Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Online works based on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Articles (by topic)
Magazines with Articles (links)
Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg
Talk here of the “Writings” or the “Heavenly Doctrines” refers to the teachings of Emanuel Swedenborg.
Note: this SwedenborgStudy.com site does not contain complete works of Swedenborg.
This SwedenborgStudy.com site contains only derived or ‘collateral’ works.
The Lord spoke to the multitudes one way and to His disciples another. What was the difference in the two forms of teaching?
Obviously Jesus gave the disciples more details. But what did these details relate to? The answer is that the Lord spent additional time with the disciples to explain the deeper meaning of His parables and how all the stories of Scripture contained deeper truths.
This is highlighted by the Lord’s taking several disciples to a mountaintop, where they briefly saw Him transfigured and conversing with Moses and Elias, and also by the special conversation the Lord had with His disciples along the journey to Emmaus.
When the His disciples asked the Lord why He spoke in parables, His reply was “Because it is given unto you to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven . . .” (Matt. 13:11)
In other words, the Lord attempted to teach His disciples about the symbolism and inner depth of Scripture. Concerning this deeper knowledge of faith, the Lord told them, “For verily I say unto you, That many prophets and righteous men have desired to see those things which ye see, and have not seen them; and to hear those things which ye hear, and have not heard them.” (Matt. 13:17)
There are also references in Scripture indicating that even the disciples did not understand everything they were being told. These things included such paradoxes as the conflicting statements about the Lord’s return “And then shall they see the son of man coming in a cloud with power and great glory” (Luke 21:27) compared with “The kingdom of God cometh not with observation” (Luke 17:20).
In fact, to add even greater confusion concerning the details of Lord’s return He also told His disciples that “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now.” (John 16:12)
What could the human mind not bear – especially if it concerns the good news of the Lord returning to reprove the world of sin? The answer can be summed up best by Walt Kelly’s comic strip character Pogo, who said, “We have met the enemy and he is us.”
The big revelation within Revelation is that Armageddon, which takes place at the time of the Second Coming, symbolizes the denial and resistance that WE each put up to keep the Lord and His commandments out of our lives. The Great Red Dragon is not an over-sized reptile. It is a belief-system that falsifies God’s truth – such as the monstrous doctrine of salvation by faith alone!
One of the big purposes of my blog (besides unifying science and theology) is to find ways of demonstrating the reality of deeper meanings within the narratives of the Holy Word.
Are you a parable-pooper?
If so, why?
Why would you think a God of Infinite Wisdom is incapable of such a thing? How can the Word be God (John 1:1-3) if it is anything less than God’s Infinite Wisdom? The only way a finite book can contain Infinite Wisdom is if its words and stories contain multi-layered meanings. Having access to some of these levels would indeed show us the true glory of God!
By Rev Louis B. King (1957)
It is a mark of the New Church man to be able to consider separately and rationally the three essentials of God-Man. The trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit is not a tri-personal Godhead, but the substance, form and operation of the one Divine Man, the Lord Jesus Christ
The Writings refer to these essentials as the Divine esse or love, the Divine existere or wisdom, and the Divine proceeding or use. The Divine esse is the Lord as He is in Himself─above and beyond man’s comprehension. The Divine existere is the Lord visible to man─the Divine Human standing forth, existing in form, to be seen and approached. The Divine proceeding is the Lord going forth and affecting the lives of men: instructing, encouraging, enlightening, comforting, regenerating.
Man, the image and likeness of his Creator, mirrors this trine of Divine essentials in his soul, body and operation. The soul or human spirit of man is invisible to his fellows; it is the inmost man himself. The body, however, is the man existing before others─the form that can be seen, approached, and loved objectively. Without the human form man would be invisible, unknowable, beyond all thought. But the life of man, proceeding from his soul through his body, is that which affects other human beings.
Without these three essentials, man would cease to be man, no human uses could exist, and the whole end and purpose of creation would fall into nothing. Man must have an inner life, an inmost human essence in which his individual loves and intelligence may reside. This is the first essential of his person, his esse or being. Then, he must have also a body or visible form in which his esse may appear to others and be approached by them. This is the second essential of his person, his existere. Finally, he must have a proceeding life which may affect others and thereby accomplish the use for which he was created. This is the third essential of his person, his operative life or proceeding.
It is comparatively easy to see the trine in man without confusing his essentials with three separate persons, or even splitting his person into three different personalities. Yet when it comes to God, in whose image and likeness man was created, we find ourselves bound by literal statements in the Old and New Testaments which, because of age-long misinterpretation, have a tendency to lead the thought away from the obvious essentials of the one Divine person, and into the illogical persuasion of a trine of personalities in the one God.
The Divine esse or being of the Lord is personified in the Old Testament as Jehovah. In the New Testament, Jesus Christ, who is really Jehovah come down, is erroneously thought of by the Christian Church as a second person who is also God. Lastly, the Holy Spirit, mistakenly conceived of as a third person in the Godhead, is not even personified but is referred to as a dove. The truth, however, can be known. Jehovah the Father is the Lord Himself above the heavens. Jesus Christ, the Son, is the Lord Himself appearing in His Human to angels and men. The Holy Spirit is the Lord Himself affecting angels and men. All three of these essentials, which cannot be separated except in thought, constitute the unity and the Humanity of the Lord.
But what do the Writings teach specifically concerning the Holy Spirit? The Holy Spirit is the Divine life going forth to men, and hence is the Lord Himself. For that which proceeds from a man’s life draws its essence from that life and is, therefore, one with it. In the Hebrew language there is one word for both “spirit” and “wind.” It is used in regard to respiration, which represents man’s life proceeding from his person. When the heart beats, the vital heat of man’s life is circulated throughout his body. But when man breathes, he alternately receives of the world into himself and sends forth his breath or spirit, which is the very essence of his bodily life.
It is the same with man’s mind. Instead of a heart, the human mind has a will within which the loves of his inmost life generate heat. In fact, the pulsation of the heart takes place in the body only because of a direct correspondence between the will and the heart. The activity of man’s love causes the heart to beat. In place of lungs, the human mind has an understanding which alternately receives into itself truths from without and sends forth the essence of its life or wisdom.
Note well the analogy. Spirit means breath, or life, going forth. The life of the physical body consists in the heating of the heart and the breathing of the lungs. But that life is particularly expressed or sent forth to others by means of respiration. So with the human mind: its life consists of love and wisdom, but it also is particularly expressed or sent forth to others in the form of wisdom. This is infinitely true of the Lord. His life is His Divine love and wisdom, but it is particularly expressed, or sent forth to affect men, as infinite wisdom or Divine truth.
Thus we read: By ‘spirit,’ when said of the Lord, is specifically meant the life of His wisdom, which is Divine truth (Lord 51). When He, the Spirit of truth, is come, He will lead you into all truth. He shall not speak of Himself, but whatsoever He shall hear, that shall He speak (John 16: 13). When the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you, even the Spirit of truth, He shall testify of Me (John 15: 25). Jesus breathed on His disciples, and said, Receive ye the Holy Spirit (John 20: 22).
The Lord has sent the Comforter, the Spirit of truth; and that Comforter is the Lord Himself in His second coming. He reveals Himself in the Divine wisdom of the Writings. He “testifies” of His Divine person, of the oneness of His Divinity and Humanity. In the Writings He comes to us and instructs, enlightens, comforts and regenerates. And our idea of the Lord as the Holy Spirit must be just as real and human as is our idea of Him as the Father and the Son. When we read of the Father, we think of the Lord as Divine love─as that infinite desire that a heaven of human uses exist eternally for the human race. When we read of the Son, we must think of the Lord as to the Divine humanity of His person─His gentle awareness and merciful consideration of us as individuals. And when we read of the Holy Spirit we must think of the Lord affecting us with the whole power of His love and wisdom─instructing and leading us by the Divine truths of His Word.
Our central thought concerning the Holy Spirit, then, is to be that of the Lord present with men as the light and power of truth in His Word. But this idea is not all-inclusive; for, in a general sense, the Holy Spirit includes all of the ways in which the Lord comes to man, and works in him for his regeneration.
Now the Lord can come to man and affect him only by means of influx. So if we are to consider all the modes by which the Lord affects man, we must investigate the different types of influx. Man possesses three organic receptacles─soul, mind and body. Into these three degrees of the human organic three corresponding degrees of influx enter. Into the soul the Lord inflows as life, which man feels to be his own. This immediate influx is above his consciousness; nevertheless it sustains the life of all the organic forms beneath it, even to the life of the minutest cell. By virtue of this influx into the soul man has the ability to think and will, although his thoughts and affections do not draw their quality immediately from the Lord. That which causes man to love good or evil things, and that which causes him to think true or false thoughts, the choice being his, is another influx from the Lord, which does not enter immediately into the soul but mediately into the interiors of the conscious mind. It is said mediately into the mind, because this influx from the Lord passes through the heavens and is qualified by angels and spirits.
When the Lord’s love passes through the heavens and is received in the minds of men on earth, it is present there in forms of good affections which inspire men to learn the truth and to live it. Thus the energy of the Lord’s love, operating from within man’s soul and mind, gradually reforms and regenerates him. The Lord therefore affects man from within and from without. So we read: The Holy Spirit is [not only] the Divine truth but also the Divine energy and operation proceeding from the one God in whom is the Divine Trinity, that is, from the Lord God the Savior (TCR 138: 1).
Although the Lord affects man in these two ways from within─through the soul and the mind─still, the particular operation of the Holy Spirit is by means of the truths of the Word. For this reason the Word of God has in it the answers, strength and comfort for life’s problems. In the degree that we are able to understand its teachings, and approach it as the Lord Himself speaking to us; in that degree we shall have instruction, enlightenment and encouragement. For the Word of God not only supplies those truths by which the understanding may be reformed, but the reading of it and reflection upon its teachings open the mind to influx from the heavens; from which the Lord as the Holy Spirit regenerates and purifies the loves of the human heart.
So often in the New Church we are prone to concentrate upon the hard teachings of the Writings which deal with our responsibilities in regeneration. At times we resent having so complete a knowledge of the obligation to humble, subordinate, and even shun the loves instinctive to our nature. Self-denial, the acceptance of tragedy, disappointment and despair, the ever increasing burden of natural and spiritual temptation, all of these in some form are essential to regeneration. And yet we have been given a Comforter. Though we are troubled, we shall have peace; through the sorrow and despair of today will come the comfort and peace of tomorrow, if we but have the courage to look to the Lord and trust in Him. He is ever near us as the Spirit of truth in the Word; and He remains with us in our troubled states, leading and uplifting our spirits, in so far as we allow Him. “Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto Me in heaven and on earth. . . . Observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you, and, lo, I am with you all the days, even to the consummation of the age.” Amen.
* John 7:37-44
In the last day, that great day of the feast, Jesus stood and cried, saying, If any man thirst, let him come unto me, and drink. He that believeth on me, as the scripture hath said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water. (But this spake he of the Spirit, which they that believe on him should receive: for the Holy Ghost was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.) Many of the people therefore, when they heard this saying, said, Of a truth this is the Prophet. Others said, This is the Christ. But some said, Shall Christ come out of Galilee? Hath not the scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem, where David was? So there was a division among the people because of him. And some of them would have taken him; but no man laid hands on him.
* John 16:1-16
These things have I spoken unto you, that ye should not be offended. They shall put you out of the synagogues: yea, the time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service. And these things will they do unto you, because they have not known the Father, nor me. But these things have I told you, that when the time shall come, ye may remember that I told you of them. And these things I said not unto you at the beginning, because I was with you. But now I go my way to him that sent me; and none of you asketh me, Whither goest thou? But because I have said these things unto you, sorrow hath filled your heart. Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you. And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: Of sin, because they believe not on me; Of righteousness, because I go to my Father, and ye see me no more; Of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now. Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall shew it unto you. All things that the Father hath are mine: therefore said I, that he shall take of mine, and shall shew it unto you. A little while, and ye shall not see me: and again, a little while, and ye shall see me, because I go to the Father.
* True Christian Religion 142
The Divine Energy and Operation, which are meant by the Holy Spirit, are, in general, reformation and regeneration; and in accordance with these, renovation, vivification, sanctification and justification; and in accordance with these latter, purification from evils, forgiveness of sins, and finally salvation. These in their order are the energies made operative by the Lord in those who believe in Him, and who adjust and dispose themselves for His reception and indwelling; and this is done by means of Divine truth, and with Christians by means of the Word; for the Word is the sole medium through which man draws near to the Lord, and into which the Lord enters. For, as said above, the Lord is Divine truth itself, and whatever goes forth from Him is Divine truth. But Divine truth from good must be understood, which is the same as faith from charity, since faith is nothing but truth, and charity is nothing but goodness. It is by means of Divine truth from good, that is, by means of faith from charity, that man is reformed and regenerated, and also renewed, vivified, sanctified, justified, and according to the progress and growth of these is purified from evils; and purification from evils is remission of sins. But these operations of the Lord cannot now be all explained one by one, because each one calls for its own analysis, confirmed by the Word and rationally illustrated, for which this not the place; therefore the reader is referred to the chapters following in order in this work, which treat of Charity, Faith, Free Will, Repentance, and Reformation and Regeneration. It must be understood that these saving graces are continually made operative by the Lord in every man; since they are the steps to heaven, and the Lord desires the salvation of all. Thus the salvation of all is His end; and he who wills an end wills also the means. The Lord’s coming, redemption, and the passion of the cross were for the sake of man’s salvation (Matt 18:11; Luke 19:10). And as man’s salvation was and eternally is the Lord’s end, it follows that the above mentioned operations are mediate ends, and salvation the final end.
by Rev. Clark Echols
Change in our lives is rarely simple, neat and clean. How does one adjust to change and find a renewed sense of happiness?
A grandparent dies. A job is lost. A hurricane interferes with travel plans. A beloved teacher gets replaced by someone new. No matter what age or stage of life we are in, there is one constant: change. Whether changes are happy or sorrowful, expected or surprising, they can cause commotion and turmoil in our well-being. How does one adjust to change and find a renewed sense of happiness?
Change in our lives most often causes turmoil, and even suffering, and we can never completely escape the inevitability of change.
One way to do this is through the following process:
In the Bible, there are many stories about the trials and tribulations good people suffer when confronted with changes and challenges. In certain cases, using these techniques brings about positive change. Abraham, for instance, felt sad that he didn’t have children and afraid for his future. However, he was able to radically change his attitude by remembering the promise Jehovah had made that his offspring would be as numerous as the stars! That thought replaced the negative thoughts, and Abraham was able to remain steadfast in his course, staying open to the blessings of the present and the possibilities of the future.
It is always helpful to remember our childhood hopes and dreams, especially when we don’t feel hopeful in the present. Focusing on the thought of future happiness and fulfillment can drive away negative thoughts. Then we will be able to recognize the nature of our feelings, and choose thoughts to support good feelings or change negative feelings.
Another example from the Bible comes from the story of David, who suffered the devastating loss of his son. He was so sad he went to bed and did not intend to return to his royal duties. However, his best friend came to him and roused him up, reminding him of his duties and how the people depended on him. David then stirred himself and returned to his life, although still mourning his loss.
We can also be roused from mental lethargy by remembering how we can serve others (especially when reminded by a friend or loved one). In fact, being active in our life gives us the chance to see how the great change we have experienced has not destroyed our life. We may have lost an important relationship or a job, but we can still find opportunities to connect with other people and to feel useful and needed.
If we practice naming our feelings and acknowledging the thoughts that support those feelings, we will be able to face the difficult spiritual work of obeying the Lord while simultaneously giving Him control of the outcome.
If this technique is new to you, it may take some work to be able to identify your feelings and their associated thoughts. Many people discover that writing in a journal every day for some weeks is transforming. Writing about your feelings and thoughts may be a huge effort, forcing you to give up some other recreation, or stay up late or get up early, but being able to quickly name your feelings and notice the thoughts that support them can offer greater freedom and control over reactions to life’s circumstances.
Change continues to happen. Obviously, we can’t stop it. Occasionally we can slightly bend its course. But most of the time we feel helpless in the face of our circumstances. After identifying your feelings and thoughts, practice accepting what is happening, while thinking of one of the good aspects of your life. This will allow you to freely turn to the Lord and remember (or decide for the first time) that He is in charge. He will do all in His power to bring good out of your life situation.
Clark Echols is the pastor of the Glendale New Church (www.glendalenewchurch.org).
“Spiritual things are more real than worldly things.”
Apocalypse Explained 1218
Most of us have ideas about heaven. Whether it is a group of angel babies with big wings and harps, a singing choir of gorgeous voices, a delicious feast, or angels jumping on huge clouds in the sky, many of us find some way to imagine what “heaven” looks like and feels like.
Swedenborg’s descriptions of heaven and hell have fascinated people of all sorts for ages: he presents us with stories of a warm, peaceful heaven and a stricken, foul hell. Swedenborg describes heaven as a place where each angel finds a home according to the things they love the most, a home where they can find a useful purpose and work with other angels who love the same things. Swedenborg describes hell as an option that people choose by living a hellish existence on earth—if people consistently engage in hurtful, selfish, or hate-driven behavior while alive, they will not choose heaven after they die even if they have it right in front of their nose. They will instead choose to love themselves over what is good, and make an eternal life working toward getting more stuff and doing a better job of loving themselves.
Swedenborg has a lot of helpful hints for living a heavenly life on earth in his many books. However, wading through theology is no small task. If you’re just looking for a quick taste, here are three ways to get a little slice of heaven on earth today:
(Note: Below, we’re using pie as a metaphor for the delicious goodness we want to create within ourselves. To read about it in Swedenborg’s words, look into the resources at the end of this post.)
If there is a bit of fluff in the batter, we must notice it and recognize it before it can be removed. This fluff stands for all the bad habits and the negative things in life. When we look at the batter and think to themselves, “That looks like a nasty bit of fluff. Maybe I should take it out . . .” and then consider ways to fix the problem, we’ve already started that process of change on a mental level. In life, this happens whenever we notice a bad habit and get ready to change it. Maybe one person notices that every time their friend has a good story to tell, they find themselves unconsciously racking their brain to think of a slightly better story to tell. When they notice that bad habit, they’re making the first step toward a little bit more happiness (Divine Providence #39). Stare at that fluff, and go on to step two.
Staring at the bit of fluff in the batter won’t solve the problem. The problem will only be solved when we make a change, pick up the spoon, and take the fluff out of the batter. When we take bad things out of our lives, we leave room for good things to flow in and cover that space (Divine Providence #33). This step is a huge part of Swedenborg’s idea of repentance, which is the first step toward regeneration, or becoming a new, better person (True Christianity #510). To become better, people have to stop doing things they know are bad for them. Say goodbye to the fluff—on to step three.
In this step, Swedenborg writes that people should turn to the Lord for help. He says that God is able to fill in the cracks and let new good things flow into people’s lives as bad things leave, just as the pie filling flows into the pie crust. The happiness of eternal life begins with this step, and the next secret one, as we are able to love more easily and more wholly in life because we are less filled with bad things, and looking outside of ourselves for help (True Christianity #539).
Actually, this process never ends. It starts over at the beginning every time we notice bad things about our lives. It continues as long as people are changing and growing and loving and making mistakes. As long as people continue to repeat this cycle, the bad things get removed and the good things flow in. It’s the never-ending process of life.
Go forth and eat a bite of that heavenly slice.
To read more about regeneration, Swedenborg’s description of the process of spiritual growth, take a look at his work True Christianity (especially chapters 9 and 10) or Secrets of Heaven volume 1 (the first chapter). You can also find a compilation of Swedenborg’s writings on the topic in Regeneration: Spiritual Growth and How It Works. All of these are available as free e-books in our bookstore.
Divine Providence #39: “Words cannot describe the varieties of heaven’s bliss, rapture, pleasure, and delight—the joys of heaven. . . . However, these joys enter into us only as we distance ourselves from compulsions to love what is evil and false, which distancing we do apparently with our own strength, but in fact from the Lord’s strength. These joys are actually joys of loving desires for what is good and true, and they are directly opposed to the compulsions to love what is evil and false.” back
Divine Providence #33: “Since the Lord flows into everyone’s life and flows through our life’s desires into our perceptions and thoughts (and not the reverse), as already noted, it follows that the closeness of our union with the Lord depends on the extent to which our love for evil and its desires—its compulsions—is dismissed. Further, since these compulsions have their home in the level of our being that deals with this world, and since anything we do that is rooted in that level feels as though it belongs to us, we need to dismiss the evils of this love with what seems to be our own strength. To the extent that we do this, the Lord draws near and unites us to himself.” back
True Christianity #510: “Before repentance, we stand outside regeneration [or spiritual rebirth]. In that condition, if any thought of eternal salvation somehow makes its way into us, we at first turn toward it but soon turn away. That thought does not penetrate us any farther than the outer areas where we have ideas; it then goes out into our spoken words and perhaps into a few gestures that go along with those words. When the thought of eternal salvation penetrates our will, however, then it is truly inside us. The will is the real self, because it is where our love dwells; our thoughts are outside us, unless they come from our will, in which case our will and our thought act as one, and together make us who we are. From these points it follows that in order for repentance to be genuine and effective within us, it has to be done both by our will and by our thinking that comes from our will. It cannot be done by thought alone. Therefore it has to be a matter of actions, and not of words alone.” back
True Christianity #539: “There are two duties that we are obliged to perform after we have examined ourselves: prayer and confession. The prayer is to be a request that [the Lord] have mercy on us, give us the power to resist the evils that we have repented of, and provide us an inclination and desire to do what is good, since ‘without him we cannot do anything’ (John 15:5). The confession is to be that we see, recognize, and admit to our evils and that we are discovering that we are miserable sinners.
There is no need to list our sins before the Lord and no need to beg that he forgive them. The reason we do not need to list our sins before the Lord is that we have searched them out within ourselves and saw them, and therefore they are present before the Lord because they are present before us. The Lord was leading us in our self-examination; he disclosed our sins; he inspired our grief and, along with it, the motivation to stop doing them and to begin a new life.
There are two reasons why we should not beg the Lord to forgive our sins. The first is that sins are not abolished, they are just relocated within us. They are laid aside when after repentance we stop doing them and start a new life. This is because there are countless yearnings that stick to each evil in a kind of cluster; these cannot be set aside in a moment, but they can be dealt with in stages as we allow ourselves to be reformed and regenerated.
Discovering inner health and transformation
Alternatively, can you escape fate? Can it be cheated?
In some cultures in the world there seems to be more of a tendency to believe in fate. Ahsan Ul Haq Kayani is a senior patrolling officer with the national highways police in Pakistan. He did some research in three cities there, interviewing professional drivers, police officers, and policy makers. It became clear that, across the board, fatalism about death extends to fatalism about risky driving. For example, one police officer said, “If a disaster has to come in your life, you cannot escape, no matter what you do – even if a driver follows safety measures.”
In some places, tragically there are downtrodden people who are defeatist for understandable reasons. They live in dire poverty, and lack opportunities to better themselves. Their situation reminds me of the laboratory research on dogs by Martin Seligman in the 1960’s at the University of Pennsylvania. Whatever the dogs did to escape their cages, they were punished with an electric shock, and so they became passive and gave up trying. Likewise, if oppressed people were to try to escape their dreadful circumstances only to be continually defeated, then, like the laboratory dogs, it would not be surprising that they might learn to feel helpless and passively resign themselves to their fate.
Usually, however, for most of us only some things in life turn out badly – perhaps you fail your exams, your boss at work is overcritical, or you catch a dangerous bug.
If you were to blame fate for misfortune you would see the future as inevitable and might actually give up studying, stop trying to work well, or no longer live in a hygienic manner. Nevertheless, in so doing, would you not be creating a self-fulfilling prophecy? Bringing about the very things, you do not want?
Since the time of active belief in Roman, Greek and other mythologies, fate has often been thought of as divinely inspired.
It seems difficult to think about a God who can be all-powerful but who does not actually control everything that is going on in the world.
The Pew Foundation in 2012 asked Muslims in twenty-three countries ranging from Bosnia to Indonesia, “Do you believe: in predestination or fate?” and found widespread fatalism.
Over the years, there have been deadly stampedes and other crowd disasters during the annual Muslim pilgrimage to Mecca. Yet, each year thousands continue to make the journey. After a building crane fell into Mecca’s Grand Mosque in September 2015, killing 114 and injuring 394, the mosque’s Imam Abdul Rahman Al Sudais visited the injured and, as he met each one, told them, “This is the will of Allah.”
“Whatever man is or does and whatever happens to him is directly willed by Allah”(Raphael Patai, anthropologist referring to Muslim belief)
Many critics say that until the Saudi authorities do something the deaths are likely to continue. It seems to me they are using the excuse of fate for not taking responsibility.
We also find a similar idea of fate – what theologians call pre-destination – in some strands of Christianity.
Yet paradoxically, even when religion has this idea of fate, it is not thought to take away individual freedom to make personal choices. So, how could these two ideas – divine omnipotence and free will – be mutually compatible? Even today, this question is a matter of great study and interest.
I think the teaching of Emanuel Swedenborg regarding the nature of God offers an answer. The all-powerful force behind the universe is said to so love us that we are allowed the freedom to think and be what we want. In other words, it is not in the divine nature of loving others to want to impose one’s will on them; but rather to permit us all to learn from our mistakes and freely choose our own character.
“If there is freedom, things are not inevitable” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
I would suggest that if we did not have this inner freedom to choose, then we would be inhuman – mere robots – following our inbuilt software to obey the dictate of the engineer who designed us.
Swedenborg’s idea is that it is God’s priority is to work in a hidden way to provide us with what we deeply need for a peaceful and contented eternal life – wisdom, forgiveness, a kind generous heart etc. This happy fate is what God wants for all people. A lower priority is that we get what we physically need for pleasure during this temporary life on earth. Therefore, according to this doctrine, improvement to one’s inner life can only come when one freely chooses to respond positively to the divine leading.
If all this is true then it follows that the all-powerful God will not necessarily stop me being a victim of circumstances and human folly. But when evil things happen, it is not the will of God. God never wills bad things on anybody. Instead, God’s love wants us all to be inwardly happy.
My advice is do not be resigned to what you imagine is your earthly fate but trust in Divine Providence for your eventual destiny. Likewise, a common attitude seems to be that life is full of bad things and we just have to hope for the best and get on with it.
“A person’s fate after death is determined by the kind of life he led in the world” (Emanuel Swedenborg)
Copyright 2016 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author Heart, Head & Hands
Posted on21st June 2016