What Dreams May Come, Text
WELCOME TO TODAY'S WORSHIP SERVICE
March 18, 2012
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
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THIS YEAR'S THEME: The Year of the Lord
THIS MONTH'S TOPIC: Talking to the Lord
T0DAY'S MESSAGE: What Dreams May Come
From the Bible;
John 14 NIV
Jesus Comforts His Disciples
1"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. 2In my Father's house are many rooms; if it were not so, I would have told you. I am going there to prepare a place for you. 3And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. 4You know the way to the place where I am going."
"... what really makes heaven overall and in every specific instance is the divine nature that emanates from the Lord ... [which] is the good instrinstic to love and the truth instrinsic to faith."
[Heaven and Hell #7, 2000]
230 Two things make up our spiritual life: love and faith. Love is the life of our motivation and faith is the life of our understanding. When we love what is good and believe what is true, our life becomes heaven. But when we love what is harmful and believe what is false, our life becomes hell.
231 Loving the Lord and other people makes heaven. Faith makes heaven too,but only so far as we live from these two loves. Since both love and the faith we get from it come from the Lord, you can see that the Lord makes heaven.
232 Each one of us has heaven in us to the extent that we accept love and faith from the Lord. If we accept heaven from the Lord while we live in the world, we will go to heaven when we die.
233 When we accept heaven from the Lord, we have heaven in ourselves, since heaven is actually inside people. The Lord taught this, too: "They will not say, 'Look, here is God's realm!' or 'Look, there it is!' because God's realm is inside you" (Luke 17:21).
234 Heaven is in our inner self--in the motives and thoughts we get from love and faith. From there it goes into our outer self, which does and says things from love and faith. But if it is not in our inner self, it is not in our outer self, either. Pypocrites can say and do good things, but they do not have good motives and thoughts.
235 When we get to the other life, which happens right after death, it is obvious whether or not heaven is in us. This is not obvious while we are in the world, though. In the world, people see our outer self, but not our inner self. In the other life , our inner self shows clearly, since we are then living as a spirit. The Heavenly City. tr. by lee Woofenden.
WHAT DREAMS MAY COME
The movie was based on the book of the same name by Richard Matheson. He took the name from Shakespeare:
For in that sleep of death what dreams may come, When we have shuffled off this mortal coil, Must give us pause.
THE MOVIE PLOT [Caution: contains spoilers!]
PART IChris and Annie are a happily married couple with two children. They are deeply in love with each other. Tragically, both of the children are killed in an auto accident. Annie is devastated. She strives to recover by becoming absorbed in painting.
PART IIThere is a tragic automobile accident, in which Chris is killed. He doesn't believe he is dead, and visits his wife and others. He wanders into his funeral, quite confused. A friendly figure keeps explaining to him that he is dead, but he resists that awareness for a long time. We see some flashbacks of his life.
Of particular interest to us is that one of the painters who influenced this portrayal is George Inness, Swedenborgian painter of the Hudson River School.
PART IIIChris wakes up in heaven, and is reunited with his beloved dog, who he had had to put to sleep.
Heaven is shown to be whatever one creates in his/her mind. For Chris, he sees the paintings of Annie coming to life. We see scenes of Annie painting, and then what she paints becomes part of Chris' heaven. They have a connection through her paintings and his heaven.
Chris sees Annie's painting of her dream home, where they had hoped to retire. The setting becomes real in heaven.
Heaven is largely portrayed through paintings, many of them influenced by master's of the past.
PART IVChris is told that he and Annie are soulmates, which makes complete sense to him. He misses Annie terribly. His guide gives him bad news: Annie has just killed herself. In the movie, suicides end up in hell. [in the book, Annie had to go to hell for 24 years; the number of years that she had taken off her life from suicide.]
Chris refuses to let her stay there without him. He decides he will visit hell to find her and bring her back to heaven. He finds a guide to help him.
PART VThe movie switches scenes to hell, where paintings are like those of Bosch and Dali.
Chris' guide warns him of the danger in the book:
“The search for her will involve many frightening dangers,” he said, “but these are external dangers. If we find Ann and you try to help her, you’ll be subject to internal threat. Returning to a level of primitive development, you’ll be strongly influenced by it. Lowering your vibration to that of earth’s, you will no longer be able to think clearly but will be subject to the same confusion of thought with which your wife lives constantly. In this weakened state, you will not only risk losing your effort on her behalf, you could very easily be so affected that you’d become as much a prisoner of that level as she is.”
In the book, there is quite an emphasis on the fact that hell does not exist. People who are suffering in hell, believing they are being punished, are wrong. They are not being punished, except by themselves. Deplorable living conditions would be gone instantly if only the person wanted to leave.
At last, Chris finds Annie. She is living in a caricature of their early home, but this one is very run down and dilapidated. Annie does not know she is dead. She believes she is depressed and hopeless, and in an overwhelming situation with her home falling down around her. Of course, she does not recognize Chris despite all he does to help her remember. Finally, Chris gives up. He will never get Annie to trust enough to leave hell for heaven. Chris loves Annie so much, that he would prefer hell with her to heaven without her. With the depth of that love, Annie remembers who he is and understands that she is dead.
PART VI: The EndingThe details in the book and movie vary slightly. However, in both of them Annie and Chris return to earth to reincarnate. In the movie, Annie hesitates to return to earth for fear that she won't be able to find Chris again. He says: "I found you in hell; I sure can find you in Jersey!" In the movie, the final scene is of two young children meeting each other and becoming friends.
THE SWEDENBORGIAN CONNECTIONSOne of the questions Swedenborgians have discussed frequently about this movie is: how accurately does it portray Swedenborg’s concept of the afterlife? Richard Matheson, author of the novel on which the movie was based, knew of Swedenborg. A character in the novel quotes Swedenborg favorably. Matheson himself was raised a Christian Scientist, and then developed his own religion from various sources. He was especially influenced by studies of Elisabeth Kubler-Ross and Raymond Moody. You may have heard of Moody’s work; especially his book, Life After Life. He created the term “Near Death Experience.” You may not know that Moody had read Swedenborg, and had been greatly impressed by his writings of the afterlife. Moody talked about Swedenborg in his first book, and he sometimes speaks before Swedenborgian groups. The Matheson movie certainly propelled Moody’s work into the public light.
In the bibliography of his book, Matheson doesn't list any of Swedenborg's works, but he does list Moody, who had been influenced by Swedenborg.
The art director was inspired by a range of paintings, including some by George Inness, a Swedenborgian painter of the Hudson River school.
THE SWEDENBORGIAN QUESTIONS1. What about reincarnation? Swedenborg saw no evidence of reincarnation and believed that it did not exist. Through the years, students of Swedenborg have debated that question, with a range of different conclusions. In 1998, Rev. Dr. Jim Lawrence wrote a review of the movie in the Messenger. He said: "This is a reincarnation picture, very intentionally so. The plot is driven by the spiritual mechanics envisioned in the Americanized pop-culture version of reincarnation." Because of this, he felt that the movie was not an accurate portrayal of Swedenborg's theology.
2. What about suicides? Swedenborg has little to say about suicide, and did not seem to see it as a sin or act of evil.
My sense of Swedenborg is that he was quite sensitive to mental health issues, and saw the after-life as a place to right imbalances. I was quite uncomfortable with the suggestion in the book and movie that suicides meet a harsher fate than others in the afterlife. Date from Near Death Experiences suggests there is no difference.
3. The artistic heaven. Swedenborg saw art as a reflection of God, so such a heaven sounds Swedenborgian. However, Swedenborg's own experiences in heaven were very social and in communication with others. Chris' heaven seems to be just a personal journey into his own mind. The heaven I understand from Swedenborg is much more involved with interaction and community.
4. The hell: Hell is seen as almost a psychological state of despair and depression. I think that that contradicts Swedenborg's understanding of mental illness. In the movie and book, many of the residents of hell are ordinary people who have sunk into despair. In Swedenborg's hell, it is truly evil people who are attracted to it -- people who engage in constant power struggles for ego control. His hell is based on people who lived a evil life by intentionally doing destructive things; not ordinary people who were depressed.
5. Overall: It is rare to find a depiction of heaven and hell that does have so many similarities to Swedenborg. In the movie, we do create our own heaven and hell. It is only we who banish ourselves to hell, and we are free to leave at any time once we realize that. The scenes of a newly-deceased person as he leaves his body and makes his way to heaven seen quite true to Swedenborg.
A central tenant of Swedenborg's is that heaven and hell are not places, but rather states of mind. We are creating heaven and/or hell each day of life on earth. We should not assume that we only experience these states after death. Actually, we are creating heaven and hell for ourselves every day.
How are you creating a heaven for yourself today? Are there any ways that you have banished yourself to hell today?
This months focus spiritually is "listening to God". Sometimes for me, God comes in the events and things I am drawn to, it may be a person who has a message for me; it may be a book I open at the book store; it may be a scene from nature. What ever brings me to that moment, it is my job to be aware and listen or see. In all that I do in Heaven and on Earth the choice is mine. How do you listen?
(30 years ago today, I listened and heard God's voice and received His Grace..I have lived Sober ever since. Without that message I would not be your Minister of Prayer today. Thanks be to God!!!!) HAPPY ST. PATRICK'S DAY!
May you be Blessed with
the Strength of Heaven,
the Light of the Sun,
the Radiance of the Moon,
the Splendor of Fire,
the speed of Lightening,
the Swiftness of Wind,
the Depth of the Sea,
the Stability of the Earth,
and the Firmness of Rock. Love, Rev. Judith
Go in peace, creating heaven on earth.
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I have been fascinated with the movie, What Dreams May Come, ever since it was released in 1998. I'm enthralled with the beautiful art and amazing special effects. I'm spell-bound by the journey through heaven and then hell. In so many respects, this movie gives an incredibly close depiction of Swedenborg's heaven and hell. ...