This time of year, as Thanksgiving approaches, many of us are told to be grateful. What does Spiritualism teach us?

Spiritualism has traditionally focused on the belief that spirits can communicate with the living through a medium. Emanuel Swedenborg was one of the first to use the term in 1796. He believed that a vital component within living beings was supernatural and divine.

As Spiritualism developed, many believers and mediums concentrated on the communication aspect of the belief. Mediums did not take to the podium to preach morality and religious practices. Instead, they acted as conduits between the spiritual realm to the physical world. Because of this, there are few teachings from them about ways to deal with life.

In Spiritualism, the Seven Principles do include Personal Responsibility. We are to make decisions throughout our lives as we see fit. What each of us makes of our life is our choice. No one can replace or override that right. No other person or influence can correct our wrong doings.

Although not part of Spiritualism doctrine, gratitude can be seen as part of our responsibility in life.

Swedenborg mentioned in his writings the importance of thanksgiving and gratitude. “The Lord does, indeed, require humility, worship, thanksgiving, and many other things from us,” he said. “This might seem like repayment, so that the Lord’s gifts do not seem to be free. But the Lord does not require these things for his own sake. . . . Rather, they are required for our sake. If we are humble, we can accept goodness from the Lord, since we have been separated from selfishness and the evil things that go with it, which stand in the way of our accepting the Lord’s goodness. This is why the Lord desires a state of humility in us for our own sake: because when we are in this state, the Lord can flow into us with heavenly goodness. The same is true of worship and thanksgiving. (Arcana Coelestia #5957)”

When we are grateful, we recognize that we are the recipient of many gifts. The most basic gift is life itself. Swedenborg said that the more open our heart is, the fuller of life we are.

It is often easy to be grateful when things are going our way. But what do we do when things get tough? We must still strive to be grateful. An “attitude of gratitude” will make the difference between a life of fulfillment or one of emptiness. Psychological research is showing that grateful people tend to have higher levels of happiness and lower levels of stress and depression.

Being grateful is more than saying you are thankful. Instead, it is a positive feeling towards someone who has given to you, as well as a desire to do something good in return. I invite you to cultivate gratefulness as your basic attitude toward life. It will make the difference between just going through the motions and really being alive.

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