The Paradox Of Perfection

(Cover Art By Liz Coggins used with permission).

We find in the book of Proverbs, page after page of warnings about the perils of what life without the Lord is like.  Of what life is like without the wisdom of the Word taken to heart and applied in our life.

Duplicity is in his heart;

It is engrossed with evil all the time;

It is instigating quarrels.

Therefore calamity for him shall come suddenly;

He shall be broken instantly,

and there will be no healing. (6:14-15)

On the very day of disgrace a fool makes his vexation known,

Yet a prudent man covers up an affront.

He who breathes out truth shall tell what is just,

Yet a false witness will speak deceit.

There is talk that is like stabbings of a sword,

Yet the tongue of the wise is healing.

The lip of truth is established into the future,

Yet the false tongue lasts only for a moment. (12:16-19)

When there is no vision the people become unbridled,

Yet happy is he who keeps the law.

A servant is not disciplined by mere words;

Though he understands,

yet there is no response. (29:18-19)

But these descriptions can only make sense if one truly understands the opposite of what this life without wisdom is like. Because you can’t know what something isn’t, unless you have some kind of concept of what it is.

We need the contrast of the distinctions.

Otherwise it would be like trying to describe the colour black or darkness, to someone who has never seen white or light. Whilst our experience of the Lord will always be limited due to the fact that we are finite and imperfect and He is infinite and Perfection Itself, we still must always be coming into an idea of the Lord; into an expanding awareness of what constitutes the Divine.

So from this perspective our understanding is limitless.

These are the matters that are meant by progressive stages of development and by continuous derivatives even to the final one. Such stages and derivatives are unending in the case of a person who is being regenerated.

They begin when he is a young child and continue through to the final phase of his life in the world; indeed they continue for ever after that, though his regeneration can never reach the point when he can by any means be called perfect.

For there are countless, indeed a limitless number of things to be regenerated, both within his rational and within his natural. Everything there has limitless shoots, that is, stages of development and derivatives that progress in both inward and outward directions. (Arcana Coelestia 5122 {3})

So we know that we can never reach the point of Perfection Itself because it is infinite and it is the Divine but we can be eternally experiencing new ways of understanding it.

And so therein lies paradox. We can’t know Perfection Itself but we need some finite idea of perfection in order to comprehend what it is that we’re experiencing in these new ways of understanding.

So we’re offered variety.

Variations of different forms of the Divine in our finite understanding; different variations of his love and wisdom united in use.

And the variety of the different forms, take on different colours, different shapes, different smells, different textures – according to the affections and thoughts that we associate with them. And we see these reflected in the text of Proverbs too.

Her ways are ways of pleasantness,

And all her tracks are peace.

She is a tree of life to those holding fast to her,

And those upholding her will be happy.

Yahweh, by wisdom, founded the earth;

He established the heavens by comprehension.

By His knowledge the abysses broke forth,

And the skies drip down the night mist.(3:17-20)

A lamp of Yahweh is the life breath of mankind,

Searching all the chambers of the inner being.

Benignity and truth preserve the king,

And by benignity his throne is braced.

 The beauty of those in their prime is their vigour,

And the honour of those who are old is grey hair. (20:27-29)

She is like the ships of a merchant;

She brings her bread from afar.  

She rises while it is still night

And provides viands for her household And dole for her maidens.

She plans for a field and procures it;

From the fruit of her palms she plants a vineyard. (31:14-16)

Although we can never know the Lord in His fullness, the Word itself from our experience, is a limitless source of variations of the Lord’s form. The words of the actual Text itself conjure up images and shapes in our mind which convert instantly into affections and thoughts that are associated with the words in our memory. And our actual interior state of mind or interior mood at the time of reading the Text, is going to dictate what associations the literal words of the Text connects with. So put another way, our spiritual state dictates how we receive the Word when we read it and then the Word itself expands our awareness of our state because it brings our affections and thoughts out more for us to see.

What we then choose to do with what arises for us will become our work because responding to what the Word evokes and brings into our awareness is the work of spiritual life. We find then that when we move our attention to our surroundings in the physical world, that the thoughts and affections that the Word has brought forward for us, start to filter what we’re looking at. So in this sense the Word then starts reading our life for us; it starts to review or judge our life. The natural landscape in which we live and move and interact with others then becomes the field in which the Word can be worked with and experimented in with its truths.

The more we look around us with the Word as our lens, the more variety we see. It’s wisdom offers to us in how we view objects and things in nature and it offers to us in our interactions with others. With the latter in particular, we see our own reactions to others’ behaviours, gestures, speech and content, body language and even tone of voice. There are opportunities to feel and see His love and opportunities to see and feel the absence of it. Our interior and exterior dialogue within our own selves between what we think and feel and what we actually say and do, becomes an opportunity to observe and try out using the Word’s wisdom, to see if it changes our affections, thoughts and perspectives; to see the distinctions between the lower and high self; the exteriors and interiors; to see the distinctions of life with the Lord’s wisdom and life without.

Dialogue with others provides the field in which the dialogue of the Word within us can occur.

The dialogue with others therefore brings us into an expanding awareness of the Divine Form. The varieties of the shapes of the experiences with others, through others, bring awareness to the varieties of His Form, of love and wisdom united.

…. The Form makes a one the more perfectly as the things entering into the Form, are distinctly different and yet united.

Unless the understanding is raised up it can scarcely comprehend this, since the appearance is that a Form can make a one only through likenesses of uniformity in the things that make up the Form.

On this subject I have often talked with angels, who said that this is an arcanum their wiser ones perceive clearly, and the less wise obscurely;

yet it is a truth that a form is the more perfect as the things that constitute it are distinctly different, and yet have become united each in its own way.

This they showed by the societies in the heavens, which taken together constitute the form of heaven;

also by the angels of each society, in that the form of the society is more perfect in proportion as each angel is more distinctly his own, and therefore free, and thus loves his companions as if from himself and from his own affection. 

(Divine Providence 4)

So the more frequently we use a truth in our life to act as our lens to the field and dialogues and allow it to be experimented with and observed in the life of our mind of our thoughts and affections, then the more opportunity we have to see finite variations in our understanding of the Infinite of Divinity, of Perfection Itself.

The closer we examine wisdom from the Word, the more perfect and beautiful it becomes the Lord. Never arriving but always coming….

 …..But the truth is that the simpler and purer any thing is,

the more and the fuller it is.

It is for this reason that the more deeply any object is examined,

the more wonderful, perfect, and beautiful are the things seen in it;

and thus that the most wonderful, perfect, and beautiful of all

are in the First Substance.

(Divine Providence 6{1}) 


  1. Simon Mervyn-Jones

    Beautiful unpacking of some of the loving/learning processes which flow from and become apparent in the action of our setting and addressing a task.

    • Sarah Walker

      Yes, that’s nice thank you … the task becomes a living thing.

  2. Gray Glenn

    Thank you, Sarah. Could you expand on and give examples of what you mean by “The words of the actual Text itself conjure up images and shapes in our mind which convert instantly into affections and thoughts that are associated with the words in our memory.”?

    • Sarah Walker

      Hi Gray. 
      That is a great question! Yes what I meant was that the words on the page carry meaning for us depending on our history with them- how we have used and interacted with them in the past in our life- whether in the Word or just in life in general with  written and verbal experiences.  The words themselves carry memories and hence affections and hence spiritual associations.  So the words each carry a general outline of meaning or a definition of what it means in the English language for us and then when we reflect more deeply on them, we can see that they open up into affections and thoughts. So a movement from shape as just a natural outline of something into more of a spiritual form – as in the affections and thoughts that make it living, as something applied to the life of our mind. And of course our current mood, which in Logopraxis we would say is our state, will also affect how we are able to receive what is flowing in through the words themselves. Actually, what I’m describing seems like the relationship of the significative, representatives and correspondences.
      I did some work last year with a group here in Perth where we read the text with an effort to note first the affections that were arising and then read it again to note the thoughts.  It was inspired by AC 2157 which I’ll add here at the bottom.
      Here are some examples now I have just worked with from the current AC and DP Logopraxis texts. I often work with the Sacred Scripture text like this before I read the AC text on it. Sometimes my comments complement what the AC says and sometimes they don’t but I think that whatever the Word opens up for us is a gift and that there are many colours of the rainbow, many varieties of how the Text can read for us. We see this each time we meet in our Lifegroups in the variety of different ways each person has worked with the Text and received an experience of the Lord in it . I haven’t read the AC LP reading yet so this is based purely on just working with these few lines.
      AC 5129
      For being carried off by theft I was carried away out of the land of the Hebrews; and here also have I done nothing that they should put me into the pit.
      My feelings/affections:
      Confusion, persecution, taken against my will, feeling lost, begging for mercy, taken from my home and what I know, disorientated, I don’t understand, I can’t see the rationale, what have I done wrong?
      The idea of something being carried seems to be strong in this as its mentioned twice. And it conveys the idea of being held as well. It brings an image of the Lord holding me, which seems to contrast with the idea of being taken away against ones will. Perhaps it’s a good thing that may have been taken away from the land of the Hebrews. Because the Hebrews still worship the sensual. Perhaps he can’t see what he’s done wrong because of that and so it feels like he’s in a pit. There’s definitely a sense here of feeling like they aren’t in control any more – everything has been done to them. I keep getting an image of the pit as something deep that one can’t easily climb out of and therefore needs to wait for something to be lowered in that you can climb up on, some kind of rescue or hand to be offered. And there’s also the idea of that would have to come from something higher because the pit is below ground level. So when rescue comes one would have to look up to the sky and see the sun and see the hand and actively consciously reach for it. There would also be movement from darkness to light as one is lifted out of the pit.
      So lots here about the Lord’s light-  the light of the Word being the thing that is higher that is able to rescue us out of the pit. And also the idea that we experience the pit when we are still feeling like we need to be the one in control, the one’s owning life because to be in control implies that we are the owners and therefore have the power to direct how things go.  And still insisting that we have done nothing wrong when in actuality its not about blame nor credit, just about giving up ownership. So maybe it takes the experience of despair of being in the pit, not being able to get out that brings us to realisation that we aren’t owners of our life, that the Lord is and then we look up, we look to something higher. We look to the sky and see the sun i.e. the Word, the Lord.
      DP 17 .
      In this world a man can enter only with difficulty into either conjunction or union, that is, of good and truth, or of evil and falsity; for so long as he is living in the world, he is held in a state of reformation or of regeneration; but after death every man comes into one or the other, because then he can no longer be reformed and regenerated; he then remains such as his life, that is, such as his ruling love, has been in this world.
      Suspicion, confusion, this doesn’t make sense, I’m being asked to look more deeply at this, my heart is drawn to this but I don’t know why
      I know this reads as a very clear statement about this world and the next world, which is why it makes me suspicious because it pulls me into imagining the earth and someone living in it trying their best or their worst or maybe not really even thinking much about things- going through the motions and then contrasted with a lovely picture of heaven or a horrible picture of hell.  Then heaven feels like this far away distant place in the future that is more of an ideal or long term goal or even just a dream of hope but not so relevant to the here and now.  And so I think no no – it also must apply to process as well. How does it? Well I know that the word ‘man’ can be substituted for ‘mind’ and I know that the word ‘world’ can be substituted for the ‘natural mind for the natural plane’. And I know that ‘death’ can be substituted for ‘birth’ because for every death there is then a birth because that is the creation process and we regenerate eternally.
      So….this then says in the natural plane the mind can only enter into union with good and truth with difficulty. And as long as we are focused in the lower natural plane(world) then we’re still in a state of work with whatever truth we’re working with from the Word at that time. That after the external body of the truth has been sloughed off (ie death) then we see whether it is a truth or falsity, we see the interior of it so, whether it is a good or an evil- of the Lord or not. Once we see this we know it and it no longer needs to be reformed or regenerated. It’s ruling love ie. it’s interior love, has been confirmed for us i.e. It is really a truth or it is really a falsity, granted of course that this is always seen from our finite perception of it.
      And here is the AC number I mentioned:
      AC 2157. If I pray I have found grace in Thine eyes. That this signifies the deference of the Lord’s state when He observed that perception, may be seen from the affection of humiliation which there is in these very words; and also in those which directly follow—“Pass not I pray from over Thy servant”—in which likewise there is humiliation.
      In every particular in the Word there are both affection and subject matter.
      The celestial angels perceive the Word such as it is in the internal sense as to the affection;
      but the spiritual angels perceive it such as it is in the internal sense as to the matter.
      Those who perceive the Word in the internal sense as to the affection, pay no attention to the words which belong to the matter, but form for themselves ideas from the affection and its series, and this with endless variety. Here for example at the words, “If I pray I have found grace in Thine eyes, pass not I pray from over Thy servant,” they perceive the Lord’s state of humiliation in the Human, but only the affection of the humiliation. From this, in a manner, variety, and abundance inexpressible, they form for themselves celestial ideas, which can scarcely be called ideas, but rather so many lights of affections and perceptions, which follow in a continuous series, in accordance with the series of the affection of the things contained in the Word that is being read.

      • Ian Keal

        With reference to your “thoughts” from reading AC 5129, and the idea of being in a pit and not being able to easily climb out, what came to mind was Jacob’s dream of the ladder stretching up to Heaven with Angels ascending and descending. I remember when we were in this story in L.P., and the realization that the Lord is actually not just at the top of the ladder. He is on All the rungs, whether I am ascending or descending as to thoughts and affections. The appearance is that He is far away because my emotions have been carried away by theft. So this image and shape of a “ladder” is a good example of a vehicle that the Lord uses to carry higher affections and thoughts. And I can see how the bottom of it sits on the floor of the Pit, me. Thank you for this, and I too pray that I can find grace in His eyes

        • Sarah Walker

          Oh yes ! That made me giggle it’s so good . The Word as the Lord is Jacobs ladder. The Word is a ladder … I love it!

      • Gray Glenn

        I so appreciate you taking the time to spell out your process, it offers a new tool or “technique” with which to approach the Word and see what happens!

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