Report 2: My understanding of Theistic Psychology


By Jasmyn (Ke’ala) Hironaka


Instructions for this report are at:






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Section A: My Own Summary of the Selections




Question 1:


(a)  Explain in your own words how you understand the phrase "mental biology" in theistic psychology. What makes theistic psychology "mental" and what makes it "biological"? You will need to include several related concepts to give an adequate explanation: e.g., evolution of consciousness, discrete degrees, and substantive dualism. You will need to explain these related terms as well before the whole is comprehensible. Is it important for a theory in psychology to be biological?


(b) Diagram A in Section is a portrayal of mental biology. Explain what elements of the diagram are useful for you, bringing out new aspects you haven't thought of yet. And what elements are problematic for you and why: Is the idea too vague? Does it contradict something you believe?


a) The Question I am answering is Question 1 regarding Mental Biology in theistic psychology.  Mental refers to the various cognitive and behavioral operations that occur in our physical brain which enable us to get through our day.  These various operations are essential to our survival—such as eating, sleeping, drinking, driving, and walking—all events occur because of our mental systems of our brain interacting with our physical body to help us accomplish these various tasks.  Biology refers to the genes that we have inherited from our parents to enable us to form connections between our mental operations and the physical body.  Without this connection of mental operations and biological operations we would not be able to respond to our everyday experiences which are key to our survival as a species.  This information has been taken from Theistic Psychology Lecture Notes by Dr. James Section Mental Biology.  With thinking about our mental biology another concept of Theistic Psychology becomes of interest—this is the concept of discrete degrees.


According to this concept of discrete degrees which is taken from the Theistic Psychology Lecture Notes by Dr. James Section 5.1.1 there are successive or simultaneous degrees of the mind.  In order of its development the highest is the earliest to grow. First comes the soul (which according to Swedenborg is the closest to the Divine order in creation), next comes the mind or the spirit, then the spiritual body which holds the mind, and then finally the natural or physical body.  The most external—our natural or physical body is at the lowest level, and is the most outward.   The soul is the center of our physical/natural body and from that through the understanding of the Writings of Swedenborg we understand that we are actually born as dual citizens but in two different yet connected worlds.  We have a physical body which holds our soul and our mind and the term “within” refers to this encasement of degrees of order—celestial, spiritual, and natural.  The reason that Swedenborg describes these orders as distinct is become there are no direct relationships between each order. 


The physical body is in the natural realm while the spiritual body is in the spiritual degree, and there is nothing passing between the physical and spiritual realms. The sub-layer of the natural layer is in continuous degrees of corporeal, sensuous, and rational according to Swedenborg.  But he also noted that in only those present in each distinct layer could communicate successfully with those from other layers.  Through the law of correspondences there is a relationship between an event in the natural world and the spiritual and celestial worlds stay connected.  All events occur at three degrees with a source, cause, and effect—also known as discrete degrees. An example would be putting your foot on the brake.  The source is the thought that you must slow down, so the cognitive operations in your brain are gauging your distance from the other car in front of you on the freeway and signal you to react in a way that you will not slam into the car in front of you so you stop (cause), the effect would be you putting your foot on the brake to slow down your vehicle and stop you from hitting the car in front of you. 




b) The question I am answering is Question 1 regarding the elements of the diagram which are useful to me through bringing out new aspects that I haven’t thought of yet are connections between the natural body and the spiritual body through the law of correspondences.  The law of correspondences is connected with the diagram which is related to the concept of discrete degrees.  Prior to studying Theistic Psychology I had formed a hypothesis that the way that each of us responds to a stimulus varies from person to person, and the way in which we respond is a reflection of our underlying character.  We are often judged as reliable or not based on the way that we act.  The diagram makes it clear to our understanding that no matter what happens in our natural world, our spiritual world will always be affected by the actions of our natural world.


The elements which are problematic for me are the mind being higher/inmost than the spiritual because the mind is physical and not spiritual—it is a substance of both space and time so what puzzles me is that it is within the natural layers of our natural mind rather it is in its own separate category.  The idea is too vague or contradicts my belief of Theistic Psychology because again I do believe that the mind is a substance with genes and information which enable us to process information from the environment but still it is categorically placed according to the Writings of Swedenborg above the Natural layer.

Question 2:

(a) Explain how you understand the concepts of heaven and hell in theistic psychology. How does it relate to your ideas about this prior to the course? Has there been a change in your attitude or knowledge?

(b) Discuss how you relate to the concept of the economics of immortality.

(c) Explain your idea of what is the vertical community to which we are connected. How is this related to heaven and hell? How is this concept in theistic psychology different from what psychologists think of "delusions" when talking about "spirits"? What needs to change in psychology before the idea of the vertical community can be presented as a method of therapy?


a)      The question that I am answering now is question #2.  The way that I understand the concepts of heaven and hell is that they are both the spiritual states of our mental world.  After our physical body has died and our soul resuscitated our spirit or soul remains in eternity in heaven or hell.  Often one would assume this to be a place with space or time—rather it is states of our spiritual mind.  In heaven if we choose to be in the company of a love one that we were unable to meet in the physical world we can be sure to meet them in the spiritual world—this connection and unrelenting relationship that we have with others is one that we value and appreciate in heaven.  Nevertheless, our hells are exactly the opposite.  Hell is a place of utmost negativity, selfishness, and disrespect or disregard for the well-being of our fellow man.  One is often ridiculed, teased, and patronized when in the hells of their spiritual mind. 


The way in which I thought heaven and hell were related to each other prior to taking this course is that they were both “places” rather than states of our spiritual mind.  These places our unique to where God determines our spirit to travel to once our physical body dies.  Prior to taking this course I had established a belief system based on catholic principles—however, through the years my education of various religions has been expanded and therefore broadened by strict catholic belief system. 


I have experienced a slight a change in attitude having internalized various concepts studied in this course.  But nevertheless I always thought—“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” and always held the utmost respect for virtually everyone that I meet.  Of course throughout life you will encounter many individuals that you may not like—or they may not like you—but one should show respect and care towards other because it is a reflection of good character.  The most important concept to me would be the act of self-witnessing—because this concept determines how we act both physically and psychologically.  If we are able to recognize a moment of frustration/anger/resentment—we can better identify the emotion and react in a way that we do not cause harm or uneasiness towards another, or if we do—we are able to recognize we have done so and feel empathy for the other person as well as ourselves.   

b)   Before I explain how it is that I am able to relate to the concept of the Economics of Immortality it is important for such a concept to be defined.  The economics of immortality tell of our daily activities that feed our heavens or hells in our natural mind.  Nevertheless many individuals assume that doing hellish things like cheating, stealing, or overeating can be justified so long as we do the opposite of the negative most of the time—this concept is invalid.  According to Section (VII) entitled the Economics of Immortality Swedenborg notes that when one is awakened into the world of spirits after resuscitation there is a rapid transition towards our second death.  During this process one becomes openly  conscious of their genuine loves and affections which are ruled and determined by one ruling love—implying that there is no balance between our hellish and heavenly traits.  Either one is entirely good or entirely bad because mixing feelings or affections outline our behavior when our spirit was still attached to our natural mind in our physical body.  Also it is important to note in this section that one must not seek recognition for their heavenly actions (another term for this would me meritoriousness) hoping that God will see and therefore reward us for being good.  Once one hopes to seek recognition for the self—that individual is thinking of themselves and not of others or of God. 


With this brief summary of the concept of the Economics of Immortality I will go on to explain how this concept relates to my own experience.  If we could agree on one thing it is that we are not perfect beings—however when we are consciously aware of the negative in our minds we tend sometimes follow through because we know we can apologize or repent for the wrong being done—this idea is opposite from the concept of the Economics of Immortality because there is no balance or forgiveness—either we do it, or we don’t.  Think of the act of swearing to another driver who has just cut into your lane without putting on a blinker or even thanking you for letting him in.  Prior to you cussing your blood pressure rose and you were frustrated because of the careless actions of another, however you can choose to react in a manner that is hellish or heavenly.  Reacting in a heavenly manner would involve feeling empathy for the other driver.  I know this sounds weird but if you think to yourself—‘oh maybe he didn’t see me cause I was in his blind spot’—or ‘maybe he’s in a hurry because his babysitter called in sick and she won’t be able to watch the kids so now he has to hurry home’—this conscious ability to empathize and put yourself in the position of another is key in helping us to not be so selfish and cause others to be hurt or taken offense to our actions.  Rather then reacting in an entirely hellish way to someone cutting you off you made a conscious decision to react in a heavenly put yourself in the position of another rather then think solely for your own benefit—these actions are heavenly and enable us to build our heavens in our spiritual minds.    


(c) Explain your idea of what is the vertical community to which we are connected. How is this related to heaven and hell? How is this concept in theistic psychology different from what psychologists think of "delusions" when talking about "spirits"? What needs to change in psychology before the idea of the vertical community can be presented as a method of therapy?

The information that I have researched about the Vertical Community can be found on line at Theistic Psychology:  The Science of Immortality, Based on the Writings of Swedenborg by Dr. Leon James. 12.6.4  The Role of Our Vertical Community The passage above repeats once more that whatever the mental state are are in, we depend on associations with others since no one "is able to will or to think from himself, but does so from others." This is the vertical community that interconnects, consciously and unconsciously, every human being with every other in the universe (see Section xx). No one is the source of thoughts and feelings since everyone depends on others for "influx" or unconscious communication of thoughts and emotions.

The Vertical Community describes how our thoughts enter our mind—and lead to our conscious behavior.  If someone were to ask me where my thoughts came from I would tell them that they come from God—however, ask someone who has never taken this course or someone who has a pre-established belief in the negative bias (which of course is the majority of individuals one will encounter in his or her life) they will tell you that their thoughts come from them.  In the section 12.6.4 entitled The Role of Our Vertical Community Swendenborg says that our mental states depend on the way that we associate ourselves with others since we are not able to think for ourselves but allow ourselves to be influenced by the way in which others think.  Allowing ourselves to be influenced by the thoughts of others is known as an “influx” otherwise known as our unconscious way of communicating our thoughts and feelings.  Swedenborg also mentions that every individual behaves and thinks from the creator who is God and he manages the thoughts and actions of every individuals and his or her feelings regardless of the state of mind that person is in at the time. 

Since we now understand the concept that we are not ever in control of our own thoughts one may ask how does God control our thoughts through the vertical community?  According to Swedenborg—he was allowed to be conscious of the vertical community connections in his mind, which in our mind is unconscious.  In 12.6.4 the text mentions that not only was he able to recognize the association between our vertical communities and our physical bodies and natural minds but he was able to successfully communicate through immediate and mediate influx with those in their heavens and hells.  This gift is very unique to Swedenborg because each individual has a unique influx that fits their make up and God maintains and directs the transfer of influx from his mind to our natural mind—so the act of influx is very customized to fit the individual.

The way that the vertical community is related to heaven or hell is again based on the concept of dualism.  We are all given the conscious ability to reject our hells and accept the heavenly traits which God wants us to accept so that we may live in the spiritual heavens of our spiritual minds.  But often we are forget this concept and think of ourselves and how we are responsible for our thoughts and no one else—this is false.  We are given opportunity and choices—God wants us to make the right choices given the in various instances of opportunity whether our actions are hellish or heavenly we have can accept or reject the hellish or heavenly traits which are stream forth in our vertical communities which ultimately originate from God. 

The way that the vertical community concept is different from “delusions” when talking about “spirits” is that delusions and spirits are subject to scientific facts and figures of our conscious rational mind.  We do not see any other alternative other then what research has proven as such—so that is the method that we use to treat various disorders.  However if we were to apply the concept of the vertical community to alleviate various psychological disturbances we would offer an alternative never offered before in medicine, and bridge a whole new concept of combining scientific facts with the positive bias.  This new combination would be cutting edge and may one day be practiced in various situations to benefit the patient with the psychological disturbance.

What needs to change in psychology before the idea of the vertical community can be presented as a method of therapy is acceptance of the positive bias.  It is my understanding (and I could be wrong) that various methods of therapy are “fact/science based.”  Rather then investigating a disorder or brain abnormality based on scientific facts and figures published--encourage psychiatrists to investigate whether the patient undergoing therapy has any belief in the afterlife what to what extent do they practice that belief in their daily life.  Having a basic understanding of the patient’s belief system a psychiatrist may then be able to introduce to the patient the concept of the positive bias which may eventually lead to his or her process of character reformation which may alleviate or even nullify the problem that the patient went in to see the psychiatrist for in the first place.  This is just one of many other possible ideas on how the vertical community could then be introduced to a patient as a method of therapy. 


According to Section 2.14 Vol. 2 Q & A on Theistic Psychology modern psychological principles that are applied during a therapy session are against the concept of dualism—because the mind is an operation of the brain.  So therefore sensations are due to the electrochemical firings of nerve cells along with various cognitive and emotional feelings.  However the firings of these impulses have not been proven and are also hypothetical, nevertheless there is no valid information about the mind in modern times. In summary of what regeneration is—it is the process of spiritual development that is carried out by God through temptations that are natural, spiritual, and celestial, over a lifetime of obstacles.  Temptations are imperative to bring something in our own self that was hidden from us the entire time. 



Question 3:

(a) Why is the topic of "regeneration" so basic in theistic psychology?

(b) What are the "character reformation" steps of building a "new will"?

(c) What is the difference between the "old will" and the new will?

(d) What are "heavenly" vs. "hellish" traits?

(e) How does this relate to personality theory in psychology as you know it.


a)  The question I am now answering is Question #3 which deals with the topic of regeneration.  The topic of “regeneration” is so basic in theistic psychology because many of us throughout our lives go through this process—whether after we have just lost someone close to us, or just realized that procrastination is an awful way to live our lives.  Regeneration is easily understood because its underlying concept is known and understood by virtually all cultures of the human race. 


b)      According to Volume 6 the character reformation steps of building a new will involve the concept of personality theory.  Version 53a of the Lecture notes on TP by Dr. Leon James refer to various concepts that deal with personality theory.  The affective organ controls our motivations, enjoyments, satisfactions, etc., etc.  Sacred Scripture understands these various traits as wills and in our daily activities.  Our “propirum” is what we feel is our own.  An example would be if we choose to not like someone and let our feelings go and tell that person we are doing so out of our own free will; otherwise our own propirum.  The important thing to note is that as our spirit travels to our second death so does our propirum.  What we will in our life is who and what we are even though our personality is external and something that our will likes to have and has the control to change our will if we choose to do so.  The propirum is what we are not what we think we are made of and it is important according to TP that this distinction be made. 


c)      The difference between the old will and the new will are that the old will is when we are not able to think for ourselves and we rely on the information of others to take us influence our cognitive and affective behavior.  The old will may have some understanding of God and his works but doesn’t take this information as set in stone and often succumbs to hellish traits due to this lack of internalization of knowledge and information in order to influence one’s behavior.  The new will is quite the opposite.  This is a time of great enlightenment because we are now more connected not only with God but also with ourselves.  When we are able to communicate daily with God and see him as the primary care-taker and our primary caregiver we form this new trust and bond to him.  Because God is Divine Love and Wisdom we also are motivated to act towards others in a way that he would want us to act in his eyes so that we are able to build our spiritual heavens in our spiritual mind and be united with him in eternity. 


d)     Throughout the study of TP we are constantly being exposed to concepts of hellish and heavenly traits because these concepts drive our everyday behavior.  As children of God we are born as dual-citizens with both a natural and a spiritual mind.  In order for us to live in our spiritual heavens in eternity we need to work at it and how badly we want to be happy in eternity determines how hard we will work to build up our natural minds to its spiritual heavens.  Nevertheless heavenly traits reflect positive and empathetic actions that are often the most challenging traits to abide by but offer the best rewards.  When we say that we are acting in a heavenly way we are always referring to a positive act or an act of kindness towards others all for the love of God and to be living in our spiritual heavens in eternity.  Despite the happy place that is painted for us in our spiritual heavens there is an opposition—otherwise known as our hells.  When we choose to let our anger take over or when we choose to cuss, hurt, steal, or act in a negative way towards other we are directly building up our spiritual hells in our spiritual minds.  This is not good.  If we develop bad habits we will take those bad habits with us to our second death according to Swedenborg and eventually be in the hells of our mind because these traits or loves that we are unable to let go of just remain and are responsible for our sadness in our hells. 


e)  The way that hellish and heavenly relates to our personality theory is that our will is what leads us to heaven or hell not our personality—in other words what and how we choose to act is completely in our control and we take full responsibility if we decide to act wrongly or right toward another individual.  Knowing our heavens and hells are directly connected to our will we are now aware of the fact that everything we do has a consequence and so we should always choose to do good (especially at our most challenging times) because the good will always pay of in the end.  We should not focus on the short-term gratification that a release of anger would give me if I were to react rather focus on how much more beneficial it would be to not react and be calm and collect.  All in all our actions are our wills which drive us to our hells or heavens in after our second death. 

Section C: My Analysis of Prior Generations in the Generational Curriculum

i)                    How many of the students felt were reflected in their written reactions.  Some students went into more details then others as far as what they would provide as content in their various answers, nevertheless, the majority seemed to accept the positive bias.  They pretty much all felt that having taken these courses they have gained a better understanding of God and his purpose in our life. 

ii)                  What they thought mostly was based on the facts outlined in the writing.  Some felt the writings were good others felt the writings were alright, and every so often one or two would disagree. 

iii)                Many of them concluded that one can accept the various concepts in Theistic Psychology but will not practice them in an everyday manner, and will not apply them to daily life.  The reasons often varied as to why some did and some didn’t but nevertheless the doubts on accepting this as set in stone the way we should run our lives ends up in the hands of the individual. 

iv)                Honestly their insights provide me with how they think but I do have my own way of thinking and I often don’t let others that I don’t really know influence the way I think.  This has nothing to do with the fact that I am taking an offense to someone or not in agreement with what they are saying—I just basically choose who I want to be influenced by.  Whether this trait is good or bad it is they way that I have been able to shun or accept other people’s way of thinking about my behavior in various event that occur in my life.  I think of it as we all are forced to faced with similar challenges in life—we have the curve ball every so often—but we still are always swinging with all our might and trying our hardest to get through this rat race, and our approach is determined by both our education, experience, and mentorship—to whom and by whom we respect the most to influence our thinking of our rational natural mind. 

Section D: My Advice to Future Generations

The advice that I have for future generations is to be patient.  When I first dove into this course I was like..huh???  After doing many of the readings and forcing myself to read and re-read I was able to gain a better more thorough understanding of the Writings of Swedenborg and the various ideas and concepts that he (Swedenborg and Dr. James) is willing to share with us.  Students should not get all flustered and stressed after the first class if a single concept discussed by Dr. James seems fuzzy to  a student who thought that he or she understood the readings—just persevere and do what you know needs to be done in order for you to understand and internalize the information.  This way, students are able to really practice what is taught and teach others the knowledge of Theistic Psychology in the same way that Swedenborg did.  In addition, future generations should not be afraid to ask questions, in fact ask all the questions you need to.  If you ask the right questions you’ll get the right answers and if you are always asking questions people will jump in to the discussion and that way participation in class makes the class so much more interesting and fun…really.   Knowledge is useless unless it is taught and practiced and I hypothesize this to be the main reason that Swedenborg wrote what we did—so that future generations will be patient in their practice and hopefully share wtih others how to live in heaven in their eternity.  If you know the answers you are just doing your friends a favor by sharing with them what you already know and everyone can use advice in their life—so long as they know that you are genuinely trying to help them—this is one example of love which streams forth from the spiritual sun from the Divine Psychologist himself.  God Bless.