Learning To Read The Text With Conscious Attention

The Text Is The Means Given For Our Regeneration

For anyone who enters this work there is a level of acknowledgement that the Heavenly Doctrines are the texts that have been provided by the Lord to support the regeneration of the human mind. With this as our starting principle we can then surmise that the Text is what is given for us to hear what the Lord needs us to hear with regards to His divine truth and in how to apply it to our life. In this way the Text can be seen as the meeting place where our outer self which is reading it, is able to meet with the Lord’s inflowing life in what is of His church within us. So, the Text is the means by which we can become more conscious of the thoughts and affections that are present for us that are heavenly, ie. of the Lord, and in consequence of that, of those thoughts and affections that are in opposition to what is heavenly, ie. are of the hellish proprium.

If we can approach the Text with an openness to receiving what it is the Lord has to say to us in this way, then what we observe, what is reflected back, what catches our attention, what we are drawn to… will give us an indication about where our specific work lies in terms of our spiritual regeneration.

We open then to the idea that instead of it being a one-way dialogue of us studying the Text – we find that the Text is in fact studying us and is the means by which we may study ourselves.


Center Yourself Before You Start

If possible, spend a little time (5 or 10 minutes) centering yourself. There is no set way of doing this, but whatever you do, it should be something that steadies the inner activity of your mind and lifts your awareness out of external life concerns.

Meditation, reading some Scripture, focused breathing, playing quiet music are some examples that might do this for you.


Learning To Observe The Two Competing Authorities

1st State – Truths

Listen for what the Text is saying with regards to principles or truths or ideas about the spiritual life.

2nd State – What Seeks To Distract

Watch for thoughts in your mind that seek to distract you from listening to what the Text is saying and thoughts that try to judge:

  • seek to distract or pull your attention away from what’s being said
  • that seek to analyse the Text or insist on you making sense of it or understanding it
  • that seek to judge you when you struggle to pay attention or struggle to understand or just criticise you in general
  • that seek to affirm or praise you – another form of judging
  • any other thoughts that feel like they are making it difficult for you to hear what the Text is saying with regards to Divine truth/ spiritual life.

To begin with . . .

You could try reading your chosen piece of Text twice. The first time watching your thoughts for truths that it hears and the second time watching for thoughts that seek to distract you from hearing these truths.

You may want to read the Text in this way for a while so that you can learn to make distinctions between the two different types of information that is being offered to you as you observe your thoughts. ( ie. thoughts that are about the Lord and of spiritual life and alternatively those that seek to distract you from this.).

But over time. . .

Like any skill that is practiced, you’ll find that you’ll learn to read these two states of minds within you simultaneously in that your ability to move back and forth between them will become more fluid.


Why Should We Practise This Way of Reading The Text?

It frees us from the idea that we must understand everything
Approaching the Text in this way offers a different type of experience to the traditional way of approaching it where we have read to understand it intellectually. If we approach the Text reading it instead to understand our own spiritual states ( ie. the thoughts and affections that are being brought into awareness when we engage with the Text), then this frees us from the need to have to understand every single thing that we read. And so in this way whether we’re drawn to a whole chapter, or a few pages or simply one paragraph, it loosens us from thought that we must gather as much information as possible and instead draws us into trusting in the idea that what we’ve been offered is what the Lord needed us to hear. As little as little is needed or as much as much is needed. It thus builds trust in the Text.

It offers us revelation about where our specific work lies
Approaching the Text in this way also affirms the idea that the Text is given for the revelation of our own internal spiritual processes and the specific work the Lord requires of us in regards to the regeneration of our mind. It offers a real life application of seeing the Text as something that is relevant specifically to the reformation of how we engage in our day to life because it seeks to challenge the structures of how our sense of self thinks. It seeks to change what truth authority our sense of self turns to and thinks from… ie- It asks it- does it believe that the Text can offer to highlight states that need to be looked at or does it think from the idea that it is its own authority of truth? For this is the very function of Divine truth… it seeks to show us what isn’t of the Lord so that we may know the truth that counters it more deeply.

It shows us what must be seen and called out and named
To read and listen consciously is about watching for the thoughts and affections that want to judge, condemn, criticise, praise, analyse and solve rather than simply listening for spiritual principles or truths found within what’s being described. When these self- crediting qualities and condemning tendencies of the proprium are observed and acknowledged it affirms that what the Text teaches us about the nature of the hellish proprium is true. We see it as something active in our direct experience. In the moment that we truly recognise that what the Text has called out and named is the hellish proprium, it is effectively shunned. The act of shunning the evils of this infernal proprium as sins against the Lord is the true meaning of charity.

It will extend out into all aspects of our daily life
You will find that eventually you will start to pay attention to your inner chatter not just when you are reading the Text but in your interactions with others too. This is a natural progression that occurs when any skill is practiced frequently – it starts to become part of our baseline thinking. As the truth about what the Text says about the nature of the hellish proprium becomes more and more seen as real in application to our own mind then it also more often acts as a reminder to us to watch for the two competing states of mind or authorities of truth within.

It allows us to know the truth more deeply and hence the Lord more deeply
It’s not that the sense of self or proprium is destroyed … but it instead becomes vivified or made living when it is seen as a function of use. This is because it is the presence of the obstructions that it is to the Lord’s light which allows the varieties of colour to be seen. As finite beings we will never be able to see the Lord as He is in Himself in its pure white light but we may eternally grow in the discovery of the unlimited variations of colours.


Arcana Coelestia 731 (Potts)
Every substance that I have made will I destroy from off the faces of the ground.

That this signifies man’s proprium, which is as if destroyed when vivified, is evident from what has been said before respecting this proprium.

Man’s proprium is entirely evil and falsity. So long as this continues, the man is dead; but when he comes into temptations it is dispersed, that is, loosened and tempered by truths and goods from the Lord, and thus is vivified and appears as if it were not present.

That it does not appear and is no longer hurtful, is signified by “destroyed;” and yet it is not destroyed, but remains.

It is almost as with black and white, which when variously modified by the rays of light are turned into beautiful colours—such as blue, yellow, and purple—whereby, according to their arrangement are presented lovely and agreeable tints, as in flowers, yet remaining radically and fundamentally black and white.

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Dianna Synnestvedt
Dianna Synnestvedt
1 year ago

I would like to hear more about the vivified proprium being like beautiful colors coming from something that is fundamentally black and white. I’m not sure how to form specific questions about this! But I would like to hear more.

Sarah Walker
Reply to  Dianna Synnestvedt
1 year ago

I was thinking about this idea in terms of white light being the pure source – the Divine in Itself that is immutable and unknowable and I guess black being the complete absence of any light which must also then be unknowable to what is finite. So good and evil. And then about how colour is perceived by the white light passing through or around an atmosphere or object – basically some kind of obstruction. So, we can never know the white light – just finite receptions of it, as the structures of our mind in any given state act… Read more »

Sarah Walker
Reply to  Dianna Synnestvedt
1 year ago

Hi Dianna. I came across this in my reading this morning and I thought it added beautifully to this conversation AC 1589 [2] There are three faculties which constitute the external man, namely, the rational, that of memory-knowledge, and the external sensuous. The rational is interior, the faculty of memory-knowledge is exterior, and this sensuous is outermost. It is the rational by means of which the internal man is conjoined with the external; and such as is the rational, such is the conjunction. The external sensuous, here, is the sight and the hearing. But in itself the rational is nothing,… Read more »