A physicist friend recently sent me a link to a New York Times article called Abstract Thoughts? The Body Takes Them Literally. You can access it at:
Recent scientific research seems to validate the amazing discoveries of the 18th Century scientist/theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg claimed that there was a causal link between physical and spiritual realities. He called this link correspondences. The essential idea of correspondences is that the natural world is a physical analog (metaphor) of the spiritual world. Since an individual’s heart and mind is a man or woman’s spiritual reality, the physical body is lawfully designed to respond to one’s feelings, thoughts and mental abstractions (higher order realities) in a corresponding (embodied) way.
Apparently, this topic is part of a growing and highly popular field in Psychological Science called embodied cognition. I will share several examples from the article.
Researchers at the University of Aberdeen discovered that when participants were asked to contemplate future or past events, their bodies had measurable and corresponding reactions. Those who thought of the future leaned slightly forward while those thinking of the past leaned slightly backward. In other words, an abstract concept such as time found its physical equivalent in body posture.
At Yale, a test was conducted where participants were each given a packet of information concerning an imaginary person. Group A was given a warm cup of coffee with this packet and Group B received iced coffee with the packet. You guessed it. Group A had warmer feelings towards the imagined individual while Group B’s impression was frosty. Furthermore, at the University of Toronto, participants who were asked to recall memories of times when they felt socially snubbed seemed on average to believe that the room they were in was five degrees cooler than those who were asked to recall times of feeling social acceptance.
Swedenborg claimed, two centuries earlier, that psychological love corresponded to physical heat. We even use this similitude in our language—such as experiencing a “warming of the heart” or feeling the “heat of passion.”
This psycho-physical parallelism even extends into issues of morality. Another study showed that participants who dwelled on personal bad behavior such as adultery were more likely to ask for an antiseptic cloth afterwards (to cleanse themselves) than those who dwelled on their good deeds.
Swedenborg took the idea of embodied cognition (correspondences) into theology and biblical interpretation (exegesis). He claimed that the sacred rite of Baptism was a symbolic language for depicting a cleansing of one’s negative inner qualities. In fact, the entire Holy Word had this symbolic language of correspondences incorporated into the structured scaffolding of its narratives.
In another experiment researchers determined that the sensation of “weightiness” influenced the importance participants placed on certain issues. Those holding heavier objects placed more importance to the issues that their minds were being associated with. It is a common lexicon that things we perceive as important carry more “weight.” Weight and importance correspond. Powerful ideas affect the human spirit just as natural objects—with lots of mass—can affect the physical body.
Similarly we can feel miles apart from people who are physically close and very near to those who are miles away. What this means is that the body and mind are aware of another reality that makes use of an entirely different kind of metrics (standard of measurement). Swedenborg boldly stated that the spiritual world contained these non-physical metrics—measurements, boundaries and parameters that represent the quality of one’s love and its derivative thoughts (non-material trajectories).
My first book Sermon From The Compost Pile shows the reader how to employ this symbolic language of embodied cognition or correspondence to all things in the physical world of nature so that one can find spiritual wisdom right in their own garden or backyard.
My second book Proving God offers further insights to where this new science of embodied cognition can take us. It is the lawful and rational means by which science and theology will be ultimately unified!