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

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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

 

 

Positive Negatives

Helen Keller

Most people have heard of Helen Keller, whose triumph over her disabilities made her famous and an inspiration, not only to those with physical disabilities, but to us all. Helen’s profound blindness and deafness to this world sharpened her sense of the reality of the spiritual world. This is why the Writings of Swedenborg resonated so strongly with her and were “her strongest incentive to overcome limitations.” Knowing we are in this world not just for the sake of ourselves but for the sake of our usefulness to others, Helen worked tirelessly for women’s rights and the rights of people with disabilities, and her life story continues to be an inspiration to many, long after her passing. As an angel in heaven no doubt she can now see and hear and continue to inspire us earthlings to follow her lead.

Swedenborg witnessed in heaven that everyone is an angel in the making. It is through our struggles that our character is formed. We can choose to let things get the better of us and make us bitter or we can try to look positively on our difficulties and see them for what they are – opportunities for forming and strengthening character and making a difference in the world. Sometimes it takes strength to ask for help. But then this gives someone else the opportunity to be of compassionate service. God can bring good out of any situation.

We may hate to admit it but we probably have faults and tendencies that get in the way of our happiness and relationships with others at times. Things like impatience, or a sense of superiority, or you name it. They usually come out when we’re under pressure. The reason they are allowed to show up is so they can come to our attention and be dealt with. They are things that the Lord can heal over time with our cooperation. If they didn’t come to the surface they would be like sores that fester under the skin and eventually poison the blood and infect the whole body. So, the fact that they break out is a positive thing because then we can take steps to change our ways. We can’t do this on our own. But with the Lord’s strength we can change the way we act on the outside while He mends our spirit and makes us a new creation on the inside. As He said, “I make all things new!” (Revelation 21:5). This is the process we go through to become angels in heaven, where we will be able to see by looking back on our lives the good that has come out of our difficulties and struggles.

Jenny

Returning to Innocence

baby feet

A child is born – a beautiful picture of complete innocence and harmlessness. A perfect soul has been born into a human nature that has, unfortunately, inherited tendencies which come with being entirely self-centred. Not only that but he or she has been born into an imperfect world surrounded by people who are also entirely self-centred and who naturally act in unregenerate ways. Every child deserves to have at least one person who is nuts about them, totally patient, loving and accepting, with their best interests at heart. But, let’s face it, not many of us adults can measure up to this ideal. We have all hurt and been hurt. And so the cycle continues. Until we resolve to turn ourselves around and allow the Lord to regenerate us, things will never change. Jesus said, “You must be born again.” Only by returning to the innocence and harmlessness of our origins will we change the legacy that has been passed down to us from generation to generation. This cannot happen in an instant but is a process by which the layers of negativity that have become attached to us are removed one by one. These are the things that are getting in the way of happy relationships with one another. We may have struggled with these for years to no avail. It is time to admit we are powerless and surrender them to our Higher Power.

We tend to identify with the thoughts that flow into our minds, but they are not our own. All life flows in from either heaven or hell. If we will consciously stop the negative thoughts that run riot through our mind and listen to the still, small voice; if we will hold our tongue from speaking harshly; hold back from destructive action; flee from whatever it is we are addicted to, we allow the Lord to become active and, little by little, to change our hearts, creating a new will within us. Or, to put it another way, we create the space for grace and love to flow in and take the place of negativity.

We are told in the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, that when we reach the end stage of our regeneration, represented by the Tree of Life in the centre of the Paradise of God, we will be like that tree, drawing its life from the pure water of life flowing from the throne of God, and “the leaves of the tree will be for the healing of the  nations.” The leaves of the tree, we are told in the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, mean the rational truths that we have come to know through our life’s journey. Swedenborg’s steps of repentance and the twelve step programmes of AA and others are good examples. Another good example of a healing “leaf” is to say “God loves you” to someone who is hurting and feels that God has abandoned them. God is love and people need to hear that they are loved no matter what they have done or experienced in their lives. Here is a quote from the Writings of Swedenborg:

“God is pure Love, pure Mercy and pure Goodness, and such a Being cannot be angry, wrathful or vengeful.”

Taking a look at ourselves and seeing what needs to change is the first step to returning to innocence. Once we see something that needs changing we are on the right path. It is up to us then to make the changes on the physical level because it is the Lord who makes the changes within. As we surrender our lives to Him His love flows in to enable us to overcome our negative traits and little by little we are reborn in His image and likeness. The whole Bible is the story of our spiritual birth and rebirth and we begin in a state of innocence, pictured by the Tree of Life in the centre of the Garden of Eden. We are forced to leave this state as we start to rebel and go our own way but, as the story says, guards are posted at the gates of the garden to protect the Tree of Life and so the precious innocence of our birth is protected within us however much it becomes covered over by our hurts and negativities. There are many conflicts, disasters, ups and downs and wanderings in the wilderness before we reach our goal and that is the way it has to be. But the Lord never forsakes us – He is there, “always ready to help in times of trouble.” (Psalm 46:1 GNB). At the end of our spiritual life’s journey, we return to innocence, pictured by the Tree of Life once again at the centre of our lives. The difference is that we come into a state of innocence that is coupled with the wisdom of life. This is a heavenly state and worth aiming for.

No matter where you are on the path to your heavenly home, know this: God loves you and wants to heal you. He sees your true self and is preparing a place for you. Take the first steps towards returning to innocence by surrendering your troubles to Him today. For, as He says, “Come to Me, all of you who are tired from carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke and put it on you, and learn from Me, because I am gentle and humble in spirit; and you will find rest. For the yoke I will give you is easy, and the load I will put on you is light.” (Matthew 11:28-30 Good News Bible).

Do not give yourself a hard time for the things that you have done and perhaps are still doing, because the Lord forgives and wants you to accept His forgiveness and move on. The Lord gives everyone the chance to become the person they were created to be and He is drawing each of us towards the heaven. But we have to do our part and that is to cooperate with Him in changing our lives for the better. Take heart, for the Lord is with you and loves you and will never give up on you. He works through His people and there are many people ready to help in this process if you need it. Pray for the Lord’s guidance and go online to find a church community near you. You may find a whole new family of friends and helpers who can point you in the right direction. May God bless you and bring you safely home to His arms.

Jenny

Choose Life!

Choosing

Our lives are filled with choices. We choose who we will be friends with, what we will do for a living, and what kind of breakfast cereal we will have for tomorrow morning. And, even if our choices in these kinds of things are limited, we still have the ability to choose how we will approach life. We can all choose whether we will live each day with the goal of improving ourselves and fine-tuning our abilities, or whether we will sit back, wait for life to give us things, and succumb to pessimistic fatalism. Our freedom to choose is our most precious human gift, one which God protects for us above all else.

The choice between heaven and hell – between following our Maker or ourselves – is the reason we are born into the natural world. The purpose of our living in the material world is to prepare for eternal life in the world of the spirit. Our ultimate choice of heaven or hell is made up of thousands of smaller choices between what is true or false, good or evil – the kind of choices we make every minute of every day. Our choice of heaven or hell is made up from a lifetime of these kinds of choices and they are what enable us to make our own way to our eternal destiny. By our choices we determine our predominant love. We decide whether we will love others as ourselves or ourselves to the detriment of others. We decide whether we will be generous and kind to our fellowmen or devious and grasping. That is why we are never condemned to hell. It is our choice where we end up and, hopefully, we will choose to become the kind of person who finds their place in a community of angels in heaven.

Here is a passage from the Writings of Swedenborg:

All of us, so long as we live in the world, tread a path mid-way between heaven and hell … and we are in equilibrium, in other words, we have free will to look up to God or down to hell.

This ties in with what the Bible says in Deuteronomy 30:19:

I am now giving you the choice between life and death, between God’s blessing and God’s curse, and I call heaven and earth to witness the choice you make. Choose life. Love the Lord your God, obey him and be faithful to him… (GNB)

Jenny

The Kaleidoscope of Humanity

Kaleidoscope

Have you ever looked into a kaleidoscope and seen how a confused medley of shapes tossed around can become a beautiful pattern when held up to the light and viewed through the eyepiece? In much the same way we are thrown together in life with many and diverse other people. No two people are ever or ever will be exactly alike. But in the eye of God, the Writings of Swedenborg say, the human race is seen as a beautiful image –  not as it actually is but as God would like it to be: an image of Himself, receiving and reflecting His love and wisdom through the way we live our lives.

There is good reason for the diversity reflected in all of humanity. This diversity pictures the infinite nature of the Divine and is the reason we are all different. So we should not wish we were like someone else – we are unique for a reason and that reason is that we have a unique purpose in the grand scheme of things. In heaven this unique purpose will become more apparent but, while we are here, we can get an inkling about what it might be from the things we love the most. If our love is a good one we can be sure that we are on the right track and will take our place in the “Grand Human” of heaven, which is described in Swedenborg’s Writings. Put simply, the whole of heaven is an image of God in His Divine Human nature. Each angel makes up a tiny part of the body of the Divine and the same can be said for each person who belongs to the body of Christ in the world. We are all one humanity in the body of Christ if we allow ourselves to be led by Him and live according to His ways, which are described in the Scriptures and teachings of all true spiritualities.

Here is a quote from the Writings of Swedenborg:

It can be seen as in a mirror how perfection comes from variety even in heaven. For from the things that exist in the natural world, the things of the spiritual world can be seen as in a mirror.

Take a look at the variety in everything of the created universe and you will see there a reflection of the infinity of the one God of heaven and earth. But how can we relate to an infinite force? The Writings of Swedenborg say that we can picture God as a Divine Human Being with arms outstretched towards us, inviting us into His embrace. Swedenborg’s Writings go on to say that this Divine Being manifested in the world as the person of Jesus Christ and is the One to whom we are able to turn to whenever we wish to speak to God. We are able to have a relationship with Him, knowing that He is with us always and watches over us with loving care. The Bible calls Him the Good Shepherd and says we are His people and the sheep of His flock. His flock is the Universal Sheepfold emcompassing all who hear His voice and follow Him, no matter where they are born or by what name they give their God.

We are one in the body of the Divine Being if we are tolerant of our differences and united by our love for the one and only God of the universe. Together we make up a beautiful form in the image and likeness of God. And together we can become more and more closely united by His love flowing through each of us and out to the whole of humanity. This is how God wants to see us – a beautiful image made in His likeness and changing and developing in perfection to eternity as more and more people are added to it by hearing His voice and following Him. Keep this in mind when come across others who worship God by a different name and in a different way from you. It is variety that makes perfection and this is how it should be. There isn’t just one right way. Everyone has been given a way to come into heaven (see our blog ‘The Golden City’ which explains that there are many gates and, therefore, many pathways to our heavenly home). Each pathway requires that we do some work to become the person we were born to be and that means putting off our negative traits and being made new. As the Bible says:

Your hearts and minds must be made completely new, and you must put on the new self, which is created in God’s likeness and reveals itself in the true life that is upright and holy (Ephesians 4:23).

The more the human race is perfected the more beautiful is the image reflected through the eyepiece of the Divine Kaleidoscope of humanity.

Jenny