Can a gentle lamb or innocent dove kick ass?

In 1969 I remember walking back to my office on 42nd Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues after lunch and stopping to look at an intriguing poster on a storefront window. It depicted an innocent white dove taking down a predatory hawk.

This was at the height of the Vietnam War, which was quickly becoming more unpopular with Americans. The poster made use of powerful symbolic images to communicate that peace was stronger than war and could actually conquer war.

As a creative writer at one of the world’s most prestigious advertising agencies, I appreciated the potent ability of symbols to deliver a message.

About five years later, in 1974, I was introduced to the theological ideas of Emanuel Swedenborg. His theology immediately resonated with my creative passions and inclinations.

Swedenborg stated that God’s Holy Word contained deeper levels of symbolic meaning. Take the biblical passage in Revelation 17:14:

These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them . . .

This passage refers to the Lord’s victory over all evil forces. That, everyone can understand. But according to Swedenborg, it will not be the Lord using physical force in this great battle but that God would obtain victory through pure innocence. That is why the Lord is referred to as a Lamb.

Wow! Scripture made use of the same kind of symbolism that I saw represented on the poster several years earlier. Innocence of heart trumps evil!

Then a strange new synapse took place inside my brain. Why was everyone capable of understanding the symbolism of that peace poster but few could apply that same symbolic interpretation to God’s Holy Word? Is not God Infinitely creative? Is God only capable of linear and literal communication?

As proof of this mental obscurity towards God’s Holy Word, the Jewish nation anxiously awaited a warrior-Messiah that would kick some “Roman” ass. Many Christians believe that Jesus will return to kick ass, as well. But only when individuals seek a pure and innocent heart will any true peace come into the world. You can’t legislate peace and love in the world or secure it by force. God’s law of Love has to be inscribed on each of our hearts.

When such a law finds its abode deep within our inner being it can then be said that we have truly been conquered (symbolically) by a gentle lamb. Or, an innocent dove. The real “truth” behind the Vietnam poster as well as Scripture is that the true battle takes place in our hearts and minds. God seeks to change our worldview. Only that can change the world.


About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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17 Responses to Can a gentle lamb or innocent dove kick ass?

  1. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    A wonderful, powerful message.

    And an interesting message, too.

    For it is the kind that brings some people closer to God, while at the same time driving in deeper the wedge that separates others from God.

    How so? How can I say such a cynical, pessimistic thing?

    Well, it is simply a matter of listening to what some people have to say about why they don’t believe that God exists, or why they have ‘fired’ God, or why they know that God doesn’t exist, etc.

    They look at the world, and see that the more things change, the more they remain the same. War, crime, drugs, arms trading, malnutrition, disease, corruption, betrayal, hypocrisy, etc., etc. Just goes on and on and on. Gets cleaned up in one area, only to resurface in some other area. They are told that God is love, and they see hatred amongst believers. They are told that God cares for his children, and they see his children waging war upon one another. They are told that He will help to change the world, and they see people, communities and nations doing nothing more than basically playing musical chairs on the Titanic.

    “I know that God doesn’t exist, because if He did, then [fill in the blank].”

    When I hear an argument like this, I know I’m listening to someone who either actually does believe in God or truly hankers to do so.

    But because s/he can’t make sense of all the craziness, reaches the ‘logical’ conclusion that God doesn’t exist, coz if He did, then the craziness wouldn’t exist. Their underlying reasoning, so rarely articulated in this manner, is that you can have one or the other, but not both, and since the craziness is so dad-burn obvious, tangible and undeniable–not to mention painful–well, obviously it is God that doesn’t exist.

    Though secretly envious of believers, they also think that believers are deluded, and see in believers the truth of this paraphrase from Billy Joel’s Piano Man, “Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call hope, and think it’s better than despairin’ alone.”

    Then they add to themselves, “Thank God I’m not deluded. I see things as they are. And I’d rather despair alone than drink the delusion-inducing Kool-Aid by sharing a drink called hope.”

    Part of the problem is that it is never clear to them that God and craziness both exist. And the import of the words of Jesus Christ–“My kingdom is not of this world”–also isn’t clear to them.

    Swedenborg said that there are different kinds of ‘last judgment’,

    o For example, there was a last judgment when the Lord came into the world, and there will be a last judgment when He shall come in glory; there is a last judgment when He comes to any man whatever in particular; and there is also a last judgment for everyone when he dies. AC 900

    And in speaking of the last judgment elsewhere, Swedenborg put it like this,

    “The state of the world hereafter will be altogether similar to what it has been heretofore, for the great change which has taken place in the spiritual world, does not induce any change in the natural world as to the external form; so that after this there will be civil affairs as before, there will be peace, treaties, and wars as before, with all other things which belong to societies in general and in particular…”

    So, the craziness in the world goes on as before. One may graduate from high school, college, graduate school, etc., but that from which one has ‘graduated’, even though one no longer is of it, continues to exist. Likewise, even when there has been a ‘personal transformation’, the world and its craziness continues to exists. And because of the inner change, the same existing things are viewed, responded to, and handled in a different manner.

    That is the real change to be effected in the world.

    That the world remains crazy is not proof that God doesn’t exist. That one–through an inner change and a ‘personal transformation’–no long contributes to the problem of the world’s craziness, but contributes something–however little–to part of the solution, is proof that He does exist.

    This is why I like your blog.

    Whatever quibbles there may be over ‘technical’ details, you’re contributing something to part of the solution.


  2. thegodguy says:

    Thanks Glenn,

    My book “Proving God” addresses all this as well. I have devoted a whole chapter to both the “Second Coming” and “Theodicy” (the issue of evil in the world.

    Spiritually yours,

  3. Sue says:

    Well, in 1969 I remember … never mind, I don’t remember 1969. I’m glad to hear some people were going to the office that year, though. The white dove was only pretending to be innocent. In our real world, the white doves are exactly as mixed up as the hawks.

    I can see where advertising ingenuity would open a person up to Sw. Symbolic interpretation ability helps. Not having to take things literally. In the real world that impression is intended to make others “but

  4. Sue says:

    oops! I must have hit submit.

    …is intended to make others “buy”. But when God uses our symbolic interpretation ability to lead us, He has a different intention. That’s why people don’t instantly tumble to it. He isn’t selling it very hard. Just allowing, not selling.

  5. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue (part 1 & part 2),

    I am indeed selling God’s symbolic message with all my ability. I am helping the Lord usher in the Holy City, The New Jerusalem on earth.

    Swedenborg’s books were fully intended by God – without which the Second Coming would be ineffectual in spacetime. I suspect that my efforts to write books are somehow involved with the Lord’s Providence.

    The white dove represents sincere innocence of the heart – not simply someone carrying a peace sign around.

    Spiritually yours,

  6. Sue says:

    Well, Godguy,
    We are both so helpful to God, aren’t we? He’s lucky to have us. You made me laugh to see you are writing books at His bequest (although you might be correct). And I see from my comment that I think I know His intentions, which is just as funny.

  7. thegodguy says:

    Dear funny girl,

    Without God good things CANNOT happen. Without men and women good things WILL NOT happen!

    God will even use our humorous (and feeble) attempts at helping out to actually help things out. All things that happen can be used by God to promote divine eternal ends – even if it eludes us!

    In fact, no evil is allowed unless it can serve some eternal purpose. The human habitual mind cannot grasp such an anti-intuitive idea. (But it is healthy to giggle at ourselves!)

    Spiritually yours,

  8. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    But it is healthy to giggle at ourselves!

    I’m so glad you agree!

  9. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    I am glad we agree as well. And thank you for the puzzle you sent me. Although it has nothing to do with the topic of the above blog post I value it as an important algebraic lesson to be meditated upon for years to come!

    However, the only possible mathematical solution consists of these numbers – $19.99. That is the price of my book “Proving God.” By the way, my new publication date is April 30th.

    Purchase, read and enjoy!

    Spiritually yours,

  10. Sue says:

    Oh, the irony. I came in on this blog when the angels weren’t yuking it up because they are so nice and kind and all. You warned us that we humans laugh with an “odd mixture of truth and disdain”.

    Which at the time got me pondering whether that was true or not. I thought “no, there are lots of funny things that aren’t negative, like when a child says something silly”. But now I see that you were pretty right on. Not that I disdain either you or myself. But I see that this back and forth has a certain delightful negative factor. Those poor angels! I wonder if they are really always seriously happy with no laughter.

  11. Sue says:

    Is it raining down there on your ranch like it is up here in Iowa? Can’t go outside. So I’m glued to the laptop –
    I decided this kind of humor is very “family”. Like we are cousins and can’t get enough of teasing each other. Which is wonderful fun. Especially on a rainy day.
    Swedenborg did say that heaven is community and relationships. That implies humor. So, the angels must indeed yuk it up.
    April 30th. Ok that’s nice to know. Are you doing any book signings?

  12. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    I will do some book signings – as long as it doesn’t get in the way of my outdoor work.

    And be careful about laughter. Remember what happened to Sarah in Genesis when she laughed at God’s words – she became pregnant at 90!

    Spiritually yours,

  13. Sue says:

    Yeah, I can sympathize with Sarah. My real family is so wonderfully weird that should I live to be 90, I will surely be(not pregnant)but the equivalent: still raising grandkids, great-grandkids, etc.
    Which means our modern day is getting similar to old Biblical days, maybe?

  14. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    We can still create “spiritual” children just the way they did in ancient times.

    In fact, we can continue to bear spiritual children in heaven to eternity, speaking from correspondences that is.

    Spiritually yours,

  15. Glenn Schoen says:

    The Lord’s kingdom is a kingdom of uses, and it is His providence that no creature or thing shall exist whereby some use is not performed. So laughter, which is frowned upon, must necessarily have a use.

    ES says of laughter that it usually has something in it that is not so good, and that while there are many things in laughter, for the most part it contains something of contempt. Contempt implies disrespect, and even an intense dislike, even if only for the moment.

    But if contempt is seen as con-tempt, and ‘con’ is recognized as meaning ‘against’, then contempt can be seen as being against something which tempts. And if that something, in being yielded to, would be harmful or cause harm in some way, it might behoove one to be against it, that is, to have or be in contempt for it.

    This might help explain why people sometimes laugh at things in order to hold them at bay.

    In fact, ES goes so far as to say that false things are more easily embraced than true things. So, laughter also can be an effective means of discouraging false things from taking root.

    If thought about from this perspective, the so-called rarity of laughter or ‘yukking it up’ by angels in heaven can be seen in a new light. As can the laughter or ‘yukking it up’ of humans on earth.

    Here is Swedenborg ‘yukking it up’ (according to a contemporary’s anecdote as reported by George Dole in the intro to his translation of ES’s The Universal Human and the Soul-Body Interaction),

    Archbishop Samuel Troilus was inordinately fond of the three-player game Tresett, which he used to play with the worldly Erland Broman, president of the Board of Trade, and another friend. Not long after Broman’s death, the archbishop met Swedenborg at a large gathering and wished to make sport of him. “By the way, Assessor [ES was Assessor of the Board of Mines], tell us something about the spirit world. How does my friend Broman spend his time there?” he asked. Swedenborg is said to have replied immediately, “I saw him but a few hours ago shuffling his cards in the company of the Evil one, and he was only waiting for your worship to make up a game of Tresett.”

    One can only imagine that Herr Swedenborg decided to turn the tables, rather than permit his reputation to suffer by the unchallenged ridicule of the Archbishop.

    I like Sue’s observation re laughter inspired by children. Dead on. Conjunctive, not disjunctive. Show me a child who cannot or does not laugh, and I’ll show you a child who likely is a symptom of something being not quite right in the household.

    Also, Norman Cousins wrote a book entitled Anatomy of an Illness in which laughter played a vital role in his recovery from a mysterious, chronic illness.

    In conclusion, I would like to observe that time flies like an arrow, while fruit flies like a banana.

  16. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Thank you for contributing to the discussion on laughter.

    Sue is referring to an earlier post that I published. My claim was not that laughter doesn’t have benefits or utility but that ANGELS DON”T LAUGH. Laughter requires a corporeal and worldly element which is not at hand in God’s heaven.

    But perhaps I am wrong and an angel can slip on a banana peel. What spirit could resist laughing at that?!

    Spiritually yours,

  17. Glenn Schoen says:

    I don’t know if angels can slip on a banana peel, but they certainly do have a self-image, and sometimes slip into the love-of-self of their ‘own’, which is never ever taken away, not even in heaven. Or so they have said in explaining to ES the function and use of their changes of state in heaven.

    That the love-of-self of one’s ‘own’ is never ever taken away, not even in heaven, is actually good news. If people would know about this, they could stop wasting time, effort and energy in attempting to do the impossible, getting rid of their love-of-self.

    Love-of-self is by creation a heavenly love, and remains a heavenly love–provided it is rightly subordinated in service to other, higher loves.

    Love-of-self remains for all of eternity. What happens is that the Lord endeavors to withhold us from it, and to the extent that we cooperate, to that extent are we withheld from it, i.e., to that extent the Lord’s endeavors on our behalf bear fruit. If we cooperate by getting rid of the ‘ballast’, we rise up into higher loves, just as the Lord intends for us.

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