Swedenborg and Reincarnation: Rebirth in the Body vs. Rebirth of the Spirit

Swedenborg Foundation

One question we’re asked frequently at the Swedenborg Foundation is, “Did Swedenborg say anything about reincarnation?”

In his writings, Swedenborg gives detailed descriptions of the afterlife—including heaven, hell, and the world of spirits in between—and the stages of development that a person’s mind and soul experience during life on earth and in the spiritual realms after death. He describes a linear process of spiritual growth in which people are born, live on earth, and then continue living and growing eternally in the afterlife.

seasons

None of this suggests that Swedenborg would be sympathetic to the idea of living multiple lifetimes on earth. And in fact, in one of his rare explicit references to reincarnation, he depicts a philosopher in the afterlife first arguing in favor of reincarnation and then, having been enlightened by the Lord, disavowing the notion as “insane” (True Christianity §79:6, 8). In True Christianity §171, Swedenborg goes even farther, comparing a particular belief about Jesus to “the absurd notion that someone’s soul can cross over into someone else.” (See the postscript to this article for more on how Swedenborg might have understood the concept of reincarnation.)

In Heaven and Hell §256, he offers an explanation for why it might appear that some people remember past lives:

Angels and spirits actually have memory just as we do. If a spirit were to talk with us from her or his own memory, then it would seem to us entirely as though the thoughts were our own, when they would really belong to the spirit. It is like remembering something that we have never seen or heard.

This is why some of the ancients were of the opinion that after some thousands of years they would return to their former life and all its deeds, and that they had in fact returned. They gathered this from the fact that sometimes a kind of memory would come up of things that they had never seen or heard. This happened because spirits had flowed from their own memory into the images of these people’s thoughts.

Clearly, Swedenborg wouldn’t have supported the idea of a person’s soul being reborn in another earthly body. However, when discussing the process of spiritual growth and rebirth, or regeneration, Swedenborg develops a complex model of how the soul travels through different spiritual states and how those states relate to each other. There are some striking parallels between Swedenborg’s descriptions of this process and Hindu teachings on reincarnation that suggest that maybe the two philosophies aren’t as far apart as they seem.

Hinduism is a religion of diverse beliefs and practices, but speaking very broadly, Hindus believe that we consist of a gross (physical) body and a subtle body. The subtle, or astral, body is defined in different ways by different sources, but it’s often divided into these common elements: the organs of perception, the organs of action, the vital breath (prana), the intellect or wisdom (buddhi), the mind (manas), and the ego (ahamkara). It is this subtle body that survives after death and goes to another spiritual world or plane of existence (loka). There are manylokas, usually divided into seven higher and seven lower; the higher ones are states of spiritual bliss, while the lower ones are states of spiritual suffering. People stay in these lokas until they have expended their good or bad karma, and then they are reborn on earth. This process repeats until a person is good or pure enough to achieve moksha, a release from the cycle of death and rebirth.

The following is a description from Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, a well-known American Hindu teacher, that appeared in the magazine Hinduism Today.

Life does not end at the death of the physical body. The body dies but the soul does not. It lives on in a counterpart of the physical body which is called the astral body. The astral body is made of astral matter and resides in a world not unlike this one, called the Devaloka or Second World. In other words, in order to perfect itself, to spiritually unfold and evolve, the soul lives on in another body after death, the astral body. At the right time, according to its karma, it is reborn into a flesh body. Thus the astral body, with the soul within it, enters a new physical body. This same cycle is repeated many times until the soul spiritually unfolds and reaches a certain state of perfection or mature evolution.

A belief in an afterlife that can offer states of joy for the good and suffering for the evil is common to many cultures. But Swedenborg describes in very similar terms to the Hindus the spirit that passes to the afterlife after our body dies: he emphasizes that we are in a human spiritual body after death (see especially Heaven and Hell §§453–454) and that our thoughts, memories, and spiritual senses remain with us (§§461–462). Like Sivaya Subramuniyaswami, Swedenborg describes the soul as living in the spiritual world and continuing to learn and perfect itself (§512).

Swedenborg also, significantly, makes distinctions between the soul (vital energy), the spirit, and the mind:

The soul is nothing more nor less than our life, while the spirit is the actual person, and the body is an earthly thing we carry around in the world. It is only an agent through which our spirit, the actual person, acts in a way that is adapted to the natural world. (Heaven and Hell §602)

Our earthly mind is made up of both spiritual substances and earthly substances. Our thinking results from the spiritual substances and not from the earthly substances. These latter substances fade away when we die, but the spiritual substances do not. So when we become spirits or angels after death, the same mind is still there in the form it had in the world. (Divine Love and Wisdom §257)

Where Hindu scriptures describe an ascending series of higher worlds that a spirit can inhabit (which in some branches are also interpreted as ascending states of consciousness), Swedenborg describes the world of spirits—a plane of existence close to earth but existing on a spiritual rather than a material level—with a series of three heavens above it. These three heavens could also be perceived in terms of being closer to or farther from the center, which is God. “It needs to be quite clear that it is the inner nature of angels that determines which heaven they are in,” Swedenborg writes. “The more the deeper levels [of their minds] have been opened, the more inward the heaven they are in” (Heaven and Hell §33).

But the path of spiritual growth is not a linear one. Hindu texts say that a person can just as easily be reborn in a lower loka as a higher one: if a person incurs bad karma by pursing worldly desires and ignoring their spiritual duties, he or she must live out a lifetime as a lower being in order to learn the lessons they need to move forward. “Life’s ultimate goal is not money, not clothes, not sex, not power, not food or any other of the instinctive needs,” writes Sivaya Subramuniyaswami. “These are natural pursuits, to be sure, but our real purpose on this earth is to know, to love and to serve God and the Gods.”

Swedenborg also describes the occasional step backward as part of an angel’s spiritual life. He says that angels occasionally experience states where their love of God diminishes and they may even fall into a depression. “[The angels] go on to say that the Lord does not produce these changes of their states, since the Lord as the sun is always flowing in with warmth and light, that is, with love and wisdom. Rather, they themselves are the cause, since they love their sense of self and this is constantly misleading them” (Heaven and Hell §158).

For Hindus, the end point of all incarnations is moksha, a word that has its roots in the idea of release or liberation. Again, within Hinduism there are many views of moksha, but the Hindu American Foundation defines it this way:

Moksha is characterized by the overcoming of spiritual ignorance; the complete elimination of material desires and attachments; the perfected ability to live in the present moment and experience absolute peace; and most importantly, the awakening of pure compassion towards all.  Moksha also translates to liberation from the cycle of birth and rebirth (samsara).  Someone may attain moksha during his or her lifetime or upon the death of his or her physical body.

Swedenborg describes the final state of regeneration in similar terms:

None but those who have experienced a state of peace can appreciate the nature of the peaceful tranquility that the outer self enjoys when there is an end to struggle, or to the disquiet of burning desires and misconceptions. That state is so joyful that it surpasses all our notions of joy. It is not simply an end to our struggles but a vibrancy welling up from deep-seated peace, affecting our outer being beyond the capacity of words to describe it. (Secrets of Heaven §92)

To be sure, there are significant differences between Hindu beliefs on reincarnation and Swedenborg’s concept of regeneration. But fundamentally, both systems describe a long and gradual process of self-directed spiritual development that has as its highest possible end state a release from material desires and a resulting state of deep peace and joy. Where Hinduism teaches that this process takes place through multiple rebirths on earth, Swedenborg sees our earthly life as a seed-state for a much longer and richer existence in the afterlife.

How do you see the process of spiritual growth?

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For more on Swedenborg’s concept of regeneration, see Regeneration: Spiritual Growth and How It Works, a compilation of his writings on spiritual growth from many sources, or visit our regeneration page for links to more resources. You can also explore these ideas in more depth in our videos “How to Create Heaven on Earth,” “How to Find Your True Self,” and “The Four Kinds of Love.”

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Postscript: Swedenborg’s Understanding of Reincarnation

Today, our ideas about reincarnation are largely shaped by eastern religions such as Hinduism and Buddhism. Europeans were in regular contact with Asia during Swedenborg’s lifetime, and it’s possible that he was aware of these concepts from eastern philosophy. However, reincarnation was also a widely held belief in ancient Greece, and Swedenborg’s references to reincarnation suggest that this is what he was thinking of when describing this concept in his writings.

For example, in True Christianity §79:6, which contains Swedenborg’s recollection (“memorable occurrence”) of an experience in the spiritual world:

Another philosopher said, “I’ll grant you that the individual forms made out of ether in the highest realm were countless. Nevertheless the number of people born since the world was created has exceeded the number of forms. How then could there be enough of these ethereal forms? So I thought to myself that the souls that go out through people’s mouths when they die come back to the same people after several thousand years. The people go back, therefore, and live a similar life to the one they had before. As we know, many of the wise believe in reincarnation and things like that.”

And in True Christianity §171:

The concept of an eternally begotten Son of God who later comes down and takes on a human manifestation is like the ancient nonsense about human souls created at the beginning of the world that enter bodies and become people. It is also like the absurd notion that someone’s soul can cross over into someone else.

The references in the above passages to “ethereal forms” that came into being at the time of creation and become the souls of human beings were most likely drawn from Swedenborg’s reading of Plato. Plato’s work The Myth of Er contains his most extensive references to reincarnation, although he also mentions reincarnation in his works Phaedrus and Timaeus. While modern scholars question whether Plato himself believed in reincarnation, the concept of reincarnation reappears in both Greek and Roman literature up until the advent of Christianity

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Life ‘Variously Received’ According to the Form of the Receiving Vessel

Lastchurch - The Eternal PurposeFrom Arcana Coelestia ~ Emanuel Swedenborg

The influx from the spiritual world into man is in general of such a nature that man cannot think or will anything of himself, but everything flows in; good and truth from the Lord through heaven, thus through the angels who are with the man; evil and falsity from hell, thus through the evil spirits who are with the man; and this into the man’s thought and will. This I know will appear a very great paradox because it is contrary to the appearance; but experience itself shall declare how the matter stands.

No man, spirit, or angel ever has any life from himself, thus neither can he think and will from himself; because in thinking and willing is the life of man, and speaking and acting is the life thence derived. For there is one only life, that of the Lord, which flows into all, but is variously received, and indeed according to the quality which a man has induced on his soul by his life. Hence with the evil, goods and truths are turned into evils and falsities, but with the good they are received – goods as goods, and truths as truths. This may be compared to the light of the sun flowing into objects, which is modified and varied in them diversely according to the form of the parts, and thus is turned into colors, some sad and some cheerful. While a man lives in the world he induces a form on the purest substances of his interiors, so that it may be said that he forms his soul, that is, its quality; and according to this form is received the life of the Lord, which is the life of His love toward the universal human race.

(Arcana Coelestia 5846,5847)
March 19, 2017

Son of God — How to make sense of Christ’s claim?

Son of GodA basic teaching of Christianity is that there is only one God but in three distinct divine persons, the Father, the Son of God and the Holy Spirit: each said to be God. Many Christian theologians themselves admit they have found it impossible to come up with a persuasive and rational explanation for three Gods in one. So they call this a mystery.

Any lack of understanding in what the churches teach, I suppose, is not necessarily a problem for those of faith. Having said that, I suspect this central dogma is a major obstacle for many other people who won’t believe in something they don’t understand.

Son of God unprovable in historical terms

Virtually all scholars of antiquity agree that Jesus Christ existed. They have offered various historical portraits of his life, which at times share a number of overlapping attributes, such as a charismatic healer and religious prophet, who preached about the “kingdom of God” as a means for personal and social transformation. The question of his divinity is more difficult for historians and his claim to be what he called the Son of God.

Christ’s birth was not strictly a ‘virgin birth’ or parthenogenesis, for this would necessarily have produced a female offspring. Because he was male, he had to have had a father to give him his male sex chromosomes. He came to see himself as the Son of God. One snag from a scientific perspective is that if his father were really God, rather than a human being, how did he get his male sex chromosomes?

Son of God as body of the one God

Christians believe Christ’s assertion that his father was God and understand this to mean that he was a distinct person from his father in the same way as you and I are not the same person as either of our parents. However, an alternative Christian view originating from Emanuel Swedenborg is expressed by Brian Kingslake:

“Your soul is a finite vessel containing God’s life; and, because it is finite, you will always be finite. You will never merge with God. But Jesus was different. God was his Father, so his soul was God. It was not a vessel containing God, it was God himself. Therefore Jesus had no finite limitations.”

He goes on to claim that Christ’s spiritual growth went on and on without halting, until his humanity was dissolved into the divinity of God, making one divine person only. So according to this view of the Son of God, Jesus Christ had a divine soul that was within him throughout his life on earth.

However, his maternal heredity was like that of any other child. Mary gave him his natural tendencies. He began life in complete ignorance and had to learn everything. He could grow weary and could become angry and weep. Because of the self-orientated tendencies, he inherited from his mother, he was to be vulnerable to corrupting influences, as we all are.

Ordinary life in Palestine meant experiencing daily events like others of his age group. The boy would have learned how to become aware of things around him and of the way his family saw them. Like the rest of us, his thinking would have been restricted much of the time by how things appear and seem to be. In other words his experiences would have been shrouded by human consciousness. At the same time, the argument goes, if his soul were divine, there would have been many ‘break-through’ moments of a higher perception. John’s Gospel suggests these quite vividly. For example he wept over the self-defeating, self-centered attitudes around him.

“I believe there is no one lovelier, deeper, more sympathetic and more perfect than Jesus — not only is there no one else like him, but there could never be anyone like him.” (Feodor Dostoevsky)

Son of God having Christ’s dual nature

Swedenborg suggests that because of what he claims is Christ’s dual nature, at times there would be states of temptation say for material gain or egoist fame and thus Christ, even though he always resisted such urges, would have felt distinct and apart from God. So when feeling tempted by ordinary selfish urges  he would have been conscious of himself as the son of Mary: but even in his most exalted states,  free from baser tendencies, he was only conscious of being what he called the Son of God rather than God himself.

I would ask whether, compared with the traditional view of the Holy Trinity, it is more rational to think of the Holy Trinity as three dimensions of one Divine Person? I would suggest that just as we each have a soul, a mind and a bodily activity so does God: only in God’s case it is a soul of love, a mind of wisdom and a bodily activity that has powerful effects.

Swedenborg maintained that before Christ’s birth in Bethlehem, God did not exist in an ultimate form of flesh and bones and natural mind although there was a potential for this to develop. And this did develop through Christ’s overcoming and purifying his natural side inherited from Mary.

If this theory is correct, by the ‘Son of God’ we can understand the natural degree of mind and body which God took upon himself when he came into the world as the ‘Word made flesh’. And if true, there would have been no Son of God before the birth of Jesus and thus no separate divine person.

I myself feel it is probably misleading to describe Christ, after his ascension, as the Son of God. Instead I would say that Christ is the natural degree of the divine — i.e. God’s body rather than a distinct person of a Godhead; the Lord God we all can relate to person to person in what might be said to be a visible form. As the Bible says

“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems

Chapter XVIII. Man at Birth.

THIS diagram presents

The degrees that are composed of spiritual substances, all of which are from the father,

The parts which are organized of material substances and are from the mother,

The taint of hereditary evil from the father and mother respectively, and

The development of the degrees at birth. *

* note: For the name of each degree of the spiritual mind and each of the natural, see Diagram XIII; this applies to all subsequent diagrams.

Concerning what is from the father and what from the mother, we read-

“The soul which is from the father is the man himself and the body which is from the mother is not man in itself but from him and is only the clothing of the soul woven of such [materials].. are of the natural world. but the soul is of such [substances] as are in the spiritual world. Every 3 man after death lays aside the natural which he carried from his mother, and retains the spiritual which was from the father, together with a certain limbus [an envelop] of the purest [substances] of nature around it.”- TCR 103.

“The soul is from the father and the body from the mother; for the soul is in the seed of the father and is clothed with a body in the mother; or, what is the same, all the spiritual [organism] man has is from the father and all the material [organism] he has, from the mother.” TCR 92.

“There is a difference between what man receives from his father and what he receives from his mother. Man receives from his father all that is internal, his very soul or life is from the father; but he receives from his mother, all that is external. In a word, the interior man or the spirit is from the father but the exterior man or the body is from the mother.”-AC 1815.

“That the inmost of life, which is from the father, is continually flowing in and operating upon the external which is from the mother and endeavoring to make this like itself, even in the womb, may be manifest from sons in that they are born with the inclinations of the father, and sometimes grandchildren and great grandchildren with the inclinations of the grandfather, and the great grandfather; this is because the soul which is from the father continually wills to make the external which is from the mother like itself and an image of itself.” AC 6716

“Nothing is provided in the womb of the mother except a body conceived by and derived from the soul.”-TCR 167.

“Man is born spiritual as to his soul, and is clothed with a natural which makes his material body.”-TCR 583.

“The soul of man that lives after death is his spirit and this is in perfect form a man.”-.DLW 394.

“The mind of man is the man himself; for the first rudiments of the human form, or the human form itself with each and everything of it, is from the beginnings continued out of the brain through the nerves. This is the form into which man comes after death, and which is then called a spirit and an angel, and which is in all perfection a man, but spiritual: the material form, which is added and superinduced in the world, is not a human form from itself but from the former.” – DLW 388.

“The life of every man is from the father and only the clothing is put on in the mother, hence it is that every man has his name from the father and not from the mother.”-A.S. (N.Y. Ed., p. 45; London Ed., p. 52.)

“Since man is not life but a recipient of life it follows that the conception of man from his father is not a conception of life but only of’ the first and purest form receptive of life, to which as a stamen or beginning, substances and matters are successively added in the womb in forms adapted to the reception of life in their order and degree.” DLW 6.

Since the fall, man is the subject of hereditary evil. We read, –
“Man’s inmost [or spirit] is from the father, whereas the exteriors, or those parts which clothe that inmost, are from the mother; each, namely, what he derives from the father and the mother,

      is tainted with hereditary evil.”-AC

4963

      . (Also AC

1902

      ,

895

      .)

“All the evils which man derives from his parents, which are called hereditary evils, reside in his natural and sensual man but not in the spiritual.”-AE 543 [b].

“Man is born into evils of every kind from his parents and these reside in his natural man which of itself is diametrically opposed to the spiritual man” – TCR 574; (also AC 1902.)

The inmost A and the natural body E and F are the most developed at birth and are drawn large to indicate this. The spiritual mind B and the natural mind C are drawn small to indicate that at birth they are advanced but slightly beyond their rudimental state as at conception, requiring years for development to be effected by discrete degrees successively.

The extremes which are the inmost and the natural body are at birth very large in comparison with the intermediates B and C.

By the inmost as an active and the natural body as a reactive all the intermediate degrees are formed out and stored with remains during childhood and thus are prepared for reformation and regeneration in after years.

The whole natural body (all that the infant takes on from nature) consists, as said above, of the limbus and the gross body. The limbus is the higher and mental part and is retained after death, the gross body being rejected. (See Diagrams XV and XVI.)

The spiritual mind B is drawn in white to indicate its purity. There is no taint of ancestral evil in this mind of the child, as there was no evil in the spiritual mind of the father. Into this mind, which is in form or image a heaven, evil cannot enter; yet this mind may be closed and rendered almost inoperative by the reaction against it of the natural mind confirmed in evil as is the case with the wicked. (DLW 270, 261, 432; AE 176, 739.)

The natural mind is drawn dark to indicate the taint of hereditary evil from the father. (DLW 432, 270; D. W. in AE III, 4, and IV.)

The spiritual body being derived from the natural mind and as it were one with it, is also tainted with evil from the father and is drawn in dark to indicate this.

That the spiritual mind, the germ of which is from the father, is free from taint of evil and in heavenly form and order and that the natural mind, the germ of which is also from the father, is tainted since the fall, may be seen in Divine Love and Wisdom 432, and in Divine Wisdom (in AE ) III, 4.

The two higher degrees of “the little brain, in the order and form of heaven” (DLW 432) constitute the spiritual mind and are equivalent to the three planes of that mind (B in this diagram), and are the two degrees of the spiritual mind B in the 2nd form, which illustrates the degrees of the mind as presented inDivine Love and Wisdom 432 and DivineWisdom (in AE ) III,4. These numbers describe the rudiments of the spiritual and natural minds; the inmost A is not mentioned in them though its presence is implied. The two interior degrees in the order and form of heaven are the two degrees B in the 2nd form. The exterior degree which was in opposition to the form of heaven is the natural mind C in the 2nd form, and is equivalent to the three degrees of C in the first form. The natural mind like the other parts is variously described in the Writings-in one degree, in two and in three, according to the purpose in different passages.

The subject in Divine Love and Wisdom 432, and Divine Wisdom (in AE ) III, 4, is the primitive of man which is a spiritual substance not visible in natural light but only in spiritual and is the seed from the father by which conception takes place. The exterior degree mentioned therein does not include the limbus which is composed of natural substances but consists only of that part of the natural mind which is composed of spiritual substances. (See Chapter VIII.)

The inmost, the spiritual and the natural mind, and the spiritual body are formed of spiritual substances, as shown above, and in their strictly initial state as at conception are derived directly from the father, at which time the ultimate parts are more rudimental than the internal parts and especially more rudimental than the inmost or soul proper as this is the first form from which the others proceed.

This diagram shows the development reached at birth, not the form of the initial at conception. We have in part shown the quality of the paternal faculties at the period of birth by their quality at conception. During growth in the womb no change occurs in their hereditary quality though they undergo an important development which as to the spiritual body is very great, but as to the mental faculties less. Whatever growth occurs in these paternal faculties A B C D from conception to birth must be from an incorporation of spiritual substances; growth from natural substances occurs only in the parts from the mother which are the limbus and the gross body.

The evil from the mother inheres of course in the organism drawn directly from her, called in the whole the natural body. The inmost of this body consists of those purest substances of nature which compose the merest external of the natural mind (mentioned in DLW 257.) This is illustrated in Diagram XV at E. In this mental part from the mother the evil from her primarily inheres, tainting thence the gross body. This mental part is the limbus E E in this diagram. To indicate this taint of evil E and F are drawn in dark.

We have already shown, -That the natural mind consists of spiritual substance and at the same time of natural substance,That from its spiritual substance arises thought but not from its natural substance,That the spiritual substance is initially from the father and the natural substance at birth from the mother,That the natural substance appertaining to the mind constitutes after death the cutaneous envelop of the spiritual body,That by such envelop the spiritual body subsists, that is, is preserved permanently in form because the natural is the containing element.And that in the part of the natural mind composed of natural substances (the limbus in this diagram) and not in any part of the mind composed of spiritual substances, the taint of maternal evil resides.

To see that evil can inhere in these substances we must reflect that they are organized into a mental form constituting the merest external part of the natural mind conjoined to the spiritual part of it which spiritual part thinks and wills immediately within the natural, so that while this merest external is itself incapable of thought still it is the lowest and active seat of thought during life in the world. The thought is necessarily qualified by the state of this external, and is brought into act by the gross body. That evil does inhere in the part of the natural mind composed of natural substances (the maternal part) as well as in the part composed of spiritual substances, may be seen in Divine Love and Wisdom 270. This external is the seat of the external memory or memory of the body (AE 193[a]) both before and after death, though after death it is quiescent. This memory composed of material substances is usually called natural, exterior, or corporeal (as in HH 461; AC 2469-2494, and AE 569 [a], 832), but in Spiritual Diary 2752, it is called the outmost or material memory. When this memory quiesces after death, the internal memory formed of spiritual substances and appertaining to that part of the mind which is from the father comes into conscious activity.

This external from the mother is the residence of all impressions and knowledge received through the senses whether gained by physical and sensible experience or by instruction in science, morals and religion, and also the residence of all conscious emotions arising from within. In this part only can man by introspection become conscious of his evils and falsities for here only can they be distinctly perceived. This is that ultimate or external in which man is together with the LORD and wherein he must directly cooperate with the LORD; the LORD alone working in the interiors. (DP 119, 120.) What lies further in is not perceptible except by outflow into this plane: only in this outer plane can be clearly seen the light of spiritual truth, and distinctly felt the warmth of celestial love.

In this external part of the natural mind every maternal inclination whether evil or good has its primal abode. Here too reside all mental bias, faculty, disposition and ability, from the mother. These however are subject to more or less modification and even practical nullification from the various conditions of the gross body.

Not only does the body from the mother partake of her quality good or bad but there are always induced upon its interior and often upon its exteriors the quality and likeness of the father also. This is done in the construction of the body from the substances furnished by the mother during gestation. Results produced after birth are not here presented. The infusion of the father’s quality into this maternal structure is in part accomplished by the influence of the soul of the child which was from the father and consequently fully imbued with his quality. This soul sits mistress in the formation of that natural human which it is assuming from the mother and weaves more or less fully the materials furnished by her into its own form and quality. It is according to order that the active, here the spirit, shall form the reactive, here the body, as fully as may he after its own nature and gift it with its own quality that it may perform its intended use. This agrees with Arcana Coelestia AC 10125 where the meaning is not that the body is composed of spiritual substances from the soul but that the soul forms the natural substance from the mother into a body resembling itself (See also AC 6716, 10823; TCR 82, 103; DLW 388.)

According to the above order the spirit of the child first forms those purest substances of nature from the mother into the enveloping part or limbus of the natural mind, that it may use that covering as the lowest seat of its thought and the medium by which it may flow into the gross body; and it also forms this body of grosser and grossest substances of nature and places therein the five senses as organs for sensing the outer world, acquiring knowledge and expressing its own feeling and thought. Although the soul of the child measurably imparts its own quality to that natural external it does not remove the quality of the mother. (TCR 103; AC 6716.

We said the quality of the father is imparted to the body of the child chiefly by the child’s own soul, but the quality of the father is communicated to the body of the child by being first appropriated by the mother and by her transmitted to the child in the substances and forms furnished by her. In some cases (and there will be more as the Church advances) the father’s likeness flows in each globule of the mother’s nervous fluid and his image in every drop of her blood. Something of this exists in most instances if not in all. (Marriage page 9, item 22; Latin Edition, p 7. AE 1004.) Still whatever of paternal quality thus reaches the child’s body is first materialised and imparted as the mother’s also. Conversely, the father may appropriate the sphere of the mother and impart it as his own to the spirit of the child and thence to its body.

Errors Regarding the Child’s Inheritance from the Mother.BECAUSE the external acquired by the first rational is called the maternal rational it has been inferred that the rational as an organic faculty is from the mother. Not so. That faculty before regeneration, and with the LORD before Glorification, is called maternal in consequence of clothing itself with an external acquired by means of the maternal but not from it. Moreover the above inference conflicts with the teaching, “that all the spiritual which man has is from the father” (TCR 92 and 103) and that the maternal rational does not exist at birth but is acquired by instruction and sensuals of various kinds. (AC 1893-1895.)

In regard to the maternal rational (called the first rational and represented by Ishmael) it should be recollected that this rational is formed by truths obscured by appearances which appearances are to be dispersed during regeneration; this is the rejection of the maternal rational. From Arcana Coelestia AC 2654, 3207, 2557, we see that this rational is called maternal only because it is mediately, not directly, from the mother.

Another misconception is that because the child inherits somewhat of inclination and talent from the mother, it derives from her some part of its spiritual organism also. Not so. The child inherits no part of its spiritual organism from the mother. These maternal characteristics inhere in the mental part of the natural derived from the mother. (See Diagram XV.)

That the soul is from the father and the body from the mother rightly understood involves no disparagement of the functions of the mother. That no disparagement is involved appears from the following:

I. The maternal part of the natural mind is the seat of all the mental states inherited from the mother and is the seat of the natural memory (AE 193), and during life is the active seat of all the degrees derived from the father. Although this maternal part of the natural mind becomes quiescent after death it still servestwo great and indispensable uses to eternity. (1) It is an envelop of the spirit holding its structure in form and its state entire, thus preventing its disintegration through the volatility of its spiritual substances. (2) It preserves the state of man after death as determined by his ruling end, changeless to eternity, securing to the enduring heaven and preventing the evil from sinking good an ever into deeper hells.

II. Without the natural furnished by the mother there could be no propagation of the human race, thus no heaven of angels which is the Divine end of creation.

III. Although the spiritual faculties are not from the mother, they must for regeneration acquire an external, from various knowledges and truths, to embody themselves; and these are obtainable only by means of the natural from the mother.

Let no one then undervalue the function of the mother in comparison with that of the father, his impossible without hers, hers eternally conserving the fruit of h

Previous: Chapter XVII. All the Degrees in Trines. Up: Discrete Degrees Next: Supplement.

 

 

Chapter XV. The Limbus.

THIS diagram presents a view of the LIMBUS which man derives from the purest substances of the natural world and which he retains as a cutaneous envelop of his spiritual body after death. This cutaneous envelop is called Limbus in the Latin of True Christian Religion TCR 103 where we read, –

“The soul which is from the father is the man himself, and the body, which is from the mother, is not in itself the man, but from him. The body is only the clothing of the soul woven of such [substances] as are of the natural world; but the soul is of such [substances] as are in the spiritual world. Every man after death lays aside the natural [body] which he carried from the mother, and retains the spiritual which was from the father, together with a certain Limbus of the purest [substances] of nature around it.”

The degrees A B C and D combined, represent the whole of the spiritual part of man, that is, all which is composed of spiritual substances (TCR 103, DLW 388), A representing the supreme degree or soul-proper; B the internal or spiritual mind with all its degrees; C the external or natural mind with its degrees; and D the spiritual body, consisting of the spiritual sensual and spiritual corporeal as shown in Diagram XIII.

The Limbus E and gross body F together constitute the entire natural or material body; the limbus being nearer to the spirit and invisible to the natural eye, the gross body more external and rejected at death. E is drawn in green to distinguish it from the spiritual structures above, F consisting of gross natural substances is drawn in dark.

This Limbus, man does not cast off at death but retains as a permanent cutaneous envelop of his spiritual body. The substances of the limbus are the natural substances meant in Divine Love and Wisdom, where we read-

“The natural mind of man consists of spiritual substances and at the same time of natural substances; from its spiritual substances, thought is produced but not from its natural substances; these [natural] substances recede, [or pass from activity to quiescence] when man dies but not the spiritual substances, wherefore that same natural mind after death when man becomes a spirit or an angel, remains in a form similar to that in which it was in the world. The natural substances of this mind, which as was said recede by death, make the cutaneous envelop of the spiritual body in which spirits and angels are. By such envelop, which is taken from the natural world, their spiritual bodies [permanently] subsist, for the natural is the [fixed] containing ultimate.”- DLW 257.

The limbus is described in the same work as something fixed containing the spiritual organism:

“The material form [or natural body of man] which is added and superinduced [upon his spirit] in the world, is not a human form of itself, but from the human form of the spirit, added to and superinduced [upon the spirit] that man may do uses in the natural world, and also that he may carry with him [after death] from the purer substances of the world, something fixed containing his spirituals, and so continue and perpetuate life.”- DLW 388.

And in Divine Providence, we read, –

“Man by death puts off the grosser [substances] of nature and retains the purer which latter are next to his spiritual, and these are then his containants.”-DP 220.

The necessity of a limbus composed of natural substances to keep the spiritual body in form and order arises from the difference between natural substances and spiritual substances. This difference also necessitates the natural world to contain and preserve the spiritual world. The substances of which the bodies of spirits and angels are composed, being interior and evanescent, not ultimate and fixed like material substances, require an envelop of natural substances to hold them permanently in form. But even this natural cutaneous envelop could not preserve the spiritual body of an angel or spirit, in form, were not the envelop itself contained within and resting upon something firmer and more solid than itself, that is, upon the finer substances and through them upon the grosser substances of the natural body of man. (LJ 9.) The evanescence of spiritual substances may be illustrated by the escapement and diffusion of fluids in the natural world. The whole physical universe is related to the spiritual universe as man’s physical body to his spirit, and the highest or inmost plane of this physical universe is related to the spiritual universe as man’s limbus to his spirit. The inmost plane being the nearest covering of the spiritual universe must be the medium by which the life of the spiritual world flows into and operates upon all lower natural substances which constitute the gross physical body of the universe. (Read attentively D. W. in AE VIII, 4, 5.)

Inasmuch as the bodies of men rest on the earth, and spirits and angels through the limbus rest on men, it follows that angels and spirits rest mediately upon the earth itself as the last foundation. (LJ 9.) Angels and spirits rest on men by means of their limbus because the natural substances composing the limbus are joined with the lowest spiritual substances and are in a sense intermediate between the spiritual and the grosser and palpable natural organisms of men. The limbus must be kept in form by connection with natural substances coarser and firmer than itself in graded structures even down to earthly solids.

When we say the limbus is composed of the purest substances of nature we mean the purest of the human body; the substances of the natural sun and others proximately emanating therefrom are doubtless prior to these.

On the nature of spiritual substance on the one hand and material on the other, on the intermediate nature of the Limbus and its use in giving permanence to the existence of angels and spirits and connecting them with men, we read in Divine Wisdom,

“The angelic mind cannot be procreated, and through procreation be multiplied except in man.

“He who knows the quality of substances in the spiritual world, and the quality respectively of matters in the natural world, can easily see that there is no procreation of angelic minds nor can be, except in those and from those who inhabit the ultimate work of creation, the earth. But because the quality of substances in the spiritual world in relation to matters in the natural world is unknown [it shall now be told]. Substances in the spiritual world appear as if they were material, but they are not; and because they are not material therefore they are not constant. They are correspondences of the affections of the angels, and with the affections or the angels they are permanent, and with them they are separated [that is, on the cessation of the affections, the substances composing the object are dispersed, and the Object vanishes, see D. L. W. 344; TCR 78]. Similar would it have been with the angels, had they been created there. But besides, there is not, nor can be, with the angels any procreation and thence multiplication other than a spiritual one, which is that of wisdom and of love, such as is also of the souls of men who are generated anew or regenerated. But in the natural world there are matters, by which and from which procreations and afterwards formations can take place, thus multiplication of men and thence of angels.

Spirits and angels hence derive substance and life to eternity.

“The reason is that every angel and spirit from having been first born a man in the world derives substance, for he retains with himself from the inmost [substances] of nature a medium between the spiritual and the natural by which he is finited [that is, definitely terminated and fixed in form] so that he may subsist and be permanent; by this medium he has something related to the things which are in nature and also correspondent to them.

“By this also spirits and angels can be adjoined, and conjoined to the human race, for there is conjunction and where there is conjunction there must be a medium.

“That there is such a medium the angels know, but because it is from the inmost [substances] of nature and the words of languages are from the ultimates of nature it cannot be described except by abstract [terms].” –D.W. in AE VIII, 3, 4, 5, (See also DLW 344; 6 to 9.)

In Divine Providence we read, –

“The natural and temporal are the outmosts and ultimates into which man first enters, which he does at birth in order that he may afterwards be introduced into things interior and superior; for outermosts and ultimates are containants, and these are in the natural world. This is why no angel or spirit was created immediately, but why all were first born men and so introduced [into things interior or superior]; hence they have the outermosts and ultimates which in themselves are fixed and established, within which and by which interiors can be held together in connection. But man first puts on the grosser [substances] of nature; his body is from them but by death he puts them off, and retains the purer [substances] of nature which are nearest to spiritual [substances] and these then are his containants. Furthermore in outermosts or ultimates, all things interior or superior are together; wherefore every operation of the LORD is from firsts and ultimates together, thus in fullness. But as the outermosts and ultimates of nature cannot receive the spiritual and eternal things to which the human mind is formed, as these are in themselves, and yet man was born to become spiritual and live forever, therefore man puts off the ultimates, and retains only the natural interiors which meet and accord with the spirituals and celestials and subserve them as containants. This is done by the rejection of temporal and natural ultimates, which is the death of the body.”-.DP 220.

In the above we have the reason of the universal order of creation-the finer in the grosser, the active in the inert, the first in the last, the spiritual in the natural. This difference of substances is necessary, for were there no active, fluid, evanescent substances there would be no life, force, or motion; and were there no solid, inert substances there would he no stability and duration of form.

From the foregoing we see that

Because substances in the spiritual world are evanscent and matters in our world are stable and constant especially in ultimates, the whole spiritual universe acquires organic permanence solely by the natural universe clothing and sustaining it.

And we see that

Inasmuch as the human spirit in its rudimental form as an offshoot from the soul of the father is an organism of spiritual substances evanescent in their nature (DLW 432; TCR 103; CL 220), it must (when begotten) be immediately fixed by taking on the primordial rudimentary form of the material body from the purest elements of nature supplied for the purpose by the mother, thus securing permanence and subsequent growth.

And we further see that

Man does not at death cast off the whole of his material form but only the gross mass and retains the purest part which was nearest his spirit, as a limbus or cutaneous envelop to hold his spirit in endless duration, and as a medium conjoining him with man in the world, thus preserving both; spirits and angels resting on men and men receiving influx from them. Hence man at death, when he becomes a spirit, is not utterly separated from the material world since he does not reject ALL he has taken on from this world but remains (to the extent of his limbus) unconsciously connected with it: all this is to secure the Divine end of creation, an ever increasing and ever enduring heaven of human beings.

There is a difference between the states of the limbus of those who die in infancy and of those who die in adult age. In Heaven and Hell we read:

“They who die adult have and carry with them a plane acquired from the earthly and material world. This plane is their [external or natural] memory, and its bodily, natural affection. This remains fixed, and is then quiescent; but still it serves their thought after death as an ultimate plane, for the thought flows into it. Hence such as that plane is and such as is the correspondence of the rational with the contents of that plane such is the man after death. But those who died infants and were educated in heaven have not such a plane, but a spiritual natural plane: because they derive nothing from the material world and the earthly body they cannot be in so gross affections and hence thoughts; for they derive all from heaven.”- HH 345.

We must not infer from the above that those who die in infancy retain no limbus from nature to preserve their spiritual organism. The meaning is they have not a merely natural memory, that is a memory formed in the plane of the limbus by the use of the natural senses as those have who grow up in this life. But while growing up in the other life, their memory is formed in a spiritual structure just within the plane of the spiritual senses and is called spiritual natural because it is in a spiritual plane resting upon the natural. Should their limbus he insufficient for adult stature, it will necessarily be increased as they advance.

As all living organisms undergo change by a resolution and passing off of their substances and renewal by appropriation of new substances, so must it be with the limbus.

We must not suppose that the limbus is taken into the spiritual world. It is natural and must remain in the natural world. Man as to his spirit being of the spiritual world even from birth and unconsciously an inhabitant there during life in the body, does not go into that world at death but merely awakens to manifest presence there by the opening of his spiritual senses. This is because the spiritual and the natural worlds are not separated by distance but are together and conjoined like soul and body.

How can spirits move from place to place in the spiritual world while clothed with a cutaneous envelop of natural substances? Change of locality in that world is effected by change of state. Swedenborg so traveled there as to his spirit while clothed with the gross body even. (See E.U. 127, HH 192, 195.) A fuller answer to this question is given at the end of Chapter XXIII.

The mental functions of the Limbus will be presented in Chapters XVIII to XXIV.

The meaning of the statement “This limbus with those who come after death into heaven is below and the spiritual above, but with those who come into hell the limbus is above and the spiritual below,” etc., (TCR 103) will be best understood after study of the mental functions of the limbus above referred to. (See Diagram XXIV.)

Soul Symbols

Soul Symbols Cover

by Helen Newton and Becky Jarratt

Published by spiritualwisdom.org.uk 2008 pp 157 £10

To purchase

This book encourages us to stop, take notice of the world around us and reflect on the inner reality it contains.  Everything in nature is said to exist because it is a reflection of something of spirit. The book mainly comprises photographs of scenes and objects together with commentary regarding their psycho-spiritual significance. Some of these pictures can also be purchased as separate cards.
The suggestion is we reflect on what each picture might be saying to us about ourselves, and then read the comments provided including quotes from a variety of sources including from Swedenborg, who wrote in depth about the meaning of symbols. The authors claim that the thirty six symbols that form the heart of this book are just a start to understanding this key to both the Divine and our own personal, spiritual transformation.
I can highly recommend this book to all those interested in tuning into this higher reality, enabling more light and love to shine into our lives.                            Stephen Russell-Lacy

In engaging with symbols I can key into a universal wisdom and spirituality which I can also relate to on a personal level.  I would recommend this set of cards and book as an aid to each person’s journey towards wholeness – it’s both enriching and freeing.                                                       Helen Brown, Jungian therapist

What can I learn from nature?

natureNature is a wonderful thing. Individuals and governments are committed to showing more respect for the environment rather than carelessly destroying it. Concern about the sustainability of the planet and its protection is a contemporary attitude that is becoming quite common. I feel it reflects a spiritual sensitivity to the goodness of the unspoilt natural world.

Nature is familiar and easily described, yet somehow it can evoke something less obvious and difficult to express in words; something mysterious and on a different level. Who hasn’t at one time or another not felt inspired by the beauty of a mountain vista, a seascape or a rainbow full of startling colour? Who has not felt at peace contemplating cattle quietly grazing, being cheered by the sound of birdsong heard in the morning, or being enraptured by the scent of the pinewood in summer?  Has nature anything more specific to teach you?

“Nature often holds up a mirror so we can see more clearly the ongoing processes of growth, renewal and transformation in ourlives.” (Mary Ann Brussat)

In general animals are well known for the way they protect and nurture their offspring, their practical good sense in the way they adapt to their habitat, and their ability to live in the moment. All spiritual qualities. But can we learn any specific lessons from different species? Has the fox or the snake something particular to teach us?  Or is this just being anthropomorphic and attributing to animals human characteristics like in Aesop’s fables?

I would suggest to learn from nature requires an objective attitude of mind — a willingness to look deeply into what is really there as opposed to taking on board the stereotypes learned from childhood.

“Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better.” (Albert Einstein)

Nature of eagles

These birds soar high in the sky on widespread powerful wings and see with sharp sightedness what is far below. I can see a picture of the human mind here. Isn’t an eagle’s perception one of a higher quality than the ordinary way of seeing things? Like uplifted thinking that searches out what is difficult to see when you are immersed in the mundane world of daily concerns. According to this viewpoint your mind is capable of soaring high to see life from a higher perspective.

Nature of lambs

Here we find gentle playful trusting creatures, who reveal a joy of contentment and peacefulness. Such innocence is unselfconscious and unsullied by any thought of anything harmful or bad.  Is this not a picture of the innocence of the Divine source of all that is good deeply present within your soul?

Negative characteristics of nature

The more you know about animals, the more you also notice their negative sides. Eagles are far seeing so that they can feed — predators which swoop down and carry off lambs. According to one theory this mixture of negative and positive is an additional pointer to the spiritual. It’s author, Emanuel Swedenborg, in his notion of ‘correspondences’, maintains that the natural world is both positive and negative because it is a reflection of human inner character, human beings having both good and bad elements to their conduct. For him, the positive is the higher reality of the divine perspective: on the other hand the negative is the lower perspective of egoism inverting and corrupting what is from the divine. Thus where some animals show a negative characteristic, this also alerts us to the spiritual factor again — but this time in terms of its opposite.

Nature of pigs

Pigs are highly social animals. Properly kept they are a clean and attractive and can be quite intelligent. A pig will forage all the time, endlessly searching for something more to consume.  For me this conjures up a picture of consumerism. People who allow themselves to become fixated on getting more and more things — money, clothes, gizmos, food, the latest fashion accessory etc. Pigs also have a reputation for gluttony and dirtiness. It is these latter qualities which provide the symbol of inner greed – the love of self that takes what it can get for itself searching out everything it can want.

Nature of donkeys

Donkeys have a notorious reputation for stubbornness, but this has been attributed to a much stronger sense of “self preservation” than exhibited by horses. It is considerably more difficult to force or frighten a donkey into doing something it perceives to be dangerous for whatever reason. However, once a person has earned their confidence they can be willing and companionable partners and very dependable in work.

Cannot the donkey be seen as corresponding to a human natural way of thinking which can be argumentative and which would rather trust its own senses? I would suggest the donkey teaches us that such an attitude is capable of becoming trusting and obedient to a higher truth. Such an obedient understanding to deeper principles in people could carry us to a better way of living.

“The more humility we develop, the more signs of the Divine we can see around us and within us and the closer we grow to the deep joy and happiness to be experienced deep within our soul.” (from Soul Symbols by Helen Newton & Becky Jarratt)

Copyright 2013 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems