Death and Rebirth: Introduction

In 1975 Raymond Moody published his book Life After Life. It became an instant bestseller, sparking an intense popular interest in near-death experiences (NDEs) that has continued to grow ever since. Suddenly there was new light shining on a part of human experience that had been shrouded in mystery before. Suddenly we had up-do-date reports on the afterlife from ordinary people.

Though Moody’s was the first popular book on NDEs, it was not the first material to be published containing descriptions of what happens to us when we die. Various articles and a few books had already been published touching on the subject of NDEs in the years leading up to Moody’s book. There was a quiet buildup of investigation and reporting leading to the wide open door of Life After Life.

Even before that buildup though, there had long been texts containing descriptions of what happens to us when we die. For example, from the East we have The Tibetan Book of the Dead. From Africa we have The Egyptian Book of the Dead. In the West we have Heaven and Hell, by Emanuel Swedenborg. In this book I will focus on Swedenborg’s descriptions of the transition begun by death, putting them in a wider context and exploring their meaning for our spiritual growth during our lives.

Please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Afterlife

Can I be Saved if I Hate my Mother?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Mary:

Greetings, Lee. I have been an Eastern Orthodox Christian my entire life, despite brief forays into other denominations, even considering myself an agnostic at times because of the insufficiency of answers to my questions. The return to Orthodoxy always seemed the best default in encompassing at least “most of the truth.” I stumbled across “Off the Left Eye” and discovered Swedenborg’s works and now find more answers to my struggles in faith than I ever believed possible. I’ve acquired nearly all his most seminal writings and feel a depth of satisfaction and connection I hadn’t believed possible for me. Suddenly, it all makes sense.

Bitter old woman

(stock image)

Yet, I have a continual gnawing problem, regarding my relationship with my very elderly mother. I feel that my intense, nearly lifelong dislike for her (often times, hatred) will keep me from salvation. It is the worst stumbling block I can imagine because I see her as such a horrible, haughty, deceitful, selfish, hateful, Godless person. I can’t even find it within me to pray for her. It is my daily spiritual stumbling. We don’t speak or have any contact and while I know I am not honoring her, I simply cannot do so. Can you possibly enlighten me in this regard? Thank you for any insight you might share.

Thanks, Mary, for sharing your conundrum.

I have often thought that if I had to choose one of the three main branches of Christianity, it would be Orthodox Christianity. It seems to have departed least far from the teachings of the Bible and of Jesus Christ. However, I agree with you that the teachings of Swedenborg take Christianity and our spiritual life to a whole new level. They are also closer to what is taught in the Bible than any other Christian teaching that I am aware of.

Now to your question—which is one that many people face. You touch on this commandment:

Honor your father and your mother, so that your days may be long in the land that the Lord your God is giving you. (Exodus 20:12, and also Deuteronomy 5:16)

In the New Testament, Jesus affirms this commandment in Matthew 15:1–9, Mark 7:9–13, Mark 10:19, and Luke 18:20. However, Jesus also says:

Whoever comes to me and does not hate father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and even life itself, cannot be my disciple. (Luke 14:26)

Clearly there is more to your question than meets the eye! Let’s take a closer look.

For more on hating family members, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, Spiritual Growth

Is There Sex in Heaven?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by “Heart broken and worried”:

Hi Lee

I recently lost my fiancé a month ago we just got engaged on Christmas Eve. We were together for 6yrs and both have been divorced. This all still is taking a toll on me. He was only 39yrs old. The only thing that has brought me any comfort is since I came across your site. I want to thank you for that before I get to my question and I have so many. He and I had the most unbelievable bond and a connection mentally and physically and in every way imaginable not like in either of our previous marriages. We always said we were soulmates and God put us in each other’s lives for a reason. I am completely devastated and feel like more than half of me is gone and my biggest fear I guess really revolves around my question. If we will be able to be together in heaven in the after world and have the intimate relationship like we had here on earth and be able to be intimate in heaven. It was more than physical it felt like a spiritual connection and True Love. I’m doing as much reading as I can do and building my relationship with God and Jesus and just hope that not only will I be able to spend eternity with the Lord but with him the same as it was here but better. I hope you can bring me some comfort at this time.

The Angel of the Divine Presence clothing Adam and Eve with skins, by William Blake

The Angel of the Divine Presence clothing Adam and Eve with skins, by William Blake

First, I am so sorry to hear about the death of your fiancé. Our thoughts and prayers are with you as you grieve him and miss his presence with you. I’m glad the articles here have given you some help and comfort in assuring you that the two of you will be together again when it comes your time to move on to the spiritual world.

I can also assure you that when you rejoin him in heaven, you will be able to resume your relationship just as it was before, including sexual intimacy, and it will indeed be even better than it was here. That’s because the two of you will be living in the spiritual world, and will have spiritual bodies that can express your oneness of mind and heart in lovemaking even more fully than is possible in our physical bodies here on earth.

Now for a little more background and detail.

For more on sex in heaven, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Afterlife

If God Already Knows What We’re Going to Do, How Can We Have Free Will?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Josh:

It says in the Bible that God knows our every word before it even leaves our tongue. If God already knows what we’re going to do, then how could we have free will?

Thanks for the great—and classic—question, Josh. I’ll get right to the point, and then we’ll explore the question in a little more depth.

The most basic answer to this question is that knowing something is not the same as causing something.

If I hold a book up in the air and let go of it, I know that it will fall to the floor. But I do not cause it to fall to the floor. Gravity does that.

In the very same way, God knowing what we will do does not mean God causes us to do it.

Further, the very idea that God “already” knows what we “will” do in the future is human, time-bound thinking, and a misunderstanding of how God knows everything. God does not look into the future and see what’s going to happen. Rather, God sees everything from an eternal state of being outside of time and space. God simply sees and therefore knows everything that to us is past, present, and future.

In other words, just as you and I can survey an entire scene from the top of a hill or mountain, and see everything in it in one view, so God can survey the entirety of creation, not only taking in everything that exists everywhere in all of space all at once, but also taking in everything that exists in all of time all at once.

But just as our seeing a vast panorama from a mountaintop doesn’t cause that scene to be the way it is, so God’s seeing everything that exists in all of time and space does not cause all of those things to be the way they are.

View from a mountainWe’ll look at these things more closely in a minute. But first, let’s take a look at the Bible passage Josh is referring to.

For more on God’s omniscience and human free will, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

What if I’m in Love with Someone Who’s Already Married?

Here is a Spiritual Conundrum submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Scoope69:

Hi, Lee I have been pondering about this spiritual question for some time and I was wondering if you could answer this for me. Yes, I have read Everything so far, and it is very welcoming and true. I can’t say I’ve been the most righteous person, nor can I say I’ve been the worst either. I have graduated high school already and I have some college under my belt. To start, I have a spiritual background in my household. I have prayed and longed for a relationship I could share because I am very loving and caring. I saw many spiritual signs and messages in my dreams that I followed. Many of these signs told me to hold out a little longer, the love that I wanted would near. I fell in love with a foreign woman, she is very nice and sweet to everyone. I found out she is married already, and we exchanged numbers and parted after that. Slowly but surely, somehow we naturally worked up a feeling for each other, it is nothing that we forced, it just happened. Now we sort of have this soul mate relationship thing happening. She loves me deeply, and I love her deeply. We were only sexual once, and now could be more. I always wonder now if I am doomed to hell for having sinned. Nothing that I have done is for my own gain or greed or to destroy her. Everything is out of love from my heart. Her inner relationship isn’t the best, I know probably shouldn’t be a part, but it feels right and wrong, I make her happy, but I also want an exact answer, and I feel like you can help. I don’t blasphemy the Holy Spirit, and I very much believe in God and everything that comes with it. I know that only God is good, and I have been researching a lot, I am for sure not evil. I do show love for the neighbor, and coming to you, I know there are no slick ways out for anyone. So I wanted to ask, am I doomed, what should I do?

Thanks for your spiritual conundrum, Scoope69. I do sympathize with your praying and longing for a soulmate with whom you can share your life. This is a longing and desire that God has placed deeply in our souls.

Thou shalt not commit adultery.Unfortunately, your current relationship situation is more likely to bring you heartbreak than true love.

There’s just no way to sugar-coat this one. If you are engaged in a romantic and sexual relationship with someone who is already married, you are committing adultery. And adultery is wrong and contrary to God’s clear and direct commandment.

So here is the exact answer to your conundrum. Either:

  1. The woman you are in love with must divorce her husband, or
  2. You must break off your relationship with her.

It’s just that simple.

And even if she does divorce her husband for you, the prospects for a good and healthy relationship with her are not the best. It will tend to be poisoned by the fact that it began with adultery.

For more on adultery and soulmates, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships

Imamu Baraka: Compassion + Knowledge = Effective action

Imamu Baraka

Imamu Baraka

A few days ago (as I write this) Imamu Baraka was heading home from work one evening when he saw something he could hardly believe. Four people in hospital uniforms had just dropped off a young woman at the bus stop across the street from his office, right near the hospital’s emergency entrance.

The woman was wearing only a hospital gown and a pair of socks.

It was about 30 degrees out.

Her clothes and personal belongings had been packed into plastic bags and dropped at the bus stop, too.

The woman was wandering around, and stumbling as she went.

Baraka knew what he had to do.

He started taking video with his cell phone, and followed the four security guards back to the hospital, asking them why they were doing this, and how they could possibly leave this woman out there half naked in the cold. They kept right on walking into the hospital, giving unsatisfactory answers.

Then Baraka realized there was something more important to attend to. The woman at the bus stop needed his help.

You see, Imamu Baraka is an experienced psychotherapist. And he could see that the woman who had just been dumped on the street was struggling with mental health issues that were clearly not being addressed. So he went back to give her whatever aid he could.

The hospital that had summarily dumped the woman was the University of Maryland Medical Center, at its midtown campus located between Linden and N. Howard Streets at Armory Place in Baltimore, Maryland—which just happens to be across the street from Baraka’s psychotherapy office.

For more on Imamu Baraka and patient dumping, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Current Events

If Jesus was God, How was God Still in Heaven?

A few days ago a reader named Annie made this comment here on Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life:

Virgin Mary and Child, by "Master with the Parrot"I am a Christian who loves Jesus and God. But what I don’t understand is that if Jesus is God, then who created people to come down to earth in Jesus’ time, if God wasn’t in heaven?

My ancestors aren’t from Israel, so as well as having no God in heaven to pray to, they would have had no Jesus to listen to. As God loves all, what must Jesus’ thoughts be on the fact that most people in his lifetime he would never meet, as Jesus was in a small space in the world, and most would have no link to God, including my European ancestors.

But if Jesus is the Son of God—a part of him but not actually him—then for me the whole idea that God has his one and only Son takes away from the belief that we are all God’s children, and he created all of us. I am a Christian who loves Jesus and God, but am confused.

(I have edited Annie’s comment for readability. You can read her original comment here, and my original response here. The rest of this post is an edited and expanded version of my response to Annie.)

These are all excellent questions! A good question is the beginning of understanding.

To understand God, and how Jesus was and is God, we must expand our mind beyond our usual limited, material human conceptions of things. For you personally to understand these things, you’ll need to stretch your mind to grasp concepts that you may not have thought of before. So if what I’m about to say sounds complicated at first, please bear with me, and at the end I’ll link you to some articles that explain it further, and provide some supporting Bible quotes as well.

Though understanding God is a challenge for us small-minded humans, it is not impossible. And as we gain an understanding of God, we gain an understanding of the meaning and purpose of our life here on earth as well, and everything starts to fall into place for us.

For more on Jesus and God, please click here to read on.

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Posted in All About God

Does John 3:18 Mean that All Non-Christians Go to Hell?

John 3:16.

It’s everywhere.

You even see it on placards at football games:

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

Then there’s John 3:17, which sounds pretty good too:

For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

However, in John 3:18 the hammer falls:

He that believeth on him is not condemned; but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:18In three short verses, the God who so loved the world turns around and condemns everyone who doesn’t believe in his Son. And that means most of the people in the world are going straight to hell.

At least, so say many Christians.

Apparently these Christians haven’t bothered to read what comes before and after John 3:16–18. And they haven’t even carefully read what John 3:18 itself says.

The fact is, John 3:18 does not say all non-Christians go to hell. And if we read it as part of Jesus’ whole teaching in John 3:1–21, it says something very different from what these Christians preach.

These “Christians” have strayed very far from Jesus Christ. Instead of showing love and compassion to all different types of people, healing the sick and serving the poor and needy, these “Christians” consider themselves better than everyone else. They condemn billions of good people to eternal torture just for believing the wrong thing.

But it is these “Christians” who believe the wrong thing.

Read on to learn what these words from John 3 really mean in the original Greek, and in the context of the whole story.

For more on John 3:18, please click here to read on.

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Posted in The Bible Re-Viewed

What if the Right Woman has the Wrong Feet?

Big Feet!This article is a response to a Spiritual Conundrum recently submitted to Spiritual Insights for Everyday Life by a reader named Jared. We’ll get to his query in a minute.

But first, the question in the title is not the question Jared asked. Rather, it is the question I am asking Jared, and others who have a foot fetish—which is what Jared did ask about.

I ask this question because for those who have a foot fetish, their answer will say a lot about whether their foot fetish is a serious problem or just one of the particular harmless idiosyncrasies we humans have, or is somewhere in between.

But first, let’s let Jared ask his question.

For more on foot fetishes, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships

“Wives, submit to your husbands.”

Wives, submit to your husbands. (Ephesians 5:22)

That is a misquote of Paul.

“What?!? That’s exactly what Paul says! Here it is from the King James Version—God’s own translation of the Bible:”

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands.

“And in the New Revised Standard Version:”

Wives, be subject to your husbands.

“And in the New International Version:”

Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands.

“And in the English Standard Version:”

Wives, submit to your own husbands.

“Paul absolutely says that wives must submit to their husbands!”

No, he does not.

Every single one of those “quotes” is a misquote of Paul. There is no period after “husbands.” What Paul did say was:

Wives, submit to your own husbands as to the Lord.

Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands as unto the Lord - Ephesians 5:22Paul is not telling wives to submit to their husbands.

Paul never tells wives to submit to their husbands.

In Ephesians 5:22 (as well as in Colossians 3:18 and similar passages elsewhere), Paul is telling wives in what way they should submit to their husbands.

There’s a huge difference.

For more on wives submitting to husbands, please click here to read on.

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Posted in Sex Marriage Relationships, The Bible Re-Viewed
Lee & Annette Woofenden

Lee & Annette Woofenden

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