22. Encounter With The Samaritan Woman III (4:27-34 & 39-42)

And on this, His disciples came and marveled that He was speaking with a woman. However, no one said, What do You seek? Or, Why do You speak with her? Then the woman left her waterpot and went away into the city and said to the men, Come, see a Man who told me all things, whatever I did. Is this One not the Christ? Therefore, they went out of the city and came to Him. But in the meantime the disciples asked Him, saying, Rabbi, eat? But He said to them, I have food to eat which you do not know. Then the disciples said to one another, No one brought Him food to eat? Jesus said to them, My food is that I should do the will of Him who sent Me, and that I may finish His work….And many of the Samaritans out of that city believed into Him, because of the word of the woman testifying, He told me all things, whatever I did. Then as the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to remain with them. And He remained there two days. And many more believed through His Word. And they said to the woman, We no longer believe because of your saying; for we ourselves have heard, and we know that this One is truly the Saviour of the world, the Christ. (John 4:27-34 & 39-42)

Saving faith is to believe that the Lord is the Saviour of the world, and that He is the God of heaven and the God of earth, and that by His coming into the world He put Himself into the power of saving all those who receive truths from Him through the Word, and live according to them. But who those are who are able to receive truths from Him, and live according to them, that is, that they are those who shun evils as sins against the Word, and therefore against God. For by these means man’s internal is purified, and this being purified, he is led of the Lord, and not of himself; and so far as man is led of the Lord, so far he loves truths and receives them, and also wills and does them. This faith is saving faith. (Apocalypse Explained 808)

For the first faith with all is a historical faith, and this afterwards becomes a saving faith when man by his life becomes spiritual; for first of all it is to be believed that the Lord is the God of heaven and earth, and that He is omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite, and one with the Father. These things must be known; but so far as they are merely known they are historical, and a historical faith presents the Lord as present, because it is a looking to the Lord from His Divine nature. And yet that faith does not save until man lives the life of faith, which is charity; for he then wills and does what he believes, and to will and to do is of the love, and love conjoins to Him whom faith presents as present. (Apocalypse Explained 815)

With people who are being created anew faith develops as follows: First of all they have no life, for life does not exist in anything evil and false but in what is good and true. Then they start to receive life from the Lord by means of faith – first by faith existing in the memory, which is factual faith, then by faith existing in the understanding, which is conceptual faith, and after this by faith existing in the heart, which is loving or saving faith. (Arcana Coelestia 30{2})

There is an interesting pattern of movement in this story regarding the various people involved in relation to Jesus and the city of Sychar. When the Samaritan woman is with Jesus, the disciples are absent in the city buying food and then when they return and are in His presence, the woman returns to the city. These shifts and movements represent the Word working in the two aspects of our mind. For when Jesus’s relationship to the disciples takes centre stage, we have represented those things to do with the intellectual side of our mind, and when the woman is the focus, we have represented those things belonging to the will or affections.

Jesus sitting on the well represents the Word as to its Spirit. This is the Lord in His Divine Human and we have access to this through the teachings for Spiritual Christianity. These make known to us who it is that sits upon the well and so can open our minds to the deeper things in the Word that can then minister to what is deeper within us. The particular area of focus here is on how the Lord strengthens those things in us that have to do with loving and practising truths from the Word for the sake of uses to the Lord and to the neighbour. This life of faith is what we see described in our readings today from the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity and is what is defined as charity.

Cities in the Word correspond to our various modes of thought. This can be seen in that cities, towns and villages are where people like to dwell and so correspond to the modes of thought which we like to dwell in or feel at home in internally. And we each have a hometown, somewhere we return to after travelling. Similarly, we each have a familiar or habitual state of thought which we continually return to after travelling through the other modes of thinking that we engage with in the various relationships and activities of our day. Some cities have walls for defence just as some forms of our thinking processes can also take on the appearance of being defensive when we feel under threat. The point is, that the Samaritan city of Sychar represents a mode of thought. And because the meaning of the name of Sychar is strong drink and strong drink or wine in the Word corresponds to spiritual truths, this city then must represent our thinking on spiritual matters to do with spiritual truths. Samaria’s people were also of a mixed race, so it represents a state of mixed thinking in spiritual matters.

The process for sorting out our mixed thinking so that we can come into a more complete understanding of what spiritual love is all about, sees the Lord primarily engaged in working with our affection for truth, as represented by the Samaritan woman. The disciples, in contrast, represent those more fixed intellectual ideas about the Lord and spiritual life that we have come to rely on, but which now need to undergo change if we are to move on. The contrast between the intellectual aspects of faith as represented by the disciples, and the woman who represents the affectional aspect of faith – is quite marked. Notice that the disciples are focussed on gathering food for themselves. This speaks to a state of mind when we are too much in the head as far as our faith is concerned. When intellectual things dominate then our seeking is often for ourselves, in the sense that it is a seeking of spiritual knowledge for its own sake rather than for the sake of application to our life.

So, the disciples in seeking to gather food speak of a focus on seeking out what can satisfy our intellectual hunger. When this isn’t governed by an intention to apply this to our life so that we might be more effective vessels of the Lord’s love and use, we can end up in a mode of gathering knowledge about the Lord and spiritual life as a substitute for actually living that life. And of course we can justify this approach, for surely there can’t be anything more spiritual than reading books on spiritual subjects, listening to sermons, praying fervently, reading the Bible and the doctrines for Spiritual Christianity, and any other forms of activity that give us a sense of being spiritual. But if these kinds of intellectual activities are not balanced in practical uses, they can lead to spiritual indigestion.

And this is seen in the disciples’ response to the situation that they encounter when they return to the well. Here they are indignant at finding Jesus speaking with a woman. But do they question Jesus about this to get a better understanding of the situation? No. In fact, they withhold their questions choosing to say nothing and harbour ill will instead. This is a form of spiritual indigestion, and it occurs when we lack balance in our spiritual activities. For the natural man tends to want to settle into what is familiar and is resistant to the spiritual man’s efforts to put spiritual truths into practice. This is because the act of applying truths often requires us to make changes and move out of what is familiar so that new ways of being can come to life in us.

Building our understanding of spiritual principles and knowledge is a vital and important aspect to spiritual practise, but it needs to be done with a view to its application to our life. There comes a point, represented in this situation with the disciples, where more knowledge and understanding is not required – what’s required is a response from the will. If we want to move into what is represented by Galilee, then what’s needed is for the will to be strengthened, and this can only happen when we act from the understanding of truth that we have now.

In the literal elements of the story, we have captured the contrast between a faith which is stuck in knowing and one that is active in doing. With the disciples it’s all about resting in knowing but in the woman, we have revealed that side of us that is capable of doing. She is willing to ask Jesus questions and clearly shows an openness to receiving instruction that is not evident in the disciples. She comes seeking water for herself but ends up leaving her water pot behind to go and share what she has discovered with others. So while the disciples represent our more fixed ideas in regard to spiritual matters, the woman represents a developing affection for truth, in particular an affection or developing motivation to live from the truths that we have.

Spiritual life is about getting the balance right between building our knowledge of spiritual things and putting this knowledge into practise. The Lord works with the utmost care to keep opportunities before us in which we can respond to the truths that He has provided for us. His ability to work in our life is directly related to our relationship to the Word and our willingness to act from it. For it is through the Word that He provides us with truths and goods from Himself to build our minds into a heavenly form.

As we take truths into our life and use them our affections are purified, and it is this process of purification that enables us to perceive the Lord more clearly. This process is seen in the woman coming to the well and engaging with Jesus which represents our own efforts to come to the Word and engage with the Living Truth of the Word, the Divine Human in a living form. Our affection for truth begins mixed, we have aspects of self-seeking in our search for truth that sees us returning again and again only temporarily satisfied. For like we saw in the last article we too have had many husbands, many ‘truths’ that our affections are wedded to, and the one we are with now is not our husband.

As we work to have self-seeking removed, we come into contact in the Word with the one who can give us living water. In other words, through the removal of evils and falsities we enter into a state where we become receptive of, and so are able to perceive the Lord’s presence in the inner sense of the Word. The affection for truth given to us from the Word moves us from self-seeking to seeking for the sake of use and in this process, we find that our affections are purified in that we come into seeking truth simply for the good that it can bring into being.

This movement from self-seeking to seeking for the sake of use marks a major shift in our relationship to the Word and the degree of impact that it can have in our lives. It is significant that in the story it is the woman’s testimony that has a major impact on those who live in the city, not the disciples. This shows us that it is spiritual affection and not the intellect that takes the leading role in the Lord being able to lead us into a fuller understanding of what real charity is.

For spiritual affection is an affection that arises out of the presence of and a love for the practice of truth whereas natural affection arises out of a love for what maintains and serves our belief in our self . So spiritual affection is a deep motivation from the Word itself which enables us to respond to spiritual truths even when there are emotions present that don’t feel like doing so.

The power of this woman’s testimony lies in Jesus being able to disclose all of her life to her. In the end it is her personal experience of the Divine truth working in her life that convinces her that He who sits before her isn’t just any ordinary prophet but is the Christ Himself. And it is the same with us. If we engage with the Word from an affection for truth, using it to govern the life of our will with its affections and our understanding with its ideas and concepts and from this our behaviour, we will see the Lord within it. This experience will transform our thinking as to what it means to truly love the Lord and our neighbour and to practise charity. Like the woman who entered back into the city where she told everyone about Him, so a strengthened affection for truth can enter into the city of our thinking and bring all its elements into contact with the living water or Word. Here is demonstrated the impact of making truth a matter of life rather than just something of the memory or intellect. It transforms. We read of this in verses 39-42:

And many of the Samaritans out of that city believed into Him, because of the word of the woman testifying, He told me all things, whatever I did. Then as the Samaritans came to Him, they asked Him to remain with them. And He remained there two days. And many more believed through His Word. And they said to the woman, We no longer believe because of your saying; for we ourselves have heard, and we know that this One is truly the Saviour of the world, the Christ.

Many of the Samaritans believed now – the city is brought into contact with Jesus due to this woman, this affection for truth, and is transformed. Similarly, when we truly start to apply truths from the Word and use them to examine our inner life, we too will undergo a transformation – opening the way for the Lord to bring wholeness into every part of our lives as He makes His way to Galilee, His presence coming into our awareness in our daily life.

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