Course on Theistic
from Student Reports
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The two main textbooks to this
course were Testimony to the Invisible Edited by James F. Lawrence and Spirituality
that Makes Sense by
Spirituality the Makes Sense
is a book written by Swedenborgian minister
Through the reading of these two texts as well as the ever-growing pages of the lecture notes, one is presented with plenty of material to investigate and attempt to understand the works of Emanuel Swedenborg. That is, if one feels so inclined. By a proper investigation of the texts and lecture notes, one is able to discuss the main topic of this course, which is, mystical vs. rational spirituality.
Quotations from "Spirituality that Makes Sense"
“Our idea of God governs and controls all our
wishing and thinking, whether we realize it or not.” –
This quote comes
from one of the first sentences of
God is the fountainhead of all ideas. God is the greatest possible idea that man can fathom. God is the most important idea also. One’s idea of God determines all of our other ideas. For if God is an idea that contains infinity, then God must be within every other idea. For any other finite idea cannot exist apart from the infinite idea of God.
If one trusts in an all-loving God, then this idea floods into all other thoughts and feelings, especially when one deals with fear. If one sees God as malign, then that idea can cause an individual to be more harmful, frustrated, angered, paranoid, or anxious. The idea of God affects everything in our minds, whether we are aware of it or not.
“We are meant to have an enlightened faith, a faith through understanding.”
This statement I hold to have the utmost importance. Faith and religion lie at the hearts of man, whether they are aware of it or not. But the direction that the modern mind is developing is a direction that relies more and more on logical coherency, reason, and understanding. If faith is going to be something that people incorporate into their lives, it needs to be a faith through understanding. It is important that an understanding and rationality is applied to faith, because if it is not, then it is merely blind, ritualistic, persuasive, or mystical. If this were the case than man would not be in true agreement with what faith he attributes himself to.
The purpose of faith through understanding is so that faith makes sense. If it doesn’t make sense then it is without substance. It is through the understanding that man is able to raise his love into higher spiritual warmth. In order to develop ones faith to higher levels, one must raise their understanding of faith and spiritual matters. For faith trying to endure without understanding is like a plant trying to grow without the light of the sun.
“The Lord never casts anyone into hell. Nor is anyone cast into hell against his or her own wishes. People freely choose to go there for eternity because, while living on earth, they have chosen hell in preference to heaven in most situations.”
I enjoy this quote for a number of reasons. The main reason is that it addresses questions that many people have when it comes to the topic of God. Such as, “How can there be evil if God is all good?” “Why is there a hell? Why doesn’t God take everyone to heaven?”
People aren’t punished by a life in hell; they choose to go to hell. While we are in this world we are blessed with the gift of freedom. Through or conscious use of our free will, we choose what to do. When we choose to do and think things that contain hellish characteristics, then we are forming hellish habits. We are choosing to look away from heavenly warmth and light. When we do this we become more comfortable with hellish things. Thus, we make ourselves spiritually nocturnal. People are in hell, because that is where they choose to be, because that is where they feel most comfortable. They don’t enjoy heavenly things, because they didn’t live that kind of life on earth, they aren’t comfortable in heaven. They choose hell.
The point of this quick discussion is to show, briefly, that many spiritual topics that man struggles with, can be explained in a way that makes sense. It can be understood. Spiritual clarity exists.
Mystical or Rational?
In a word, the two textbooks that we studied during this class represent both the mystical and rational approach to spirituality. Testimony to the Invisible is the more mystical approach, while Spirituality that Makes Sense, as its title suggests, is the much more rational approach.
Testimony to the Invisible is a mystical approach to Swedenborg because it is a collection of many people’s interpretations of Swedenborg’ Writings. Many of the authors or the people discussed in the essays were not investigators of what Swedenborg had to say, because they couldn’t get past the idea that Swedenborg had his spiritual eyes open. Because of this, they had to take on a mystical approach, or resulted in questioning Swedenborg’s sanity rather than data.
Throughout the book Swedenborg is often referred to as a “visionary” or “mystic”, which quite obviously suggests a mystical approach to the subject.
In the first quote
that I cited,
The third quote I discussed about Emerson is the one that I believe displays the books lack of rationality the best. In the book, Emerson disregards Swedenborg’s correspondences and invents his own. This shows that Emerson missed the point entirely. The correspondences that Swedenborg discovered were not some sort of symbolic invention, but were based on his empirical observations in the spiritual world. If one interprets correspondences as a subjective interpretation by Swedenborg, then one is approaching Swedenborg mystically. For this suggests that Swedenborg was somewhere far away from reality, and sees him as more of a visionary, literary figure than a rationalist and scientist.
As long as one focuses only on the subjectivism, and experience of God, without referring to the rational nature of God, then one treads the line of mysticism. One can see this throughout Testimony to the Invisible because it is many people’s subjective interpretations of Swedenborg rather than the objective investigation of Swedenborg (save Suzuki’s chapter).
Makes Sense is a much more
rational approach to Swedenborg than Testimony to the Invisible. The
purpose of the whole book seems to be “making sense” of God, the Spiritual
world, and many other topics such as the virgin birth and the trinity. Throughout
Never once, does
I always wanted to know what happens to
those who committed criminal acts, such as murder when they reach the spiritual
world. There are many forms of murder, such as physically killing someone,
gossiping, and ostracizing. Gossiping and ostracizing can cause emotional
damage and can lead to consequences, such as isolation, suicide, and denial of
God. Some victims of gossip and ostracism are severely affected by these
negative words that they are unable to build or regenerate their character or
think rationally. Some individuals overcome these negative remarks, while
others have a more difficult time in doing so. This in a way is like murdering
someone's spiritual soul. In Spirituality
That Makes Sense by
I really liked the chapter on the Spiritual
World because we are able to learn what our life will be like once we leave the
natural world. Unlike the natural world, which operates by the laws of nature,
the spiritual world is a world that is operated by our mind. "Everything
happens there according to the laws of the spiritual world, according to the
laws of the mind" (Spirituality That
I always wanted to know what makes hell
Personally, I want to do more charitable
works, such as giving food and clothes to the homeless. The chapter
on "Saving Faith" really made me reevaluate myself and made me
want to start charity works. I really like the passage "This charitable
attitude or good will is the motivating force within good deeds that makes them
genuine works of charity" (Spirituality
That Makes Sense,
I definitely agree that "Faith is
progressive. It grows as charity grows" (Spirituality That Makes Sense,
I am happy to learn that the Lord won all
the battles of temptations so he could bring order in the spiritual world.
"He restored order in the world of the spirits, so that the warmth and
light of heaven could once more flow down and be received by human minds"
(Spirituality That Makes Sense,
Testimony to the Invisible represents the mystical approach to spirituality and God. The chapter on A Mystic Looks at Swedenborg is a great example of the mystical approach to spirituality and God. Mysticism is "the first-hand experience of direct intercourse with God" (Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dudeen, pg.126). Having a personal relationship with God and being a part of God's life is what makes up mysticism. It's like being connected to God through prayer, faith, worship, and love. "Mystics who write attempt to share their experience and its subsequent understanding with others" (Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, pg.133). Some people may view mystics as irrational because they may think that their works are not factual and unscientific. "The mystic is simply one who has direct experience of the Divine" (Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, pg.133). In my mind, Swedenborg would be considered a mystic since he came into direct contact with the Divine through his travels in the spiritual world.
"Having experienced God once, one acquires a taste for it. The mystic learns how to find his or her way back into that communion" (Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, pg.106). Mystics believe that God and humans are able to connect as one entity, which assumes that they have similar consciousness or minds. Mystics also believe that we can experience God if we are able to become one with Him. Emerson writes that "My concern is with the universal truth of Swedenborg's sentences, not at all with he circumstances or vocabulary" (Testimony to the Invisible, Eugene Taylor, pg.163). In my mind, Emerson questions whether Swedenborg actually went to the spiritual world where he conducted experiments and interviewed angels and demons. Emerson admits that " Swedenborg's life was one worthy to be held up as a window into the world soul" (Testimony to the Invisible, Eugene Taylor, pg.162). In my mind, Emerson praises Swedenborg for teaching individuals about their interior soul and about themselves. Mystics believe that Swedenborg was a mystical visionary because he recorded his experiences, which are abstract and spiritual in meaning. It seems that mystics do not agree with the fact that Swedenborg traveled to the spiritual world and conducted his experiments. The mystical approach is different from the rational approach in that it incorporates "experience with God" and one can form "one mind and consciousness with God." These ideas are different from that of a rational approach, which is logical, scientific, and incorporates God and humans as two distinct entities.
Spirituality That Makes Sense by
"But the teaching also shows us the way
to free ourselves from evil feelings, by remembering that they do in fact
belong to hell and not to us" (Spirituality
That Makes Sense,
On the other hand, “Spirituality That Makes Sense”
In “Spirituality that makes
“Wickedness does indeed burn
like a fire. Surely all the evils condemned by the Lord in the Ten Commandments
are hot and burning and insatiable. What
other hellfire need there be? What else
is it but our burning, all-consuming selfishness that results when we have
completely and deliberately rejected the Lord; our fiery passions and
ambitions, our burning lust, our heated arguments our hot anger and fiery
tempers, our smoldering resentment as we burn for revenge? These are the fires of self-love burning
within---the fires of hell…The punishment of hell, then is self-inflicted. The
Lord casts no one into hell, but many people find their eternal abode there, of
their own free choice.”(Spirituality that makes sense
p.35-37). The suffering in hell
is self-inflicted because evil brings upon itself suffering as its punishment,
and it is this rational concept that supports the labeling of
Spirituality That Makes Sense, by
Jesus said: “I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.” (John 8:42)
“The Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)
“This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased.” (Mathew 3:17)
I am a fan of this book and recommend it to anyone who is seeking rationality in religion, spirituality, or passages from the Bible.
Spirituality That Makes Sense
That Makes Sense,
In the first chapter of his book,
“How can the most noble and important idea that there is be impossible to grasp—a mystery? If God is completely beyond our comprehension, then He is invisible to the human mind….To think of God as invisible to the human mind means that we have a blind faith in God.”
This is a new concept to those already familiar with Christian doctrine and ideas. He presented some interesting ideas that if we have this kind of distant relationship with God (if we cannot understand the idea of God), then we would begin to think of God as unimportant because we would stop trying to even begin to understand who he is. In turn, this would affect our willingness to remain obedient to his laws and we would eventually think about God less.
This idea served as the first entry, and I think it laid the foundation of understanding the rest of the book. Without accepting the idea that there is a God, and that God should be accessible by all of us, then Swedenborg’s teachings would be useless. I think that we need to go beyond the fact that God is infinite. I think that for so long, this has remained an excuse for further exploration at the character of God. Although I do not accept everything that Taylor presented in his book, I do think that it is time to stop hiding behind the excuse that God is too big for us to understand who he is because it would so easy to give up at trying to know him, and therefore be apathetic in our search for the truth.
Later in the book,
“It is very important to be able to visualize the God you are praying to, the God you worship. Many sincere Christians find themselves at some point wondering whom they should worship or pray to… But when we believe that in Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead in heavenly form, we can visualize the Lord Jesus Christ. We have an object to worship, someone whom our minds can focus its sight. That is why it is so important to have this concept of the visible God.”
There have not been too many passages that I have come across in studying Swedenborg that deal with the person of God directly. Although this is a theistic theory, I was beginning to wonder where “God” actually fit in. The ideas of heaven and hell, spiritual truths, or marriage are quite frequently covered, but it seemed that God himself was more difficult to discuss. I think that it is important to establish the relationship between God and man. Yes, he is the creator, but beyond that, who is he? Why do we need God? Why did God have to become a man? Why did God create us? I think that these are important questions that need to be covered in order to truly understand Swedenborg’s theistic theory.
“Belief in the Divinity of the Lord is the work of God. God put that light into our mind, into the higher or inmost part of our mind—everyone’s mind. So that part of the process of believing in the Lord is entirely His work.”
From this passage, one could conclude that it is not by our free-will that any spiritual truths are revealed to us, rather it is God’s choice to reveal anything to us. And this pretty much contradicts one of Swedenborg’s main ideas. But if you look further into the passage, you get clearer picture that it is through one’s unity with God that these things are revealed. I think that many are interested in learning more about what God’s truth is. We are all seeking revelations from God to understand our purpose in life. This an important area to explore in order to give people the right motivations to seek love and wisdom in this world. This will in turn affect our spiritual life in the afterlife.
I think that although Testimony to the Invisible tried to be as objective as possible, it was a much more emotional response to Swedenborg’s writings. For example, Raine was moved by Swedenborg and described his writings as “great splendor”. Suzuki was very touched by Swedenborg’s lifestyle and work ethic, as well as his theology. There was a sense of awe of the essay writers in this book. While the emotional connection to God was important, there lacked rational or intellectual thought in these essays.
Also, there was a lot reference to
Swedenborg’s mysticism, whether indirect or direct. As noted earlier,
On the other hand, Spirituality That Makes Sense, used a cause-and-effect method which made it much
more rational. Each section of the book
was broken down and often times, the Scriptures were used to support the ideas
of Swedenborg. Each chapter addressed a
specific issue and gave adequate definitions and evidence to back it up.
Quotations from Spirituality That Makes Sense
“No light can be shed on this miracle of human birth until we human beings admit that we do not have life in ourselves, that life flows into us. We receive life; we are only receivers or recipients of life from the Lord, who alone is life in itself… No human father gives life to his children.”
This passage helped me to understand how the virgin birth could be possible. Prior to reading this rationalization, I had often doubted the accuracy of the Virgin Mary. Now, when I think of all life coming from the Lord and a man’s semen as “the means of transmitting the soul” I can understand that because God was the father of Jesus there did not need to be a seed to transmit the soul into Mary’s womb. All life comes from God; therefore, there did not need to be a seed to transmit the life of Jesus into Mary’s womb. Jesus inherited tendencies toward evil, as witness by his many temptations, from his earthly mother. However, because his father was the Divine, from him he inherited only good. This explains how Jesus could have had temptations greater than most, yet was still able to reject this evil.
“Here the last vestiges of the human body from May (and its mind) were crying out in desperation to the Divine Soul within, which seemed remote, afar off. The Divine soul seemed to have forsaken the human part. “Why have You forsaken Me?”
I, as have many others, have often wondered that if Jesus was God in the human form, then why did he ask the Lord this question while he was on the cross. This passage helped answer this question. Jesus was part human from his human mother Mary. The Divine soul was still within him while he was on the cross. When I read this part of the text, I thought of how many time I talk to myself during the day. I thought about how my mind, or my soul, is within the spiritual world as well. Therefore, when I am speaking to myself, could it be that I am conversing with my spiritual mind? Although this sounds confusing, it made sense to me that Jesus, the human, while on the cross was speaking not to a separate entity, but instead to his Divine Soul which was residing in the Spiritual world.
“The Lord never casts anyone into hell. Nor is anyone cast into hell against his or her own wishes. People freely choose to go there for eternity because, while living on earth, they have chosen hell in preference to heaven in most situations. The Lord provides us all with opportunities to choose heaven and hell.”
This passage made perfect sense when I stopped to think about two facts. First, the fact that heaven and hell are within a person’s mind; therefore, if a person chooses, through freewill, evil then that person will reside in the hell of his mind. Just as if a person chooses good, then that person will reside in the heaven of their mind. When the earthly body is gone and a person is in the spiritual world, that person must choose to reject evil and accept good or live forever in the hell of his mind. This may seem as though the Lord is “casting” that person into hell for not accepting His truths. However, if the person has lived a life with a love for evil, then heaven will not be a gratifying place. Understanding this concept allows one to accept that it is the person who chooses heaven or hell, not God choosing it for the person.
Each of texts delves into the topic of the Writings of Swedenborg. Testimony to the Invisible looks at Swedenborg as a mystic. There is no scientific rationalization of the Writings within this book. Spirituality That Makes Sense, on the other hand, examines Swedenborg’s Writings in a rational manner. This can be noted while reading each book.
Testimony to the Invisible seems to embrace a “oneness” with the Lord by seeing the happenings of the world as mysterious. An example of this can be seen in Wilson Van Dusen’s essay “A Mystic Looks at Swedenborg”. Van Dusen states, “His writing are rational, but that is their style, not preeminently their nature… not only are his writings the work of a mystic, they are meant to help create mystics…” Throughout this book Swedenborg is referred to as a mystic, a great mystic. These essays do not view Swedenborg, or religion, in a rational manner. However, the book helps the reader learn how many great people throughout history Swedenborg influenced.
Spirituality That Makes Sense goes to great lengths to explain God in a
The second book, Spirituality that Makes Sense (hereafter
referred to as Spirituality) by
A question of why God put on a human form was answered in the beginning
of Chapter 5. Since I have never read
the Bible, this part was particularly interesting to me (I have never been
interested in a topic such as this until I took this course).
Another interesting topic in the book was Chapter 11, “When Good Deeds
“That charity and faith do not profit a man so long as they remain in only one part of his body, that is, in his head, and are not fixed in works, is evident from a thousand passages in the Word” (True Christian Religion 376 cited in Spirituality, p.165).
Both Testimony to the Invisible and Spirituality that Makes
Sense examine Emanuel Swedenborg and attempt to make sense of his
Writings. However, the two books differ
in their approach. Although both books
praise Swedenborg in their own way, every essay in Testimony to the
Invisible refers to Swedenborg as a mystic.
This means that he was either delusional, he was in a trance, or his
works are fictional. Not only do the
writers categorize Swedenborg as a mystic, but his close followers such as
William Blake and Ralph Waldo Emerson are labeled mystics as well. Conversely,
Spirituality That Makes Sense
In this book, Spirituality That Makes
“The concept of a spiritual world distinct from the world of nature is basic to all religion. In addition to belief in God, what makes a religion to be a religion, and what distinguishes it from a system of ethics and morality, is the idea of a spiritual world in which we are to live after the death of our body--a spiritual world where the Lord is and from which the Divine influence goes forth.”
That Makes Sense,
I thought this quote was very true. There are many religions that exist out there and most of them involve the concept of a spiritual world. I say “most” because we have belief systems that either deny God or the spiritual aspect altogether. I had mentioned earlier in this report as well as in Report 1 that I consider myself to be Buddhist, but I also believe in God. After I came across this passage, I was curious as to how it related to my own beliefs.
Buddhism possesses spiritual concepts, however, it does not include a belief in God and a spiritual world in which we are to live after the death of our bodies. I figured that I had conflicting beliefs. From a Buddhism perspective, it is safe to say that the concept of the spiritual world is distinct from the world of nature, but the belief in Buddha, reincarnation, and past lives (the ideas I grew up with) does not fully agree with the view of Theistic Psychology. So, in reference to this quote, is Buddhism a religion? At this point, I continue to question where I stand in terms of my beliefs surrounding spirituality.
“The heavenly or spiritual part of our mind is always in a state of order, always enlightened by the Lord. Only our earthly, conscious mind is ever our of order. The whole purpose of our life on earth is to cooperate with the Lord in bringing our natural mind back into order so that heavenly feelings and thoughts can flow in.”
That Makes Sense,
In class, I had learned about and accepted the idea of a distinct spiritual existence. In doing so, I was able to draw a difference between the physical brain and the mind. This quote really made sense to me when I read it. Throughout our lives, it is important to work towards developing our natural mind in order to open the higher levels of our mind, even if we have no consciousness of our inner mind. The formation of the heavenly mind is necessary in the process of preparation for life in the spiritual world after physical death.
Although I am still unsure of my destiny after my death (in this life), I find this concept to be very interesting and rational. I suppose I can apply it to reincarnation to a certain extent. If Enlightenment is the main objective, a purpose of development exists. In this case, with every rebirth on this earth, the soul grows and continues to prepare itself. In spite of the many logical explanations I have been exposed to about what happens after one (physically) dies, I have yet to make up my mind about what I believe in. I felt that the concept of this quote was reasonable, but I also find logic in the idea of reincarnation (of Buddhism).
“So any good actions we do before evil motives are shunned as sins are not really good. They only appear to be good. Can a bad tree bring forth good fruit?”
That Makes Sense,
There is a great deal of bad people in this world who do a good job of concealing their evil motives. When I read this quote, it reminded me of how I often get suspicious of others’ reasons for doing things. It is true, someone may “appear” to be kind through his/her actions, but in actuality, his/her underlying reason is nothing of that sort. As the text that followed this excerpt pointed out, one’s good actions of an evil motive could bring about a good effect, nonetheless, he/she really does not benefit from it. Consequently, no one can get away with such wrong-doings. Although bad intentions can’t always be detected by others, the mark is left on the wrong-doer’s soul and there’s no escaping that.
Rational or Mystical Approach?
Rational spirituality is based on a rational
consciousness of God. “We can be ‘conjoined’ with God in a reciprocal
duality where the parts always and forever remain distinct from each other, and
there is never a ‘melding’ or other ‘oneness’ possible” (Lecture Notes, Dr.
The two books discussed above are of two different approaches. Testimony to the Invisible represents the mystical approach to spirituality and God. Instead of focusing on the facts and concepts presented by Swedenborg, the authors of this book put an emphasis on his experience with God. That would be the only commonality among the individually subjective chapters. Furthermore, they did not seem to fully accept the idea that Swedenborg had dual-consciousness and was able to travel to and from the spiritual world. This is the reason why he was continuously referred to as a “mystic” or “visionary” throughout the book. Of the many different interpretations of Swedenborg, I felt that the chapter of Wilson Van Dusen (A Mystic Looks at Swedenborg) clearly revealed the mystical approach. Here are some quotes to illustrate my point:
“You might wonder what the mystical experience does to personal identity. Sensing the All, would I not be greater than most who don’t do this? Not in the least. Sensing the All, I am the equal of all--the equal of tar paper, a dog’s bark, and stars.”
(Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, p. 109)
“The full mystical experience leaves a very broad signature on the inner life that then finds itself expressed in many ways. The sense of familiarity is so consistent that I would question whether the experience of déjà vu might not be a part of mysticism.”
(Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, p. 121)
“It would be fair to ask what the mystic ultimately discovers. Swedenborg’s writings contain some of the better descriptions.”
(Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, p. 123)
Like the title suggests, Spirituality
That Makes Sense is a book of the rational approach to spirituality and
God. Unlike the authors of Testimony to the Invisible,
“It is true that the finite human mind can never fully comprehend the Infinite. We would indeed require an infinite, Divine intellect to have a complete understanding of the Infinite.”
That Makes Sense,
“In summary, the Creator Himself came on earth as the Redeemer, and this coming was achieved with the cooperation of the Virgin Mary.”
That Makes Sense,
“Hell is inhabited by men and women who have rejected the Lord and His commandments. They have chosen deliberately not to live according to those commandments.”
That Makes Sense,
“Wisdom implies understanding. The concept of the Lord as a Divine Person makes it possible for us to think of Him, to think of His Divine qualities, and also to picture Him as a real and living Person. This cause Him to be present in our mind.”
That Makes Sense,
In the second text, Spirituality that
makes Sense by
(pg. 4) In response to "the first and
great commandment that we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mind
and strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark ), (page 6)
(Pg. 24) "Thought brings presence"
is a law of the spiritual world. In both the mind and the spiritual world,
thought brings presence. Think of him clearly. The quality of the thought
determines the quality of the presence." (Pg. 30) "Receiving what
comes from the Lord is what makes heaven; rejecting that is what makes hell. "The
The baptism, representing as it did the baptism of temptation--the washing away of hereditary tendencies to evil--was a forecast of what the Lord was about to do. A dove is well known for instinctively remaining faithful to one mate. The dove has also become a symbol for peace, the essential idea in peace being unity rather than division, strife, or separateness. A dove in the Word of God stands for truth wedded to goodness. The truth tells us what is good, but we must actually do the good thing. Then truth and goodness are wedded together; there is a union, a marriage, between what we know and what we do. (Pg. )
Pg. 34, "All the evils forbidden in the Ten Commandments and elsewhere in the Divine Word are what make hell to be hell. They are the opposites of the good qualities that make heaven." (Pg. 37) "The punishment of hell, then, is self-inflicted. The selfish love of dominating is what makes hell to be hell." "Heaven may be the dominion of love, but hell is the love of dominion" (spiritual Experiences 5000). Pg. 45. "The Lord always provides a church on earth to ensure that there is a link between heaven and earth, so that the Lord's will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven." Pg. 66 The Lord did not save us by His death. He saved us by His life, every moment of it. While He lived on earth the Lord was continually battling against the hells. (Luke 4:130) Jesus is our role model.
On page 116 of Wilson Van Dusen's "a Mystic Look At Swedenborg
"Quite obviously, we stand on the borderline of a new
domain of knowledge, and we know as little of it as Marco Polo knew of
Spirituality That Makes Sense
" If hell continues to rule inside us here, we will also have it outside of us all around us hereafter. If heaven reigns inside us here, it will be all around us hereafter. We will continue to be the same kind of person after the death of the body. "
That Makes Sense,
When I read this passage from the book, I had to read it several times to understand the meaning of it. To me it seems that what the author is trying to put out is that death is unavoidable and being so, we have to prepare our minds for the spiritual world. It is only true that when death comes, it only takes away our bodies, yet our spirit lives on. From what the book is saying, death is only the shedding of our topcoat. Because our spirit lives on, we have to prepare our mind and spirit in the heavenly way. We should put what is right in our lives now while we are still in this physical body and here on earth, so that when death comes upon us, our spirit will remain true to ourselves so that we will reside on whichever side of heaven or hell that we choose.
" A knowledge of faith is only a theoretical kind of faith. It is like the theoretical understanding of a recent graduate from engineering school. They have the knowledge in their heads, but they have not experience. They know what they are suppose to do but they haven't done it. "
That Makes Sense,
This is such a great reminder. This
just shows to remind us that we need to act on what we believe or we might as
well not believe it at all. Simple as that.
" From all this we can conclude that no one is born an angel; everyone has to be reborn an angel. Consequently, everyone who is now in heaven lived at one time as a man , woman or child on some earth. They are now in heaven because while they lived on earth, they were prepared for heaven, cooperating with the Lord. They learned to love Him and to love the neighbor as themselves, which made them angelic..."
That Makes Sense,
This brought about questions to mind.
Upon reading this, from what I understand that
It is very obvious here to me that in the
text Testimony to the Invisible, it perceives more of a Mystical approach from
the writers that were involved with that book. They pointed out falsities
of Swedenborg that denied his notion of entering the spiritual world then
coming back. Yet they stood strong by their faith in supporting that
Mystical belief is the truth. Spirituality That Makes Sense is a definite
supporter of Swedenborg in that
Spirituality that makes Sense
"Can anyone think of an idea that is higher or more important than the idea of God? Surely, there is no loftier idea possible for the human mind to grasp. The idea of God is not just an academic matter-an idea intended only for theologians and for dry-as-dust theorizing. Our idea of God governs and controls all our wishing and thinking, whether we realize it or not. Even atheists' ideas of God as a nonentity enter into all of their thoughts and influence their feelings and their lives-much more than they realize."
Spirituality that makes Sense, by
Being only the second page of this book, I was surprised about how much this paragraph made sense to me. There is no "loftier idea" than God. This is the most difficult and trying subject in my life. I have tremendous trouble just having faith about God. This is a subject that everyone has an opinion about. That means that it is in our minds much more than we are conscious of. God is in every culture or society of people. The "idea of God governs and controls all wishing and thinking" is hard for me to grasp. But just the other day, my mother told me to pray for someone and then she corrected herself because she knows I do not pray to God like her. But I do kind of pray if you want to call it that. It is more of meditation for me. Praying to me is putting all my thoughts and mental energy toward a certain person or certain situation. Sometimes I even look up into the sky and speak aloud. I have never thought of this as praying. And I consider myself an atheist. But this sure does sound very similar to praying. I just do not pray to an entity called God. So I guess this passage is correct. It plays a part of my life much more than I realize and much more than I want to admit.
"The Lord from eternity who is Jehovah, came into the world to subjugate the hells and to glorify His Human; and without this no mortal could have been saved; and those are saved who believe in Him."
Spirituality that makes Sense, by
It is not just this passage that drew my curiosity but the explanation after the passage. The first time I read it, it sounded just like the bible passages that were read when I was a kid in the Christian church. But reading a little further in the book explained the differences. This statement is different than what the Christian church believes about the trinity. It says "Jehovah" rather than his earthly name of Jesus Christ. It is interesting because Christians say Jesus came to this earth separating Jesus' identity from Jehovah or God and the Holy Spirit.. The trinity is a difficult concept to grasp in Christianity. Here Swedenborg is not separating them. He is saying it is the same entity. The most interesting part of this passage is that Swedenborg says "His Human." Instead of confusing people and referring to God as three parts (Father, Son, and the Holy spirit) Swedenborg worded it so there would be no confusion. "His Human" is referring to God in human form - Jesus who was born from a virgin and was crucified on the cross for the sinners of this world. I think is just simplified the Christian version so it is understandable and more believable. I always thought I was being scammed or tricked when studying Christianity because of all the little inconsistencies like the trinity. Saying it this way is much easier to comprehend.
"Those who are in doubt before they affirm are those who incline to a life of good"
Emanuel Swedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 2568:6
Spirituality that makes Sense, by
This is fantastic statement. I truly believe this and try to live by this. You can apply this to politics and what is happening in the world today. There are too many people out there that just accept things without investigating both sides of an issue. How many people just vote democratic or republican without seeking the position of the candidate? There are too many college students that I hear in my classes that hear something from a parent or a teacher or on TV and automatically believe it without testing it or seeking both sides and then making a choice of their educated view on something. We need to think as individuals. Too many Christians just blindly have faith. This to me is a follower. They do not know why they believe they just do. I think Swedenborg is telling us to take a proactive position. We need to search and study and find out what makes sense to us. If we find out what and why we believe, I think that we will have more answers and live a fuller life. Explore all other religions or beliefs systems. Have doubt. Ask why. Study and learn until it is logical to you. You will be much more fulfilled and life will have meaning for you - not anyone else.
"Swedenborg deepens our ideas of the neighbor to be loved by showing that the goodness received from the Lord is the neighbor; he also widens our view, extending the neighbor beyond the good received by one individual to include the goodness in:
-a group of individuals
-the whole human race
-the Lord's kingdom, including the heavens
-supremely, the Lord Himself"
Spirituality that makes Sense, by
When we think of our neighbor, we think of
who live next to us or a few doors down. This is not what Swedenborg is
meaning when he says "neighbor." We need to think more
globally when we say "neighbor." There is a reason why I
wrote them in ascending order. The book refers to it like rungs on a
ladder. The top of the ladder is the "Lord Himself." This
is the neighbor we should all be considering. If the "Lord
Himself" is the neighbor on the ladder that we want to affect, all the
other neighbors will also be affected that are below. Our good deeds and
charities should affect many other "neighbors" other than the one's on our street. I think of my parents
church that they go to now,
"The Lord, being the source of the goodness that is the neighbor on all these levels, is supremely the neighbor to be loved.
Spirituality that makes Sense, by
Your motives must be in the right place. If you do a good deed to get higher up in the church, this is not for the Lord. Your motives are for yourself and not the Lord. Make sure you understand what your motives are behind your charities. It should be done for "supremely, the Lord Himself."
"The ascending levels of the neighbor are a great guide in decision making, imparting much-needed clarity."
Spirituality that makes Sense, by
Both of the books are very different. Testimony to the Invisible I thought was a very difficult read. Each chapter is written by different authors who wrote on something completely different material. None of the chapters seemed to co-relate to each other. It is considered the mystical approach spirituality. This mystical approach finds a more deep meaning in the words of Swedenborg and the bible. In other words, there is more depth than the words themselves. There is meaning behind the literal translation. The stories are seen as life lessons, a parable rather than actually believing that Swedenborg had consciousness in the spiritual world. The mystical approach also thinks that they can have oneness with God. "Sensuous Consciousness of the Divine" (Dr. James lecture notes) is what a mystic believes. Humans are not equal to the Divine - God. This is seen as "non-duality" (Dr. James lecture notes) because the belief is that God and humans can become one "form". This is an arrogant point of view, thinking that the mind of a human can combine with the mind of the Divine - God.
To me this book showed how the Swedenborgian view has been around for years and has influenced people we all have studied about. It showed how the concepts of Swedenborg influenced important people in history. We all have been introduced to some of the concepts of Swedenborg but have not been aware of it. Most of the authors talked about someone else in history that had followed Swedenborg and adapted to the mystical approach. As an introduction to the Swedenborg concepts, I do not think this book is a good choice. I wanted to know what Swedenborg wrote not what and how other people in history were influenced by him.
In the first chapter, Jorge Luis Borges starts out by talking about Ralph Waldo Emerson.
"In his famous lecture of 1845, Ralph Waldo Emerson cited Emanuel Swedenborg as a classic example of the mystic." (page 3)
In the second chapter, Czeslaw Milosz talks about Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment.
"Swedenborgian Elemnts in Crime and Punishment" (page 26)
In the third chapter, Kathleen Raine starts out with another famous man, William Blake.
"The poem by William Blake entitled "The Devine Image" comes from Songs of Innocence..." (page 51)
The second book we read was Spirituality that makes Sense. This book was much easier to read and to understand. With the background of the majority of students being Catholic or Christian, this book was much easier to read and make sense. This book is considered the rational approach to spirituality. The rational approach uses the writings of Swedenborg as it is literally written. There are no hidden messages with this approach. This rational approach believes that Swedenborg did have a special consciousness that allowed him to visit and learn from the spiritual world. The stories are believed to be true and that Swedenborg experienced them himself, empirically. In the rational approach, it is understood that the human mind and God's mind are not on the same level. There is a "duality" (Dr. James lecture notes) between humans and the Divine. Humans are finite and God is infinite. These two can not be united together in oneness. Although all of our influx comes from the Divine, there must be a distinction between to two. If there is not a distinction made it will eventually cause "corruption of the mind" (Dr. James lecture notes).
With my background in Christianity, this book was much easier to follow and it quoted the bible and gave Swedenborg's explanation of the passages. This book also talked about things that are important in life and discusses questions that we all have about spirituality like: the idea of God, the virgin birth, heaven, being saved, faith, evils, and charities. This book also showed that Swedenborg's writings are easier to understand than the bible. It is almost like a translation for the bible. At least for me, I understand Swedenborg's words more than the bible. This book shows the differences between the bible and the writings of Swedenborg. The writings seem to be much more straight forward and does not use flowery language as the bible does. It seems to not leave the translation of what is being said up to man to distinguish as happens in many Christian and Catholic churches.
Chapter 2: The Creator as the Redeemer (page 9)
"True Christian Religion 2: The lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came into the world." Swedenborg
"Isaiah 9:6 says: For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is Given; and the government will be upon His shoulder." Bible
Chapter 2: The Creator as the Redeemer (page 15)
"Apocalypse Explained 635:2: It is always the Divine that bears witness concerning the Divine, and not man form himself" Swedenborg
"Matthew 16:17 says: As the Lord on earth said to Simon Peter after he had declared His Divinity, Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but My Father who is in Heaven." Bible
Chapter 8: What is "Saving" Faith? (page 97-98)
"True Christian Religion 3:2: Saving faith is to believe in Him." Swedenborg
"Psalm 111:10: A good understanding have all those who do His commandments." Bible
From the text “Spirituality that makes
Tylor also made a very interesting summery of matters of faith in the true Christian religion. Matters of faith has two parts “god is one, in whom is a divine trinity, and the lord god the savior Jesus Christ is that one. Saving faith is to believe in him.”(Taylor 185) This means it is our duty to believe in and have faith in god. The only salvation for our faith is to maintain that faith in god. There is only one god, no matter all of his aliases there is only one. The next set is matters of charity. Matters of charity being “ Evils should not be done, because they belong to the devil and are from the devil. The opposite being, Good things should be done, because they belong to god and are from god.”(185) This means if you do evil you are playing with the toy of the devil, if you do good you are playing with the toy of god. The toys of god will make you play nicely, the toys of the devil will only get you hurt.