My Understanding of Theistic Psychology
By Karina Swenson
Instructions for this report are at:
I am answering Questions 3, 5, 6, 7 and 10
The question I will be answering is Question #5
Why is the topic of “regeneration” so basic in theistic psychology? What are the “character reformation” steps of building a “new will”? What is the difference between the “old will” and the new will? What are “heavenly” vs “hellish” traits? How does this relate to personality theory in psychology as you know it?
Why is the topic of “regeneration” so basic in theistic psychology?
Regeneration refers to the affective processes in the organ of the will and thus is at the base of a majority of the principles in theistic psychology. Regeneration is difficult to define or exemplify because it is an ongoing process, starting on here on Earth and continuing on into each level of heaven. I will use the following summaries of selections from Leon James’ Theistic Psychology to attempt to show what regeneration is and why it is so fundamental in theistic psychology.
Regeneration is the integration of the uniting of truth and good into one’s mind. It is a gradual process and will essentially birth a new state of mind, which is Divine because it is celestial in origin. Selections 5-1
In order to successfully begin a process of regeneration we must unite our principles (which have to be extracted from Sacred Scripture) with our actions. This can also be called to marriage of good and truth. When we seek truth (our principles from Sacred Scripture) and love truth, we will do good to show our love of the principles we’ve derived from the Sacred Scripture. Sections 5-2
Regeneration is also known as salvation because only by character reformation can we prepare our mind for heavenly life and therefore be “saved” from our own selfish and hellish traits. Selections 5-3a
What are the “character reformation” steps of building a “new will”?
In order to build a “new will” one must be willing to reform their sensory-motor, cognitive, and affective organs.
The first step to regenerating our character is applying the truth from Sacred Scripture to our daily willing and thinking. We can do this by practicing loving other people through acts of kindness, or even just thinking about being nice to other people (everyone has a different starting point). Other ways of applying truth from Sacred Scripture is through the recognition of sin or selfishness. When you can recognize your own wrong path, you will more clearly see the right one. Selection 5-3b
The reformation of our character must be self-motivated out of the love for truth one receives through enlightenment while studying the Sacred Scriptures as Divine speech. In other words, we must want to change because of our deep love for the Bible and accept the Bible as God’s words to us. Selection 5-4
When building a new will we learn to give God all the credit. With the old will we like to think of everything as MINE. I did a good job. I had a good idea. I was able to stay up and work really hard on that paper. You get the picture. But if the Sacred Scripture is truth and it says that God is omnipotent, how than could anything come from the source of “I”. If God is omnipotent I cannot really claim anything as “mine”. Once we realize this, we begin our character reformation and create our new will in which God gets the credit for things we do. Instead of having a prideful attitude, we will have a humble, thankful attitude (Thanks God for giving me the energy to stay up late and work on this paper!). Selection 5-5a
Once we begin regeneration we will feel more alive because they involve metal operations of good and truth. Good and truth are life received from the Divine Human. Selection 5-5b
In the beginning of our reformation we will acquire a new life called “faith of the memory, which is a faith of mere knowledge” but we don’t apply this knowledge to our daily life therefore we are acting pretty much the same as we did before the reformation. Selection 5-5c
After this we will acquire intellectual faith. In this stage we will have knowledge about God and also integrate it into our belief system and we learn that we have to alter many of our previous beliefs and habits in order to satisfy our love for God. Selections 5-5d
Character reformation pertains to our cognitive operations in the organ of understanding because we must change the way we understand things and think about things when we study Theistic Psychology. And in this stage, “faith of the heart” we feel like we have to practice what we preach. Selections 5-5e
The process of character reformation involves tapping into a spiritual determination. Once “spiritually determined” you can face all your temptations and hellish traits and reject them! You will feel the strength to go against your as-of-self and adapt more heavenly ways. (The more practice you have doing this, the easier it get). Selection 5-6
Click here for more information about the degrees of regeneration by Temptations: Selection 5-7
What is the difference between the “old will” and the new will?
Before character reformation we believe in our self and that our power comes from our self. Once we begin character reformation we believe in God and start to understand that God is the one that empowers us, we do not empower ourselves. Selection5-8
With your new will you are more than willing to deny the loves of the old will. And you will be happy to do it! This mentality and willingness leads to the heaven in our mind. Selections5-9a
When we are born we inherit hellish traits. In order to go to heaven we are required to undergo the process of regeneration in which we allow God to create a “new will” in us. He does this through the concept of temptation, where we battle our old, hellish loves using the understanding from our God-given consciousness. Selections5-9b
What are “heavenly” vs “hellish” traits?
Hellish traits are traits that are inherited from the sins of our prior generations. They include our innate selfishness and greed and are reinforced by evil spirits in heaven. Heavenly traits are traits we acquire through regeneration and character transformation. They are traits with an altruistic basis and include love of people and love of God. Selections5-10
How does this relate to personality theory in psychology as you know it?
In previous psychology classes I have learned about many personality theories. Most of these theories look at the components of a person’s identity of self and define any means of character reformation through looking inward rather than “upward” as theistic psychology encourages. Another main difference is that most psychologies look at the chemical reactions in the brain to explain certain behavior and see the brain as the source of thoughts, not the mind.
The Personality theory in theistic psychology is based on the idea that every individual is born with unique mind or spiritual body. The mind is considered a spiritual organ constructed out of the substances streaming forth from the Spiritual Sun in the spiritual world. Selections5-11
Section B: My Commentary
i) Regeneration and character reformation is SO important. How couldn’t it be? It is basically the How-To Manual for getting into heaven! Even if you did not believe in heaven character reformation would be important. Just look how popular self-help books are! Theistic Psychology gives examples and explanations about character reformation. Read and regenerate!
(ii) The information covered in Question 5 helps me to understand how my old selfish habits are destructive toward my spiritual health. It also encourages me to be more aware of my behavior and my loves, and once I am aware of them I can change what I don’t like! Knowing that I can consciously make the decision to be a better person is so cool, because it means I am not Doomed to follow my will into Hell! And remember, “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me.” ~Philippians 4:13 (and when we talk about Correspondence you will see the verse is talking about the mental pathways Jesus created while he was here on Earth!)
This information can help you understand society too because many of the social injustices can be attributed to selfishness and I think a society as a whole should regenerate and work on its character reformation!
(iii) I agree with all the information I wrote about. My favorite thing I learned while researching the answers to this question is how God creates a new will in us using the concept of temptation. It is nice to know that God has a hand in your life when you are being tempted. He actually uses temptation to improve us! So, don’t be discouraged if you are always feeling tempted to fall back into the “old will”. The more you resist that temptation, the quicker your “new will” will be created.
The question I will be answering is Question #6
What is the perspective of theistic psychology provides on Sacred Scripture? How is it related to Divine Speech? What are correspondences in Sacred Scripture? Give some illustrations of Sacred Scripture and show how they are to be interpreted from the perspective of theistic psychology.
Section A: My own Summary of the Questions
What is the perspective of theistic psychology provides on Sacred Scripture?
Theistic Psychology views Sacred Scripture as a compilation of Writing that was written in three phases. The first phase is the Hebrew Old Testament. This part of the Bible was written in “natural-corporeal” correspondences. The second phase is the Greek New Testament. This part of the Bible is written from and for a higher mental level called “natural-sensuous” correspondences of Divine Speech. And the third phase is marked by the Writings Sacred Scripture, which are written with the highest level of natural correspondences called “natural-rational” correspondences of Divine Speech.
The first phase was from the lowest of the correspondences because the prophets who received the Divine Speech were function from their natural corporeal minds (mostly due to the civilization thinking style) and therefore could only understand the Divine Speech from this level. The second phase is a higher mentality level and moves toward the more universal idea of a personal relationship with God. And the third phase was written from the highest level of mentality and describes the particulars of our relationship to God. It does this by using “universal scientific ideas”. Selections6-1
How is it related to Divine Speech?
If one studies Sacred Scripture and accepts it as Divine Speech they will reach an enlightenment, which will reveal a truth about what God wants for us and that truth will lead to character reformation. Selections6-2
Divine Speech turns the words in Sacred Scripture into a meaning that we can understand no matter what level of our mind we are thinking at. Selections 6-3a
Divine Speech in Sacred Scripture is the element that instructs us on how to make our will and our thoughts correspond to God’s inflow of love and truth. I like to think of it as the Holy Spirit in the Bible, but I am not sure if the two are synonymous. Selection 6-3b
Divine Speech is not something that everyone can access at anytime they want, it can only be revealed by the Divine Human (Jesus). All Divine Speech is Divine Truth and enters the human mind through correspondences. Once we are susceptible to Divine Truth we can learn to start thinking rationally because Divine Speech activates both the organic operations of the celestial mind and correspondential operations in the spiritual mind. Basically, the Divine Speech is the spiritual translator for our mind, we cannot understand Sacred Scripture unless it is translated into meanings that we can understand and the translator will simplify the original Scripture in correlation to the simplicity of our mind. Selections 6-4
What are the Correspondences in Sacred Scripture?
Correspondences in Sacred Scripture are not just up for interpretation, it is a science and only through research and deep analysis would one begin to discover the specific laws of corresponds (which would show specifically what event in Heaven caused a specific event on Earth). Dr. James uses the analogy of the DNA code. Selections 6-5a
Through Correspondences one can see which spiritual events cause which natural events. Selections 6-5b
Divine Speech is used to elevate the mind states of human beings (through process of character reformation) and Divine Speech and Divine Truth are revealed through correspondences and correspondences go from the Divine all the way down to the natural. Selections 6-6a
Sensous ą Natural
Spiritual ą Celestial
CelestialąDivine of Lord
All things succeed one another and if they correspond, they act in unity for one cause or effect. Selections 6-6b
To find the internal meaning of Sacred Scripture one must extract spiritual information from the correspondences. So, the literal meaning is not as important as the internal meaning, which essentially, is heaven. Correspondences are meant to conjoin heaven with man. Selections 6-7
For information about Enlightenment click here: Selection 6-8
Understanding correspondences will help you make connections about everything, not just Sacred Scripture. Because correspondence cannot be changed you will find patterns of correspondences between spirits and nature that have been there from the beginning of existence. Seeing the patterns of correspondences will help you to understand why we react to certain things the way we do and give you a new perspective on the relationship between your mind and its environment. Selections 6-9
Give some illustration of the Sacred Scripture and show how they are to be interpreted from the perspective of theistic psychology.
Looking at Sacred Scripture from the perspective of theistic psychology allows you to understand the spiritual means, not just the literal meanings. Using The Science of Correspondence and looking at Sacred Scripture you can find out that the word “water” is interchangeable with “truth”. Every time the Bible talks about water it is relaying a message about truth. There are many more examples and once you learn them all you can read the Bible or the Writing using these correspondences and thence derive the interior meaning (heaven!). Selections 6-10a
It is also interesting to note that there lays the possibility that people are falsifying Sacred Scripture for personal gain. This, of course, is not from God, but can only happen when people are in the hells of their mind. When people make false correspondence (common mechanism to gain political power) it is called adulterating the Word. So don’t rape Sacred Scripture of their true heavenly beauty, or following the teachings of someone who has! Selections 6-10b
Click here for more information about The Science of Correspondences: Selections 6-10c
Genesis 24 in the Old Testament (Phase 1) is the story of how Abraham sent his servant to find his son, Isaac, a wife. At least, this is the story if we look at it literally. But as we covered before, literal meaning is not nearly as important as internal meaning. Looking at this chapter scientifically it is really a story about the phases of spiritual development we go through when preparing our mind for a heavenly life. Isaac = good of rational; Rebekah = truth to be married to good; Laban = affection of good in the natural man. Selections 6-11
Another example is the word “baptize” when the Bible talks about baptizing it is really talking about the process of regeneration (creating a new will) and being baptized with the Holy Spirit is regeneration by the good of love.
And when the Bible says “the church”, it clues the reader into the fact that something is going to be said about mental states (as seen by theistic psychology). Look at the Selections and Table 4.4.5 in Theistic Psychology for more examples. Selections 6-12
Click here for more examples: Selections 6-13
Section B: My Commentary
i) Sacred Scripture is another important topic because without it, there would be absolutely no understanding of God! I honestly think it is imperative to be in the Word as much as possible. Even if I just look at my progress in this theistic psychology class; the more I read, the more I understood and the more quickly my mind developed. I would love to make that kind of progress with my relationship to God and my journey to heaven! And the same thing will hold true, the more Scripture you read, the more you will understand the more quickly your mind will develop. Now, all this is not possible without Divine Speech (this is how God meets you where you’re at), so Divine Speech is important too.
(ii) I have noticed that the more time I spend with God, either thinking about Him, reading about Him, or learning about Him, the more I can see and feel what He wants for me. In Theistic Psychology terms, the more I study Sacred Scripture, the more motivation I have to disregard my Old will and let God create a new will for me. Correspondences also function as a way to learn more about heaven, therefore learning more about yourself.
I am not sure yet how this can all be applied to society. I guess just knowing the God, the infinite, can fill the finite anytime and anyplace to the full amount. God is everywhere with his Divine Speech having a say in everything.
(iii) Again, I agree with all that I read about Sacred Scripture, Divine Speech and Correspondences. I love learning more about God and how He relates to us. I can verify the information about correspondences just by observing the patterns of my everyday life. How I feel about certain things and then evaluating where that things would be in the spiritual world. Things that I presume or from hell make me feel angry, or guilty or resentful and the opposite occurs with things from heaven. The more I learn the more I agree, although I still have some trouble with some of the terminology. I tend to fit what I have learned in theistic psychology into my beliefs as a child of God, rather than trying to fit my beliefs into theistic psychology.
The question I will be answering is Question #7
Describe the perspective that theistic psychology provides on the marriage relationship. How does it describe the relationship between husband and wife? What are some of its methods, models, and findings? Contrast this approach with what you know of this topic in psychology.
Section A: My own Summary of the Questions
Describe the perspective that theistic psychology provides on the marriage relationship.
Swedenborg describes marriage as two independent entities coming together (each bringing their own different traits and strengths) and merging into one unit that functions for a greater more complex purpose. A “conjugal” marriage reflecting these things will be united through eternity and the partners will forever grow closer. Selections 7-1
In an ideal marriage each spouse will always want the best for the other and they will find joy in this altruism. A perfect unit is united on three levels: sensorimotor (externally), cognitive (internally) and affective (inmostly). Selections 7-2
How does it describe the relationship between husband and wife?
The Bible’s Ephesians 5:23 is often misinterpreted. It says the Lord is the head of the church, so the husband is the head of the wife. But in this analogy, the husband does not represent the Lord and the wife does not represent the church. It is simply referring to the fact that husband’s should love their wife as God loves the church. And both the husband and the wife represent the church (aka: the Body of Christ). Selections 7-3a
Swedenborg also says notes that a man receives his truth in his intellect and the wife receives it from the man (CL 125) Or, as I like to think of it, the man is the head, but the woman is the neck, so wherever the neck moves, the head must follow. So, no, the male dominance model does not have Biblical grounding and people who use Ephesians 5:23 to say it does, they are mistaken. Selections 7-3b
What are some of its methods, models, and findings?
The Unity model should be the goal of all couples. It is an altruistic love that will only grow stronger throughout eternity. Selections 7-4a
The Unity Model encompasses a Conjugal Love (A word find in Swedenborg’s Writings). Basically, the Unity Model is the ideal model for couples to follow because it reflects the type of marriage relationship there is in the highest heavens. This is not a man-made model or even a woman-made model; it is a spiritual model from God. That’s why it works! Selections 7-4b
Although the Unity Model suggests women take the leadership role is cannot be compared to the Male Dominant Model. In the Unity model men freely choose to follow the woman’s ways because he sees truth in them and he is free to stop viewing her as the lead role at any time he wishes. This is opposite of the Male Dominant Model in which a woman is told to submit to her husband. There is a difference between leadership and dominance. Selections 7-5
Sex is approached differently in each of the models. The unity model, the most heavenly, focuses on the unity of the husband and wife’s minds as the primary interaction and sex is secondary, a product of the mental intimacy. The male dominance model focuses on sex as the more important element of the relationship and the mental unity is secondary. And the masculine model, of course, is to have sex first and then get to know each other! Obviously, in this model the husband does not hold much, if any respect for his wife and her mind. He will treat her bad and then when he gets over his anger he will (you guessed it!) want sex, and if she does not comply, he will call her selfish. This model is a prime example of hellish relationships. Selections 7-6a
For more information on relationship models click here: Selections 7-6b
Contrast this approach with what you know of this topic in psychology.
Usually if a couple is having problems a psychologist will tell them to focus on their communication skills. This can consist of finding the “root” of an argument, trying to see a subject from the other’s perspective, and/or taking turns listening and talking. I personally think that these methods (no matter what psychologist or counselor applies them) are ineffective if either spouse does not feel safe to communicate or if the couple is not friends they will not feel safe. Dr. James’s Theistic Psychology reinforces my opinion when he explains the concept of the loneliness of mental intimacy. I think this is the effect of one partner feeling threatened or fearing the mental intimacy of the other, or in other words, not feeling safe.
Section B: My Commentary
i) The topic of marriage of important for many reasons. One reason it is so important is because your spouse is the one person who your character effects most. If you have many hellish traits, then your spouse is going to be negatively affected by that, and if you are very loving and have heavenly traits then your spouse will be positively affected. Who wants a marriage that creates so much negativity? It is important for the relationship to have an atmosphere in which both the husband and wife can become closer to God. By learning the unity model couples can focus on changing their behaviors to conform to a model that pleases everyone (husband, wife and God). Another reason why having a good marriage is so important is because I believe that the way you love your spouse reflects the way you love God. So if you are very selfish when it comes to your partner, then you are probably doing the same thing to God. So it’s important to learn to love your spouse the way you think God loves him/her and through that you can learn to love God more how He should be loved.
(ii) Having the explanation of the different models helped me to assess what type of relationship I am in and what changes need to be made to become more like the Unity model. The answering of this question was provided me with the most helpful and applicable information. I was constantly printing, cutting, pasting, highlighting and discussing the topics of the section about marriages. Not only did my boyfriend and I discuss how we felt about the models (he of course, thinks the unity model is too female centered), but we spent time finding out what improvements we wanted to make and why. We also, started assessing the relationships of our friends and family and deciding what model they most replicated (it is kind of fun to guess where people are at). But, on a more serious note, we were also able to give better advice to friends who approach us with relationship trouble. Overall the whole section is great to read.
(iii) I agree with most of it. The only thing I am still struggling with is the female centricity of the Unity Model. My boyfriend kept asking why it was not called to female dominant model, and I would reply because females are not dominant creatures. But the unity model does seem to dote on the women without expecting the wife to go out of her way to show her husband appreciation. Relationships are hard work, no matter what model you are following, and I think it is important that both the husband and the wife feel appreciated. If the husband tells his wife that he is feeling a little under appreciated and it would help if she showed more interest in his work, or if she took time to call him on his lunch breaks, then I believe the wife should, out of love, do these things. And if the reverse, the wife is feeling under appreciated the husband should find out what he can do to convey his appreciation more. So, even though the unity model sounds great to me, I wonder if it is because I am a woman that it sounds so great.
The question I will be answering is Question #10
Discuss how the study of theistic psychology has influenced your thinking thus far. Make a list of the important concepts you learned and explain how they help you figure out your life. What is your assessment of how others in class react to the study of theistic psychology? Try sharing some of these concepts with friends and describe their reactions. What are your reactions to their reactions? Will you continue to study theistic psychology? How do you explain the apparent fact that some students seem to understand the topics pretty well in their reports, but do not necessarily accept them? What suggestions do you have for how to teach theistic psychology to college students in psychology?
Section A: My own Summary of the Questions
Discuss how the study of theistic psychology has influenced your thinking thus far.
The first day of Dr. James’ Theistic Psychology class I left the room laughing (no offense Dr. James!). I was so blown away by the outlandish contexts of the class that the only reason I stayed enrolled in the class is because I was intrigued by the topic and was in hope of finding an original creative writing topic.
I did try my hardest to keep an open mind during the class and by the time my first oral presentation came around I had got to the point where I would say “okay, I sort of agree with that” and “I could see why someone would believe that”. Needless to say I was still wary. In writing my first report I hesitantly displayed my knowledge of the subject, but I was sure to relate most of my points back to the Bible because I did not want to be blasphemous towards my religion by making fact statements on behalf of Swedenborg.
By the time my second report came around I was tying more of what Swedenborg wrote about into the Bible than I was tying the Bible into Swedenborg. I started to see how his findings coincided with my beliefs and how his report on the spiritual world made perfect sense as an explanation of people’s behaviors (especially my own!)
And by the third report I was laughing again, but this time I was laughing at myself because I could see how my mind had developed over the course just by comparing the attitude I had during each of my presentations.
The most important observation I have made during this class is about the as-of-self and how one must learn to reject their own will in order to create a new one.
Make a list of the important concepts you learned and explain how they help you figure out your life.
The concept of character reformation and all the ideas included has initiated the greatest learning experience for me. (Selections) My whole life I have had an idea of who I want to be, but I was always so conflicted when I thought I should be one way and felt like I should be a different way. Let me explain further: growing up as a Christian I tried to uphold most of the Christian values. I knew I should be the type of person that God calls all of his children to be (obedient, faithful and loving). So the morals ingrained in me were that of the church, but later in life, I felt like I had such a “free spirit”. I was friends with many different types of people, I loved to go out, I loved to smoke cigarettes and drink coffee while having philosophical conversations about life. This was ME. And that was my conflict. I felt like God created me to be this social, free-spirited, rebellious girl, so was He really calling me to be a conformed, obedient Christian woman? How could I feel so good and so much like myself in situations that God didn’t want me in?
I finally decided that God was going to use me as the bridge between the corrupted and the saved. He would use me to befriend the people who lived in shattered lives and use me to show them the light. This had to be the answer. So I went on living with one foot in Satan’s court and the other in God’s.
Two years ago I met my soul mate. A man I had been dreaming of since I was a little girl. He was not like the other guys I had dated, he was a Christian, and in college, and a family man. Perfect, right? That’s what I thought for the first few weeks of our relationship. Then, the closer we got the more turbulent our relationship became. It turned out that the more I did things that made me “feel like myself”. The more I hurt him and our relationship. And the times he reacted to my actions with selfish feelings the more he hurt our relationship and me. I again made an assumption. I assumed that my boyfriend didn’t love me for who I truly was and therefore we were not right for each other. So we broke up after a year of hurt feelings. In the time we were apart I was taking Theistic Psychology and learning about the as-of-self. I started making it my daily goal to reject one thing that I considered to be “my true self” and replace it with something for God or for other people. As soon as I started doing this, my eyes were opened. I realized how most of my life revolved around my own selfish desires and it is hard to be in a healthy relationship when one person is acting selfishly and it is impossible to be in a relationship while both people are acting selfishly.
I began to make some profound adjustments in my life. The things I did to replace my selfish desires became my desires. (Sound familiar? Creating a new will, maybe?) I used to desire to travel the world, but once I decided to give that desire up to God I no longer felt like I NEEDED to travel. I want to serve God and love people wherever I am located. I am so much happier because I feel like the only thing I desire now is spiritual love. And if I have that I will be happy. And guess what? I do have it. It is the most abundant source of love available and once we learn to tap into it, it will be never cease!
After making these revelations and working to apply theistic psychology to my life. I called my boyfriend and asked if he would take a chance and get to know me again. Our relationship has been beautiful ever since. I did not even have to tell him I was working at the “new will” thing. He noticed right away. And my actions influenced his actions and we have both learned to be much more selfless. Now, we work on spiritual growth together and I have shared with him many ideas from Theistic Psychology (Vol. 11 has great info about relationships!) I often email him certain selections that I read and after he looks at it we discuss it together (and of course the first time I showed him the material to read he was hesitant about accepting it as a reliable source of information, but as he looked at more of the reading material and as we discussed it more, he was more open to letting his mind understand it). The concepts in Theistic Psychology have not only helped me understand my life, but it helped him understand his life and our lives together.
What is your assessment of how others in class react to the study of theistic psychology?
As I was saying, there are stages of development with theistic psychology. You start out with disbelief, either with disbelief and closed-minded disinterest, or disbelief and open-minded interest, but either way, disbelief. Then you start to rationalize a bit and see how SOME things MIGHT be possible. Then you start making connections between your life and what Swedenborg witnessed and you start getting excited about the explanation. Then you start to really understand what theistic psychology means. It is ABOVE belief. That is a synopsis of the stages I went through at lease. And then I witness my boyfriend going through the same stages, so when I hear someone being argumentative in class I know they have not become familiar enough with the material, or when I hear someone so “Oooh, so that’s why……” I know they are at the stage of making connections and getting excited about having explanations.
Try sharing some of these concepts with friends and describe their reactions.
They all follow the formula. Some start with more cynicism than others depending on what type of beliefs they are familiar with.
After writing the above statement I was proved wrong. Today I told a friend from class about Theistic Psychology and she was very excited. I hesitantly told her about some of the things I have learned (I don’t know her very well and was a bit nervous she would think I was off my rocker) but she was excited about all the things I was saying. She kept asking me questions and nodded as if what I was saying made complete sense! And then after class someone else approached me who had overheard our conversation and he was excited too! He asked me to email him the class site address and he was truly interested in learning explanations about his own spiritual feelings and questions. So, I am not sure if these two individuals were the exception to my “formula” or if my formula is just wrong. So, take it with a grain of salt J
What are your reactions to their reactions?
Before, when everything was nicely fitting the formula felt like I was watching a Lifetime movie: same story line, different actors. So I would be patient knowing that it would click for them sooner or later and they once the vortex of their mind was slowed down enough they would be able to receive some of what I was saying.
But I have to admit I was a bit surprised when I witnessed the reaction of my two classmates today. A good surprise, but surprised.
Will you continue to study theistic psychology?
Without a doubt. I will once again quote Josh Cooper by saying “Ideas are unfulfilled if they are not put into action”, so by applying what I have learned thus far I will, in a way, still be studying it. I would also like to continue building on my website as I read more of the Writings.
How do you explain the apparent fact that some students seem to understand the topics pretty well in their reports, but do not necessarily accept them?
They are still in stage 2 (of my not-so-trusty formula): “I could see how someone might believe this…”. And it is just like any subject: I can do great on a Spanish exam, but I can’t speak Spanish because I am not familiar enough with the language.
What suggestions do you have for how to teach theistic psychology to college students in psychology?
I think it would be incredibly beneficial to have the students first report be to examine all the past generations’ work and note any sort of transformation or spiritual development they see. Once they make these observation they could then see if they notice any patterns of past generations or and similarities between classes of the past and the current class. Once it is realized that most people are hesitant to truly hear what Dr. James’ is teaching and most people get past their initial hesitation and end up loving the information they learned, the positive bias goal will be much easier obtained.
Section B: My Commentary
i) It is important to take something away from this class. Whether it is hatred toward the idea of hell, or of God being in control, or a desire to learn more and become more heavenly. Just as long as you are informed of the eternal consequences of your actions on earth, then you can make your decision knowledgably. I really hope everyone in the class is going to walk out with a little more motivation to do good and be good. I can’t imagine not finding a unfathomable amount of love for God when reading the Bible and learning about His love for us. And I can’t imagine all that love (good and truth) not taking you over and overflowing out of you onto everyone you encounter. God is good, God is love, and He wants to know YOU and share His love with YOU! Don’t stand Him up, He’s the perfect date.
(ii) It was interesting to answer this question because then I really saw how much this class really did affect me. I learned things that will stick in my mind forever. Also, it gave me a new understanding of why certain people reject God and how people are able to change (or attempt at changing and fail). I
(iii) I do agree with myself today, thank you.
Section C: My Analysis of Prior Generations in the Generational Curriculum
Š Maria Cabbat www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459f2004/cabbat/459-g21-report2.htm
Ms. Cabbat discussed in her Report 2 previous confusion about God and science. How, why and in what ways were they connected? Maria wrote about the ways in which Theistic Psychology answered these questions for her and the way in which she can now apply things she learned to everyday living in today’s materialistic society. She also expressed both feelings of clarity and confusion when comparing Theistic Psychology to her own Catholic beliefs. Overall Maria said that what she learned from Theistic psychology strengthened her previous beliefs and added to her personal beliefs about science and interpersonal relations.
I loved reading Maria’s views on Theistic Psychology. She seemed to have a very deep understanding of the subject and had a lot of things to say about real-life applications she had encountered. Her insights were useful to me because she had some of the same questions I had while starting this class.
Š Josh Cooper: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/cooper.
Reading Mr. Cooper views on Theistic Psychology was very interesting for two reasons. One, he did not identify with a particular religion before taking this class, and two, he is male. I thought it was interesting how Mr. Cooper used Theistic psychology to make observations about the community and dominant social patterns. Before reading Josh’s report I had seen Theistic Psychology as a completely intrinsic means of self-edification, but as he says, it can be used to help understand social problems. Josh used a spiritual diagnostic test to make observation to see if he could hypothesize what the predominant level of thinking was held by the members in his community (ritual, mystical, or rational). He found that of the observations he made, levels 1&2 were the most common plane people thought from. He talked to many people who held a combination of beliefs including mystical and rational.
In his conclusion Josh Cooper relayed how the report and the Theistic Psychology class helped him identify and understand his own spirituality through his community observations and the information he learned during the semester. One of the most insightful things Mr. Cooper wrote was “Ideas are unfulfilled if they are not put into action”. Mr. Cooper than explained how the true knowledge of the class will be gained when he applies what he learns. He suggested that he would continue studying Theistic Psychology by being aware of he mental states and striving toward character reformation.
Section D: My Report on the Current Generation
Š Karina Swenson~ February 3, 2005
The first presentation I am going to summarize is my own. I have two reasons for doing this (and no, I am not trying to take the easy way out). One reason, is that my presentation is relevant to one of the questions I am answering in this report. The second reason is that I want to describe the feelings I had about Theistic Psychology and Swedenborg when I wrote my first outline compared to how I feel about this class now.
My Presentation was on Section 1.8.5-1.8.7 and can be found at http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leon/459s2005/swenson/oral1.htm. I wrote about Swedenborg, Divine Speech and Heaven. My two main concepts were 1) that theistic psychology seemed to work from the inside out and 2) Swedenborg’s Writings were not very significant because all the information he supplied that is relevant to us while we are on Earth can be extracted from the Bible. My first point was supported by the fact that Divine Speech and correspondences originated from inside the spiritual world and radiated outward toward our natural minds and by the fact that heaven is at one point in its purest form (the celestial heaven) and the further out it has to go from that point, the less “heavenly” it is. (So the closer our minds are to heavenly thought when we die, the more pure and joyful our heaven will be).
My second point was one originating from a negative bias. I had an open mind to Swedenborg’s ideas, but I was very hesitant to state his experiences as fact: thus, the negative bias. I wanted to do my presentation without at all being blasphemous toward God and without faith displacement (I believe in God, not Swedenborg). So, I studied Swedenborg’s contemporaries and hypothesized that his school of thought was a derivative of other philosophers in which he had surely read and I brought every point of my presentation back to the Bible to show “Big deal Swedenborg said this, Jesus indicated the same thing 1700 years prior”. I now I have a much more of a positive bias toward theistic psychology. The more reading I did the more excited I became about learning how to apply his knowledge toward my own beliefs and the more interested I was in how what Swedenborg saw explained things I’ve felt.
After reading over my first presentation and remembering how skeptical I was on all this Swedenborg stuff I started laughing. Just in the length of this class I have seen my own mind develop to higher stages of spirituality. This overlaps with much of the information I provided in Section A.
Š Raymond Kwok Wai Chan .
His presentation can be found at: http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leon/459s2005/chan/home.htm. Mr. Chan’s first presentation covered correspondences and regeneration. He explained correspondences well by saying “Every single thing that exists in the material world has a correspondence with something that exists in the spiritual world” and even furthered his explanation by using the example of a face. A face is just flesh, but the mind behind it is spiritual and like our facial expressions correspond with our spiritual mindset, the words of and feelings from the Sacred Scripture correspond with heaven. Next he discussed Enlightenment, or the regeneration of life. Since Mr. Chan is Buddhist he related well to the idea of enlightenment and explained the similarities of Buddhism, Christianity and Theisitc Psychology on this subject. Each emphasize the need to recognize our innately sinful nature and consciously decide to become more Divine in our ways thus begins the process of enlightenment, regeneration, repentance.
Mr. Chan showed enthusiasm toward theistic psychology and seemed to agree with much of what he learned. The information he presented overlaps with the information I give about correspondences in section A of this report.
Š Jennifer Ikeda~ April 14, 2005
Ms. Ikeda presentation can be found at http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leon/459s2005/ikeda/myoral2.htm. Jennifer’s presented on one major concept. The concept of Regeneration through temptation. This is a very difficult idea to grasp especially if one is not studying theistic psychology and able to read how exactly one can be regenerated through temptation. I though Ms. Ikeda did a good job trying to relay this idea. She first broke it down into three degrees: natural, spiritual and celestial and then explained what type of temptations could be expected at each of those degrees. She next talked about the “mechanics” of temptation and how it is we are able to fight it explaining that we are not just battling one temptation, but all of hell. So every time we resist a temptation we are moving closer to heaven. Jesus faced and fought hell before any of us have and he made it possible for us to resist temptations because each time he conquered a hell he created mental pathways for our use.
Jennifer seemed receptive and understanding of this section of Theistic Psychology. She gave many good examples that both added to her presentation and clarified the topics she presented on. Her presentation all supports the information I have on Character Reformation and Regeneration in Section A of this report.
Section E: My Advice to Future Generations
I am going to be completely unoriginal and advise you to allow yourself plenty of time for this report. I suggest this not because the assignment takes a long time, but because when you are reading selected areas trying to find answers to certain questions you will want to keep reading! I got so sidetracked while doing my report that I would spend a whole evening reading the material around the selection instead of just copying and pasting and continuing on to the next question. This proved to be both a good thing and a bad thing. It was good because I learned more about Theistic Psychology while doing this report than I have throughout the whole semester and bad because it took me three weeks to do my report and it was therefore late. (Woops!). So, allow yourself time to read! Reading the text during this report is SO MUCH easier than all the previous reading has been thus far because you will have more knowledge about the Writings now and you will have a more genuine curiosity and wanting to know more rather than skepticism.
And some more specific advice…
When you are trying to find selections from Theistic Psychology to answer your questions go to Volume 18 (the overall table of contents) and from there use the Find command (Editą Find). Write down the Volume and section numbers that have the topic you are looking for and then, from there, go to the text and get your selection.
And Some More Comments
What I learned from taking Theistic Psychology with Dr. James
I have to say, Theistic Psychology has been one of the most interesting classes I have taken in my college career. I have found my brain venturing into areas I had previously prohibited it to venture. Seeing God as a science has been unheard of to me. And even after taking this class I don’t see him as a science, but I do see Him as an entity that can be scientifically proven. Swedenborg’s findings, although first turning me off, have served as a mechanism to help me understand God’s involvement in my own life and explain society’s reaction to that involvement.
The more of the Writings I read, the more interested I became and the more my mind was opened. I loved learning about the aspects of theistic psychology, which explained human behavior. One example of this is the section about the mind’s vortex. In Section 9.1.4 is says “the mind is constructed out of spiritual substances that are set in perpetual motion. The form or directionality of these motions is represented by a vortex. There are two fundamental motions to a vortex, clockwise and counter-clockwise. At every level and degree of growth, the mind builds upon itself with more and more of these vortex motions arranged in taxonomic correspondence with the regions of the spiritual world.” I am so excited by this idea because I have seen numerous times and I have experienced it numerous times.
The most common example I can think of is church. Yes, church. My whole life I have been encouraged to go to church, but I noticed I go to church in waves. Sometimes I go to not only church, but I go to Bible Study, young adult groups and I volunteer for events, and other times I can barely get myself to the service and I am leaving early, or coming late. Now my first recollection of this happening was in 2nd grade. When I was in 2nd grade I loved going to Sunday school. I started making friends, I loved to the crafts and activities; it was great. But then, one Sunday, we were playing a game and the winner of the game received a bag of candy. One other girl and I won the game, so the Sunday school teacher told us she would bring the candy next week and we could split it. The next week I got there (with excited anticipation for my candy) and the other girl did not show up. The teacher gave me the bag of candy and told me to save half of it for the other student. Over the week I kept munching on the candy, until one day I realized I had ate more than my half. I felt so guilty, but then I tried to justify it, thinking of ways I could tell the Sunday school that I did not know I was only supposed to have half.
I did not go to Sunday school the next week. I did not go to Sunday school the week after either. From that point on there was a period where I decided that I just did not like church. I know this is a bit of a juvenile example, but I think it perfectly displays the idea of a spiritual vortex. When I was going to church and learning and participating in that community my vortex was going clockwise (in sync with God and the Spiritual Sun) and as soon as I did something selfish, the direction of my vortex slowed, and when I did not repent, but hid from my mistake, the direction of my vortex switched. Then with the direction being counter clockwise, I started to reject the things I had previously loved and I could not recognize what was going on.
This same pattern is seen in every person that falls into a life of sin or selfishness. Also, this imagery has also been a helpful analogy to me. Think of the church as a giant vortex all spinning in the direction of God’s love and someone whose mind is gyrating the opposite direction walks in. They are immediately going to reject the church, or reject their thoughts and be changed by the church. This rings true for most church newcomers. They immediately reject it and talk about the hypocrisy of church and the contradictory nature of the Bible, or they repent and find salvation.
This is just one example of many things I have learned in this theistic psychology class. There are many advantages to having have learned everything I did. One advantage is the fact that I can more easily explain to the “non-believers” how life without God, is an impossibility. Also, I understand in more scientific concepts with existence of God and a spiritual world, and in knowing these things I can convey to a more scientific mind, the purpose of the Incarnation. I have often been asked the question: “How did Jesus dying on the Cross take care of my sins?” I would utter a generic answer of: “God loved you so much that he gave his only son and that act of love saved you and me.” Through what I have learned is theistic psychology I can now explain how important it was that Jesus can, because before the Incarnation, we could not fight against temptations. After He came he created mental pathways that the human race would have to follow so they could fight the hells within their mind from that point after.
The second advantage of what I have learned, is being able to understand myself more. It is actually not just a matter of understanding myself, per se, but understanding what is happening when I do certain things. For example, now I know that temptation is necessary for character regeneration it is easier for me to withstand temptations. If I can recognize something for what it is, and not just see it from my own emotional viewpoint, it is so much easier to handle in the way that is most advantageous to my spiritual mind. I can recognize “hellishness” and I can recognize what is God’s will versus my self-will. These recognitions can SAVE me from letting my vortex direction be turned. This class has helped me on many levels and I am glad I got something out of it instead of keeping my negative bias throughout the semester. Thanks, Dr. James!
Here are some ideas for future class discussion:
One idea I have for future class discussions is this: It is apparent that students new to the idea of Swedenborg always have doubts. And the first day of class (and most classes thereafter) there will be one student who asks a question of skepticism. I think you should use this inevitability as an asset to the class. If someone asks the question “How the heck is it possible that the spiritual world is shaped like a human???” Let him have his doubt, then ask either for the whole class or specific volunteers to search for information on The Grand Human and also bring in any info their own religion/beliefs has on the shape of the spiritual world (if there is any).
Next class period, re-raise the question and let the other students answer him. Then look at the Buddhist view, or the Mormon view on the shape of the spiritual world and see the connections between what Swedenborg wrote and what they believe. This will put the universal quality of Swedenborg in light and quicken the process of making that connection between one’s own beliefs and how Swedenborg does not contradict religions, he helps explain them on a much higher level. This is a connection which would most likely happen later in the course anyway, but I think discussions setup like this would speed up the process.
Also, having the students ask the questions and answer the questions will give them motivation to explore the Writings independently. I like the idea of bringing religions into the discussion, because it is real. Even if having a religious viewpoint is evidence of a natural minded thinking, people are more familiar and more comfortable with religion than with higher spirituality. Showing them, or rather, letting them show each other, the connections between religions and having them see the Swedenborg Reports cannot fall into one of these categories, but the umbrellas will help you and the students find common ground.
Also using more contemporary examples and vocabulary would help students make the connection between what Swedenborg writes about and what they are living now, in the 21st Century. There is defiantly a way to bridge the chasm between his understanding/your understanding and ours. Relate the vortex of the mind to that guilty ą angry sequence of feelings one goes through when they are caught making a mistake. Explain the mental pathways in terms of REAL life. The thought process you have to go through in order to say no to cheating on your spouse, or explain why it is so difficult to say no to getting a beer with the guys even though you don’t drink! It’s because you are not just grappling with wanting to drink alcohol, you are fighting against the evil spirits in HELL!
I think it is hard for many people to see the relevance of something that happened 2000 years ago (Jesus’ death) or the relevance of the spiritual world in their bill paying, cell phone talking, test cramming life of today. That’s where you come in. You can show people how the actions of today can have eternal implications! Explain to them how the more they resist extramarital sex, excessive drinking and drugs the stronger their character will be!
There are so many young adults who have been completely turned off to the Bible and the idea of God after bad experiences in their life, and through your class you can explain to them the meaning within the Bible. The exciting significance of MISTAKES in our lives and how they are representative of our spiritual placement! There is extreme relevance in the Bible and in the Writings that lost young adults do not readily see and you have the opportunity to open their eyes, so God can save their lives. Good luck!
And good luck in all your future classes and all other future endeavors. Thanks again for the semester, Dr. James!
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