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Entries in Swedenborg (99)


Having Jesus in Your Heart 101


Then the eleven disciples left for Galilee, going to the mountain where Jesus had told them to go. When they saw him, they worshiped him—but some of them doubted! Jesus came and told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all peoples, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Matthew 28:16-20

“The Lord united himself to the Father and the Father united himself to him. Acts of redemption brought about this union because the Lord performed these acts in his human manifestation. As he performed them, the Divine meant by “the Father” came closer to him, helped him, and cooperated with him. At last they forged so close a partnership that they were not two but one. This union is the “glorification”” True Christianity §97

“Two things - love and wisdom - constitute the essence of God. And three things constitute the essence of God's love: his loving others who are outside of himself, his wanting to be one with them, and his blessing them from himself. The same three constitute the essence of his wisdom because in God love and wisdom are united. It is love that wants those three things, and wisdom that brings them about.

“The first essential, God's loving others outside himself, is recognizable in God's love for the entire human race. And as those who love the purpose also love the means, God also loves all the other things he created, because they are the means....The second essential of God's love, his wanting to be one with others, is recognizable in his partnership with heaven, with the church on earth, with everyone in the church, and with everything good and true that forms and makes an individual and a church. In fact, love is simply an effort to forge a partnership. In order to fulfill the purpose intended by the essence of his love, God created human beings in his own image and likeness - characteristics with which he could forge a partnership....The third essential of God's love, his blessing others from himself, is recognizable in eternal life, which is the unending blessedness, the good fortune, and the happiness that God gives to those who let his love in. As God is love itself, he is also blessedness itself; and as every love exudes pleasure, so divine love eternally exudes blessedness itself, good fortune itself, and happiness itself. God gives these blessings to angels and people after death through his partnership with them.” True Christianity §43



The Lord welcomes us into a relationship. It is a partnership in a shared vision, mission and goal. The Lord knows the process that will develop this relationship, and is calling us to make the effort, go on the journey. We go through a cycle again and again on this journey, even as Jesus Christ did, in actions that bring the benefits of the redemption he performed.

The Lord calls us to go to the entrance of his kingdom, as it were, at edge of the sea. It can be a wild place. And yet it is the source of food, water and a livelihood. It is a metaphor for our external part; our thoughts, emotions, and all the physiology that is organically connected to that understanding and will. So we are in the world, sensing it all. There is pain and pleasure; ugliness and beauty; struggle and joy. We can be present to it all because we can be on the mountain looking down upon the sea in any and all of its moods, from wind tossed to a calm, mirrored surface.

Looking down from the mountain we may despair that there is no goodness in our lives. But we also know that there is life under the surface of the water we cannot see. And we are buoyed by the hope provided by that realization. We have learned to remind ourselves, again and again, that from the first step on the journey to the last, from the beginning to the end of every cycle of life, that the meaning and purpose is love. To seek love; to see it everywhere; to give it and to accept it.

You can remember yourself in this cycle. Again and again. I remember when I did not seek love, but to be right, to win the argument, because that was my job as a priest, I thought. And then I caught a glimpse of myself arguing about doctrine at a wedding feast! Later, when the storm had calmed, the reality was obvious. I had been defensive; I didn’t listen; I was insistent. And I noticed I felt terrible. Why did I feel badly about doing my job of being right? From a mountain, as it were, (and not even a very high one!) I could see myself not seeking love, but domination. I saw that being right is not the job God was giving me!

So years ago I swore off doctrinal arguments. Let others be the apologists. I have a spiritual defect that I must remember I have, and avoid depending upon. And yet, just days ago, I found myself arguing with my wife, my spiritual partner, my journey companion! And I remembered again, standing by the sea, climbing the mountain, accepting the love of my Savior, and again seeking a way to live by his model.

Imagine for a moment those men and women who had heeded the message Jesus gave them at the grave, and then later in the upper room. They had seen him alive, but now he was gone again. Such inconsistency confuses the brain and body. What do we now expect? When will it happen? Anxiety about the future can take over all thinking.

We are told they simply obeyed the command. They make the journey to Galilee, likely in some fear for their capture. Likely silently wondering why they were going to this effort. Their external, physiological experience was pain, sadness, fear, and doubt. I imagine they tired while on the sixty mile trek. There would be no feasts at a rich man’s table. No daily words of encouragement. No miracles to reignite the fire of compassion in their hearts. This was just the typical life of an itinerant laborer.

After this ordeal, he does appear to them! He is recognizable as the man they had walked with for all those miles and years! But now, having gone through all they had, having made the journey this far, having come to this point in the cycle, they could hear and receive him declaring that he has all power in heaven and earth! Remember what they heard when he declared himself king, riding into Jerusalem on a donkey? Less than a week later they had abandoned him. They could not hear the truth then. But they can now. 

So, too, our following his model for living – going through the process that breaks open our hearts – produces our authentic worship of our Redeemer and Savior. And the essence of worship – the experience of his love and wisdom – becomes powerful in our life. It overcomes the other mental, emotional and physiological needs we have made important in our minds and hearts.

I am sure you have noticed the presence, and absence, of this power to love. Perhaps it has been a time when you felt pressure that you should do this or that. And looking back you can notice that you don’t see the love for God or your neighbor in that. It does not lead to that experience of the divine love flowing into and through you with all power in heaven and on earth. The lesson we are to learn from these experiences of the absence of love is that our daily, freely chosen commitment to follow the model Jesus Christ has given us, alone, will produce the experience.

And Jesus tells us why: the baptism of Father, Son, Holy Spirit is an internal motivating love. It is using the wise ideas we learn from his teachings, and then acting out the love we see he modeled. This, for sure, has real spiritual power to bring us to the mountain of love with the Lord.

And there is, of course, a challenge. He promises continued presence in our hearts, even when around us we see no love among people. Perhaps there is a person you care about who is angry – or you are watching a loved one who is afraid to care about this angry person. The effort to love them, is to be with them in their distress, is to be at the sea AND on the mountain. It is watching the distress from a deeper, lived experience of love. This is the effect of the presence of Jesus Christ within. We remain present with those whose living is bringing them mental, emotional and even physical distress.

The baptism is a Comforter. It is a knowing, a discernment, that never leaves, even when we temporarily disconnect from the source of love by giving power, by giving weight, to our little self, or our possessions, or our desires. We will be able to find him on the mountain every time we remember the path and walk there – he is there.

As His last words assure us: I will be with you always. Or is that frightening? We don’t want the Lord to see some of our thoughts and feelings! We are ashamed by them! And that is precisely the journey that has brought us from the rocky shoreline to the mountain top! To think that love will no longer be available to me because I wandered from the path, or halted in the journey is the main source of depression and despair. That is not what he promised. He is always there with the power of love for us to use.

And then there are the times we wish we felt His presence when we don’t – in anger, fear, sorrow, even, in fact, when filled with a selfish joy! Hopefully you have been praised at some point in your life, or won accolades for your work. You have seen athletes look up, point up and say “I praise you, God.” That is actually a spiritual discipline that brings balance to the mind between our efforts and the grace of God flowing in. Remember how easy it is to think that “I did all that,” and forget that it is God’s love flowing through that is the power? So the suggestion, following the model Jesus Christ gives us, is to establish a practice, and make a habit, of that silent word to yourself: “thank you, Lord.” The journey to that way of living will take you to a mountain top, and soon, you will accept, and even welcome, the presence of the Lord, which presence is his love for you, your love for your neighbor, and your love for yourself.

And then, in the moments of anger, in the moments of fear, and even in the deepest pain of sorrow, the Lord’s assurance of his continual presence and his omnipotence will comfort us. The baptism will produce the promised effect. Indeed, living a life of goodness is the promise of baptism.

We have opportunity to meet our Lord as he walks with us, showing unceasing love, speaking a wisdom we yearn for, being in a state peace that we so desire. We partner with him in the creation of a heaven from the human race, even on earth. We learn not to fear his encouragement – that he is always there, telling us to go forth into our living, with every thought, feeling, word and action being in his name, full of his love, his wisdom and his power, and he will indeed be with us, through all endings, and into all new beginnings. “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”



Having Jesus in Your Heart 100


As the women were on their way, some of the guards went into the city and told the leading priests what had happened. A meeting with the elders was called, and they decided to give the soldiers a large bribe. They told the soldiers, “You must say, ‘Jesus’ disciples came during the night while we were sleeping, and they stole his body.’ If the governor hears about it, we’ll stand up for you so you won’t get in trouble.” So the guards accepted the bribe and said what they were told to say. Their story spread widely among the Jews, and they still tell it today. Matthew 28:11-15

“Reward” means salvation, and thus heaven. “Reward” strictly means that delight, blessedness, and happiness which is contained in the love for goodness and truth. this love encompasses in itself all that joy of heart which is called heavenly joy, and also heaven. The Lord is in this love, and with the Lord also heaven. It is this joy, therefore, or this delight, blessedness, and happiness, that is meant by the “reward” which those will receive who do good and speak truth from love and affection for goodness and truth, thus from the Lord, and not in any way from themselves. They do this from the Lord, and not from themselves, and therefore the reward is not merited but of grace....There is also the “reward” for those who are in falsities from evil, which is joy or delight, and good fortune and happiness, while they live in the world, but hell after their departure out of the world. Apocalypse Explained §695

The Word tells us that the Lord guards us by means of his divine providence to ensure that we are salvable. We are also told that: “A divine power extends even into the hells and also guards them. So it is that the Lord reigns in the hells also, yet with this difference, that the divine power which surrounds and protects heaven is the sphere of divine truth joined to divine good, whereas that which guards hell is the sphere of divine truth separated from divine good. The reason why the latter sphere exists in hell is that everyone in that place reject divine good, and reject the Lord's mercy....People in hell are guarded by means of this powerful sphere, so that no one does excessive harm to another. From all this it is evident that the sphere of divine good in outward form comes to an end where heaven does so, and the sphere of divine truth separated from divine good begins where hell begins, and in the gap between there is a joining together.” Secrets of Heaven §9534



Picture white, fluffy clouds, high in the sky. Remember the smell of your favorite cooked food? The sound of a baby’s laughter? The touch of satin, or lamb’s wool, or your loved one’s face? These sensations have a power to bring you into an experience of peace or joy, in accordance with the laws of correspondence that govern the relationship and connection among the many levels in creation. These rules of operation are described in the Word so that we may have a confidence when an experience is manifesting the sphere of heaven.

The power of the divine love and divine truth are expressed together as an atmosphere. The power expands as a sphere, in your spirit in the same fashion as in the natural world, in all directions, decreasing in impact the farther from the source it extends. So the clouds in the sky are living representatives of that atmosphere of the Lord’s love and truth. Or an odor bringing a memory of a loved one, or a past moment of joy, or an experience of peace is a living representative of this atmosphere of the Lord’s divine love and divine truth. It is a sphere of God’s love and wisdom, existing in heaven, then transforming into your emotion and thought, and finally transforming into a physical sensation in your body. For a moment right now, imagine and picture in your imagination, something that brings you love, or joy, or peace. And now notice the emotion that comes with that thought and image. That emotion is the sphere of the divine love and divine truth, united; a power that you sense in your mind, which is your spirit. And if the connection is complete, you feel it in your body. Indeed, science is studying the physiology of the brain and body, and is discovering how joy is manifested in the body.

It is the source of all sadness when goodness and truth are separated. This separation happens in the human spirit and no where else. No where else. It begins as an inherited, unconscious inclination to favor one’s self, one’s ego, one’s proprium, over all other sources of power and so control in your life. We cannot help but experience this self centeredness as our minds develop after birth. It is our lot. It is the curse symbolized by the dismissal from Eden, and in so many other ancient myths.

Our opportunity, our task, is to discover the connection that exists to the source of joy that will produce the sphere of bliss, peace, serenity in our consciousness. For that connection certainly exists. God created life to receive the power of his love and wisdom. His act of creation was an effort, a fluctuation, that consists of a high and a low, an inner and an outer, a nearer and a farther. While these cannot exist in the infinite divine love, which is infinitely a unity, they do exist as an emanation, a sphere, going out from him as a wave. When God did this emanation, this creation, this limitation then produced its own border. And that boundary or edge, then produces its own sphere, its own effort, its own power, distinct from the source that formed it. And this new wave has its own characteristics which are, perhaps in a minuscule way, farther from the source. Its power is diminished, its form a bit grosser. When it’s edge produces its own form, the process continues. And so creation extends as a sphere, farther and farther from its source, and eventually, the wave becomes an emotion in our spirit, or a desire or an impetus to be in action. This feeling produces its own edge and wave, which is the thought that we think. And, marvelously, the sphere of God’s love produces corresponding, ever coarser, levels of life that ultimately become the atoms that make up all of matter, including the matter of our brains, which feels this power, and the experience of God’s love and wisdom becomes part of our consciousness.

So pause and consider this: the pleasantness of the scent of a flower; or the sensation of softness on your finger; or the delight of the taste of food; or the sadness of a piece of music. These are all created by the combination of two elements, and the interaction of two degrees of life. There is the emotion and that thought on the one level of your spirit, and there is the physical collection of atoms on a lower level. To have joy, peace, and beauty in this world, there must exist in our unconscious and conscious minds God’s goodness and truth that can, and certainly will, connect to what his love and wisdom have created in the physical world as a corresponding vessel for heaven’s joy and bliss. And we live in the midst of that connection.

It is so very sad when this order of life is adulterated by our selfishness and worldliness. Consider the guards at the tomb of Jesus Christ, and consider those who had them put there. The guards were Roman soldiers, posted at the grave when the church leaders asked Pilate, the civilian governor, for them. When the effort control the events failed – because the tomb was indeed empty – the guards and the church leaders had to respond. Their motive was impure. They wanted to protect themselves, their egos, their power, their control. So they had to start their own rumors to protect themselves both from the truth, and from punishment. But they also still didn’t believe that the tomb was empty, that Jesus was the Messiah.

“Here is an instance of determined unbelief against all admitted evidence. It is too seldom considered that belief or unbelief is but a means to an end. Belief or unbelief has its roots in the end we have in view – in the ruling love by which we are activated. Hence the grand doctrine on the church. That faith has no ground but charity, and that where there is no charity, or love, there can be no faith.” (“The Gospel According to St Matthew,” by William Bruce) And no belief.

When the guards felt the earth quake and saw the angel, they fainted, missing his message to the women. When they revived, they returned to the chief priests (note: not their commanders!) and reported what happened. The Chief Priests then also lied. Instead of believing the facts, because their end in view would not have been served by those facts, they bribed the guards and promised to defend them if their commanders or Pilate intended to discipline them.

This is an example of the separation of goodness and truth. When you manipulate the truth to serve your selfish or worldly ends, the love that would be manifest in your life cannot be received, the connection to God’s love and wisdom is severed, and your emotions and thoughts produce lies and hatred.

We all are guarded at some times. In some ways. About certain things. Think of some things you guard in some way. What do you do to protect them? We all have some thought or feeling, and maybe a practice, that we don’t want others to know about because we are sure we will be judged, and caught failing, and so condemned, and so cast out, and so as to our ego, destroyed. Or ugly. Or evil. We all do have failings, evil desires or false ideas that we want to protect. We all have this condition.

There are two considerations to notice. The first is that our evil desires, our false ideas, our failings, our selfishness and materialism, exist to protect our ego, our proprium. The need to have power and be in control that we are born with never completely goes away while we are on earth. Such protectionism is part of our physical being, we have to do it. It is the lowest level and the farthest from the source of life in God, and it has to be in place for our physical wellbeing. Our efforts thus need to be to identify the evil, false, selfish, or materialistic inclinations, and notice how they exist because we are separating goodness and truth. And then come to the Lord with the humble request that the power of the sphere of his divine goodness and truth would support our putting those thoughts, feelings and actions out of our mind and stopping those actions in our body. We appeal to the Lord for the support of his power of love and wisdom and so look away from the false ideas and selfish desires. This personal work in the first consideration.

The second is that we all, every human on the planet, has this task of identifying their own evil desire, false thought, selfish inclination and materialistic habit. Every human being. We are all in this together! We are each part of the social fabric that supports the peace and joy that the Lord is seeking to establish on the earth, AND we are part of the social fabric that supports the lies, that pays the bribe, to keep us all in the dark and silent about the evil in our hearts, the falsities in our minds, the selfish need to be right, and the materialistic fear of scarcity. Our task is to develop the capacity to be vulnerable. To be able to let others see us fully, flaws and scars, knowing that they will be able to show themselves fully to us, because we accept each other completely, as we are – all that makes us to be who we are.

Such a society is likely never fully achieved outside of healthy families. But we can support the evolution of such a community, and so the transformation of all the earth, by coming together in this mutually vulnerable sphere of God’s love and wisdom. Our eyes may be closed in supplication for our own peace and joy. We may be concentrating on our own request of the Lord. But we will also be aware of the sphere of love and humility surrounding all those who want peace with us.

Know that the Lord God Jesus Christ has indeed risen from the tomb. Know that there is life inside what too often seems to us an empty shell, a loveless, corrupted physical life – from our own bodies and personal experience, to what we see in the world. And we may despair that what we see may be empty of love and charity. The separation of goodness and truth is very real on the physical level of life. It produces the horrors of fifteen years ago. It produces the sorrow of a lost loved one, and so many other, tragedies. We feel lament. Let us not avoid those feelings. Let us recognize that so many around us have those same feelings. Let us place ourselves and our fellow human beings in the perspective of the Lord’s grand purpose of our eternal, heavenly, joy and peace. And let us remember the Lord’s purpose of a heaven from the human race. And then let that be the experience of the power of the sphere of the Lord’s goodness and truth influencing our consciousness, impacting our bodies, as we feel a lift, a release, an acceptance.

This is an experience of the power of his love and wisdom united as a sphere establishing a connection with our God, and so with every other human on the planet, who is also a child of that same God. Shared desires, mutually supportive thoughts, will manifest his love and wisdom. And the empty tomb will become the symbol it is meant to be for us: a symbol of the new life that we all have every time we look within, and see the messenger of the Lord, telling us of our new life of joy and peace in his love.



Having Jesus in Your Heart 99

Then the angel spoke to the women. “Don’t be afraid!” he said. “I know you are looking for Jesus, who was crucified. He isn’t here! He is risen from the dead, just as he said would happen. Come, see where his body was lying. And now, go quickly and tell his disciples that he has risen from the dead, and he is going ahead of you to Galilee. You will see him there. Remember what I have told you.”

The women ran quickly from the tomb. They were very frightened but also filled with great joy, and they rushed to give the disciples the angel’s message. And as they went, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they ran to him, grasped his feet, and worshiped him. Then Jesus said to them, “Don’t be afraid! Go tell my brothers to leave for Galilee, and they will see me there.” Matthew 28:5-10

“A person who comes suddenly from their own life into a life which is in some degree spiritual, are at first afraid, but are renewed by the Lord. This renewal develops by means of the presence of the Divine, and the fear on that account is adapted to reception. The Lord is indeed present with all in the universe, but nearer and more remotely, according to the [goodness they have] from Him. [So if His] presence is in excess, it causes anguish and tremor. When His presence is adapted to the person’s ability to receive, His presence produces renewal.” Apocalypse Explained §80

"All trial carries with it some kind of despair; otherwise it is not a trial. So consolation follows. Anyone who is being tested becomes anxious, and the anxiety causes a state of despair over the outcome. The actual struggle is nothing else. Those who are sure of victory feel no anxiety, so they face no test. Because the Lord endured the most dreadful, fiercest trials of all, he too was inevitably driven to despair, a despair he was to overcome and dispel by his own power." Secrets of Heaven §1787


Most of us fear snakes, or spiders, or the dark, or getting lost. This physiological reaction is wired into us for our own survival. We are created this way by God to avoid danger. The angel at the empty tomb, and Jesus alive in the garden, is not talking about being scared of something that will hurt us when he says, “Don’t be afraid.” So we can put that point aside.

We are repeatedly told in the Word of God to develop and hold on to a fear of God. This is a dramatic way of describing a way of being that holds the Lord’s goodness and truth in such high regard that we live in a sacred covenant to obey the Lord. That is holy fear. The angel and Jesus are not advocating the rejection of God’s love and wisdom; that we are not to have this sacred covenant with the Lord. So we can put that idea aside for now.

When Jesus was in the garden praying just three days earlier than the story we read, he was praying so hard, we are told, that his sweat was blood. He repeatedly begged for another way. As we read that story his fear is palpable. This was the worst temptation battle that Jesus ever experienced. So three days later he does not tell the women that he should not have been afraid, that he had succumbed to a merely mortal foible. So what Jesus experienced as fear is not the issue here.

So God and all his messengers must be speaking of an advancement, an evolution, a regeneration, a transformation, of our spiritual and so natural lives when they tell us “Do not fear.”

The process begins when we notice our upset, our worry, our despair. And what is wonderful is that this actually and invitation to be transformed, applicable to all of us, each of us, in any and every circumstance. The Lord has created this process so that when we notice that we are afraid, soimething begins to happen, a process can start. Your fear is what stops you from living with integrity, authenticity, serenity and, on target (which we say of “sin” which means missing the mark). So for a moment, consider what interferes with your joy today. And don’t limit yourself to the mundane, like your car breaking down. Notice an upset, worry or disheartening thought or feeling. Something you know the Lord sees as interfering with your joy, such that he would say “Don’t do that.”

The angel and Jesus both said “Don’t be this way,” and then tells you how to be. Every time the Bible says “Fear not,” there is a simple declaration of how to be. And I note here the simplicity of this makes me laugh. It is ridiculous that God would expect me just to stop being a certain way! And as I meditate on that chuckle, I discover it allows me in that moment to suspend belief in my own, habitual, old solutions and practices which have not relieved my fear. In that moment I am open to another idea. Perhaps you have already caught yourself in a smile, even if inwardly, at the irrational and foolish notion this suggestion is, that the Lord would simply declare that we change.

Our transformation is not going to happen according to our rational, cognitive processing. For as we know, when we are startled there is a physiological impulse to act automatically to defend our well being. So the Lord is telling us that a corresponding process happens in our spirit. When you notice that something you are worried about is interfering with your joy, and you say to yourself, “Well, that makes no sense,” you can stop and listen to the Lord for a new way of being, a new reaction to the circumstance, the fear.

So the angel says, “Don’t be afraid, he is not here.” Consider this: moments of fear, worry, despair, may happen because you are looking for the wrong solution, or you are looking in the wrong place. Perhaps you are worried about your children’s welfare. That is a live one for me. What is the fear you are considering? The angel has told me “Don’t be afraid” about your children’s welfare. And I chuckle, with an inner, wry grin. And I watch myself be that way. And I stop that thought and consider the elements of the fear, and I realize that I want my children to never feel fear or sadness. And I notice that I want to be in their lives, actually that I want to be in control of their lives, so that I can protect them from all harm! This impossible task is the origin of my fear. It is irrational and unreasonable. And I can chuckle at it. How silly of me to think that I can control my children’s lives and so prevent their harm. It is distracting me, grabbing my attention. There is nothing I can do to achieve that control. However, the work I do of letting go of control leads to being not afraid.

Jesus says to the women, “Don’t be afraid, you will see me in Galilee.” We are all like those women. They represent the inner states we all experience. So do not disparage your fear by saying it is not as bad as theirs. Rather, note the causes of their fear so that you can identify them in yourself, and be receptive of the resolution Jesus offers.

So the women had placed all their devotion in the ascendence of Jesus Christ to the throne of Israel. They had their hearts filled with his message of unconditional love and acceptance of everyone. Daily, their senses were filled with light, warmth, beauty and delightful aromas. Of course, they had been challenged all along, but almost every day Jesus had said or done something that lifted their hopes. The hard work and depravation were not unfamiliar, anyway. But Jesus was going to make a difference, he was going to change that world! He was going to be King! After all, he was the Messiah!

And, then for all that, now he had been murdered and buried hastily without the full ritual. Their grief compelled them to risk capture at the tomb; to go there, in the dark, without a plan. And when they got there, what they found was not at all what they expected. Their intention was foiled! Their fear and anguish multiplied, and then confused with a new hope given by the angel. The angel gave them a new plan, not of their making, without their thought or intention. In the midst of their distress at their plan failing, shocked that their expectations were dashed, then they saw the angel! No wonder we are told they were feeling joy and fear! But he years of devotion to Jesus prepared them to open their hearts to this message, offering a resolution to their fear and grief. All they could do was impulsively rush back to the safe house to deliver the message.

And then, lo and behold, there was Jesus himself! (I have had a few times in my life when despair has this quickly turned into relief. Perhaps you have, and remember the rush of adrenaline that makes your heart race, and tears come to your eyes.) Their impulse is appropriate – they fall to their knees and put their hands on his feet, continuing their worship of the man who would save them from injustice, handicap, sickness and even untimely death. And Jesus repeats the direction: “Don’t be afraid.” And again I chuckle at dichotomy I feel between this simple directive is the resolution to all my life of doubt and worry! It does not make rational sense. His resolution: go back to the beginning, the origin, and you will see the reality, the true me.

God knows very well what drives the process of our transformation he is describing as “not being afraid.” There is first our realizing the errors of our assumptions and the inadequacy of our solutions. What is difficult is that we have to acknowledge our mistake before we know the fix. This is difficult. We have to let go of our ideas and out feelings. So we have to practice looking, because our normal attention is on the circumstances in the world and on the future. Our brains, and so our thoughts and feelings, are being hijacked by our worry for the way the world is, or what might happen soon, to us and our loved ones. Our anxiety is quite understandable. But being manipulated by that worry interferes with our joy. And this is what Jesus means when he says, “Don’t be afraid.”

We are told why fixing our attention only on what is outside and around our spirits causes this way of being. It blocks our experience of the presence of the Lord. In the terms of New Church theology, whenever we are being merely natural or external, we will be afraid. We will be afraid for our personal safety, the well being of our loved ones, the survival of our society, and the future of the planet. Whenever we are merely materialistic and worldly, we will look for solutions to the problems we experience are the causes of our fears. But, God knows, those circumstances are not the cause of our fears. Rather, it is our way of being, our spiritual state, that allows the fear to rise in our minds, taking over, and grabbing our attention. This is why the Lord keeps telling us “Do not be afraid.”

God knows the desperate straits we are in. He knows the world is going to hell in a hand basket. He knows the threats that face us individually and collectively. And, as many people inspired by God have pointed out: the solutions are found only by rising above the conditions that caused the problems. So, too, rising above the fear, letting go of our assumptions, allows the divinely ordained process of transformation to proceed. Only then do we overcome the fear that stops us from loving ourselves and others unconditionally, from owning our way of being, from rising above the circumstances of our life, from seeing into the future of joy and peace that is the destiny of every single human on the planet.

The task before us does not require superhuman effort. There is the simple, yet difficult, individual practice of mindful observation of our thoughts and feelings. And then there is the necessary support we give each other in a community committed to unconditional love, an acceptance of each other, a mutual reach for a relationship with each other and with God. Let us all the time, look into each other’s eyes, and hold each other’s hearts, and intentionally, knowingly, offer the encouraging directive: “Be not afraid.”




Having Jesus in Your Heart 98


After the Sabbath, on the first day of the week, as the new day was dawning, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went out to visit the tomb. Suddenly there was a great earthquake! For an angel of the Lord came down from heaven, rolled aside the stone, and sat on it. His face shone like lightning, and his clothing was as white as snow. The guards shook with fear when they saw him, and they fell into a dead faint. Matthew 28:1-4

“The ‛great earthquake’ that occurred when the angel descended from heaven and rolled away the stone from the mouth of the sepulcher symbolizes complete change of the condition of the church, for the Lord then rose again, and His Human acquired complete dominion over heaven and earth, as He Himself says in Matthew (28:18). ‛The angel rolled away the stone from the mouth and sat upon it’ symbolizes that the Lord removed all the falsity that had shut off peoples’ access to Him, and that He opened Divine truth, ‛the stone’ meaning the Divine truth which had been falsified by tradition.” Apocalypse Explained §400



Most days we go about our ordinary lives, and the laws of nature operate without our awareness. We walk upright, use leverage, see, hear and taste, all with no thought of gravity, mass, light or sensation. So, too, our ordinary spiritual consciousness operates by rules we do not normally notice. We awaken in the morning, and begin to think, and feel, and our expectations are met without resistance. Our thinking happens without effort or attention. Our feelings come and go without interfering with our interactions with others. That is, when circumstances in and around us are our normal.

Now, it is true that an addict’s life is never so routine. An addicted brain is trapped in a cycle of neediness, then satisfaction, then the loss of that “normalcy,” and then the compulsion to find the next resolution to the ever present neediness. And, in the same fashion, people whose brains are hijacked by their emotions have the same cyclic process. The desire for approval, or the fear of failure, or the anger at denial, will compel the person to seek a resolution, and an achievement of what is a temporary satisfaction, and reduction of discomfort. For such people, the spirit is denied access to the control of emotions by a malfunctioning brain. How a person gets this way is beyond our scope here. However, the path to healing, rescue and eternal satisfaction has been provided by the Lord. And a significant moment in that process is revealed by the description of what Jesus did, and what happened when he did it.

Jesus could have avoided the entire ordeal, but he went through it precisely so that he could be buried, and rise. The earthquake was the physical manifestation of that accomplishment, which was also a fundamental change in the entire creation. This was not normal. It was uncomfortable. To this day, we are processing that shock, sometimes cooperating with the process so that we are healed; sometimes doing whatever we can to relieve the discomfort, but then scuttling the process of our healing.

The invitation is to practice awareness of the present so that, when the earthquakes happen – even small tremors! – we will notice and cooperate with the process. These abnormal days, or climactic moments, that jar our experience of reality are called “conscious shocks” by George Gurdjieff. Swedenborg calls them “separation of good and evil.”

We all can think of examples of the mix of good and evil in our thoughts and feelings that we are normally unconscious of. I accept the accolades of my coworkers without telling them what parts of my plan I “borrowed.” I will enjoy some pleasure so long that I must drive my car way above the speed limit to make it to a meeting on time. I will lie by omission because things do indeed run more smoothly if I leave that information out of it. I will think that my anger was justified, even as I placate those around me who were frightened by it.

And then at some moment, after perhaps years of practice at being aware in the present, you separate the good and the evil. Actually, it is the Lord’s power that does this, but it feels like the life of something in you is threatened. There is a conscious shock, there is an earthquake. And you have another opportunity to rise into a new life, if you let the old idea, desire, or sensation die.

We all build safeguards to protect our fragile egos. We may even assign specific strengths to protecting the status quo. It is wonderful to realize that the Lord’s creation abhors the mixture of good and evil, and so there is always a subtle, mostly unseen, pressure to separate them. Our task is to do the normal daily work of practicing non-judgmental attention to the present, so that when our experience becomes abnormal, and so uncomfortable, we have the opportunity to respond differently. As we seek a different attachment to our self and the Lord, the result will be a new life, as we experience the Lord alive in our hearts and minds.



Having Jesus in Your Heart 97


As evening approached, Joseph, a rich man from Arimathea who had become a follower of Jesus, went to Pilate and asked for Jesus’ body. And Pilate issued an order to release it to him. Joseph took the body and wrapped it in a long sheet of clean linen cloth. He placed it in his own new tomb, which had been carved out of the rock. Then he rolled a great stone across the entrance and left. Both Mary Magdalene and the other Mary were sitting across from the tomb and watching.

The next day, on the Sabbath, the leading priests and Pharisees went to see Pilate. They told him, “Sir, we remember what that deceiver once said while he was still alive: ‘After three days I will rise from the dead.’ So we request that you seal the tomb until the third day. This will prevent his disciples from coming and stealing his body and then telling everyone he was raised from the dead! If that happens, we’ll be worse off than we were at first.” Pilate replied, “Take guards and secure it the best you can.” So they sealed the tomb and posted guards to protect it. Matthew 27:57-66


For death symbolizes not only the extinction of natural life, which is its demise, but also the extinction of spiritual life, which is a state of damnation. Death also symbolizes the extinction of physical loves or lusts of the flesh, which is followed by a renewal of life. Death likewise symbolizes resurrection, because after death a person immediately rises again. Death also symbolizes a state of being ignored, disregarded and rejected by the world. Apocalypse Revealed §866

Now because 'burial' means resurrection, it also means regeneration, since regeneration is the primary resurrection of man, for when regenerated he dies as regards his former self and rises again as regards the new. It is through regeneration that from being a dead man he becomes a living man, and it is from this that the meaning of 'a grave' is derived in the internal sense. Secrets of Heaven §2916



Joseph acts on behalf of that small group of Jesus’ supporters who are part of the old order, but who know that a new age is dawning. They know the old institution must die, the old story be succeeded by the new. And they know that the change is inevitable and good. And they also know that the process must be attended to. And thus they step up, in the persons of Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, who is said in the Gospel of John to have provided the burial ointment made from myrrh and aloes (see chapter 19). Following Jewish ritual, including the new cloth wrapping and the new tomb, both supplied by Joseph, they symbolically and literally participated in the process of the glorification in which Jesus put off all that was material and finite in order to become God, one with the Father.

The process of transformation, of the new birth, cannot come from nothing. And it cannot proceed using corrupted means. The required necessary and pure elements are symbolized by the new, clean linens in which they wrapped Jesus’ body, and the new tomb in which they put him. They knew the proper rituals, and they knew the spirit of those rituals – that they were facilitating a change in their world. So, while mourning, and perhaps angry and afraid, they did what they knew to be the correct action.

It is significant that the linen cloth would be left behind in an empty tomb. While that will be the subject later, for now it is instructive that we understand that this process includes leaving behind old ideas, beliefs, motivations and delights. This loss is what stops us most of the time from our rebirth, regeneration and spiritual development. It is here in the story to alert us to the fact that even the perfect process, as accomplished by Jesus Christ, involves recognizing this fear and loss, and continuing to practice what our faith tells us is the good action.

The Lord does not ask us to abandon our life in this world. He asks us to use our ideas – even those that arise out of our mere senses – to courageously act from a love of the truth as we know it. We then elevate those beliefs into a higher, purer light. We cooperate with the Lord who is refreshing those ideas with a purer love than had been present. Those ideas then become filled with a deeper, more perceptive love. This ennobles those ideas. They are transformed so that, as we pass into the next stage of our development, and we sadly leave those ideas behind, we have a real sense of how useful they were before, and how they are to be understood now.

A mundane example was the time I visited home, at about 30 years old, and I took the opportunity to climb my favorite evergreen tree. I had spent hours in the top of that tree, relishing the breeze, enrapt by the view, thrilled by the swaying. And now I couldn’t fit my body between the branches! I could see the familiar route I had discovered – the branches were all the same, but now they were much closer together! Well, no. In fact, I was much bigger. I laughed, and I cried.

A significant example is when I had rushed to that same home from 1000 miles away because my father was comatose in the hospital. I visited him, and talked to him, wishing him well. The next day, right at noon, I was the one who answered the phone, and took the message from the doctor to my mother, that he had passed away. Looking back, I get that that was the moment I experienced the loss of an important support, and the acquisition of a new independence. The sensation of loss is an integral aspect of the acceptance of a new stage of being human.

The task before us thus is the careful examination of our beliefs and motivations, looking for those that support our regeneration, our rebirth. When we hear ourselves think or feel something false or selfish, we can feel as though we are being crucified, as there is a torment caused by our new attitude that has now been seen and is rejecting the false and the selfish view. It feels as though we are dying, bereft of that old lifeblood that we are now realizing is being hurtful to ourselves and others.

The ideas that clothe the Lord’s love, even though they become a burial cloth, are to be practiced consistently. As we do so, the Lord transforms them to be ever better manifestations of his love. Sometimes we are anxious because we are losing something that was important to us. Complicating the process is the fact that some ideas manifest our selfishness, materialism, or hedonism, and cannot be so used for our rebirth. The process of distinguishing the difference will be tortuous. And, we should note, that is the effort of living. The Lord will always be alive in the heart of that effort. He will accomplish his assurance that he will abide in our hearts – even through the death of our old self.