Where does the Turmoil within Come From?

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Psa 2:1-12  Why have the nations raged and the peoples are meditating on vanity?  (2)  The kings of the earth set themselves; yea, the rulers have plotted together against Jehovah and His Anointed, saying,  (3)  We will break their bands in two, and throw off their cords from us.  (4)  He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall mock at them.  (5)  Then He will speak to them in His anger, and He will terrify them in His wrath;  (6)  Yea, I have set My king on My holy mount on Zion.  (7)  I will declare concerning the statute of Jehovah: He said to Me, You are My Son. Today I have begotten You.  (8)  Ask of Me, and I will give the nations as Your inheritance; and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession.  (9)  You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.  (10)  Now, then, be wise, O kings; be taught, O judges of the earth:  (11)  Serve Jehovah with fear; yea, rejoice with trembling.  (12)  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Oh the blessings of all those who flee to Him for refuge!

Apocalypse Explained 175a
“To have power,” in reference to “over the nations,” means to scatter in reference to evils; thus there is an adaptation of words to their subjects.  It is said that evils will be scattered by the Lord, for the Lord scatters evils by means of truths. He first discovers them to man by means of truths, and when man acknowledges the evils, the Lord scatters them. …the Lord alone does this… “Nations and peoples” are often mentioned in the Word, and those who know nothing of the spiritual or internal sense of the Word, believe that peoples and nations are to be understood. But “peoples” mean those who are in truths, or in the contrary sense those who are in falsities, and “nations” those who are in goods, or in the contrary sense, those who are in evils. And as such are meant by “peoples” and by “nations,” so abstractly from persons “peoples” mean truths or falsities, and “nations” goods and evils; for the true spiritual sense is abstracted from persons, spaces, times, and like things, that are proper to nature.



The second Psalm opens with a universal question that all those in the spiritual life have asked many times…

Why do the nations rage and why do the people imagine a vain thing?

This question comes from out of the struggle to live a life in keeping with what the Word teaches.  No sooner than we set ourselves to make an effort to have what is spiritual rule over those habitual ways of thinking and feeling that belong to the natural man then things are stirred up within us.  Spiritual forces that have a vested interest in and so seek to keep in place that false sense of self we carry that is bound to selfish ways of being.  When we choose to not walk in the council of the ungodly, or stand in the way of sinners, or sit in the seat of the scornful (Psalm 1), with a view to opening up new possibilities for our life through walking, standing and sitting in the light of the Word, all that is opposed to the Lord within the natural man begins to be stirred up within us.  We enter into a battle to let go of the old and enter into the new.

As negative emotional states begin to be stirred up within us they bring to life destructive patterns of thought that stand against promptings to make changes in our life so that it better reflects our understanding of the Word.  These thoughts fill our minds with vain reasonings that justify those selfish states of life we are so used to living in.  At times we can feel swamped and lost in the midst of this battle.  We find there is a part of us that seeks to change, to be rid of defensive ways of relating to others, to be freed from negative emotional states, but no sooner than we acknowledge the need to make positive changes in our life we are caught up in unwanted habitual responses – unwanted feelings dominate our being and negative inner self talk fills our headspace; or as the Psalm puts it, the inner nations rage and we get dragged down into vain imaginings that populate or people our natural mind.  Confronted with this we may well ask the question, why do the nations within us rage and the people within us get caught in vain imaginings when all we want is to live a life in obedience to the Word.

The difficulty of course lies in the fact that while we may want to live more fully in the Word, the identity we have constructed for ourselves through our life in the world is not interested in spiritual things.  This identity, that for much of our life we have called our-self, is really a false persona that holds that the things that present to our external senses are what are real.  It’s a self that places us in the world around us and keeps us identified with it and so prevents us from seeing that the real world where changes have to take place as far as eternal spiritual things are concerned is the world within us, that world made up of various beliefs and attitudes we have taken ownership of as our-selves.

This false persona is easily recognised for it is that within us which is concerned with petty trivialities, getting its own way, it is constantly being offended, loves to put itself above others, spends its time in mindless inner talk that has no grounding in what’s truly important from an eternal perspective, and is obsessed with its petty likes and dislikes.  This self is constantly distracted by whatever is presenting in the moment and as such has no real permanence.  This can be seen in that it is constantly shifting from one opinion to the next in an effort to get the most out of the situations and circumstances it finds itself in.

Spiritual truths are given so that we can have built within us a new, permanent real sense of self.  Such a self can only be built up when it is founded on the truths of the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines.  If we have never seen the need for a new self then we haven’t seen the nature of the false persona we call our-self.  When light from the Word does begin to reveal the state of a person’s sense of themselves, the evils and falsities of the natural man that make up that self become disturbed and gather to resist any exposure to the Word that reveals its disordered state.  This false persona is what is meant here by the nations that rage and the peoples that imagine vain things.

In verse two we read that the…

Psa 2:2  The kings of the earth set themselves; yea, the rulers have plotted together against Jehovah and His Anointed

The kings of the earth that set themselves are false beliefs that form arguments that keep negative attitudes in place, particularly when we are challenged by the Word to commit ourselves more fully to living a spiritual life.  The rulers that take counsel together are the selfish attitudes that seek only the interests of the false self and blind us to seeing the need to persevere with the Word and use it as the guide for our daily life.  These elements we are told conspire against what is genuinely good and true.  The Divine good is what is meant by the term ‘Lord’ and the Divine truth is what is meant by ‘His Anointed’.  These together are the Word for the Word itself is the divine love and wisdom in human form and as such it alone is able to deliver us from the evils and falsities that make up the false self that we are so often identified with.

This presence of the Lord in the Word when it is being applied to life is the reason the inner nations rage and the peoples imagine vain things.  Verse three tells us what is required of us if we are to live a spiritual life, we are to…

Psa 2:3  …break their bands in two, and throw off their cords from us.

In some translations this reads as if it is the evil and false speaking of breaking and throwing off the things of the Lord but the heavenly doctrines make it clear that what is said here speaks of those who are being regenerated and involved in breaking the bands of falsities and throwing off the cords of evils.  In the prophet Isaiah we are told that a true spiritual life involves ‘loosing the bands of wickedness’ (58:6).

To not be able to see that it is the Word alone is able to do this for us is to be lost in the vain imaginings of our ego or proprium.  But those who have looked to the Word and see that when they are identified with their proprium they are separated from the Lord, are those who experience its power to break those bonds that keep evils and falsities alive and active within them.  The things of the natural man that make up the false persona are nothing but dust before the goods and truths of the Word. But for us to see this, so that it has a real impact on the quality of our life, we have to be in the Word as often as we can and be working with it in our daily life.  Then we shall see that those things that seemed to have so much power over us are powerless in the face of its truths.  This is the idea contained in the next verse which reads…

Psa 2:4-5  He who sits in the heavens shall laugh; the Lord shall mock at them.  (5)  Then He will speak to them in His anger, and He will terrify them in His wrath;

Of course the Lord mocks no one nor is He ever angry or wrathful.  Such states of life are far beneath Him who is perfect and unchanging in His love for the whole human race.  This is said from the perspective of the evil and the false for the evil and false feel they are mocked in the face of truth, for they are then exposed and can be seen for what they really are.  Similarly the divine love is experienced as anger by those that seek to do evil for they are incapable of receiving into themselves the goodness that comes from love and so when love approaches it is felt as something negative and destructive of the evil life they are in.  States of mind that arise from evils and falsities are such that love is not experienced as something loving, but as its opposite, as something destructive, angry and vengeful because it seeks the opposite of what the evil find delightful.  Such are the warped perceptions of the proprium in the face of the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines.

The Psalm declares in verse 6 that the Lord has set His king on His holy mountain, on Zion.  This king is the Divine Human of the Lord which is the Word, for the Word is the infinite divine presenting Itself in a form that can received into finite human minds.  It is said to be set on a mountain or Zion because the Word is founded on, and comes forth from the Divine Love which, being the highest or elevated form of love, is described as a holy mountain.

This truth is a remarkable statement if we give a little attention to.  The Word has the Divine Love as its foundation and so must give expression to this.  How wonderful then are the truths of the heavenly doctrines that make this ever clearer for us.  Of the Word the Lord declares in verse 7…

You are My Son. Today I have begotten you.

Today refers to the perpetual moment, that is every moment.  For in every moment we are given the opportunity to draw from the Word divine truths born of love which are called ‘My Son’.  These are born in the minds of those who seek the Lord, who love His Word and meditate upon it day and night (Psalm 1).

This Psalm teaches that those who are engaged in genuine spiritual work know what to ask for.  This is because this kind of work develops a person’s spiritual perception and when we are more acutely attuned to the Word we will hear the Lord’s voice speaking through our thoughts and meditations saying….

Psa 2:8-11  Ask of Me, and I will give the nations as Your inheritance; and the uttermost parts of the earth as Your possession.  (9)  You shall break them with a rod of iron; You shall dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel.  (10)  Now, then, be wise, O kings; be taught, O judges of the earth:  (11)  Serve Jehovah with fear; yea, rejoice with trembling.

The Word instructs us here what we are to ask for.  We are to ask for the nations as our inheritance and the uttermost parts of the earth for our possession.  This of course speaks of things within us, not of actual nations and parts of the earth in the external world.  Our inheritance and possession is of a spiritual quality and spiritual things are the internal things of the mind.  So to ask this is to be in the effort to have the principles of the Word rule over all the emotional and intellectual states of our minds.  To break them with a rod of iron is to live in the power of natural truths of the Word understood in the light of the Heavenly Doctrines for these are able to break down false perspectives and the selfish motives they contain.  The Word is able to “break in pieces” the false vessels that have been built up in the natural mind over the course of our life.

We are to serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling.  This means that our lives are to be dedicated to what is good and confess what is true.  To serve the Lord with fear doesn’t mean to cower before Him, rather in the spiritual sense it means to pursue only what is good or loving. This state is one which holds within it a holy fear of anything that would corrupt or destroy what is of the Lord within us.

In the final verse the very basis for a healthy spiritual life is revealed.  If we seek wholeness then we must…

Psa 2:12  Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and you perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Oh the blessings of all those who flee to Him for refuge! (or…blessed are those who trust in Him)

The Son as we have seen is the Word, divine truths that come forth from the divine love, and to kiss another is to be joined to them.  Therefore to kiss the Son is to have our life united to the Word.  That part of us that is not responsive to the Word feel truths as something opposed to it and this is described as anger.  God when viewed through the proprium is seen as a judge who holds us guilty, who only seeks to condemn us and take away our liberty and pleasure.  We can see this to some degree in the external world in how people respond to the laws that form the basis for our society.  Those who are law abiding view the system very differently to those who face the consequences of their criminal behaviour.  The laws of a just society exist for the good of everyone in that society and when followed are not even noticed.

However, when a person breaks the law and is facing the consequences of their behaviour those authorities are often seen as exacting some kind of personal vendetta.  Technically the actions on the part of the authorities are not personal in that they are obliged to act in accordance with the law when a criminal act is committed.  It is the evil committed that brings down the enforcement of the law, but unfortunately those who love evil see the law as their enemy and cast it, and those who enforce it on behalf of society, rather than themselves, as the real villain.  This illustration can help us to work with the Word where anger, wrath and revenge are attributed to the Lord, for in all these occurrences what is described is not the Lord but how what is lower in us sees the Lord when the light of truth shines in on those things opposed to the heavenly life.  Things that our ego or proprium finds delightful and entices us into.

To seek the Lord is to work to have the influence of these lower things broken in our lives, that the evils and falsities that bind us might be shattered like a potter’s vessels under the power of the Word which is described as a “rod of iron.”  This happens for those who put their trust in the Word and lean not to their own understanding…

Blessed indeed are those to flee to the Word for refuge…


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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