reign in our hearts and eventually throughout the world. This is the vision of the golden city coming down to earth and we are all invited to be a part of the wonderful community of love pictured by that city.

Jenny Keal

The Rainbow

rainbow

 

All of creation is a theatre representative of spiritual realities.” – Swedenborg.

According to Swedenborg, the most ancient people saw God’s messages to them in signs in the world of nature. To them, everything in nature corresponded to something spiritual. This ancient science of correspondences was how God spoke to those people before writing was invented. It was passed down by word of mouth and became the stuff of myth and legend. But it still applies to this day and can be applied to every story in the Word of God. One such story is the one about Noah and the rainbow and God’s promise to never flood the earth again on such a scale. The story goes that Noah and his family had just survived that massive flood and had been saved from destruction by taking refuge in the ark. The personal message for us is that, like Noah, we go through times when we are almost overwhelmed by floods of negative emotion and false reasoning. When we are going through those dark times in our lives, it is like the clouds overshadowing us and blocking out the sun. But that is when we see the rainbow because the sun never goes away. It reflects off the droplets of water in the clouds and a rainbow appears. We only see the rainbow when the sun is behind us and this is significant because, when we are going through bad times, we can’t see the Lord (represented by the sun) working in our lives. It feels like He has abandoned us. But then He puts a rainbow in the sky and that is His sign that He is still there, even in the bad times, working behind the scenes to bring good out of every situation.  When we see the rainbow and realise what it means, we will never again be overwhelmed by the floods of negative emotion that arise from being blamed for others’ wrongdoing or hated for doing what is right.

So, whatever befalls us, no matter how bad, we can be sure that God is watching over us with love and tender care. Next time you see a rainbow in the sky, remember that it is a sign of God’s promise to take care of you. It is God telling you that He loves you.

Jenny Keal

The Stream of Providence

Christ

From Swedenborg’s Arcana Caelestia 8478:3, 4 we learn that:

Those who trust in the Divine, though concerned about the future, are not anxious or worried. They remain even-tempered whether or not they realise desires and they do not grieve over loss. They are content with their lot. If they become wealthy they do not become infatuated with wealth. If they are promoted to important positions they do not consider themselves worthier than others. If they become poor they are  not made miserable either. They know that for those who trust in the Divine, all things are moving towards an everlasting state of happiness and that, no matter what happens at any time to them, it contributes to that state.

The Divine Providence is over all, that is, it is present within the smallest details of all, and people in the stream of providence are being carried along constantly towards happier things, whatever appearance the means may present. Those in the stream of providence are people who trust in the Divine and attribute everything to God. But those not in the stream of providence are people who trust in themselves alone and attribute everything to themselves.

The whole universe is governed by the Divine Being, who is God. God is love and this love flows out to each and every created thing, bringing joy and peace to those who receive it and allow it to flow through them into the world. With God’s love flowing into us, we need never be anxious because we know that, whatever happens to us in life, that love will sustain us and make us grow to be the person we were created to be. No one needs to fear what the future may hold because, if they trust in the Divine, they will be carried along in the stream of God’s providence, which will take them to a good end.

Jenny

A Legend Brought to Life

Earth and Sky

As this is Maori language week here in New Zealand, I thought I would offer you a different angle on the Maori legend of Ranginui and Papatuanuku and the solutions that may be drawn from it to address the problems of today.

In the beginning, Ranginui (Sky Father) and Papatuanuku (Earth Mother) were united in a firm embrace. But they were forced apart by their many offspring, who wanted space, independence and freedom from their parent. Ranginui’s light shone dimly and coldly with the warmth of his mate, Papatuanuku, who lay in darkness.

The Powerful Ones trampled Papatuanuku underfoot. They stole the cold light of truth from Ranginui and from it formed Authority over the others. They twisted it into harsh Rules and unfair Regulations. This lead to oppression, injustice, inequality, anger, bitterness, and strife among the people, some of which has lasted to this very day.

What is the answer? What can we do?

We must bring the spirits of Ranginui and Papatuanuku back together again. Let Papatuanuku’s nurturing, loving qualities warm and soften the cold light of truth, making it flexible, yielding and fair. And let Ranginui’s light brighten and give direction to Papatuanuku’s love so we can act wisely for the good of all people. May the union of their spirits give birth to new offspring – Forgiveness, Wisdom, Justice linked with Mercy, Kindness, Compassion, Equality, Peac, Harmony, and Freedom. Let us embrace these offspring and become a united people, caring for one another, and each one of us taking responsibility for the care and protection of this beautiful land.

Jenny

Lessons from the Tower of Babel

Tower of Babel

Do we really want to be the laughing stock of the universe?

Throughout history people have built buildings to symbolise their status, power and wealth. The Egyptian pyramids were examples of such statements. This is why the Twin Towers in the U.S.A. were terrorist targets. They were seen as symbols of wealth, power and oppression. Even churches and temples purportedly built to glorify God were often really built to glorify their sponsors.

The tower of Babel in the Bible represents the way mankind can build a complex of religious beliefs which appears to lead to the happiness of heaven. However, as the story illustrates, man-made bricks were used and not stone. Stones represent God given truth, but bricks are like the fallacious ideas and reasonings created by people and hardened into shape by the heat of their self-centredness and their desire to rule others. The bitument they used instead of mortar represents the evils which bind these ideas together. Through well-constructed, manipulative arguments, people can be united in their belief that this way of life leads to the happiness of heaven. Such a belief structure appears to unify people through many years but, because God loves mankind, there comes a time when He reveals the reality of this false unity. Human history shows how cruel and inhuman ideologies which seem to promise so much eventually collapse because the lies they are based on eventually become apparent to all.

Self-centredness can unify people to a certain point but its true nature is wanting one’s own way. So, although a society can appear to ‘speak one language,’ in reality it is as divided as a den of thieves when it comes to sharing the spoil. Then the confusion of Babel (everyone speaking different languages) is revealed, as everyone wants their own way. At a very worldly level it is like Pyramid Selling, which is based on the false promise that everyone will gain, whereas only those as the top do.

The religions of the world are facing a Babel moment now over who is God. Intuitively, there can only be one God who is Creator, yet so many believe that their particular God is the one. Any alien visiting us from outer space will not be able to believe there is such confusion. We will be the laughing stock of the universe. Swedenborg offers this insight. That there is one God, who is pure Love, pure Wisdom and pure Life, and He has revealed Himself to mankind in different forms to suit different ethnic cultures and temperaments. He has done this so that He can have a relationship with each of us in the historical and religious context we were brought up in. From our tendency to be self-centred, we have tended to diminish the Love and Wisdom of God by making Him small, conditional, exclusive like us. The situation we have reminds me of the words of Shelley’s ‘Ozymandius:’

My name is Ozymandius, king of kings: Look on my works, ye Mighty and despair! Nothing beside remains; round the decay of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare, The lone and level sands stretch far away.

We can but hope that, in some way, God through His Divine Love can truly unite His very divided people. Then we can truly speak with one voice.

Rev. John Sutton

The Afterlife

worshipping

Heaven and hell are not rewards or punishments distributed on judgement day but the present inner experience we freely choose. We may choose to enjoy peace and openness, or to close ourselves in fear. We can discover the highest joy of a loving life by giving to others, or the loneliness of self-centredness. Life is an opportunity for learning and spiritual growth. When we “die” we continue to live as we have done on earth, creating the heaven or hell of our choice in the next life.

As we choose between giving or taking, loving or hating, right or wrong, we participate in the creation of our own spiritual character. This spiritual self, or spirit, is who we really are, and this is what lives forever.

As Swedenborg taught: “They who have heaven within themselves, come into heaven.” Swedenborg was an eighteenth century scientist who, in later life, had his spiritual eyesight opened so that he was able to experience the world of the spirit over many years, while still living a useful earth life. His book Heaven and Hell is probably the most detailed description of the afterlife ever written.

This is a summary of what we learn from Swedenborg’s writings:

  • Life continues immediately after the death of the physical body.
  • People live as complete human beings after death.
  • The next world has three separate parts: heaven, hell and the intermediate world of the spirit.
  • A person’s place after death depends upon his life in the world.
  • God casts no one into hell – we find our own place with those who are like ourselves.
  • Every angel was once just an ordinary person on earth.
  • Children who die are tenderly cared for after death by female angels who have loved children during their physical lives and have also loved God.
  • Couples who truly love each other remain married after death. Others who have longed for an eternal partner meet and marry them after death. True love is a spiritual union of hearts, minds and bodies, not something merely carnal.
  • Heaven is not eternal rest – angels find happiness in worthwhile, useful activity.
  • Heaven is eternal and becomes more and more perfected as new people enter it.

Now we would like to invite you to comment on any of these points so that we may discuss them more fully, should you need more information.

Jenny

Where the Land Meets the Sea

Seashore

When I am walking the dogs, I am fortunate to be able to stand on the shore and contemplate the mystery of the sea. It embraces the whole earth, for it is continuous without interruption from the shores of the Arctic Circle to those of the Antarctic. Scientists tell us how essential the oceans are for life to exist on earth. The sea is very different to the land as it seems almost alive with its moods and rhythms. One moment it is dark and menacing, the next sky blue and calm. The security of the shore is the place where this ‘living’ creature interacts with us. We adapt to its tides. it reshapes our beaches and strews them with flotsam and jetsam from many miles away. We use it for travel, a source of food and pleasure.

This fascination with the sea is not just physical as there is a spiritual element to it too. We are so drawn to it, that homes in our country are valued more for their sea views. An explanation of this relationship is found in the concept that all things on earth correspond to spiritual realities. We are taught that the sea corresponds to facts. Its vastness reflects the vast number of facts available. This correspondence inspired Habbakuk to say, “The earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea.”

Scientists are constantly adding to the number of facts available. From early childhood we are constantly gathering facts of all kinds from this intellectual ocean. The ones we learn and use are stored away in our memory. The Lord says that these individual facts are like the innumerable grains of sand which the sea deposits on the beach: (Psalm 139:17, 18), “How precious to me are your thoughts, God! How vast is the sum of them! Were I to count them, they would outnumber the grains of sand…”

Many of them we cannot still recall. As we age the sands of memory seem to get washed further out each year. But all is not as it appears. The Writings of Swedenborg teach that every fact we have acquired is never really lost. Swedenborg wrote that when we die, “we even take with us our natural memory, since we retain everything we have heard, seen, read, learned, or thought in the world from earliest infancy to the very end of life. However, since the natural objects that reside in our memory cannot be reproduced in a spiritual world, they become dormant the way they do when we are not thinking about them. Even so, they can be reproduced when it so pleases the Lord.”

In Luke 12:15, the Lord warns us about relying on the abundance of our possessions. He not only means materials ones but also factual knowledge. Many world leaders illustrate how human egos use these for their own self-centred ends. We are all prone to do this.

The Lord teaches in the same passage that the crucial thing is to be rich towards God. In other words, material possessions or factual knowledge should not be used to bolster our egos but used to enable us to better love our neighbour as ourself.

As I stand on the beach and look out with wonder at the sea, I become aware of the vast number of facts available to mankind. I have used a very small percentage of them. When I look at the grains of sand at my feet, I am reminded how many different knowledges have been part of my life. Then I call the dogs, turn and return to living, using the small riches of knowledge that I still retain to try and be rich towards God.

With all good wishes, Rev. John Sutton