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The Spiritual Bryn Athyn

From Rev. Jeremy Simons, Cathedral Chaplain
January 6, 2021

As we leave 2020 behind and head into this New Year, one of the things people have been commenting about is the number of longtime and beloved Bryn Athyn residents who have entered the spiritual world over the last few weeks. Donnette Alfelt, Edward Asplundh, Robert Klein, John Acton and Robert Johns were all lifelong Bryn Athyn residents, members of the Academy classes of 1946-1950, each one prominent and important to this community. It makes me think of this passage from Conjugial Love:

“I have quite often heard people say that they are not aware of being anywhere else than in the previous world, with the sole difference that they no longer see people whom they left behind in that earlier world, while they do see those who had passed on from that world.” Conjugial Love 31

For these five individuals, almost all of the family members, friends, and colleagues of their generation are already in the spiritual world. They are seeing and interacting with people even more familiar to them than those they leave behind in this world — except for their spouses, who they eagerly wait for. This passage gives the impression that they are in the same community that they left in this world, only perhaps an earlier version of it because it is inhabited by those who have gone before them.
Swedenborg reports speaking to some people in London in the spiritual world:

“I also spoke with some of the inhabitants there, saying that people in the world would be astonished and would scarcely believe that those who live in London see London again after death and, if they are good, dwell in their city again, even though that is the case.” Last Judgment (Posthumous) 12

So is there a Bryn Athyn in the spiritual world? Another passage talks about Hamburg, Germany:

“I asked where the people from Hamburg live in the spiritual world. I was told that they are not gathered together into any particular community, let alone a whole city. They are scattered and live among other Germans in various different areas. When I asked why, I was told that people from Hamburg are constantly focused elsewhere, and mentally, if not physically, traveling outside their city; they pay little attention to the city itself. Whatever our state of mind is like in the physical world determines our outward conditions in the spiritual world.” True Christianity 816

Do we love Bryn Athyn, or are our minds focused elsewhere? I think that many people seriously love this community, and I expect that those who do will find themselves still here in the next life. It will of course be the best version of it, whatever you imagine that to be — a society based on serving heavenly uses. Maybe there will be Friday Supper.
Whatever the case, I have no doubt that these five are enjoying this New Year more than they enjoyed 2020, that they are in familiar and beautiful surroundings, that they are with family and old friends, and that they will be happy to see us when we arrive, whenever that may be.


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