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When you “get a craving” for something, where do you get it from? It’s not like a piece of clothing you buy at a store—it’s a thought that invades your head.
According to eighteenth-century scientist and mystic Emanuel Swedenborg, the origins of that thought can be traced. In this episode, host Curtis Childs and featured guests explore his spiritual writings about how spirits can influence our mental states.
But before we start, here is an important caveat: This episode talks about addiction, and this discussion of the spiritual factors involved is meant to supplement current scientific research, not replace it. If you or someone you know is struggling with these issues, please don’t neglect proper medical or psychological treatment!
Who Really Wants What You Want?
Swedenborg learned that spirits have a part in everything, even the way we think, eat, and dress.
Everything whatever that exists in a person’s mental life and feelings, evil as well as good, has spirits, and societies of spirits, who exactly interact with it. . . . So there is not anything mental or emotional in a human being that does not have societies of spirits that indulge and favor it. (Spiritual Experiences §2169)
We don’t sense these spirits around us. Neither did Swedenborg, until he began to have experiences of the spiritual world, and what he saw convinced him that we are all constantly in contact with spirits. One of the sub-categories he identified was the “spirits of bodily desires,” who would cause him to crave very specific things: cheese, for example, or baths.
This can cause a problem when a craving for something small becomes a major goal in life. Swedenborg observed spirits gathering around people and feeding their obsessions with getting things they didn’t really need. That kind of preoccupation might even lead us to choose a path in life, such as a career choice or a partner, that isn’t what’s best for us spiritually. Curtis uses a visual aid to demonstrate how these spirits gather around us.
These spirits can become much more dangerous when feeding darker impulses.
Therapist Jerry Marzinsky joins to discuss his experiences with people suffering from addiction disorders and how these experiences seemed to echo Swedenborg’s discoveries. Many of the people he worked with actually described spirits moving them toward specific drugs or distractions.
Their experiences with spirits were echoed across years of conversations, and—alongside modern medicine and treatments—these new understandings of addiction helped them understand their own challenges better. Identifying the thoughts and cravings as coming from somewhere else can help addicts to reject the fear and guilt.
So how do we put these learnings into action? It takes two tools: rationality and conviction. Evil spirits love to attack our rationality first. And as Dr. Soni Werner explains, loss of rationality weakens all our defenses. While our brains are hard-wired to seek pleasure, our rationality can intervene and override that impulsive behavior.
The reason we are reformed and regenerated by means of the two abilities known as rationality and freedom, the reason that in fact we cannot be reformed and regenerated without them, is that it is through our rationality that we can discern and know what is evil and what is good and therefore what is false and what is true. Then through our freedom we can intend what we discern and know. (Divine Providence §85)
Author Peter Rhodes joins to talk about his own journey through addiction and how replacing your own will with God’s will can help you make a real change. Conviction, or the resolve to do something good, is a tool for accomplishing that.
Convictions clothe a person with a nature, and then spirits of the same nature are associated with the person. (Spiritual Experiences §2926)
Once one has been imbued with a conviction that is true and good, and has been strengthened in it by the Lord so as to be held in the conviction, one can never be torn away from it. (Spiritual Experiences §2882)
In other words, the simple act of resolving to be a good person can attract angels to help you. It’s not just a single moment or a single decision that makes a long-term difference, though: you have to keep confirming and reinforcing that conviction.
In the wrap-up, Curtis reviews the upside and the downside of the influence of spirits in our lives and how we can use the positive influence to become stronger.
- Can you pray or do anything for another who has addictions to lift them up?
- Jerry stated that one of his patients was “harassed by dead alcoholics.” Does that mean that when we die, we take our addictions with us?
- Why would the spirits of dead humans be given the right to torture others and not have to suffer for their own lives on earth before they died?
- What do you do if you think you have latched on to something that was not the best God had for you?
- How do you distinguish between “real” spirits influencing your thoughts and those effects of mental illness where people hear voices, etc.?
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About Swedenborg and Life
In a lighthearted and interactive live webcast format, 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.
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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 look at life and death through an uplifting spiritual lens.
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