Truth

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A child holds a pile of sunshine-drenched milkweed seeds in her hands.

There is a great deal of talk about “truth” in the works of Swedenborg, but in some ways it is one of the more elusive terms. That’s because we tend to think of it in basic terms – meaning something that is an accurate statement of reality – and because we tend to think of it in terms of ideas that can be verbalized or written.

“Truth” to Swedenborg, however, is something deeper, broader, richer, more meaningful, more powerful and more beautiful. In a sense, it is a delivery system for love, and sharing love is the very purpose of reality, which makes truth vitally important. And while it can come in the form of dry, cold rules and facts, it is at its most pure a thing of indescribable beauty, something that moves us internally.

The nature of truth originates in the idea that Lord in His essence is love itself, perfect and infinite, and that He loves us beyond our capacity to imagine. And just as we want people we love to love us back, so also the Lord has the deepest desire for us to love Him back; His love wants to reach out to us and inspire love in turn.

Love, however, cannot operate on its own; it needs a medium to work in. Think of it this way: To express love for someone, you need a face to smile with, a voice to speak with, arms to embrace with, or various tools you can use to do good, loving things for the people you love. Without those things it’s just a feeling, stuck inside and rather useless. In a sense, if it can’t be expressed, its existence is not really quite complete.

“Truth,” then, could be defined as “the expression of love” or maybe as “love expressed.” This can be pretty profound and beautiful: The expression on a new mother’s face, seeing her baby for the first time – that is truth, on a level beyond words. The feeling in her is expressed, and we take it in and feel a surge of emotion ourselves. At a higher level yet, we might try to image the expression on the Lord’s face when he looks at us, the love pouring from him; that is truth at its deepest.

But truth comes at lower levels too. Think of the ways we love our children – at times that means laying down some stark, black-and-white rules. “Keep your hands to yourself” and “you need to obey me” don’t sound very loving, and making a child take out the trash does not exactly inspire warm feelings and poetic thoughts. But we are in fact loving them when we teach them lessons that will help them be good people, even if that love doesn’t glow from the surface of what we’re saying. The Lord has to handle us the same way at times, especially in the early stages of our spiritual growth. “Thou shalt not kill” doesn’t sound all that loving, and the order to not covet can seem unrealistic and borderline unfair. If we look at them closely, though, we can see that they are loving, and are leading us to be loving people.

So truth comes at many levels and in many forms, shaped and adapted to various ways we can be led to be good and loving. This is why so many different things in the Bible – stones, water, wine, plants, swords and many others – all represent truth; they all have shades of meaning reflecting the many types of truth the Lord uses to lead us.

At heart, though, all truth is a way of sharing love. If we look to that, we will treasure it properly.

(References: Apocalypse Explained 434; Apocalypse Explained 627 [5-6]; Arcana Coelestia 3077, 3295, 4247, 5912, 6880, 8456, 9407, 9806, 10026; Arcana Coelestia 1904 [3]; Arcana Coelestia 3207 [1-3]; Arcana Coelestia 3509 [2]; Arcana Coelestia 7270 [2-3]; Arcana Coelestia 8301 [2]; Arcana Coelestia 9407 [13]; Divine Providence 10, 36; Divine Wisdom 9; Doctrine of Life 36; The New Jerusalem and its Heavenly Doctrine 24; True Christian Religion 379, 398; True Christian Religion 209 [2-4]; True Christian Religion 224 [1-2])

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