Sunday, December 6, 2009
LISTENING FOR GOD
I recently came upon a website that gave a modern translation of the Lord’s Prayer from the language in which it was originally taught by Jesus Christ – Aramaic. It was very intriguing, to say the least, because it was quite different from the English I am used to which is derived from the original Greek of the New Testament. I posted the website’s contents in another forum remarking on how Divine things can get changed once we mere mortals get our hands on them.
A good discussion ensued around the reliability of what comes to us from others vs. what comes to us directly from spirit; and, the role Divine providence plays in selecting authors and translators for the dissemination of Divine truth.
It is doubtless true that millions of books and documents containing quality spiritual truths have been written over the course of the history of our human race. All those millions of documents were written in whatever language they were written in for a Divine reason. Swedenborg’s theological writings, written originally in Latin, are a particularly high-octane example. Any reader of Swedenborg knows that “providence is present in the smallest individual things” (Swedenborg, 2007, AC 3854:3). Perhaps the old and new testaments of the Bible, in addition to the reasons usually given, were written in their respective Hebrew and Greek (and usually long after the events actually happened) as a permission – maybe to save the human race from destroying itself on the industrial strength truth of the original experience. The Lord knows and He won't tell! Anyway....
Although the literal sense of the Bible is authoritative to a point, I believe if I based my religion solely on its literal meaning I, and everyone I know well, would be in the deepest of ‘doodoo’ for sure. There are plenty of websites today vigorously noting the various contradictions and ridiculous legalisms contained in the literal sense of the Bible. And yet spiritually-based literature (i.e. literature that has a deeper, spiritual meaning), including large portions of the Bible, provides the possibility of developing in the mind an ever-increasing network of Divine truth that allows the mind to then see additional Divine truth to add to its network – a positive Divine truth feedback loop if you will – which can then be in-filled by the Lord with Divine good - if the mind is cooperative with the process - and voila! Spiritual growth happens! The personal acquisition of Divine truth is an important part of spiritual practice – and my belief (in this “Information Age”) is that one should pursue Divine truth in whatever literature one feels drawn to. As a friend recently remarked, “We should find our own truth and stand in it.”
Swedenborg gives us a cautionary note about literalism and getting stuck in words to the detriment of meaning as follows:
”This is very apparent from man’s thought, which insofar as it regards the words of one speaking, so far it does not regard his meaning; and which insofar as it regards the particular things of the memory, and dwells on them, so far it does not perceive the nature of the real things; and, still more important, insofar as it regards itself in everything, so far it narrows the thoughts and removes itself from viewing a subject in a universal manner. Hence it is that in proportion as anyone loves himself more than others, in the same proportion he is less wise.” (Swedenborg, 2007, AC 5287:2)
Jacob Boehme offers what feels like an accurate description of God’s non-local presence (i.e. His ‘apart from space’ presence – as Swedenborg’s translators would say) with all of us at the following link: http://www.gnosis.org/library/super.htm where you can also see the following quote:
“… It is in thee. And if thou canst, my Son, for a while but cease from all thy thinking and willing, then thou shalt hear the unspeakable Words of God…” (Boehme, 1624)
Anyway, as someone once told me, the Talmud says, “We don’t see the world the way it is – we see it the way we are.” If we are literalists we will see everything literally, and, not really develop the capacity to experience more of God personally in depth apart from space (and time) and in the realm of personally significant meaning.
Swedenborg explains that the Divine (itself) cannot be heard by anyone (in his Arcana Coelestia number 6982):
“… the Divine cannot be heard by anyone, not even by any angel; for in order to be heard the Divine must first become human; and it becomes human when it passes through the heavens; and when it has passed through the heavens it is presented in human form, and becomes speech, which speech is uttered by spirits, who when they are in this state, are called the “Holy Spirit,” and this is said to proceed from the Divine, because the holy of the spirit, or the holy truth which the spirit then speaks, proceeds from the Lord.” (Swedenborg, 2007, AC 6982)
A companion passage might be Divine Love and Wisdom 404:8.
“… when he is in affection for understanding, and through that comes into perception of truth, he is then in the thought of his spirit, which is meditation. This passes, indeed, into the thought of the body, but into silent thought; for it is above bodily thought, and looks upon what belongs to thought from the memory as below itself, drawing therefrom either conclusions or confirmations. But real affection for truth is perceived only as a pressure of will from something pleasurable which is interiorly in meditation as its life, and is little noticed.” (Swedenborg, 1969, DLW 404:8)
So, perhaps the ‘voice’ of God is experienced only as “a pressure of will from something pleasurable which is interiorly in meditation as its life”. This “silent thought” is the voice of God Melville was referring to when he said, ‘the one only voice of God is silence’.
Rev. Steve Ellis, a Church of the New Jerusalem pastor, wrote:
“Learning to hear the voice of God in the silence is an opportunity for self-revelation. It is an opportunity to see ourselves for who we are–the handiwork of a loving God–and to make a difference in our world. It is the recognition of our greater human prerogative: the right to proclaim and act on our essential goodness as children of the one true God.” (Ellis, 2003)
This teaching by Rev. Ellis is something that ‘resonates’ with me – I feel it contains truth. Similarly, the modern English translation of the language in which the Lord’s prayer was first spoken (Aramaic) also resonates with me – I feel it contains truth.
We are responsible for our part in the maintenance of our own relationship with God as we understand Him/Her/It regardless of what others (even Swedenborg) say is canonical. Either we accept that responsibility now or, I suppose, have it retroactively facilitated when we get to the Other Side.
God works through people, and, we all get to choose how we will use whatever comes to us through others in each of our present moments. I recommend listening for the real meaning in what others say – followed by a humble prayer request for guidance. And then, I recommend consulting in ourselves with that “pressure of will from something pleasurable which is interiorly in meditation as its life” to ‘hear’ the guidance in each questionable moment.
Here are a couple of germane parting thoughts from my favorite revelator to wrap this article up.
“God loves each and every human being, and because He cannot do good to them directly but only indirectly by means of other people, He therefore breathes into people His love.” (Swedenborg, 1988, TCR 457)
“… the Holy Spirit, is not transferred from person to person, but from the Lord through person to person.” (Swedenborg, 1914, Canons 36)
Boehme, J. (1624). The supersensual life (W. Law Trans.). Retrieved February 8, 2007, from
Christ, J. (circa 31 ADish). The Lord’s Prayer: Translations from Aramaic, Origins and History of the Lord’s Prayer. The Nazarene Way of Essenic Studies. Retrieved December 6, 2009 from http://www.thenazareneway.com/lords_prayer.htm
Ellis, S. (2003). Hearing the voice of God in the silence. Our Daily Bread. Retrieved December 6, 2009 from http://www.swedenborg.org/odb/sermon_detail.cfm?sermonID=3530
Swedenborg, E. (1914). Canons. J. Whitehead (Trans.). Retrieved August 13, 2009, from http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/can/can01.htm (Original work written in 1769) Canons
Swedenborg, E. (1969). Divine love and wisdom. C. & D. H. Harley (Trans.). London : The Swedenborg Society. (Original work published 1763) DLW
Swedenborg, E. (1988). True Christian religion. J. Chadwick (Trans.). London: The Swedenborg Society. (Original work published 1771) TCR
Swedenborg, E. (2007). Arcana coelestia. J. F. Potts (Trans.). Etext prepared by T. D. Webber 2007) Retrieved August 14, 2009, from http://www.sacred-texts.com/swd/ac/index.htm (Original work published 1749-56). AC