A foundational principle of this program is that we live in two worlds at the same time – the natural, physical world where we make sense of our place in it through sight, hearing, etc. and the world of our spirit where we make sense of our state in it through thoughts and emotions.
In this natural world, there are many places that are potentially dangerous. When I was a parent of young children, I tried to keep my kids safe, even though they found themselves in danger at times. When I travel, I take precautions when I find myself in an unsafe area. Some people with chemical sensitivities or addictions have to be vigilant to avoid places that could be life-threatening for them.
The same is true for life in the world of spirit, except that we are talking about spiritual states instead of physical places. Have you ever been in a place of physical comfort but at the same time in a spiritual state that is so wretched that, if you recognized it as such, you would be horrified and want to leave immediately? I’ve been on a delightful dinner date with my lovely wife only to find that my state of mind changed quite suddenly by something out of the blue. It was so distracting that we couldn’t enjoy each other’s company. I wanted to leave the ugly state so I could regain the sweetness of being together.
One of the striking characteristics of my ego is defensiveness. The ego is afraid of being hurt, so it responds by defending itself using emotionally charged tools like anger, shame, or even revenge. Whenever we “go there,” we place ourselves in a dangerous state spiritually where we might say or even do something negative.
What is the spiritual source of this danger? Emanuel Swedenborg explains that each person is actually connected, by the choices we make, with like-minded spirits in this world and the next. For example, “One who takes delight in acts of revenge chooses to associate with others who delight in these, and so on…” Swedenborg – Secrets of Heaven #4067 We need to be careful, even vigilant, about where we allow our thoughts and emotions to take us. We can find ourselves in a state of mind that is dangerous to our relationships and even to our very soul.
On the other hand, we can move into association with good, noble angels who only want what is good for us. Swedenborg continues, “But those who do not take delight in acts of revenge dwell in a community of like-minded angels and through them are led by the Lord freely to everything good and true to which they allow themselves to be led.” (ibid.)
What are the first steps out of places we don’t want to be? First, examine the situation and observe that you have mentally moved into a dangerous place. With some curious interest, like a detective at the scene of a crime, notice the negative quality of the spiritual environment. Be careful not to identify with the dangerous state; keep some emotional distance. Secondly, take steps to move into a more healthy and noble state which you can experience as a place of love, truth, and joy. The Lord wants to lead us there, so He said to His disciples, “I go to prepare a place for you.” It’s a journey. As Swedenborg teaches: “journeys are simply changes of state.” Swedenborg – Heaven and Hell #191