When You See the Abomination of Desolation Standing in the Holy Place

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READINGS

Matthew 24:8-18
8 “All these are the beginning of sorrows. 9 “Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake. 10 “And then many will be offended, will betray one another, and will hate one another. 11 “Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. 12 “And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold. 13 “But he who endures to the end shall be saved. 14 “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in all the world as a witness to all the nations, and then the end will come. 15 “Therefore when you see the ‘abomination of desolation,’ spoken of by Daniel the prophet, standing in the holy place” (whoever reads, let him understand), 16 “then let those who are in Judea flee to the mountains. 17 “Let him who is on the housetop not go down to take anything out of his house. 18 “And let him who is in the field not go back to get his clothes.

Arcana Coelestia 3652.
The internal sense of these words is as follows:

When therefore you see the abomination of desolation means when the Church has undergone vastation, which is the situation when the Lord is acknowledged no longer, and therefore when there is no love of Him nor any belief in Him; also when there is no longer any charity towards the neighbour nor consequently any belief in what is good and true. When these conditions exist in the Church, or rather in the area where the Word is, that is to say, in the thoughts of the heart though not in the doctrine on the lips, it is a case of desolation, and the circumstances that have just been mentioned constitute ‘the abomination of that desolation’. Consequently ‘when you see the abomination of desolation’ means when anyone witnesses such conditions. And what he is to do when he does witness them follows in verses 16-18.

SERMON

From a Logopraxis perspective everything in the Word provides us with a description of the spiritual or mental processes that are involved in the Word’s regeneration of the human mind. Sacred Texts unfold the inner life of the Logos or Word within the context of the development of the human spirit. In Logopraxis work we read the Text with purpose. We read it with a view to having the Text read us, in the hope that in being read, we might be able to read the circumstances of our external life so as to see them from a spiritual rather than a natural perspective. In those moments when this occurs our whole life becomes something much more integrated, which makes sense, for when life is viewed from the Word, and the Word is acknowledged to be the Lord, conjunction, integration and wholeness must be the result. It is to this world, the world of our minds that we seek to apply the truths of the Word in Logopraxis work.

I was struck by this statement in 3652.3…

Let him who is reading this take note means that these matters are to be thoroughly understood by those within the Church, especially by those who have love and faith, to whom the present words refer.

The point being made here is that what’s offered through the Text in this reading is something that needs to be “thoroughly understood by those within the Church” and I would suggest that this is because the process being described as, “when you see the abomination of desolation….standing in the holy place” and the instructions as to what is to be done in response, describes a process that is unavoidable for those who choose to engage with the Word as the basis for inner work. One of the things we find when we are working with the Word is that the very things we read of in the Text are brought into being through the very act of reading when our focus is on the application of the Text to life. This is in keeping with the teaching found in the first chapter of John’s Gospel where the creative power of the Word or Logos is described as bringing all things into being. So having read of the “abomination of desolation” we find ourselves being brought face to face with it as an inner reality if we choose to work with the Word in an effort to see what’s described there in our own life.

Seeing “the abomination of desolation…standing in the holy place” is a state of seeing the proprium active in our life where we had not seen it before. This seeing is from the Lord, for it is something that comes into view from our having read about it in the Word. So while it may be unsettling to see the abomination of desolation within us, it needs to be remembered that the whole process is being managed by the Lord as the Word and, if it is being managed by Him, we can be sure that what we are given to see through the work self examination is necessary so far as our eternal welfare is concerned. The Lord is interested in nothing else. What’s described in the Text is the process by which a change of state is effected in a church, and on the level of the individual, how we are moved on from an old church into a new church. By a church at the level of an individual is meant the understanding of the Word and the life that proceeds from this.

It is our understanding of the Word and the life from it that constitutes the “holy place.” This is regarded as a “holy place” while it is able to serve the Lord’s ends or the regeneration of the human mind. We know that our understanding of Word is, and will always be, something limited because we are finite beings. The result of this is that our understanding of the Word is constantly undergoing change as we move from a more obscure view of things toward a less obscure view. In the work the Arcana Coelestia we read that before the Lord the heavens are not pure (see below AC 633 & 7975) and that even the angels are being continually perfected to eternity (see below AC 2249.3). It follows that the state of everyone’s understanding of the Word is imperfect being filled with appearances and even falsities where appearances are not seen to be appearances but are believed to be truths. What’s remarkable is that the Lord is able to make these appearances and falsities to be as if they were “truths” for us so that good or innocence might be adjoined to them thus enabling the regeneration of the human mind to occur (see below AC 3207.3).

AC 633. The situation is this: No understanding of truth or will for good resides with anyone, not even with those who belonged to the Most Ancient Church. When people become celestial however, they do seem to have a will for good and an understanding of truth residing with them.

But in reality it is the Lord’s alone, a fact they also know, acknowledge, and perceive, as is the case also with angels. This is so true that a person who does not know, acknowledge, and perceive it has no understanding of truth and will for good whatever. With every man, and with every angel, even the most celestial, his proprium is nothing but falsity and evil, for it is well known that in the Lord’s eyes even the heavens are not pure,* and that all good and all truth are the Lord’s alone. But to the extent that any man or angel is capable of being perfected, he is in the Lord’s Divine mercy perfected, and receives so to speak an understanding of truth and a will for good. His own possession of them however is only the appearance. Everybody is capable of being perfected, and consequently of receiving this gift of the Lord’s mercy, in so far as the deeds he actually performs in life will allow, and in a manner consistent with the hereditary evil implanted within him from parents.

AC 7975. ‘And also a large mixed crowd’ means [truths and] forms of good that were not genuine. This is clear from the meaning of ‘a mixed crowd’ as non-genuine forms of good; for when ‘the children of Israel’ represents the genuine forms of good and truths that the spiritual Church possesses, 7957, ‘a mixed crowd’ going along with them means truths and forms of good that are not genuine. For the situation so far as those belonging to the spiritual Church are concerned is this: They possess forms of good and truths that are genuine, and they possess those that are not genuine. For a member of the spiritual Church has no intuitive perception of what is good and true; instead he acknowledges and believes that to be good and true which is taught by the teachings of his Church. This being so, he is in possession of a great number of truths that are not genuine, and also as a consequence desires forms of good of a similar nature since forms of good derive their specific quality from truths. For more about spiritual people, that a great number of truths in their possession are not genuine, see 2708, 2715, 2718, 2831, 2849, 2935, 2937, 3240, 3241, 3246, 3833, 4402, 4788, 5113, 7233; and that therefore the forms of good with them are not pure, 6427. Even so the Lord maintains in them forms of good which are as genuine as possible. He accomplishes this by flowing in through their interiors, 6499, at which point non-genuine truths and forms of good are separated from the genuine and cast to the sides. The latter are what ‘an extremely large mixed crowd’ means.

AC 2249.3 [3] The position with heavenly arcana is that although they lie beyond all apprehension, everyone nevertheless formulates for himself some idea of them, for nothing can ever be retained in the memory, still less enter any thought whatever, except through some idea, however this came to be formed. And since angels’ ideas could not be formed except from those objects that exist in the world, or from objects analogous to those in the world; and since at that time illusions arising from things that were not understood entered in – illusions which in the next life alienate the then more interior ideas of thought from the truth and good of faith – therefore much is said in this chapter in its internal sense, to dispel such illusions, regarding the conjunction of the Lord’s Human with the Divine and regarding His perception and thought. And when men read the Word those matters enter at the same time into the perception of angels in such a way that previous ideas that had been formed from alien sources and from scruples easily arising out of these are gradually dispersed, and new ideas are instilled which are in keeping with the light of truth that angels possess. This happens more among spiritual angels than celestial, for it is in the measure that ideas are purified that spiritual angels are made more perfect for receiving celestial things. It is well known that even heaven is not pure in the sight of the Lord,* for it is indeed true that angels are constantly being made more perfect.

AC 3207.3-4 [3] But it should be recognized that no truths with man, nor even with an angel, are ever pure, that is, free of appearances. Every single one is an appearance of the truth, but appearances are nevertheless accepted by the Lord as truths if they hold good within them. To the Lord alone do pure truths, being Divine truths, belong – for as the Lord is Good itself, so is He Truth itself. See however what has been stated already about truths and appearances of truth:

The coverings and the veils of the Tent of Meeting meant appearances of truth, 2576.
Truths with man are appearances steeped in illusions, 2053.
Rational concepts are appearances of truth, 2516.
Truths exist within appearances, 2196, 2203, 2209, 2242.
Divine good flows into appearances, and even into illusions, 2554.
Appearances of truth are adapted by the Lord as though they were truths, 1832.
In the Word things are expressed in accord with appearances, 1838.

What appearances are however becomes quite clear from those places in the Word where things are expressed according to appearances. But there are different degrees of appearances of truth. Natural appearances of truth are for the most part illusions, but when they reside with people who are governed by good they ought not in their case to be called illusions but appearances, and even in some respects truths, for good is held within them which holds the Divine within itself and causes them to be different in essence. Rational appearances of truth however are more and more interior. These occur in heaven, that is to say, they exist with angels who are in heaven; see 2576.

[4] To have some idea of what the appearances of truth are let the following serve by way of illustration:

i Man supposes that he is reformed and regenerated by means of the truth of faith, but this is an appearance. He is reformed and regenerated by means of the good of faith, that is, by means of charity towards the neighbour and love to the Lord.

ii Man supposes that because truth teaches, truth enables him to perceive what is good; but this is an appearance. It is good that enables truth to perceive, for good is the soul or life of truth.

iii Man supposes that truth leads to good when he lives according to the truth he has learned; but it is good which flows into truth and leads truth towards itself.

iv To man it seems as though truth perfects good, when in fact good perfects truth.

v To man it seems as though the good actions of life are the fruits of faith, but they are the fruits of charity.

From these few illustrations one can know in some measure what appearances of truth are. Such appearances are countless.

In Logopraxis we recognise that the regeneration of the human mind is directly related to the development of a person’s understanding of the Word. The process of development can be thought of as cyclic in the sense that our understandings of the Word cycle through a similar pattern as each phase of regeneration unfolds. The state of understanding that supports any given stage of spiritual development is finite and passes through a kind of “life cycle” and as such is in the end destined to pass away. This means that so long as a given understanding is able to support a given stage of regeneration it can be said to be “holy” but, when a way of understanding can no longer support the processes of regeneration then a point is reached when that state of understanding must be vastated in preparation for a new state of understanding so that the processes of regeneration can continue.

Every state of understanding over the course of a person’s regeneration will have something of the self (the proprium) present and active within it, this is unavoidable. While a state of the understanding of the Word is able to serve the Lord’s ends it is clothed in the innocence that comes with ignorance. This renders the proprium’s influence such as to be barely detectable. But when the state of a specific understanding for a specific stage of development has advanced the processes of regeneration as far as it can then a significant change in state is required. This significant change of state is facilitated through the exposing of the proprium’s presence in what we thought was a “holy” state. This exposing of the proprium is referred to in the reading as “seeing the abomination of desolation….standing in the holy place.” The question then is…

What to do…?

We cannot avoid the vastation of the old if we are to enter into the new. Thankfully the Lord as the Word provides us with instructions as to how to respond when we see “the abomination of desolation…standing in the holy place.” We are told that those in Judea are to flee to the mountains, he who is on the rooftop is not go down to collect anything from the house, and he who is in the field is not turn back to get his clothing. In general terms the Word is saying we are to remain in states of good or charity and avoid retreating into more exterior states belonging to intellectual things or doctrine. We might ask ourselves what this looks like in terms of the practical side of inner work. The key provided in the Text is a reference to Lot’s wife. In AC 3653 we are asked to see what is said in AC 2454 regarding ‘turning back’ and ‘looking back behind oneself.’ In 2454.5 it says that “turning back” or “looking back behind oneself” involves truths being turned away from good toward doctrine.

This appears to suggest that doctrine is a bad thing, and good is, well, a good thing. But this is not what should be taken from this statement. All truths have a use and that use is to give form to good, so that what is good might be seen and practiced. But good is only seen when truths are applied. This kind of application involves using truths as the basis for self examination and repentance, which, to be a spiritual practice, needs to be directed toward the affections and thoughts arising in our awareness. By good or charity in Logopraxis work is understood the practise of shunning evils as sins against the Word (AE 808.2 see also the little work Charity 1). Charity in this sense means the application of truths to the life of the mind. In order to be regenerated truths drawn from the Word have to be being applied in an effort to discern the quality of what we experience as our thoughts and affections. And we are to do this with a view to practicing repentance where and when that is required. If this is not happening, i.e. if self examination and repentance as it related to the life is the mind is not happening, then we do well to consider what we actually mean by the phrase, “living a spiritual life.”

When truths are orientated towards good or charity they are being used to support a life focused on shunning evils as sins against the Word through an actual practise of self examination and repentance. The admonition the Word offers when the “abomination of desolation” is seen to be “standing in the holy place” is to seek to be in a state of good or charity. This is what is meant by, fleeing to the mountains, remaining on the rooftop, and being in the field. We do this by looking to the Lord or to good, which in Logopraxis terms, is to continue to practise the Word by applying its truths to remain in a state of self examination whenever we are given to see the proprium at work in our life. This is how our attachment to what has become detrimental to our spiritual welfare can be seen in order for it to be loosened and thereby opening the way for new insights, or for a new church, or understanding of the Word, to be received.

There is nothing pleasant in being confronted with how our own self interest has been active in what we believed to be spiritual. Anytime we see the proprium’s activity for what it is, there is a tendency to dismiss it, or justify it in some way. This is because in such moments mental tension is created between the picture of the self we are attached to, or invested in, and call our own, and the picture of that same self that is provided through insights arising out of our work with truths from the Word. Truths, when applied to life, invariably show us just how opposed to the life of heaven this self is in terms of its attitudes, beliefs, and behaviours. This passage from Matthew’s Gospel points out that the way forward in those moments when we are acutely aware of the contradictions within ourselves is to remain in the image of the proprium the Word provides and not to minimise this through allowing that false self-image born of the proprium to dominate our sense of who we are. The Word is well able to carry us through states of contradiction and discomfort so that we might come to see fully what it is we are being given to see, if we are willing to work with it. The Word lifts us out of the false proprial self by giving us truths to see it and to the degree that we can be in these truths so to that degree we experience a new sense of self. In Logopraxis we have a saying, “the freeing is in the seeing.” The Lord in the Gospels says, “you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free.”

Any attempt to move away from a state of observing what’s arising in our awareness due to the light that truths provide for us, is to turn truths away from their application to the life of the mind and toward doctrine. Now this is not saying that doctrine isn’t important, it is. It is essential to spiritual life. However the kind of doctrine spoken of here is not the kind that is directed toward supporting a spiritual practice or good, but is the intellectualisation of spiritual things whereby they are separated from the real practical aspect of living spiritual life, this being the work of self examination and repentance. Doctrine that supports people to will truths into life through their practice directs truths toward good, but doctrine that doesn’t do this sinks truths into intellectual speculations that are devoid of life applications. Such a state is described as, Lot’s wife being turned into a pillar of salt.

Amen

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