Development of spiritual consciousness II


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Reading Gen. 5:18-24 – 6:1-8; AC 518, 519

Arcana Coelestia 518. Verse 22 And Enoch walked with God after he beget Methuselah three hundred years; and he beget sons and daughters.

‘Walking with God’ means doctrine concerning faith. ‘He beget sons and daughters’ means matters of doctrine concerning truths and goods.

Arcana Coelestia 519. At that time there were people who formulated doctrine out of what had been matters of perception in the Most Ancient Church and in the Churches that came after it, and this doctrine was to serve as a yardstick by which people could recognize what good and truth were. Such people were called ‘Enoch’, and this is meant by these words, ‘and Enoch walked with God’. They also applied this name to that doctrine of theirs, for this indeed was meant by the name Enoch, which is ‘instructing’. The matter is also clear from the meaning of the expression walking’ and from the fact that he is said to have walked, not with Jehovah, but ‘with God’. ‘Walking with God’ is teaching and living according to the doctrine of faith, whereas ‘walking with Jehovah’ is leading a life of love. ‘Walking’ is a customary expression to mean living, as in the phrases walking in the law, walking in statutes, walking in the truth. Strictly speaking, walking has regard to the path of truth, and therefore of faith or the doctrine of faith.


Last time we began looking at what the Heavenly Doctrines have to say on the spiritual development of the human race.  How they present the race’s spiritual history as a progression through similar developmental stages that every individual passes through over the course of their life, these being infancy, youth, adulthood and old age.  Our focus was on the first stage or that cycle called infancy which the Heavenly Doctrines also call the Most Ancient Church, where by church we mean an age or spiritual dispensation and not a denomination, organisation or building.  What we have in this four stage model is an archetypal pattern that can be applied on different scales of human existence.  On the smallest scale we can see it in our own lives, we all were infants and as long as our lives are not cut short we will all pass through youth, adulthood and old age such is the natural progression of human life.  Human institutions can also be viewed using this model, so can individual cultures within certain historical periods, and so similarly, but on a much larger scale we can divide the whole history of human existence and taking things a step further we find the same stages of development being applied to the spiritual history of the human race within the Heavenly Doctrines.

So in terms of the big picture, the spiritual infancy of the human race is called the Most Ancient Church, youth in the Heavenly Doctrines is termed the Ancient Church, Adulthood is termed the Hebrew/Israelitish Church and old age is termed the Christian Church.  Now the thing to be aware of is that each of these Churches or ages or dispensations also reflect the model and pass through their own stages of infancy, youth, adulthood and old age so that when one dispensation enters old age another is born and begins its life in infancy. This life cycle within the greater cycle of life means that there is an overlapping across stages of development that ensures that the human race is never left without some means of drawing a spiritual connection with what is higher so as to have a sense of the Divine present to human consciousness.

One way of understanding the stages of development that any particular spiritual age passes through is in terms how well the spiritual or religious ideas of an age are able to support the people of that age to see and experience the Lord.  The closer these ideas come to reflecting the Divine as He is the clearer will be peoples’ sense of His presence.  Now the clarity of ideas people hold are a direct product of the quality of the affections they possess for celestial and spiritual things.  Where there is a strong affection for higher things, and by strong affection is meant a high level of motivation to build ones life on what the Lord has revealed, then the ideas one carries of the Divine will be of a high quality or closer to being true than those who don’t have such a strong motivation to live from what the Lord has revealed.

The period of infancy of any church age is characterised by a strong motivation to be led by the Lord or to live from the understanding of celestial and spiritual realities that is available to human consciousness within a given period.  In the state of spiritual Infancy goodwill and charity predominate so there is a high level of tolerance for the spiritual and religious views of others even when those views are very different from ones own.  When love takes centre stage in spiritual and religious life people tend to focus on what they hold in common with others rather than the differences that separate them.  One of the things that marks the decline of a church age is a lack of tolerance between religions or doctrinal understandings and the eventual use of spiritual knowledge for selfish gain or other self-centred aims.  When this occurs old age has been reached and the death of a spiritual dispensation is imminent for when genuine spiritual knowledge has been twisted to serve the loves of self and the world its ability to connect people with a true sense of the Divine is lost.

The Lord foresees this and so ensures that what is needed is put in place so that a new sense of spiritual consciousness can arise and serve to maintain a connection between Himself and the human race.  What this means is that in the very laws that give form to and govern human spiritual consciousness there is provision for continual renewal of a sense of the Divine as the spiritual condition of the human race falls into decline.  So let’s look at the general pattern of this as it is described in the transition from the celestial age of the Most Ancient Church to the spiritual age of the Ancient Church, remembering that what is described in the Heavenly Doctrines on the large scale of humanity’s spiritual development as a whole, illustrates principles that are applicable on the individual scale of our own being as well. It is only as we study these things for ourselves and look to see them in our selves that their meaning can become personal and living for us.

Firstly it’s important to have a clear sense of the fact that all spiritual life issues forth from the Divine Itself and is received by an inward way into the human soul.  The human soul is understood to be the very core of our being, or that which is closest to the Divine and as such is the receptacle for the Divine’s inflow of life.  This life animates the spirit of a person which is experienced as a continuous stream of feelings and thoughts that make up their mental life.  These feelings and thoughts we experience form the seat of our conscious mental life and the nature of this inflowing life is such that the throughts and feelings we experience feel as if they are from us.  In fact, for the most part, we don’t reflect on this stream of conscious life we take ofr our selves.  But the Heavenly Doctrines make it very clear that the feeling that we are the source of our life is but an appearance for the Lord alone has life in Himself.  In other words life is a divine quality therefore only the divine possesses it.  What we have, along with every other created being is the appearance that we possess life in ourselves and this is how it must be due to the fact that we are finite beings and don’t possess Divine qualities in ourselves.  But this strong feeling that life is something intrinsic to us is given to us by the Lord so that we can have a sense of being, a sense of freedom and a sense of autonomy.

So the question arises, if the life that flows into us comes from the Divine and the Divine is goodness and love Itself why is it we find in ourselves what is contrary to what is loving and good?  Anyone who has reflected on the quality of their thoughts and motivations will have seen that the quality of their mental life is often filled with what can only be described as what is evil and false. How is this possible if all life is from the Lord?  The Heavenly Doctrines go to great lengths to answer this question for us, but in very basic terms the life that flows in from the Lord animates or gives life to the affectional and thought structures that have been shaped by our existence in the world over the course of our lives.  So what we experience as our conscious life is not of a divine quality but rather reflects the quality of vessel into which it flows.

The life we receive takes on the patterns of feeling and the structures of belief we have acquired and so we clothe this life with what is our own.  The patterns of feeling and structures of thought or belief that clothe this life become alive and expressive in keeping with their own form.  So if the form of the mind is opposed to Divine things then the quality of life that comes to be expressed will be fill with evils and falsities.  It’s a spiritual law that the quality of the life expressed will always reflect the quality or form of the mind that receives the inflow of the Divine’s life into itself.

What I want you to see here is that how we experience and respond to life is a reflection of the beliefs we hold.  The closer the affections and thoughts we live in mirror what is good and true the more accurate or true will be our sense of the Divine with us.  This is because when genuine goods and truths form the basis of our mental structures the inflowing life of the divine is able to connect with what is truly reflective of Itself in our mind and so communicate a deeper conscious sense of Its presence with us.  This is why self examination and repentance are so crucial to an active spiritual life.  It also explains why it’s necessary for the Divine to provide true ideas, or truths, in a form that can be received into the minds of human beings.  Without divine revelation there is no hope of coming into contact with the ideas we need to have in our minds so that a true sense of the Divine can make its presence known to us.  All ideas that communicate an accurate sense of the Divine to human consciousness are what are referred to in the Heavenly Doctrines as the Lord’s Human or the Word.

We saw last time that the Word for those of the Most Ancient Church, or that which was able to communicate a clear sense of the Divine presence, was creation itself.  Every object of creation served as a mirror which communicated to human consciousness some celestial or spiritual reality.  We read how those who possessed a celestial consciousness didn’t give any thought to natural objects in the world but that as soon as these fell upon the plain of their senses they immediately intuited what their spiritual correspondence was, so much so that the actual world they perceived themselves to be in was not the natural material world but a heavenly one.

At its height this state was such that there would have been no thought given to self which would have meant that the Lord would be seen in everything and everyone.  Creation and its objects were their Word and so revealed the Lord on every turn.  But when the focus began to shift towards self, as it invariably does with every spiritual age, the things of creation began to take on new meanings that related to a declining level of consciousness.  Living to please the Lord meant that the objects of the world could serve as a platform to elevate people’s perception into heavenly things, but when people begin to live for themselves these same objects begin to be seen in terms of how they can benefit and serve self.  Once this occurs the perception of the heavenly and spiritual realities to which they point is gradually lost so that the things of the natural world became desirable in themselves as a source of pleasure and gratification.  Over the course of this decline creation ceased to be the Word for this people.  The inflowing divine life could no longer stimulate heavenly affections and thoughts within human consciousness because creation was now loved merely for the external gratifications and delights it could bring to a naturally orientated people.

But an interesting thing occurs within human consciousness as this decline into self love progresses.  As self love ascends within the human mind a shift occurs in how spiritual things are handled and while this may be regarded as a decline in the short term it is something that becomes vital to the human race’s ongoing recovery and regeneration over the long term.  The celestial mode of life found in those of the Most Ancient Church was one that involved simply living from the perception of what is good and true so that a person was very much led by what felt delightful.  This is fine when genuine goods and truths are what delights the mind, however when self ascends and takes a prominent role a reversal occurs so that the things that are actually opposed to what is good and true become the source of delight.  Then by gradual degrees what feels good is not good at all, but evil.  The whole mode of celestial life is built on being led by feelings of delight in what is good and true, and this is what is meant by perception.  So when the mind is such that it can only find its delight in what is not good or true the ability to perceive what is good and true is smothered and what is genuinely human as to celestial life is destroyed.

Now a consequence of this falling away from being able to perceive what is good and true was an arising of a new delight for gathering spiritual knowledge for both the sake of posterity and for its own sake.  Prior to the complete loss of all spiritual life amongst those of the Most Ancient Church which is described by the flood associated with Noah a particular mode of mind arose called Enoch.  Remember all the names found in the first 11 chapters of the book of Genesis refer to particular qualities of spiritual consciousness that existed in the Most Ancient and Ancient Churches and not to individual people.  Adam, Seth, Enoch, etc all describe states or particular qualities of celestial consciousness.  The name Enoch we find in the Arcana Coelestia (#519) means “instructing” and so describes a particular mode of mind that loves gathering and recording knowledge that can instruct people in the ways of God.

What we see here is how when self love asserts itself the connection people have to spiritual realities shifts from being centred in the life to becoming something more centred in the intellect.  This shift allows for the implanting of a conscience in place of the lost perception and it also allowed for the Lord to reveal Himself in a new way from without through the medium of a written Word.  This shift, the arising of conscience, and the revelation of the Divine by means of a written Word are what allowed for the formation of a new spiritual age called the Ancient Church.  The shift from the Most Ancient Church to the Ancient Church began with what was produced by those called Enoch who made records of what the various things of the natural world corresponded to on the spiritual plane of life and who also formulated doctrines that taught what was good and true.

So the difference that came about was such that those of the Most Ancient Church determined what was good through how delightful something felt, whereas those of the Ancient Church determined what was good through consulting what the truths of their doctrine taught.  For the former spiritual  life was based on an inner feeling, for the latter it was founded on externalised knowledge or doctrine.  Perception is grounded in how a thing feels, whereas conscience is based on what a person has been taught.  So when perception is lost, conscience gives the ability for a person to hold what feels delightful in check while they determine what’s right.  With conscience a person has the ability to go against what feels pleasurable and pursue what they understand to be good from what they have been taught.  But conscience requires externalised doctrinal teachings as its foundation, so for those of the Most Ancient Church, who didn’t have access to this knowledge, it was inevitable that they would be led astray by what they felt to be delightful as they had no teachings to call upon to hold their desires in check.  Therefore we read of that Church that…

…the Lord saw that the evil of the human creature was great on the earth and that every scheme of his heart’s devising was only perpetually evil… Gen 6:5.

The rise of the Ancient Church was the means by which the Lord would preserve the spiritual life of the human race and with it we move from the phase of Infancy to Youth which we shall look at in more detail another time.


About David Millar

My passion revolves around supporting people to engage with the Lord's Word, or Divine truths in the form of sacred texts, to cultivate an intentional spiritual practice. Through the works penned by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) we find that the Biblical texts contain a deeper meaning that, once understood, enables them to be applied in ways that open the human mind to the realisation of its spiritual potential. The goal of the Divine Life is to free each and every human being from the pain of self centred living and bring them into the experience of all that is heavenly through the promotion of what is genuinely good and true. The material shared here is offered in the pursuit of that aim.
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