John Chapter 6:22-27
On the morrow, the crowd standing on the other side of the sea had seen that no other little boat was there except one, that one into which His disciples entered, and that Jesus did not go with His disciples into the small boat, but that the disciples went away alone. (23) But other small boats came from Tiberias near the place where they ate the loaves, the Lord having given thanks. (24) Therefore, when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there nor His disciples, they themselves also entered into the boats and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus. (25) And finding Him across the sea, they said to Him, Rabbi, when did you come here? (26) Jesus answered them and said, Truly, truly, I say to you, You seek Me not because you saw miraculous signs, but because you ate of the loaves and were satisfied. (27) Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give to you; for God the Father sealed this One.
Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) 680.
The fact that goods and truths are man’s real food may be clear to anyone, for the person who is deprived of them has no life within himself, and is a dead man. The food on which the soul of the person feeds who is dead in this sense consists of the delights arising from evils, and of the pleasures gained from falsities. These are the food of death. These delights and pleasures also derive from bodily, worldly, and natural things, which have no life at all within them. Furthermore such a person does not know what spiritual and celestial food is. Every time ‘food’ or ‘bread’ is mentioned in the Word he assumes that food for the body is meant. In the words of the Lord’s Prayer, ‘Give us our daily bread’, for example, he thinks purely of nourishment for the body. There are some whose ideas do extend further and who assert that this petition includes all other physical requirements, such as clothing, money, and so on. Indeed they will argue fiercely that no other kind of food is meant, even though they clearly see that the petitions coming before and after it entail purely celestial and spiritual things, and refer to the Lord’s kingdom, and possibly know as well that the Lord’s Word is celestial and spiritual.
Arcana Coelestia (Elliott) 2069.
That which distinguishes the celestial from the spiritual is love to the Lord, and that which distinguishes spiritual from celestial is love towards the neighbour.
Last Judgment (Post) (Whitehead) 314.
314.  In the natural kingdom are men whilst they live in the world. In the spiritual kingdom are spiritual angels; in the celestial kingdom are celestial angels; for there are these three universals, the natural, the spiritual, and the celestial.
We looked at the meaning of the crowd wanting to take Jesus by force and make Him king due to their having witnessed the sign of the feeding of the 5000. We saw that because of this He withdrew from them into the mountain alone. We then saw how the disciples descended from where they were down to the sea that it was night and that as they went to cross the sea to Capernaum they got caught up in a storm and how the Lord came to them walking on the water.
We explored the spiritual meanings involved in all these things and in general terms the meaning of the crowd wanting to make Jesus king speaks to a tendency in us all to want spiritual things on our own terms. This is why the events described in our story last week took place when it was dark. Darkness in the Word corresponds to a state where there is a lack of enlightenment. So when we read of it being night in the Word we know that the events that take place have something to do with states of life when the loves of self and the world are active. These states are also what are referred to as states of temptation. The reason these states occur is because our sense of self attached to beliefs and affections that belong to the loves of self and the world and temptations are the only way that higher loves and truths can be implanted in their place.
In last weeks story these temptations were represented by the storm the disciples found themselves in. The disciples represent the spiritual principles we learn through our interaction with the Word. If these principles of love to the Lord and love to our neighbour are to woven into the fabric of our being so that they become our very life and so form the basis for a new identity or sense of ourselves then the attachments in the natural man that have been the basis for our identity up until this point have to be weakened and broken.
Whenever you look to act from a spiritual principle it stirs things up in the mind because to act from a spiritual principle is to act against our natural habitual ways of being. We will always experience resistance in these times. This is why we are told in another place that we must take up our cross if we wish to follow the Lord. We have to die to self that is we have to die to our habits of allowing natural desires that put self first from ruling in our minds and guiding our behaviour.
In the midst of the storm, when they had come to the end of themselves, the disciples let the Lord into their boat. This speaks of a shift in state where spiritual principles have been brought into life through the work of repentance. This work brings with it temptations and through our experience of these we come to see our very real need for the Lord in our life. We know that repentance is involved because they disciples are said to be heading to Capernaum which as we have seen means “field of repentance”.
The work of repentance involves hearing truths and making an effort to live from them. This living from them is done as if of ourselves but it is the Lord who grants us the ability to act. But because of the strong appearance that we are the ones who are doing the work we easily fall into the belief that we are the ones who do it.
The natural man seeks to take credit for this work. This is why we find the disciples on the initial part of the journey on their own and in the dark. We need to see that despite our saying we wouldn’t take credit for the good we do or the truths we have come into the fact is that our proprium cannot but claim to itself what is of the Lord. This is its nature. All our struggles in trying to live a spiritual life flow from our attachment to the proprium’s desire to claim to itself what is good and true. The story of the disciples in the storm is a story of our coming to see that the power of the spiritual principles we have acquired cannot be separated from the Lord who is their source.
When this realisation dawns within our minds so then what is lower can begin to be worked with. Therefore in the part of the story we are looking at today the scene returns to the shore and to the crowd.
To understand this story we really need to be thinking in terms of levels and these are illustrated in the closeness of the relationship the different groups of people mentioned have to the Lord. At the highest level we have the Lord Himself, closest to him are the disciples then comes the crowd. These three sets of people represent three levels or qualities or states of thought and affection regarding the Word within our minds. Jesus represents the Word and, in terms of our spiritual life, is what is highest or deepest. He represents the love of living from the Word which sits at the very centre of the minds of those who are being regenerated by the Lord. This deep love is what is meant by the term ¨love to the Lord¨ and because the Lord is goodness itself, love to the Lord is the same as loving what is good.
The other love that the Word points us to and is said to be like this love, is love towards the neighbour. The use of the term neighbour in the Word and the Heavenly Doctrines refers to how things stand spiritually in relation to the Lord. The term speaks of what lies closest to the Lord because all spiritual relationships are determined from the Lord as the centre of all things. If by the Lord we understand love or goodness, then we can see that what lies closest to good has to be truth.
So, spiritually understood, ¨neighbour¨ refers to truth because truth is what stands closest to good. We can see from this that to love the neighbour is to love truth and so love of the neighbour manifests in us as a love of working with concepts and ideas to discover their applications in useful services. Specifically this love is the source or the energy that drives our intellectual functions with a view to developing our understanding of spiritual matters.
In the Gospel love of the neighbour and the things to do with this level of love in us are represented by the Lord’s disciples. This love for truths is the source of our motivations to learn and grow intellectually which can be seen in that the Greek word translated as disciple literally means ¨learner¨. As a means of drawing a distinction between these two heavenly loves the teachings for Spiritual Christianity found in the Heavenly Doctrines use the term celestial to describe all that has to do with loving the Lord or good, while the term spiritual is use to described all those things that have to do with loving truth which is its neighbour.
While this distinction between the two loves that make up heaven is useful for building a deeper understanding of celestial and spiritual matters and how they are organised and related to each other, for all practical purposes they are One and can’t really be separated. We can see this in the fact that to love the Lord is to obey the commandments and precepts of the Word. Jesus Himself said; ¨if you love me keep my commandments¨.
It is Love to the Lord or love of a celestial quality that draws us to the Word and provides us with the recognition or perception that it is the Lord. It is love of a spiritual quality that empowers us to take the truths we find there and begin to apply them consciously in an effort to recognise our evils so that they can be removed that we might enter into a higher heavenly quality of life.
We all desire to love the Lord more fully and completely, I don’t think any of us would be here if that wasn’t the case. But we can’t do that without loving the neighbour, or loving truths which simply means to do them. For it is truths that teach us what we must do and it is by means of obedience to what truths teach that we come to know the Lord and see more clearly dependence on Him as the Word for our life.
The crowd is the lowest of the three levels and as such represents our natural desires and thoughts. It is the part of us that is concerned with the things of natural life and the body. The crowd level in us is where the ego or proprium is active as the loves of self and the world. Prior to a person’s conscious awakening to the spiritual dimension of life they are unable to separate their sense of themselves from the desires and thoughts that belong to this level of life.
The truth is that prior to a person becoming spiritual everything about a person is trapped in evils and falsities because until a new sense of self is born from the goods and truths of the Word all a person has as there sense of life are selfish and worldly desires and the thoughts that flow from these. This sensual and bodily level of mind is the source of our inner darkness in as to the deeper meaning within the Word and it is so thick that immediately crowds out anything spiritual that comes into consciousness. This tendency is described as the crowd wanting to take Jesus by force, to make Him king and that He withdrew into the mountain.
The crowd mentality that is characteristic of our natural mind responds to truths just like this crowd did to the presence of Jesus. This level of life always looks to force things to suit itself, including the things of the spirit. When we read of the crowd seeking to take Him by force to make him king we are shown that we can’t trust our natural responses. That our natural responses will always go against what truths teach and this is what is meant spiritually by taking the Lord by force. It is also why the Lord is said to withdraw.
When we are naturally motivated we loose touch with what is truly spiritual and this is how the Lord protects what is spiritual from being destroyed by the proprium so that what is needed for our regeneration is preserved and the possibility for our salvation remains open.
Responses motivated by what is lower in us to what is higher will always violate the proper order for human life. The proper order for human life is that what is lower should serve what is higher. The natural man should serve the spiritual. If this order is violated then that constitutes an act of violence, for then falsities are believed rather than truths and evils are done rather than goods. There is no greater act of violence (or violation) to the image and likeness of God in a human being than having what is higher being forced to serve what is lower, of wanting to take by force the Word to make it a king in the service of the proprium.
The truths of the Word give us the power to work with the Lord to have our mind recreated into the image and likeness of God. When this arrangement is in place then the higher is able to flow into the lower and organise those lower thoughts and affections capable of supporting spiritual and celestial purposes and bring those that can’t into submission to what is higher. It’s when we allow the concerns that belong to the lower degree of our minds to dominate our inner life that we find our sense of self trapped and unable to move out of the things of the lower mind.
We can easily observe in ourselves that when we are caught up in worldly and selfish concerns our motivation and interest in celestial or spiritual matters drops away. On the other hand when we are focussed on celestial and spiritual matters the things to do with self and the world are brought into their proper order and perspective. When celestial and spiritual things rule in our lives many of the concerns and worries we previously carried melt away and no long have the same impact on us. We are able to get some distance from them.
So it is now we find the crowd of natural affections and thoughts are said to be on the other side of the sea. This term “other side” is used in reference to where the Lord is. States of temptation represented by the disciples in the storm have the effect of separating things out. We come to see the difference between things of a spiritual quality and those of a natural quality. We are brought to see what is on one side and what stands on the other and in these states we are able to receive new insights concerning the quality of the various thoughts and affections that make up our inner world.
We learn that within us there is a crowd of thoughts and affections that belong to the natural level of life and while these are drawn to the Lord the motivation that drives them is self interest and so they are always suspect and the can’t be trusted. The Lord makes this clear when He said to them that they seek Him because they were filled and not because of the sign He did. Signs are pointers to truths that must be obeyed if we are to be saved from self seeking but the natural man is not interested in such truths.
The main theme behind the sign is that the Lord is the bread of life, the sustainer and nurturer of all. Our proprium does not accept this, this is the story of the crowd for it is only interested in having its curiosity aroused and satisfied which is why the Lord admonishes us…
Joh 6:27 Do not labor for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to everlasting life, which the Son of Man will give to you; for God the Father sealed this One.
Or as it is put in a looser translation of the Bible called The Message…
Joh 6:27 “Don’t waste your energy striving for perishable food…Work for the food that sticks with you, food that nourishes your lasting life, food the Son of Man provides. He and what he does are guaranteed by God the Father to last.”