Friday, February 25, 2011

Is Ishmael coming home?

Genesis 16:12: [Ishmael] will be a wild donkey of a man; his hand will be against everyone and everyone's hand against him, and he will live in hostility toward all his brothers.

As a Christian, I always thought that Muslims were allergic to genuine democracy and that Muslims had a limited spectrum of socio-political options:

(a) The 'Zealot' option consisting of a fundamentalist, totalitarian state with potential links to militant terrorists.
(b) The 'Herodian' option with a corrupt, totalitarian, neo-colonial dictatorship whose sole objective was to enrich its rulers.
(c) Quirky mixtures of the two such as Zealot-turned-Herodian Muammar al-Gaddafi, and Herodians who pretend to be Zealots such as the Saudi and Emirati ruling elites.

The Ummah's digital generation has, however, surprised me by exhibiting a propensity for Jeffersonian democracy, a tendency that, I earnestly hope, is not ephemeral.

We live in a world that is inexorably gravitating towards an advanced planetary civilization, a near-Utopia (not Utopia, which is not possible in the dappled, physical realm). In this post-apocalyptic Zeitgeist, events such as the end of apartheid, the collapse of the Soviet empire, the democratization of the Muslim world or of China are not unthinkable possibilities. Neither is the possibility of cheap clean energy, clean air and clean water, an Edenic resurgence of flora and fauna or a voluntary leveling off of the world's population.

On this optimistic, Swedenborgian note, let me fervently pray that Muslims (and Christians and everyone else, for that matter) go the way of Dr, Mehmet Oz.  We know that they will, sooner than later. I only hope that they do so soon.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

March to Freedom, the Journey out of Egypt

We have greater freedom in the spiritual world than in the physical world. We are not constrained by space, time, gravity, entropy. Parenthetically,  there is an organization of experience via what one might consider successors to time, space, gravity, change and the like. Think of time' (time-prime), space' (space-prime) and so on.

Some things that are internal in the physical realm become external in the spiritual realm. In the spiritual realm, we are able to move mountains and still winds with our thought. Only the Lord can do this in the physical realm.

Physical law, which operates as a forcing function independent of our minds in the physical realm, becomes moored to our some aspects of our individual and communal psyches in the spiritual realm. Reality becomes more software than hardware (more "virtual" and more plastic), even though sensory experience is heightened rather than blunted or erased. We are less constrained by a rigid universe, even though we are constrained by our choices and out loves. Since our natural and human surroundings match our deepest wishes, we do not feel imprisoned any longer. As in a virtual reality game, we can be what we want to be, do what we want to do, generate surroundings according to our desires and live in total harmony and freedom.

The question then is: How will we use this freedom, this deep harmony with our environment? If we choose to abuse it, we are in hell.

We will be sorted according to our choices into heaven and hell, and into different kinship communities ('interest groups') in heaven  and hell. Per Swedenborg's writings, this sorting out is a process that can take as much as 20-30 years after a person's death. This sorting is meant to preserve and enhance our freedom of being and action so that we are not hampered by cumbersome physical constraints or the presence of others whose interests, choices and values are different. We can bracket our incompatible attributes and visit with folks from other kinship groups in a 'neutral area', but our habitation and belonging are with our kinship group. That is where our harmony with our surroundings and our freedom are the greatest.

P.S.  I have used inputs from Candace Frazee, an expert on Swedenborg,  to correct my original post. I do not claim to represent her views, however.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

The Pre-existence of Souls

While I do not believe in reincarnation, I do believe in the pre-existence of souls. Our ontological pre-existence does not imply conscious pre-existence. It is radically different from the pre-natal existence of Jesus as God and as the Word of God. Even though we have did not become fully conscious until a few years after birth, we have always existed in the mind of God. We were not created by the will of a man and a woman.

Conception is the moment in time when an individual, pre-existent, pre-conscious soul is joined to a body.  The association of a soul with a moment of conception and, consequently, with a physical body and a DNA heritage is accidental. God has the broad outlines of a destiny and a role in His kingdom planned for each one of us. God will find an suitable moment of conception to match this plan for us with the memetic (cultural) and genetic (DNA)  attributes of a human couple. The relation between a couple's decision to have sex and the infusion of the fertilized egg with an immortal soul is, therefore, synchronistic rather than causal.

A related belief of mine is that the souls of aborted and miscarried fetuses do not simply disappear. These develop in the spirit world into full human beings, as do the souls of children who die. I have gotten into argument with some fellow-Swedenborgians (see comments on this blog post) on this issue. These folks (not Edward Sylvia, the author of TheGodGuy Blog)  think that, although fetuses have souls, they do not develop into human beings in the spirit world if aborted or miscarried. There is nothing in Swedenborg's writings which warrants such a conclusion. On the contrary, this is contrary to divine love and justice. Of course, the consciousness (or pre-consciousness) of a newborn is not the same as that of a two-month old, or of a first-trimester fetus.

Recent Book Discoveries that have given me Immense Happiness

Having used the King James all my life, I recently "discovered" the NIV. It has made reading the Bible and listening to it a sheer joy. (Out of habit, I still say the Our Father in King James English with the art and the  Thy.)

I've recently purchased a book that has helped clarify my perspective.  It is Window to Eternity by Bruce Henderson, ISBN 0-87785-132-8, published by the Swedenborg Foundation. Swedenborg's writings (scroll down on this page)  are long and sometimes difficult to read.  This book summarizes the visionary seer's insights into the afterlife in a very crisp, concise and readable manner.