First you catch fish, then you must eat books

This blog topic concerning one’s true spirituality is going to be a hard sell. It runs counter to many of our current notions about obtaining heavenly goodness.

But here goes, anyway.

There are two main elements involved in procuring a genuine spiritual life. The first is to find attractive doctrines and tenets which involve exalting love and spreading kindness in the world. This part of the process is called getting into a “church.” The second, and more difficult part is getting the church into you. The Holy Bible offers potent scenarios for illustrating the differences between these two distinct spiritual steps.

In the New Testament there is a well-known story (John 21:6) of how the Lord taught his disciples to catch lots of fish. What is less known is that this familiar story is full of deep symbolism and represents an allegorical lesson on the most effective way to capture new members with ideas pertaining to spiritual salvation. The Lord’s solution was to throw the net from the “right side of the boat.”

Psycho-spiritually, this means to approach people from the heart (right-brain activity) rather than from the cold intellect (left-brain thinking). People respond more easily to love and spiritual teachings that promote warmth and acts of sweetness rather than they respond to getting hit over the head with guilt. The disciple’s “net” symbolizes gathering up people into a particular belief system (or church) which can then raise them out of their habitual and lower-level lifestyles (symbolized by the aqua-sphere).

So sweetness draws people towards God (and into the disciples net) because it captures their hearts.

However, getting the church or potent spiritual lessons inside oneself is not a process that brings a similar joy to the heart. This is where the process can get a bit “sour” tasting.

In Revelation 10:9 we have an odd scenario where an angel of God tells John to eat a small book! At first, the book tastes sweet as honey. But after it reaches his belly it becomes bitter. Why? The allegorical lesson here is that what first seems sweet to us about God’s teachings becomes bitter when we have to apply (swallow whole) these teachings to our own lives and situation. In fact, we regularly refer to this unflattering process as a “bitter lesson” or “bitter medicine” or taking a “bitter pill.”

The first process (of sweetness) builds community and fellowship, but the second process relies on an individual’s personal decision to go deeper by practicing sincere introspection and self-examination to remove one’s own ignoble inclinations and traits. Only this personal decision and effort can bring about the possible outcome of a church or spiritual teaching entering deep inside, and, becoming the inner fabric of a person’s heart and mind (one’s true spirit).

The resulting elevation of the individual to higher spiritual standards can then be turned to elevating and benefitting the community. However, few spiritual communities are arranged to help individuals move to the important second step of critical inner examination because their focus is on the sweetness of mutual sharing, togetherness and feeling good. Such a church can never evolve further or become more relevant to society.

My new book Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links (Anti-intuitive Essays For Personal Transformation) gets deep into the weeds of the many misunderstandings we have when it comes to understanding the spiritual process of genuine salvation.

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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