Rational Scientific Theories from Theism
Shaking off unhappy moods
Stephen Russell Lacy
Nearly all of us know what it is like to feel down in the dumps. We get stuck in an unhappy frame of mind. It's no fun feeling discontented and discouraged. We don't have to have suicidal thoughts to be diagnosed by a doctor as suffering from mild clinical depression. All it might take is feeling despondent, having difficulty finding pleasure and interest in things that normally attract us, and experiencing low levels of energy.
What causes these unhappy moods? Personal loss such as a bereavement or redundancy may contribute to our un-happiness. Stress, at home or at work, may be the problem. People vary enormously in the way they respond to such external events and there is no obvious worldly cause why some individuals are more troubled than others. It's as if there are other forces active in our lives affecting our feelings.
John Lennon once said "Song writing is about getting the demon out of me. It's like being possessed. You try to go to sleep, but the song won't let you. So you have to get up and make it into something, and then you're allowed to sleep." Like him, many artists find themselves in association with some mysterious creative force which inspires their work. Scientists also report having sudden inspiration; like Archimedes who leaped from his bath when he experienced a leap of understanding about the principle of displacement and Kekule who had a leap of understanding regarding the molecular structure of the benzine molecule when he visualised a snake chasing its tail.
Limitations of science
These are materialistic times when people are sceptical about the supernatural or anything which cannot be detected by science. It would, of course, be unscientific for a scientist to pronounce upon anything beyond the scope of his measuring instruments, like, for example, the existence of God. Similarly biological science is in no position to understand the subjective quality of human consciousness except by describing it in terms of chemical and electrical patterns in the brain. The realm of spirit rather than the realm of matter is a more likely candidate for causing non-material feelings and thoughts. Many people do have an inkling that natural causes cannot explain everything and that there is something intangible and spiritual to life which they find hard to articulate.
The spiritual world
Through his unusual psychic experiences, Emanuel Swedenborg discovered that we can all be mysteriously influenced by both positive and negative forces that raise or dampen our spirits. He wrote that each of us is part of a hidden spiritual environment he termed the 'spiritual world' consisting of the spirits of people who have previously lived on earth who affect our thoughts and feelings, although we are usually unaware of this. He described the influence of spirits, good and bad, whom we tend to attract to ourselves according to our attitudes. Good spirits are the source of creative impulses. Bad spirits instil destructive impulses.
Our inner freedom
We might object that our inner feelings are authentic and define who we are rather than being from spirits. To some extent this is probably true. Being human is about the freedom to be what we want and become what we will. However our freedom is not complete. We are not free, for example, suddenly to make ourselves feel happy when we are in a despondent frame of mind, just as we have no power of ourselves to switch on creativity at will or force ourselves immediately to feel affection for someone.
Swedenborg wrote, however, that we do have some freedom to welcome or reject the spirits who seek to inspire us. We are said to be in a state of equilibrium between good and bad. We have freedom as to that with which we want to identify ourselves, though sometimes it might be difficult.
Disowning negative influences
There is a Chinese proverb 'Honour the spirits, but keep your distance from them.'
hi other words we don't have to permit negative spirits to be present with us. After all, we may think of tempting impulses as something apart from us which we can hang on to, or not. hi the same way we don't have to identify with the unhappy thoughts that come to us.
So there is hope for those of us who wish to shake off our unhappy moods. We can start to recognise some of the negative thoughts that come to us which make us miserable. So when we are in a depressive mood, we can think of it as coming from outside of ourselves and thus disown it. We can challenge thoughts about the world and the future that are unfairly negative. We can start to question what spirits may say about us not being able to do anything well, for example. We can start to look for alternative ideas. Is it really true that "Other people are interested in themselves and only talk to me out of duty." And that "Only bad things will happen in my life and I am helpless to stop them". We can ask whether these falsehoods are being implanted in our minds and are thus not really part of us. If they come from outside of us we can choose to turn our backs on them and they no longer need have any power over us. This is the way more easily to shake off our low spirits.
"Presence of Other Worlds: The Psychological Spiritual Findings of Emanuel Swedenborg" by Wilson Van Dusen (1974) 0-87785-247-2 256, Swedenborg Foundation. A clinical psychologist's account of Swedenborg's inward journey, which resulted in strikingly modem writings about the psyche.
"Heaven and Hell" by Emanuel Swedenborg translated by George Dole, 0-87785-476-9 Swedenborg Foundation. Swedenborg's revolutionary vision of the afterlife as an extension of the inner realities of the psyche. (online here)
"Window to Eternity" by Bruce Henderson, (1987)0-87785-132-8, Swedenborg Foundation. An exploration of Swedenborg's views on life after death described in everyday contemporary language.
(to be) reproduced with permission from OUTLOOK (ISSN 0969-1049 INCORPORATING THE SWEDENBORG MOVEMENT NEWSLETTER) No.51 2004.