Thursday, January 3, 2008

The Secret of Heaven

The New Christianity’s Guide to “The Secret.”

By Solomon Keal.


Hello. My name is Solomon Keal.
Education: I have an interdisciplinary Bachelor of Arts degree in History and Religion, from Bryn Athyn College of the New Church.
Senior Paper: My senior paper’s topic was an exploration of the ways that that Emanuel Swedenborg’s Writings have affected the history of the world to date. A study of the “Post Second Advent Age” if you will.
Occupation: Stay-at-home dad, professional musician.
I’m not a Theologian or Priest by profession, so this is my layman’s study, which will not be as comprehensive or succinct as it would be coming from a professional.

Many of you have heard of the movie and book called The Secret, by Rhonda Byrne. It’s the latest in self-help books, offering wisdom on the secret to wealth, relationships, health, the world, and life.

As a Christian, I like to look to the Lord and His Word as the ultimate source of truth. And yet, I also love to find the Lord’s truth reflected in the thoughts of the people around me, especially when I find it in places I don’t expect. I have found a lot of truth in the book, The Secret, and I would love to share my insights with you. These are things that resonate with me, and which I recognize because I’ve read the same things in the Lord’s Word.

The "Bath Water" in "The Secret"

As a Christian, you may have had people warn you NOT to read the book or watch the movie The Secret. It’s certainly not a Christian book, or written by a Christian author. Therefore, it takes a certain amount of translation to glean the truth from it. But I am a firm believer in the saying, “Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” There’s plenty of “bath water” in The Secret, but underneath all the bath water, there’s a beautiful little baby of truth.

What is the bath water? In The Secret:
1. There’s an apparent focus on loving one’s self above others.
2. There’s an apparent focus on worldly things such as monetary wealth.
3. There’s an apparent contradiction with the way the 10 Commandments are worded.
4. There is also an apparent lack of focus on God as our Creator, and His Word as our guide.
5. There’s an apparent lack of focus on the redeeming quality of struggle in one’s spiritual path.
6. There’s an apparent lack of explanation for why bad things happen to good people.

(In this study, you will see why I use the word “apparent” for all of these things.)

The "Baby" in "The Secret"

After hearing all of that, you may be wondering what I see in this book. Well, underneath all that somewhat murky bath water, The Secret has some points that I think are extremely useful for Christians to remember:
“The Baby:”
1. The Secret has a focus on love.
2. The Secret has a focus on active prayer, and active faith.
3. The Secret has a focus on trust and gratitude.
4. The Secret has a focus on looking for the good (or looking for God) in all things.
5. The Secret has a focus on the reality and presence of the spiritual world.
6. The Secret has a focus on changing one’s life for the better, which is essentially spiritual re-birth.

An Exercise in Translation

So if you’re interested, I would like to take you on a journey of exploration. A journey in which we examine The Secret, and identify what is false and what is true. And then, we simply reject what is false, and take what is true with us into our lives.

To aid us in this exploration, I will be referencing quotes from the Bible, as well as quotes from Christian revelator Emanual Swedenborg. (1688-1772) Any reference you see that is not from the Bible, unless otherwise noted, is a reference to a work of Emanuel Swedenborg’s. His many books are often collectively called “The Writings.” The religion based on his Writings is known as the New Church.

Much of it will be an exercise in translation; an exercise however which is extremely useful, because every single human on the planet speaks a different language. Learning to truly understand what another person means by the words that they use (no matter how different they might be from your choice of words), is part of the path to true wisdom and true charity.

For example. Mrs. Byrne frequently uses the term: “Universe” when talking about a higher power. As Christians we can simply remove the word “Universe” and insert the word “God,” or “The Lord,” or “Jesus Christ.” Mrs. Byrne also frequently uses the term “The Law of Attraction.” As Christians we can choose to either understand the meaning behind those words, or replace them with words that have more meaning for us such as “The Laws of Divine Providence, “ or “The Law of Love,” or “The Power of Prayer,” or “The Conjugial Principle.” Another word that is used in The Secret is the term “frequency” (like a radio frequency) which in this book is used to describe something spiritual, but for some of us it might retain too many natural connations to have meaning for us. So we might replace the word “frequency” with the words: “spiritual state,” “spiritual path,” “sphere,” “aura,” “thought pattern,” or “attitude.”

Even within the book The Secret, the authors are very good about recognizing the misunderstandings that can arise from different usage of terminology. But once the terminology or semantics are understood, there is often common ground in the underlying truth.
For example Mrs. Byrne says, “The true supply is the invisible field, whether you call that the Universe, the Supreme Mind, God, Infinite Intelligence, or whatever else.” (page 163) And author James Ray describes terminology with this example:
“Most people define themselves by this finite body, but you’re not a finite body. Even under a microscope you’re an energy field. What we know about energy is this: You go to a quantum physicist and you say, “What creates the world?” And he or she will say, “Energy.” Well, describe energy. “OK, it can never be created or destroyed, it always was, always has been, everything that ever existed always exists, it’s moving into form, through form and out of form.” You go to a theologian and ask the question, “What created the Universe?” And he or she will say, “God.” OK, describe God. “Always was and always has been, never can be created or destroyed, all that ever was, always will be, always moving into form, through form and out of form.” You see, it’s the same description, just different terminology.
So if you think you’re this “meat suit” running around, think again. You’re a spiritual being!” (page 158)

I think very often we allow differences in terminology, or semantics, to cloud our view of the truth. As Christians we often say, “If it’s not in the Bible, then it’s not from God!” But what if it agrees with the Bible? The Lord’s Truth is not limited to the Bible. Because of His Second Coming, the Truth is out there in the world. Now it is permitted to enter with understanding into these mysteries or secrets of faith. The Lord wants us to use our rational minds. He wants us to have a living faith, not a blind faith. He wants us to see His Truth reflected in the world around us. God uses people to spread His Truth. They might be part of God’s plan!

What I have written here is meant to be used as a study guide for the book “The Secret.” The study follows the book page by page, and you will notice page numbers throughout the study. The comments and quotes you read after these page numbers have reference to what was said on that page in the book “The Secret.”

Quote and Dedication pages

The book begins with a quote from The Emerald Tablet, circa 3000 B.C. It says, “As above, so below. As within, so without.” As Christians, I think this probably reminds us all of the quote from the Lord’s prayer: “As in Heaven, so upon the earth.” (Matt 6:10) In many ways, this is the sumation of the point of the Secret. The spiritual and natural worlds are not as separated as we might think or feel them to be. Isn’t this the challange of our natural lives? To become more and more aware of our spiritual lives?

The next page has a dedication in which the author says: “Dedicated to You. May the Secret bring you love and joy for your entire existence. That is my intention for you and for the world.” This quote makes me think about a quote from Swedenborg: “To feel another’s joy as joy in oneself, that is loving.” (DLW 47) So at least if we take the dedication at face value, we can get a hint of another theme in this book: Love to the neighbor.

Chapter One: The Secret Revealed, page 1

The Secret is the Law of Attraction. Translated into New Church language we might say that the Secrets of Heaven (or Arcana Coelestia) are Love to the Lord and Love to the neighbor. The Law of Attraction is Love. This is not hard to grasp.

Arcana Coelestia 8604:3 says “The life which is from the Lord has a power of attracting, because it is from love, since all love has in it this power.”

“The source of human attraction and repulsion is feelings that emenate from people’s minds. These feelings attract other who have similar feelings and repel others who do not. Although these emenations are countless and are not picked up by any physical sensation, they are perceived by the sensation of our soul as a single thing. In the spiritual world, all connections and associations are formed on the basis of them.”
(TCR 365:4)

“Whenever I have been reading the Lord's prayer, I have plainly perceived an elevation toward the Lord which was like an attraction, and at the same time my ideas were open, and from this there was effected a communication with some societies in heaven; and I noticed that there was an influx from the Lord into every detail of the prayer, thus into every idea of my thought that was from the meaning of the things in the prayer. The influx was effected with inexpressible variety, that is, not the same at one time as another; hence also it was made evident how infinite are the things contained in the prayer, and that the Lord is present in every one of them.” (AC 6476)

“[The Lord] attracts all people toward Himself, but because they are finite, angels and people are unable to follow that current of attraction except to a limited extent. The force of attraction toward infinity persists all the same.” (TCR 350)

Page 5

The book says that the Secret “began at the beginning of time.” This makes perfect sense if we think of the Secret as the Lord’s Love. The book also includes a list of famous thinkers who knew the Secret. I believe that we could add another name to that list: Emanuel Swedenborg.

Page 6

The Secret is a way of thinking. We might extend that idea and say that it is a way of praying as well. When we think good thoughts, good will come to us. When we think evil thoughts, evil will come to us. Sometimes we might not even realize that we are not thinking or praying correctly. One of my favorite quotes is from the Christian minister Joel Osteen: “Don’t tell God how big your problems are, tell your problems how big your God is.” What is the difference? It’s about attitude. It’s about faith. If we pray to God and just constantly tell Him how bad our lives are, we’re really just complaining to God. That negative attitude doesn’t open our minds to being receptive to God’s goodness. In fact it opens our minds to being receptive to evil spirits who love to complain. But if we have faith that God is constantly bringing good into our lives, and we pray with that trusting, grateful attitude, then we are opening our minds to being receptive to God’s goodness.

It might be hard for us to grasp how powerful a change in attitude can be, but that is the power of the spiritual; the power of the Secret. And with what we know from the Writings, we should expect the spiritual to be more powerful than the natural. And attitude is the realm of the spiritual.

Section One: Like Attracts Like, page 7

The Law of Attraction says that like attracts like. The book, The Secret talks about it by using the analogy of us as magnets. The Lord talks about it by using the analogy of us as vessels. (Matt 23:25-26) We have a choice as to which way we turn and therefore what we attract to us and what we fill ourselves with. The Writings also talk about associate spirits. (AC 4417) When you think positively you attract good spirits. When you think negatively you attract evil spirits.

“Those who are given to the improper and obscene pleasures of scortatory love attract to themselves similar people from hell; but those who are given to the proper and chaste pleasures of conjugial love are associated by the Lord with similar angels from heaven.” (CL 431)

“Hell and heaven are near to people, even in people. Hell is in an evil person and heaven in a good person. After death everyone comes into that hell or into that heaven with which he had been associated while in the world.”
Arcana Coelestia 8918 Emanuel Swedenborg

page 8

You become what you think about the most... or perhaps we could say, the way you think determines the person you become. So think good thoughts. This is the path of regeneration. Try to think, speak, and act like an angel, and you will eventually become one!

page 9

Author Mike Dooley said: “Thoughts become things.” We as Christians know this to be true. The Bible opens with God thinking and speaking the Universe into existence. And we are created in His image, so is it any wonder that we would operate in a similar way? The Writings talk about how in the spiritual world thoughts literally become things. Here on earth, it usually takes a good deal of time for thoughts to become manifest as things. But if we are patient, and trust in the Lord, it happens here too. And it’s good practice for Heaven!

“The individual ideas of anyone - whether an angel or one of us - can be presented visually in heaven’s light when it so pleases the Lord.” (HH 240)

“In the world of spirits countless representatives manifest themselves almost constantly. They are visible forms of spiritual and celestial things, not unlike the forms that occur in the world. The origin of them I have been given to know through daily association with spirits and angels. Representatives in the world of spirits flow in from heaven, and from the ideas and the discussions of the angels there. Indeed when angels' ideas and their discussions resulting from those ideas come down to spirits, they present themselves in a variety of ways as representatives.” (AC 3213)

page 10

Perhaps one way to really grasp the power of the Secret, is to delve into the relationship between the spiritual world and the natural world. Traditionally Heaven is thought of as existing “above” us, while Hell exists “below” us. This idea very conveniently separates us from them and unfortunately allows our minds to become apathetic to their influence over us. But the Writings talk about how there is no spatial realtionship between the natural and spiritual worlds, to use a sci-fi phrase, it’s simply a different dimension. It’s important for us to remember that the spiritual world is (for all intents and purposes) HERE, not THERE. In many ways this is the most powerful point in the Secret. The spiritual world exisits in our minds, but in a more real way than does even the natural world.
“The Kingdom of God is within you.” (Luke 17:21)
Therefore, we can’t allow ourselves to think that our thoughts and attitudes will go unnoticed by the spirits in the other world. They are real and they have an effect, just like our actions have an effect here in the natural world. Jesus even said, “You have heard that the law of Moses says, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say, anyone who even looks at a woman with lust in his eyes has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matt 5:27-28)

As Charles Haanel (1866-1949) says in the Secret, “The mental attitude will invariably attract such conditions as correspond to its nature.”

The Writings also talk about how thought brings presence in the spiritual world.
“In heaven thinking about a place leads to being present in that place.” (AC 8985)

The book the Secret uses the word “frequency” to talk about the nature of our thoughts. We might replace it with words like attitude, orientation, sphere or aura.

“Everyone is surrounded by a spiritual aura, an aura that flows out in waves from the life of our affections and their thoughts. Further, since this kind of aura flows out from every individual, it also flows out from every heavenly community and every hellish community, therefore from everyone at once, or from all heaven and all hell.” (HH 591)

“Man is not aware that he is encompassed with a certain spiritual sphere that is in accordance with the life of his affections, and that to the angels, this sphere is more perceptible than odor to the finest sense on earth.”
Arcana Coelestia 4424 Emanuel Swedenborg

page 11

We are spiritual beings, and our thoughts impact the spiritual world (as well as the natrural world). We are known by our works (our transmissions) that’s what makes us who we are. “You will know them by their fruits.” (Matt 7:16)

“If you want to change anything in your life, change the channel and change the frequency by changing your thoughts.” This is the final step of repentance. (TCR 528)

New Church pastor Ethan McCardell says in his book “If you were to distill the message of the Word of God into two words, it would be LIFE CHANGE.” - Ethan McCardell (from his book “Be of Good Cheer; The Redeeming Quality of Struggle” page 154)

“Stop judging others, and you will not be judged. Stop criticizing others, or it will all come back on you. If you forgive others, you will be forgiven. If you give, you will receive. Your gift will return to you in full measure, pressed down, shaken together to make room for more, and running over. Whatever measure you use in giving - large or small - it will be used to measure what is given back to you.” (Luke 6:37-38)