Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Why Faith is Important

THOSE WHO DO NOT ADMIT OBJECTIONS AGAINST THE KNOWLEDGES OF FAITH ARE KEPT SECURE FROM EVIL SPIRITS. [Certain] spirits complained that they could no longer be present, because as long as anyone remained [firm] in the knowledges of faith, he was not allowed to admit objections. They said therefore that they had no means of leading them, affirming also that it was through this medium that they seduced them; that by the force of a single objection all confirming truths, however numerous, were rendered of no effect; for man is so borne on by his cupidities, which produce phantasies, that they willingly admit objections, of which a single one then becomes stronger with them than a thousand confirmations. Wherefore that a man be true, or in true faith, he ought to be in the opposite state, so that one truth may prevail over a thousand or ten thousand objections; thus evil spirits will flee, for they cannot live in such a sphere. - Emanuel Swedenborg, Spiritual Experiences, 3164
Now this was the faith of these of whom I have spoken; they are young, and their minds are firm, and they do put their trust in God continually. - Alma 57:27
Be wise in the days of your probation; strip yourselves of all uncleanness; ask not, that ye may consume it on your lusts, but ask with a firmness unshaken, that ye will yield to no temptation, but that ye will serve the true and living God. - Mormon 9:28

 It is evident from the foregoing that, through work in a higher world, the soul must withdraw from the body some of its activity ordinarily bestowed upon it with such care. It leaves the body to a certain extent self-dependent, and the body needs a substitute for what the soul had formerly done for it. If it does not obtain such a substitute, it comes in danger of mischief from hurtful forces, for one must in this regard be clear that man is continually subject to the influences of his surroundings. Actually he lives only through the influences of these surroundings. Among these, the kingdoms of visible nature first of all come under consideration. Man himself belongs to this visible nature. If there were no mineral, plant and animal kingdoms, nor other human beings around him, he could not live. If an individual could be imagined as cut off from the earth and lifted up into surrounding space, he would have to perish instantly as a physical being, just as the hand would wither if cut off from the body. Just as the illusion would be formidable if a human hand were to believe that it could exist without the body, so powerful would be the deception of a man who maintained that he could exist as a physical being without the mineral, vegetable and animal kingdoms, and without other men. — But besides the above-named kingdoms there are three others that generally escape the notice of man. These are the three elemental kingdoms. They stand, in a sense, below the mineral kingdom. There are beings who do not condense into the mineral condition, but who are none the less present and exert their influence upon man. (Further information concerning these elemental kingdoms will be found in my Cosmic Memory, and also in the remarks about them in my Theosophy.) Man is thus exposed to influences from kingdoms of nature that in a sense must be called invisible. Now, when the soul works upon the body, a considerable part of its activity consists in regulating the influences of the elemental kingdoms in such a way that they are beneficial to man. — The instant the soul withdraws part of its activity from the body, injurious powers from the elemental kingdoms may get hold of it. Herein lies a danger of higher development. Therefore care must be taken that, as soon as the soul is withdrawn from the body, the latter is in itself accessible only to good influences from the elemental world. If this be disregarded, the ordinary man deteriorates, to a certain extent, physically and also morally, in spite of having gained access to higher worlds. While the soul dwells in the higher regions, pernicious forces insinuate themselves into the dense physical body and the etheric body. This is the reason why certain bad qualities, which before the higher development had been held in check by the regulating power of the soul, may now come to the fore for want of caution. Men formerly of good moral nature may, under such circumstances, when they enter higher worlds, reveal all kinds of low inclinations, increased selfishness, untruthfulness, vindictiveness, wrath, and so forth. — No one alarmed by this fact need be deterred from rising to the higher worlds, but care must be taken to prevent the occurrence of such things. The lower nature of man must be fortified and made inaccessible to dangerous elemental influences. This can be brought about by the conscious cultivation of certain virtues. These virtues are set forth in the writings on spiritual development. Here is the reason why they must be carefully sought after. They are the following.First of all, the human being must, in a fully conscious manner, in all things, continually be intent upon the lasting, distinguish the imperishable from the transitory and turns his attention toward it. In all things and beings he can suppose or discern something that remains after the transitory appearance has faded away. If I see a plant, I can first observe it as it presents itself to the senses. No one should neglect to do this, for no one who has not first made himself thoroughly familiar with the perishable aspect will detect the eternal in things. Those who are continually afraid that to fix their attention on the spiritually imperishable will cause them to lose the freshness and naturalness of life do not really know what is being dealt with. But when I look at a plant in this way, it can become clear to me that there. is in it a lasting living impulse that will reappear in a new plant when the present plant has long since crumbled to dust. Such an orientation toward things must be adopted in the whole temper of life. — Then the heart must be fixed upon all that is valuable and genuine, which one must learn to esteem more highly than the fleeting and insignificant. In all feelings and actions, the value of any single thing must be held before the eyes in the context of the whole. — Thirdly, six qualities should be developed: control of the thought world, control of actions, endurance, impartiality, trust in the surrounding world, and inner equilibrium. Control of the thought world can be attained if one takes the trouble to combat that wandering will-o'-the-wisping of the thoughts and feelings that in ordinary human beings are constantly rising and falling. In everyday life man is not the master of his thoughts; he is driven by them. Naturally, it cannot be otherwise, for life drives man and as a practical person he must yield to this. In ordinary life there is no alternative. But if a higher world is to be approached, at least brief periods must be set aside in which one makes oneself ruler of one's thought and feeling world. Therein, in complete inner freedom one puts a thought in the center of one's soul, where otherwise ideas obtrude themselves upon one from without. Then one tries to keep away all intruding thoughts and feeling and to link with the first thought only what one wills to admit as suitable. Such an exercise works beneficially upon the soul and through it also upon the body. It brings the latter into such a harmonious condition that it withdraws itself from injurious influences despite the fact that the soul is not directly acting upon it. — Control of actions consists of a similar regulation of these through inner freedom. A good beginning is made when one sets oneself to do regularly something that it would not have occurred to us to do in ordinary life. For in the latter, man is indeed driven to his actions from without. But the smallest action undertaken on one's innermost initiative accomplishes more in the direction indicated than all the pressures of outer life. — Endurance consists in holding oneself at a distance from every whim that can be designated as a shift from “exulting to the highest heaven to grieving even unto death.” Man is driven to and fro among all kinds of moods. Pleasure makes him glad; pain depresses him. This has its justification. But he who seeks the path to higher knowledge must be able to mitigate joy and also grief. He must become stable. He must with moderation surrender to pleasurable impressions and also painful experiences; he must move with dignity through both. He must never be unmanned nor disconcerted. This does not produce lack of feeling, but it brings man to the steady center within the ebbing and flowing tide of life around him. He has himself always in hand.
Another important quality is the “yea saying” sense. This can be developed in one who in all things has an eye for the good, beautiful, and purposeful aspects of life, and not, primarily, for the blameworthy, ugly and contradictory. In Persian poetry there is a beautiful legend about Christ, which illustrates the meaning of this quality. A dead dog is lying on the road. Among the passersby is Christ. All the others turn away from the ugly sight; only Christ pauses and speaks admiringly of the animal's beautiful teeth. It is possible to look at things in this way, and he who earnestly seeks for it may find in all things, even the most repulsive, something worthy of acknowledgment. The fruitfulness in things is not in what is lacking in them, but in what they have. — Further, it is important to develop the quality of “impartiality.” Every human being has gone through his own experiences and has formed from them a fixed set of opinions according to which he directs his life. Just as conformity to experience is of course necessary, on the one hand, it is also important that he who would pass through spiritual development to higher knowledge should always keep an eye open for everything new and unfamiliar that confronts him. He will be as cautious as possible with judgments such as, “That is impossible,” “That cannot be.” Whatever opinion he may have formed from previous experiences, he will be ready at any moment, when he encounters something new, to admit a new opinion. All love of one's own opinion must vanish. — When the five above mentioned qualities have been acquired, a sixth then presents itself as a matter of course: Inner balance, the harmony of the spiritual forces. The human being must find within himself a spiritual center of gravity that gives him firmness and security in the face of all that would pull him hither and thither in life. The sharing in all surrounding life must not be shunned, and everything must be allowed to work upon one. Not flight from all the distracting activities of life is the correct course, but rather, the full devoted yielding to life, along with the sure, firm guarding of inner balance and harmony.
Lastly, the “will to freedom,” must come within the seeker's consideration. Whoever finds within himself the support and basis of all that he accomplishes already has this attribute. It is so hard to achieve because of the balance necessary between the opening of the senses to everything great and good and the simultaneous rejection of every compulsion. It is so easy to say that influence from without is incompatible with freedom. The essential thing is that the two should be reconciled within the soul. When someone tells me something and I accept it under the compulsion of his authority, I am not free. But I am no less unfree if I shut myself off from the good that I might receive in this way. For then worse elements in my own soul act as a compulsion upon me. Freedom means not only that I am free from the compulsion of an outside authority, but above all that I am not subservient to any prejudices, opinions, sensations and feelings of my own. The right way is not blind subjection to what is received, but to leave ourselves open to suggestion, receiving it impartially, so that we may freely acknowledge it. An outside authority should exert no more influence than to make one say, “I make myself free just by following the good in it — that is to say, by making it my own.” An authority based upon occult wisdom will not at all exert influence otherwise than in this way. It gives whatever it has to give, not in order itself to gain power over the recipient, but solely that through the gift the recipient may become richer and freer. -
Rudolf Steiner, The Knowledge of Higher Worlds

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