Theology is an aspect of thought and conversation for all who live and breathe, who wrestle and fear, who hope and pray” (Kelly M. Kapic)
theology However, many people seem to be fed up with church creeds and theological doctrines telling them what to think and do. They sometimes see such writing as complicated, confusing and thoroughly irrelevant. You may just want the simple words of Jesus or the Buddha; not the head-in-the clouds religious lecturers and writers in theology with their long sentences and fancy terms. You may simply want to experience an inspiring presence deep within your soul rather than hearing about it second hand.
Philosophy and theology have so much to tell us about God, but people today want to experience God. There is a difference between eating dinner and merely reading the menu. (Dada Vaswani – Indian spiritual leader)
One perfectly natural desire is to want to tell the future. We pick up our ears when we hear of foretold events. Who would not want a few days foreknowledge of the stock market for example?
Swedenborg could tell the future
A few incidents in the life of Emanuel Swedenborg suggest he had precognition.
Swedenborg wrote to John Wesley accurately predicting the time of his own death. The clinical psychologist Wilson van Dusen describes other examples of his psychic powers. (Chapter 7 Presence of Other Worlds).
Yet Swedenborg himself considered his gift of being able to tell the future of remarkable little importance and we are reliant more on the reports of others amazed at this phenomena than from his own pen. More common today is the idea that a dream — which usually portraits unconscious central life concerns in a symbolic way — can be precognitive by representing their future implications.
Some of Swedenborg’s dreams tell the future
Some of the dreams of Emanuel Swedenborg have been called precognitive. His Journal of Dreams is probably the oldest and longest series of recorded dreams in existence. It reports dreams and visions occurring in a critical formative period in the life of this gifted scholar. His dreams tended to be symbolic although he did venture his own interpretations.
“That which had been represented to me in a dream some days before happened to me; for in one day I was exposed to two deadly perils; this indeed happened to me, so that had not God then been my protector, I should have given away my life in two places. The particulars I will not describe.” (Dream 200)
In another dream he described dining with a priest and taking away from the table two silver cups. These he said symbolized what he had learned about the spiritual life. He wasn’t giving credit to himself for this valuable knowledge.
“I learned much about spiritual things; which is meant by the silver cups which I wished to send back to the priest; that is to say, to the glory of God I would again give to the church universal in some manner.”(Dream 63)
The dream was revealing something about his future role as a theologian. At that time he was far from knowing he would later produce 33 volumes of theology.
He described how he saw the church of the Moravian Brethren in a previous dream recognizing it when he came upon it in real life.
“Their church was represented to me three months before, just as I have since seen it, and all there were clad like priests.” (Dream 202)
How can anyone tell the future if it hasn’t yet happened?
The way I see it is that dreams show our unconscious feelings and insights. The event depicted in a dream sometimes actually takes place. If things in a dream later turn out as predicted, had this been inevitable all along? Or do they actually happen in waking consciousness because a dream message, such as an unconsciously expressed warning, went unheeded?
Parapsychological research (reported by Harvey Irwin and Caroline Watt) has unearthed some instances in which the event not only was avoided or prevented but seemed bound to have occurred had the person perceiving the future not intervened.
Boundary between the material and psychic realms
For many people, God, alone can tell the future. If so, perhaps God might see fit to tell the future to a person. Also possibly anyone who feels close to God may be more intuitively in tune with what the divine foresees. Is there a boundary between our wanting to tell the future and the higher knowledge of the spiritual world which transcends space and time? I agree with the view that these worlds were meant to be separate. Only for special reasons can the knowledge of one show in the other.
Swedenborg’s views on future knowledge.
In general Swedenborg himself felt knowledge of the future would threaten one’s humanity. He said the essence of being human is to be able to act from freedom according to reason. He argued as follows: if each of us knew for certain what will happen then we would no longer think interiorly how we should act or how we should live: our rationality and liberty would be diminished; rationality to understand what is right and good and liberty to think what is right and do what is good if we are able.
So for him in order to have happiness we must not know what the future holds. It would involve many things which would upset us. Religious people tend to believe that true happiness comes from trusting that God looks ahead and provides for one’s timeless spiritual needs.
“Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.” (Matt 6)
For those of faith, the future will be happy if they go with the flow trusting in the stream of providence.
“Every smallest fraction of a moment of a person’s life entails a chain of consequences extending into eternity. Indeed every one is like a new beginning to those that follow, and so every single moment of the life both of his understanding and of his will is a new beginning. And since the Lord foresaw from eternity what man was going to be like in the future and even into eternity it is clear that providence is present in the smallest individual things.
(Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia section 3854)
Copyright 2011 Stephen Russell-Lacy
Author of Heart, Head & Hands Swedenborg’s perspective on emotional problems
I believe in God. I am a nuclear physicist. Those two things do not conflict in my mind, but instead they enhance each other.
Most of us have some idea about God and about how there might be such a being rather different from those we see every day. The concept of God has varied widely among religions over centuries, and it still varies among religions today. I subscribe to ‘theism’, in which God is seen as having created and as now sustaining the world. In the Judeo-Christian-Islamic tradition–the ‘religions of the book’–this God is an eternal, omnipotent and benevolent being who transcends the temporality and limits of the world, but who still seeks a relation with the persons within it.
Theism has been continually supported by the religious traditions, and it was often used as a reference point in discussions between religions and the sciences. The early scientists such as Newton and Leibniz started from theistic frameworks, but science now presents purely naturalistic explanations that make no reference to God. Science now does not even assume any dualist distinctions between mind and nature.
The intellectual support for theism has thus been crumbling over the last two centuries. It is under a concerted attack today from many quarters. Newton and Leibniz thought that further scientific developments would support theism, but in fact many later scientists have turned actively against it. Sam Harris (2004), for example, claims that religious ideas are “mere motivated credulity” that should be subjected to “sustained criticism” for their lack of connection with evidence. Richard Dawkins (2006) argues that the God of religion cannot be simple but must be of enormous complexity. Since God’s existence can never be supported by finite scientific evidence, Dawkins claims that believing in his existence would be “a total abdication of the responsibility to find an explanation”. Robert Pennock (1997) concludes that any explanation of nature that appeals to supernatural causes is invoking causes that are inherently mysterious, immune from disconfirmation, and that give no grounds for judgment in specific cases. Without the binding assumption of uninterruptible natural law, he claims, there would be absolute chaos in the scientific worldview. These are the challenges to be addressed in this book.
Outside of theology, theistic beliefs are typically professed, if at all, only in private or only on Sundays. Dualist or non-materialist understandings of the nature of mind are not valued. In most academic and intellectual activities, there is no public discussion of theism. Cosmology and evolution theories are formed without theistic considerations. Little public mention of dualism is allowed in biology or neuropsychology.
There is a place, therefore, for a robust statement of the foundations of theism in which logical and clear connections can be made with the sciences. That is my goal. I use the framework of a realist ontology where only things with causal effects are taken as really existing. Such an ontological approach follows the path started by Aristotle and further explored by Aquinas. Existing things constitute substances, and thus mere Platonic forms, idealistic consciousness, mathematics or information are not claimed to be that out of which things are made.
Scientists have various religious beliefs. Many scientists are happy with the great simplification of the world that can be achieved once non-physical things are excluded, whereas many others have feelings or intuitions that there is more to the world than the purely physical. One result of this tension has been the progressive simplification of religious beliefs, especially concerning their ontological claims, in order to shoehorn them into the restricted framework apparently allowed by science. I hope that this book will allow many of these simplifications to be reversed.
Starting science from God is a reasonable way to proceed.
The writings of that most remarkable man of modern ecclesiastical history, Emanuel Swedenborg, have taken a deep hold upon my mind, and affected my whole inner life. He who comes to the perusal of them with an unprejudiced mind, with a sincere desire to learn the truth for the sake of truth—who loves truth for its own divine self—will not fail to find in them principles of great value. He will find there a true spiritual philosophy. He who loves truth for its own sake, and who incorporates it immediately into the life, is in that moral condition which renders the mind of man receptive of enlightenment from the Lord, the infinite fountain of all light. There are some minds peculiarly fitted to receive truths of a certain class, as those relating to some one of the sciences. But a soul in the moral attitude referred to above, drinks in spontaneously all spiritual truth. ” He that doeth truth, cometh to the light, that his deeds may be made manifest, that they are wrought in God.” (Jno. iii. 21.) ” If any man,” says our Saviour, ” will do his will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of myself.” (Mat. vii. 17.)…
There is the belief of the Church that a brighter age and a better dispensation would have its birth in the future. This hope has shone the brighter when the moral darkness has been the most profound. It has seemed reasonable to some that there will be three grand dispensations of the Church, corresponding to the three manifestations of the one God to the world, as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Ghost. There has been the dispensation of the Father. This comprehends the whole period before the incarnation. In the Old Testament how little is said of the Son. Christ is there (for every sentence of the older Scriptures is Messianic, and not here and there a passage), but he is there veiled beneath sensuous symbols. It is an age of obscurity. We have had the age of the Son or the Logos—the intellectual age, the dispensation of faith. This has continued until the present. The next, which we doubt not has had its birth, will be the age of the Holy Spirit, when Christ will come as the Comforter, the Paraclete, to impart a new and higher life to the souls of men. In the first the sensuous predominates, in the second, the intellect; the third will be the dispensation of love. Love and its intuitions will predominate in the glorious Church of the future. This better dispensation has been generally denominated the Millennial Age. A moment’s reflection, however, will convince any one that its proper and Scriptural designation is the New Jerusalem, which term marks the last and most perfect stage in the development of the Church on earth. It is admitted that in the symbolic language of prophecy, Jerusalem signifies the Church. A New Jerusalem, then, can mean nothing but a New Church, or a new and better dispensation of grace. If there is to be a new dispensation, it is self-evident that it must have a beginning somewhere. If the New Jerusalem is to come down from God out of heaven, there is some one to whom it must first come. This Divine influence or effluence from God through the heavens into the Church on earth—which is signified by the New Jerusalem coming down from God out of heaven—must find its first receptacle in some mind fitted to receive it, and to be the centre of its diffusion abroad. Look back upon the history of the Church in all the past ages, and you find that every dispensation of grace has had its rise, and small mustard-seed beginning, in some one individual. So it manifestly must be in the New Jerusalem stage of the Church’s progress. That Immanuel Swedenborg, servant of the Lord Jesus Christ, was the instrument of Providence in ushering in a new and better age of the Church, seems to me clear. I think there is found in his invaluable spiritual writings the germ of a new and higher dispensation. No one who is at all observant of the signs of the times cam doubt that he is to have at least a most important influence in shaping the theology and the life of the future church. I will give some reasons for this belief, which, it is hoped, will be satisfactory to some sincere inquirers after truth, and who are conscious of wants and spiritual yearnings, that the prevailing religions, with their literature, fail to supply. This work is given to the world for the reason given by another for a different work. ” It is one of our nobler human instincts, that we cannot feel within us the glory and the power of a real conviction, without earnestly striving to make that conviction pass into other minds.” (Comte’s Philosophy of the Sciences, by G. H. Lewes, p. 1.)
Jesus Lives! – The Lord God Jesus Christ: Creator, Sustainer and Redeemer of Heaven and Earth
The Bible is the very Word of God; that the sixty-six books comprising the Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Spirit of God and are therefore wholly without error as originally given by God; and that it is our final authority, our only and all-sufficient rule of faith and practice.
The Bible contains the very Word of God; the Old and New Testaments describe the details of spiritual growth of ourselves and of Jesus, in the form of commandments and parables. The spiritual meaning of these teachings is unlocked in the new revelation given to The New Church through the writings of Emmanuel Swedenborg. These writings together serve as a complete and meaningful authority for The New Church and any individual who wants to understand the Lord’s Word.
God self-exists in three distinct Persons – the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each of whom is to be honoured and worshipped.
There is only one God, and that God is the Lord. The New Church teaches that God Himself came down to earth, and His body was called “the Son,” and His everlasting soul, “the Father,” and His operation on people, “the Holy Spirit.” Just as we have a soul, a body, and an effect on people, so the Lord has three attributes which are called Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Salvation is the free gift of God, neither deserved nor obtained by any work of man, but received by personal faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. Salvation is entirely by the sovereign grace of God through the all-sufficient sacrifice of Christ.
People of all faiths are welcomed into heaven if they have lived according to what they sincerely believe to be the Lord’s will. Those who use their freedom to reject the Lord’s will choose eternal life in hell.
Satan was created by God as an angel, but he rebelled against God and now exists as an evil person, the originator of sin, and the archenemy of God and man. His final doom and judgement by God are sure.
Devils are not fallen angels, but rather disobedient humans. Satan is not an individual, but a collection of people choosing to lust, hurt and hate
There are no marriages or weddings in heaven.
True marriage love continues to eternity in heaven.
The Second Coming
Jesus Christ will personally, gloriously, and visibly return to earth.
The second coming is primarily a spiritual event. We needn’t be looking for dramatic changes of government or climate, because the Lord’s kingdom is not a civil authority or a geographical location. His kingdom is concerned with the government of the human mind – with a life according to divine laws. The signs that He has come again should be the changes in our own hearts.
On the day of judgement, the bodies of both the righteous and unrighteous will be raised. The righteous will eternally exist in a state of joy with the Lord; the unrighteous will eternally and consciously endure punishment.
In the world of spirits we are allowed to choose either heaven or hell, but the choice we make will be determined by what we have become here on earth. If we have consistently chosen evil on earth, we will continue to choose it in the other world. If we have tried to live good lives here, then that choice will be confirmed in the other world and we will be led to heaven, where we will become angels.
It is a simple question to ask. However, it is a difficult question to answer. It is the greatest “loaded” question that you can expose yourself to. It goes directly to the heart of all that matters—your life.
Your intention focuses conscious attention (through what is harmonious) and arranges the information in your memory into a coherent system of values. Scientifically speaking, your intention acts like a first principle, which orchestrates all mediate causes into your final worldly effects and deeds (one’s fruitfulness). Science is actually finding physical evidence that intention creates new pathways and connections among neurons (brain cells).
Theologically speaking, what we intend is the true life of our inner spirit. All true religion refers to your intention—this is what God is most interested in and seeks to modify, bend, or promote. Even ancient pagans like the Greek philosophers coined the phrase “know thyself.” Studying the world makes you knowledgeable but studying yourself can make you wise. Wisdom is the highest form of knowledge.
The answer to the question “what do you intend” is the only way to monitor your life in a sincere way—because it can only be asked and answered in a sincere way!
If you answer the question I have posed above and honestly compare it with what you already know about wisdom, love, civility, morality and goodness you will find your true spiritual game plan for procuring a heavenly life.
Simply ask yourself—are you (and your intention) a blessing to the world?
A Memorable Relation from TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION Containing the universal theology of the New Church
foretold by the Lord in Daniel 7:13-14 and Revelation 21:1-2
One day there appeared to me a magnificent temple, square in form, the roof of which was crown-shaped, arched above and raised round about; its walls were continuous windows of crystal; its door was of a pearly substance. Within, on the south side, towards the west was a pulpit, on the right-hand side of which lay the open Word enveloped in a sphere of light, the splendor of which surrounded and illuminated the whole pulpit. In the center of the temple was a sanctuary, before which there was a veil, at that time raised, and there a golden cherub stood with a sword turning hither and thither in his hand.
 While I looked at these things, the significance of each one of them flowed into my meditation: The temple signified the New Church; the door of pearly substance, entrance into it; the windows of crystal, the truths that enlighten it; the pulpit, the priesthood and preaching; the Word lying open upon the pulpit and illuminating the upper part of it, signified the revelation of the internal sense of the Word, which is spiritual; the sanctuary in the center of the temple signified the conjunction of that church with the angelic heaven; the golden cherub therein, the Word in the sense of the letter; the sword waving in his hand signified that this sense can be turned in any direction, provided it is done in adaptation to some truth; the veil before the cherub being raised, signified that the Word is now laid open.
 Afterward, when I drew nearer, I saw this inscription above the door, Nunc Licet – It is now permitted – which signified that it is now permitted to enter understandingly into the mysteries of faith. From seeing this inscription it came into my thought that it is exceedingly dangerous to enter with the understanding into dogmas of faith that are concocted out of self-intelligence, and therefore out of falsities, and still more so to confirm them from the Word; by this means the understanding is closed above, and gradually below as well, to such a degree that theology is not only despised but also obliterated from the mind, as writing on paper is by worms, or the wool of a garment by moths. Then the understanding abides only in political matters, which have regard to man’s life under the government where he is, and in the civil matters pertaining to his employment, and in the domestic affairs of his own house. And in all these things he constantly kisses nature, and owing to the allurements of her pleasures, loves her as an idolater loves the golden image in his bosom.
 Since then, the dogmas of the present Christian churches have not been formed from the Word, but from self-intelligence, and therefore from falsities, and also have been confirmed by certain passages from the Word; by the Lord’s Divine Providence the Word among the Roman Catholics has been taken from the laity, and among Protestants has been opened, and yet has been closed by their common declaration that the understanding must be held in obedience to their faith.
 But in the New Church the contrary is the case; there it is permitted to enter with the understanding and penetrate into all her secrets, and to confirm them by the Word, because her doctrines are continuous truths laid open by the Lord by means of the Word, and confirmations of these truths by rational means cause the understanding to be opened above more and more, and thus to be raised into the light in which the angels of heaven are. That light in its essence is truth, and in that light acknowledgment of the Lord as the God of heaven and earth shines in its glory. This is what is meant by the inscription Nunc Licet over the door of the temple, and also by the veil of the sanctuary before the cherub being raised. For it is a canon of the New Church, that falsities close the understanding, and that truths open it.
 After this I saw above my head something like an infant, holding in his hand a paper. As he drew near to me, he increased to the stature of a medium-sized man. He was an angel from the third heaven, where all at a distance look like infants. When he came to me, he handed me the paper; but as the writing was in rounded letters, such as they have in that heaven, I returned the paper, and asked him to explain to me the meaning of the words there written, in terms adapted to the ideas of my thought.
He replied, “This is what is here written: Enter hereafter into the mysteries of the Word, which has been heretofore shut up; for the particular truths therein are so many mirrors of the Lord.”
Right in the very beginning of the Bible we have a statement about creativity and why it’s so important and relevant in our lives. In Genesis, it says, “God created humanity in his own image.” (Genesis 1:27) That means every person was created in his image. If we are in his image, and God created us, isn’t part of his image being creative? It makes a lot of sense. We believe in a human God. To be human means to be in God’s image because God is the quintessential human. Part of being human is learning to be creative. It’s our permission to be creative. When I think about this, I get goosebumps.
How does God’s model of creativity work in our lives?
“Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.” (Luke 6:38)
It’s as simple as just making an effort.
We were talking about this in a sermon writing team, and someone said, “The way I conceptualize it is that you just make space for God to come into your life and watch what happens.” I was amazed to hear that.
A while back I started experimenting with my preaching style. I realized that if I was intentionally praying for God to crack open that spiritual door so that light could shine into my preaching, amazing things would happen. Just open the door and incredible things start to happen. Oddly enough, it feels like it isn’t me. It’s like this painting experience where I’m working on a picture and all of a sudden there’s a person staring at me and I’m thinking, “Who is this person?” It’s a wonderful feeling. The same thing can happen with preaching, with engineering, with planning a date. It can happen on a hospital visit or in a conversation with a friend. It can happen when you’re unloading the dishwasher. Believe it or not, creativity can happen whenever we ask for it, and start making space for the Lord to be present.
I want to reference Steve Jobs. He’s not renowned for his theology, and he is somewhat of a problematic character in some respects, but he did give us the iPhone and he worked with some very creative people. Steve Jobs had remarked at one point that he noticed when working with creative people that those people didn’t feel like they could take credit for anything they came up with. They almost felt embarrassed or a sense of discomfort if someone praised them for coming up with a magnificent invention. Steve reflected on this and realized that the creative process isn’t the human being creating something out of nothing. This is reflected in New Church theology – the idea that nothing can come from nothing.
Creativity really is somebody observing, thinking, and being able to make connections between different concepts, different objects, and different ideas. Then, that new grouping of what’s already out there becomes the creative moment. It can become a new product or a new painting or something nobody has ever seen before. That to me is an accurate reflection of New Church theology about creativity, and it’s worth thinking about.
The way I see it working spiritually is that God puts affections in our hearts. That is a gift exclusively from God. These affections are so deep and so spiritual they can’t possibly be called our own even though they feel like our own. Angels have them in heaven, we have them here on earth, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful gift that God gives us: the ability to feel things. It’s actually those affections, the more they’re connected with God, that are making the connections between different ideas and different thoughts and allowing the connections to come up so that we see them in a different way. And behold, there is a new creation. We are not creating it ourselves. It is a work of God that is coming through us. And yes! We are suddenly acting and operating in the image and likeness of God. So it’s a “give and it will be given to you” kind of experience.
Part of the message is making space for God, being willing to make that space. But when he comes do you have the courage to do something? Do you have the willingness to bring it out? To allow it to change the world? Because God is constantly there, and he is constantly filling us with his life and creativity. It’s something that is always there. All we have to do is open up to it. As for me, I don’t actually care if I’m well regarded as a painter. My hope is to be comfortable just allowing that creative process to happen in my life. How can this creative process be brought into your life?
This passage reminds us who God is and what he’s constantly doing:
“Since divinity is inexhaustible splendor, would it simply keep it all to itself? Could it keep it to itself? Love wants to share what it has with others, to give to others what it can.” (Emanuel Swedenborg, DP 324)
That really is the creative process at work in a person’s life, that we open ourselves up to that love. We experience it in some concrete way through making connections with ideas and thoughts, and formulating a new awareness that never existed before. And then we have the courage to share.
Steve Jobs is credited with saying, “The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do.” Are you crazy enough to think you can change the world? Creativity is to be willing to change and have the courage to change because God is giving you something different to communicate. And it could be as simple as standing in a room, and hearing a message where God is saying, “Walk across the room and introduce yourself to that person over there.” That is an act of creativity.
When we’re willing to listen to those messages and act differently because there is this gift within, the world begins to change. Imagine if you wipe that all away, and everyone is a conformist and nobody wants to step out of line, nobody wants to say anything different or do anything that would draw attention to themselves or anything like that. Then you have a flatline culture. Nothing different. Yet change in our world is so desperately needed.
Maybe it starts with a painting. Maybe it starts with writing a letter. Maybe it starts with doodling. Maybe it starts with redecorating your home or just choosing a pair of pants, or whatever. Those are small things, but it starts with learning to listen to that challenging voice from God that helps us build a better world. And God calls us to be in his image and his likeness so that each of us can act individually to help bring his life into this world in a new way. And through that individualistic action over and over and over again, God brings ability, perfection, joy and a sense of peace that no one can experience on their own. It’s a sense of communal articulation of God himself. And that is deeply joyful. So start with the small things. Start today. Start tomorrow. Just create that space to listen. What is that voice from God in your mind? What do you hear and how can you act on that in a way that creates beauty in this world?
Many of us these days sense there is something real beyond the scope of naturalistic science. But what? Must mental and religious lives always remain a mystery and never become part of scientific knowledge?
In this well-argued book, physicist Ian Thompson makes a case for a ‘scientific theism’. He shows how a following of core postulates of theism leads to novel and useful predictions about the psychology of minds and the physics of materials which should appear in the universe. These predictions constitute a kind of ‘theistic science’. It meshes surprisingly well with the structure of reality already revealed by modern quantum field theory and by theories of developmental stages in human minds.
The result is a serious look at a promising new rational structure encompassing theology, psychology and physics.
An integration of science and religious theism
into a science of theism (theistic science),
in which both sides keep their strengths,
and are firmly and logically linked together.
starting science from God
Unique explanatory advantages of this book:
Presentation of a science of theism in a realistic manner with explanatory and predictive power.
Philosophical account of ‘substance’ in terms of persistent underlying propensities
Recognition and many examples of ‘multiple generative levels’ in physics and psychology.
Presentation of the basis of theism as the consequence of One God existing who is being itself & unselfish-love itself & wisdom itself.
Principles in more detail:
God is love which is unselfish and cannot love only itself.
God is wisdom as well as love and thereby also power and action.
God is life itself: the source of all dispositions to will, think and act.
Everything in the world is a kind of image of God: minds and also natural objects.
The dispositions of an object are those derivatives of divine power that accord with what is actual about that object.
Describes an honest, welcoming and living theism
No reductionist or ‘nothing but’ explanations of God, spirituality or mentality.
Prediction that minds exist with spiritual loves, mental thoughts and physical actions within an integrated complex.
Prediction of internal structure of minds: thoughts of love, of thought and of action.
Prediction of internal structure of physical degrees: principles of effects (pregeometric physics), propagation of effects (field theories), and of final affects (quantum mechanics leading to actual selections)
Prediction of relations between the mental and the physical
Prediction of relations between the divine and the spiritual+mental: that we receive life according to those actions our loves have made in the past.
Prediction of spiritual degrees not in terms of expansion/ elevation/ vibration/ dimensions/ nondualism of consciousness, but in terms of principal loves.
Why progressive evolution of physical forms is necessary to make living & thinking beings like humans.
Gradual biological, psychological and spiritual build-up is necessary in general, as there are no instant adults.
That evolutionary fitness must be selected not only naturally, but also theistically according to reception of life from the divine.
The consciousness is the joint action of love and wisdom. It is not itself causal, but is the operation of spiritual and mental causality.
That permanent spiritual growth depends on those actions our loves have made with wisdom/faith in the past.
That some formal modeling is possible within this scientific theism
A noted Swedish scientist, philosopher and theologian, best known for his later writings, in which he presents ideas both Christian and ecumenical, for a new spiritual era or “new church” to be known as the New Jerusalem.
We know, in a general sense, what “false” means. It’s the wrong answer on a “true or false” test; it’s saying 2+2=5; it’s saying that the sky is green and the clouds are orange.
That simplicity, however, comes from applying the idea of “truth” to simple, concrete facts. It gets much trickier when we try to apply the idea to the things we love and feel.
Consider, for instance, the idea that “you’ve got to look out for yourself, because no one else is going to.” Is that true- It feels true in a way, and seems to apply to a lot of real-world situations. To some degree, no matter how high-minded we might be, we have to take care of ourselves if we’re going to be any good to anyone else. But if we take that idea and make it central to our lives, will it help us be loving people- Or will it encourage selfishness, which is pretty strong in most of us anyway- Clearly the answer is the latter.
Swedenborg would label that a “falsity,” because it is ultimately a description of how to be selfish. “Love your neighbor as you love yourself” would, by contrast, be labeled a “truth” because it is a description of how to be caring and kind. Basically, statements describing or springing from love of the Lord and love of the neighbor are “truth” and those springing from love of self or love of worldly things are “falsity.”
You might wonder why that is. The fact that “look out for yourself” is selfish doesn’t make it necessarily untrue; it’s a selfish world! But in Swedenborg’s theology, the universe and reality itself are direct products of the Lord’s infinite love, and are thus ultimately expressions of love. The only reason selfishness exists is that the Lord created us with freedom, which includes the ability we have to reject His love and turn it toward ourselves instead. The Lord’s every intention and purpose is to get us turn away from ourselves and toward Him; if we do that, reality can fulfill its loving purpose.
True reality, then, is completely loving, and expressions that reflect and support that loving nature are “true” – they are aligned with reality in its purest, greatest and intended form. Statements that reject and deny that loving nature are “false” because they are contrary to reality’s true form.
But there’s an argument: Couldn’t someone use the idea that “you’ve got to look out for yourself, because no one else is going to” to become strong and self-reliant, in a better position to help others, and use it to be a better person- Yes, they could ᾢ ideas that are essentially false can at times be used for good purposes. In a broad application, religious systems can have false ideas about the Lord, but still lead people to good lives and ultimately to heaven. On the flip side, ideas that are essentially true can be used for evil purposes (“love thy neighbor” could prompt giving aid to someone engaged in evil, for instance). “Truth” only becomes truly real when it is married to the desire for good; “falsity” only becomes truly real when it is married to the desire for evil.
If you have begun to dabble in Swedenborg’s many works, you might have seen references to influx, a term that’s often rendered as “inflow” in newer translations. Are you curious about influx? Have you wondered how this divine influence relates to free will? What does Swedenborg say about how the interplay between good, evil, and freedom impacts a person’s spiritual life? If you want to know more, you’ve arrived at the right place!
It is common knowledge that we can’t reach out and grab part of the sun. We can only feel the sun’s light through layers and layers of atmosphere. Swedenborg compares the physical reality of the earth with the spiritual reality of heaven and hell. In the same way that approaching the physical sun would destroy our bodies, he tells us that coming into direct contact with God—whom Swedenborg describes as love itself—would completely overwhelm us. We need the layers of separation to turn an immense energy into a nurturing, sustaining force.Swedenborg focuses on this comparison in his book Heaven and Hell, where he describes the nature of the Lord’s love, the relationship between physical and spiritual reality, and the Lord’s goal for humanity: to receive his love and “pay it forward” by behaving in loving ways toward others. Swedenborg writes that God’s love reaches humanity through angels, who help human beings reach the Lord. Once loving ideas and concepts reach people, their minds and souls receive God’s love, which begins to influence the way they perceive the world.
Through his spiritual experiences, Swedenborg found that before people can begin deciding whether or not they want to act on that divine influence, three important processes must happen backstage: the combination of influx, evil influences, and freedom.
Influx happens when the Lord’s love reaches people’s minds, and Swedenborg writes that our lives depend on it: “We could not survive for a moment if the influx from the spiritual world were taken from us” (New Jerusalem #277). The life-sustaining force that flows into us from God, he continues, is love. If we embrace this love and try to listen for the “little voice” of conscience that it produces, it provides the loving thoughts and inclinations that enable us to love others and embody good ideas. These are our good influences, also known as influx.
If influx were our only influence, we would be nothing more than vessels for the Lord’s love, without any ability to decide how to act or even think. Goodness would be thrust upon us, and we would not be free. We would be nothing more than very loving robots. Swedenborg writes that the Lord protects us against this by allowing us to be exposed to evil.
Swedenborg focuses on the love of self as one of the primary hellish loves. He notes that the Lord gives us the ability to love hell through all the ways we can love ourselves—valuing success and popularity, making idols of our strengths, and admiring ourselves above all others. With this idea, the Lord allows hell to reach into our lives and influence us, just as his influx influences us. By allowing us to suffer from other people’s selfish decisions, Swedenborg says, God gives us the tools to recognize this behavior as evil. In this way, the Lord gives us freedom to choose between good and evil and make our own decisions.
Swedenborg writes that evil influences are the only way that human beings can be free. While the Lord is providing all good things through heaven, hell is providing us with fuel to love ourselves and the world, to reject all good things and love evil. These two forces working in opposition give us two paths to choose between, and those choices form our character.
Through our thoughts and through our values, the Lord’s love meets the influences of hellish love. We have the freedom to think that we want to love others and that we want to love ourselves—which in Swedenborg’s theology are two mutually exclusive things—without skipping a beat. We are the mixing bowl where everything good and bad jumbles together, making it hard to figure out and isolate the good or the bad. From situation to situation, we apply both good ideas and bad ideas, usually with mixed motives and confused influences.
That confusing concoction is called freedom, and Swedenborg tells us that the Lord adores it and protects it fiercely, as Swedenborg notes in his book Divine Providence: “The Lord protects our freedom the way we protect the pupil of our eye” (#97).
We are able to make decisions freely if and only if our heads are breathing the air in the sky with the angels and our feet are planted solidly on the ground, where hell can reach us and influence us. Swedenborg uses this airy imagery to illustrate the Lord’s love for our freedom: “Taking away human spiritual freedom would be like removing the wheels from coaches, the air-catching arms from windmills, the sails from ships” (True Christianity #482).
For people struggling with selfish impulses or negative emotions, influx also allows for divine love and good influences to flow in and provide support. It also supplies us with everything we need to connect with hell. If we go through life searching for the good and the Lord’s love, Swedenborg says, the Lord will continue to open our hearts and minds and allow us to receive more of his love. This leads to an apparently contradictory yet key principle of Swedenborg’s theology: The only way we can freely choose to follow the Lord is ifhe allows us to leave him.
A recurring image from Swedenborg’s writings is that the Lord’s sunlight warms us, just as the air we breathe fuels us and the ground we stand on gives us balance. We need all influx, evil influences, and freedom to be able to think and act for ourselves—that, he explains, is the only way that human beings are able to love the Lord from their own hearts and minds.
Police shooting unarmed man . . . refugees . . . another massacre . . . bomb threat . . . terror . . . death.
Being entrenched in these nasty ideas, and living in a world where these things happen every week, fills people with all kinds of terror. This terror sometimes leads to people looking to God for some answers.
According to Swedenborg’s theology, people have to be free to be horrible because they have to be free to be good. People must be free to do bad things and good things, so that they can freely choose to love and follow the good stuff and reject the bad stuff.
When people are choosing between good and evil, Swedenborg describes three degrees of decision-making: love, thought, and action. The first step has to do with what we love or value; these are the feelings that, for better or for worse, drive everything we do. In the second step, the love that drives a person connects with their thoughts (“I could do the dishes so no one else has to suffer through them”); and the third step is about what we actually do. Each of these degrees of decision-making helps people connect the things they love with the things they do—and it can lead to good things or to bad things, depending on the person.
Step One: Love
People are all motivated by love, even when they do awful things that destroy something beautiful. People can be motivated by every love that exists in the world: domination, success, fear, horror, helping, leading and guiding others—the list never ends.
Swedenborg says that because people are in this jumbled world, they have a mix of all sorts of loves. They love thousands of things every moment. So a person could be motivated by a good (selfless) love in one decision, and then a bad (selfish) love in the next. That’s just part of being human. But he also says that over time, we will tend toward one type of love or motivation more than any other—what he calls a “dominant love.”
Step Two: Thought
Before we bring love to life by acting on it, we must start to plan or dwell on certain thoughts. Swedenborg notes that people have many loves, and usually people cannot know which love inspires them to think, process, and plan in every moment. The responsibility of human beings on earth is to be careful of the thoughts we entertain; if our goal is to be loving or kind, we should reject thoughts of harming others.
It’s impossible to constantly control individual thoughts, but it’s possible to control the ideas one invites back to stay for a while. Thoughts create a bridge between loving something and doing something about it, and this bridge comes in the form of a plan or developed idea. Usually, these thoughts are fun for the brain to dwell on; fun ideas are fun because of the love that influences them—but for a bad person, it’s the negative thoughts that are fun to dwell on, and for a good person, it’s the loving, caring thoughts.
Step Three: Action
Acting on loves happens in good and bad ways. Someone can love hurting other people, think about and plan ways to hurt others, and then act on that love, making it real and impacting others in potentially awful ways. Someone could love sharing with their neighbor, and think about ways to make delicious food to share with their family, and in that decision, they are acting on that love.
Swedenborg notes that our responsibility lies primarily in action—we can control our actions much more easily than we can control what we love. If everyone could easily control their loves, the world would be a much different place.
In most ways, this is a comforting thought. We are responsible for the actions we take, not the thoughts that wander into our heads or an occasional wish for acclaim or power, even though those aren’t things we would want to rule our lives.
So . . . Why Do People Make Terrible Decisions?
People make awful decisions because they dwell on awful ideas that come from terrifying loves. They are responsible for their actions, because they are acting on wrong and/or harmful ideas that they love. Every person has the ability to do awful things. It’s a necessary choice for people to have, because without the choice, people wouldn’t be free.
Swedenborg says that God allows for terrible things to happen to preserve this most-important freedom for humanity. These bad situations aren’t always hopeless—they also present a chance for humankind to step up and love the people around them, which is why people create GoFundMe accounts for survivors of tragedy or “Take Them a Meal” accounts for people with hardships.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’ I am always comforted by realizing that there are still so many helpers—so many caring people in this world.” —Fred Rogers
People have freedom in their response to horrible situations, to turn negative situations into an opportunity for growth or love. People are free to act, think, and love to the best of their abilities.