Background and IntroductionRead More
After his ordination, Rev. David Millar served as the full time Pastor of the Adelaide Society of the New Church In Australia (NCIA) from 2003 to 2008 and is currently the full-time Director of Spiritual Training in the Australian New Church College (ANCC).
This interview was given via Skype on July 20, 2011 to Gray Glenn in Kempton, Pa. using questions from Siri Odhner Hurst, Sher Huss and Gray Glenn.
Can you tell us a little about the New Church in Australia and the College?Read More
The New Church in Australia is made up of a number of independent Societies in Australia and New Zealand that have ties to a national body that is called “The New Church In Australia” (NCIA). More loosely, the New Church in Australia is a diverse body of people who either have some sense of affinity to groups that subscribe to the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg or are interested in the Writings themselves. The Australian New Church College is run by the board of the New Church in Australia and looks to serve the wider body of the Church through spiritual growth initiatives.
It provides two programs. The first is a course of study to equip people for ministry. This training leads to a diploma and may or may not include ordination. The second is an approach to the Word called Logopraxis which is a framework for a personal spiritual practice using the Word. Logopraxis empowers people to enter into the inner work of self-examination and repentance and to bring material based on their work into a small group setting where it can be offered as the basis for building a sense of spiritual community.
What does a Director of Spiritual Training do?Read More
The title for the head of the College used to be “Principal,” which worked well and described the emphasis on an academic model of education. But the Council of Ministers felt a growing need for the College to move away from a model primarily focused on putting information into students’ heads towards an emphasis on experiential engagement with Scripture and the Writings. We want students to be aware not just of the information component of learning, but also to be aware of how they are being affected by the material personally. We felt that we needed to find a way whereby those who are looking to the College to be equipped for ministry are able to acquire an understanding of New Church doctrine that is illustratable from personal experience. This led to a complete rewrite of our curriculum from the ground up, which is ongoing.
In my previous life I was an IT manager so I have been able to develop the College’s website as well as format the courses developed by our course writers, along with other resources, so that they can be delivered online. I’m also involved in organizing and running three-day seminars which are held periodically in the different states around Australia with the support of societies and various ministers that serve here.
The other area of work is the promotion of Logopraxis, which is a framework for working with the Word personally and in community through online and face-to-face Life Groups. If I was to nail down what it is I do aside from the nuts and bolts kind of stuff I’ve just listed, it would be simply to support those who are committed to engaging with the Word as the basis for a spiritual practice.
This involves helping people to navigate their way through the inner processes and states that arise when they are consciously looking to the Word to examine the quality of their inner life.
What first hooked you into the Writings?Read More
The search that led me to the Writings was largely governed by an interest in the allegorical interpretation of Scripture. So, when I came across the Writings in a university library in New Zealand late in the 1980s or early 1990, I was actually doing a search looking for anything that dealt with what I now know is the internal meaning of Holy Scripture —but then it was a sense of its allegorical nature —and its application to the inner life. I’d come to a point in my search where I was convinced that God was real and God was One. The other thing that I had settled on was that Scripture is Divine Revelation: this was not a question for me. It was a fact. But along with that came a conviction that Scripture had an internal meaning, and it was psychological in nature. Having had a few years in a fundamentalist church where I arrived at my own conclusions that didn’t fit with their doctrine, I realized that finding out where Jesus Christ fit into the picture was crucial to moving on, particularly with my love for Scripture.
I’d found various bits and pieces and read fairly widely within the Christian tradition on allegorical meaning, so when I came across the Writings it was a case of just reading and finding that my deepest questions were being answered—particularly the way it was put in the opening of Heaven and Hell , where we have a clear statement that the Lord Jesus Christ is God. Something just clicked then. So that settled that. I also remember the experience of having my heart being ready to leap out of my chest as it began to dawn on me that what I was reading was actually the Lord’s Second Advent. On every page, particularly of the Arcana, I found what I regarded as psycho-spiritual applications of Scripture to life. I think I was kind of hooked before I found the Writings. Having found them, it was, well, pressingly obvious that this was where my search had been leading.
Now that you have been working with them for over two decades, what teachings in the doctrines for the New Church do you find most revolutionary?
For me, at the center of my sense of things is the idea that the Lord is the Word. That’s absolutely central. By that I mean that the Lord really is the Word, right down to the letter. That’s where He is. That’s how He is present with us. That’s what makes the Word what it is. That’s what makes the Word active and living and able to effect profound changes in people’s lives. Moving on a bit beyond that, I think that we are put into an internal revolution of how we think of ourselves by the whole presentation of teachings about the proprium and about the Lord. We are confronted on every page with insights and truths that are revealing these two poles of human experience to us all the time, but we are reluctant to accept what truths teach. There is something in us that resists.
Seeing that the Lord is the Word, we move into a relationship to Divine Truth that really puts us in front of our self and also in front of the means by which we can be saved—from ourselves, I suppose.
What is“Logopraxis” and what prompted its development?Read More
Logopraxis is a few things. In its most obvious form it’s a structure or method for working with the Word. On another level Logopraxis is a framework for building community based around individual people’s practice and willingness to share with others what they discover in the practice of the Word. The term itself is coined from the Greek words “Logos” and “praxis”: “Word” and “practice of”.
The term means to practice the Word. This goes a long way back for me. Logopraxis is really a reflection of the development of my own search. From very early on, prior to having contact with anything from the New Church, I was searching for a way of making the Lord visible in our midst. Connected with that is the idea that this is ideally done through community, through people living and sharing in the Word together. The struggle has been to find a way of facilitating that, providing a structure that enables group-life centered on the Word and on personal experience of it. Over time I moved through various forms of material. In the end it came down to looking at what I did as a practice personally and then framing that.
What really crystallized it as a structure was an initiative within the NCIA. The Counsel of Ministers here did a review of things —in particular, a review of where things need to head in the future. There were some things that we identified as crucial: people had to be engaged with Scripture and the Writings independently and have the confidence to be able to do that. The decline in the number of our ministers has prompted a search for new ways to move forward, for the church to grow and develop. Logopraxis as a basis for small group life came out of that, and not independent of doctrine, either. One of the main foundations for the development of Logopraxis and for the principles that underlie it is found in Heaven and Hell, from number 491 onward. These numbers deal with the awakening of people from death into the spiritual world. Logopraxis sort of embodies the idea that the principles that are exposed here about the afterlife are principles that can be applied now: they have to do with awakening from spiritual death into spiritual life. There is a map within those numbers. We find from the experiences of those who are in Logopraxis work that this map can serve as a guide for people as they engage with the Word as the basis for self examination and repentance.
Could you give us a brief description of the Logopraxis framework?Read More
Participants work in a two week rhythm. On day one, they meditatively read through a given section of Text, usually between 10 and 20 pages, paying attention to what “reaches out” to them from the Text. After meditating with those portions for a couple of days, each person devises a task that will bring one part of the Text into an active relationship to his or her everyday thinking and life. The rest of the two week session is spent observing. Afterwards, each one offers what they have learned to their Life Group.
The Logopraxis framework is just a way to engage with the Word. Once a person experiences that engagement, the Word Itself begins Its Own process within the person.
Why is it important for you to share Logopraxis and have it grow beyond your own sphere of influence?
Good question. I look at Logopraxis as the basis for a living, organic form of personal and collective spiritual life. I am not aiming for it to be an institution. I like the idea of its organic nature and a willingness to allow it to be what it has to be —even to the point where it may in some cases become a very different thing. If Logopraxis is to support the expression of people’s spiritual life in a social context, in a communal context, there has to be a level of freedom for its evolution and development. The only safeguard for the development of vibrant spiritual community is the willingness of the individuals to be engaged with the Word for their own personal work. That’s the only safeguard and it’s something you can’t “legislate”. The principle is, I suppose, heaven’s perfection is found in diversity.
So it is important that Logopraxis as an approach really does remain just that: a framework. Those who take it on as a framework need to be able to find their unique expression as a community. As a framework Logopraxis enables people to both discover the doctrine for their own life and how they can use doctrine to live their life. You can’t clone that. As people really explore doctrine for themselves they will then contribute in various ways to the Logopraxis community as a whole. That’s the freedom people have. Logopraxis is not like a straightjacket people need to wear; rather, if it’s used as a framework for group life, there is scope for it to develop and change in ways that better suit the needs and situation of those who are using it, and that’s fine.
Why study “Logopraxis”? What does it do for us compared to just reading the Heavenly Doctrines?Read More
(Rev. Millar qualifies the question: Logopraxis is the method of study as opposed to something you study itself.)
The Logopraxis approach or method of study enables a person to be much more consciously engaged in his or her reading of the Word. We know that reading the Word is to be encouraged. There are benefits to doing that. But Logopraxis is very much more than reading the Word, because it provides a basis for reading it consciously, with a level of attention and sensitivity that we don’t normally bring to it. Most people come to the Scriptures and the Writings in a way in which the Word is left passive and the reader is active. In that case, we experience that “we are studying the Word”. What Logopraxis does is turn that on its head, and we discover that it is actually the Word that is studying us. That is the discovery that people make as they engage with the Word using Logopraxis. They discover that the Word is capable of taking them into a study of themselves and leading and guiding them in that process. The Word Itself takes them through the processes that are involved in their reformation and regeneration.
Logopraxis takes as a starting principle that the Word is true. There’s no question about the Word being Divine Truth. That’s an accepted principle from which we work. Knowing how the Word is true, that’s another question. We come across things in the Writings that we may think we understand, but when we really take stock and try to provide an illustration from our life that illustrates it in a real way, we find we struggle. That’s a sign that what we are reading is knowledge not accompanied with understanding. Logopraxis enables people to bring their knowledge of a principle into life; to practice that principle and see it illustrated in their life. When that happens, then a person has understanding. It’s much easier to share truths from a real understanding of them. With understanding you can accommodate the truth to a listener in a meaningful and accessible way.
Is Logopraxis for everyone?Read More
I’d like it to be, but the reality is that it’s not. As a way of working with the Word in life it’s clearly not for everybody. We are seeing people touch on Logopraxis, experience it, and make the decision it’s not for them. That’s fine. Logopraxis is something that will appeal to those who are willing to do what it asks of them. That’s the other thing about it. Logopraxis is the basis for group life. It’s not an exclusive thing —in fact I would say that it’s incredibly inclusive, but it is also self-filtering. If you’re not engaging with the Word personally then you’ll probably find it a bit difficult to engage in a Logopraxis Life Group and share your experience because you won’t really have anything to share.
The short answer is no. It’s not for everybody. But in terms of spiritual life, you can’t get away from the need to practice self-examination and repentance as it applies to one’s inner mental life in some form —and Logopraxis just offers a means for making that more real for people on a daily basis.
Are there any dangers?Read More
Perhaps I’ll just say it’s not easy in the sense that you are going to be confronted with things within yourself that perhaps have been lying dormant for a very long time. There are ‘dangers’ in that sense: we are going to undergo a level of unpleasantness as we work through whatever needs working through. But there is no danger if a person is sincerely working with the Word. The Word is well able to guide and direct anyone. And having a community of people who are involved in this kind of work is a major support to enable people to hang in there when the going does get tough.
So the danger in Logopraxis is really to the proprium or to the self-understanding or self image we carry of who we think we are. It’s a threat to that: a major threat. And that leads to a lot of conflict in people as light gets shone in there. That’s the only danger I can see in my years of being involved with Logopraxis and working with people who are committed to it.