Spiritual Psychology

Based on the Writings of Swedenborg

 

Dr. Leon James
Professor of Psychology
University of Hawaii

February 2003
leon@hawaii.edu

 

Contents

Scientific Dualism and Theistic Science *

The Content of Spiritual Psychology *

Evidence and Corroboration of the Writings *

Empirical Observations *

Historical Evidence *

Body-Mind Parallelism *

Objective Self-witnessing of Becoming Spiritually Enlightened *

Two Fundamental Principles of Spiritual Psychology *

(i) Total overlap between mind and the spiritual world *

(ii) From self to as-of-self—the basis of rational-spiritual consciousness *

Notes *

 

The idea of "spiritual" implies a dualist contrast with "natural." When the premise of dualism is not granted, then the meaning of "spiritual" is given in a monist context, which is to say, a naturalistic and materialistic context. In that case spiritual can only mean something natural in the human mind or the physical universe. This would not be spiritual psychology but natural psychology about the natural mind and the physical universe. Natural psychology works within the premise of monism, which is the denial of dualism. The denial of dualism is also the premise of philosophies based on Eastern and Western systems of nonduality (1).

But working within the premise of dualism (or duality), spiritual psychology is about the relationship between the natural mind and the spiritual mind.

Scientific Dualism and Theistic Science

The natural mind is formed by sensory input and the rational construction of a network of concepts that creates meaning and awareness of our environment. The spiritual mind is formed by influx from the spiritual world synchronously with the sensory input in the natural mind from the physical world. The natural mind and the spiritual mind are therefore integrated as one unit. It is not possible for the natural mind to see an object or feel a touch unless a synchronous and parallel influx occurs in the spiritual mind. Not a single process or event in the natural mind can occur without the corresponding influx occurring in the spiritual mind. At birth both the natural mind and the spiritual mind become active together. At death the natural mind is separated from the physical body. Resuscitation occurs a few hours after death and we awaken in our spirit body which houses the natural mind and the spiritual mind (2).

The premise of dualism is founded on the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1771). According to his own testimony, Jesus Christ appeared to Swedenborg at age 57 and revealed that he had been prepared by the Lord since birth and childhood to perform a unique and momentous task never performed before in the history of humankind. Swedenborg was to undergo a psychophysiological change in the organic structure of his mind so that he can gain conscious awareness of his spiritual mind, and consequently of the spiritual world. Swedenborg was given a dual mind, so that he became conscious in both worlds simultaneously. His mind and awareness became dual, conscious of his physical body and natural mind, on the one hand, and on the other, conscious of his spirit body or spiritual mind.

Swedenborg enjoyed this dual state of consciousness from age 57 to 83 when he passed on. During the intervening 26 years, Swedenborg lived a life of dual citizenship. In the natural world he was a Swedish engineer in the service of the King and developed an international reputation for his scientific articles, books, experiments, and technical inventions. In the spiritual world Swedenborg met thousands of people as he visited them in their cities and journeyed through the lands of heaven and hell. He spent hours every day writing out his observations, or as they may be called, his spiritual experiences. All his life Swedenborg had been a very devout Christian and in his scientific writings he always explicitly related all of his theoretical explanations to the Lord and the Lord’s methods of creating and managing the natural world. Now that he was able to actually witness the Lord’s Kingdom in Heaven, his scientific explanations became even more explicit regarding the Lord’s methods of creating and managing the universe.

Due to his unique dual awareness in full awake consciousness for many years, Swedenborg’s Writings are entirely unique for two essential reasons. First, no other scientist in the history of recorded literature has been able to make use of dual awareness for conducting precise, synchronous and extensive experiments on the relationship between the spiritual world and the natural world. Second, Swedenborg’s Writings are unique because they have been commissioned by the Lord God of the Universe to constitute the third portion of His threefold Word, given the humankind for it spiritual survival and evolution. The Word of the Lord is unlike any other human writings. Therefore the Writings of Swedenborg are Divine books written by God through the mind of Swedenborg. Their content constitutes the Word. They are therefore scientific revelations that will remain forever unique, from which endless knowledge can be extracted by following the rules of interpretation and code detection taught in the Writings. (3)

According to Swedenborg’s testimony everything he has written was from the Lord and by command of the Lord. Swedenborg’s spiritual awareness was caused by influx into his spiritual mind. Every individual has this influx, but it is wholly unconscious. All the activity in the spiritual mind is by influx from the inhabitants of the spiritual world. They are called spirits, angels, and devils, depending on where in the spiritual world they are located, which means, the state of mind they are in. Every individual’s spiritual mind is allocated a place in the spiritual world in accordance with its quality or state. The spiritual world is made of societies of people who have arrived from the natural world. Every new arrival is called a novitiate spirit and rapidly goes through successive steps of change in which the individual makes known preferred choices and follows inward attractions. Through these choices and attractions, every individual’s inner state of mind or character, comes to the fore and becomes visible and dominant. From then to eternity, this dominant state asserts itself more and more in endless variation and development.

Nothing is therefore more important for us to know here on earth than the knowledge of how to influence the formation of our unconscious spiritual mind. For such as is the character of the spiritual mind, such is the fate of every individual to eternity. Spiritual psychology gives us this knowledge of inestimable value.

Whatever we love deeply and feel attracted to, determines the influx into the unconscious spiritual mind, and therefore its formation and ultimate fate. Upon resuscitation, we undergo the process of leaving off the aspects of our personality and character that we do not love deeply. Our spiritual mind is now our conscious external mind, whereas before it was our unconscious internal mind.

The Content of Spiritual Psychology

As a practical matter we need to know the following from spiritual psychology:

1. What is the anatomy of the natural mind and the spiritual mind.

2. How do the two interact synchronously and by correspondence.

3. What are the types of influx into the spiritual mind.

4. What conscious methods are possible for attracting particular types of influx.

5. How can we assess the quality or character of our current influx.

6. How do we become more precisely aware of the activity in our natural mind.

7. What ideas and interests are we to avoid because they are negative or spiritually dangerous.

8. How do we maximize our capacity to develop a positive spiritual character.

9. How do we raise our consciousness to the highest level of the human mind.

Spiritual psychology must be based exclusively on the Writings of Swedenborg which are the only genuine source for answering the above questions. Indeed, detailed answers are given to all the questions a scientific mind might formulate regarding God, creation, heaven, hell, and regeneration or the way to eternity.

Other authors may write about these topics from their own insights, but not from God. All individuals are given by God the ability to write from their self-intelligence and create human science, art, and culture. But none of these human artifacts are equivalent to the Word of God which is God’s only method of direct communication with the human race. God has given a new revelation of Himself in His Divine Human Rational through the Word of His Second Coming, marking a new evolutionary age. The Writings of Swedenborg are this Word of the Second Coming, and open up a new unprecedented access to the spiritual world and to God as the Divine Human. The Writings cannot be considered equivalent to any human writing. They have their own authority as God’s Divine Truth, now revealed in a rational way through a scientific account of how He creates the universe and how He maintains it by rational laws and principles we can understand.

What leads anyone to believe that the Writings are the scientific revelations of the new age, as Swedenborg claims them to be?

Evidence and Corroboration of the Writings

Here are 10 criteria that might reasonably be proposed to decide whether a particular author’s scientific proposals are to be believed, and to what extent. For illustration, I’ll use a scale from 10 to 1, with 10 being the highest possible score, and 1 being the lowest for what claims to be a scientific work.

1) Is it fully coherent or does it ramble at places and fall into some obscurity?

2) Is it fully consistent or are there contradictions and weaknesses?

3) Is it fully comprehensive or does it ignore or omit rationally related issues?

4) Is it fully inclusive so that it subsumes and explains all known prior accounts?

5) Is it fully universal, excluding no one, and applying to all segments of humanity?

6) Is it fully empirical, based on actual observations, or only theoretical?

7) Is it fully new, a radically different approach, capable of altering the future?

8) Is it fully authenticated, its author’s reputation and competence investigated?

9) Is it fully assessable, every statement capable of being rationally verified?

10) Is if fully capable of being corroborated or confirmed?

The Writings receive a 10 on all nine criteria. I have studied the Writings daily for two decades using scholarly tools for which I was trained as a psychology professor and behavioral scientist. Its influence on my research and publications has been as important as its effect on my life has been dramatic. This positive influence is available to anyone through the Writings. The tenth criterion is as important as the other nine combined, for without being able to corroborate and confirm the new proposals and principles, one cannot fully and ultimately understand them, and rational acceptance is withheld in the absence of full understanding in clarity.

The two-dozen books of the Writings were written by Swedenborg in Neo-Latin over a period of 26 years. Each subsequent work confirms, elaborates, and extends the prior works. From the first work of the Writings, called Arcana Coelestia, to the last work called The True Christian Religion, The same basic topics are presented, re-presented, summarized and reviewed, along with extended coverage of subjects mentioned earlier, and now being extended further. The treatment is fully consistent and rationally presented. A variety of evidence is presented to support every assertion and principle. Examples may be given.

Empirical Observations

One type of evidence is empirical, observational, and experimental. Swedenborg took daily notes of his spiritual experiences, recording the date, the time, who he saw and spoke to in the spiritual world, what the conversation was about, what was done, what was seen and heard, and what was said. Swedenborg was a scrupulous scientist with decades of experience in gathering data and analyzing them to create explanatory principles of science. The notes of his observations of the spiritual world were precise and copious. He made a study of the innate and universal "thought language" used by all in the spiritual world and compared it to the communication on earth by means of natural languages on earth (xx). He describes what spirits, devils, and angels look like, what they occupy themselves with, what inhabitations they have, what government system (xx). When people are resuscitated and awaken in the spiritual world a few hours after separation from the corpse, they are called spirits, but when they migrate to their final destination to eternity, they are called devils if they migrate to the hells, and angels if they migrate to the heavens. Swedenborg carefully describes the resuscitation process and the life and personality of people during their first state after resuscitation, and then how they change into their second state, whereupon they migrate upward or downward to their final abode (xx).

Swedenborg reports experiments he was permitted to perform in the presence of angels who assisted him by means of their special powers that Swedenborg did not have, being still tied to his physical body despite his dual consciousness and simultaneous consciousness of presence in the natural world and the spiritual world. One experiment involved investigating the nature of the communication between him and a spirit (CL 326). Swedenborg spoke in his natural Swedish language while the spirit spoke in the innate universal spiritual language used by all in the spiritual world. Such are the laws of correspondences between the spiritual and the natural, that what the spirit spoke to Swedenborg’s spiritual mind, he was aware of in his natural mind in the Swedish language. Then, as Swedenborg answered in Swedish, the spirit understood it spiritually in the spiritual language. The spirit was not aware of this automatic translation phenomenon since he no longer had any connection to the natural world and did not consciously remember it. After Swedenborg explained it to him, the spirit could not believe it or understand it immediately. Swedenborg then proposed the experiment. He sent the spirit back to his spiritual society to have an exchange with his companions. He then came back to Swedenborg to report what had been said, but was unable. He memorized the spiritual sentences he had exchanged with his companions and now repeated them out loud to Swedenborg, but they sounded like incomprehensible gibberish. This was redone several times for emphasis. The experiment was then extended to writing. The spirit wrote something on a piece of paper when talking to his companions. When he brought the paper back to Swedenborg, the script was unintelligible. Finally, the experiment was repeated once more, this time the spirit’s task being to go to his companions, have an exchange, hold the subject in thought, and come back. When he did, however, he was unable to express the spiritual thought, at his great amazement. Swedenborg gave him the following explanation:

I live in the world in which you once lived and from which you have departed, which is called the natural world; and I live as well in the world into which you have come and in which you are now living, which is called the spiritual world. I am as a result in a natural state and at the same time a spiritual one - in a natural state when I am with people on earth, and in a spiritual state when I am with you. Moreover, when I am in a natural state, I am not visible to you; but when I am in a spiritual state, I am. To be as I am is something I have been given by the Lord. (...) When I conveyed my spirit into my body, you did not see me; but when I conveyed it out of my body, you did. (...) You are in a spiritual state when you are with your own people, but in a natural state with me; for you speak with your associates in spiritual language, the common language of every spirit and angel, whereas with me you speak in my native tongue. (CL 326)

Another experiment involved angelic spirits who were discoursing with Swedenborg the nature of the connectivity between husbands and wives in heaven (xx). Swedenborg was explaining that conjugial love, or sexual love between angel couples, originates with wives from the Lord, and that husbands do not have this love if they were to be separated from their wives. The angelic spirits could not believe this. There were also present with Swedenborg angels from a higher heaven who offered their superior powers and the sphere of each husband’s wife was removed so that all communication and influx between the husband and the wife was momentarily cut off. The husbands immediately complained that they felt very different from normal. They were cold and almost lifeless, unable to warm up by the idea of their wife. They bitterly complained and begged for relief. The sphere of the wife was then restored to them and they now felt as before. They were thereby fully convinced.

Historical Evidence

The Writings give a most amazing demonstration and proof of its principles and claims by revealing that the Old and New Testaments are written in the Divine Code known to angels. Swedenborg noted that a copy of the Threefold Word is present in heavenly societies, written in a spiritual script described in the Writings (xx). The Threefold Word is made of the Old Testament, New Testament, and the Writings, sometimes called the Third Testament (or "the Last Testament" and "the Latin Word"). The version of the Threefold Word in the heavens that was examined by Swedenborg differed from the version on this planet that is written in natural languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin). The difference was precisely described by Swedenborg who made a word by word and phrase by phrase comparison of three entire books—Genesis, Exodus, and Revelations, along with thousands of passages from the Pentateuch, the Prophets, the Psalms, and the Four Gospels. This careful analysis proves that the version of the Threefold Word in natural language on earth corresponds word for word to the spiritual meanings in which the version in heaven is written. Swedenborg fully proves the one-to-one connection or translation between the two, leaving no doubt as to their exact relationship.

What is most remarkable is that the spiritual meaning of the Old and New Testaments, as translated from the natural sense, is arranged in a rational series of super-human complexity, yet understandable in a general sense, by means of the Laws of Correspondences that regulate the interaction between the natural world and the spiritual world. The revelation in the Writings of this Divine Code of operation, by which the Lord manages the two worlds, is called by Swedenborg the greatest miracle ever granted by God to humanity (xx). This code proves the super-natural character and Divine origin of the books of the Threefold Word. No other books written by human beings has this built in code between the surface literal meaning and the underlying spiritual meaning. For example, wherever the Old and New Testament have the word "Jerusalem" or "Zion," the spiritual version in heaven has the word "spiritual Church" or "doctrine." Wherever the number 4, 40, or 44 is mentioned, the spiritual version has the word "temptation." Wherever the expression "nation and people" occurs, the spiritual version has "good and truth" or "love and wisdom." Similarly with other words such as water, road, tree, flood, dragon, man, woman, virgin, desert, animal, death, eating, drinking, child, and so on. There is not a single word in the Threefold Word that exists on earth that is not written in this Divine Code.

The fact that Swedenborg was able to analyze the relation between the Sacred Scripture on earth and the Word in heaven and to prove that one is the spiritual sense of the other, constitutes full and incontrovertible objective evidence of the reality of spiritual psychology and theistic science as contained in the Writings. Consider the fact that the books of the Old and New Testament were written by dozens of independent writers or prophets over several centuries. It is a most remarkable and amazing proof to be able to show by objective analysis, that these books are written in the same Divine Code and that they form an uninterrupted rational series of semantic organization in their inner spiritual sense. And this, despite the likelihood that none of the Testament writers or prophets knew this code explicitly, or even, could have understood it had it been described to them. This no doubt constitutes the greatest literary and scientific secret of human history, now fully revealed in the Writings.

The spiritual content to be extracted from the Threefold Word by applying the Laws of Correspondences, is systematically and logically laid out and explained in the Writings. Remarkably, it turns out that the hitherto unsuspected spiritual content of the Word, extracted from its Letter by means of correspondences, deals with human development and regeneration. In other words, the Old Testament, the New Testament, and the Writings, together make up a Divine textbook of theistic science that includes spiritual psychology and other dualist sciences to be extracted by future research.

Besides demonstrating that there is a connected rational semantic series in the spiritual sense of the Old and New Testaments, despite their independent writers, the Writings give additional empirical confirmation and objective proof through Swedenborg’s observations in the spiritual world conducted continuously over a 26-year period and carefully recorded in his daily journal and writing. This observational confirmation is made routinely by every inhabitant of the spiritual world and will be available to each of us when we become novitiate spirits. The confirmation is presented by means of the sensory phenomena that spirits can see around them when they talk, reflect, or read the Word. It is an invariable law of the spiritual world that whatever its inhabitants think of or talk about, is synchronously reflected or represented in the surrounding environment. For instance, whenever spirits or angels talk about "understanding the Word" they see horses around. Whenever spirits think something false and desire something evil, the quality of the falsity and evil is represented in their immediate environment so that one can see around them wild and dangerous animals, poisonous gardens, dark skies, wastelands, deserts, and brackish stenchy marshes. Similarly, when good spirits or angels talk, think, and emote, one can witness in their immediate environment corresponding natural things such as beautiful gardens, friendly animals, magnificent art, architecture, cities, and landscapes. The Divine Code in which the Threefold Word is written, overlaps perfectly, and is confirmed objectively, by the phenomena of the spiritual world, observable by any of its inhabitants.

For these various reasons, there can be no doubt therefore regarding the Divine origin of the Writings.

Body-Mind Parallelism

Another aspect of the Writings that constitutes objective evidence is the confirmation of spiritual phenomena by means of corresponding physiological and anatomical facts known to science about the human body. The Writings specify the exact correspondences between physical organs of the body and spiritual organs of the mind. For instance, the heart and circulatory system is identified with the will (or affective domain), while the lungs and pulmonary system is identified with the understanding (or cognitive domain). The Writings show that every detailed fact known about circulation and respiration of the body, and their interaction, corresponds exactly to the anatomy and physiology of the will and understanding in the mind, and their interaction (xx). There is therefore a remarkable consistency and unity between the correspondences of the historical Word, the sensuous phenomena appearing in the spiritual world, and the correspondences observable between body and mind. Future research will be able to apply the principle of correspondences from new knowledge acquired on the body to new knowledge about the mind, its functioning, development, and control.

Objective Self-witnessing of Becoming Spiritually Enlightened

Ultimately, the most important type of corroboration for most people is to be able not only to understand a new system of thinking about reality, but also to observe that reality in oneself, turning something merely theoretical into the actuality of one’s life and experience. This essential confirmation is available to anyone who is willing to undergo the process of regeneration described in the Writings. Regeneration is the orderly process of character improvement provided by the Lord through the revelations in the Writings. Anyone, regardless of demographic background and personality type, can receive the power from God to change one’s inherited natural character that is full of evils and weaknesses, and is unsuitable for heavenly life. Every person is born with a "fallen human character," called "proprium" in the Writings, a character that ties every person to societies in hell and inclines the person to all sorts of evil loves, selfish motives, and an automatic and irrational resistance to every good and truth from God. Unless the individual is regenerated, this inherited character turns into an acquired preference for evil and its false beliefs. Upon separation from the corpse, the novitiate spirit arrives with this character deeply embedded. Should the angels remove these evils from an individual, no life would be left, for to take away a spirit’s loves is to take away life itself, for life is nothing but one’s loves (xx). Hence there is no other recourse but to admit those spirits into the lower regions of the human mind called the hells. In that state of mind, they seem to themselves living in hell societies with other evil spirits who share a similar dominant love, and in whose midst every individual lives a life of successive and endless alternation between being tortured and torturing others. The agony and infernal ecstasy of this lifestyle that is to endure forever, is almost inconceivable to endure. There are innumerable such hell societies, each corresponding to a particular type of human vice and deformation of good and truth. From this sorry and frightening state, there is no possibility of backtracking to eternity (xx).

Clearly, nothing can be of greater importance to us here on earth than to undergo regeneration or character reformation. The Writings reveal that regeneration is not possible from the individual’s own power and intelligence (xx). The Lord is present in the unconscious spiritual mind of every individual. The Lord fills the unconscious spiritual mind with rational truths that contain spiritual power to regenerate. Every spiritual truth contains this Divine power but our ability to use it is conditional upon the belief system in our natural conscious mind. All belief systems based on self-intelligence or human agency, automatically and spontaneously react against the spiritual truths entering the conscious mind from the unconscious. The result is that the Divine spiritual truth that descended from the higher mind is turned into its opposite, and the spiritual good that is within the truth, is turned into evil loves. Despite the Lord’s presence in our unconscious spiritual mind, our natural mind is turned against it, and leading every person to sure hell.

To break this infernal inherited cycle, the Lord has given the Threefold Word to humankind. As the Writings explain, we are to memorize and reflect upon the Letter of the Word in its plain teaching. This is called "the Doctrine of Life" (xx). It’s called "doctrine" when our rational understanding of the Letter of the Word is applied personally to one’s daily willing and thinking. In other words, we are to rearrange our cognitive life to agree with the principles we understand from the Word. Every belief and idea that doesn’t conform, must be isolated, separated, and rendered powerless in one’s thoughts and interpretations of life’s events. Every act of the will, every choice, preference, and wish, must be examined, assessed, and judged as coming either from heaven or from hell. There is no in between. Every time we do this in the course of our day, the Lord provides enlightenment. This refers to the conscious awareness in our natural mind of the spiritual meaning of some idea or principle from the inner sense of the Writings. This is the spiritual sense in which the angels think and operate. This is the source of their super-human powers, intelligence, and happiness.

These spiritual truths are also available to the regenerating person on earth upon condition of applying the Doctrine of Life to one’s daily thinking and willing. The enlightenment that the Lord provides is successively more interior or celestial, as the regenerating person progresses. This progress involves battles against temptations and continues till the end of life here on earth. Upon awakening in the spiritual world, the regenerating person possesses the rational loves acquired during regeneration on earth. These loves cause the person to rise to the heavenly places in the human mind where angels dwell in eternity.

Enlightenment that is provided by the Lord in regeneration by means of the Writings is conscious and progressive. It can be described, discussed, experienced, reflected upon. Nothing in the natural world around us can be more clear and definite as evidence of the reality of dualities taught in the Threefold Word. In this lies the ultimate proof of the validity of the claims found in the Writings. This type of spiritual understanding is called rational consciousness to distinguish it from sensuous consciousness (6). Spiritual psychology promises to be the vehicle of consciousness raising for the human race. Prior to this point of evolution, called by the Writings "the Second Coming," the human race was not completed because rational consciousness could not exist until the ideas given in the Writings could be received by the human race. The evolutionary era prior to this, called "the First Coming," brought to humankind a sensuous consciousness of the Divine Person in the form of Jesus Christ, the incarnate God. The 17 centuries between the First Coming in Bethlehem, Palestine, and the Second Coming in Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania, were necessary to prepare the human mind for modernism and scientific ideas capable of encompassing a rational idea of the spiritual (7). The Writings are so written as to be able to form rational consciousness within the regenerating practitioner. These rational loves now form the uppermost plane of the human mind called spiritual and celestial. This is where heaven is and nowhere else. Those who arrive in the spiritual world without these rational loves, have not undergone regeneration, so that every plane of their mind above the corporeal is closed and inoperative. The only life for them then possible is in the bottom of the mind called hell and insanity.

A most important lesson from spiritual psychology based on the Writings is that heaven is made out of our rational loves acquired in regeneration by means of enlightenment through the Writings, and along with this, the methods by which we can give up the evil loves that oppose our regeneration.

Two Fundamental Principles of Spiritual Psychology

I will mention here just two ideas of fundamental importance in the spiritual psychology found in the Writings. They are: (i) Total overlap between mind and the spiritual world; (ii) Vertical community and the Grand Human; (iii) From self to as-of-self—the basis of rational-spiritual consciousness.

(i) Total overlap between mind and the spiritual world

The first is the revelation that our unconscious spiritual mind is in constant communication with spiritual societies in the spiritual world. I use the phrase "vertical community" to refer to this spiritual networking, and to distinguish it from the "horizontal community" of our culture and nation on earth. It has been revealed that if communication with the vertical community is interrupted, the natural mind ceases to function since its ability depends totally on the corresponding activity in the spiritual mind. Influx is another name for the operation of this vertical community. We are therefore never alone, not in the privacy of our thinking, not in the solitude of our own feeling or emotion. Humanity is made of individual persons and every person is interconnected to all other persons, not in a theoretical or idealistic way, but in an immediate and actual way, like a universal spiritual internet, where every person is ‘online’ with every other person, more intensely with those who are nearby, less visibly with those who are distant. Closeness and distance refers to greater or lesser similarity in spiritual states, that is, in loves, affections, and purposes. The Writings reveal how these human influences operate with those who have been born eons ago and those who are entering the spiritual world today, both from this planet and from other starry systems. All has now been revealed.

(ii) From self to as-of-self—the basis of rational-spiritual consciousness

The second idea of fundamental importance in the spiritual psychology found in the Writings is discussed under the topic of "as-of-self." Understanding this revelation helps the individual to avoid many common pitfalls and weaknesses that cause much unhappiness and ruined lives. The contrast is between "self" and "as-of-self." For example, parents lovingly watch over their toddler all day making sure the child does not get injured. They remove sharp objects, they plug electric outlets, they guide the child’s body from colliding with furniture, yank the child away from an open window, push its hand away when reaching for a hot object, keep away harmful substances or animals, and so on. None of this the child is aware of. It goes on merrily and enthusiastically from one task to another feeling free and loving it. The child has the feeling of self as a free agent acting on its own behalf, but this is only an appearance. The reality is that the child is not free to do things that would injure it because this is prevented by the parents who can foresee what the child cannot.

Similarly with the adult and the Lord. Since the Lord is omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent, and manages the course of the universe, it cannot be that there is some detail here or there that He does not manage, for then the entire system would lose its order and its existence. The general is managed to the extent that all the particulars are. Since there is not a detail the Lord does not manage, what happe4ns to our freedom of choice in thinking this or wiling that? If the Lord manages those details, are we then free? Do we have a self who is free and acting on its own behalf from its loves and affections?

The answer is similar to the case with the toddler and the parent. The parent actually controls and manages the toddler’s fate, yet the toddler feels free as long as the management is done in a certain style where direct force or coercion is never used. The parent can use indirect methods that are outside the conscious awareness or understanding of the toddler. In the same way, the Lord’s omnipotence in managing our thinking and willing is never consciously coercive. The Writings reveal some of the techniques the Lord uses to hide His close management of our thinking and willing. One is to never announce His presence in some visible and dramatic fashion like speaking with an audible voice or making a miracle to prove his presence. Further, the Lord hides many memories or ideas from coming into our awareness at specific moments, in this way controlling what we remember and what we forget. The Lord hides His control over details and outcomes by means of seemingly chance occurrences, coincidences, or random error. And in many other ways such as super-human complexity so that the human mind cannot fully account for all observations. The result is that we do not see Divine Providence operating in anything and we feel free to think or will as we wish in accordance with our loves and ideas. When the Writings explain this freedom, the concept of "as-of-self" is introduced, and its Divine loving purpose explained.

The Writings reveal that heaven is the highest state of mind human beings can attain by creation. When we reach that state we are called angels. Swedenborg visited with many angels in their homes and celestial cities. These natural looking environments of exquisite beauty and architecture, are instantaneous creations by correspondence that the Lord provides as a backdrop for the heavenly state of mind. Others who are also in this state seem to themselves to exist together as a community in a city of angels. The happiness in this state is so perfect that it feels like it is increasing cumulatively on a daily basis. The angels who talked to Swedenborg said that this amazing happiness is based on the as-of-self. The moment they think that they have some power of their own to think this or that, or to make this or that decision, they immediately lose their happiness, fall out of the heavenly state, and are now in the spiritual world wandering around in misery. The angels acknowledge that their greatest freedom is felt when they desire nothing else but to think and will in accordance with the Lord’s influx, thus, to think and will from the Lord, and not from themselves. The highest state a person can achieve is to act voluntarily in accordance with the Lord’s truth and love. This is possible only after we desire to avoid acting from self. To act from as-of-self raises our consciousness to heaven; to act from self lowers it to hell. Such are human beings by creation. This has now been revealed.

Many more concepts of spiritual psychology could be mentioned for the Writings are an inexhaustible source for such new revelations. "Conjugial love" is a most distinctive example. It is the love between a husband and wife in heaven. The Writings reveal how we are to prepare our mind for such supreme and ecstatic existence in eternity. Still another crucial revelation for spiritual psychology is the psychophysiological sequence of development that every mind must undergo for regeneration, which means for preparing the mind for heavenly life, the highest form of human existence possible from creation (4).

 

Notes

(1) For a detailed analysis of nonduality see Volume 1 of my book in manuscript A Man of the Field, on the Web at: www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/nonduality.html

(2) E. Swedenborg. Arcana Coelestia Vol. 1. A complete list of Swedenborg’s works, with free full text access to all of the Writings and many collateral works, is available in this directory:

www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/instructor/gloss/abbrev.html 

(3) For an elaboration of this idea and some examples, see the following documents posted on the Web:

www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/v2ch1-nonduality.html 

www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/instructor/gloss/dhl.html

(4) See the articles on Dr. Ian Thompson Theistic Science Web site "Psychological Approach To Some Concepts of Theistic Science":

www.theisticscience.org/psych-appr.html

Other articles by Leon James related to spiritual psychology will be found in this directory:

www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/instructor/gloss.html 

(5) The method of objective self-witnessing in relation to regeneration is discussed in Volume 3 of A Man of the Field:

www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/v3ch1-nonduality.html 

(6) Sensuous consciousness and rational consciousness are treated throughout the three Volumes of A Man of the field:

www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/nonduality.html

(7)" Bryn Athyn: The City of Levites in the New Canaan":

http://www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/brynathyn.htm

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