During Emanuel Swedenborg’s extensive explorations of the spiritual world, he learned first hand that the Lord’s Holy Word contained discrete levels of meaning. These higher levels of divine revelation transcend the ideological abuse of literal interpretations of Scripture in many church traditions. They also allow the Lord to reveal deeper truths in ways that are accommodated to the cognitive levels of humankind and angels alike.
Terrestrial humans will have these interior levels of meaning opened up to them as a part of the Lord’s Second Coming, which represents the consummation of Christian orthodoxy and the establishment of a New Church on earth based on doctrines that will allow the mysteries of faith to be explored rationally.
The descent of the Holy City, The New Jerusalem, represents a new dispensation descending from the Lord out of heaven. The battle of Armageddon will be a battle over the acceptance or rejection of these new revelations.
Biblical stories that do not contain these special inner narratives are the writings of men, and while they may contain helpful messages, they are not the Sacred Word of the Lord God. Below is a list of biblical stories separated into columns representing the inspired Word of God and the spiritual writings of men.
The Sacred Word (Old Testament)
Psalms of David
Not The Sacred Word (Old Testament)
Song of Solomon
The Sacred Word (New Testament)
Not The Sacred Word (New Testament)
How else can the authority of the Holy Word be established other than by showing it to be a unique and multi-leveled deposit of divine revelation? I have passed this information along to you so that you can begin to experience the true nature of an eschatological tremor.
The world is in need of a more enlightened view of what love is.
The strategy I will use for unifying science and religion in my next book, “Proving God,” is to make a new ontological pronouncement about love. Love is not simply an emotion shared between two people. It is more than romance. It is the universal creative force that brings into existence and unifies all things. It is the key to understanding the mysterious nature of agency in the world. It is the ultimate substance of the universe.
The definition I use to define substance is an essence that generates form.
Love would therefore be a topic of hard science if we could show that it generates form (and bring God into the equation of generating measurement outcomes and specific position states in time and space). Modern science even offers some interesting clues that this might be the case.
Quantum theory tells us that everything is connected (quantum entanglement and non-locality). Quantum theory also suggests that primary reality consists of “tendencies to exist.” Substance in the quantum microworld is purely a dispositional property.
Love is dispositional as well. Love constantly seeks to express itself, that is, take form in some concrete action.
The mystery to be solved in quantum physics is how does a quantum event lead to matter’s ability to cohere into stable and evermore complex forms. What kind of disposition would be lawfully driven towards specific position states that lead to profound self-organization? The most popular view of quantum mechanics (the Copenhagen interpretation) describes fundamental reality as consisting of irreducible chance. But irreducible chance offers us a poor first principle for explaining nature’s incessant compulsion towards complex systems, unity, and order. In fact, quantum physics is not a theory of principles at all. It is a theory still seeking a foundational principle. How can science say that the microworld consists of both the dynamics of nonseparability (unity) and a probabilistic froth (randomness)?
There is no way to correlate “chance” with the time-irreversible process of quantum potentials taking profound form in the complicated systems of the macroworld. There is no way for randomness to create a finely tuned universe (unless the dice is loaded).
Love, however, DOES have a correlation with complexity and organization when we contemplate that all organized process portrays relational holism and cooperation among its myriad operations. So science needs to find a first causal principle that correlates with, and can generate bio-complexity and intelligent beings. This requires a living first principle that has its domain outside time and space.
God is Infinite love, Infinite wisdom, and Infinite Life. Because the Lord God lives, the universe is not just mathematical but volitional. It is striving to become more unified as it becomes more diversified. The unified complexity of the natural world emerges out of God’s inexhaustible complexity of Love seeking concrete form (measurement outcomes) in time and space.
We can each see in our own lives that what we love, focuses our attention, shapes our memory, and ultimately determines who we are. Love provides the non-physical key to the nature of agency in the universe.
You might think some saints and criminals are basically good or bad.
• Mother Teresa devoted her life to the care and service of the poor.
• Zacarias Moussaoui participated in the 9/11 terrorist conspiracy which resulted in the death of 2,996 people, and at least $10 billion in damage.
• Nelson Mandela was a South African anti-apartheid politician and philanthropist who inspired reconciliation and peace
• Al Capone – a ruthless gangster leader – was responsible for planning many acts of violence including the machine-gunning a rival racketeering gang in Chicago.
There are plenty of others who have done notably good or wicked things. Examples are those awarded with war medals for bravely risking their lives for others, serial killers, campaigners for human rights, war criminals, founders of charities serving the poor, sex abusers, whistle-blowers against corruption/malpractice and exploitative people traffickers.
Even if they have some other sides to their character, you may think such people are basically good or bad – full of selfless love or just plain rotten inside.
Natural causes of conduct of criminals
Are such individuals born the way they are? Should we give merit to nature or blame it for their condition? There is some genetic evidence to support the latter view in relation to the behaviour of criminals. Two genes – monoamine oxidase A (dubbed the “warrior gene”) and CDH13 – are both said to be tied to a higher likelihood of violent crime. Research into temperament has discovered that criminals often have high impulsivity, a sensation-seeking trait, aggression and low empathy.
Environmental causes of conduct of criminals
Others argue if you improve the environment of any individual then you can change the person. According to this view if people had not suffered maltreatment as children, come from homes with marital discord, or lacked parental supervision, then perhaps they would have been upstanding citizens. Also had they not had the social and economic disadvantages associated with a high frequency of changing jobs, unemployment and living in places of dense population, then again perhaps they would have been less likely to become criminals.
Legal view of criminals conduct
Our courts assume that we each carry responsibility for our actions and thus are either guilty or not guilty as charged. In other words regardless of their natural disposition and environmental experiences, even bad people can tell right from wrong (unless they are suffering from some serious disorder which prevents them from so-doing) and thus should be held culpable for their personal choices. This way of thinking implies people are neither born so bad nor conditioned to behave so badly that they cannot obey the law.
Mindfulness and our view of criminals
Similarly, the idea that we have responsibility and inner freedom to transcend our natural disposition and social conditioning is central to the spiritual and religious understanding. Religions teach we all have the potential to be inwardly transformed – find self-realisation, achieve enlightenment, become liberated, be saved.
Along with such beliefs is a common religious assumption: that it is a mistake to identify oneself with one’s impulses, urges and desires. They are merely states of mind, distinct from oneself.
So when you view saints and criminals, do you label them as good or bad by identifying them each with their feelings of say love or hate, or do you assume that they are only temporally influenced by humility or egoism?
Our view of ourselves
Likewise, when you see yourself, do you identify with the feelings and thoughts that come and go? ‘You may say yes of course I do. Why shouldn’t I suppose that my own consciousness is not part of myself? They are my feelings aren’t they? My thoughts. My desires.”
Yet one spiritual writer put it this way:
“We say ‘I am angry.’ But you are not angry; you just have angry feelings. You may say, ‘I am depressed.’ No, you are not depressed; you have feelings of depression” (Thomas Keating, Founder of the Centering Prayer movement)
This is very similar to the Buddhist view regarding attachment. Those who advocate mindfulness meditation advocate non-attachment which is the belief that one’s thoughts and feelings are not essential to one’s self but are merely phenomena to be observed. It is identifying with such thoughts and feelings that is said to cause suffering.
Swedenborg is known as someone who made an inward journey of discovery, writing up his numerous mystical experiences in meticulous detail. He reports that whilst he was in an altered state of consciousness, he would see and hear spirits of dead people who were associated with him. These he discovered to be the normally unconscious source of his thoughts and feelings.
He wrote that within his mind he had seen and heard certain spirits and felt the anxieties that well up from them. He observed the increase and decrease of anxiety as they drew near and moved away.
He very often experienced being raised up so to speak into the company of good spirits; but if he were to be let go of, even very slightly, he would be exposed to an inflow from bad spirits whose illusory ideas and selfish impulses would flood his consciousness.
So the question arises, if your good and bad thoughts come from outside of yourself, can you ever be said to be a fundamentally good or bad person?
Swedenborg’s answer is to do with his concept of ruling love.
We all are inwardly making personal choices turning towards either higher or lower spirits although we are not conscious of their presence with us. Turning towards the thoughts and feelings of the higher spirits we strengthen their presence within. But turning to the lower ones, we form bad habits of thought such as impure fantasies, self-serving priorities or spiteful attitudes.
If we are not careful we begin to own lower ways of thinking which can then start to dominate our motivation. We are slowly forming a type of self-centred attitude that takes priority over higher hopes, wishes and sentiments. Criminal intent thus may become the reigning desire which is the character one gradually forms for oneself.
There may be individuals with a radically reformed character. Several theories offer reasons why this may be possible.
After having been a bad person, is it later possible to become a much better individual? To be a genuinely reformed character? To develop personal virtues which are the opposites of previous reprehensible conduct?
Is it possible to replace a life of crime with honest living? Swap an erotic interest in children for normal sexual desire? Convert a streak of violence to self-control? Or change being consumed by self-hatred into compassion for and acceptance of oneself?
Is radical transformation of character really possible? And if so how might one suppose this can happen?
Character of Oskar Groening
The so-called ‘Bookkeeper of Auschwitz’, Oskar Groening played his part in a monstrous crime against humanity. As an enthusiastic young fascist who regarded the Jews as subhuman, he had willingly made an oath of loyalty to the fanatical Waffen-SS. A junior NCO, his secret role was to count out the money the Nazis stole from the Jews and engage in a sham bureaucratic process sorting out their luggage. This deceived the prisoners arriving at the death camp into believing one day their property would be returned, so as to keep them calm and ready to accept orders not knowing their real fate.
Later in life he revealed that during the war he had seen the Jews as the enemy on the home front and saying “we exterminated nothing but enemies”. However, he volunteered his complicity in one of the greatest crimes in history, even knowing this honesty about his ‘former self’ meant his trial and, if convicted, his probable death in jail. He wanted his testimony to be used to challenge those who deny the Holocaust took place. “I saw the gas chambers. I saw the crematoria. I saw the open fires. I would like you to believe these atrocities happened”.
Is this an example of a radical change of character?
Character of Muhammadu Buhari
Another possible example is that of former dictator Muhammadu Buhari who ruled Nigeria in the mid-1980’s. He sent soldiers to the streets with whips. Around 500 politicians, officials and businessmen were imprisoned in his campaign against waste and corruption. Critics of the regime, including the Afrobeat musician Fela Kuti, were also put behind bars. Buhari passed laws allowing indefinite detention without trial and imposed a decree to restrict press freedom, under which two journalists were jailed. The execution of three young men, led to international outcry. The war against indiscipline was carried to “sadistic levels, glorying in the humiliation of a people,” wrote the Nobel laureate for literature Wole Soyinka.
However, later in life Buhari has managed to persuade Nigerians he is a reformed character who respects civil liberties. Is he really a born-again democrat who will never return to his autocratic ways and human rights abuses? There is reason to think so. He wants to manage the future for the better by beating corruption and challenging the Islamist militants. He has contested the presidential election three times and lost, and ended up in court perhaps thus showing his commitment to the rule of law.
Theories of character change
So how can anyone radically change? I believe the various theories have both an element of truth and error in them. Here are some of the main ones on offer.
Everyone is basically good. It is thought we just need the right social environment, (e.g. available employment, accessible health care, satisfactory housing, educational opportunity, good family upbringing, and so on) to change our character for the better.
There is a restorative force in nature. It is thought we need techniques of healing which can harness this.
There is a deeper reality beyond us (consisting of benevolence, compassion, justice, joy, peace etc.). It is thought we need an appropriate form of personal therapy or spiritual practice to learn to connect with this.
There is a higher universal consciousness beyond that of the perspective of individual awareness. It is thought it is possible to discover the latter through practising control over body and mind.
There is a Divine Being with power to free us from ignorance, sorrow and evil. It is thought we need to devote ourselves to and believe in this.
Each person has an inner freedom of decision together with a higher perception of what is true and good. It is assumed we are obliged to make ethical choices in line with this.
Swedenborg and character change
The religious theories of character change often involve the idea of a transforming divine power. According to Swedenborg’s philosophy there is a Divine Being who consists of pure love and wisdom from which good things flow into the world e.g. human insight, virtue, hope, understanding, and contentment. This creative force, he maintains, is the power that enables character improvement.
His view is that before we can be changed inwardly, we need to co-operate with this inflow. This can start to happen as one practises self-examination of daily life without either fooling or punishing oneself. Each time we resolve with the strength of the Divine Being to change our ways in line with what we are learning about ourselves, he says we can hope to be gradually transformed with enlightened feelings.