Thursday, October 23, 2014

External Morality vs. Spiritual Morality - the effects of Atheism

In October, North Korea surprised the world by initiating high level meetings with South Korea, during the time that Kim Jong mysteriously "vanished" from the public eye:


There were no immediate breakthroughs, and the specific topics discussed were unknown. Yet the media was rather excited over the meeting. From One more twist in the mystery of the vanishing Kim Jong: Now his 'deputy' flies to South Korea offering peace talks:
The meeting allowed valuable contact between North Korea's authoritarian leader and senior South Korean officials after a year that has seen a steady stream of insults between the divided neighbors and an unusual number of North Korean missile and rocket test firings.One analyst called it a 'golden opportunity' for South Korean President Park Geun-hye to test North Korea's willingness to improve shaky ties
So what was the result of the talks so far?  Apparently, North Korea mentioned that they did not like a certain lighted Christmas tree in South Korea near the neutral zone, so they had the South Korean government tear it down since it was deemed to be "religious propaganda":


From South Korea pulls down 'Christmas tree' condemned by North as propaganda warfare:


South Korea has pulled down a “Christmas tree” on its border with the North after the totalitarian state threatened to bomb it as “religious propaganda”.
Christian groups had previously decorated the 60ft tower, near the city of Gimpo, with lights and topped it with a cross during the festive season.
But being only two miles from the border, it could be seen by North Koreans in nearby towns and was condemned as propaganda warfare.
Well maybe North Korea has a point. Because western media has engaged in propaganda warfare against North Korea.  One example is the upcoming movie, The Interview, in which two reporters are hired to assassinate the North Korean dictator, or even worse, Kim Jong singing "I'm so ronery" in the awful movie Team America: World Police:



Movies, such as these, are designed as propaganda, with very low level humor to reach the masses. For North Korea, unfortunately, caught in the middle of this political situation there is very intense persecutions of Christians in North Korea, which happens to be the worst in the world. This is also due to the fact that all North Koreans are forced to bow down and worship the leader of North Korea as god. Here is a documentary concerning their situation, in which many witnesses identities have been hidden for their own protection:



North Korea literally has a policy of torturing and executing Christians.

EXTERNAL MORALITY VS. SPIRITUAL MORALITY

The human rights records for North Korea, like all other atheist regimes, is very low. Compare with the millions who died under Stalin in Russia, and the millions of Chinese who were starved under Mao Tse-Tung. Why are human rights standards so low for atheist regimes? This is due to the fact that true morality is not just civil. True morality has as its origin a spiritual Divine that flows into us. When we cut off that spiritual Divine, then the love of self and power prevails. This is because the origin of all good originates not from our selves, our own egos, but from the Divine, who is Good itself.

Without acknowledgment of the Divine, morality becomes external, or is done merely out of the fear from punishment or opinion of others:
"All who are in the knowledges of truth and good, but not, conformably to these, in the good of life, may live a moral life equally with those who are in knowledges and through these in the good of life; yet their moral life is not spiritual but natural, because in their life they do not live sincerely, justly, and well from religion; and those who do not live well from religion cannot be conjoined with heaven; for it is religion that makes a man spiritual and conjoins him with the angels, who are purely spiritual. To live well from religion is to think, to will, and to do because it has been so enjoined in the Word, and because the Lord has commanded it; but to live not from religion is to think, to will, and to do from a regard solely to civil and moral laws. Such as these, since they have regard only to these laws, conjoin themselves to this world alone, for which these laws are; but the former have regard to the Lord, and thereby conjoin themselves to Him. Gentiles are saved solely by this, that in their life they have regard to religion, thinking and saying that they ought to do thus and not otherwise, because to do otherwise would be contrary to the laws of their religion, thus contrary to the Divine; and when they thus think, and act accordingly, they are endowed with spiritual life, which with them is of such quality that afterwards, in the spiritual world, they receive truths more readily than those Christians who, in what they do, give no thought to the Word, or to the doctrine of the church, which is from the Word. Those who do not think from religion do not have conscience, because they are not spiritual; consequently, if their external bonds, which are fears respecting the law and reputation, should be loosened with them, they would rush into every wickedness; while on the other hand, if external bonds, which are fears respecting the law and reputation, should be taken away from those who think from religion, they would still act sincerely, justly, and well; for they fear God, and are kept in a life of obedience and charity out of heaven from the Lord, to whom they are conjoined." (Apocalypse Explained, n. 107.3-4)
Thus those who make morality one of external appearance, or done for sake of avoiding punishment, or separate from religious life, are very much deceived.  True spirituality is one where an acknowledgment of the Divine is conjoined with one's morality, and from civil morality it becomes truly spiritual.  Truly spiritual morality is one where sins are avoided not from fear of punishment, but rather they are contrary to what is Divine, and should be regarded as sin from the truth that one knows. For the Divine flows into each one of us through our conscience. An even higher spiritual morality is one where it is done out of love for what is good and useful for service. How we are judged depends on the intentions of our actions. On this path, one prepares oneself to become a recipient of the Divine influx, which flows into us as a spirit into our heart:


Friday, October 17, 2014

God is a God of Life, not Religion

I tried to start a discussion on false principles that have invaded the Christian Church, and posted two blog posts in a Christian forum: Is the Trinity Three Distinct Persons? and The False Theological Definition of the word "Grace".  These two posts essentially show the false foundation on which most present day theology rests. Instead of discussion, the posts got immediately censored.  Not to be deterred, I tried posting A Prophecy of September 11, Radical Terrorism (ISIS), Russia and America in a Islamic forum, making it clear that I consider Islam a religion of peace. That got censored as well.

Both examples show a problem: how accepting a religion blindly can put one's mind in a box, a box that does not question the underlying principles. And to maintain one's "box" just any sort of self criticism is unacceptable. For most accept the truth on the basis of authority. One becomes mature when one learns to question religious teachings with one's own research, and determine if what one believes is true or not. I remember one time looking on the shelf, seeing a closed Bible. I thought, "I better open that book and find out if what the church is teaching is true or not." What I found is a core of truth, mixed in with many falsehoods. But it took a lot of searching.

The principle I took: most people who grow up in a religion never question it, and assume that the religion they grew up is the one source of truth. So when I thought about it, I thought, "And how do I know if the religion I have been told is true or not?"  Honestly I did not.  That Jesus was Divine, I knew to be true, but there were many other problems with the Christian Church. It had split into many factions. Most church goers go out of ritual.  There were many unanswered questions.

And the more I asked questions, the more I got, why are you asking questions? Asking questions are certainly discouraged. And then I discovered something very hard: there were a certain number of essential false assumptions in the teachings. It is at this moment, I began to get an uncomfortable feeling. Something was not quite right. I could not put my finger on it. Sort of like this:


And so, that led to a period of searching. It is said, Seek and ye shall find.  It is certainly true. For seeking, questioning one's assumptions, begins to open one's mind. But Jesus warned against false christs pointing here and there for the kingdom of God, for the kingdom of God is within us:


And when one begins to search, one realizes one must keep an open mind. This means always questioning one's assumptions. When you do so, it leaves the mind open for discovery.


There is always, of course, the danger of emptying one's mind a bit too much:


God is not an abstract nothingness. And religion is not just one of meditation. There is of course an invisible God, a universal energy, beyond our conception. God is good itself, and truth itself. While most religions believe in an invisible God, fewer reach the conclusion of a personal God - one that has a human form, that can dwell in our heart.


And this is where all paths of truth lead - towards the center of the heart. For how true a religious truth is is dependent on how applicable it is to use, service, life, and ultimately love itself.  But in order to reach love, one must first remove the roadblocks that we have created in our own self. When the roadblocks are removed, we are then ready to receive the Divine, and become His instrument.


Truth is universal. There are many ways to reach the end of the path, which is love:



Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Universal Philosophy of Good and Truth



The primary principle of the New Church is that everything in the universe is related to two principles: Good and Truth. There is no truth without its corresponding good, and there is no good without its corresponding truth. Good and truth become one in usefulness and service, this is a spiritual marriage. Each person is an image of Good and Truth in that each person has a will and an intellect. More accurately, each person is an image of God inasmuch as one does good by the truth that one knows. It is a universal principle: we can see it in atoms composed of the nucleus (substance) and electrons (form), all the way up to the human form, composed of male and female. The male tends toward the intellectual, the female tends toward the volitional, and together they complement each other and make one by way of marriage.

Religions, which emphasize faith alone, or belief only, or eastern philosophies which speak of meditation or enlightenment only, are not complete. One must address one's will, not just what one knows. It requires self introspection, an ability to acknowledge one's faults. Otherwise one's religion or philosophy is hypocritical. For truth without good, or truth divorced from good, becomes nothing:


Whether or not an act is good or evil, is dependent upon one's intent. One's intent or purpose is the will, the means by which one does one's will is the thought, the two become one in the outward act. This is also known as end, cause and effect. While science acknowledges cause and effect, it does not acknowledge intent or purpose, or end. The philosophy of Utilitarianism fails in that it does not acknowledge the intention of the act in valuing usefulness. One should not be deceived by external appearances, or seek to deceive others by external appearance. All outward actions are judged by intent: this is not only true in a court of law, it is also true in the afterlife:
"Angels do not attend to any other than internal things, that is, to ends, or to intentions and purposes, and to thoughts therefrom." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3489)
"All that evil which springs or flows forth from interior evil — that is from the intention or end of evil... — is contrary to Divine order; but that which does not spring or flow forth from interior evil, that is, from the intention or end of evil, though it sometimes appears like evil, still is not, if the end is not evil, since the end qualifies every act. For man's life is in his end, since what he loves and thence thinks, he has for his end; and the life of his soul is nothing else." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4839)
"It is to be known that the end is what determines the character of all the deeds of a man. If his end or intention is to do good for the sake of reputation, or to procure honors or gain, then the good which he does is not good, because it is done for the sake of himself, and thus also from himself. But if his end is to do good for the sake of a fellow citizen, or of his country, or of the church, thus for the sake of the neighbor, then the good which a man does is good, for it is done for the sake of good itself, which in a general sense is the real neighbor... and thus also it is done for the sake of the Lord, for such good is not from man, but from the Lord, and what is from the Lord is the Lord's. It is this good which is meant by the Lord's words in Matthew: Inasmuch as ye did it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye did unto Me (xxv. 40)." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9210)
I mention intent, as many have the habit of putting up a false external appearance. But appearances count for nothing in the other life. Intentions are important. It is also important to note, that good deeds for the sake of one's own self honor, or for self gain, are not good. If the intention however is to fulfill a good use, without regard to self, then the act is regarded as good.

CATEGORIES OF GOOD AND TRUTH, AND THEIR OPPOSITES

This insight, that everything has relation to good and truth, pervades all of the revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg in the 18th century.  In one of his earlier works, The Doctrines of the New Jerusalem, he begins with this principle that everything that exists is related to good and truth. From this simple principle, all doctrines of the New Church can be derived, and it is easy to apply them to one's life. For example:
"There are four kinds of men —
(a) those who are in falsities from evil, and those who are in falsities not from evil;
(b) those who are in truths without good;
(c) those who are in truths, and by them look and tend to good;
(d) those who are in truths from good. Each of these kinds will be spoken of in particular." (Doctrines of the New Jerusalem, n. 20)
Whereas people put on the same external appearance, internally each person is different, according to how their personality and life corresponds to good and truth. So lets start with category (A) above.:
"...there are two kinds of falsity, namely, the falsity which is from evil, and the falsity which produces evil. The falsity which is from evil is all that a man thinks when he is in evil, namely, all that favors his evil; as for example, when he is in adultery, what he then thinks about adultery, that it is allowable, that it is becoming, that it is the enjoyment of life, that the procreation of offspring is thereby promoted, and the like. All these thoughts are falsities from evil.
"But the falsity which produces evil is when a man takes up some principle from his religion, and believes therefrom that it is good and holy, when yet it is in itself evil. For example, he who believes from his religion that there is some man who can save, and therefore worships and adores him, does evil from that falsity; and so it is to act from any other religion which in itself is false." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2243)
See the distinction? The falsities produced from evil are the justifications people make to favor the sinful action they commit. Someone who commits a wrong and lies about it to cover it up. False gossip to put someone down in favor of your self. However there is falsity which produces evil: this occurs when people accept a falsehood as truth, and begin to act upon that falsehood. Examples of this are cult brainwashing, media propaganda, false religions, and false advertising. These are falsehoods that seek to produce some sort of evil. Thus the propaganda from media exerts a strong influence on what a society accepts as good or evil.

So what about category (B): those who are in truths but without any good. These are those who know the truth but do not do them. People who say they are religious but do not apply it to their lives. Those who think one just has to believe in order to achieve salvation. People who think they are better than others because they are intelligent. This category of people is different: since the truth is not conjoined with any good, the truths that they know tend to become dissipated and fall by the wayside, as they are not applied to life. Truth is only living from one's affection for what is good. However, one can take this and understand one's own spiritual progression, which occurs in 4 stages (see Heavenly Arcana, 3603.3):
1. One learns the truth, but is content only with applying it to others. Truth at this point is just knowledge contained in the memory. This represents category (B), above.
2. One investigates the truth on one's own, instead of accepting it on authority. This again represents category (B).
3. In the third stage, one now thinks about how the truth that one knows can be applied to use, that is, to one's life, and starts doing from what one knows. This is category (C), above.
4. In the fourth stage and final stage, there is an inversion of truth and good: whereas good was secondary, good now becomes primary. From the good that one does in one's life, one knows what is true - this is category (D), above. The best word to describe this stage is "wisdom," which is different from knowledge (category B) or intelligence (category C).
Most people are at the first stage, including those who consider themselves religious. Very few reach the fourth stage. The process of spiritual progression includes a period of temptation, for if one accepted a falsehood as truth and lives by it, it can take time to remove that falsehood, and false teaching can hold someone back from progressing further. All our actions are guided by our thoughts, and thoughts will fall into things that are true, or things that are false. Action and thought, again, are a manifestation of good and truth, which act as one.

APPLICATION TOWARDS ALL RELIGION AND PHILOSOPHY

This is a universal philosophy, and once one understands these simple principles of good and truth, one can use it and apply it to any religion, theology, philosophy, school of thought, or way of life.  It becomes easier to recognize one's own spiritual maturity in life, and it is easy to assess different systems of thought. It is universal. It is simple. It is so simple, yet insight after insight can be gathered from it. I have only scratched the surface of this teaching.

So the question one may ask, where is God in any of this teaching? That is the beauty of it: GOD is what is GOOD, God is what is TRUTH.  "Good" and "truth" are not just abstractions: they are God himself, which flows into every human being through our conscience and our thoughts. These principles of good and truth pervade all that lives, for God is life itself. These simple principles can be applied to everything that you know about life. Emanuel Swedenborg applied it in such a way that he could open up the hidden spiritual sense of scripture: for everything in scripture is about nothing but these principles of good and truth, and there are distinct Hebrew words used for each.

And what about Judaism and Christianity? In the Old Testament, the Divine Good is referenced as Jehovah (Lord), and the Divine Truth is reference as Elohim (God). In the New Testament, the Divine Good is referenced as the "Father" and the Divine Truth is referenced as the "Son." Those who believe they are two persons are very much in error: they are the two principles that pervade the universe, for it originates from the one who is the source of all good and truth. They are not just abstract concepts, nor are they mere aspects of a personality: they are God himself, and we are only in good and truth inasmuch as we receive Him.

Inasmuch as one is in good and truth, so far one can consider oneself to be truly human, and together all of humanity becomes part of the one Divine God Man: