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The entire world is going through an incredibly strange and difficult time with the COVID-19 pandemic, and fear and anxiety are everywhere. The whole future feels so unclear and often terrifying, but the works of spiritual teacher Emanuel Swedenborg can still bring us some peace.
Our panel of Swedenborg experts has come together (remotely, of course) to share some of the tools they’ve found for managing fear and anxiety through troubled times.
The panel members are:
- Curtis Childs, host of Swedenborg & Life
- Karin Childs, writer for Swedenborg & Life
- Chris Dunn, community manager for Swedenborg & Life
- Chelsea Odhner, writer for Swedenborg & Life
Care for the Morrow
For Karin, one of the most useful tools has been a complete focus on taking it one day at a time. It can be very tempting to let fear take over and tell you all sorts of stories about all the horrible things that might happen in the future.
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today. (Matthew 6:34)
This call to remain present and to reject useless worries about the future helps us both maintain our sanity and be ready to adapt. Your inner attitude can make your life easier or harder. We talk about this in our episode “What Turning the Other Cheek Really Means.“
Anyone who examines the question without looking beyond the literal meaning is apt to believe we must reject all care for the morrow and wait for life’s necessities to come from heaven one day at a time. However, people who look deeper than the letter—those who consider the inner meaning—are capable of seeing what care for the morrow really means. It does not mean taking the trouble to acquire food and clothing or resources for the future, because providing for ourselves and our family is not out of line. No, the people with care for the morrow are those who chafe under their lot, rely on themselves rather than the Divine, and focus solely on worldly and earthly rather than heavenly concerns. Anxiety about the future wholly consumes them, as does the lust to own everything and dominate everyone, a lust that burns and grows bit by bit until it exceeds all bounds. They grieve if they do not achieve their desires and become frantic when deprived of them. There is no comfort for the loss, because they are then furious with the Divine, reject him, discard all belief in him, and call curses down on themselves. That is what people with care for the morrow are like. The case is totally different with people who rely on the Divine. Although they do have care for the morrow, in another way they do not, because they do not contemplate the future with anxiety, let alone distress. (Secrets of Heaven §8478:2–3)
Planning for tomorrow is a good and healthy thing, but collapsing into fear and anger will only bring you stress.
Repositioning all the fear and concern in your mind from self-centered thinking to other-centered thinking can be incredibly powerful as well. If you’re overcome with fear that someone might get you sick, that doesn’t do much for anyone. But if you stay home knowing you’re helping others stay well, then you can feel like a hero.
If we turn our backs on evils because they are sins, we are daily doing what is good, and are ourselves the useful functions we should be in the body politic. This means that the larger body is being cared for, and so is each member in particular. (Life / Faith §114)
When we’re doing our part, we’re serving our greater purpose in our community. It’s a way we can serve the people around us. It’s a small thing we can do, and every tiny move is important. After all, heaven is a kingdom of useful services.
Sharing the Love
In moderating the Swedenborg online community, Chris was struck by how positive and encouraging everyone was. In heaven, this becomes even more pronounced.
It is also common in the other world for one person to communicate pleasure and happiness in a remarkable way by actually passing them on to a number of others, who are as much affected by them as the original person. The communication takes place without any lessening of the feelings in the person who shares them to begin with. I too was given the opportunity to share my pleasure with others by transferring it to them. You can imagine, then, what kind of happiness exists in people who love their neighbor more than themselves and want nothing more than to spread their happiness to others. Their attitude traces its origin to the Lord, who communicates happiness to angels in the same way. When people share happiness, they are constantly passing it along in the way just described, but they do so without reflecting on their active role in the process and without making a conscious, deliberate decision to engage in it. (Secrets of Heaven §1392)
In this way, the offTheLeftEye community forms their own little microcosm of heaven.
We’re in This Together
It can be surprising how nice everyone is, despite our challenging circumstances. Even strangers at the grocery store will make room for each other and lift each other up.
Divine love and wisdom radiate from the Lord as a single whole. . . . No whole occurs apart from a form. . . . Everything we see with our eyes in this world is this kind of whole, and so is everything we do not see with our eyes, either in the depths of nature or in the spiritual world. An individual is this kind of whole, and so is a human community. (Divine Providence §4:1–3)
We’re all interconnected in one great big network made entirely out of love.
To end this episode, we share a meditation to help manage fear and anxiety.