Selection from True Christian Religion ~ Emanuel Swedenborg
The Word was with God, and God was the Word. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:1, 4).
By “God” here the Divine love is meant, and by “the Word” the Divine wisdom; and strictly speaking “life” means the Divine wisdom, and the life strictly is the light that goes forth from the sun of the spiritual world, in the midst of which sun is Jehovah God.
As fire forms light so does the Divine love form life. In fire there are two properties, burning and shining; from its burning property heat proceeds, and from its shining property, light.
There are two like properties in love, one to which the burning property of fire corresponds, which is a something that inmostly affects the will of man, and another to which the shining property of fire corresponds, which is a something that inmostly affects the understanding of man. This is the source of man’s love and intelligence
From the sun of the spiritual world a heat goes forth that in its essence is love, and a light that in its essence is wisdom. These two flow into all things and each thing in the universe, andinmostly affect them, and with men these flow into their will and their understanding, for these two were created to be receptacles of influx – the will a receptacle of love, and the understanding a receptacle of wisdom. Thus it is manifest that the life of man dwells in his understanding, and is such as his wisdom is; and that it is modified by the love of the will.
We also read in John: As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son also to have life in Himself(5:26)
which means that just as the Divine Itself, which was from eternity, has life in itself, so the Human, which He took on in time, has life in itself.
Life in itself is the very and only life, from which all angels and men have life.
This can be seen by human reason from the light that goes forth from the sun of the natural world, in that this light is not creatable, but that forms for receiving it have been created.
For example, the eyes are forms for receiving this light, and light flowing in from the sun is what makes them to see. The same is true of life which (as has been said) is the light that goes forth from the sun of the spiritual world, in that it is not creatable, but flows in unceasingly, and as it illuminates it also vivifies man’s understanding.
So in consequence, as sight and life and wisdom are one, wisdom is not creatable, neither is faith, nor truth, nor love, nor charity, nor good; but forms for receiving these have been created; and these forms are human and angelic minds. Therefore let everyone beware of persuading himself that he lives from himself, or that he is wise, believes, loves, perceives truth, and wills and does good, from himself. For so far as anyone is so persuaded he casts his mind down from heaven to earth, and from being spiritual becomes natural, sensual, and corporeal; for he shuts up the higher regions of his mind, and thus makes himself blind in regard to every thing relating to God, heaven, and the church; and then all that he happens to think, reason, and say about these things is done in darkness and consequently in foolishness; while at the same time he adopts a confidence that it all belongs to wisdom. For when the higher regions of the mind, where the true light of life resides, are closed up, the region of the mind below these opens, into which the light of the world only is admitted; and when this light is separated from the light of the higher regions it is a delusive light, in which what is false seems true and what is true seems false, and reasoning from what is false appears to be wisdom, and from what is true to be folly. Then man believes himself to be endowed with the keen vision of an eagle, although he sees what belongs to wisdom no better than a bat sees in the light of day.
Quantum physics is weird. To begin to understand it, you have to set aside everything you thought you knew about space and time and develop complex, abstract models of a universe in which the tiniest divisions of matter exist in constantly changing states and where the normal rules of action at a distance don’t apply . . .
Oh, wait. That’s Emanuel Swedenborg.
Spiritual concepts have nothing to do with space. They have to do solely with state, state being an attribute of love, life, wisdom, desires, and the delights they provide—in general, an attribute of what is good and true. A truly spiritual concept of these realities has nothing in common with space. . . .
However, since angels and spirits see with their eyes the way we do on earth, and since objects can be seen only in space, there does seem to be space in the spiritual world where angels and spirits are, space like ours on earth. Still, it is not space but an appearance of space. It is not fixed and invariant like ours. It can be lengthened, shortened, changed and altered; and since it cannot be defined by measurement, we here cannot grasp it with an earthly concept, but only with a spiritual one. Spiritual concepts are no different when they apply to spatial distances than when they apply to “distances” of what is good and “distances” of what is true, which are agreements and likenesses as to state. (Divine Love and Wisdom §7; see also Heaven and Hell §§154–55)
Swedenborg emphasizes that space in the spiritual world is nothing like ours: he describes angels traveling over huge distances in an instant to reach someone who is thinking about them, communities of angels who are bound together by similarities in their states of love and wisdom, and surroundings that change in response to people’s thoughts and emotions. During the eighteenth century, when Isaac Newton’s laws of physics were still brand new, this must have been hard to imagine. Today, quantum physics is giving us new ways to think about the universe that have interesting parallels to what Swedenborg described.
Take the principle of quantum entanglement, for example:
Entanglement occurs when two quantum particles interact with each other so that their quantum states become interdependent. If the first particle is in state A, say, then the other must be in state B, and vice versa.
Until a measurement is made of one of the particles, its state is undetermined: it can be regarded as being in both states A and B simultaneously, known as a superposition. The act of measuring ‘collapses’ this superposition into just one of the possible states.
But if the particles are entangled, then this measurement also determines the state of the other particle—even if they have become separated by a vast distance. The effect of the measurement is transmitted instantaneously to the other particle, through what Albert Einstein skeptically called ‘spooky action at a distance’. 
In other words, if two particles are entangled, they function together as a single system. An action taken to affect one will also affect the other, no matter how far away they are. You could visualize this on a larger scale by imagining a pair of dice: if the dice were entangled in the same way that particles can become entangled, then when rolled simultaneously they would always turn up matching numbers, even if one die was on the opposite side of the planet from the other.
Entanglement between particles can happen as a result of almost any type of interaction, as long as they are close enough to affect each other. The effect can be almost unmeasurably brief (for example, when produced in a lab, as described in the article referenced above) or it could last indefinitely.
Compare this to the way that Swedenborg describes interaction between souls in the afterlife:
All motion in the spiritual world is the effect of changes of inner states, to the point that motion is nothing but change of state. . . .
This being the nature of motion, we can see that drawing near is likeness of inner state and moving away is dissimilarity. This is why the people who are nearby are the ones in a similar state and the ones who are far away are in dissimilar states. It is why space in heaven is nothing but the outward states that correspond to the inner ones.
This is also why in the spiritual world one individual is present to another if only that presence is intensely desired. This is because one person sees another in thought in this way and identifies with that individual’s state. Conversely, one person moves away from another to the extent that there is any sense of reluctance; and since all reluctance comes from an opposition of affections and disagreement of thoughts, there can be many people appearing together in one place as long as they agree, but as soon as they disagree, they vanish. (Heaven and Hell §§192–94)
In Swedenborg’s case, the interaction between two souls is a thought or feeling—an emotional or spiritual state that can either draw individuals closer or drive them apart. This works not only for individuals, as described above, but for communities of angels in heaven, who are bound together by similarities in the things they love (Heaven and Hell §§41–44). And, like quantum particles, two individuals can align either briefly or indefinitely, depending on their internal qualities.
Of course, the similarity isn’t perfect; as far as scientists know today, quantum entanglement can’t be used to move objects or information through space. But the idea of two objects being so aligned that they can affect each other regardless of the distance between them is one that has a powerful resonance in Swedenborg’s thought.
If we use quantum entanglement as a model, we see love as the glue that connects people together. In fact, in many places, Swedenborg observes that love is life itself (for example, the very first sentence of Divine Love and Wisdom). If that’s true, then when people share a common love, they share a common life—a common existence that stretches from this world to the next.
There’s one more very intriguing way in which quantum entanglement parallels Swedenborg’s thought. When building mathematical models of the universe based on quantum theory, researchers have found that entanglement is necessary to the existence of, well, everything:
Mark Van Raamsdonk, a string theorist at the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, likens the holographic concept [of the structure of the universe] to a two-dimensional computer chip that contains the code for creating the three-dimensional virtual world of a video game. We live within that 3-D game space. . . .
In 2010 Van Raamsdonk proposed a thought experiment to demonstrate the critical role of entanglement in the formation of space-time, pondering what would happen if one cut the memory chip in two and then removed the entanglement between qubits [quantum bits of information] in opposite halves. He found that space-time begins to tear itself apart, in much the same way that stretching a wad of gum by both ends yields a pinched-looking point in the center as the two halves move farther apart. Continuing to split that memory chip into smaller and smaller pieces unravels space-time until only tiny individual fragments remain that have no connection to one another. “If you take away the entanglement, your space-time just falls apart,” said Van Raamsdonk. 
Swedenborg says something very similar about the spiritual universe:
If you look at the created universe with an eye to its design, it is so full of wisdom from love that you might say everything taken all together is wisdom itself. There are things without measure in such a pattern, both sequential and simultaneous, that taken all together they constitute a single entity. This is the only reason they can be held together and sustained forever. (Divine Love and Wisdom §29)
Bringing these two ideas together gives us a new way to think about loving others: If there was no love connecting us as individuals, connecting individuals into communities, and connecting communities into a larger and larger whole, then our spiritual universe would fall apart. Loving everybody might seem like a difficult goal, but loving the people closest to you just might be the first step in the process of bringing all of creation a little bit closer together.
Late one evening in a trash filled alley in the remote city of Latur, India, a young orphan who had been subsisting on the scraps of food he could retrieve from the local dump, passed away from the effects of a burst appendix. The event went largely unnoticed in the neighborhood. He was one of a seemingly endless number of orphans who inhabited the city. His body would be found the next morning by the sweepers and disposed of—not even meriting a death notice in the local paper.
While variations of this sad tale are repeated far too many times in our modern world, this boy’s life is only beginning. According to the book Heaven and Hell by Emanuel Swedenborg, the child, upon awakening in the next life, is given to angel parents and raised and instructed in heaven in an atmosphere of love that defies the imagination.
Strangely, there are many Christian theologians who claim that such a child is condemned to hell because he was not exposed to Christianity. It is almost as if they are saying that the boy was beyond the reach of Christ and somehow hidden from His love because he never declared that Christ died for his sins and was baptized.
A different perspective about Christ’s saving power
New Church teachings present a different view, one in which Jesus Christ’s saving power is not limited.
In the New Testament, Jesus says directly that “without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5) and that “all authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth” (Matthew 28:18). Encompassed in these statements is the idea that He is the origin of all life, both in heaven and on earth. This is true whether one ‘knows’ Him or not. The transformational events of Jesus’ birth, life, and death continue to impact all individuals regardless of their awareness of those events. By extension, it is not hard to imagine that anyone who lives in heaven comes in contact with Jesus Christ and experiences the all encompassing power of His love.
Considering this in regard to children in heaven, I’m uplifted by New Church teachings on this topic. In the book Heaven and Hell it goes on to describe how a child who is raised in heaven has a unique opportunity to witness the Lord’s love and mercy in operation. With other angels as mentors, the child is able to see the Lord’s operation with a level of clarity not possible on earth. Like all human beings, that child (though in heaven) still is given the opportunity to choose between a life of good or evil, a life aligned with heaven or with hell. But having had a clear vision of how Divine life works presented to him in the wisest of ways, it is hard to imagine that such a child would ever choose evil over good.
One purpose of the church on earth is to attempt to create a supportive environment that mirrors the educational environment in heaven and make it as easy as possible to “choose life” (Deuteronomy 30). When we show the accepting love of Jesus, for all people, we are doing just that.
Religious affiliation is NOT what is important
Divine Love itself, in the human form of Jesus Christ, has the power to affect people’s lives any time they act in harmony with His principles—regardless of religious affiliation.
Jesus said simply “give and it will be given to you” (Luke 6:38), meaning when our actions are in harmony with divine life, we receive that life. It is that simple. But there are more or less powerful ways of making this connection, depending on one’s understanding of who God is and how He operates with people.
Religion, to the degree that it shows how to harmonize with the Lord, is a useful tool in helping people discover heaven and understand how God reaches and touches human beings, even in circumstances that seem beyond hope. Religion that leads people away from that contact can actually be detrimental to one’s ability to receive spiritual life. So it is important to find a religion that sensibly connects people to the life of heaven. The New Church shows how the isolated orphan who dies knowing nothing of Christianity will be raised in heaven and still will be given the opportunity to choose a life that aligns with heaven.
Although in our world the orphaned state continues to be a reality with which we must cope, on a spiritual level we are never orphaned. No matter our outward circumstances, the Lord is always present within us, ready to lead us when we turn our lives to Him and begin to walk in His ways. As He said: “I will not leave you orphans. I will come to you” (John 14:18).
David Lindrooth is director of General Church Outreach, supporting the international growth of the New Church.
Free will is the quality that distinguishes humans from animals. Animals cannot be either good or evil = they are what they are – but humans can choose. The Lord protects this freedom of will to the extent that He allows evil, because only loves that are freely chosen can be appropriated to an individual. Because we are all free to choose to do what we believe is right in the Lord’s eyes, or choose to do what we want, we can be formed into an image of the love we choose. The image may be heavenly or hellish, it’s our choice. No animal has such a choice.
The Lord has always given mankind a choice. Adam had a choice in the garden of Eden, Noah had a choice to obey about the ark or not, Abram had a choice to travel to Canaan or not, and the children of Israel had choices galore.
They all had received revelation of one kind or another, culminating in the Word from Moses, the prophets and the Gospels – what we now call the Bible. (You will find short explanations of the Most Ancient Church, the Ancient and Israelitish churches elsewhere on this site.) The writings for the New Church are a continuation of the Lord’s revelation. The knowledge that they had, and that we have today, from those revelations opens up the ability to make good choices, or bad ones.
We can’t change our loves ourselves. We can’t flip back our skull and throw a switch in our brain that makes us love our neighbor – but the Lord can do something like that over time. And without even opening up our skull! But He won’t do that unless we want Him to. We show Him that we want it to happen by acting as if He’d already done it. If we force ourselves to act as if we love our neighbor even though we don’t feel it yet, we will one day realize that, all unknown to us, He has reached in and changed us a bit. We may have forced ourselves, but free will means that we are free to force ourselves – it’s our choice.
Some people may believe that they can’t change. Maybe they try for a little while and don’t notice anything, so they lose heart. This is a lifetime project. All during our life in the natural world the Lord keeps us in a state of equilibrium between the influences of heaven and hell, just so that our will can move us a little bit one way or the other, so that we can remain in control. This is our freedom.
The Lord wants everyone born to come to His heaven, it’s what we are born for, but we are all free to decide for ourselves if we will do so or not.
Scientists are truly astonished that the laws of nature are bio-friendly—fine-tuned to allow for the emergence of life. When one considers that life has evolved in complexity to give us the human brain and personal-level experience (consciousness) things get even more astonishing.
While many scientists see an “apparent” intelligent direction in evolution, this direction is not deemed purposeful or designed. Rather, this is all the result of the contingency of random or chance mutations. Life is the result of a cosmic throw of the dice. Ironically, this cosmic crapshoot allows entities to appear with functions that express a mastery of science (which humans and their brains do not possess).
Furthermore, when you take into account that nature seems to display an incessant compulsion for self-organization, one can only assume that the dice are loaded.
In spite of modern science’s reluctance to embrace purposeful design, every organic process and structure serves a distinct purpose. Why is this significant? Well, science knows that anything put into motion seeks out its equilibrium. The miracle of life is that myriads of distinct actions are set in motion, yet all seek a common equilibrium! Every process and organic function must be coordinated and subordinated according to successive and simultaneous order.
This coordinated distribution of action is a bit much to ask of merely gravitating matter. Matter is not smart enough to orchestrate such a cooperative effort, whereby things gain distinction through togetherness.
Now fast-forward to the evolution of the human race. Here, a similar principle seems to apply. Individuals in society gain distinction from their selfless service to the common good of others.
Even quantum physics is offering clues that existence is relationship and that matter is not the fundamental “stuff” of the universe. What is fundamental in nature is now seen by scientists as the “tendency to exist.” This tendency emerges from a non-spatial and non-temporal realm.
Hmmm? What possible non-physical dynamic could be represented by a “disposition” that endeavored to take concrete form through relationship and cooperation?
The answer is LOVE.
The essence of love is to unite. Love is psychical—a disposition of mind—and therefore a non-physical principle of agency.
Love is God.
This is just a small taste of the issues I will be tackling in my upcoming book, Proving God. My strategy is to put naturalism on its head, and show how time and space, plus all law and force in the universe, emerged from love’s dynamical nature.
In God’s universe, Love is not simply a passion or lively enthusiasm. Love is the ultimate science.
Many people sense that there is a deeper aspect of reality. A spiritual force behind the universe.
To my mind this divine level of what is real is pure love and the source of all that explains the meaning of life. It is wisely working away in our hearts and minds. This is the infinite and eternal God of religion, beyond gender, beyond the bounds of space and time, and beyond our full comprehension.
Christ as God
According to much western world religion, this mighty spiritual force is manifest as the Christ within the human soul who inspires our feelings and thoughts with his altruistic love and higher intelligence. A new way of expressing this is as follows. We are an image of Christ’s divine humanity who like us has heart, head and hands – although in his case it is a heart of compassion, a head of wisdom and hands of power.
This is the Christ with whom we can pray and relate to on a personal footing; the divine that flows into our conscience to guide us towards the ethical and moral life. Of ourselves we do not have the ability to inspire and illuminate our lives. But cooperating with the Christ within we can find the divine life as if it were our own.
Intervention of God
Many people can accept that there is no dark side to God and that human suffering and what is evil is caused by some human beings turning away from the values of mutual care and instead focusing exclusively on self-orientation. In my view the Divine is all-loving, all-knowing and whilst present everywhere is beyond time and place. It respects our freedom to decide for ourselves what kind of life we want to lead and so does not intrude to control human affairs.
This deity does not stop suffering, and like loving parents does allow us, the offspring, to learn the lessons of life the hard way whilst at the same time it counter-balances what is bad by providing what is good. Parents continue to provide for and support their children throughout their difficulties and misfortunes. When God does this for all of us, it is called the work of loving providence.
I would say that Divine life flows invisibly into the world to offset disease with healing, temper hate with love, and moderate despair with inspiration. This is done in relation to the smallest detail of life and so despite how things appear, nothing actually happens by chance. If the work of providence were obvious then we would not be free to believe or disbelieve in the divine as the spiritual origin of our lives.
According to this view, God is concerned with long-term goals not short-lived happiness. Only in retrospect can we hope to see the way traumas and suffering has functioned as growth points in our spiritual learning.
Evidence for God
One cannot prove the existence of God which is invisible. But there is evidence to support the Divine nature. Unless God were revealed, humanity would only have a dim awareness that the divine within comes from a higher power creating all that is good. And so I would say that God is manifest as the Christ of history. Also facets of the divine are shown both in the world of nature and in the sacred scriptures of the world’s religions.
Nature is said to be red in tooth and claw. But it also shows a positive side. There is beauty as well as ugliness in plant life, affection as well as cruelty in the animal kingdom, and safety as well as danger on land and sea. What is good in nature symbolically shows the qualities of the divine in our thoughts and feelings. What is bad mirrors the corrupting influence of humanity’s self-orientation.
The Divine is widely acknowledged as revealed in sacred writings of especially inspired individuals. Beneath the various authentic religious traditions and customs there is a common core of spiritual teaching. This is not surprising if they have a common source. What is revealed is what all religions teach i.e. :-
Human beings experience two realms of reality, the world of physical objects and the world of spirit, the latter being the realm of consciousness.
We have a centre of transcendent awareness and are able to relate intimately to the divine spark, which is the foundation of all reality.
Realising our spiritual nature is the highest goal and greatest good of human existence.
Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-LacyAuthor of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
Symbols (such as words or phrases) are meaningless without some association with contexts (such as definitions). The contexts give the symbol its meaning. A word can be used in a number of contexts that correspond to its obvious, literal sense.
How “high” a meaning is depends on the importance, or value, of its context. In order to measure the relative height of corresponding meanings we need to agree upon a value scale. Of course that is impossible. Not everyone can agree on what is of most value. However, we can be more objective if we take a global view and consider what is most important to the welfare of the largest number of people. Better yet, let’s take a cosmic view. The Creator of heaven and earth set the values by creating a universal heaven composed of angelic humans from all globes.
The context values thus proposed in descending order of height are as follows:
o God in the highest.
o Next, that which relates to conjunction with Him in heavenly love.
o Then that which relates to His angels in mutual love.
o That which relates to human society in the spiritual world.
o That which relates to human society in the natural world .
o That which relates to the human mind and those who develop it.
o That which relates to the human body and to those who stay bound to it.
What do we mean by “correspondence”?
The term “correspondence” of two symbolic meanings is used frequently in this Higher Meaning web site and generally refers to the mutual symmetry, harmony, correlation, and communication of the symbolic contexts. For more discussion on definitions of correspondence please see the following:
o Emanuel Swedenborg, Teachings about Correspondences, from The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine Index.
o ANC Anthology, Bringing Correspondences Into the Curriculum, under the subtopic of DEFINITIONS of correspondence.
o Browse the Papersbutton on the navigation bar. All the books and essays have some reference to correspondence(s). That web page also has a search engine.