Cincinnati Men's Gathering

Entries in Jesus (1)


The Dove

One day Jesus came from Nazareth in Galilee, and John baptized him in the Jordan River. As Jesus came up out of the water, he saw the heavens splitting apart and the Holy Spirit descending on him like a dove. And a voice from heaven said, “You are my dearly loved Son, and you bring me great joy.”   Mark 1:9-11
The symbolism of a dove as the truth and goodness of faith in one who is being reborn can be seen from the symbolism of a dove in the Word--especially the one that settled on Jesus when he was baptized, as told in Matthew: After he was baptized, Jesus went up immediately out of the water, and here, the heavens opened! And he saw God's spirit coming down like a dove and lighting on him. (Matthew 3:16, 17; told also in Mark 1:10, 11) The dove simply symbolizes the holy quality of faith, while baptism itself symbolizes rebirth. So in relation to the new church that was to arise, it symbolizes faith's truth and goodness, which the people of that church receive through the Lord's regeneration of them. Secrets of Heaven §870
This story has many important elements. But here we will focus only on two large ones: rebirth and the development of spirituality. We learn that our regeneration is a process that includes the experience of drowning and then coming up into the air, which changes our perspective on our life. And we learn that our spirituality is a connection between that which we believe and desire with divine love and wisdom.
In the Gospel of Mark, this is symbolized by the baptism by John in the Jordan, and the appearance of a dove from the other world. In Swedenborg’s words, the Lord “regenerates” me, and that benefits me with a faith that consists of truth and goodness.
The Lord loves his creation. He called it good from the very beginning. It is difficult to keep this view in our consciousness. There are always personal and global natural cataclysms and humanly produced tragedies that touch our hearts with sadness and terror, and challenge our belief in the goodness of God and creation. That is why it is imperative that we take time, like Sunday mornings, to rise above that lower level of consciousness for a few moments, and rest in an awareness of God’s goodness and the goodness of his creation, which includes me, and you.
When in this higher awareness, which Swedenborg calls a state of reflection, we can experience the process of God loving us. His love is, first, the creation of humans as receivers of his life. We can only gaze in awe at the mystery of the human spirit. All that we can see convinces us of the existence of a creator who is divine, our God. [First: God created humans as receptacles of life]. And then second, his love is personal for he reaches for each of us to connect to us, to be in relationship with us. This happens because God’s wisdom and goodness that creates can be received and held in our finite minds. By holding these truths as principles of living, and by desiring this goodness, we experience God’s reach for us and the most intimate connection with our creator. [So God loves us first by creating us; and second by connecting to us]. And third, God thereby gives us an experience of happiness not otherwise possible.
So our baptism, our regeneration, is the process whereby we come into spirituality, the full experience of our connection to the source of our life, the Lord, our Creator.
And so we acquire spiritual faith. On the lowest level of our experience, we have a kind of faith in the laws of nature. Earthquakes are particularly unsettling, I am told, precisely because the earth is no long solid. Disturbs our experience of reality, even though it is merely a matter of sensation. 
A deeper level of faith is in another person. They tell us something and we believe it. Of course, a person can become so wounded that they believe nothing. This is a common image in literature, but it is a rare in our experience. In fact, my experience is that I can fool anyone at any time. When we are lied to, it upsets our sense of reality. Instead of a disturbing physical sensation, we have a cognitive or emotional disturbance. We react with an emotion: anger or fear or sadness. And we develop a new belief: this person is not trustworthy. We may say our faith in them has been destroyed.
The deepest level of faith, here called spiritual, is of two sides of one coin, or the yin/yang symbol. The one side to live in accordance with truths, which are now ideas or cognitions, that we have accepted as our own. The other side of the coin is to delight in goodness, to love it, and we experience it as our own. So the cognitive and emotional operations in our spirit are aligned with God’s truth and goodness, and they are aligned with each other. There is a Spirit that has alighted upon us, like beautiful, quiet, and calm dove. This is the Holy Spirit which is another name for the presence of the Lord in our own awareness, which them constitutes spiritual faith.
The Gospel of Mark has no prelude to the appearance of Jesus in the story other than the opening phrase telling us that this letter is about Jesus the Messiah. Even our introduction to John the Baptist is brief. No birth stories; no childhood experiences. We are thus given the essentials without adornment. We are required to use our imaginations, and whatever knowledge of the culture of the day we can discover, to fully appreciate the message of the internal sense of this story. We already approach the Christian scripture as describing the reach of God to connect with us. So, every word, and the larger pictures it forms in our active imaginations, is full of God’s spirit.
And so, we advance in our regeneration when we enter the water, go under, and come out, of our own free will, all with the sure knowledge that the Lord created us to be joined with him. Specifically, that our desires, and our intellect, will be in agreement with his divine will and wisdom. For that process to proceed, we have to be both washed, or cleansed, and die, or believe the threat of death. 
Not only does the Bible teach this, but so does all ancient wisdom. Current experiences and science also confirm it. Talk to a couple of people who have had near death experiences for examples of the change of perspective about life! And science is becoming esoteric – that is, scientists are trying to describe what they are discovering, only to begin using the language of Theologians, philosophers and Shamans. 
You are invited to consider developing a daily practice of this reflection that affords you an opportunity to become suspended in wonder, as it has been described. Perhaps imagine you are walking into the water that marks the border of your spiritual world. Feel the molecules of water attracting the dirt, the ideas and feelings that sully your appreciation of others and this world. Immersed, allow the lack of air to reveal to you the origin of truth that exists above you. Allow the fear of death, at odds with your experience of cleansing and the revelation, to drive you towards the origin of life above you.
The view that works for me, that I have gleaned from the writings for the New Church, is that Jesus Christ was a unique individual who went through this experience such that the divine origin of life that was his soul was united (and not simply connected), and became one such that we can now know our God as the Lord God Jesus Christ. So the Christian scriptures are for me the best source of symbolism and metaphor for my experience of a path to joy. 
And that is the conclusion. That the energy of creation is an effort toward joy, an experience of connection with the source of life that we experience as our own. This is the secure attachment with God that is designed into creation. for each and every human on the planet.