Seeking Mr. Rotten

UglyMy search for God and His heavenly kingdom seems to be going in a different direction than most others when it comes to spiritual transformation.

Although I am a follower of Emanuel Swedenborg’s theology, I even seem to be moving in a direction that is different than many “Swedenborgians.” You see, I am hiding a rotten person inside me and I wish to expose him to my daily consciousness—no matter what the cost!

Have I lost my way?

Maybe.

However, I think the confusion comes from how we interpret God’s LOVE. First of all, only God loves! Any genuine spiritual love (for others) that we manifest in life comes from God’s heavenly influence flowing into our hearts—not from ourselves! Therefore, our spiritual challenge is to find ways of getting more of this Divine loving influence into our lives.

Does that mean simply doing more good deeds or displaying more acts of kindness?

Depends.

Swedenborg makes it clear that we are to first ask for the Lord God’s help in seeking out our inner rottenness and removing it from our lives. In proportion to the amount of personal crud we remove, we make room for God’s love to take hold.

But many people think that such self-examination leads to a negative experience and personal degradation. This means that finding the truth about oneself is to be avoided. Huh?

I feel that if I have ever accomplished anything real in my life it is in seeking out my flawed character traits (rottenness). In fact, this practice has come to provide me with real satisfaction and sincere humility.

I admit I had to acquire a taste for seeking out my personal delusions and fantasies. Looking to God for affirmation and self-worth is not what makes an angel an angel!

http://www.provinggod.com

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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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9 Responses to Seeking Mr. Rotten

  1. George Gantz says:

    Ed – This post might be better for Halloween than just before Thanksgiving. Creepy! There is the question of whether one is entering into self-examination from the standpoint of seeking to turn away from the love of the self, as opposed to self-examination (even self-loathing) which is driven by negative conceit or narcissism, e.g. a holding onto the self. You make no progress in the self-examination if you can’t turn away from the holding on. And one further point – sometime we adopt behaviors such as going to church or giving to others partly out of a desire to look good – doing good for the wrong reason, so to speak. But the story of Elijah being fed by the ravens is a reminder that we are always subject to mixed motives. As long as there is some desire to do good, there will be some positive spiritual feedback (God doing his work) that, over time, can help us in the path to regeneration.

    • thegodguy says:

      Dear George,

      Even creepier is the notion that we are hypnotized. Innocence and sincerity are the real goals – they represent the true spirit of desiring to do good and reconnect our divided psyches by affecting the growth of our God-given remains.

      Am I the only Swedenborgian willing to talk about the “remains”?

      (BTW George, thanks for mentioning the biblical passage of Elijah being fed by ravens. I was literally pondering the spiritual meaning of ravens earlier in the day – for a new book project!)

      Spiritually yours,
      TheGodGuy

  2. Lee says:

    I think it’s a matter of how deep a person wants to go into the process of “regeneration,” or spiritual rebirth. For those who want to go deeply into it, self-examination and exhumation of the inner corpse is necessary. For those who do not want to go so deeply into it, what’s necessary is to recognize when a wrong action is about to be done, and not do it because it is wrong.

    This is why there are many levels of heaven. Those who regularly avoid evil actions because they are wrong and against God’s will (not for selfish purposes or for reputation and appearances), but do not engage in deeper self-examination, will find their way into one of the lower heavens. Those who go deeper, engage in self-examination, and do the work of rooting out the evil within–with God’s power, of course–can rise to one of the higher heavens depending on how deeply they go.

    It’s fascinating to me that in the early parts of Secrets of Heaven (Arcana Coelestia), Swedenborg did not consider the inhabitants of the lower heavens to be angels, but rather called them “angelic spirits.” He apparently perceived that they had not undergone the full course toward angelhood, and they simply didn’t strike him as angels in the true sense of the word. Some of them are rather low-level in their perceptions, their loves, and their lives. As time went on, he seems to have lightened up. By the time he wrote Heaven and Hell, he had started calling them “heavenly angels,” “spiritual angels,” and “natural (or earthly) angels.”

    • thegodguy says:

      Dear Lee,

      The problem is, where and who does one go to for extending spiritual process to other levels? Today’s ministers (even Swedenborgians) are mostly content with preaching rather than procuring spiritual merit from intense inner combat. They would be more expert on the topic of the “remains” if it were otherwise. As a result, there is a mad dash straight into acts of kindness instead of participating in the kind of self scrutiny and sincerity that will look into one’s personal self-delusions (We are still being fed by ravens). It is not “good deeds” that we must aspire to – it is innocence! We fail to notice that we are in a “trance” when we engage in life’s affairs.

      Spiritually yours,
      TheGodGuy

      • Lee says:

        Hi Ed,

        Though I am a Swedenborgian minister myself, I no longer believe that the organized New Church will be the torch that carries Swedenborg to the world. The organized New Church has adopted the forms of the old Christian Church–primarily its Protestant wing. It has put new wine in those old bottles–which are in the process of bursting as the Swedenborgian Church institutionally dies a slow and gradual death by attrition. There are many fine people in the Swedenborgian Church. But as an organization it has only one foot in the future, and the other in the past. That will be its undoing.

        As for your question, I still haven’t figured that out! I do not have your Gurdjieffian influence, so I think of regeneration in somewhat less stark terms (I think) than you do. But I still agree with you that facing and battling one’s inner evils is essential for any more-than-superficial progress on the path of regeneration. I do put articles about this on my blog, but they are not the most popular ones. It’s not just Swedenborgians, but the public generally that has little taste for inner combat. Most have to be backed into it by the hard experiences and heartbreaks of life. And even then many still back away from any real confrontation with their inner demons.

        Many “love and light” spiritualities even deny the reality of evil, saying that it is all illusion and we should just ignore it and focus only on the light. That is a major mistake!

        It will, I think, be a gradual process of people and society moving from the long-time focus on externals toward a greater focus on internals. And it will take a long time for people to re-accept the reality of demonic forces seeking to pull us down. That is very much out of style in these “enlightened” days.

      • Lee says:

        Hi Ed,

        What do you think of Twelve Step programs? Do you think they have any of the elements you seek of combat against our inner evils?

  3. thegodguy says:

    Dear Lee,

    My small book “Swedenborg & Gurdjieff” talks about the proper steps for regeneration as being quite unpopular. In most cases people come to church for self-flattering reasons and to feel important (false validation – especially when we all have insane wills). The highest meanings within God’s Word have the Lord combating evils left and right. And yet we feel that we can escape such cosmic responsibilities (carrying the Cross). We are indeed in a trance – which soils all our good deeds and uses. The only reason Swedenborg doesn’t use the word hypnosis for our inner plight is that the term was coined several decades after his death. But we have learned to split our consciousness in a way that makes us susceptible to suggestion. All that the hells can do is to suggest things to us. The world’s vanities and allurements are nothing but suggestive influences.

    As to your second comment, I like 12-Step programs. They were written by people who were not afraid to confront themselves!

    Spirituially yours,
    TheGodGuy

  4. havau22 says:

    The Lord want us to recognize that there are parts of our lives that need to be changed. There are motivations that we sense, thoughts in our minds, and words and actions that we do that are destructive to the welfare of others, to the goals we seek, and to ourselves. He wants us to recognize them, acknowledge them, and know with a strong sense of hope and trust that He can bring about a change in us if we cooperate with Him. A person who wants to follow the Lord can be grateful for seeing a significant fault or flaw that previously he had been unconscious of. He need not be crippled by guilt over this. He need not listen to the spirits who like James and John righteously call for a fiery punishment for his evil. Instead he can be strengthened to the turn to the Lord, to seek His help, and to work toward living a better life in the future. For him a recognition of evil and sin helps him lead a better life. May we pray for this spirit within our own lives. AMEN.

    Lessons: Psalms 51:1-14, Luke 9:51-56, Arcana Caelesti

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