The title for this blog site is “Love is the Ultimate Science.” This may seem anti-intuitive to a culture that believes enlightenment is an intellectual pursuit whereby an individual seeks out and fills his or her memory banks with increasing bits of knowledge and data.
But let us explore this pursuit more deeply.
The search for knowledge starts as basic human curiosity in childhood. But this inborn curiosity is driven by one’s affection (love) to know things. According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, it is affection that draws information from the external world and into the mind.
Humans do this better than any other species on earth. In fact, this is the evolutionary niche that the human species has carved out for itself. Whereas other animal species graze or hunt for food, humans graze and hunt for knowledge. Humans even metabolize information.
This metabolism of information becomes operative when the love of knowing is dialed up into a love of understanding what we know. Information just doesn’t sit in our memory like undigested food in our stomachs—it can be broken down and reconstituted into more abstract and creative ideas.
If we seek further enlightenment, this will be activated by a love of reasoning about what we understand. This cognitive process is no longer satisfied with mere information or even imaginative creativity, but with the discernment of truth.
The discernment of truth and reasoning can then be upgraded to the cognitive function of wisdom when we use truth to reveal the essence of goodness. Wisdom is the love of doing what is good.
The cognitive functions of memory information (knowing), understanding what we know, reasoning about what we understand, and wisdom or the cognition of goodness from the things we hold as truth, are all activated by a distinct quality of love. Love focuses our attention and organizes the information in our minds into real coherent structure. This mental structure is our worldview and belief system (including our faith).
That is why the Lord God’s two greatest commandments deal with the issue of love and goodness. True religion takes account of the lawful steps, science and process of the human mind acquiring true enlightenment—a process that seeks goodness and empathy as its ultimate goal.
Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg would blow the doors off of Charles Darwin’s foundational book on evolutionary biology The Origin of Species. Rather than approaching evolution from a materialist or naturalist position, Swedenborg’s model was both theological and scientific.
Everything in nature has order and orientation. That is why life can be classified into coherent genera and species (general and specific categories). That all life is rationally organized into orders with orientation is evidenced by the fact that life evolved towards interconnectedness, interrelatedness and interdependence. The biosphere is organized into a unified ecosystem consisting of profound relationships.
The ecosystem supports each of its species just as each species supports the whole ecosystem. This organic template is continued within each species’ internal bio-structure, where each organ and cell support the bodily system and the bodily system supports each organ and cell. In fact, all organic function is a harmonious orchestration of tasks and utility (division of labor).
Swedenborg would not only challenge the notion of natural selection, but the notion of anything physical as being foundational. He claimed that the special harmonious arrangement and endless complexity in nature was a physical analog or mirror image of a deeper reality—of God’s infinite goodness (the essence of love is to unify through cooperation and reciprocity).
God’s goodness, being infinite, comes in many, many non-material forms—all of which can be classified into real genera and species with order and orientation. Because God is ultimate life, these spiritual forms are living forms of utility seeking realization as outcomes of measurement in time and space. Nothing is created in nature unless it can represent some measurement and quantification of goodness and usefulness. God can lawfully act in the finite world because divine qualities of love can flow into and maintain forms of goodness that are oriented to an eternal plan (God can even flow into and allow evil if it can serve the divine eternal plan—but that is another topic).
According to Swedenborg, the different species of God’s goodness find and create their physical equivalence and analog in the different relationships of nature’s various and orchestrated genera and species. The appearance of the human race in nature was to serve God’s evolutionary purpose of creating a spiritual biosphere (called heaven). When an individual embraces God’s tenets and spiritual values, he or she takes the process of evolution into a non-physical realm by organizing their feelings and ideas into a nobler order (genera and species) and orientation (a heaven-bound life).
After the death of the physical body, individuals find themselves in the spiritual environment and ecosystem that they fashioned—an environment perfectly reflecting all the qualities of their heart and mind (which is one’s spiritual reality)!
If you don’t believe that there can be living organization in a non-material realm, simply contemplate the fact that human understanding is dependent on the real organization, order and orientation of one’s ideas and knowledge—this is non-physical structure and complexity! The human mind and first-person experience (consciousness) certainly is not under the same constraints as physical matter, and human memory is not limited like physical water in a certain size bottle.
This topic needs a whole book to explain. So I have done just that. I have written a new book entitled Proving God. It is just days away from being available on Amazon.
The authority and inerrancy of the Holy Bible has come under a new kind of challenge in the post-modern world. This challenge comes not just from atheists but also from a new crop of Christian theologians who no longer identify themselves as possessing an absolute deposit of inerrant sacred writings, or, of inheriting an infallible interpretation (exegesis) of the Bible’s message. Instead, this new theological movement is concerning itself with the core belief that Christianity proclaims a universal saving and transformational event. Everything else in religion is now seen to lead to a set of beliefs that are oppressive and destructive and needs correction.
Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg would agree with this new Christian emphasis on God’s transforming love rather than on a mere “book” religion. But he also added an unexpected twist that challenges the relativistic character of modernity in its shift away from embracing the Bible as an absolute and closed deposit of truth (from above). He offered a new and deeper look at Scripture that both broke down the rigid walls of religious orthodoxy yet provided rational evidence of the authority, sacredness and inerrancy of the Holy Word!
He claimed that this authority, sacredness and inerrancy of Scripture was not to be found in its literal or historical accounts, but in its layered architecture, which contain deeper levels of meaning!
On one deeper level, Scripture embraces profound psychology. For instance, the biblical story of Jacob and Esau in Genesis offers a profound study of the growth of mind and the evolution of proper human behavior—according to the laws of God’s divine order.
Jacob symbolizes the human intellect while Esau represents the human heart, will, and volition. Psychologically, the growth of the human intellect involves the exploration of knowledge that can lead us to truth. This operation takes the lead. Then an inversion takes place. The intellectual path to finding truth leads us to the heart and that which most represents goodness in our value-system (all knowledge is evaluated according to its serviceability—its goodness). This goodness then begins to command the intellect and generates further knowledge. This mental process of inversion is symbolized by Jacob inheriting Esau’s birthright—the intellect gains command first. But as the biblical story unfolds, Jacob eventually returns to his older twin brother and becomes his servant‑the intellect now begins to serve the heart. Speaking psychologically, Jacob represents analytical thought while Esau represents a new synthesis. These cognitive functions are psychical brothers!
Deeper still (according to Swedenborg) the Bible stories relate directly to Christ’s universal work of transforming love—even the Old Testament! The same Genesis story of Jacob and Esau also symbolize the process of the Lord’s glorification when He lived in the world. This sacred process involved the Lord perfectly uniting His human essence to His divine heavenly essence. This unifying process is how the Word was made flesh and how the Lord became the Alpha and Omega. This also explains how the “Word” and the “Son” are synonymous (which would not be the case if the Old Testament did not refer to the Lord alone on some deeper level).
So the Holy Word is indeed God’s revealed wisdom—not merely the work of different human authors, written from various points of view by individuals who were influenced by the cultural, political, economic or personal circumstances of the times that they found themselves in. Simply put, human authors cannot write in the divine style of the Bible’s three-tiered narrative.
Why would God communicate in this multi-tiered way?
The reason is that God’s Holy Word needs to service both terrestrial humans and spiritual angels. God’s Holy Word has to be adapted to both kinds of brain systems. Angels easily grasp the deeper spiritual and divine meanings contained in Scripture but humans have to learn to think above their worldly ideas (materialistic ideology).
The Lord God is betting that this is possible for humanity. The big secret concerning the Lord’s Second Coming and Revelation is that it represents His “reappearance” within our minds and hearts via a new understanding of Scripture. I have just scratched the surface of what the future of religion will unfold.
We all experience love. We all acknowledge the importance of love in our lives. According to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, the essence of love is to unite. When we love our children, our spouse, our neighbor, our country, our planet, we seek to be more intimately unified with other things in the world—things outside of our biological selves, that beckon us to transcend our otherwise self-absorbed way of life.
Love does seek to bring people together and plays a central role in religion and spiritual evolution. Religion, properly understood, challenges us to make our love more inclusive and universal.
But, as the title for this blog site suggests, can the topic of love have anything to do with actual science, order and law? If the operation and function of love does follow orderly laws, then we would have a way of rationally understanding this most mysterious and potent force. Love certainly acts as a force, with the real kinetics (energy) to affect our actions in the world.
Unlike other forces identified by physical scientists, love is consciously purposeful—it intends something. It even seems to act like gravity, because love, once set in motion, finds its equilibrium in reaching a goal.
According to astrophysicist Paul Davies, one of the biggest cosmological mysteries is the concept of gravitational order and the thermodynamics of gravitating systems. This mystery in nature involves the tendency of gravitating systems to grow coherent structure spontaneously. In other words, star clusters (galaxies), and solar systems find their equilibrium in orderly structure—with orientation!
On smaller scales, ruled by quantum physics, a similar mystery occurs—how does the quantum foam, which consists of mere “tendencies to exist” generate coherent matter? Does one tendency or potentiality prevail from mere chance or do all the tendencies within a cloud of quantum froth find their equilibrium in a unified outcome of measurement? Swedenborg would answer “yes” to the latter (otherwise quantum theory will never be a theory of principles). One thing is certain to today’s scientists—it seems that after nature “jumps” out of this froth of possibilities, she heads incessantly towards self-organization and complexity. This complexity in nature is continued through evolution, whereby complexity creates bio-structure with ever-increasing intelligence and consciousness (like the human brain). Increased intelligence in the human brain continues this evolutionary drive by bringing mental concepts into organized and coherent structure called belief systems and worldviews.
Interestingly, religion offers principles and tenets to make the human heart and mind self-organize into nobler belief-systems (human understanding and coherent thought depends on how well we can organize our knowledge, which is determined by our chosen values). And, if we believe that the human mind operates beyond space and time, then such a non-material organization, based on spiritual principles, would represent a true heavenly kingdom of mutual love.
My new book Proving God will offer many more insights into how LOVE can be put into scientific language, and gain its rightful place of importance as the fundamental principle and force ruling the created universe.
Because Holy Scripture describes ancient battles and warfare, chariots are often mentioned. But according to scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg, the driver, the horses and the chariot all refer to—and symbolize—qualities of the human mind and spirit!
Swedenborg claimed that Holy Scripture contained deeper levels of meaning. These deeper levels addressed the spiritual story of human salvation and God’s secret steps for securing human salvation. Symbolically speaking, a chariot represents one’s body of knowledge, worldview and faith-system (or doctrine of life). In other words, it represents the exterior “housing” (memory-data) which carries our beliefs and preferences.
The horses represent an individual’s emotional world, affection and love. Swedenborg stated that horses represent the love of learning—which carries one’s worldview to new “places.”
The rider or driver represents the intelligence and the wisdom of a person to maneuver their emotions and knowledge in the most advantageous and strategic way. The archer in the chariot represents the wisdom and intelligence by which an individual defends his or her worldview and attempts to convince. The archer’s arrows are “arguments” forged to make a sharp point in order to penetrate opposing views.
So the chariot, horses and riders symbolize various and distinct cognitive functions of the human psyche. But what about the connections between these mental functions that allow them to be subordinated, coordinated, and act in a unified manner? What do the connections correspond to?
Some people have asked me why I would mix the teachings of George Gurdjieff with those of Emanuel Swedenborg. Well, they both agreed that ancient civilizations employed this symbolism and allegory into their style of writing. But for me, Gurdjieff brought something new to the table. He said that the connections between the various cognitive functions were the flow of blood. Furthermore, Gurdjieff insisted that humans consisted of three distinct (discrete) species of blood!
This further insight can be applied to the symbolism of the chariot. The shaft that connected the chariot to the horse was the red blood. The reins that connected the driver to the horses was a “purer” blood, which modern science would describe as the electro-colloidal fluid/energy that courses through the nerve fibers. Finally, God was connected to the driver and archer through the “purest” blood or external blood of the soul.
Those who have read Swedenborg’s scientific and anatomical work know that he also classified blood into three similar and distinct species. And if one reads this material more closely it can be verified that these bloods do indeed connect the human body, mind and soul together.
I am sharing this unique information with you because my current book project Proving God seeks to unify science and religion. Most people know that religion offers us with ways to purify the heart. But there is also a scientific angle to salvation. When we apply God’s spiritual tenets to our lives, it affects the quality of our blood. Living a heaven-bound life actually cleanses and purifies the red blood and the purer blood (which Swedenborg called the animal spirit). Evil intentions and behavior particularly corrupts the purer blood (Arcana Coelestia, n. 4227).
The human brain is often compared to a computer. Yet as much as the computer has improved over the years it still cannot match the complexity of the human brain.
While computer technology is jumping by leaps and bounds, can we also say that the human brain is making equal progress?
The human brain, unlike the computer, is a self-perfecting bio-machine. When individuals learn new things or intend new things, the brain can actually change its wiring and make new connections between neurons (brain cells) to accommodate these psychical changes.
But can the human brain advance by leaps and bounds like the computer? One of the important ways computers are advancing is that they can store more and more information on smaller and smaller materials. Brain design shows this same principle—that the most complex information takes form on the smallest scales of structure (like protein folding which is so fast and precise that it lies beyond any known classical process). Also, some neuroscientists are starting to embrace the idea that the neuron has its own nervous system and that the higher functions of human reasoning and abstract ideas takes place within these deeper neural structures (substrates).
Information does not seem to be restricted by physical size and measurement. In fact, some serious physicists suspect that all information and process (active information) has its fundamental abode in a pre-spatial and pre-geometric realm.
Scientist/theologian, Emanuel Swedenborg has already beat modern scientists to the punch. He not only created a multi-level model of human cognition, he also devised a hierarchical system of information and structure that lawfully reached all the way into the non-local and non-temporal spiritual world!
In scientific language, religion is God’s strategy to help humans tap into these deeper realms of active information. How? The answer is LOVE!
Swedenborg claimed that love, affection and intention occupy the cockpit of human intelligence and consciousness. However, each level or substrate of human cognition is under the operational control of a different and distinct species of love. On the lowest level is corporeal love, which embraces worldly pleasure and acquires memory-data. Above this level is the love and desire to understand what the lower level knows. Higher up, is the love for reasoning about the things one understands. Above this is the love to become wise, which is the essence of spiritual love.
Religion is God’s guide and roadmap for humans to choose the better, and finally, the best values to live by. Scientifically speaking, this allows an individual to embrace a higher and more inclusive form of love that operates on deeper levels of the brain and neuron. The process of spiritual growth not only leads to new connections between neurons, but new connections between deeper and deeper substrates of the neuron, until one’s inner bio-structure evolves into a non-physical and coherent spiritual body, capable of functioning in heaven’s ecosystem.
God’s commandments are for the advancing of spiritual technology. The human heart and mind was purposely designed for these divine upgrades.
If this topic interests you, I offer further explanation and details in my soon-to-be-released book Proving God.
Scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg provides the best rational evidence that love (human affection) and human thought are real substances and forms. However, these substances and forms are not bound by space and time. In fact, Swedenborg called love and thought (ideas) spiritual substances.
Even modern science understands that without a real substance as a subject, there cannot be any mode, or any modification, or any quality that can actively manifest itself. Thoughts and feelings must be real substances because they can take on modes, be modified, have trajectories and even produce real effects in the world.
Natural science, which is based on a materialistic ideology, believes that “thought” is an outcome or by-product (epiphenomenon) of events taking place on the micro-level of matter or subatomic world. Swedenborg believed the human mind operated first (a priori) and flowed into the material or physical forms of the brain (called top-down causality).
But how would we determine that psychical “stuff” (intelligent substance) operates beyond the constraints of physical time and space? One clue is that the ideas of our mind are not under the same physical laws that rule and govern matter. For instance, if you cut an apple pie in half and share it with a friend you retain half of the pie. But if you share half of your knowledge with a friend you still get to keep all your knowledge! Also, when we see a physical event happening we can retain the memory of that event long after its duration in time. So the mental images of our ideas are not under the same laws of physical time or physical space.
It is true that when we manifest strong feelings or rationally think things through, precise areas of the physical brain are activated, but according to Swedenborg, this actually represents the operation of spirit (intelligent substance) flowing into a more restricted boundary condition.
Thoughts and feelings are under a different metric (standard of measurement) than physical quantities. A person’s physical stature is determined and measured by feet or centimeters, but a person’s inner spiritual qualities are measured by wisdom and goodness. Each of these metrics is distinctly different and represents measurement in distinct realms of reality—but each realm consists of its own ratios and proportions.
Swedenborg discovered that while these two metrics were distinct, they could find relationship through principles of harmony. That is, the ratios, proportions and equations represented by modifications of thought could correspond to, and correlate with, the ratios, proportions and equations produced by the modes and modifications of physical forms in the brain.
The significance of this is that non-physical and physical processes can be unified, thus offering a possible nexus for ultimately unifying science and religion!
These promising concepts have unfortunately not been pursued, because Swedenborg’s importance has been almost completely overlooked when it comes to the history of human ideas. It is the hope of my upcoming book Proving God to renew interest in both his amazing scientific and theological works.
By Soni Soneson Werner, Associate Professor Emerita of Psychology at Bryn College of the New Church and trainer in Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict can be good. It all depends on how we handle the people with whom we disagree. Both psychologists and theologians offer concepts that can shape our behavior, so that we can communicate in a mutually respectful manner. Let’s first consider some examples of people in conflict who are not admirable role models. I think I am not alone in disliking the social behavior of the Anglican clergyman named Rev. Collins, who was a character in Pride and Prejudice. In this nineteenth-century British novel, Rev. Collins repeatedly ingratiates himself with the pompous Lady Catherine de Bourgh. No matter what she states, he bows and agrees in order to win her favor. Readers are left without any clue of what he really values, as his desire to continue keeping Lady Catherine as his benefactress takes precedence over any desire for mutual respect or understanding. She is verbally aggressive, and he is hopelessly passive. They resolve conflicts, but they do so at a price: she always wins.
Then, there is the example of the Baptist clergyman, Rev. Nathan Price, who is a character in The Poisonwood Bible. In this twentieth-century American novel, Rev. Price is an evangelist who becomes a missionary worker in Africa, bringing his family along with him. He is intensely devoted to converting to Christianity natives in the Congo, and he refuses to admit any doubts or weaknesses in his manner of handling conflicts. Rev. Price is certain that he can do no wrong because God is on his side. He assumes that he should never negotiate with the natives. While he and the natives resolve conflicts, they, too, do so at a price: the reverend always wins.
Even though these two literary characters are both illustrations of members of the clergy handling conflicts, they differ in their behavioral styles. According to an analysis made by some organizational psychologists, Rev. Collins illustrates the pattern of SUB-PAR, or passive behavior, while Rev. Price is an example of some aspects of the pattern that I call DESTRUCTIVE, or aggressive behavior.
As a psychologist, I recommend that my clients learn nine specific skills that are designed to show mutual respect to all parties involved. “There are five basic confronting skills and four advanced confronting skills included which could be used individually or sequentially to resolve interpersonal conflicts and prevent future aggression.” Each of the skills is described at four levels of behavioral style. For example, one of these nine conflict resolution skills is called Remaining firm, fair, and friendly when resolving conflicts, and the spectrum of skills associated with the different levels of behavior looks like this:
Protects the basic corporate values but is open to creative methods
Respectfully explores value of improving levels of performance
Uses “partner-to-partner” tone; assertively pushes for progress
Keeps sense of balance while re-iterating key issues & impact
Clarifies standards of behavior & addresses need for change
Uses “adult-to-adult” tone; stays professional with use of words
Gives in to the slightest pressure; is gutless & wimpy
Is passive; fails to represent those affected-but-not-present
Uses “child-to-adult” tone; becomes overly deferential to power
Goes ballistic all at once; blows up at the slightest provocation
Treats other person like the enemy; is overly hostile & suspicious
Uses “parent-to-child” tone; is over-controlling & disrespectful
Originally, these skills were designed just for professionals in the corporate environment, but they have been adapted recently for a broader audience. The principles work in human relations, generally. For example, these skills can be used when other efforts to coach someone have failed, when people’s behavior falls short of what has been promised, when a chronic problem has continued for too long, or when someone’s behavior is contrary to the values of a group. Ideally, people can learn to use each skill assertively at the EXCELLENT or GOOD levels, and avoid using them at the SUB-PAR (passive) and DESTRUCTIVE (aggressive) levels.
How Do Angels Do It?
In addition to learning how to handle conflicts from the perspective of organizational psychologists, we can also derive inspiring concepts from the theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. According to the Swedenborgian philosophy scholar Dan Goodenough:
Angels turned the conversation away from a self-pitying concern for one’s own problems, to the true ideas which could remove the problem. They respect freedom and listen well . . . Angels delight in teaching, discussion, debating, even confrontation, because these are the arenas in which they can accommodate the truth they love to human states. . . . The angels meet negative attitudes . . . by calm, patient instruction in the truth. . . . Sometimes the angels question, sometimes the learners question, but one purpose always seems to be to arouse and maintain interest.
Angels also pause in the middle of conflicts to allow everyone the chance to quietly reflect on what has been heard and then incorporate the ideas into their individual minds.
Swedenborg described what he saw during his mystical experiences of the spiritual world. He saw vivid images that represented spiritual struggles (Heaven and Hell §105). When he saw scenes involving fires, these corresponded to people who were willfully cruel, revengeful, and aggressively hateful to others. In hell, “each has the wish for supremacy and wants to take from the other the things he [or she] has by hidden or open devices” (Secrets of Heaven §6832:9). Fire and flame signify evil desires arising from the love of self and the love of the world, respectively (Apocalypse Explained §504). Swedenborg saw how fire from the will breaks forth into a person’s understanding and kindles a flame there, which is called anger. Then the person becomes heated and commits evil actions against others. When Swedenborg saw smoke, this corresponded to false ideas, often near the flames of anger and evil desires (Secrets of Heaven §§1861, 7575, 9143, 9144). The worst kind of fire was the love of self, involving dominion over others for selfish reasons, such as to gain wealth or higher positions in a community (Secrets of Heaven §10038; Heaven and Hell §571).
Swedenborg described another image:
When any small division of opinion occurs among those spirits they see a thin bright flash like a streak of lightning, or else they see a belt of sparkling stars. These are signs indicating division; but the division among them is quickly healed. Sparkling stars which wander are not a good sign, whereas stars sparkling but motionless are a good sign. (Secrets of Heaven §8112)
Both the psychological perspective and the theological perspective offer compelling reasons why people should learn how to resolve their conflicts, and certain organizational psychologists give specific suggestions on how to do it in mutually respectful ways. Although vivid fictional characters (e.g., Rev. Collins and Rev. Price) may be fun to read about, they may not always engage in the most effective styles of conflict management. So we should aspire to be more like the angels or to adopt the kind of exchange of opinions that is represented by the motionless stars.
Werner’s eBook entitled Conscience: Forensic Psychology is available for download at https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/590834. To see all nine conflict resolution skills, read Chapter 1.B.For a summary of a Swedenborgian perspective on preventing, intervening, and rehabilitating people who have been in serious conflicts, read Chapters 1.C., 2.C., and 3.C.
 Jane Austen, Pride and Prejudice (London: T. Egerton, 1813).
 Barbara Kingsolver, The Poisonwood Bible (NYC: Harper, 1998).
Once upon a time a denomination of the Swedenborgian Church hosted a debate between two Swedenborgian experts on various spiritual topics. The first panelist had suggested that hell was eternal, that the human will was totally corrupt and the kingdom of heaven was not easy to obtain.
The second panelist eventually agreed, reluctantly, that “hell,” at least as theologian Emanuel Swedenborg described it, is an eternal outcome. The reason why this agreement was not immediate was because it seemingly challenged the idea of God’s Infinite love and mercy—which is what gets church pews to fill up.
We now cut to the live and continuing discussion over the other two highly contested remarks made by the first panelist:
“Swedenborg states in many places in his theological writings that the human will has complete control over the human intellect and makes it conform to its own disposition,” said the second panelist. “Therefore, something in the human will must be good in order for individuals to discern and make the best moral choices. So the human will cannot be totally corrupt.”
The second panelist notices the first panelist is shaking his head and immediately begins to provide more supportive ideas for his belief that the human will is not totally corrupt.
“The human understanding is capable of learning and considering nobler ideas, like God’s Ten Commandments, which challenge us to transcend the flawed proclivities of our worldly will. These higher principles of living can last long enough in the brain so that one’s earth-bound will, little by little, gets used to heaven-bound thinking and begin to make better choices,” said panelist number two.
“Nope,” said the first panelist. “The will that we are born with, including all its inclinations and compulsions, is put off during one’s spiritual evolution and salvation. An entirely new ‘heavenly will’ must be created by the Lord God to set the process of salvation in motion. God does not make the old will better.”
Clinging to some residual effect of his earth-born will, the second panelist reacted as if this statement were a personal attack. “Read Swedenborg’s statement in his work Heaven and Hell, number 533. It suggests to me, at least, that the process of salvation is continuous and commences from the old will as it gets better information,” said the visibly irritated second panelist.
“You cannot simply pick a quote by Swedenborg to get the big picture,” replied the first panelist. “My statement that the human will is totally corrupt comes from a synthesis of many of his writings. If we are attentive and look further into this matter we learn that it is not from our native will that God conducts His work of salvation. The Lord works from what Swedenborg called ‘remains.’ These are affections and bits of information that a child experiences in life and the Lord secretly stores away for safekeeping within the unconscious or involuntary mind. The remains keep the child inwardly connected to heaven and its angels. When the process of spiritual regeneration begins, the Lord activates a person’s remains so that it can become a matrix or plane by which a new will and intellect is generated. This can also be understood as the formation of both a new conscience and a spiritual body, capable of living in heaven’s unique ecosystem.”
“Well, even if you are correct, that doesn’t mean it is difficult to get to heaven,” said the second panelist as he sat back in his seat and folded his arms over his chest.
“Proper humility is the hurdle,” replied the first panelist. “Unfortunately, the human race is allowed to sensate on earth that life and goodness flows out from the person—rather than flow into the person from God and heaven. Even when novice spirits are being prepared for a heavenly life after their departure from this terrestrial orb, they can unexpectedly be put into a situation whereby they experience a most unflattering revelation. Spirits communicate their affections and thoughts with others of their spiritual community. Swedenborg observed an experiment where spirits were temporarily removed from the spiritual community their hearts and minds were intimately conjoined with. This separation caused these particular spirits to enter into a diminished cognitive state whereby they falsely perceived that all goodness and truth proceeded from themselves and was their own. When their error was pointed out to them they became indignant. (Angels have no such illusion.) Accepting such a reality is anti-intuitive to human experience from living on earth, and creates a real challenge to one’s worldview and self-esteem. Acquiring this kind of humility, which is angelic, is not as ‘easy as pie.’”
Dear readers, please comment on which debater you believe made the most convincing points.
Emanuel Swedenborg, whose theology I fully embrace, makes the claim in his book Heaven and Hell that living a heaven-bound life is not as hard as people believe. However, this statement was made for those who falsely believe that one must reject all worldly wealth, prestige and pleasure in order to live a truly spiritual life.
Swedenborg maintained that in order to properly accept heaven’s life, a person must live in the world and be fully involved in its functions and dealings.
This indeed makes things easier and less doleful. However, to explain where the true difficulty of spiritual evolution lies requires a greater understanding of the human psyche and its idiosyncrasies. Swedenborg wrote on such a wide variety of topics that certain details can be easily overlooked or not sufficiently grasped.
So consider this an advanced course in Swedenborgian studies.
A man or woman is born into many evil inclinations, which are implanted deep within the human will, and this flawed will induces the understanding to agree with it. Spiritual growth and salvation requires that a new will (based on following God’s tenets) replaces the old will that we were born with.
A young child lives in pure volition. As a child grows up in life they learn from parents and teachers what constitutes proper behavior in the world. However, these lessons simply become mere data implanted in the memory function, which over time acts in an automatic way to cause the body and tongue to behave in proper manner—especially around others. Therefore a person learns how to appear “good.”
Swedenborg says that this process causes a real split in the human psyche that produces the external and internal natural man (hidden agendas and hypocrisy require such a split). This is where the real difficulty of spiritual growth emerges.
Unfortunately, a person is conditioned during his or her formative years to believe that by modifying one’s outer actions in life (from data in the memory) one is on a moral and spiritual path. In fact, a person is conditioned to believe that this habitual mind is one’s true consciousness and contains one’s true depth.
Swedenborg likens this false or artificial consciousness to the outer shell of a seed, which encloses the more vital and living kernel deep within. But in humans, the all-important inner kernel is rotting because it represents a flawed will that we’ve learned to keep in a safe place. It is this flawed and rotting will that religion targets and seeks to expose. But God’s message and teachings are intercepted by the outer habitual/corporeal mind, which merely uses this memory-data to mask (persona) one’s inner inclinations and proclivities. So nothing ever changes essentially. (This is why religion can fail to make a real difference.)
An individual can deceive himself (not just others) simply by changing his outward masks. True spiritual growth, however, requires that God’s lessons crack through the habitual mind and make contact with the negative aspects of our inner volitions. This does not happen from mere intellectual thought, but through acceptance from the heart and will to remove the protective and bogus mask of the habitual mind and its artificial consciousness. One must do this from sincere love, rather than for the sake of reputation or worldly gain. A battle then ensues between one’s outer and inner realities. Swedenborg says that a person is undergoing this spiritual combat when he or she is experiencing real temptations.
This is what is so hard to do in living a heaven-bound life—to go up against oneself and seek out unflattering aspects of ourselves. As someone who has attended seminary, I experienced first-hand that the focus of religion today is on pastoral care and social justice—not on addressing the deeper chronic problem of human self-deception.
There is much more to this important topic (like hypnosis), which I address in my upcoming book “Proving God.”
If humans could see that God’s life flows into us and affects our hearts to do good, they would vigorously rebel. So God is very careful to allow the human race to believe and sense that life and goodness of heart issues forth from themselves.
This divine deception preserves our free will, which is essential to spiritual salvation. However, this state, in and of itself, is a form of trance since individuals are unable to perceive reality as it truly is.
Ever since the “Fall of man,” which began with God putting Adam into a deep sleep, the human race has been allowed to gain a strong sense of selfhood and ontological autonomy. So, the very concept that all life and goodness comes only from God is viewed as anti-intuitive. Again, the Lord God has permitted this outcome so that humankind would retain the free will necessary to make better life-choices and to prefer God’s tenets (as opposed to self-rule) later in life.
God allowed this condition to occur in order to allow humans the chance to eventually rise above our biological selves. I have been mocked for my suggestion that God hypnotized the human race in order to later de-hypnotize them. But the term hypnosis fits well with the higher or spiritual meaning behind the Genesis story of Adam being put into a deep sleep (“hypno” means sleep). This “deep sleep” was a diminished state of human cognitive function. Let me quote theologian Emanuel Swedenborg concerning this important topic:
He who is being regenerated believes at first that the good which he thinks and does is from himself, and that he also merits something, for he does not yet know, and if he knows he does not comprehend, that good can flow in from some other source, nor that it can be otherwise than that he should be recompensed, because he does it from himself.
Swedenborg claimed that humans originally had access to a higher mind and cognitive level by which they had direct experience of God’s love and spiritual energy flowing into and maintaining their very lives. However, human self-love and self-judgment became so attractive over time that God was forced to disconnect them from higher mind so that they could delude themselves from their misguided “bliss.” Without such a divine strategy humans would have lost their free will and the chance for eventually turning things around. Back to Swedenborg and the rest of his challenging quote:
Unless at first he believed this, he would never do any good. But by this means he is initiated not only into the affection of doing what is good, but also into knowledges concerning good and also concerning merit; and when in this manner he has been led into the affection of doing what is good, he then begins to think differently, namely that good flows in from the Lord . . . (Arcana Coelestia, Vol. V, n. 4145)
The idea that an individual begins to think differently represents enlightenment, or augmentation of one’s cognitive function. Since trance involves a diminished cognitive state, the process of spiritual evolution necessitates people “snapping out of it” and “waking up.”
The world needs a bold new church that is willing to greet its parishioners with a slap on the face from a cold wet rag! Unfortunately, most people go to church to feel good about themselves and find validation from others. We are all accomplished hypnotists.
There once was a physicist named Phil who loved to contemplate on the significance of the discoveries made in quantum physics concerning fundamental reality. Phil had always concerned himself with fundamental issues but he felt he now needed to form some conclusion on the matter.
Quantum physics told him that there exists a level of reality removed from spacetime, energy and matter, yet had a real causal effect on the spatio-temporal arena. On the one hand, a quantum state consisted of “tendencies to exist.” On the other hand, these potentials always acted in a holistic manner—showing that all action comes in wholes and even pointed to the intrinsic wholeness of reality whereby everything is non-locally interconnected immediately.
Phil wondered if this unifying endeavor by which everything is simultaneously connected was a new kind of substance—a primal formative substance.
Suddenly an angel appeared in Phil’s office. “I suspect you will not be overly startled by my appearance,” said the angel, “since you are currently contemplating the startling dynamics of fundamental reality.”
“Either my brain is overworked or I have tapped into a new level of my mind,” said the physicist with a strong desire to maintain his objectivity during this unusual event. “Perhaps you can tell me if there is a unifying force or primary substance in the world that is non-physical?”
“There can be no unity and interconnection without some principle of harmony. Holism requires that single things are conjoined universally and the entire universe singularly. All finite things in this world have been created by a God of infinite Love. Therefore, all created things are related to each other from the same non-physical beginning. Every finite thing has an image of itself in every other created thing because all things have perpetual reference to first principles. And, all things are in perpetual effort to consociate and reciprocate as an image of God’s divine character. This is why Nature is in an incessant endeavor to self-organize and create coherent structure and complexity in the manifest universe.
“What is this force and organizing principle that has its origins in a pre-spatial realm?” asked Phil.
“Love,” answered the angel.
“Love? That doesn’t seem like a serious scientific answer,” said Phil.
“I know that you have entertained the idea that consciousness is involved in deepest levels of reality. But consciousness and intelligence have their origins in something deeper—they are derivatives of Love,” explained the angel.
“Prove it,” challenged Phil.
The angel moved closer to Phil and put his hand on the scientist’s head. This put Phil into a confused state of mind. He could no longer focus on anything and even felt deprived of life. Then the angel brought Phil back to his customary mental state.
“What did you do to me?” asked Phil.
“I temporally removed all affection and passion from your mind,” explained the angel. “It is Love that forms a person’s values and focuses one’s attention in the circumfluent world. It is Love that organizes and forges the things we value most in our memory into our worldview and belief system. Love organizes everything in your brain as well as everything in the universe. The essence of Love is to unify. You sir, have organized everything in your own life in a way that harmonizes with your love of science,” said the angel with a wonderful, glowing smile.
“Can the operation of Love be submitted to mathematics and be studied as an exact science?” asked Phil.
“Yes, but such a knowledge is not learned from the world,” said the angel in a more serious tone. “Such a mastery of science is the connate knowledge of the higher, spiritual mind, which angels enjoy.”
“I am willing to do whatever it takes to achieve such a knowledge,” said Phil.
Suddenly a wonderful tree with great girth appeared before Phil and the angel. However, the tree was guarded by a large, terrifying-looking, Cherubim, swinging a flaming sword. The angel pointed to the tree.
“Get past him and you will receive the great knowledge,” said the angel.
The Star Wars saga is one of the most celebrated film series in cinematic history. Beginning with the original film, A New Hope, and moving into the most recent films, The ForceAwakens and Rogue One, we enter a living mythology that contains deeper lessons right beneath its manifest content. Creator George Lucas has taken a symbolic approach to understanding the Star Wars story. Lucas was inspired by his study of comparative religion, mythology, and the writings of Joseph Campbell. Campbell, of Bill Moyers’s The Power of Myth fame, introduced to a wide audience the idea of studying mythology in the context of psychology and spirituality. It is no secret that George Lucas and Joseph Campbell had an appreciation for each other’s work, as most of The Power of Myth was shot at Lucas’s ranch.
Campbell was influenced by Swiss psychoanalyst Carl Jung and his theories of archetypes and the collective unconscious. Jung’s approach to human psychology is rooted in a blended study of psychiatry, world religions, and mythology. During his time at university, Jung studied five major works by Christian mystic and scientist Emanuel Swedenborg. Swedenborg places fundamental importance on understanding biblical texts from the point of view of psychological and spiritual symbolism. Instead of reading on a literal level the creation story in Genesis or the apocalyptic episodes of The Book of Revelation, for example, Swedenborg uses the language of correspondences to unpack the rich narratives into practical meanings that support transformative living.
This approach to understanding symbolism, as found in the writings of Swedenborg, Jung, and Campbell, can be applied to Rogue One. Though the entire Star Wars series is ripe for symbolic interpretation, Rogue One occupies a unique place in the full saga in that it can be approached as a stand-alone story (the action occurs outside the regular “episodes,” supplying background to A New Hope and concentrating on new characters both in the Empire and among the Rebel Alliance).
From the very start of Rogue One, Orson Krennic, Director of the Advanced Weapons Research Division, embraces the mission and ideology of the Empire. He believes that the Empire’s goal is to bring order and peace to the galaxy by creating the Death Star, a space station with the capacity to destroy entire planets. The selfish conquering and domination of others is what fuels the spirit of the Empire. Krennic is always willing to use others, even former friends, in his pursuit of personal power and gain. He believes that only he should have command over the Death Star and that his high Imperial rank should grant him an audience with the Emperor. In his meeting with Darth Vader on the hellish planet of Mustafar, Krennic is admonished by the Sith Lord “not to choke on [his] aspirations”—advice reinforced by an actual choke using the Force. Krennic can be seen smiling, even though he has been punished by Lord Vader.
Krennic’s behavior can be explored as a spiritual example of what Swedenborg would describe as a hellish life. Hell, for Swedenborg, is a state of mind and spirit that begins while a person is alive on earth. Chief characteristics of the populace of hell feature a denial of the Divine (or a supreme good); a selfish, ego-driven life; and even tendencies toward masochism (e.g., Krennic’s smiling after enduring physical pain). The “ruling loves” of such spirits fasten on dominating others and controlling resources. Any sense of community is superficial, because only for their own personal gain do such spirits work with others; they are not so much communities working to serve both themselves and the members of other communities but are gangs and organizations doing violence to others and in turn to themselves. As a member of the Empire, Krennic symbolizes this spiritual mindset spectacularly.
The source that powers the Death Star offers another symbolic parallel between Rogue One and Swedenborgian theology. The material used to power the laser beam that can destroy entire planets is called the kyber, or kyber crystals. These crystals also power the Jedi and Sith lightsabers, which are the weapons carried by those who use the Force. The Empire has been plundering Jedi temples to obtain large numbers of kyber crystals, which would swell the destructive power of the Death Star. The Force— the Divine energy that powers and sustains the galaxy and manifests itself in both positive and negative ways—has a special relationship to these crystals as well as to those orders that wield lightsabers.
Swedenborg’s primary thesis in Divine Love and Wisdom is that nothing but love and wisdom—which make up the force that rules and controls known reality—comes from the Divine. This energy from the Divine does not create evil, but it does flow into hell, where love and wisdom have been perverted into selfishness and ignorance. Similarly, the Death Star is powered by a perversion of the kyber crystals, the energy and purpose of which in the case of the Death Star have been corrupted to a level of destructiveness that can lay waste to entire planets. And such destruction can only be stopped by the Rebel Alliance, whose intentions are selfless and incorruptible.
The Crew of Rogue One
While the Empire (an immoral dictatorship and primary antagonist) and its evil Director Krennic are the central focus of the film, many spiritual lessons are to be gleaned by analyzing the Rebel Alliance (a heroic resistance movement striving to restore a Republic Force) and the crew of Rogue One. The mission of the crew is to steal the Death Star plans in order to destroy the evil space station. For the crew to succeed in their mission, they need to work together as a community. The same holds true for the Rebel Alliance. The struggle to stay together in the face of atrocities committed by the Empire is a foremost theme in the film. For the Rebel Alliance to overcome the Empire, they cannot stand on their own; instead, they must find a way to comprise a powerful alliance with each other to engage in the selfless act of saving the entire galaxy.
Swedenborg’s theological view on the nature of heaven and how one might lead a heavenly life is well illustrated by the behavior of the Rebel Alliance. While each of them struggles individually in the civil war gripping the galaxy, they come together as a crew to work toward their common goal. This is true of heavenly communities both in this life and in the next, according to Swedenborg. In heaven, each individual has a job that contributes to the well-being of his or her respective community, and the community as a whole finds profound bonding in caring about the supreme good of living in usefulness for others. Leading a heavenly life is focused, courageous, selfless, and loving. Everyone transcends egocentric behaviors by embracing the ways of the Divine.
The spiritual lessons taught in Rogue One speak to those of us seeking to be on the path of regeneration. We cannot hope to lead a life of positive spirituality and regeneration on our own. We need a community that supports us on this path and in which we can support others. It may be an old story, yet it is ever new: in the face of overwhelming temptations toward living a negative lifestyle, the Divine is with us, always. As the character Chirrut repeats throughout the film, “I am one with the Force, and the Force is with me.”
Colin Amato, MS, is a marriage and family therapist intern and also a Swedenborgian seminarian at Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, California.
Most people who belong to traditional faith-systems assume that damnation in Hell is eternal and don’t give it a second thought.
But based on the visionary insights and theological writings of Emanuel Swedenborg, a spiritual seeker is given much to think about. Swedenborg’s systematic theology offers the most detailed look at life in Heaven and Hell. One of his most unique ideas is that heaven is not closed off to anyone, yet many individuals choose hell and choose to stay!
To understand this novel concept one must grasp that neither Heaven nor Hell is a place you go to. They are not physical destinations. Rather, each is the spiritual reality one creates or cultivates from his or her life-choices while on earth. The spiritual world, which is beyond space, time and physical coordinates, reflects the quality of one’s spirit.
A person gravitating to either heaven or hell simply follows the path of their own life principles. The human spirit simply follows its heart. That is why the ultimate purpose of religion is to direct the heart to make the best choices—which often requires us to transcend our selfish motives and self-interests.
A person who puts themselves above others and has inner contempt for others cannot stand being around those who have embraced mutual love. Such individuals actually find heaven a suffocating experience and flee from angelic beings of their own FREE WILL!
But the big question is if, after the death of the physical body, one takes the wrong spiritual path—from a life of putting themselves always above others—is there a way out of hell? Even those who study Swedenborg intently argue whether Hell is a forever thing. Those who contend that a God of Infinite love would not allow for hell to be an eternal situation cannot bear the thought of such a thing. Yet, nowhere in his writings does Swedenborg concur. For instance, Swedenborg says this about those who falsely believe that God can do anything when it comes to salvation:
For he supposes that if the Lord wills, He can save everyone, and this by means innumerable – as by miracles, by the dead rising again, by immediate revelations, by the angels withholding men from evil and impelling them to good by an open strong force, and by means of many states, on being led into which a man performs repentance, and by other means. But he does not know that all these means are compulsory, and that no man can possibly be reformed thereby. (Arcana Coelestia, Vol 5, n. 4032).
But can’t an individual come to his or her senses after enduring hell for eons? Again, in hell, a person simply is faced with one’s own evil. However, the full answer to this question comes from Swedenborg’s scientific background. He observed that a person’s Ruling Love formed the bio-structure of person’s spiritual body. A person therefore becomes who he or she really inwardly is—this is very fabric of one’s being. If God could change this He would in effect destroy that person’s individuality and life.
I have just touched on a few areas of this important issue. I invite you to add to this discussion by sharing your own views.
What makes the title of this post even stranger is that it is taken from the New Testament (Matthew 10:34-36 and Luke 12:53). Passages like this are why religion often gets a bad rap from those who point out these biblical absurdities and consider themselves more “enlightened.”
Why would a God of love instruct us to hate our closest relatives? Isn’t this a contradiction to the spirit of “loving the neighbor”—one of the two prime commandments upon which all the laws of the prophets hang?
The reason for the apparent contradiction comes from the fact that the true wisdom of this “odd” biblical passage lies much deeper than the literal meaning of its message. The path to becoming more spiritual includes the challenge of reading Scripture not just with one’s worldly eyes, but interpreting its passages with the eyes of one’s inner spirit.
When we switch from one set of “eyes” to another, an amazing transformation can take place in our understanding of the Lord God’s revealed wisdom. As an experiment, let’s see how this applies to the biblical passage of “making everyone in your household an enemy.” How can we see this biblical phrase through the eyes of our spirit?
The trick is to take any worldly term or physical object and find its psycho-spiritual equivalence (correspondence). God has created the physical world in such a way that all things in it represent some spiritual idea.
For instance, we entertain certain thoughts and feelings in the same way we invite special friends and guests into our home. Even more intimate to us are the ideas that make us feel the most at home. One’s belief system or worldview, and all its related values, constitutes one’s spiritual household. Our ideas and personal beliefs are the habitation of our soul.
This inner abode is where each of us really lives. We are what we think and love. And that is exactly where God takes aim when He wants to bring about spiritual change in out lives.
When the Lord came into the world, His ministry involved changing people’s value systems. He challenged us to make the many selfish and worldly ideas that we entertain in our hearts and minds, our real enemy. This requires us to make an inner inventory and a follow-up housecleaning. So we must kick these bad influences out of our house (spiritual abode).
Scientists and non-believers have often ridiculed religion because having a strong faith meant putting all the power of belief in ignorance alone. But true faith leads one out of ignorance. The Lord’s Holy Word is designed to lead us out of ignorance because its lessons are inexhaustible and contain layers of meaning.
I hope my example of “making one’s household an enemy” shows how the Holy Word can be easily misinterpreted by a culture which no longer is sensitized to these higher meanings and teachings.