Is “Rise Above It” Good Advice?
Students of the Writings for the New Church know very well that they must confront evil loves and false ideas that they discover by means of reflection upon their thoughts and feelings. We are told to “flee from evil,” but that does not mean retreat from addressing the evils and falsities we discover in out feelings and thoughts. Rather than remaining in denial about our situation, we are challenged remove ourselves from their influence. That can be hard work, requiring certain skills that have to be learned.
This spiritual work sets us up to receive help from angels and the Lord. Whenever we live by the spiritual principles found in the Writings we take advantage of the power of the Word. The Word is exemplified by the Ten Commandments, which are said to contain all the truths of heaven! We are thus encouraged to find in the Ten Commandments those spiritual principles that will alter our consciousness so that the Lord can change our minds and hearts, making us fit for heaven.
Personal spiritual growth has to include honest self-observation, which includes accurately naming any character flaws, and then choosing another way of being. One strategy is to “rise above” any external circumstance or ineffective way of being, according to Dr. Ray and Star Silverman, authors of “Rise Above It; Spiritual Development through the Ten Commandments.” But is their advice merely another form of avoidance? Is it not the experience of many of us that we have to stay with the upset, in the conflict, staying in the deep emotion, in order to let it go? Has it not been discovered that we have to learn to be at ease with tension and the anxiety and so embrace the shadow within and so come to realize its insignificance?
We all know how denial of reality, even if our reality is negative, can impact our physical, mental, emotional and spiritual health. The Writings for the New Church compare such negative desires and thoughts to infections that grow and overtake the whole life, killing us. We know also that materialism can stunt our spiritual development. And we have observed that self-absorption can ruin healthy relationships on every level of our life.
This experiential guidebook by the Silvermans succeeds in its task of guiding us on our life’s journey not by advocating avoidance of denial, materialism or self-absorption, but by revealing their erroneous premises. The authors have crafted a creative anthology of ten spiritual principles found in the major spiritual traditions. They make a powerful statement of hope for the planet and for each of us on it. They display the genius of the ancient traditions in guiding the individual through his or her spiritual growth to an ever deeper relationship with fellow humans and the Lord.
The Silvermans point out that while every significant religious philosophy offers its own path; they are all headed to the same state of being. The Silvermans say that there is therefore only one religion! That may be too broad a generalization to embrace without reservation, but it is a point of view that, if more generally held, clearly would bring healing to the human community.
Every one of us can have a relationship with a God who only loves us. Surely the operating principles–the rules–of God’s creation are designed to lift us into his presence, despite their external appearance of negativity. On a merely physical plane, think of gravity; it is essential to our manner of being, yet we can die because of it! This point is made especially well by the teachings that have the greatest influence on the Silverman’s work, the Writings for the New Church.
For instance, the first principle and biblical Commandment that we are to worship only one, particular God, actually describes the psychological and spiritual reality: whatever is most important to us rules our life like a god or king. Using the workbook leads the participant to discover the desires, ideas or themes that dominate their life, and then to consciously choose a higher, deeper, more loving rule to live by. Of course, the best God is one who is pure love; personal, present and supportive!
Individuals or study groups can use this workbook. It asks that the reader participate in a process of spiritual disciplines leading to a new level of relationship to one’s fellow human and to one’s God. This certainly does not happen by avoiding spiritual effort and attention! Indeed, the ability to “rise above it” is at the heart of being a developed human being. And what is wonderful is that, in the end, we come to realize the spiritual depths of the Ten Commandments themselves, as we discover how each one describes a step in our spiritual development, and the journey that is our life.
Precursor September 2006
Whole Living Journal September/October 2006