Theistic Psychology by Leon James (2004).
Available on the Web at: www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/theistic-psychology.htm
2.1. What’s the difference between religion and theistic psychology?
The difference is that between mystical and scientific. Mystical systems depend on blind faith or credulity and as a result, there are a variety of mystical systems, or religions, and each believes to have the real truth while thinking that the others do not. This is why religion depends on declared membership, on affirmations of a common creed, and dependence on the willingness to believe something that cannot be explained in a scientific manner. As a result, when we examine religions in a rational or scientific way, we cannot arrive at a conclusion since the creed or faith resists breakdown and rational analysis.
On the other hand theistic psychology is not a religion but a science. Theistic psychology contrasts with atheistic psychology which automatically excludes God as an explanatory concept. Theistic psychology automatically includes God as a concept in all explanations about human behavior and dynamics. While religion depends on creed and faith, theistic psychology depends on rational and scientific explanations of the laws and mechanisms by which God causes every event and behavior to occur. Therefore theistic psychology advances by cumulative research and critical analysis of all models, theories, and data.
The idea and knowledge of God in theistic psychology is not based on direct experience. If this were the case, it would cease to be a science because one individual's experience of God is not the same as another's, and neither has access to the other. Sensuous consciousness of God is rightly categorized as mystical. Theistic psychology is based on rational consciousness of God. This means that no one can make up what God is or is not, or what God wants or does not want, or how God manages the created universe, or what our fate is in the afterlife. No one can know these things. They can invent them, but those are mere hypothetical and imaginative portrayals. I for one was never attracted to anyone's idea of God or experience of God because I had no way of verifying their notions. Unless I could understand God from my rational perspective as a trained and practicing scientist, I was unable to get involved, or be interested for very long, in other people's theories and systems.
Rational consciousness of God is based, not on human imagination and intelligence, but on Divine revelation of Himself by God.
This is clearly the only possibility. God created human beings with a mind that can comprehend God's Truth. Truth is rational, hence God's basic character or nature is a Being who is rational. All the laws of nature we have discovered are rational, and the whole fits together rationally. Therefore, to know God rationally is the only way to know God. God is a rational Being. Obviously God created human beings to possess a rational mind that is capable of knowing and understanding God. From this knowledge we are able to love God if we so choose. This is what God wants, that we love Him more than anything else He has created. Why?
Because by loving God He is able to give us what we were created for, but not otherwise. The purpose God had in creating human beings is that they be born on some physical earth, develop a rational mind, and at death, be resuscitated into an eternal world of conjugial happiness called heaven. This is a noble and loving purpose and we can appreciated it by feeling gratitude. So it makes rational sense to say that the rational mind God creates in us needs to be given information about Himself so that we can know Him and love Him more than anything else we know. This information comes to us through Divine Speech. This is the same as Divine Truth which gives us the facts about God and true reality rationally understood. This must also be the source of information for theistic psychology and all theistic science.
Clearly, if this true information about reality, God, and the universe is made up as someone's theory, we will never know the real reality, the real truth, which only God the Creator possesses. Obviously, the human mind is created to receive communication from God as Divine Speech. If this were not the case science would never know about true reality. It doesn't make sense to separate reality into two parts, one that we can test and another we can only speculate about. Reality is integrated and cannot be separated. If you separate reality into non-overlapping components you can never understand reality rationally, which it is. God is rational and runs the universe rationally as shown by the rationality of laws we can discover about the physical universe.
Theistic psychology is therefore based exclusively on Divine scientific revelations. Nothing is added to it that is from another source. Theistic psychology was created by Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772) who was given the unique ability in modern history to be conscious simultaneously in this world and in the spiritual world. This special ability, which he had between the ages of 57 and 84, was given to him by God who elevated his rational consciousness all the way to the highest level of thinking possible called the "third heaven" in the human mind. He was thus given the unique task of authoring the third component of Sacred Scripture which took several thousand years of human evolution to deliver to our conscious mind. Today the Western tradition has received the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings of Swedenborg. These three components of Divine Speech have been given to humankind in order to allow us to have a rational consciousness of God. Theistic psychology is based exclusively on these three components also known as the "Threefold Word.
The Writings reveal and demonstrate that all Sacred Scripture is Divine Speech transformed into a natural language. The Writings reveal a rational method of reconstructing the original content of Divine Speech before it was transformed and written down naturally. We need to do be able to do this reconstruction or recovery, since the natural version of Divine Speech in Sacred Scripture is mostly natural in content as history and prophecy. The spiritual information about God, the afterlife, or God's management laws of the universe, is hidden from the literal sense. And yet this is what we need if we are going to form a rational understanding of them. We cannot invent hypothetical interpretations and hope to be fully right. Then we won't know when we are right and when wrong and our spiritual progress will end in contradiction and conflict. Therefore god must reveal to us a rational method for recovering what He tells us about the spiritual world and the rational laws He uses to manage the universe
The Writings of Swedenborg are therefore a scientific revelation because they give us rational methods for discovering what God has been telling us through Divine Speech encoded and transformed into a natural language. Theistic psychology is the knowledge we can extract from these scientific revelations. Whatever is thus extracted must follow the laws of extraction set forth in Divine revelation. If we use other laws of extraction we get nowhere towards the truth. This is why God revealed to us what the methods of extraction must be followed.
Sacred Scripture must therefore be viewed in both its literal meaning and its correspondential meaning. This is the meaning we extract or recover when we apply the method of correspondences as given in the Writings. When viewed in its literal meaning, Sacred Scripture discusses religion. But when viewed in its meaning derived from the science of correspondences, Sacred Scripture is science. Both positions are legitimate and do not contradict each other. Literally, the Writings appear to be written for the New Christian Church prophesied in the Book of Revelation at the end of the New Testament of the Bible. The Writings are therefore a continuation of that revelation but at a more rational level of presentation as suitable to the modern mind.
Religion is always bound up with culture and history, while theistic psychology is universal, of relevance to all religions and cultures and times. Different religions have different and contradictory explanations for the same phenomenon, while there is only one theistic psychology. Within theistic psychology there cannot be any disagreement or contradictory scientific theories since its knowledge base consists solely and exclusively of the scientific revelations given in the Writings of Swedenborg--a one time event in history that cannot repeat itself. The reasons why there cannot be new additional revelations in the future are fully explained and established in the Writings. Therefore the giving of these scientific revelations mark the beginning of a new evolutionary path for the human race.
This new state of development is made possible because of these Divine rational revelations. A biological analogy might be this: when a new breed of dogs or flowers is engineered, the new breed is permanently altered and is different from all previous breeds. Similarly, the new comprehensive scientific revelations in the Writings of Swedenborg create a new elevated state for the human mind since the revelations give us knowledge of causes of the events in this world. Our consciousness and awareness are therefore permanently altered allowing for new lives, new lifestyles, new societies, and also, new heavens and hells in the continuation of our lives after the death of the physical body. This is most important since our life in the spiritual body is eternal and immeasurably longer than our relatively short life in the physical body.
Theistic psychology is possible only when one can read the Writings of Swedenborg and understand them rationally. That rational understanding gives readers the perspective that it is a true account of what Swedenborg saw and heard. Readers who doubt the validity of Swedenborg's reports and analyses give themselves no other choice but to reject them as delusional or made up. As scientists we cannot accept the observational reports of another scientist unless we can fit them into a rational and coherent structure that is not contradicted by what we ourselves can observe. As a scientist I have read the Writings of Swedenborg thoroughly more than once, and I was able to understand them rationally. There were no contradictions with anything that I already knew. Neither were there any internal inconsistencies in the Writings even though they cover many topics in some 50 volumes in English. I've also read the opinions of hundreds of commentators and experts on Swedenborg and his life (1688-1772). Not one of them was able to find a single inconsistency or omission. They all acknowledge the rationality and consistency of Swedenborg's explanations. But those readers who read some of the Writings and could not understand them, rejected them as the delusions and fantasies of an unusual genius.
Theistic psychology is a science and therefore cannot depend on belief, faith, or personal preference. As we study theistic psychology it's important to proceed by what is rational and makes sense at every step so that nothing is based on mere acceptance by persuasion, authority or fancy. When an apparent contradiction arises in the mind it's useful to trace the contradiction to our existing beliefs and assumptions. It's necessary to stick with the issue in the mind until we are able to see that Swedenborg's explanation is rational and consistent while our own former beliefs are fragmentary, of unproven validity and doubtful rationality. In this way we are able to continue building up in our mind the concepts of theistic psychology. At every point we must examine each issue rationally, consistently, and without rejecting what is not yet fully understood. This will allow the orderly and cumulative growth in our knowledge and understanding of human behavior, along with their enormous benefits to society and the individual, both in this world, and in our eternal life in the spiritual world.
If you examine the doctrines and dogmas of religions today you will see that the level of thinking is not fully rational and not scientific. This doesn't prove that religions are wrong about their beliefs, especially since they are based on revelations. But the level of explanation and rationality is not scientific. For instance, "creationism" is not a scientific theory but a religious interpretation of the literal meaning of the Bible. In the Writings of Swedenborg the ancient Science of Correspondences is once more revealed to humankind. When you apply this code to the literal sentences of the Bible you can see that the Bible was written at two levels--literal and symbolic. Religions are based on the literal while theistic science is based on the symbolic meaning of revelations (see below the answer to Question 12).
Note carefully: The symbolic meaning of revelation is decoded by applying the code that has been revealed. If this revealed code is not used, but some other one invented or preferred by someone, the result is not science but pure conjecture and imagination of the author, as you can know by reading dozens of books people have written on "Bible exegesis" or interpretation. The only way science can be maintained is by using the science of correspondences revealed in the Writings. This makes the decoding process fully rational and empirical. It's essential to understand that this unique code called "correspondences" is not something Swedenborg invented. It is called "science" of correspondences because each correspondence or symbolic representation, is a universal scientific law that governs the interaction between cause and effect in the universe. This is fully explained and demonstrated by Swedenborg. For 27years he was able to be conscious simultaneously in the natural world through his physical body, and in the spiritual world through his spiritual body. I can only imagine what that must have felt like! But he kept a daily Journal and wrote all his observations down. He was thus able to provide empirical evidence for the laws of correspondences through which all Divine revelation is written. I have examined all of it and there is no doubt in my mind that anyone who has scientific literacy can read the Writings and confirm that they are rational, scientific, universal, empirical, objective, and applied.
Theistic psychology encompasses religion that is based on the literal sense of revelation. While religion defines God in personal and historical terms, theistic science provides a rational account of the mechanisms or rational procedures God uses to manage every cause and effect. Theistic psychology therefore has a scientific explanation for the terms and concepts used in religion, e.g., sin, salvation, heaven, hell, angel, devil, regeneration or rebirth, prayer, sacraments, and so on. Every religious practice and idea is given a scientific explanation in theistic science. This is possible because these scientific revelations were embedded or hidden in the literal sense of revelation. There they lay for many centuries unsuspected by all those who studied and wrote about revelation and the Bible. But now that the science of correspondences has been revealed, we have available to us a vast source of new facts about God and how the universe is managed. Sin is real but what makes it real and how does it injure us? Heaven and hell are real but they exist as states of our mind. Miracles are real but they are no different from ordinary every day phenomena in terms of how God makes events happen. No event can occur except that God makes it happen in that particular way. This is the rational consequence of the concept of "omnipotence" and "infinity" as applied to God.
But to believe that God is omnipotent is religion; to show rationally and in empirical detail how God exercises this omnipotence, is theistic science. This is fully accomplished in the Writings of Swedenborg and it is understandable and confirmable by anyone who has the motivation to make the effort.
Consider this in relation to proving the premises of theistic psychology:
The Bible was authored by dozens of "prophets" who claimed to receive Divine revelation which they wrote down. These authors were completely independent of each other, separated by many centuries. What they wrote down was some history, some visions of the spiritual world, and some quotes from God who was speaking to the them as messengers to go to the people and report God's words. They did so. Now two thousand years later along comes another prophet or Divine revelator whose name is Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). From his revelation, this author now reports that all the previous authors of the Bible over the centuries were inspired to write down history and visions, not knowing that in every sentence and every word there was hidden through a secret code, another meaning which was symbolic or spiritual. This hidden meaning was actually a scientific revelation about the anatomy of the human mind and its relationship to heaven and hell; also, about how God runs the universe through rational laws; and also many other scientific revelations about the structure of the universe, about cause effect relations, about communication between the inhabitants of earth and the spiritual world, about plants, animals, history, and many more things.
On the one hand, if Swedenborg merely invented these scientific revelations and claimed to see them in the ancient language of the Bible, there world be no scientific or rational reason to believe him. He may simply have been a great genius who believed that these scientific explanations and facts came from his reading the Bible. But why should we necessarily believe him? There is no compelling reason.
On the other hand, the situation is completely different if Swedenborg can show and prove how these independently written Bible chapters do contain the same code. Furthermore, he needs to prove that this code is related to reality by empirical and experimental observations and facts. Finally, the code must make rational sense so that anyone can use the code to explore, analyze, and extract the scientific revelations that are contained in the Bible. And must be done by independent researchers or scientists who must then agree on the results. This is exactly what Swedenborg has accomplished, according to my own analyses over several years, and as well, the independent analysis of hundreds of other scholars and scientists. Therefore we can say rationally that the premises of theistic psychology are provable.
The most obvious difference between religion and theistic science is the explanatory level of phenomena or events. In religion God is personal, historical, and cultural or ethnic. God rules the world like a King with super powers. He speaks, and things happen. He commands and physical things obey. He gets angry when disobeyed but He also forgives and loves with compassion. If you beg Him through prayer, He relents and does what He is asked. He has His favorites in people. He can be placated by sacrifices. He sometimes changes His mind. In short, for religion God is a super-Man with human emotions and sometimes acts inconsistently with His principles for the sake of some person or people. In all this there is very little science that can be obtained. All of it is based on the literal sense of history and visions of "chosen" prophets.
This is entirely different if we consider the symbolic or spiritual content that is hidden within the literal sentences by means of the secret code of correspondences, now revealed in the new scientific revelation of the Writings of Swedenborg. This inner sense can be extracted rationally, logically, and systematically by applying the code of correspondences. What is thus obtained is a vast collection of new scientific revelations that were hidden in the literal sentences of the Bible. Through this new scientific knowledge we can piece together a more advanced scientific explanation of how God operates. We discover that God does not operate by speaking commandments to physical objects, who then obey, for this is not logical. Instead, God operates every physical event by means of natural-spiritual laws of interaction called the laws of correspondences. There is a chain of logical cause-effect events that proceed from God through various stages of externalization or transformation, until the bottom of the chain is reached with physical events.
This is no different than what we are used to in managing our every day affairs. How does the Congress rule the country? First there is passage of a law. Then there is monitoring and enforcement through various levels including inspectors, judges, lawyers, police, etc. It's a complicated chain of events that is rational and scientifically describable, understandable, and controllable. Similarly, how are cars possible in our society? It's through a complex chain of cause-effect relations that includes mining and transporting iron and aluminum to smelters, shaping the metal, adding other materials made of rubber, glass, etc., assembling together, selling the cars, maintaining them, and driving them. If you ask a child or illiterate person how we have cars, the answer would be unscientific and unworkable in reality. We have a similar distinction between the idea of God in religion, which ignores rational and logical mechanisms, and the idea of God in theistic science, which shows the logical intervening steps of how events take place from God's Will downward to the world. These cause-effect intermediate steps are completely unknown and undiscoverable by science, which is why God needs to make scientific revelations, bringing the knowledge and the facts to us. Once the facts are known from revelation, they can be explored, confirmed, extended, and applied just like we do with other scientific facts and explanations.
Once again note that the scientific revelations are not opposed to the religious perspective. In fact, the scientific approach confirms the religious one, and goes further in explicating the reality of God.