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In this week’s episode of Swedenborg and Life, host Curtis Childs looks into the idea of spiritual energy, comparing it to the energy that human beings get from the sun. Through this comparison, the episode will examine ideas like converting from a polluting energy source to a clean one, the “energy” of the human soul, and how to maintain a renewable and dependable spiritual energy source.
What Fuels Us?
In most episodes, the Swedenborg and Life team finds parallels between the physical world and spiritual ideas and applies them to daily life. This is the beginning of this episode’s Grand Metaphor: renewable energy. Can the shift to green energy parallel a shift in the way we energize our spirits and the way we think about and treat others?
Curtis begins by bringing in an expert on renewable energy: the author of the book Wind Power for Dummies, Ian Woofenden. (He can also be found at www.renewablereality.net.) Watch the expert explain his journey with renewable energy, installing simple systems in Costa Rica and changing lives with clean energy. This process takes a polluting form of energy and replaces it with a clean and sustainable one, providing a better kind of life for people who need the light and energy people from more wealthy places take for granted.
Curtis is quick to consider this from a spiritual perspective—is there any way we could be getting more clean and efficient spiritual energy? Swedenborg writes about our deepest energy coming from love: “Our actual life force, or actual vitality, comes from heavenly love. Nothing living can possibly exist unless it derives from that source” (Secrets of Heaven §1436). Curtis says that the source emanates from God, much like energy from the sun; Swedenborg describes the spiritual process of love flowing from God as a parallel to the way solar energy works in the physical world. As a metaphor, the relationship between God and our physical sun is explained in Secrets of Heaven—watch this video to hear the clip and see the nature of this metaphor more clearly.
As Curtis puts it, “God’s love and wisdom radiates out through everything, just like the sun’s light and heat radiates out into us. That’s what gives us energy and the ability to live.” We use this energy in positive and negative ways; it impacts what we take joy in. We can take joy in things that are constructive and good, or bad and selfish, and this changes the way we interact with God’s energy.
Heaven’s pleasures are both indescribable and innumerable; but no one can realize or believe anything about their multitude who is wholly wrapped up in pleasures of the body or the flesh. This, as I have already said, is because their deeper levels are looking away from heaven toward the world, which is backward. For no one who is wholly involved in pleasures of the body or the flesh (or in love for oneself and the world, which is the same thing) feels any pleasure except in eminence or profit or in physical and sensory gratification. These stifle and smother deeper pleasures of heaven so completely that people do not even believe such pleasures exist. (Heaven and Hell §398)
With this quote, we’re starting to get an idea of negative energy. Negative energy turns people away from God’s love and toward a limited kind of physical pleasure. Watch this short video, “What Heaven Feels Like,” to hear about Swedenborg’s experience of heavenly joy.
However, Curtis points out that before we talk about heavenly joy, we have to understand how our experience of joy can be polluted by negative love.
Guest expert Ian Woofenden starts off Part Two by telling viewers why he first got involved with renewable energy—what are the advantages to a life spent preserving nature?
From Ian’s words, Curtis draws out the formula needed to care about the environment: we have to see that it’s beautiful, see that we affect it, and notice its fragility. According to Swedenborg, this is similar to the spiritual environment. We can pollute the spiritual environment based on what we love and pursue. This leads to some gross ideas, as seen in the quote below:
A love for what is evil gives us pleasure when we are caught up in its compulsions. This holds, for example, for loving adultery, vengeance, cheating, theft, or cruelty, and among the worst of us, for loving blasphemy against the holy values of the church and spouting venomous nonsense about God. The wellspring of these pleasures is a love for being in control prompted by a love for ourselves. These pleasures come from compulsions that obsess the deeper levels of our minds and flow down from there into our bodies, where they stimulate filthy reactions that excite our very fibers. The result is a physical pleasure prompted by mental pleasure in proportion to our compulsions. After death, in the spiritual world, we can all discover the identity and nature of the filthy things that excite our physical fibers. In general, they are like corpses, excrement, manure, sickening odors, and urine. The hells are overflowing with filth like this . . . Once we enter hell, though, these filthy pleasures turn into dreadful things. (Divine Providence §38:1–2)
Now, Curtis tells us that when we’re born in the world, we’re born into all sorts of pretty negative ideas: wanting to be the best, coolest, brightest, most awesome person ever. Growing up is supposed to slowly replace those ideas with better ones, as the childish ideas will plant themselves in selfish ways if they grow and prosper into adulthood. Images of selfishness and success that we have as children should grow into ideas about loving others and the true happiness that comes from those ideas. If adults never grow out of a childish mindset, the world would look much more like this.
All jokes aside, an adult loving the same things that children love would look pretty scary—ideally, we’re supposed to grow and change from those ideas to new ones that come from a better place. The energy that comes from good things has the ability to give people power in more clean and happy ways, whereas the energy that comes from material pleasures has a more limited impact.
Throughout Swedenborg’s work, he discusses in great detail different types of light and the energy that comes from that light. He describes the correspondence of a coal fire in this quote:
Sometimes, among evil spirits, a life devoted to the fulfillment of one’s sensual desires resembles a coal fire. This semblance of fire is what the vitality of the Lord’s love and mercy turns into when it flows into them. The vital energy of their hallucinations, on the other hand, looks like the light that comes from such a fire—a dim light with no range whatever. When the living energy of mutual love approaches, the pseudo-fire is snuffed out and turns cold, while the weak light from it goes dark. Evil spirits pass their lives in the dark. Astonishingly, some of them even love darkness and abominate light. (Secrets of Heaven §1528)
The mindset you have is the kind of spiritual light that you’re in. Think about smog—how hard is it to see through dark clouds? Spiritually, Swedenborg encountered smog-filled air many times: “When a glimpse is given into hell, where [hellish] spirits live, a dark cloud in which they spend their lives appears. If a gust of air escapes, it gives off the smell of insanity wafting from falsity and of hatred wafting from evil” (Secrets of Heaven §3340).
In the physical world, smog is made of small particles that cloud visibility. In the spiritual world, a cloud of pollution is made of insanity and hatred, because thoughts and feelings manifest as real objects. Everyone in the spiritual world has an effect on others, like an aura that surrounds them. Swedenborg writes about a murderous spirit in hell that had an aura that he “spread around like a poisonous atmosphere . . . whatever he did, those around him were more or less inflated by him and made to think different thoughts. Everyone lamented, also, that he was inspiring them with some of his hatred, secretly distorting their goodness into evil” (Spiritual Experiences–Word Explained §§1297–98).
The correspondence of smoke and smog comes up again and again in Swedenborg’s work—they cloud everyone’s vision and keep people from seeing clearly. At this point in the episode, Curtis discusses with author Peter Rhodes the never-ending cycle of the fake happiness that comes with selfishness. They discuss the state of wanting versus the state of satisfaction; wanting continues forever, while satisfaction rests and brings peace.
The Emissionless Source
If we know where we get negative energy from, where do we get positive energy? Swedenborg says that positive energy—all energy, in fact—comes from God. We take energy and apply it to different things.
That there is one only fountain of life, and that all life is thence, and continually flows in, is well known in heaven, and is never called in question by any angel of the higher heavens, for they perceive the influx itself. That all lives are like streams from one only and perpetual fountain of life, has been also rendered evident to me from much experience . . .” (Apocalypse Explained §349:4)
These ideas can quickly get abstract and removed from real life. Curtis reminds viewers that everything in this channel comes back to application in human life and personal experience. Curtis brings in a guest speaker, Isaac, to talk about his personal experiences with God, negative energy, and positive energy.
Swedenborg says that God’s energy is available to all of us, and we can find God in anything:
Divinity is present in everything that has been created because God the Creator, who is the Lord from eternity, brought forth the sun of the spiritual world . . . from that sun comes spiritual warmth and spiritual light, with the two making a single whole. It follows, then, that some image of this whole is present in everything that has been created. (Divine Providence §5:1–2)
Experiences of God come in all different shapes and sizes, coming to everyone in different ways.
Now, Curtis brings us back to the idea that all energy spiritually comes from God, just like the sun was ultimately the source of all the fossil fuels on earth. All that’s required is a little effort to make that switch.
The closeness of our union with the Lord depends on the extent to which our love for evil and its desires—its compulsions—is dismissed. (Divine Providence §33:2)
The more that we push away the desire for negative things, the more space we open for a new life from God to move into that open space. Curtis says that we can look to the process of physically converting to renewable energy to give “clues” about how the spiritual process might work. Guest Ian Woofenden lends his experience of the process of converting to renewable energy.
What are the necessary steps in creating a new kind of life? Ian says that taking an inventory of energy use is the first step. So, Curtis takes us through a similar process in the mind.
If we look at the mind as a house that needs heat, can we see gaps in our energy consumption? What energy can we cut down? How can we stop wasting energy? Taking inventory of our habits starts this process off by understanding what we’re spending energy on.
Tapping into a Better Flow
In this whole process of change, we can’t expect perfection right away—it’s a process from the beginning, and that means that there are always going to be imperfections.
This process starts off by believing that change is possible and that it can lead to happiness, even if the end isn’t obvious. Then progress happens in little segments, as a result of a conscious choice and change. It’s not an easy process! Swedenborg talks about the nature of the pleasure that comes from love:
All pleasures flow from love, because what we love we feel as pleasant. There is no other source of any pleasure. It follows, then, that the quality of the love determines the quality of the pleasure. Pleasures of the body or of the flesh flow from love for ourselves and from love of the world, and these are also the source of our urges and their gratifications. The pleasures of the soul or spirit, though, all flow from love for the Lord and love for our neighbor, which are also the source of affections for what is good and true and of our deeper bliss. These loves and their pleasures flow in from the Lord and from heaven by an inner path, from above, and move our deeper natures. The other loves and their pleasures, though, flow in from the flesh and the world by an outer path, from below, and move our outer natures. To the extent that the two loves of heaven are accepted and affect us, then, our deeper levels—levels of our souls or spirits—are opened. (Heaven and Hell §396)
The more positive feedback we get from these good loves, the more we’ll be able and inspired to change. This is why taking inventory is so important—Curtis shows a list that sheds some light on ways to look over our own sources of pleasure.
Some things need to be replaced completely while others just need to be fixed slightly to become tools for good. That comes down to the reason we would do any of this—to get better energy from a better source.
Swedenborg writes about an increase in personal energy levels that comes from embracing deeper spiritual love:
I have also quite often experienced, in various ways, how . . . outer strength, that is, power of mind and body, have followed with unrestrained ease when I was being my deeper self . . . When there is a love for something, nothing is heavy. The reverse is true when a person is struggling. (Spiritual Experiences §§111–112)
This isn’t all airy morality stuff—you can experience measurable differences in your life. The more we get in touch with higher goals, the more energy and inspiration we have to continue growing and changing.
The ultimate goal is the experience of heavenly joy, which is available to all of us on earth all the time. But we have to make the necessary changes to make room for those joys and let them into our lives. This is why change is hard. The conversion to a new type of energy is a mental change that takes time and energy to act upon.
Heavenly joy on earth happens a little differently than it does in heaven. It feels different, more subtle, in the physical world. So if you don’t have a profound experience of joy when you’re doing this work, don’t worry! Things will get better, so much so that our human minds can’t even grasp it while we’re living in this world.
The Case for Conversation
We can get glimpses of the happiness in heaven here—subtle forms of heavenly joy exist on earth. Curtis says that it’s harder to wait for the heavenly forms of happiness because we’re used to the “cheap and easy highs” of life on earth. This idea is paralleled in a shift to renewable energy sources; it is difficult to change from the easy energy we get already to a more difficult form of energy. At this point in the episode, energy expert Ian shares some final thoughts about the shift in mentality.
Curtis looks once again at the metaphor between energy sources—making a conscious choice to do the right thing and change life for the better. We just need to start moving in a better and healthier direction to access some of the heavenly happiness that is available if we open ourselves up to it.
Sharing heavenly joy with others makes this joy more real and happy—others help us experience more happiness. Swedenborg writes, “I noticed that when I wanted to convey all my pleasure to someone else, a deeper and fuller pleasure flowed in ceaselessly in its place. The more I wanted to convey it, the more it flowed in; and I perceived that this was from the Lord” (Heaven and Hell §413). Once you have this mindset, you want to pass it along and share it with others, creating a perpetual loop of good feelings and happiness.
Curtis wraps up this episode by saying, “You give more; you get more. . . . Convert to renewable spiritual energy.”
In the last segment, Curtis answers these questions from our viewers:
- How did Swedenborg view the Trinity in God?
- Having OCD, a lot of times images and thoughts that I can’t stop or quiet down. Would that be an example of evil spirits trying to make me feel bad?
- Did Swedenborg visit the abyss?
- Now I’m really confused! Why would Jesus have to die on the cross then? There’s no salvation through him?
- So is it possible that the spiritual realm could get out of balance again and have to use the power of a Christ-like Jesus?
- So being genuinely grateful is a good way or maybe the quickest way to tap into the positive energy?
- How many angels do we have around us all the time?
- Aren’t people in heaven perfect? So, how does this concept of choosing better energy apply to them?
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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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