Monday, November 28, 2011

Fear, Forgiveness, and Freedom

To forgive is an act of love, and, is liberating and healing to both the giver and the receiver. Today's Course Workbook lesson makes this point. So, too, does Swedenborg correlate the doing of good from God and the spiritual practice of loving-kindness with true freedom.

"Fear binds the world. Forgiveness sets it free." (A Course In Miracles, W-332)

"The ego makes illusions. Truth undoes its evil dreams by shining them away. Truth never makes attack. It merely is. And by its presence is the mind recalled from fantasies, awaking to the real. Forgiveness bids this presence enter in, and take its rightful place within the mind. Without forgiveness is the mind in chains, believing in its own futility. Yet with forgiveness does the light shine through the dream of darkness, offering it hope, and giving it the means to realize the freedom that is its inheritance." (A Course In Miracles, W-332.1)

"We would not bind the world again today. Fear holds it prisoner. And yet Your Love has given us the means to set it free. Father, we would release it now. For as we offer freedom, it is given us. And we would not remain as prisoners, while You are holding freedom out to us." (A Course In Miracles, W-332.2)

“When… the internal [part of a person] conquers… then liberty itself and rationality itself are given to a person by the Lord; for the person is then withdrawn by the Lord from infernal freedom, which in itself is slavery, and is brought into heavenly freedom, which in itself is freedom itself…” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 145:4)

“A life of freedom, or freedom, is simply and solely being led by the Lord.…” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 892)

“…In a word, freedom consists in doing good from the Lord; and slavery in doing good from oneself….” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Apocalypse Explained 774:4)

“… there is no other means of loving the Lord than loving-kindness, because the Lord is in it. The affection of loving-kindness is heavenly affection itself, which is from the Lord alone.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 4776)

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Let me attempt therefore to try...

Today's A Course In Miracles Workbook lesson:

"I need but call and You will answer me." (ACIM, W-327)

“I am not asked to take salvation on the basis of an unsupported faith. For God has promised He will hear my call, and answer me Himself. Let me but learn from my experience that this is true, and faith in Him must surely come to me. This is the faith that will endure, and take me farther and still farther on the road that leads to Him. For thus I will be sure that He has not abandoned me and loves me still, awaiting but my call to give me all the help I need to come to Him." (ACIM, W-327.1)

“Father, I thank You that Your promises will never fail in my experience, if I but test them out. Let me attempt therefore to try them, and to judge them not. Your Word is one with You. You give the means whereby conviction comes, and surety of Your abiding Love is gained at last." (ACIM, W-327.2)

Quote from the writings of 18th century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg:

“… faith's sight is like one's seeing a bright cloud, and in the midst of it an angel who invites the person to him, so that he may be raised up into heaven. Thus does the Lord appear to those who have faith in Him…” (Emanuel Swedenborg, True Christian Religion 339)

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

An Effect of God

Today's A Course In Miracles Workbook lesson:

"I am forever an Effect of God." (ACIM, W-326)

1 Father, I was created in Your Mind, a holy Thought that never left its home. I am forever Your Effect, and You forever and forever are my Cause. As You created me I have remained. Where You established me I still abide. And all Your attributes abide in me, because it is Your Will to have a Son so like his Cause that Cause and Its Effect are indistinguishable. Let me know that I am an Effect of God, and so I have the power to create like You. And as it is in Heaven, so on earth. Your plan I follow here, and at the end I know that You will gather Your effects into the tranquil Heaven of Your Love, where earth will vanish, and all separate thoughts unite in glory as the Son of God.

2 Let us today behold earth disappear, at first transformed, and then, forgiven, fade entirely into God's holy Will.

Quote from the writings of 18th century mystic Emanuel Swedenborg:

“…every created thing, and especially people, and the love and wisdom in them, have reality and are not merely ideas of being. For unless God were Infinite there would be no finite; and unless the Infinite were the All there would be no reality; and unless God had created all things from Himself there would be nothing. In a word, we are because God is.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 46)

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Weed Warrior Yard Yoga

Pre-Op Picture

I've been getting in touch with my weed warrior nature lately. It's truly a remarkable meditation practice to allow the mind to freely create metaphors of meaning out of everyday chores like weeding. I don't want to recommend it TOO much lest I recommend myself out of work - so to speak. But weed warrior meditation really works (and puts a couples dollars in the pocket)!

I also coined the phrase 'yard yoga' to describe what I do. Lots of downward facing dogs and forward folds in the yard work business! And as always, the best pose is that final one - shavasana (corpse pose) when it's all over!

Before winter sets in I am hoping to search out and destroy a significant percentage of the local indigenous vegetative population. It's amazing how much fun it is for me to give someone's property a makeover - a kind of shave and a haircut if you will. I just placed an general advertisement in the local paper describing the kinds of work I can do and people call me for small, medium, or large personal property beautification projects and odd jobs. I have one customer who pays for x-number of hours per month and the rest only want enough work to keep me busy for 4-24 hours. The advertisement looks something like this:

"Looking for work – yard (I love weeding), office, driving, shopping, personal computer coaching, personal or executive assistance. No job too small. Also have a massage table – will massage (and I’m good). If you need help, please call me at (phone number) and let's talk. Thanks. ~ Jeremy Finkeldey"

I work fast and hard and do a thorough job according to my most recent customer. And wow! Are they happy when it's over! They get to walk in and out of their habitat with an entirely rejuvenated perception.

The picture above is a property I worked on today for three hours. It's only a partial picture of the total work accomplished. I only wanted to include before and after pictures so you could see what your place could look like. This is the approach to the front entrance to the house.

And here is the Post-Op picture.

I can weed the old fashioned way - by hand (slower but best in most cases). I can also use my electric weed whacker and a hundred or so feet of extension cord. I have a strong leaf blower (also electric) and an electric hedge trimmer. A sprayer, several hand tools and some supplies completes my weed warrior ensemble. If the lawn needs mowing, I have a great self-propelled lawn mower and can bring it if so ordered. I can work under your specific guidance and direction, or, you can just tell me what you want and trust that I will get it done as you like.

Contact me at my Facebook page if you are not too far away from Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania and need help with anything. Here's a link: Facebook Profile. Or you could try emailing me at this address.

Thank you!

~Jeremy Finkeldey, Yard Yoga Weed Warrior

Monday, September 12, 2011

9/11/01 Revisited (again)

Since I no longer own a television, I forgot (for most of the day) that it was the 10th anniversary of the 9/11 terror attacks. But while visiting a friend who had her image-making machine running on the evening of September 11th, 2011, I was once again exposed to presentations of our cultural propagandists. I saw the 9/11 images... again, the media frenzy... again, and, I saw the dream of perpetual fear-based violence... yet again. One source puts the 9/11 innocent civilian death toll at 2,977 - 2,606 of them at ground zero in Manhattan. Another source puts the post-9/11 death toll in Iraq and Afghanistan (civilian and military on both sides) as high as 919,967. The number of seriously injured in both 9/11 reactions is currently at 1,739,547 according to that source. Who do you trust for numbers like this? Does it matter?

Presuming these number are accurate, how does killing 919,967 additional people (mostly Iraqi and Afghan civilians) over a ten year period either make up for the 2,977 initial deaths OR prevent additional terror attacks?

Personally, I don't believe that killing makes up for killing regardless of the numbers - nor do I believe that terror prevents terror. It seems an obvious fact that terror only breeds more terror. Fearlessness is preferable.

Now that ten years has gone by since the dramatic 9/11 attacks perhaps it's time to get radical. Perhaps it's time to let it go and work for peace instead of war.
"The memory of God comes to the quiet mind. It cannot come where there is conflict, for a mind at war against itself remembers not eternal gentleness. The means of war are not the means of peace, and what the warlike would remember is not love." (A Course In Miracles, T-23,I,1:1-3)

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

D.T. Suzuki and “Suedenborugu” the Buddha of the North

By Jeremy K. Finkeldey

D. T. Suzuki (1870-1966)

In a 1954 meeting of religious luminaries, the internationally known 84 year old Buddhist scholar Daisetsu Teitaro Suzuki (1870-1966) is reported to have characterized the 18th century Swedish mystic and revelator Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) as the “Buddha of the North.” (Bernstein, 1996, p. xv) Suzuki’s preface to his own 1913 work on Swedenborg (entitled Suedenborugu) includes the following description of the Swedish mystic. Suzuki describes Swedenborg as a:
“Revolutionary in theology, traveler of heaven and hell, champion of the spiritual world, king of the mystical realm, clairvoyant unique in history, scholar of incomparable vigor, scientist of penetrating intellect, gentleman free of worldly taint: all of these combined into one make Swedenborg…” (Suzuki in Bernstein, 1996, p. 3)
Swedenborg (1688-1772)
Suedenborugu is a biography of Emanuel Swedenborg written by Suzuki to accompany his translations into Japanese of four of Swedenborg’s major theological works – Heaven and Hell in 1910 (“Tenkai to Jigoku”), The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrines in 1914 (“Shin Erusaremu to Sono Kyosetsu”), Divine Love and Wisdom in 1914 (“Shinchi to Shin’ai”), and Divine Providence in 1915 (“Shinryo Ron”). (Tatsuya Nagashima in Bernstein, 1996, p. x)

To most human beings on the planet both Swedenborg and D.T. Suzuki are probably relatively obscure - if they have even been heard of at all. Swedenborg is probably more obscure than Suzuki. So what could possibly be important to the modern world about the views and notions of a dusty old Zen Buddhist scholar and an even dustier and older Swedish mystic and revelator?

There are doubtless many answers to this question but I can only give you mine. The importance of the ideas of these two gentlemen to the modern world can be stated in one word – and that word is “peace.” I am referring both to inner peace and, its counterpart, outer peace. Most of the conflicts today and throughout history can be traced to conflicting belief systems.  Conflicts between differing political, economic, and religious belief systems have always created a profound lack of global unity and frequent outright bloodshed. The ‘holy war’ aspect of today’s global conflicts is not difficult to see and, when you think about it, today’s global conflict is really just a continuation of what has been going on since ancient times.

So this article is going to touch on the notion of peace through religious tolerance. Suzuki and Swedenborg are not just examples of religious tolerance – they are examples of vigorous scholarship, of the sublime revelation of the reality of spiritual unity or oneness, and of selfless service to others. The similarities of paradigm between the two are sometimes astonishing. Awareness of differences often creates conflict while awareness of similarities and commonalities creates a feeling of oneness and the peacefulness that goes with it. If I am another you I am less likely to pursue conflict and controversy – and more likely to seek clarification.

What could be further apart than the two cultural milieus, Asian Buddhism and Biblical Judeo-Christianity, from which Suzuki and Swedenborg respectively emerged? And yet let’s look at a quote from each on spiritual open-mindedness and the universality of true faith. First Suzuki’s interfaith mindset – in his 1913 Introduction to Suedenborugu he wrote:
“Surely religion bears fruit only from within, blooming naturally like a flower. So in response to the religious thirst in people’s hearts, it is necessary to introduce various creeds and philosophies from many places and have people choose according to what speaks to their individual tendencies.” (Suzuki in Bernstein, 1996, pp. 9-10)
This kind of open-mindedness to doctrinal diversity is typical of Suzuki’s approach to scholarship in general. To that end, the inadvisability of dispute over teachings is acknowledged in an 8th century document of Zen Buddhism called the T’an-ching (attributed to Hui-neng) in the Tung-huang Manuscript (paragraph 38) and is cited by Suzuki in his work The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind:
“… those who have the Dharma should devote themselves only to its practice. Disputes arise from the desire for conquest, and these are not in accordance with the Way.” (Suzuki, 1969, p. 10) 
And now from Swedenborg a longer description of the source of much of the conflict among humans in this natural world which is so often characterized by self-centered separateness. Swedenborg describes that source of conflict here in terms of ‘doctrinal dissent’. You will need to forgive the wordiness of Swedenborg in order to take in the whole concept. In his work entitled Secrets of Heaven, regarding the universality of true faith Swedenborg wrote:
“… In the Christian world it is doctrinal matters that distinguish churches; and from them people call themselves Roman Catholics, Lutherans, and Calvinists, or the Reformed and the Evangelical, and by other names [including Swedenborgians]. It is from what is doctrinal alone that they are so called; which would never be if they would make love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor the principal of faith. Doctrinal matters would then be only varieties of opinion concerning the mysteries of faith, which truly Christian people would leave to everyone to hold in accordance with his or her conscience, and would say in their hearts that a person is truly a Christian when he or she lives as a Christian, that is, as the Lord teaches. Thus from all the differing churches there would be made one church; and all the dissensions that come forth from doctrine alone would vanish; yea, all hatreds of one against another would be dissipated in a moment, and the Lord's kingdom would come upon the earth.” (Swedenborg, 1965, paragraph 1799:4)
The Lord’s kingdom would come upon the earth? Really?

Now I ask, can you imagine an earth upon which the Lord’s kingdom has come and where individual and group differences are respected? This is a very important visualization. If we cannot envision it, how can it happen? What does it look like? Does such a world, for example, include nuclear weapons, aircraft carriers, cruise missiles, AK-47s, and roadside bombs? Does it include greed-based poverty and starvation? Does the Lord’s kingdom on earth include corporate irresponsibility and environmental destruction? Does it include the fossil fuel-based internal combustion engine? Does it include ANY non-sustainable living practices? Does it include racism, bigotry, and gender-based discrimination and the inequality of opportunity that comes from those? Does it include a criminal justice system which is nothing more than an environment of hopelessness and despair in which criminals can only develop their crime skills? There’s more but you get the picture. Of course it includes none of the above. Why?

Because, those things are all fear-based and conflict-prone, and in the Lord’s kingdom there is nothing to fear or to fight about. Conquest is not in accordance with the Way. If we all are ever able to finally understand that inner peace is the cause of outer peace – and practice it – then the Lord’s kingdom will ‘come upon the earth’. We will have achieved Gandhi’s maxim – “You must be the change you wish to see in the world.”

So how can these learned and venerable ones help us achieve some inner peace? Let’s compare a few notes.

Suzuki’s studies of Swedenborg revealed to him that the essence of heaven is innocence. He wrote in his 1924 article Suedenborugu: Sono Tenkai to Tarikikan (Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “Other Power”) that:
“… the essence of heaven is innocence… and… this innocence cannot be achieved through ordinary knowledge, it must be reached through a perfect enlightenment beyond knowledge. What I call enlightenment is the perception that we cannot independently achieve good separate from the Lord God in heaven. Without this perception we cannot attain innocence.” (Suzuki in Bernstein, 1996, p. 81) 
Keeping in mind that one of the common dynamics of Buddhist meditative practice is the silencing of our own thought through various means, please notice the very Buddhist quality of this next excerpt on innocence from the same 1924 Suzuki article. He says:
‎"... innocence... spontaneously floods the inner life when we completely give up our own thoughts. Doing good, we do not think it is good." (Suzuki in Bernstein, 1996, p. 78)
Is there anything in Swedenborg’s writings analogous to Suzuki’s method of silencing self-thought? How about this quote from one of the works of Swedenborg that Suzuki actually translated into Japanese – from Divine Love and Wisdom (“Shinchi to Shin’ai”):
“… when the mind is in affection for understanding, and through that comes into perception of truth, the person is then in the thought of the spirit, which is meditation. This passes, indeed, into the thought of the body, but into silent thought; for it is above bodily thought… 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, 1999, paragraph 404:8, emphasis added)
So, the non-theistic Buddhist scholar Suzuki has just used the expression that “we cannot independently achieve good separate from the Lord God in heaven.” We should at least note in passing that this in itself is a fairly remarkable thing for a person steeped in a non-theistic culture and formal training to say. Swedenborg takes this idea even further. In another work translated into Japanese by Suzuki, Divine Providence (“Shinryo Ron”), Swedenborg wrote:
"The appearance is that man is led and taught of himself; but the truth is that he is led and taught by the Lord alone.…Those… who confirm in themselves the appearance and also the truth … the Lord raises… up from their proprium which is in the appearance [the term ‘proprium’ means ‘what is a person’s own’]... and He enables them to perceive interiorly that they are not led and taught of themselves, but by Him.” (Swedenborg, 1949, paragraph 154:1-2)
‘Led and taught by the Lord alone’ inspires in me a rhetorical question – to what degree do each of us interiorly perceive this experience of being led and taught by the Lord alone? Swedenborg suggests that we need to ‘confirm’ BOTH the appearance AND the truth in order to be elevated above our selfishness (or proprium) and gain this interior perception. I know, I know… just meditate on it when you get a chance.

And does Swedenborg stop there? An example of the complete intimacy of our connection with God is described by Swedenborg in a section of his work entitled Secrets of Heaven or ‘Arcana Coelestia’ (paragraph number 1954:1-2). It is too long to give here in full but it is worth the read if you can get your hands on it (try here). It’s about the phenomenon of ‘influx’, or inflowing experience from the Lord, as it relates to physical sight. The gist of it is that, as we look around and see things, the experience is totally that we are the ones doing the seeing – and yet that is a total illusion. In fact, it is not we who are doing the seeing at all but the Lord. Here’s part of the citation:
“… it is the Lord who sees through the internal person, and He is the Only One who sees because He is the Only One who lives, and He it is who gives a person the ability to see, and this in such a manner that it appears to him as if he saw of himself. Such is the case with influx.” (Swedenborg, 1965, paragraph 1954:1-2)
This would be a very radical, possibly entirely unacceptable, idea to most people today. To D. T. Suzuki, a calm mind was all that was required to make a scholarly study of Swedenborgian ideas. He wrote:

"Swedenborg’s religious philosophy is unfathomably deep; and since it is fairly difficult to grasp, few people have made a scholarly study of it. However, when you carefully read his seemingly absurd writing with a calm mind, you find that many elements become rather difficult to dismiss.” (Suzuki in Bernstein, 1996, p. 77)
Perhaps the leading authority today on the subject of the similarities between Buddhism and Swedenborgian doctrine is Dr. David R. Loy. Loy, who earned his Ph.D. in philosophy at the University of Singapore (and until recently was a professor on the Faculty of International Studies at Bunkyo University in Chigasaki, Japan), has made a dialog between Christian and Buddhist ideas a central facet of his career (Loy, 2000, p. 321). In an article The Dharma of Emanuel Swedenborg: A Buddhist perspective, Loy offers a number of comparisons of Swedenborgian concepts to Buddhist ones (Loy, 1995). The following table illustrates some, but by no means all, of the comparisons Dr. Loy makes between the two traditions.

Comparative Doctrine According to Loy
 (Source is Loy, 1995)
Swedenborgian Concept(s) of:
Related to the Buddhist Concept(s) of:
The Self
No-Self (or anatman) p. 8, and the Five Aggregates (or skandhas), p. 9,
(Unwholesome) Love of Self
The delusion that there is a Separate Self, p. 11,
Use, Love, Faith, and Charity
Motivation by Good [Compassion], p. 12
Innocence of Wisdom
The Unselfconscious giving of a bodhisattva, p. 12
An angel
A bodhisattva, p. 13,
The unknowable Divine in Itself
Emptiness (sunyata), p. 16
The “Grand Man” of heaven
Interdependence and the metaphor of Indra's Net, p. 19
Enlightenment, p. 20
Evil and its self-punishment
Karma and Samskara (or habitual mental tendencies - the vehicles of karma), p. 21-22

The contents of this table is my attempt to summarize Dr. Loy's invaluable comparison of Swedenborgian and Buddhist teachings. These were initially published in 1995 in the journal of the Swedenborg Association entitled Arcana and again as an afterword in Bernstein's 1996 Swedenborg: Buddha of the North. The page numbers in the table are from the Swedenborg Association version of the article. I cannot do justice to Loy's work here so I recommend you take the time to read it for yourself. You can find it online at the link given below in the references section or read it in your copy Bernstein's work.

I would like to briefly look at one of the comparisons here before closing.

Self and No Self

Loy says it well in his article when he describes Swedenborg's notion of 'self' in this way"
“Swedenborg agrees that the self (his Latin term is proprium, literally "what belongs to oneself"…) is an illusion…. For Swedenborg too the self is better understood as an economy of forces, although for him these forces are spiritual, that is, spirits. Good spirits (angels) and bad spirits (demons) are always with us, and their influence accounts for much of what we understand as our mental and emotional life.” (Loy, 1995, p. 8)
The spiritual associations we all have according to Swedenborg are entirely necessary to the existence of the illusion we call 'self.' These spiritual associations change during the course of our life to correspond with our mental and emotional changes of state. As we develop spiritually, we are gradually given what Swedenborg terms a 'heavenly proprium.' In Swedenborg's work Arcana Coelestia or Secrets of Heaven he writes:
In order therefore that a person may receive an Own that is heavenly, he [or she] must do good of himself, and think truth of himself; but still must know, and when reformed must think and believe, that all the good and all the truth are from the Lord, even as to the very least of all (and this because it is so)… Yet a person is allowed to suppose that she acts from herself in order that good and truth may become as if they were her own.” (Swedenborg, 1965, paragraph 2883)
It may only be a translator's distinction (and not in Swedenborg's original Latin) but I still find it interesting that the word 'Own' (which Swedenborg used interchangeably with 'proprium') is capitalized in this quote when associated with 'heavenly.' This is suggestive of the idea that the regenerated or enlightened self is more divine than it was in its former state. Perhaps the most concise Swedenborgian description of this process is in the work on Divine Providence:
“The more closely one is conjoined to the Lord the more distinctly does he seem to himself to be his own, and the more plainly does he recognize that he is the Lord's.” (Swedenborg, 1949, paragraph 42)
So this illusion of self is actually enhanced through the enlightenment or regenerative process rather than dispensed with - and, the enhancement is twofold in opposite 'directions'! Please see the earlier citation above from Divine Providence (paragraph 154) for additional clarification regarding the 'appearance' and the 'truth' about this illusion. 

By 'no self' Buddhists tend to mean 'no separate self' in an acknowledgement of the interconnection of all things. In this, Swedenborg and the Buddhists are in complete agreement. Any Buddhist would doubtless agree that there is something, however illusory and unreal, to which we say "I." Buddhists and Swedenborg agree on the Oneness aspect of interconnection and interdependence. This interconnection of all things speaks to the way in which Swedenborg would describe the Lord's kingdom as a 'kingdom of uses.' The idea of use or useful endeavor is not lost on the Buddhists either. In his work entitled The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind D. T. Suzuki wrote: 
"Hands are no hands, have no existence, until they pick up flowers and offer them to the Buddha; so with legs, they are no legs, non-entities, unless their Use is set to work, and they walk over the bridge, ford the stream, and climb the mountain." (Suzuki, 1969, p. 42)
Suzuki, having translated four major works of Swedenborg into Japanese almost 50 years earlier, was certainly thoroughly familiar with Swedenborg's doctrine of use at the time of his writing The Zen Doctrine of No-Mind. Loy's comparison (Loy, 1995, p. 19) of Swedenborg's "Grand Man" of heaven doctrine (apologies for the gender bias) and the holographic metaphor of "Indra's Net" also illustrates similarities in the notions of interconnection and interdependence. 

Being the Change 

What is the significance of the self/no-self doctrines in Swedenborg and Buddhism? If the interconnection and interdependence of all things is as intimate as Swedenborg and the Buddhists suggest it is, and if outer peace is truly a manifestation of inner peace, then doesn't personal unilateral action for peace make sense? We can, as Gandhi suggested, be the change we would like to see in the world by 'thinking globally' and 'acting locally.' By 'locally' I am referring to our inner 'self'. First, we can accept that validity exists in all of the world's spiritual traditions and we can make it our purpose to seek and find the good in all things. This means and end to contention based on differing teachings and viewpoints. Next, we can stop coming from ego and fear and the sick need to be right and to make others wrong. We can come instead from love and a desire for connection and peace. And finally when others want to seek controversy, argumentation, and conflict, we can go to a quieter place within and practice some simple Buddhist meditative techniques for stilling the mind and calming negative emotion. We can facilitate our own inner peace and model that for others to see.

And what would happen if everybody did it...?


~Bernstein, A. trans. (1996). Swedenborg: Buddha of the north (Including a translation of “Suedenborugu” [Swedenborg] and “Suedenborugu: Sono Tenkai to Tarikikan” [Swedenborg’s View of Heaven and “OtherPower”] by D.T. Suzuki, and, an Afterword: The Dharma of Emanuel Swedenborg: A Buddhist perspective by David Loy). West Chester, PA: Swedenborg Foundation.
~Loy, D. R. (1995). The Dharma of Emanuel Swedenborg: A Buddhist perspective. Arcana (Journal of the Swedenborg Association) 2(1). 5-31. Retrieved 3/28/07 from
~Loy, D. R. (2000). David Loy Interview. Buddhist-Christian Studies 20(1). 321-323. Retrieved 3/28/07 from
~Rojanaphruk, P. (n.d.). Spirits in a Material World: David Loy on Re-evaluating Religion. The Nation. [Electronic version]. Retrieved 3/28/07 from
~Suzuki, D. T. (1935). Manual of Zen Buddhism. Kyoto, Japan: Eastern Buddhist Society. ~Suzuki, D. T. (1949). Essays in Zen Buddhism (First Series). New York, NY: Grove Press.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1956). Zen Buddhism: Selected writings of D. T. Suzuki. (Ed. William Barrett). Garden City, NY: Doubleday & Company, Inc.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1957). Mysticism: Christian and Buddhist. New York: Harper & Brothers Publishers.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1959). Zen and Japanese culture. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1963). Outlines of Mahayana Buddhism. New York, NY: Schocken Books.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1964). An introduction to Zen Buddhism (With a foreword by Carl Jung) New York, NY: Grove Press.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1968). On Indian and Mahayana Buddhism. (Ed. Edward Conze). New York, NY: Harper & Row, Publishers.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1969). The Zen doctrine of no-mind: The significance of the sutra of Hui-neng (Wei-lang). (Ed. Christmas Humphreys). York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
~Suzuki, D. T. (1972). Living by Zen: A synthesis of the historical and practical aspects of Zen Buddhism. York Beach, ME: Samuel Weiser, Inc.
~Swedenborg, E. (1949). Divine providence. Wm. Dick & E. J. Pulsford (Trans.). London: The Swedenborg Society. (Original work published 1764)
~Swedenborg, E. (1965). Arcana coelestia (Secrets of heaven). J. F. Potts (Trans.). New York: Swedenborg Foundation. (Original work published c. 1749-1756)
~Swedenborg, E. (1999). Divine love and wisdom. N. B. Rogers (Trans.). Bryn Athyn, PA: General Church of the New Jerusalem. (Original work published 1763)

Copyright @ 2011 Jeremy K. Finkeldey; All rights reserved.

Thursday, April 21, 2011

We Are All – Works In Progress

By Jeremy K. Finkeldey
I let go of my television habit one year ago this coming May 1st so I am out of touch with the ‘reality’ of world news. I know there was an earthquake in Japan and the president’s name is Obama and my daughter lives in California and my son in Ottawa and my other son in Holland, PA. I still know basically everything I need to know. And yet it’s strange how different life is without that steady diet of media that is based on fear, guilt, greed, power, partisan political conflict, and human control – and, all the other things ego is attracted to.

I won’t lie and tell you “oh, the lights have really come on for me since I eliminated TV and I feel like such a better, more healthy, person… etc.” Stopping TV addiction does not, in itself, eliminate ego or its attendant misery. The truth is, of course, that other forms of ego have managed to slip in and fill the gaps created by my practice of non-TV. But I have faith in the idea. It’s a simple idea – I am what I consume physically, mentally, and spiritually. If I am willing to cooperate with the Holy Spirit in terms of what I consume (and what I do with what I consume), I will eventually get back to awareness of the truth that, as A Course In Miracles states, “I am as God created me.” (A Course In Miracles, W-110) This very important teaching from A Course In Miracles goes on to say:
“… this one thought would be enough to save you and the world, if you believed that it is true. Its truth would mean that you have made no changes in yourself that have reality, nor changed the universe so that what God created was replaced by fear and evil, misery and death. If you remain as God created you fear has no meaning, evil is not real, and misery and death do not exist. 2 Today's idea is therefore all you need to let complete correction heal your mind, and give you perfect vision that will heal all the mistakes that any mind has made at any time or place. It is enough to heal the past and make the future free. It is enough to let the present be accepted as it is. It is enough to let time be the means for all the world to learn escape from time, and every change that time appears to bring in passing by 3 If you remain as God created you, appearances cannot replace the truth, health cannot turn to sickness, nor can death be substitute for life, or fear for love. All this has not occurred, if you remain as God created you. You need no thought but just this one, to let redemption come to light the world and free it from the past.” (A Course In Miracles, Workbook Lesson 110:1-3)
Sorry for the long citation but I just felt that every word of it was SO important and inspirational. Can you imagine a world in which ‘fear has no meaning, evil is not real, and misery and death do not exist’? Such a world DOES EXIST.  It is the product of spiritual practice. A Course In Miracles calls it the “real world.” Buddha called it “the Pure Land.” My favorite revelator, Emanuel Swedenborg, called it “the Lord’s kingdom.” In his theological work entitled Secrets of Heaven, Swedenborg explains that if we could all give up our ego-based need to be theologically ‘right’ and could instead “make love to the Lord and charity toward the neighbor the principal of faith… the Lord’s kingdom would come upon the earth.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 1799:4, emphasis added)

We are talking about a change of mind here.  In the real world, the Pure Land, the kingdom of God - everything is connected and we are all One. The change of mind is a shift in perception away from awareness of the ego’s world of separation and discord and towards an awareness of Oneness and accord. In a church service the other day (NewChurch LIVE), the teacher of God referred to the biblical book of Mark, in which Jesus Christ is recorded as having said:
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:15)
Now the teacher’s point was, what if Jesus Christ simply meant, “the Kingdom of God is very close. Change your mind and believe in this good news”?

So I did some digging and here’s what I came up with. The Latin root from which the word “repent” is derived (“poenitere”) means to ‘feel regret’. But is that really what Jesus Christ meant when he supposedly said “repent”? The kingdom of God is at hand. Feel regret, and believe in the gospel? I don’t think so. I like the NewChurch LIVE teacher of God’s interpretation.

First of all, He wasn’t speaking Latin at the time. Secondly, what He supposedly said He said in Aramaic which was then recorded in Greek. The Greek that was translated as “repent” was the word “metanoia.” Metanoia means “change your mind.” I’m thinking there is considerable room for meaning to get lost in the translation if it goes from Aramaic to Greek to Latin and finally to English!

According to A Course In Miracles, guilt (or feeling regret) is counter-productive when you are trying to change your mind and shift your perception in the direction of the real world. Guilt reinforces error.
“…  "sin" … cannot be undone by repentance in the usual sense, because this implies guilt. If you allow yourself to feel guilty, you will reinforce the error rather than allow it to be undone for you.” (ACIM, T-5, VII, 5:2-5)
This shift in perception from the illusory world of the ego to the real world of Oneness is what A Course In Miracles means in its use of the word “miracle.” A miracle is a shift in perception that reminds you that you are “as God created you.”

Can you look at your experience and see how this works? I have discussed this with many people. Some get it right away but others have a very hard time seeing guilt as being counter-productive. They feel sure that the miracle of guiltlessness and of seeing yourself currently being “as God created you” will turn you into a sociopath without a conscience. This comes from the fairly standard Christian teaching that feeling bad about yourself will inspire you to change. This turns out to be false. At best, guilt might get your attention for a little while but never enough to actually facilitate the change. It’s way more likely that guilt will grow to become shame than that it will help you to change your mind. Here is one Course student’s take on the subject of changing your mind. Here’s Lisa:

But, as Course teacher Marianne Williamson says:
“Some people… would rather die than change their minds….” (Williamson, A Return To Love, p. 237)
Fortunately “conscience” does not equal “guilt.” Conscience equals reality-based change.
Also, 18th century mystic Swedenborg would advise us to work against the perception and belief that we are the ones doing the positive change. The reality, he says in so many words, is that the Lord is the ‘doer.’ We are works in progress and the Lord is supervising and performing the construction project of us.
In regard to each of us as ‘individuals’, Swedenborg writes:
“… a person... is led by the Lord, and he takes no step into which and from which the Lord does not if by the hand... The Lord does this without the person’s knowing it, because if he knew it he would disturb the continuity of that process by leading himself.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Apocalypse Explained 1174)
And when it comes to the whole human race, he explains:
“… the human race throughout the whole world is under the guidance of the Lord, and… everyone from infancy even to the end of his life is led by Him in the most individual things and his place foreseen and also provided. [2] From these things it is clear that the Divine Providence of the Lord is universal because it is in the most individual things; and that this is the infinite and eternal creation which the Lord provided for Himself by means of the creation of the universe. Man does not see anything of this universal providence; and if he did, it could not appear to him otherwise than as passers-by see the scattered heaps and collections of materials from which a house is to be built; while the Lord sees it as a magnificent palace with its work of construction and enlargement continually going on.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Divine Providence 203:1-2)
We are all construction projects - Divine works in progress.

Schucman, H. and Thetford, W. (2007). A course in miracles: Combined volume. Third edition. Mill Valley, CA: Foundation for Inner Peace.
 Swedenborg, E. (1949). Divine providence. Wm. Dick & E. J. Pulsford (Trans.). London: The SwedenborgSociety. (Original work published 1764)
 Swedenborg, E. (1960). The apocalypse explained. J. Whitehead (Trans.). New York, NY: Swedenborg Foundation. (Original work written c. 1757-1759 and first published posthumously in Latin in 1870)
 Swedenborg, E. (1965). Secrets of Heaven. J. F. Potts (Trans.). New York: Swedenborg Foundation. (Original work published c. 1749-1756)
 The Holy Bible (NKJV). (1982). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Williamson, M. (1993). A return to love: Reflections on the principles of A Course In Miracles. New York: HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.

Copyright @ 2010 Jeremy K. Finkeldey; All rights reserved.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

On A Course In Miracles and Prayer

by Jeremy K. Finkeldey

You know, for all the greenhouse gases I am personally responsible for, you’d think I would get a little more global warming than I’ve been getting lately. No, I’m not looking to start a discussion around this controversy – at all. 

It’s just that I have been so busy lately that the only thing that could keep me at home and at the computer is this strange, extended winter we’re having here in the mid-Atlantic portion of North America. Today’s forecast – cold, overcast, heavy rains - Brrrr….. So, it has been a long time since I have made any blog posts and it’s high time I did. Maybe it’ll warm me up.

A Course In Miracles:

What I want to tell you about first is a new study group we are starting up here in my home town in the NewChurch LIVE building at 2790 Huntingdon Pike, Bryn Athyn, PA 19009. I am grateful to NewChurch LIVE for allowing us the time and space in which to have this small group. It’s a study and practice group of A Course In Miracles (here’s the group brochure). Our first meeting will be on Saturday, April 30th (2011) from 9:00 to 10:30 a.m.

For those of you who don’t know, A Course In Miracles is a course in changing the mind towards a greater awareness of the connection and Oneness we all share with each other and with God. This change in perception is the essence of what the Course defines as a ‘miracle.’ A Course In Miracles was originally published in 1976 and has garnered a global following. One decidedly Course-unfriendly website estimates exposure to A Course In Miracles to be in the neighborhood of 5 million people. The publisher of A Course In Miracles, the Foundation for Inner Peace, offers this description of how A Course In Miracles came into being.

From the scribe of it herself, Helen Schucman, we read:
"Psychologist, educator, conservative in theory and atheistic in belief, I was working in a prestigious and highly academic setting. And then something happened that triggered a chain of events I could never have predicted. The head of my department unexpectedly announced that he was tired of the angry and aggressive feelings our attitudes reflected, and concluded that, 'there must be another way.' As if on cue I agreed to help him find it. Apparently this Course is the other way." (Foundation for Inner Peace website)
Please click here for the Foundation’s description of what the Course is.

According to the Wikipedia article:
Since it first became available for sale in 1976, over 2 million copies of A Course in Miracles have been sold worldwide and the text has been translated into sixteen different languages. A Course In Miracles (ACIM) is widely distributed globally, forming the basis of a range of organized groups. The teachings of A Course in Miracles have been supported by commentators and authors such as Eckhart Tolle. However, due to ACIM's claims to "clarify" or even supersede some of the teachings of orthodox Christianity, the book has been judged negatively by some Christians."

In addition to Eckhart Tolle, other famous Course In Miracles-influenced personalities include prolific authors and educators like Dr. Wayne Dyer and Marianne Williamson. Perhaps a little less mainstream are Course personalities such as Gary Renard, Kenneth Wapnick, Gerald Jampolsky, the late Hugh Prather, Beverly Hutchinson McNeff, and many others.

Watch a YouTube video to get an idea of how a Course practitioner uses prayer in her life:

I didn’t realize what a traditionalist I was until I first encountered A Course In Miracles. Actually, I had a very brief and judgmental encounter with it in 1983 and rejected it out-of-hand. Then, about three years ago (circa 2007), it came back into my awareness via a friendship with yoga teacher Kathy Holmes who started a study group and included me in it. Having extensive theological training in the Swedenborgian faith, I initially had a great deal of resistance to my perceptions of what A Course In Miracles appears to claim. Especially the part about it’s being delivered from Jesus Christ Himself by ‘inner dictation’ to Helen Schucman. There were other theological doctrinal fine points that stuck in my Swedenborgian craw as well. But there was something powerful about the Course that kept me reading and digesting it while all along fighting it tooth and nail.

To make a long story short, when I learned to read and practice the Course for the psychology of it rather than its theology, I was able to get past that part of my ego which wants to fight and argue and be right about religion. Suddenly I was seeing abundant similarities between the ideas of my Swedenborgian training and Course ideas.

The Course itself states:

“Although Christian in statement, the Course deals with universal spiritual themes. It emphasizes it is but one version of the universal curriculum. There are many others, this one differing from them only in form. They all lead to God in the end.” (A Course In Miracles, Preface, ix)
And further:

“ A universal theology is impossible, but a universal experience is not only possible but necessary. It is this experience toward which the course is directed. Here alone consistency becomes possible because here alone uncertainty ends.” (A Course In Miracles, Clarification of Terms, Intro., 2:5-7, p. 77)

And finally:

“The ego will demand many answers that this course does not give…. in many forms. Yet there is no answer; only an experience. Seek only this, and do not let theology delay you.” (A Course In Miracles, Clarification of Terms, Intro., 4:1,3-5, p. 77)

In our quest for this 'universal experience' of God in our study group, we will perhaps look at some of the similarities between A Course In Miracles, Swedenborg's writings, and any traditions others may wish to bring as well.


So let's take a look at some of what the Course, Swedenborg, and a couple other sources have to say about prayer.

From a Course point of view, prayer seems to be less of a petition to God for a list of your perceived 'needs' and more of a meditative kind of communion. For example:
“The secret of true prayer is to forget the things you think you need… and let them go into God’s Hands.” (ACIM, S-1,I,4:1,3)
“Prayer is a stepping aside; a letting go, a quiet time of listening and loving… Prayer is an offering; a giving up of yourself to be at one with Love… Herein lies the power of prayer. It asks nothing and receives everything.” (ACIM, S-1,I,5:1,5;7:4-5)
Vietnamese Buddhist monk Thich Nhat Hanh would add:
“The foundation of prayer is mindfulness, concentration and insight. In the Christian tradition, there are people capable of praying like that, with mindfulness, concentration, and they call it the prayer of the heart." (Thich Nhat Hanh, 2006, on Prayer; Interview with Publishers Weekly Magazine)
Similar to the venerable little monk's view, Swedenborg, whom D. T. Suzuki referred to as the 'Buddha of the North', wrote:
“… prayers are according to the nature of a person's heart… [a person’s] life and prayers make one, and … a person continually prays when she is in the life of charity, although not with the mouth yet with the heart; for that which is of the love is continually in the thought, even when she is unconscious of it.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Apocalypse Explained 325)
Very similar in meaning is the Course's assertion:
“Prayer is as continual as life. Everyone prays without ceasing. Ask and you have received, for you have established what it is you want.” (ACIM, S-1,II,2:4-6)
Lakota holy man, Black Elk, acknowledges in his prayer his connection to and relationship with everything:

“Hear me, four quarters of the world - a relative I am! Give me the strength to walk the soft earth, a relative to all that is!” (Black Elk, Oglala Lakota)

In much the same way that A Course In Miracles invites us to become aware of the Divine within each of us, Swedenborg made the observation specifically about prayer that in order to be heard and received by God (or the Lord) the must be 'from the Lord with' the person and not from the person (i.e. from the person's ego or external self:
“… worship which is from a person is not worship, consequently the confessions, adorations, and prayers which are from the person, are not confessions, adorations, and prayers which are heard and received by the Lord; but they must be from the Lord Himself with the person.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 10299:2)
In the Swedenborgian paradigm, the Lord shows up in the human mind in the form of good and truth conjoined - which is then expressed in prayer:
“… truths from good… are the things in a person which pray, and the person is continually in such prayers when he lives according to them. That ‘prayers’ in the Word mean the truths from good which a person possesses, and not the prayers of the mouth, may be seen above (n. 325). (Emanuel Swedenborg, Apocalypse Explained 493)
Another way in which Swedenborg explains the dynamics of a prayerful relationship between a person and the Lord is as follows. Here we see that prayer is not necessarily a guaranteed personal pain reliever if the omniscient Lord sees that the person needs to go through the pain in order to develop spiritually:
“… the prayers of those who are in temptations are but little heard; for the Lord wills the end, which is the salvation of the person, which end He knows, but not the person; and the Lord does not heed prayers that are contrary to the end, which is salvation.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 8179)
That is not to say that one shouldn't bother to pray while 'in temptation' but should just remember that the Lord knows better than we do what we need spiritually. In fact, Swedenborg wrote:
“… in prayer from the Divine it is always thought and believed that the Lord alone knows whether it is profitable or not; and therefore the person submits the hearing to the Lord, and immediately after prays that the will of the Lord, and not his own, may be done….” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 8179)
It should be noted that the way God communicates with a person in the Swedenborgian way of seeing it is by means of good and true thoughts, and, 'something like a revelation' felt in the affections of the person praying. He wrote:

“… The Lord speaks with every person, for whatever a person wills and thinks that is good and true, is from the Lord.... With those who suffer themselves to be led away by evil spirits, the Lord speaks as if absent, or from afar, so that it can scarcely be said that He is speaking; but with those who are being led by the Lord, He speaks as more nearly present; which may be sufficiently evident from the fact that no one can ever think anything good and true except from the Lord.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 904:1)“Prayer, regarded in itself, is speech with God, and some internal view at the time of the matters of the prayer, to which there answers something like an influx into the perception or thought of the mind, so that there is a certain opening of the man's interiors toward God; but this with a difference according to the man's state, and according to the essence of the subject of the prayer. If the man prays from love and faith, and for only heavenly and spiritual things, there then comes forth in the prayer something like a revelation (which is manifested in the affection of him that prays) as to hope, consolation, or a certain inward joy.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Secrets of Heaven 2535)
Finally, I would just like to share three favorites on prayer. The first is from the Course which addresses why we should commune with God:
“Prayer is the medium of miracles. It is a means of communication of the created with the Creator. Through prayer love is received, and through miracles love is expressed.” (A Course In Miracles, T-1,I,11)

The next is from Swedenborg explain when we should commune with God - that is, every moment:
“By "daily" in the Lord's prayer is meant every moment….” (Emanuel Swedenborg, Spiritual Experiences 361)
Last but not least, from the biblical book of James (Jesus' 1/2 brother), what we all get from communing with God - healing:
“Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16)
There now, that wasn't so hard! A good way to spend a cold and rainy mid-Atlantic afternoon - reflecting and writing on prayer.