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Friday
Jul202012

God Bless You, Part 2

Here, in part two, Karl looks specifically at the word 'marriage.' He focuses on its ultimate purpose as a reflection of the Lord's union within himself and the mercy this embodies. He feels that a renewed focus on the true meaning of words would offer more to people than if the church were to bow to secular interpretations of spiritual concepts and thereby attract more people by mirroring the culture's own decline. -Editor

Unfortunately, because we are steeped so long in our own traditions, lost meanings have an unfortunate side effect. For instance, there is a sense in which a certain word immediately springs to mind on hearing the phrase, "joined together" with respect to the Bible, and that is "marriage." We think of this phrase in particular: "What God has put together, let no man put asunder" (Matthew 19:6, Mark 10:9). Consequently, whether thinking from a secular perspective, or a spiritual one, most people tend to think that this refers to nothing more than a union between a man and a woman. There is a certain coincidence, and hence a similarity, on a literal level, but it comes at great cost. This sense of mere commitment is unable to represent what is meant by that joining together at the deepest level, except in this superficial manner. After all, what are we to understand when we find this word "marriage" used in reference to land as in this passage from Isaiah 62:4:

"You shall no more be termed Forsaken, and you shall no more be termed Desolate, but you shall be called My Delight is in Her, and your land married; for the Lord delights in you and your land shall be married."

At this point, Zion and Jerusalem are the subject, and their joining to the Lord (Jehovah). It is for this reason that they are described as "married," for at this point these two levels of the spiritual make one, and it is this that facilitates a subsequent joining to the Lord. It is this joining that is meant by "married."  What follows on from this passage is that which represents something of the intensity of this union on a human level to the Lord (Isaiah 62:5):

"For as a young man marries a young woman, so shall your builder marry you, and as a bridegroom rejoices over the bride, so shall your God rejoice over you."

Notice the subtlety of the use of such a representation. On the literal level, it appears as if the human marriage is the real subject while the "married land" is the metaphor. But as one moves away from the literal view, polarities invert, and the subject is always the Lord, and how all things are joined to Him. Bearing in mind that it has already been said that "earth" is the receptive that is man in physical or external form, "land" is generally speaking to the state prior to receptivity and therefore incapable of conjunction. For this reason, it is in this form that it is often referred to as barren, or infertile. The two levels of spirituality already referred to are those where love dominates in one while wisdom dominates in the other, and the uniting of these are represented in us as the union of reciprocal intentions of the heart and the mind acting in unison. When they do so, real things start to happen. When they do not, the dominance of one becomes tare-like, creating the appearance of a union only, something like a marriage, but which is in fact a sham.

This last line is a good place to pause, for what these joinings imply for us today not only depends on how we understand the fulfilment of the Law and the Prophets in the person of Jesus Christ, but that He Himself is the exemplar and archetype of the true marriage. Given the current political pressures on the traditional Christian church to recognise same sex marriages, it is important that a more coherent understanding of Christ and His mission be presented in order to prevent the tare-like form overlaying the genuine article.

The Old Covenant comes to full flower in the New Covenant, especially so in John’s gospel where the representative form of the old order is turned into a fact in the New Covenant when the redeemer of the old called Jehovah becomes the real person, Jesus Christ. Yet again, we find here a technical language that has become misused over time so that this reality is hardly visible. "My glory," says Jehovah, "I do not give to another" (Isaiah 48:11). Yet we find Jesus Christ constantly asking the Father to glorify him. What does this word mean? The majority of Christians, even today, will think of this word as meaning "make great" or "worthy of praise," or something along those lines. This is an odd notion to some extent, since such meanings tend to perceive God in remote terms, where he is perceived from a distance, yet the whole purpose of Jesus Christ is for God to become adapted in order to be comprehensible at our own human level. Keeping in mind the emphasis on joining, what we find in the New Covenant is the culmination of all the different joinings together found in the Old Covenant becoming a real presence in a new order of the relations of the spiritual and the natural worlds that each person mirrors. It is this that is contained in the very word "Word" in the first line of John’s gospel, "In the beginning was the Word." The more accurate translation of the Greek word "logos" is actually "dialogue." In this gospel, Jesus Christ is constantly referring to and speaking to the Father, in effect establishing a closer union with Him. This gradual uniting is what is meant by glorifying, and it is only when the two are joined that, as stated above, real things start to happen. That reality is what emanates from that union and which ultimately occurs in order to establish a means of having an effect within us, an effect that is referred to as the Holy Spirit. Furthermore, it is clear that this cannot occur before the glorification of Jesus Christ as stated in the same gospel: "the Holy Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified" (John 7:39). And as Jesus himself said, unless he goes away, the Advocate cannot come to his disciples (John 16:7). The word "comforter" or "Paraclete" is used in other translations, and at each turn we see here something of what is meant by the real presence of the Christ within the person through the work of the Holy Spirit that only occurs because Jesus and the Father make one. He is, as One, the agent of action which comes through their expression of union in the Holy Spirit, and here we have something unique—a God that is One and is also triune in nature, a triune that is an absolute necessary form if there is to be redemption, or the taking back of his own to Himself.

What we should see as the heart of the Bible is this God, his triune nature, and the work of salvation that it exists for in terms of covenants. It is for this reason that the word "marriage" appears so often, for it references the zeal of the Lord for the redemption of all, and this is only possible through that which emanates from Him which is the Holy Spirit coming into being, facilitating a real presence within us, once the Father is united to the Son, and who in that form is able to make His home in us.

It is unfortunate that for the most part in the Christian tradition, this perspective on a triune God is largely unknown, even though the Trinity is a fundamental tenet of belief. It seems to be enough to consider it as a mystery, above all human understanding and almost unapproachable. What should strike us as far more awesome is the great Mercy which is Jehovah taking the triune form in order to make Himself approachable and us receivers of the Holy Spirit, since clearly we are the objects of interest within the heart of heaven which seeks to make its home in us.

Virtually all spiritual traditions are aware of this triune in their own ways. Eastern philosophy, for instance, speaks of the One, and then the Second, and then the ten thousand things. There is the union of Yin and Yang elements producing a triad which is greater than the sum of its parts. There is the "To Peras’ and Apeiron" of Greek thought, which are an echo of the fixed and loose elements of all the above. All these active and passive elements ultimately come to be represented in a marriage, the highest and deepest form of which is the union of the Father as Love and the Son as Wisdom, which human marriages mirror.

All these different elements within us, operating through the natural mind, the senses that feed it, the rational enthusing it, and the spiritual inclining these towards heaven, it is these things that need to be re-ordered in such a way that they reflect something of glorification in a human way that mirrors it, and this is what is meant by regeneration, or being born from above. In an age that bears witness to the popularisation of all things holistic, from diets to medicines to food production and planetary awareness, it is astounding that the most holistic of all images is that of the regenerated person who becomes the "little heaven" that then becomes an image of the whole (and that means heaven on earth) in human form. It is the sense of this essential meaning of marriage that the state of preparation augured at the very beginning of the Bible becomes a transformation of all into brides awaiting the groom which is the culmination point at the end of the Bible. In between, we find different levels of covenant—the natural mind transforming as an initial step represented by Jacob becoming Israel, then the rational mind learning to see through appearances represented by Isaac evolving out of Ishmael, and so on. And at each step, as different elements become joined together, so those joinings are the source of meaning for the word "blessed" or "blessing." This too, like marriage, is a much used word but with little awareness of its technical meaning.

In essence, the use of the words "bless" and "curse" represents the direction of our inclinations. Those which tend upwards are called "blessings" while those tending downwards are called "curses." These tendencies are not essentially intellectual but stem from the heart. All feeling and emotion is heart-based. Spirituality is concerned ultimately with the state of those inclinations and puts in place a programme of doctrines in the mind that will act on it. These represent the beginnings of the regenerated person, and in the Old Covenant were referred to as commands, statutes, ordinances, and precepts, each working at different levels of the mind. When any one of these begins to awaken a corresponding heartfelt state, it was referred to as a blessing, but if subsequently a rejection occurs, this was referred to as a curse, a sign of the person choosing the downward tending state which effectively looked to the natural mind in an exclusive form. Consequently, it is the upward tending state that is called "holy," and it is this joining together that makes for a truly holistic view.

The number of places that refer to this in the Bible is literally thousands, since this ultimately is the whole purpose of this book. These states of blessing consequently always refer to the Divine nature that the Lord put on while human, and why He is the archetype of the true marriage.

But now one should consider what must be in the minds of most people when they consider the words "marriage" and "blessing." Generally speaking, and as stated already, most people think of such a partnership as nothing more than a commitment made between two people, and that a "blessing" is nothing more than an expression of approval. This is not the meaning of these words, as this essay has gone to some lengths to point out. Consequently, what we find in the church today is a softening of position that has bowed to the pressures of a secular view that has nothing in common with the spiritual, barring a superficial, tare-like resemblance. It also points to the need for the church to re-examine its own doctrines and terms or reference and to see how they must be applied if they are to be relevant to a modern world. Because of the slow, almost imperceptible deterioration of meaning, the spiritual context that vivifies the Bible is lost completely beneath the loud voices that talk up the creation myth; the loss of meaning has led to the need for a blind faith since there is no other way to understand religion. As a result of the loss of its own spiritual meanings, it can find no argument against the notion of a same sex marriage. The latter bears no resemblance whatever to the Divine Marriage as outlined here in brief, but it does possess all the characteristics of a fake passing itself off as real that has already been referred to as tare-thinking.

One must be careful here not to imply by this any kind of judgement. Not judging, after all, is one of the principle codes of practice of the Christian ethos. However, nor can one simply ignore the meanings of words in their spiritual context. A same sex relationship that is recognised in secular law is one that guarantees the benefits of such a partnership, without fear or favour, enjoyed by any committed couple as symbolised in the expressions of a secular marriage. But it is not what can be construed as a marriage in a spiritual context, for it is effectively an imposition upon the Divine Will to reflect matters in terms of ours. The words of the Lord’s Prayer indicate the more substantial directive, that the will of the Father be reflected on earth, not the other way round.

Church attendance figures are falling, and the world, it seems, is becoming more and more secular in its intentions. At the same time, we should note that this movement towards exclusive secularism is in tandem with a growing trend towards literalism which effectively allows the spiritual content of the meanings of words to dissolve away. It is a strange concept to imagine that the churches would be more attractive if they appeared more liberal and accepting of the diverse culture we live in. But this is a mistake. It is far more realistic to see that the church would become more attractive if it were able to present a much deeper conception of spirituality than is currently available which can throw its light upon the complexities of modern life, and show how the opening of the spiritual dimension of the mind relates to it in an informative and reformative way. Christianity as a religion is in decline because it has been allowed to become simplistic. The re-attachment of true meaning to its terms of reference would go a long way to making religion a real presence in people’s lives.

Karl Birjukov

Karl discovered Swedenborg eight years ago, and took to his writings like a duck to water. As a lapsed Christian, his interest was revived, and he has become a part-time lay preacher at a New Church in his area near London. The Swedenborg Scientific Association has published a number of articles he wrote, and recently published a lengthier one this year entitled "Swedenborg in the 21st Century." The first of a two part article is currently being published entitled "Influx and the Proprium.”