I hang out with lots of shady characters

shadowgangI have been on a spiritual path for four decades. Amazingly, I feel worse off today than I did forty years ago. What has become more apparent to me is the reality of my imagined goodness.

This imagined goodness was nothing more than an evasion of who I really am and all my contradictions of character. Hanging out with others, who were also supposedly on a spiritual path, only served to titillate and affirm my false sense of myself through a kind of consoling belief. Why not? I was a follower of Swedenborgian theology and had access to the most potent new spiritual doctrines the world has ever seen! Was I not special?

Then I came across a curious notion.

I remember Emanuel Swedenborg writing about how rare it was that people experienced actual spiritual temptation on earth. Rare? The Lord God wisely reserves this uncomfortable state for those who are willing to explore their inner reality and bravely do battle with themselves.

Over the years I have verified that my inner reality contained lots of vile and vicious leanings—originating from nasty spirits in the other world. I didn’t notice that these shady characters found a sanctuary in me until I started to observe myself minus all the self-deception. My success with this procedure is why I feel less noble today than I did when I started the process.

Now, nothing is more apparent to me than my being absolutely rotten to the core—which is what Swedenborg maintained about the entire human race. He wrote that as of ourselves we are nothing but evil (Arcana Coelestia n 9980). True goodness only comes from the Lord God in heaven and that salvation and wisdom is obtained by being constantly reminded of our imperfections, un-rooting those imperfections and making room for God’s genuine love to enter into our hearts and minds. (That certainly popped my hypnotic bubble!)

From my objective observation of our human predicament, I believe that even many well dug-in Swedenborgians wouldn’t know what hit them if the uncomfortable process of actual spiritual temptation and regeneration kicked in. We tend to protect our illusions through our friendships and organizations rather than challenge them. Our self-worth and esteem is closely tied to such illusions. Many people go to church simply to find affirmations of their self-relevance.

Stressing community, sharing and togetherness, before this uncomfortable process takes hold, only adds to the illusion of personal spiritual evolution—no matter how much of a calming effect it may produce on a person’s psyche. I know this from first-hand experience. I was once warned, by a Swedenborgian minister, that I would be barred from the church if I continued to make comments that were potentially discomforting to the other members of the church.

(It seems that being led out of hell is imagined to be as enjoyable as attending and observing church ritual with sentimental devotion and friendly behavior.)

I can only conclude that Swedenborg’s theological ideas are not spreading quickly throughout the world because they have been misrepresented and rendered ineffectual.


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 http://www.staircasepress.com
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5 Responses to I hang out with lots of shady characters

  1. Lee says:

    I am reminded Swedenborg’s story (In Arcana Coelestia 10808 and Earths in the Universe 170) of visiting a foreign region of the spiritual world and being tested, as he wished to enter that region and speak with the people of that alien culture, by being told that there was nothing but evil in him. When he admitted that this was true, they allowed him to speak and interact with them. By his admitting that he was nothing but evil, they realized that he understood the truth of the matter about human beings being nothing but evil, while God is nothing but good, and therefore they could have fellowship with him.

    I would suggest that Swedenborg’s theological ideas are not spreading quickly, not only because they are not well-understood even by his followers and are therefore frequently misrepresented, but because they require a level of personal commitment, responsibility, and spiritual labor that many people simply don’t want to engage in. It’s so much easier to be told that all you have to do is believe in Jesus and go to church! Churches that say that draw in the crowds. But it is a fickle crowd, and the turn-over is high. People who commit themselves to a deeper view of spirit, and to doing the work, are far fewer in number, but also far more likely to be in it for the long haul.

    There will always be large crowds who have a shallower and more external (but still real) spiritual life, a smaller number that commit themselves intellectually and do modify their attitudes and behavior as a result, and an even smaller number that take spirituality to heart and are transformed at a deep level through the excruciating labor of love required by that level of committing oneself entirely to God. I do not begrudge those churches, including large parts of the institutional Swedenborgian church, that cater to many people whose spirituality is not going to run so deep. God reaches out to all people where they are, in whatever way they are able to receive, and with exactly as much shallowness or depth of spirit as they can handle. Heaven has three levels for a reason!

    • thegodguy says:

      Dear Lee,

      Thank you for your valuable comments! I was hoping you would share your own explorations into your inner hells with my readers.

      Spiritually yours,

  2. moonliteeve says:

    Hi, can you give me a better idea of, what kind of things you discovered internally that made you conclude you are “evil”? Like what did you discover that you didn’t know about yourself before?

  3. moonliteeve says:

    Quote: “My inner reality contained lots of vile and vicious leanings.”
    Like what? I want to compare and see if I am missing something in myself. I have been working with some “spiritual rules of life” and have changed a lot, the way I react, recently I am having trouble with sometimes feeling anxiety, and once in a while with irritation and hate. But I am learning to allow myself to fully “be” with the feeling. I have had to do things I would have evaded doing before, and not do certain things. . .

    • thegodguy says:

      Dear moonliteeve,

      The notion that I contained evils of every kind within me came from books by Emanuel Swedenborg and George Gurdjieff. In the last 3 decades i have verified these unflattering character traits from a process of sincere introspection. Many of these negative traits are difficult to detect because they have become mechanical and second nature. I have written two books that could offer you insights into this “purification” process and spiritual transformation – “Proving God” and “Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing links”. Both books are available on Amazon.

      Spiritually yours,

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