A friend of mine asked me to describe what I do and the basic phrase I came up with was spiritual Christianity. It is very important to express a loving yet rigorous Christianity where we can live our lives in a lively way and embrace a deep sense of devotion; to get away from the stilted behavioral stigma of perfection and an expression of Christianity the is generous and embraces how the Lord is just to all. Here is an essay demonstrating the core of spirituality and of Christianity and how God is just to all in terms of salvation.
I believe our state after dying is determined by the quality of love in our soul. And there are three basic practices from our life that effect this, and that are also the basis of Christianity: 1; To acknowledge God in our hearts, 2; To be useful in life and act with care toward our neighbor, and 3; rule one and two must grow together. Neither one is substantial without the other. The marriage of rule one and two is the heavenly pattern, because this is the union of love and wisdom in our soul. The degree to which we have created concordance between them determines our state. In scripture this is expressed this way. “As the tree falleth so it layeth”. The exercise of the two together in everyday life is the expression of spiritual, emotional, and psychological intelligence. Swedenborg writes:
The chief thing is to acknowledge the Lord, His Divine in the Human, and His Omnipotence in saving the human race…The Lord taught how they would be saved, namely, that they should receive Divine truth from Him; and this is received, when it is applied to, and implanted in, the life by doing it; therefore the Lord so often said, that they should do His words. From these considerations it is evident that these two things, namely, to believe in the Lord and to do His words, make one, and that they can by no means be separated; for he who does not the Lord’s words does not believe in Him (AE 328).
Here is an organic way to visualize how rule 1 and 2 are inextricably married in use: the branches and leaves of a tree cannot survive if the tree does not have roots in the ground; and conversely, the roots will not long survive if there are no branches and leaves. The relationship between the branches and the roots corresponds to the relationship between love and wisdom, or what is similar, the internal and the external of our self. Another example is symbiosis of how the heart and lungs work together in the human body to keep us alive. The heart corresponds to love, and the lungs to wisdom, and although the two are distinct they exist in symbiosis and work as one. It is the union between them that corresponds to the union of wisdom and love, or what is the same faith and charity.
In modern culture we have practices such as the law of attraction and positive thinking that in them selves can be good; but often the problem with them is that they do not acknowledge a source. They do not acknowledge God as the source of all good, and therefore one is left to believe that the good produced comes from oneself, or other humans. But this is not true, and is a kind of spiritual thievery. Good originates from the Lord in the spiritual sun upon whom we are dependent, and receive life, love, and wisdom. Human beings are saturated with hereditary evil from head to toe and it is structurally impossible for good to originate from us, but we can be agents of it as we receive it from the Lord. The good we perform can still be good for others when we do not acknowledge), but it is not particularly good for us; in this case we remain natural; in this case our external is not acting consistently with our internal self. So there is no concordance, and there is a level of avoidance in this. If we are not actively accepting Him, then we are busy avoiding him. This is an intense truth we think we can get away from, and we can try for a time, but ultimately we cannot. The Lord said if you are not for me you are against me – there is no in between. Non-acknowledgement (or avoidance) is an action just as much as acknowledgement is an action. These actions are the minute binary of our life, each one gradually accumulating and leading toward heaven or hell. Only God can trully judge that state of this in others, but we can tell to a degree in our own self examination.
Being able to acknowledge that all good comes from God, in spite of appearances, is the acid test of spirituality. Self examination can help to humble and soften our heart so we can receive from God. Humility and innocence relate to the quality of innocence latent in our heart from childhood. God can jwork in us through innocence because this allows the willingness to be led or to submit to good, as oposed to pride. Innocence blooms into maturity when it is combined with intelligence, and becomes wisdom. To acknowledge something true requires and increases innocence; and the innocence in us spontaneously, from deep affection, loves both rule 1 and 2. Innocence is the elixir that opens what is written in our souls from God. In Heaven and Hell Swedenborg expresses with great clarity and tenderness how innocence fosters the internal marriage of love and wisdom in life:
In the Word by “little children” is meant those who are innocent. Good is good so far as it has innocence in it, for the reason that all good is from the Lord, and innocence is a willingness to be led by the Lord. I have also been told that truth can be conjoined to good and good to truth only by means of innocence. Hence the conjunction of truth and good is called the heavenly marriage, and the heavenly marriage is heaven. Again, I have been told that love truly conjugial derives its existence from innocence, because it derives its existence from the conjunction of the good and truth in which are the two minds of husband and wife; for married partners are in mutual love, as their minds are. This is why in conjugial love there is a playfulness like that of childhood and innocence (HH 281).
Innocence longs to serve others more than oneself, and this impulse is the foundation of true strength, peace and wisdom. Innocence also tempers the ever-present inclinations toward evil in us. Perception is the reception of truth from the Lord in our heart and mind, and thus the beloved is approached with humility, especially the Lord.
Humiliation is the essential of all adoration and of all worship, for without humiliation the Lord cannot be worshiped and adored, for the reason that the Divine of the Lord cannot flow into a proud heart, that is, into a heart full of the love of self, for such a heart is hard; and is called in the Word a “heart of stone.” But the Divine of the Lord can flow into a humble heart, because this is soft, and is called in the Word a “heart of flesh.” Such a heart is receptive of the influx of good from the Lord, that is, of the Lord. (AC 9377).
Hand in hand with acknowledging the divinity of the Lord is the need to perceive and acknowledge that from our self we are full of inclinations toward evil, and without the Lord we are lost in evil. Most of us have unknown levels of intellectual, spiritual, or egotistic pride that blocks us from seeing this. While we are occupied with inclinations to evil, it is impossible to receive good. To temper and remove the evil inclinations we need to see them, expose them, and realize we need the Lord’s help, and then act on what we have realized so that the bond with good can take hold.
From all this I hope we can see that the acknowledgement of the Lord and doing good uses cannot be separated:
The very essential of the church is the acknowledgment of the union of the Divine Itself in the Lord’s Human, and that this must be in each and all things of worship, thus also acknowledgment, for thought without acknowledgment and faith is not spiritual thought. The reason why this is an essential of the church, and consequently an essential of its worship, is that the salvation of the human race depends solely upon this union. Moreover the Lord came into the world for the sake of affecting this union. Therefore also in its inmost sense the whole Word treats of this, and the rituals of the church instituted among the sons of Israel represented it and signified it (AC 10370).
The extraordinary philosophical and practical truth expressed here is that the union is what counts; it is the effecting factor. Union is marriage, concordance, integration. This principle is as profound as can be, and as common as can be. We refer to it all the time in daily life and down to earth wisdom when we say things like: “Ideas without action mean nothing”, “to know is to love”, “think before you act”, “Mastery requires technique and spontaneity”, “There is no free lunch”, “Freedom must be fought for”, and many other such statements that might occur to you.
When we act by both principles there is concordance between our internal and external identity, the affections of our heart are reflected in our face and body language; we are whole-hearted in our actions. If we do good and loving uses for others, but take credit ourselves, not acknowledging the source in our hearts at all, concordance does not take place in our soul.
When we die the final state of our soul is determined by the level of concordance between our internal loves, and our external actions. At death the Bible says ‘the die is cast’ which by correspondences refers to the pattern or degree of concordance between or internal and external, or in other words how we have bonded (1) acknowledgement of God, and (2) doing good uses. This concordance defines the form and character of our soul, and in turn our capacity for love and growth for the rest of eternity.
This principle is everywhere in the Word because it is everywhere in life. Swedenborg writes: “The prudent virgins signify those in the church with whom faith is conjoined to charity, and the foolish signify those in the church with whom faith is separated from charity” (AE 840). The parable of the talents is all about this principle also. Talents represent spiritual intelligence, and spiritual intelligence is the result of the effort to marry rule 1 and 2 in our life. The primary theme of the whole Cane and Abel story in the internal sense is to show that faith and charity cannot be separated and when they are it is destructive.
Now it is wonderful to see how in the principle of union the Lord is entirely just and merciful, because it is up to each person to meet God half-way, to do the work of meeting the responsibilities that come with freedom and faith. We are masters of our own salvation no matter what our situation in life by the choices we make whether one knows of Christianity or not. Swedenborg writes: “It should be known that all who have not separated faith from love, when instructed in the other life, receive the heavenly idea of the Lord, that he is God of the universe. It is otherwise however with those who have separated faith from life”. So it is the pattern of union that determines salvation whether we are Christian or not. This makes us spiritual and able to learn of the Lord once in heaven. So even if a person in their life acted falsely or believed falsely because of the way we were brought up, but acted in good faith toward this falsity, then they can still be saved. Or if a person knows nothing of the Lord because of where they live, as long as they acknowledged God in some way and sought to live a life of good use, they are in the form of heaven. Thus the Lord is entirely just, because it is our own effort to effect union in our soul, however we may believe, that saves.