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New Church Perspective
is an online magazine with essays and other content published weekly. Our features are from a variety of writers dealing with a variety of topics, all celebrating the understanding and application of New Church ideas. For a list of past features by category or title, visit our archive.

Entries in spiritual life (9)


Meditate | Behold! The Key to Existence Hidden in Plain Sight

Meditate is a monthly column in which insights gained from meditating on the Word are shared. But why is meditation such a central spiritual practice, anyway? In a word: reflection. This month, Chelsea deviates from the normal structure of this column to share some reflections on the importance of reflection itself. As usual, we welcome your insights, too, in the form of comments or even your own article. —Editor

There are several passages in Swedenborg’s works in which he writes of the importance of reflection: self-reflection, reflection from others, and reflection on our surroundings and our experiences. In fact, he writes that “without reflection, there is no life” (Spiritual Experiences 2228). Without self-reflection we have no way to witness our thoughts, no ability to reflect on what we are sensing in our lives beyond just feeling it. Actually, our spiritual development depends on reflection.

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What Harmony Is (Or: If You Can Sing, You’re Way Better At Math Than You Think You Are)

Using the physics behind music, Jeremy discusses why the world is a better, more interesting place because everyone is different. He also explains powerful ways to work to find common ground among all the different people in an amazing and beautiful way. This article was originally given as a talk to launch a spiritual growth group series on Living in Harmony at the Virginia St. Church in St. Paul, MN. -Editor.

“I was shown that angels cannot live together in blessedness unless they are the kind that can speak and act together. Blessedness consists in unanimity and harmony, whereby many, even very many, consider themselves to be a one. For from many agreeing together, or a harmony of many, comes a oneness, which results in blessedness and happiness and, from a shared feeling of happiness, a doubled and tripled happiness. (Emanuel Swedenborg, Spiritual Experiences, 289)

Swedenborg makes clear in many places that living in harmony is an essential feature of heaven and eternal life1. It is also a fundamental feature of his philosophy that we can learn much about the spiritual world by examining the natural world. So I would like to explore what we can learn about spiritual harmony (which to me implies getting along with others, and also living in a state of integrity where your deeds match your words and beliefs) from looking at the physical nature of musical harmony. In fact, I would not be alone in saying that musical harmony is such a profoundly delightful experience that it bridges the gap between the natural and the spiritual. Everyone knows that a beautiful choir can be a sublime experience, and I’m here to explore the physics of why that is.

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Meditate | Heading South

Meditate is a monthly column in which insights gained from meditating on the Word are shared. We welcome your insights, too, in the form of comments or even your own article. Contact us if you'd like to write a submission for this column. -Editor

If you bring out your soul for someone starving and satiate an afflicted soul, in the shadows your light will rise, and your darkness will be like midday. (Isaiah 58:10)

And he [Abram] moved from there onto a mountain to the east of Bethel and spread his tent; Bethel was toward the sea and Ai toward the east. And there he built an altar to Jehovah and called on Jehovah’s name. And Abram traveled, going and traveling toward the south. (Genesis 12:8-9)

Toward the south means into goodness and truth and so into a condition in which inner things would be clear. (Secrets of Heaven 1456)

Heading south sounds pretty nice right now given that the thirteen winter storms so far this season have made this the third snowiest winter in Philadelphia’s recorded history. Actually, I like snow—it’s the cold that’s really getting to me. I long to be somewhere sunny and warm! Not coincidentally, heading south on a spiritual level would feel pretty good, too! What’s going on before Abram travels south?

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Meditate | Walking In The Dark

Meditate is a monthly column in which insights gained from meditating on the Word are shared. We welcome your insights, too, in the form of comments or even your own article. Contact us if you'd like to write a submission for this column. -Editor

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light.” Isaiah 9:2

“Even the dark shall be light about me.” Psalm 139:11 

“’Darkness’ in Isaiah 9:2 symbolically means falsities such as existed at that time, and which still exist at this day among upright Gentiles—because of their ignorance of truth. These falsities have goodness stored up within them because they have goodness as an end in view. Those, therefore, who are in these falsities are able to be instructed in truths—if not in the world then in the next life—and when instructed they also receive truths in their hearts. The reason for this is that goodness loves truth, and also joins itself to truth when it is heard.” Apocalypse Explained 526 and Secrets of Heaven 9256 as quoted in the Bryn Athyn Church Christmas Readings for 2013.

Nevermind any deliberation about what it might mean to be a Gentile, let alone an upright one or not, I see a reflection of the state described in this passage in my own life. There is a strong inclination in me to condemn myself on account of what falsities I suspect I’m operating under, amidst a thick fear of the outcome if I am to continue to live in that darkness. This mindset is paralyzing, and yet I convince myself it is warranted.

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Meditate | Turning Soil

Meditate is a monthly column in which insights gained from meditating on the Word are shared. We welcome your insights, too, in the form of comments, or better yet, your own article. Contact us if you'd like to write a submission for this column. -Editor

“The church is called the soil [in the Word] because it receives the seeds of faith, or in other words, the true concepts and good urges of faith” (Secrets of Heaven 1068).

“Give ear and hear my voice,
Listen and hear my speech.
Does the plowman keep plowing all day to sow?
Does he keep turning his soil and breaking the clods?
When he has leveled its surface,
Does he not sow the black cummin
And scatter the cummin,
Plant the wheat in rows,
The barley in the appointed place,
And the spelt in its place?
For He instructs him in right judgment,
His God teaches him” (Isaiah 28:23-26).

I happened to read these two passages on the same morning. After reading from Secrets of Heaven, I opened the Word randomly to Isaiah to these verses about soil. I find the image of my spirit as a garden comforting. It is easy to feel brought down by how persistent and ubiquitous my misguided thoughts and subsequent behaviors are. But by translating my spiritual experience to the language of gardens, it becomes nothing to bat an eye at. Of course I’ve got weeds.

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Misery and the Search for Happiness

How can we address misery within ourselves in a way that elevates our perspective and frees us from wallowing in an emotional underworld? Rachel cautions us to be tender with ourselves. If we let our pain teach us, we will be bettered by it. -Editor

Often I think the hells trick us into being more miserable than we need to be. Perhaps we don’t feel as energized or as happy as we would like some days. And some days we feel a little depressed and down. But do we say to ourselves, “Oh hello, sadness how are you today? What do you need?” No. Not usually. Most of the time we say, “Go away misery! I want happiness! Leave me alone. I hate you.” And then we begin to get mad at ourselves for being so miserable. And it spreads to those around us and sometimes we feel guilty for lashing out at others just because we are miserable. And the hells have a party because our misery becomes a toilet bowl being flushed—an endless spiral downwards.

How can we stop this downward spiral? Plugging it up often seems like the easiest way. Bottle up that emotion! Ignore irritation! But Thomas Moore in his book Care of the Soul cautions: “Hiding the dark places results in a loss of soul” (148). As tempting as it is to ignore or bury the things that bother us, we actually are stifling a part of ourselves that needs listening to. Moore also says: “Care of the soul begins with observance of how the soul manifests itself and how it operates...Observance is a word from ritual and religion. It means to watch out for but also to keep and honor, as in the observance of a holiday” (5). So when negative states are manifest in our life, does observing and honoring those states help?

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