Wrestling with Jacob + Israel

As I begin this journey into Logopraxis, it occurs to me that I'm going to have to change my entire approach to reading Sacred Texts. I don't mean to say that I've been going about it in the wrong way, but I have been going about it in the usual way...and by the usual way, I mean intellectually—analyzing what I read and then trying to figure out what it all means.

The purpose of Logopraxis is to read Sacred Texts (both the Word and the Writings) with the purpose of experiencing what I read. As David Millar puts it in his Introduction to Logopraxis, "there comes a time where knowledge has to be lived."

It's not enough to know the Lord's truth, I have to live it.


Read the selected text completely in one sitting—without stopping to analyze, highlight or underline what I've read this first time. I'm not gathering information here. I'm allowing the text to reach out to me. What stands out? What grabs my attention?  The purpose, as Reverend Millar says, is to "keep our intellectual preconceptions on hold...to allow the Lord into the process while keeping our proprium's usual patterns of reading text in check."

  • Read with the intent of being spoken to, of being instructed by the Lord. Where is my attention going as I read these passages?
  • Journal the impressions that stand out.
  • Go through the text again, and highlight those things that stand out to me.
  • Take note of them each day as I go through my daily tasks.

Our first lesson comes from the Arcana Coelestia Volume 6, sections 4282—4293; Genesis 32:26-28. Firstly, I'm blown away by the sheer volume of internal revelation within a mere two verses of Scripture! Secondly, Swedenborg is not an easy read. Thankfully he's repetitive.

In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestles with God and gets a new name: Israel. Initially, as I read this section of the Writings, I want to cling to that intellectual analytical approach I'm so fond of. But I consistently have difficulty doing it this way, and I'm beginning to realize it's exactly as David Millar describes: it's difficult because I'm trying to get it through "the power of my own reason."

But from a Logopraxis perspective, here's the basis of my problem: it is impossible for "the powers of intellect to penetrate of themselves into the things of Heaven. And that entrance into Spiritual and Celestial things only comes as a matter of life that the doctrine is from and of the Lord." (quoting Reverend Millar again—he says it better, and if it ain't broke...)

In other words, developing a personal relationship with the Lord by trying to understand Scripture through reason is not just difficult, it's impossible. But this is how Bible studies are traditionally approached, at least in my experience. We read scripture, then sit around and talk about what we think it means and how to apply that speculation to our daily lives.

Approaching this section of the Writings from an intellectual perspective leaves me, frankly, wrestling with Jacob + Israel (the external vs. internal struggle). Once again, I'm trying to understand, through reason, the internal and external meanings of the names, the three Heavens and their correspondence to my regeneration, etc. Boy...old habits are hard to break!


So I re-focus, shift my attention, and continue reading. Here's what stands out initially:

  • Temptation does not come to an end. It is ongoing.
  • There is an internal and eternal aspect of each of person
  • Jacob represents the external aspects
  • Israel represents the internal aspects
  • The Lord made His Human Divine through temptations and conflicts arising from those temptations. The Lord suffered temptations we cannot begin to imagine. Doing this re-ordered the spiritual world, both Heaven and hell.
  • Prevailing over temptations is what makes the spiritual man. Temptation is a necessary step in our regeneration.
  • There is a distinct difference between a representative Church and a representative of the Church.
  • The Ancient Church was a representative Church. They communicated directly with the Heavens.
  • A representative of the Church does not communicate internally but externally. This is allowed because man, without any communication with Heaven at all, would perish.
  • The descendants of Jacob are representatives of the Church. Internal knowledge was not given to them because they would have, in their lack of acknowledgement of holy things, profane them.
  • Those who are incapable of goodness and truth are kept far them to avoid profaning them.
  • The descendants of Jacob knew the Messiah would come, but thought it was to glorify them and rise them above all other men, not to save their souls.
  • The same is meant by the spiritual man and the Church because a spiritual person is a Church.

Surprisingly, when I read the text from the perspective of allowing it to speak to me, rather than analyzing it, the struggle of understanding Jacob + Israel was not at the forefront. The impression that gave me pause was regarding temptations. Temptations do not cease. Our ability to overcome them comes directly from the Lord. It is not something we do. It is something we allow Him to do.


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