“And entering the tomb, they saw a young man clothed in a long white robe sitting on the right side; and they were alarmed. But he said to them, ‘Do not be alarmed. You seek Jesus of Nazareth, who was crucified. He is risen! He is not here. See the place where they laid Him. But go, tell His disciples—and Peter—that He is going before you into Galilee; there you will see Him, as He said to you.’ So they went out quickly and fled from the tomb, for they trembled and were amazed. And they said nothing to anyone, for they were afraid.” Mark 16:5-8
“No one can be reformed in a state of intellectual blindness. Such people do not know any truths, and so neither do they lead a life in accordance with them. For the intellect has to teach truths, and the will do them, and when the will does what the intellect teaches, it then acquires for itself a life in accordance with truths. However, when the intellect has been blinded, the will also is obstructed, and it does nothing in freedom in accordance with its reason, except the evil it has justified in the intellect, which is falsity.
“The intellect is blinded not only by ignorance but also by a religion that teaches a blind faith. So, too, by the teaching of falsity. For as truths open the intellect, so falsities close it. They close it above but open it below, and an intellect opened only below is not capable of seeing truths, but only of affirming whatever it wishes, especially falsity.” Divine Providence n.144 (Rogers’ translation)
Modern therapists talk about cascading emotions and a person’s personality decomposing, when an event produces a series of reactions in a person’s mind, disrupting his thinking, and paralyzing his feelings. The way to help this person is to give them a quiet place to relax, process the event, and time to regain a sense of security. The helper makes sure the person has enough food and rest. Soon the person is able to address the issues that are connected to the event that upset him.
Imagine the three women after two nights without enough sleep, rising in the early morning dark and hurrying out without breaking their fast, anxious to get to the tomb to finish the burial of their beloved Master. It is emotionally precarious to be hungry, tired and stressed. Within moments of arriving at the tomb, we are told, they are alarmed, then they begin to tremble, then they are amazed, and finally are so afraid they cannot speak to anyone as they rush back to the Apostles in their hiding place. In the gospel of Mark, the women’s report and two other appearances of Jesus fail to rouse the disciples’ minds out of their own grief-inspired catatonia.
This story form two thousand years ago, and more stories in the Writings for the New Church two hundred and fifty years ago, tell of the altering of a person’s consciousness caused by ignorance and by holding on to a false belief. The women ignorantly believed the falsity that Jesus was dead. After discovering the empty tomb, they did not regain a normal mental or emotional balance for some days. In fact, it took repeated appearances of Jesus, and days more of His teaching before they again felt the joy the Lord wanted them to have.
Swedenborg describes people who from careful analysis believe that faith alone saves them. And, we are told, good willed people who had only a blind faith can take years to acquire the balanced mind of an angel, and so knowing their role in their perfection and their dependence upon the Lord.
The truth that we all already know is that the Lord God Jesus Christ reigns. He rose from the tomb, establishing His Divine Human as the new method of relating to His creation. And we know that He has cleared the spiritual pathways in a final judgment on evil, allowing us to see Him clearly as the Creator and Savior who loves us unconditionally and unceasingly.
And yet we all fall victim to regret and resentment about the past, worry and doubt about the future, and impatience and anxiety in the present. The key is to remember the truth about the Lord. To do this we first have to believe the truth in such a way that it banishes the ignorance and evilness of falsity. We have to take such long term efforts as reading the Word, studying with experienced teachers and talking about our beliefs in small groups. And then we have to acquire new habits of affirmative thinking, a trustful attitude and an openness of mind. These traits allow the Lord to speak to us because we are listening, give us love and truth in the space we leave for Him, and impact our thinking and acting in the moment.
So the Lord encourages us to do the work over the course of time, while finding ways to remember His continuing impact on every level of our lives. We each need to find that piece of string to tie on our finger, so to speak. Some suggestions include regular prayer, mantras – quotes you repeat to yourself often, even post it notes with reminders stuck in places like the edge of your car’s rear view mirror!
Remembering tat the Lord is alive, loves you and reveals His truth to you will prevent the hells from causing a spiritual cascade of affections, the blindness of ignorance or the cold heartedness of evil. This Easter Sunday, you can begin a new life as you learn how to hear the angel’s message: “Fear not!”
Precursor March 2008