The Practice of Union: The fundamental Principal of Spirituality

August 2nd, 2016

The principle of union is the most fundamental principle within Swedenborg’s writing, and, I believe, it is the root of all spirituality. Cognitively, it seems to be little known; yet intuitively, it is expressed everywhere in life. It is essential in all the great religious teachings, whether Zen, Polarity therapy, Yoga, Buddhism, shamanistic practices, or Christian spirituality. At its root the word yoga, from the root word “yuj” in Sanskrit, means union ( The basis of all these great spiritual teachings is to be present in the moment, the only place where change can take place. This requires combining sensitivity with courage, technique with intuition, reflection with action, love with wisdom. It involves being within oneself, moving through fear, and toward mastery (however fumbling that process may be). The Lord said, “Be harmless as a dove, and wise as a serpant”; to practice union ideally is to be in the strength and composure of our center and to act with kindness and generosity. In the moment we can address the cause of our problems and gain a sense of mastery over them. To practice union means to integrate unknown or new parts of ourself, to feel fear and to move forward anyway by which we exercise the inner skill to break through old barriers. I think of it as walking the narrow path. To not practice union is, on one side, to dissociate from reality; on the other side, is to react from thoughtless emotion. Jesus is the great example of dissociating from nothing, no matter how intense the conflict, or how immediate the intimacy His life continually exemplified this. We cannot do as Jesus did, but we can practice being present, thus helping others to feel safe around us, and to remain engaged and within ourself even in the face of difficulties; in this way we have the ability to deal with what is. Some have compared it to surfing a wave. When we do this we perceive more clearly what is needed and how to address it effectively. The practice of union integrates body, mind, and spirit which brings us into greater wholeness. The union or bond that takes place between body, mind and spirit is the source of self satisfaction. The gifts planted in our soul by God bloom in this union and we are able to let go of stuck things, and to forgive and heal.
Like all the great masters, Swedenborg writes that the fundamental cause of all psychological problems is being out of the present moment. Trauma is having a portion of our psyche stuck out of the moment, a time that is filled with the emotions of fear, rage, shame and distress from the past. Therapy is a kind of yoga that involves being able to re-address these feelings in the present moment where we can reframe the experience that caused them; it involves removing the protections around them that have served a purpose, but that also usually have dis-functional outcomes in our personality. In this way we can lift the burden of stuck parts of our soul, we can gradually change the imprint of trauma so that new avenues of light enter and bring relief to our heart and mind.
Union is also the essence of Christian spirituality. Christianity can be boiled down to three basic practices: (1) to be useful in life and act with care to our neighbor; (2) to acknowledge the divinity of God and that all good comes from Him; and (3), rules (1) and (2) must grow together. Neither one is substantial without the other. The marriage of rule (1) and (2) is the essential source of spirituality; it is the heavenly pattern that comes from the union of love and wisdom. Rule (one) relates to love and charity, and rule (two) to faith and wisdom. The degree to which each person has created concordance between rules (1) and (2) in their body, mind, and soul determines their state in the end. This concordance can also be stated as being between our internal and external self. The greater the harmony or authenticity between our internal and external self in the way we live rules (one) and (two), the more our soul becomes whole or in a heavenly form. 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).

The reason for the prevalence of the principle of union in all the great teachings is that it originates from the Holy marriage between the divine of God’s soul, and His divine human. In the article on equilibrium I described the marriage between the Lord’s essence and His human, and how this fundamental principle originates in the Lord and is repeated in all things that He created in the universe. This is why union is the basis of all spirituality. Thus a practical down to earth way to understand being like Jesus is to practice the union we have described.

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