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Are humans wired for greater love of self or greater love of others? If altruism can be learned, let’s study how to love (more selflessly)! In this episode of Swedenborg and Life, host Curtis Childs and featured guests look to Swedenborg’s writings to see what they reveal about how altruistic love can deepen our human and spiritual experience in the physical world.
Why Should I? – The Love & Wisdom Duality
Why should you love? The short answer: Because it connects you to God and his wisdom.
“Love has power only through wisdom.”—True Christianity 748
When we tap into our natural state of love, we tap into divine wisdom. Those who show love through action and live in a loving state—as opposed to just saying the words—can feel and understand spiritual truths more clearly because all wisdom comes from love and all love comes from God. The wisdom we receive through love allows us to fulfill the needs of others as described in scripture:
“Then the king will say to those at his right hand, ‘Come, you that are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world: for I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink; I was a stranger and you welcomed me; I was naked and you gave me clothing; I was sick and you took care of me; I was in prison and you visited me.’ “Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me.’” —Matthew 25:34-40
Curtis explains that Swedenborg believes this scripture passage describes the states of need that are present in the human race, and understanding these needs is crucial to knowing how to love.
Hunger and Thirst – Loving the Unfulfilled
Are we spiritually dehydrated? That’s the question Curtis poses to kick off this segment. He reads quotes from Swedenborg’s Secrets of Heaven to point out a metaphorical correspondence Swedenborg makes between goodness and love, and also bread and water. Swedenborg’s writings reveal that goodness and love is as important to our spiritual survival as bread and water to our physical survival. Dr. Soni Werner, a professor of psychology, joins Curtis at minute 19:10 to elaborate on spiritual hunger and thirst. Later, at minute 23:08, Curtis shares a story from one of our Facebook fans who had a spiritually transformative experience that perfectly describes how to fulfill others through loving acts.
To Take In and Clothe – Loving the Vulnerable
Swedenborg makes the shocking claim that the point of life is not all about you (sarcasm intended). That’s not to say that you should hate yourself or deny yourself, but the point of life is to give the love that you have for yourself to others. Love functions like a house: Caring for yourself is the foundation or basement level and serving the greater good is the main living level.
Dr. Werner again joins the conversation to expand on Swedenborg’s teachings about how to love people in a “stranger” state, which is a state of vulnerability. She goes on to say that while a stranger is someone foreign to us on a literal level, at the spiritual level a stranger is someone who is simply looking for assistance on their spiritual journey. Curtis adds that clothing a stranger means giving spiritual comfort to someone in a vulnerable state.
“A foreigner [or stranger] means someone who wants to be taught. The meaning of the naked are those who acknowledge they have nothing good or true in them.”—Secrets of Heaven 4958
The Sick and the Prisoners – Loving the Angry
What are the spiritual equivalents of sickness and imprisonment? Dr. Werner shares that through her understanding of Swedenborg’s teachings, loving the sick and imprisoned is like helping people break out of the prison of destructive behaviors and mindsets that consume their lives.
“The sick are people who acknowledge they have nothing but evil in them, and prisoners, or people in jail, are those who acknowledge they have nothing but falsity in them.”—Secrets of Heaven 4956
How can we love and help the spiritually sick and imprisoned without getting hurt or taken advantage of? It’s true we should love everyone, but we have to become wise about how to help in the most useful way for all involved. To do this, you can love and support the good in a person, but not the bad in them. To expand on this point, Dr. Ted Klein, senior lecturer of philosophy at the University of Massachusetts, provides practical tips for how to love a sick or imprisoned person without being hurt.
The Common Whole – Universal Love Connection
There is an indescribable link that we all share–love.
“No angel or spirit could ever have any life without being part of some community, without joining in harmony with many others. Community is simply harmony among many. No one’s life is ever isolated from the life of others.”—Secrets of Heaven 687
If you want to be in harmony with God and heaven, you should try to be like God, which means sharing your goodness and love with everyone. In this clip, Curtis makes a great analogy when describing one of Swedenborg’s teachings about how the angels in heaven can only experience happiness through others’ happiness. The final thought for this topic is given by Rev. Chuck Blair who explains how the service we provide for others benefits us.
Closing the Circle – Uniting with The Divine
“[It is] the Lord’s wish that all blessings spread contagiously and that everyone enjoy mutual love and grow happy as a result.”—Secrets of Heaven 1388
Curtis wraps up the episode with his final thoughts on altruism.
Questions from Viewers
In the last segment, Curtis answers questions from our viewers:
- What does Swedenborg say about animal rights?
- Is it possible to “sin” or transgress God’s laws when you’re in heaven? Can you move down in the levels of heaven if you mess up?
- Is it practical to deeply love others beyond spouse and close family?
- Does Swedenborg put kindness and gratitude together as a duality like he put love and wisdom together?
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About Swedenborg and Life
Host Curtis Childs from the Swedenborg Foundation and featured guests explore topics from Swedenborg’s eighteenth-century writings about his spiritual experiences and afterlife explorations and discuss how they relate to modern-day life and death in a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format.
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When we wake up in heaven, Swedenborg tells us, angels roll a covering from off of our left eye so that we can see everything in a spiritual light. The offTheLeftEye YouTube channel uses an array of educational and entertaining video formats to help others look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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