As we know, social disorder and personal problems exist in human society and in our individual circumstances. We could end up immersing ourselves in negativity about this if we are not careful. Keeping ourselves awake at night with worry. Cursing fate for our plight. We might doubt whether there is any source of goodness around.
Spiritual awareness is rather a vague phrase but nevertheless it can lighten our load. We perceive a deeper side to reality when for example we notice a life force that makes things grow and flourish, whether it be in nature or in one’s personal life. Or when we feel in tune with a higher inspiration for our creative work. Or when we see evidence of a design within the order of the universe.
In whatever way we think of it, we can see reality as something greater than ourselves: as something beyond what is physical. It transcends our bodily experience and material concerns.
Religious cultures over history have venerated a similar idea envisioned in various supernatural guises.
Today, in western Europe, the churches are declining. However, many non-churchgoers designate themselves as ‘spiritual but not religious’. You may not be committed to a taught faith but do try to figure out what’s true, and what’s good, and then to start living a better life.
Western religion has a word in different languages meaning God. Some people, likewise use a capital for the first letter of their word for what they feel to be beyond themselves. Words used are Being, the Source, the All, the Divine, the Infinite, the Absolute etc. These words may be used slightly differently.
As I understand it, ‘the Source’ means there is a source of spiritual light and love.
“I am not aligned with a religious belief system but I do have a faith in something bigger, a divinity of some sort. I choose to call it ‘source’.” (Helen Leathers, personal development teacher)
We may sometimes feel separate from this Source. Nevertheless, we may believe we have a continuous connection with it. It is seen as a part of us as we seek wisdom, guidance, intuition, or inspiration. People sometimes say that a focus on this higher energy allows us to remember our mission, our vision, and our reason for being.
If the Source is real and not a figment of the imagination, a question arises. To what extent can we rely on it when times are hard? When we face what is bad in life?
The All of everything
Some speak of the higher reality in terms of ‘the All’, meaning the all of everything. The focus is on the all of life, the all of love, the all of goodness, the all of wisdom. This is a wonderful idea about what can enthuse and move us. However, I notice that the term ‘the All of everything’ also seems to imply the all of disease, the all of selfish desires, and the all of folly.
We are aware of the Holocaust, Stalin’s Gulag, Pol Pot’s Killing Fields. I would argue that we are so horrified by despicable events, as genocide, terrorist killings, and serial murder, that it is insufficient to refer to such atrocities as ‘bad’ or even ‘very bad’. We need to invoke a more basic idea of the ‘evil’ of some actions and of the delusional ideas that attempt to justify them.
The chaos caused by natural disaster, suffering of disease and evil of man’s inhumanity to man, have a very troubling influence on life as we know it.
The question about reliance on the spiritual Source when we face what is bad is a challenging one. What hope and trust can we place in the Source of goodness when we encounter evil? Here are some suggested answers.
Purpose of love
Just as there is a design in the orderliness of nature, so is there not also a creative plan for humanity? An intention within the higher reality to bring about stability and beauty in our lives? If it is love that is the cause of all of what is good, then I would say the Source of love intends our growth and fulfilment.
According to this view there is a purpose of higher reality to bring about human happiness for the sake of love. Love wants the best for who is loved.
“The essence of love is loving others…, wishing to be one with them and devoting oneself to their happiness.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, spiritual philosopher)
This loving purpose might be in the background when we bring on suffering to ourselves. I would say nothing happens by chance. We suffer when we lose our friends, our job, and the good regard of our loved ones. Where is a loving purpose within our unhappiness? Is it not to do with a self-compassion that allows us to learn from our mistakes? Obliging us to face up to the reasons for our loss – perhaps complacency, laziness, or self-centredness.
Power of love
I believe we are all potential channels for the power of love. When we connect wholeheartedly with the Source, love can win if we are faced with scorn, malice or contempt. Its power of healing, through our behaviour can give comfort to those who inwardly suffer from a myriad of various problems. Its power of understanding, through our words can inspire good sense and enlightenment no matter what irrational fears are being experienced.
Evil as no independent force
Another way, to have confidence in the Source, is to not exaggerate any power of evil. I favour the idea that evil, although real enough in its effects if given reign, does not really exist in its own right. In other words, social injustice, pain, misery have never been inevitable. What is chaotic and disorderly comes about because people at times have chosen to stand good on its head. I see the evil of suffering, and hatred as the tragic rejection and thus absence of orderliness, contentment and compassion. In fact, the inversion of all that is good.
I would like to suggest that the cause of chaos and disorder is not an evil power that some religions have sometimes, and mistakenly in my view, referred to as the Devil. Instead, an atmosphere of evil originates in the way humans sometimes have freely chosen to behave.
“It is human spiritual disorders like lust, vengeance, cruelty and oppression that incubate disease and misfortune.” (Bruce Henderson, Swedenborgian writer)
I happen to hold the view that disease and natural disasters are due to the negative side of this spiritual environment around us. Let us then all try to not feed its influence. We could instead turn towards the spirit of love. This is shown by the outpouring of service and kindness in the wake of disasters. Seeing others suffer can help us to be more sensitive and merciful.
We have the potential to be a vehicle for both good and evil. In very trying times, putting one’s hope in the Source of love is not easy. But we all have a part to play in turning back towards Love Itself and helping with its plan to bring happiness in the world.
Copyright 2019 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems