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  • Writer's pictureHoward Thompson

Overcoming Spiritual Pride

"Create in me a new heart, O Lord; and renew within me a right spirit." (Psalm 51:10).

The task of transforming our hearts is a challenging one. It's challenging not only because it's beyond our capacity, but also due to our inherent resistance to the Lord's relentless effort in doing so. However, creating a new heart within us is crucial to our regeneration and the Lord's attempt to pull us towards Him, towards heaven. Key to this is our constant effort to evaluate the affections driving our thoughts and actions.

While contemplating this vital part of our spiritual evolution, I stumbled upon a thought-provoking quote by the self-proclaimed "philosophical entertainer", Alan Watts. He said, “You know how people are when they get spiritually proud? They belong to some kind of a church group, or an occult group, and say, “We are the ones who have, of course, the right teaching. We’re the in-group, we are the elect, and everybody else outside is really off the track.” But then comes along someone who one-ups them by saying, “Well, in our circles, we’re very tolerant. And we accept all religions and all ways as leading to The One.” But what they’re doing is, they’re playing the game called ‘We’re More Tolerant Than You Are.’ You see? And in this way, the egocentric being is always in his own trap.”

Reflecting on these words, I can candidly admit that I've found myself on occasion questioning whether feelings of superiority were brewing within me due to my comprehension of the unique New Church teachings. It's not just about my acquisition of these teachings, but also the pleasure I can experience when I feel my understanding deepen.

In the New Church teachings, Swedenborg recognises our tendency, especially as men, to feel superior to others due to our intellect and intelligence. In his work, Conjugial Love (353), he remarks, “a person cannot but perceive of [intelligence and wisdom] as present in himself, so that anything he thinks with his intellect or intends with his will comes from himself. Yet not a scrap of this is from the person himself, apart from the ability to receive from God intellectual and voluntary matters.” The pride we experience is a direct consequence of our inability to recognise that “not a scrap of this is from [us].” This state isolates us from others, from our neighbours, and from the Lord.

Nevertheless, there's always a path leading back to the Lord for anything that disconnects us from Him. In the case of our innate inclination to self-intelligence pride, the Lord has provided an extraordinary and desirable antidote. Conjugial Love 353 further states, “Since everyone is by birth inclined to love himself, it has been provided ever since creation, to prevent him perishing from self-love and from pride in his own intelligence, that the man's love should be copied into his wife. She by birth has it implanted in her to love her husband's intelligence and wisdom, and so to love him. A wife therefore continually draws her husband's pride in his own intelligence to herself, and douses it in him, bringing it to life in herself and so turning it into conjugial love, and filling it brim-full with delights. This has been provided by the Lord, to prevent pride in his own intelligence making him so foolish that he believes his intelligence and wisdom come from himself, and not from the Lord, so that he wants to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, and so believe himself like God, and even to be God; as the serpent, which was the love of one's own intelligence, persuasively said.”

In next week's blog we will look at the unique nature of female wisdom and how the Lord has fashioned this special brand of wisdom leading to a union of souls in true marriage.

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