1. From The Slums Of Philadelphia
We are going on a trip. We are going from love of self and love of the world to a place, a state, called love of the Lord and love of the neighbor. It is a long journey. It is hard work. It is "The Work."
Now if I gave the first class here and said that the subject of this class is about going from Philadelphia to Tibet, and someone jumped up and said, "I'm ready! I'm on my way!" and they jumped out the door and started, how far would they get? Not very far. If they had just gotten paid and had a full wallet, they might get themselves all the way to New York. Then what? Or if they got to Tibet, what would they do in Tibet? They couldn't speak Tibetan, they'd be too cold, they wouldn't know what to do.
So yes, we are going to move from Philadelphia and we are going to go to Tibet. We are going to change states. But the first thing we have to do, while we are here in Philadelphia, is to realize that we are not in Tibet! We are dreaming that we are already in Tibet. We have been asleep. You will hear the phrase, "We of the New Church..." or "We Christians...." We are not the New Church, we are not yet Christians. Forget it! You are not members of the New Church. You are members of an organization which studies books that talk about the possibility of man evolving to a state that he might be a New Church. We are not in Tibet. We are dreaming that we are in Tibet. So the first thing we have to do is wake up.
When you wake up, you will find yourself, spiritually, in the slums. Then, for the first time, you will think it might be worthwhile to go to Tibet. But once you realize you are in the slums of Philadelphia, you can't just up and go! First of all, you are going to find you are attached to things. You want to make sure you can take your Jacuzzi, that you can take your car, and take all your stuff. "Yeah, I'll go, but I want my stuff." And then you have friends.
"Yeah, but I can't leave Harry. We go drinking on Saturday night." You are going to find you don't want to leave. You like that slum. You are going to have to look at yourself. What resources do I have? What's my bank account like? When would I go? What would be the first step? Would I stay in New York overnight to get the boat?
So, observation just wakes you up. "Mercy! I'm in the slums of Philadelphia! I thought I was in Tibet! I thought I was just reading about Philadelphia. I'm in Philadelphia!" So we wake up and we have this journey to make. It is a long journey.
We will talk about the stages of this journey: Self- observation, Non-identification, becoming passive, and so forth. There are a number of steps that are going to take place in this journey from one place to the other, and they follow in a definite order.
This trip begins when you finally realize where you are and that you are sick and tired of these slums of Philadelphia. You say, "I've had enough of these slums! When is He going to tell us we can leave?" Well, you haven't even packed your bags yet. I'm just trying to convince you that you aren't in Tibet, and to help you see why the Lord can only bring you there gradually.
The Lord cannot take us to Tibet in the state we are in now. If He did we would die in Tibet. Emanuel Swedenborg, in his Theological Works (hereinafter called "the Writings") speaks about certain people who were eager to be admitted into heaven. Some of these people knew nothing at all about what heaven really is - a kingdom of unending goodwill. So they were given a brief experience of heaven, just as much as they could stand until they felt tortured, suffocated, and began to pray for deliverance from that intensity of heat and light. It simply was too much for them. They were not adequately prepared for the journey. If the Lord changed our state all at once; if he forced us to dwell in states of mutual love for lengths of time that were longer than we were ready for, it would feel as though we were dying. So let's not expect to go to Tibet all at once. (See Swedenborg's Heavenly Secrets 537-539)
One of the first things we need to become aware of is that we are in our proprium, or our ego. Our propriums are very active. In the beginning of our journey, our inherited and acquired evils activate our propriums, but we do not see it as evil. In fact, we call it good. So we have a lot of waking up to do. It's a good process. The only game there is. You will find that the material things that make you happy, (or that your proprium thinks will make you happy) are just dreams. There are people who have everything you could imagine, people who have three billion dollars, who are not happy. There are people who have millions of dollars who commit suicide. There are people who have everything your proprium could imagine who are miserable. Spiritually, no matter how many possessions they amass, they are still in the slums of Philadelphia. They are still paying rent to the slumlords. They are still being driven by their egos; their propriums are very active. As you begin your journey this is one of the first things you start to notice.
For example, one of the chief features of the proprium is anger, especially the anger associated with "being right." When this feeling gets activated it can wreak havoc in family relationships. You cannot establish a good relationship with your kids from anger. It can't be done. I don't care how right you are. You will observe that it can't be done. It does not produce good. So, even though they need structure, they need this and that, if you come from anger it will not produce good. So, you start to say, "I want to do something that actually produces good," and the Lord promises you that there are affections that can produce good, but they are not you. They are not those feelings that have been activating your proprium. They are passive, they are in the essence, and they are the Lord's. You have to clean your house first, weed your garden, clean that cup, make it empty, become as a little child, and stop proprial thought. The Lord is waiting to give you so many good thoughts. You can't enter the kingdom unless you stop your own thoughts and open yourself to the Lord. You must become as a little child; stop being so smart. Stop being so right. We are so smart, we are rich men. Rich men cannot go to heaven or through the eye of a needle. We are rich with all the things we think we know. We are so smart. That has to change completely. We must become as a little child knowing nothing. And then the Lord can start to teach us. We must allow ourselves to become passive, to be willing to be nothing and then we allow the Lord to do something for us. It is then that He starts to lead us away from the slums of Philadelphia and we are on our way to Tibet.
Now for a task. Observe during the week if you happen to have a negative reaction to another human being. When you observe this then consciously do whatever it takes to have a positive reaction to that person. Just quick. For instance: I sit in church and watch people walk by and I observe that I am capable of having a negative reaction to every human being that walks in. "His hair is too long," "Her coat is too thick," or, "They are too wealthy," or, "They are too poor...." The task is to just immediately look for something positive. "That is a beautiful necklace." Or "Those shoes are nice." "What good posture." It is as simple as that. End up the relationship with conscious effort and attention, doing whatever it takes for one good feeling about that person, one good observation before you leave that person. Because when you get to Tibet, you are going to feel goodwill all the time. You might as well get in practice, right?
Do whatever it takes to change from a negative reaction toward a person to a positive reaction toward that same person.
And if every time you see a certain person, you remember the time he made fun of you, etc., now look for a positive response to replace your automatic negative response.