The Coat of Spiritual Growth
March 15, 2009
A Coat of Spiritual Growth
Open your Bible
One More Angel in Heaven
[note: if the music is playing on the home page, go there and press the "pause" bar in order to hear this music.]
Joseph Sold by His Brothers
12 Now his brothers had gone to graze their father's flocks near Shechem, 13 and Israel said to Joseph, "As you know, your brothers are grazing the flocks near Shechem. Come, I am going to send you to them."
"Very well," he replied.
14 So he said to him, "Go and see if all is well with your brothers and with the flocks, and bring word back to me." Then he sent him off from the Valley of Hebron.
When Joseph arrived at Shechem, 15 a man found him wandering around in the fields and asked him, "What are you looking for?"
16 He replied, "I'm looking for my brothers. Can you tell me where they are grazing their flocks?"
17 "They have moved on from here," the man answered. "I heard them say, 'Let's go to Dothan.' "
So Joseph went after his brothers and found them near Dothan. 18 But they saw him in the distance, and before he reached them, they plotted to kill him.
19 "Here comes that dreamer!" they said to each other. 20 "Come now, let's kill him and throw him into one of these cisterns and say that a ferocious animal devoured him. Then we'll see what comes of his dreams."
21 When Reuben heard this, he tried to rescue him from their hands. "Let's not take his life," he said. 22 "Don't shed any blood. Throw him into this cistern here in the desert, but don't lay a hand on him." Reuben said this to rescue him from them and take him back to his father.
23 So when Joseph came to his brothers, they stripped him of his robe—the richly ornamented robe he was wearing- 24 and they took him and threw him into the cistern. Now the cistern was empty; there was no water in it.
25 As they sat down to eat their meal, they looked up and saw a caravan of Ishmaelites coming from Gilead. Their camels were loaded with spices, balm and myrrh, and they were on their way to take them down to Egypt.
26 Judah said to his brothers, "What will we gain if we kill our brother and cover up his blood? 27 Come, let's sell him to the Ishmaelites and not lay our hands on him; after all, he is our brother, our own flesh and blood." His brothers agreed.
28 So when the Midianite merchants came by, his brothers pulled Joseph up out of the cistern and sold him for twenty shekels [b] of silver to the Ishmaelites, who took him to Egypt.
29 When Reuben returned to the cistern and saw that Joseph was not there, he tore his clothes. 30 He went back to his brothers and said, "The boy isn't there! Where can I turn now?"
31 Then they got Joseph's robe, slaughtered a goat and dipped the robe in the blood. 32 They took the ornamented robe back to their father and said, "We found this. Examine it to see whether it is your son's robe."
33 He recognized it and said, "It is my son's robe! Some ferocious animal has devoured him. Joseph has surely been torn to pieces."
34 Then Jacob tore his clothes, put on sackcloth and mourned for his son many days. 35 All his sons and daughters came to comfort him, but he refused to be comforted. "No," he said, "in mourning will I go down to the grave [c] to my son." So his father wept for him.
36 Meanwhile, the Midianites [d] sold Joseph in Egypt to Potiphar, one of Pharaoh's officials, the captain of the guard.
Genesis 37:3 The meaning of the Hebrew for richly ornamented is uncertain; also in verses 23 and 32.
Genesis 37:28 That is, about 8 ounces (about 0.2 kilogram)
Genesis 37:35 Hebrew Sheol
Genesis 37:36 Samaritan Pentateuch, Septuagint, Vulgate and Syriac (see also verse 28 Masoretic Text Medanites
4776. An evil wild beast hath devoured him. That this signifies that the cupidities of evil had extinguished it, is evident from the signification of an "evil wild beast," as being a lie from a life of cupidities (n. 4729), ... A life of cupidities consists in loving self only, and not the neighbor except from self, or for the sake of self. Hence those who are in this life extinguish charity in themselves; and those who extinguish charity, extinguish also love to the Lord; for there is no other means of loving the Lord than charity, because the Lord is in charity....
 That no one can be saved unless he has lived in the good of charity, and so has become imbued with its affections, which are to will well to others, and from willing well to do well to them; and that no one can receive the truths of faith - that is, become imbued with them and appropriate them to himself - but he who is in a life of charity has been made manifest to me from those who are in heaven, with whom I have been permitted to converse. There all are forms of charity, with beauty and goodness according to the quality of their charity; their delight, satisfaction, and happiness are from their being able to do good to others from good will. The man who has not lived in charity cannot possibly know that heaven and its joy consist in willing well and in doing well from willing well, because his heaven is willing well to himself, and from this willing well doing well to others, when yet this is hell. For heaven is distinguished from hell in this, that heaven, as above said, is doing good from good will, and hell is doing evil from ill will. They who are in love toward the neighbor do good from good will; but they who are in the love of self do evil from ill will. The reason of this is that they love no one but themselves, and others only so far as they see themselves in them, and them in themselves; they also regard these with hatred, which manifests itself as soon as they recede and are no longer theirs. This is like robbers, who so long as they are banded together love one another, but still at heart desire to kill one another, if plunder may thus be obtained.
The Coat of Spiritual Growth
A number of years ago, I went to a local summer theater with friends to see the musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat. I was delighted by the rousing program of singing through the story of Joseph’s brothers selling him into slavery because they were jealous of the beautiful coat his father had made for him. When I first heard the song There’s one more angel in heaven, I couldn’t stop laughing! When Joseph’s brothers return to give a cover story to Dad about the wild beast that devoured Joseph as he fought to save them, I was quite amused at how, through music and dance, they try to convince their father that Joseph died a hero. I’ve heard the musical many times since then, but I still can’t stop chuckling when I hear the music. If you haven’t seen this Webber and Rice musical – or haven’t seen it for a long time – you can follow this link to a great series of U-Tube presentations on the story that is fun for the whole family. These are scenes from the 1999 film. Like in the play, there is no spoken dialog; the story is told through music and dance.
Swedenborg, of course, gives us the deeper meaning of this well-known Biblical story.
An evil wild beast hath devoured him. That this signifies that the cupidities of evil had extinguished it, is evident from the signification of an "evil wild beast," as being a lie from a life of cupidities (n. 4729), ... A life of cupidities consists in loving self only, and not the neighbor except from self, or for the sake of self. Hence those who are in this life extinguish charity in themselves; and those who extinguish charity, extinguish also love to the Lord; for there is no other means of loving the Lord than charity, because the Lord is in charity....
This is the story of all of us before spiritual growth begins. … The first stage is called void, emptiness, and darkness. [AC 7] However, in the second stage, a distinction is made between the Lord’s, and the things that are our own. As the story unfolds, we see the many tragedies impacting the lives of all of the characters, until the second stage can be seen. Swedenborg tells us that this stage rarely comes into play without grief, trouble, and misfortune.”This story is one that demonstrates the trauma, fear, and starvation that impacts the lives of all of these people. By the end, we see the spiritual growth in everyone.
This second stage in Swedenborg’s account of spiritual growth is sometimes compared to the second and third steps in Alcoholics Anonymous. There are many ideas about ways that there are similar themes in both the 12 steps and Swedenborg’s spirituality. You can follow this link to see one possible scenario that I like.
The scenario shows you the general outline of our journey during 2009, exploring Swedenborg’s stages of growth with the 12 steps of A.A.
This month we’re looking at the 3rd step, “made a decision to my will and life over to the care of God as we understood God” and we are noting the similarities with Swedenborg's 2nd stage of growth.
Swedenborg’s understanding of the seven days of creation [six days of creation; one of rest] are themes that we find other places throughout mystical literature.
One of them is St. Teresa’s Interior Castle, where she describes seven rooms en route to God.
Swedenborg tells us that it is a long journey from our first awareness of something beyond ourselves, to our recognition of a Divine, to now letting Her 7 rooms have much similarity to Swedenborg’s seven stages. Here is what Teresa says about the 2nd room of the mansion:
These souls hear our Lord calling them, for as they approach nearer to where His Majesty dwells He proves a loving Neighbour, though they may still be engaged in the amusements and business, the pleasures and vanities of this world. While in this state we continually fall into sin and rise again …Yet such are the pity and compassion of this Lord of ours, so desirous is He that we should 61seek Him and enjoy His company, that in one way or another He never ceases calling us to Him. So sweet is His voice, that the poor soul is disconsolate at being unable to follow His bidding at once, and therefore, as I said, suffers more than if it could not hear Him. [The 2nd mansions, chapter 1, point 4].
Evelyn Underhill, noted author on mysticism, also describes a series of stages on the mystical journey of spiritual growth. After the initial awakening [perhaps similar to Swedenborg’s first stage], she talks about a period of “purgation:”
Primarily, then, the self must be purged of all that stands between it and goodness: putting on the character of reality instead of the character of illusion or “sin.” It longs ardently to do this from the first moment in which it sees itself in the all-revealing radiance of the Uncreated Light.
There are so many we can look to see the story of spiritual growth. Swedenborg's account of creation is a story of everyone's spiritual journey. Similar themes are found in the 12 steps of A.A., and in much mystical literature, such as St. Teresa's Interior Castle and Evelyn Underhill's Mysticism: A Study in Nature and Development of Spiritual Consciousness.
Of course, the most important place to find this story unfolding is in all of lives. How does this journey of spiritual growth play out within your own life?
The closing song is a scene towards the end of the story of Joseph, where there is growth and reconciliation, here is a delightful calypso: It takes place when Benjamin and the brothers have been 7 years of starvation, and to Egypt to beg for food. They don't recognize Joseph, and he has an item hidden on Benjamin and accuses him of theft. Soon, Joseph reveals himself, and a happy family reunion takes place.