Saturday, March 9, 2013

The Spiritual Beatitudes

One of the highest teachings of Christianity comes from what is known as the beatitudes, with which Jesus begins His Sermon on the Mount.  In His teaching, Jesus began to turn people away from hate, revenge, and self-pride, towards love, humility, and forgiveness. He turned people away from external appearance and form to an inner spirituality.  But what few people know, is that there is an internal spiritual meaning in the beatitudes themselves, as disclosed in the visions of Emanuel Swedenborg. Because if read literally, some of the beatitudes do not make sense. I think what prompted this is that I saw a posting which shows an inherent misunderstanding of what Jesus meant by "turning the cheek". That figure of speech - which most take literally - is part of the Sermon of the Mount, which begins with the beatitudes, so I decided to start at the beginning. So what are the beatitudes? Some say there are 8 beatitudes, but there are sort of 10 of them. They are as follows:
Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake. 
Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you. (Matt. 5:3-12)
So if you count, there are 8 beatitudes, followed by two more statements as a summary for a total of 10. There is a hidden symbolic parallel here: for as Jehovah gave the 10 commandments on Mount Sinai, so Jesus gives the beatitudes on the Sermon of the Mount.  What is hidden here, which many did not know at the time, is that Jesus is Jehovah in human form. Thus in the ninth statement He mentions "for My sake". Jesus centered His teaching on Himself. Which is why He is just not "another teacher" or "another prophet" as most likely believe. The reason why both revelations are given on a mountain is a mountain in scripture is symbolic of love, and the highest law is one of love. Thus the first four commandments teach of love towards God, and the next six love towards the neighbor. So lets go through the beatitudes:

Blessed are the poor in spirit, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven

A false reading of this is that Jesus is blessing those who are materially poor. But that is not what is meant here, for He mentions the "poor in spirit." That is, those who are spiritually poor. By that is meant those who lack spiritual knowledge. But it is not just those who are lacking in spiritual knowledge, it refers to those who are lacking in spiritual knowledge and know it, and yet desire to know more. And if you think about it, we are always spiritually lacking in knowledge. If we enter a state where we empty our mind, where we are receptive to learn something new, then the mind is ready to receive new spiritual truths. If one thinks one is learned and knows everything, they are shutting off their mind to learning and receiving spiritual truth. These spiritual truths are "the kingdom of heaven." When king and kingdom is mentioned in scripture, it is in reference to Divine truths, whereas when a priest is mentioned, it is reference to Divine love. Do not be proud of your own intelligence. Be ready to unlearn, and be receptive. Thus it is fitting this is the very first statement of the Sermon of the Mount, where Jesus begins to teach. That "rich" and "poor" have this spiritual meaning, and not a materialistic meaning, can be seen from the following passage:
Because you say, 'I am rich, have become wealthy, and have need of nothing' --- and do not know that you are wretched, miserable, poor, blind, and naked ---I counsel you to buy from Me gold refined in the fire, that you may be rich; and white garments, that you may be clothed, that the shame of your nakedness may not be revealed; and anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. (Rev. 3:17-18)
If you recognize that what you think you know is true, may be incomplete and perhaps even false, you have begun to open your mind. And when you recognize that gap, the mind is then receptive to have it filled. If you think you are better than others and know everything, you will stay stuck where you are.  But if you recognize that you may be blind to knowing the truth, it will lead you on a desire to seek the truth. It can be discomforting at the beginning, but it is rewarding and happy when you are led towards the truth.

Blessed are those who mourn, For they shall be comforted

Is this telling us to be sad so someone will comfort us? No. This may have been drawn from the following passage:
The Spirit of the Lord GOD is upon Me, Because the LORD has anointed Me To preach good tidings to the poor; He has sent Me to heal the brokenhearted, To proclaim liberty to the captives, And the opening of the prison to those who are bound; To proclaim the acceptable year of the LORD, And the day of vengeance of our God; To comfort all who mourn (Isa. 61:1-2)
This very passage was quoted by Jesus as having been fulfilled with His coming. "Mourning" is mentioned in several passages:
How long will the land mourn, And the herbs of every field wither? The beasts and birds are consumed, For the wickedness of those who dwell there, Because they said, "He will not see our final end." (Jer. 12:4)
The whole land shall be desolate; Yet I will not make a full end.For this shall the earth mourn, And the heavens above be black (Jer. 4:27-28)
"Mourning" is sadness often predicated of funerals - when the final end is reached, when one who is living is dead. This is the second stage. The first stage is when one recognizes that they are lacking in truth. The second stage is a period of sadness and discomfort, when one sees a general lack of truth in one's church or religion: what one thought was a living spirituality is in actuality a dead faith. Thus in the above passages the "land" or "earth" mourns, where land and earth spiritual means the church, in this case the church at its end when it is lacking in truth. For if one is blind, one is ignorant of the falsehoods, but once one recognized that one is poor and lacking in truth, this can be followed by a period of sadness.

Blessed are the meek, For they shall inherit the earth

If one takes this literally, one may take this to mean those that are humble will receive a plot of inheritence.  Again, "earth" or "land" in scripture is a symbol of the church; this is the spiritual meaning of the tribes of Israel entering the land of Canaan. This statement may have been drawn from the following passages:
But the meek shall inherit the earth, and shall delight themselves in the abundance of peace (Ps. 37:11)
Seek ye Jehovah, all ye meek of the earth, who have done His judgment (Zeph. 2:3)
Those who are humble in heart, not proud of their own self, shall belong in the kingdom of heaven. This is the third state, where separation is made between what is false from what is true, from the evil and from the good. This statement was most probably taken from Psalm 37, which also includes the following statement:
For evildoers shall be cut off; But those who wait on the LORD, They shall inherit the earth. (Ps. 37:9)
The first state is one recognizes they lack spiritual knowledge. This is followed by the second state, which is sadness and discomfort due to a general lack of truth. In the third state, there is separation from those who are evil and false. To follow this path, one must be humble in heart. If one is proud in one's self or ego, one will stay where they are and will not develop spiritually. Spirituality is not always the "happy path" (where I mean the easy way). It is the "opposite path." Go the opposite of where your own selfish love is leading you.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, For they shall be filled

In scripture, food is symbolic of love, and drink is symbolic of truth. To hunger and thirst is to desire good and truth. Thus in communion, one eats bread and drinks wine. This is a stage of conjunction between man and God, where God begins to dwell inside one's heart. Once a separation is made from what is evil and false, then as much as one desires good and truth, so God provides it from Himself from within you.

Blessed are the merciful, For they shall obtain mercy

In scripture, the word "mercy" is always predicated of God's love. God's mercy is often mentioned along with God's grace: the first speaks of His love, the second of His truth to those who in true spiritual understanding. Swedenborg makes an interesting distinction between God's mercy and God's grace:
"But there is a distinction in the Word between mercy and grace, and this in accordance with the difference of those who receive. Mercy is applied to those who are celestial, and grace to those who are spiritual; for the celestial acknowledge nothing but mercy, and the spiritual scarcely anything but grace. The celestial do not know what grace is; the spiritual scarcely know what mercy is, which they make one and the same with grace. This comes from the kind of humiliation of each, which thus differs. They who are in humiliation of heart implore the Lord's mercy; but they who are in humiliation of thought beseech His grace; and if these implore mercy, it is either in a state of temptation or is done with the mouth only and not from the heart." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 598.2).
So not everyone understands God's mercy. Those who understand it, know how much of a sinner they really are, how God has led them out of darkness and damnation. Thus the prayer, "God have mercy on me, a sinner." Out of love comes forgiveness. When we forgive others, God forgives us. For holding a grudge blocks the love in one's heart. At this stage, we let go of the past. And when we let go, we are free. It is interesting that Jesus mentions this in a later stage, as the fifth beatitude, for in the latter stages of spiritual development, love begins to be held as primary, whereas before truth was held to be primary.

Blessed are the pure in heart, For they shall see God

This is the stage where evils have been removed from one's heart, one's intentions in every deed and thought does not have a hidden selfish motive.  It is important, when one goes through the act of introspection and repentance, is to not just review one's deeds, but also to review one's motives and intentions. To "see God" does not mean that one will literally see God, but rather:
to see God is to believe in Him, thus to see Him by faith; for they who are in faith, from faith see God, since God is in faith, and is that in faith which constitutes true faith. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3863.9)
Thus the Lord said, Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.

The more selfish evils are removed from within, the more one is closely conjoined with God:
The Lord's conjunction with the man in whom evils have been removed, is meant by these words of the Lord: The pure in heart shall see God (Matt. v. 8): and by these: He who hath My commandments and keepeth them . . . We will come unto him and make our abode with him (John xiv. 21, 23). To have the commandments is to know, and to keep them is to love; for it is also there said, He that keepeth My commandments, he it is that loveth Me. (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Providence, n. 33)
The more closely one becomes with God, the happier that person becomes. And that is the meaning of the word "blessed." So how is one purified? It is by means of the Holy Spirit, through a life of faith and repentance:
The Divine power and operation which are meant by the Holy Spirit are, in general, reformation and regeneration; and, according to these, renovation, vivification, sanctification, and justification; and, according to these, purification from evils and remission of sins and finally salvation. These are, in their order, the powers which the Lord operates in those who believe in Him, and who accommodate and dispose themselves for His reception and abode; and this is done by means of Divine truth, and with Christians by means of the Word; for this is the only medium through which man draws near to the Lord, and into which the Lord enters; for, as was said above, the Lord is the Divine truth itself, and whatever proceeds from Him is Divine truth. But Divine truth from good is to be understood, which is the same with faith from charity; for faith is no other than truth, and charity is no other than goodness. By means of Divine truth from good, that is, by means of faith from charity, man is reformed and regenerated; also renovated, vivified, sanctified, justified; and, according to the progress and increase of these, is purified from evils, and purification from evils is remission of sins. (True Christian Religion, n. 142)
Blessed are the peacemakers, For they shall be called sons of God

This is the seventh beatitude, and corresponds to the seventh state of regeneration, which is signified by the Sabbath or the seventh day of rest.  This is a period of rest, a period of peace, which is different from the previous six states in which one was in combat with falsity and evil.  It is important to note here that the order in which the Lord says things has meaning: thus it is looking like the seven beatitudes closely correspond to the seven states of regeneration described in the seven days of creation of Genesis. Most take the first chapter of Genesis too literally, thinking it is speaking of the creation of the world, when spiritually it is describing how man is gradually regenerated to become spiritual - to finally become an image of God, or the son of God. I actually intended to discuss the seven days of creation or regeneration to conclude the series of blog entries on the topic of "Universal Order." This was somewhat of a surprising finding: my original intent was to just discuss the hidden spiritual meaning behind the beatitudes. For most people take it literally, and do not see the spiritual meaning behind the words. Swedenborg stated that very few people ever reach this seventh state in the process of regeneration.

Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness' sake, For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you, and say all kinds of evil against you falsely for My sake.

Rejoice and be exceedingly glad, for great is your reward in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

I am grouping the last or eighth beatitude with the final two summary statements, for they all seem related. What is interesting here, is that the eighth beatitude repeats the phrase of the first beatitude: For theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Once separation from the evil takes place, and one becomes purified and living for the good under God's will, expect hatred and opposition from those who are in their selfish desires and have not followed a spiritual path. For the evil have an inherent opposition to the good. There are just people who are just plain unhappy and negative, and just hate to see someone with a smile on their face. And no one likes their own sinful habit to be declared wrong. This opposition is more intense when one discovers that they were born and raised in a false religion, or for those who join a cult and then leave it. In the way the evil rejected Jesus, expect the same. With the repetition of the phrase of the first beatitude, the hidden truth here is the cycle will repeat: for the process of regeneration is in fact never complete. It will repeat, but at a higher spiritual level: and the greater the love, the greater the temptation. If one is in falsity with a group of people, and then one withdraws from that falsity or evil, expect hatred from those who you thought were your friends. It is a hard break to make. With the conclusion of the beatitude, other portions of the Sermon on the Mount then talk about of how to deal with those who are evil.

Hopefully I have shown that there is an inner spiritual meaning to scripture, which is hidden from those who just make a cursory reading of scripture. The order in which things are mentioned, and their context, are important. If interpreted literally, one can misinterpret the beatitudes. If interpreted spiritually, one can see that Jesus is putting forth a spiritual path for all of us to follow.  And I feel I have not completely covered the meaning of the beatitudes, it seems there is more to find in these beautiful statements. It is something to meditate about, for the Word can open the mind to further spiritual matters.

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