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In last week’s episode, we learned from eighteenth-century philosopher and theologian Emanuel Swedenborg about the true meaning of names. But there’s one name that matters more than any other—the name of God. In this episode, hosts Curtis Childs and Jonathan Rose go live to discuss.
What name or quality of God feels particularly meaningful to you, and why?
Jonathan thinks of God as eternal love, this infinite and beautiful love that’s here for everyone. Adding to that, Curtis has realized that God is everything noble or great in the other people that you see. Jonathan and Curtis know God can have many names, but they both feel a particular affinity for “Jesus” and “the Lord.”
A Toxic Mix
The Ten Commandments rank misusing God’s name above even murder, and a lot of people have wondered about this for a long time. In our episode, “False Gods: Mysteries of the 10 Commandments Explained,” we discussed the inner meaning of the first commandment, but today we’re focusing on the second one:
You shall not utter the name of Jehovah your God unworthily, because Jehovah will not render innocent the person who utters his name unworthily. (Exodus 20:7)
This instruction isn’t about God’s ego or anything like that—it’s more like the warning you would find on a bottle of bleach.
Using the type of language found on a warning label, the inner meaning of the second commandment might go something like this:
Do not use or mix holy things with evil purposes. To do so will create a hazardous and toxic spiritual state. It’s actually respecting the beauty and power of the name of God, instructing us not to dilute it with evil things.
From a spiritual perspective, names represent qualities of the things they name. In the case of God, names represent all of the ways that God is understood and worshipped.
In the spiritual meaning, the name of God stands for everything that the church teaches on the basis of the Word—everything through which the Lord is called on and worshipped. Taken together, all these are names for God. Taking God’s name in vain, then, means misusing any of these things. (True Christianity §298)
Today, and in Swedenborg’s time, religion isn’t always used for good. In the spiritual sense, this is what uttering God’s name unworthily means—it’s about using goodness and truth to serve evil and falsity.
An Ounce of Prevention
God is not interested in bossing anybody around—God doesn’t seek control; he seeks to keep us safe. The second commandment warns us that willingly and consistently profaning God’s name is a misuse of goodness and truth. And the fact that we will not be “rendered innocent,” as it states, indicates that to grant us that innocence would go against the universe’s very nature—a topic that we looked at in our episode “What God Can’t Do.“
When this happens within someone, heavenly things become combined with infernal things. This combination cannot be dissolved, and thereby the person restored to wholeness, except through a process that completely deprives that person of spiritual life. . . . A person in such a state of mind cannot be made whole. . . . This is what is meant by the words that immediately follow: Jehovah will not render innocent the person who utters his name unworthily. (Secrets of Heaven §8882:1, 3)
These lifelong, sinister patterns of misusing holy things are deeply damaging in this world and to the spiritual world. Combining good and bad things can just make more bad things, as Curtis and Jonathan demonstrate with a blender, water, and some rotten fruit. Even one bad thing is enough to ruin the goodness and love it touches.
So if we were to look again at the inner meaning of the second commandment, in summary, it might sound something more like this:
Don’t use the goodness and truth I give you to hurt, dominate or manipulate one another. I cannot purify you if you willingly destroy the purification system.
During this live show, viewers chatted in their questions. Just click a question to see the answer:
- God “spoke” things into existence, such as “Let there be light.” What does Swedenborg say about this in relation to God’s name being taken in vain and God’s use of sound?
- If we all love God why do we have so many religions?
- If I transgress the law / sin and do not harm another or involve them in that sin, what am I guilty of?
Spiritual World Road Trip
In ancient times, profanation took the form of sorcery, or the manipulation of spiritual knowledge for one’s own gain. Spiritual truth could either be used to take advantage of others and get ahead or to gain a better understanding of life. According to Swedenborg:
Egypt specialized in developing the factual knowledge of [the ancient] church, which had to do with correspondence, representation, and symbolism. Such knowledge explained what was written in the ancient church’s books and what was practiced in its sacred worship. . . . The leading experts in and teachers of that knowledge were called magicians and sages. . . . The magicians of that era knew about the spiritual world, having learned about it from correspondences and representations known to the church. Many of them therefore communicated with spirits, from whom they learned sleight of hand, which they used in performing magic miracles. The ones called sages or the wise, however, had no interest in such things but solved riddles and taught about the causes of natural phenomena. These were the main elements of wisdom in that day, and to have an ability with them was called wisdom. (Secrets of Heaven §5223:1, 2)
At the beginning, we asked viewers what names or qualities of God resonated with them. Here are some of the answers.
- Father! -Joey D
- Love. -Matthew Bush
- Abba. -UncleDude69
- I am. -Dana Jones
- God is like the ocean of wisdom and love and we are like a drop. -Roadffm
- Infinity within infinity. -michele33 S
- I frequently use the Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram, where I invoke YHWH, Adonai, Ehieh, and AGLA. -Will Linden
- Peacemaker. I love peace. -Jon Childs
- God’s love for all of us and his Divine Providence. -Robert Bush
- Ancient of Days meaning God is eternal. -mtp358
- Fav name of God is Abba. -UncleDude69
- The idea that God and everything in his creation is centered around consensual and voluntary interactions that benefit both parties. Just like love and truth so is everything else. -Yokopo
- Beloved is my favorite. -michele33 S
- LOVE JESUS…”My main man J.” -Krystalight 7
- God….source. -Nikki Polk
- Being all everything and the first and last and nothing is made except that he made it. -Mary Richards
- How Everything is so brilliantly connected beyond understanding. -Jen Blossom
- At this moment the best aspect of God is the helpful loving hand. -Liquid Gargoyle
- We use the phrase “I AM “ all the time without realizing it so it helps me remind myself I AM a Spiritual being. -Lee Belt
- “Jah” also. -Krystalight 7
- I love the word God or Jesus. -Larry Ulery
- Yashuah for Jesus, Jehovah for the Father in heaven, Holy Spirit too… -Bren Primo
- “Guide” could be a good name as when I am lost, I seek answers in God -which I understand as a loving energy. Love and truth come from God but guidance sure is needed… -Miss D
- Jehovah Rapha and Jehovah Jireh. -Mr. Binkers the cat
- GOD is the Creator, redeemer and Savior and GOD is LOVE. -rov li
- I like the the native american name “The great spirit.” -zeke
- The name of God I love the most is family. Both our earthly as well as our spiritual families. -the polks
- One of the most profound references to God for me is “. . .who is, and who was, and who is to come . . .” -Alesia Rico Flores
- All of his names and all of the wonderful qualities that are tied to his divine providence! -nik nik
- Kami Sama the Japanese name for God, it feels good in my spirit, most of the time though, I address him as the Lord. -Sean Smith
- The most meaningful name of God to me is “I am.” I never use it in a sentence that ends in a falsity eg. “I am awful.” I only use it in sentences worthy of the character of God eg “I am wonderful.” -Asher Raymond
Thanks for joining us—we’ll see you next week!
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About Swedenborg & Life
In a lighthearted and interactive 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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