Course on Theistic Psychology by Leon James, University of Hawaii, Spring 2004.. Available at: www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/theistic

 

 

Selections from Student Reports
On
Douglas Taylor “A Spirituality that Makes Sense”
Full reports available at:

www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/theistic/readings.htm#Part%202

 

 

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From:   www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/cooper/report3.htm

 

            The two main textbooks to this course were Testimony to the Invisible Edited by James F. Lawrence and Spirituality that Makes Sense by Douglas Taylor. The two books deal with many subjects that stem from the works of Swedenborg. Testimony is a collection of essays by seven different authors that discuss the impact of Swedenborg on a number of famous literary figures including Dostoevsky, William Blake, Emerson, William Van Dusen, and D.T. Suzuki. The book gives the reader a contextual background of Swedenborg and how his influenced has spread through the minds of many famous individuals. By reading Testimony to the Invisible one gets an impression of both the quality and quantity of Swedenborg's Writings. By reading the various essays one can see the many different interpretations and impacts that the Writings of Swedenborg have had.

 

            Spirituality the Makes Sense is a book written by Swedenborgian minister Douglas Taylor. In the book Taylor tackles many different theological concepts dealt with in Swedenborg in hopes of "making sense" of it all. The book discusses different topics including God, Jesus, the Virgin birth, the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, faith, evil, good deeds, and "as-of-self". By discussing all these subjects Taylor attempts to rationally explain all the different complications, objections, and misunderstandings that are associated with all these topics.

 

            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.” Taylor 4

 

This quote comes from one of the first sentences of Douglas Taylor’s book. I think that what is being said here is of the utmost importance, for if one wishes to delve into the intellectual mysteries of faith, one must realize and understand the importance of it. Our idea of God is what controls our thoughts and our feelings, whether we are aware of it or not. Even if one rarely thinks about God, or doesn’t belief in God, the idea of God, or lack-there-of, still influences every other thought and feeling.

 

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.”

-         -         Taylor 113

 

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.”

-Taylor 41

 

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, Wilson discusses this “mystical” feeling people can get when entering into the intangible. It is accurate in its depiction of man’s dual existence, but the description of it is airy and without substance. It recognizes that life goes beyond the five senses, but it in no way describes what exactly it is made of, what causes it, and how it functions. This is just an example of a mystical approach to Swedenborg that is found throughout the book.

 

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).

 

Spirituality the 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 the book Taylor quotes passages from the three-fold word (Old Testament, New Testament, and the Writings) to help explain and understand these spiritual topics.

 

Never once, does Taylor put a misleading interpretation or change anything that Swedenborg says. He simply describes what is being said in the three-fold word.  The three quotes I took from the book allow one to see this. They are brief passages that come from Taylor’s rational discussion of the topics of God, faith, and hell. It is not mystical because it doesn’t focus only on the subjective experience of God; it describes the “why” and the “how”. It allows the reader to understand Swedenborg by discussing exactly what is being said. It doesn’t question Swedenborg’s sanity or technique, but takes it for as it is. This is a much more rational approach then the approaches we find in Testimony to the Invisible.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/castro/report3.htm

 

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 Douglas Taylor, he discusses that murdering someone's soul means to deny an individual of spiritual life. If we are unable to live a spiritual life or if we are denied from analyzing ourselves then it becomes murderous. A malicious person is usually influenced and driven by the forces of hell and their goal is to ruin a person's charity and faith. Taylor says that "Spiritual murderers seduce people into believing that there is no life after death, and so they undermine the very basis of religion" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.123). We should try to avoid these spiritual murderers so our spiritual soul will not be affected or destroyed. I always wanted to know whether or not spiritual murderers are able to change their bad ways into a good, rational character? Is it possible to change our bad ways once we reach the spiritual world?

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 Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.23). In the spiritual world, if we think of something then they will appear or become present at that moment. I really like this idea because if I want to see my family then they will automatically be present in my mind. Taylor says that "Thought brings presence is also a law of the spiritual world. When we think of a person, he or she appears instantly if the Lord wills it, if some good may be brought out of it" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.24). For example, if I think of my parents and I want to see them because I love them and they bring all the positive and happy energy into my life, then I probably see them. They may appear because they make my spirit both happy and good. "We can think of places physically located on the other side of this world, but in mind or spirit, we can be there in literally no time" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.24). This idea makes me very anxious and excited because if I want to see the pyramids in Egypt then in the spiritual world, I will be there in no time. In the spiritual world, we can defy time and space, but in the natural world if we want to actually see the pyramids then we have to take a plane to Egypt.

I always wanted to know what makes hell "hell". Taylor gives some insight into why hell exists. "But the people who are in hell are those who love self and the world above all else. They think of themselves first. That is what they love supremely" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg. 33). Now, I can see why hell exists because many people are selfish, greedy, and egotistic. I admit that sometimes I think of myself before others. Taking this class has helped me to change my attitude so I can reach heaven and live a more happier and positive lifestyle in the spiritual world. It was interesting to read that "The atmosphere of heaven would be oppressive to them because hellish people are immersed in loves entirely opposite to those enjoyed by heavenly people" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.33). Hell is the opposite of what heaven is. Those living in hell cannot go to heaven because the atmosphere and lifestyle is different from their tastes. The hellish people might view heaven as a negative place in their minds, since heaven encompasses love, light, charity, and everything else that is good and just. Once I reach hell can I somehow reform myself so I can go to heaven?

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, Douglas Taylor, pg.97). Doing charitable acts really brings a smile to someone's face because you are doing it out of the kindness of your heart. I was watching a show on television called the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and the episode was about a boy who was paralyzed from the neck down. It really brought a tear to my eye when I found out that he did not see his room since the day of his accident because he lives in a two story house. He is unable to open the refrigerator or eat at the dining room table because it is not at his comfort level. The show is basically about remodeling a house by doing the interior and exterior. The design team wanted to make the room accessible to him and decided to include an elevator for him to go from one floor to the next and made his room like "his own house". I feel that this is a charitable act because the designers made his house accessible and more convenient to him so they can see the smile of joy on his face. One of the designers even said that "They felt like a small angel".

I definitely agree that "Faith is progressive. It grows as charity grows" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg. 117). Everything comes and does not come all at one. Take Swedenborg for instance, his new or spiritual life came gradually. Faith can fluctuate depending on whether we have the three requirements of saving faith. The saving faith is "looking to the Lord, learning truths from His Word, and living according to them" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.116). If we have the presence of these three things then our faith will be strong and will lead us to salvation. If we do not have these three requirements then we will not have "saving faith". It's important to have these three requirements so we can be saved and enter into heaven.

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, Douglas Taylor, pg.62). The Lord overcame each of the temptations because he loved the human race immensely and wanted to save them from ruin, hatred, and anything else that is negative. It is reassuring to know that there is a Divine person out there who loves us unconditionally and wanted to save the human race from destruction. The Lord was able to save and reinstall the freedom to choose in humans, which was being destroyed from evil or hellish people. The Lord in the end gave up his life in the physical world so He can save everyone from experiencing spiritual or physical annihilation.

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 Douglas Taylor is a rational approach to spirituality. "But obviously, the spiritual world does not operate according to the same laws as the natural world. It is not the world of the body. It is the world of the mind" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.23). This shows that the spiritual and natural worlds are different from one another and that different laws govern each world. The spiritual world is eternal and never-ending, while the natural world is only a temporary place that decides on where we will go in the spiritual world. "God is the soul of the universe, the source of life- in fact, life itself" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.27). This shows that God created the universe and also manages the world. He is this Divine presence that has infinite power and is a key aspect in each and everyone's life whether we know it or not. This is rational in that we accept that there is a God who created the universe and brings order and justice to the world. Also, acknowledging that there is a spiritual world also helps us to understand the spiritual truths much more easily and clearly.

"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, Douglas Taylor, pg.147). If we think rationally and overcome temptations then we will be able to drive away all the evil forces that try to corrupt our minds. Under Theistic Psychology, Swedenborg traveled to the spiritual world and conducted numerous experiments and interviews with the inhabitants in this realm. Swedenborg was also able to show that there are three heavens and also three regions in our minds. He was able to show this through models and experiments. A rational approach shows that there is a duality between God and humans. Since, God has infinite power and human beings do not, shows that God and humans are separate entities. "Our minds are even now in the world of spirits. The spiritual world is not far away somewhere; it is all around us. . .The sense of peace or feeling of being uplifted experienced in a particularly moving service of worship comes from the spiritual world-from heaven" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.43). This shows that our mind is both in the physical and spiritual world, but we are not aware that our minds are in the spiritual world. When we see the spiritual world then many of us would agree that Swedenborg was right from the start. If we accept the spiritual truths and think rationally now then we will be prepared in achieving the highest form of consciousness.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/clark/report%203.htm

 

On the other hand, “Spirituality That Makes Sense” by Douglas Taylor, facilitates the understanding of the Writings as Divine revelation, and with this understanding comes the rational explanations of the spirit world.  In the bible there is only one story that takes place in the spirit world and it comes from Luke 16:19-31, “…and he cried out and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he may dip the tip of his finger and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; but now he is comforted, and you are tormented.  And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; so that those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those who want to come from there pass to us.” The only other knowledge we have of the actual structure of the spirit world comes from Swedenborg and is supported by Taylor.

 

In “Spirituality that makes sense”, Taylor gives us an understanding of hell as described by Swedenborg, and it is this depiction that demonstrates that his book is the more rational of the two.  In the bible, hell is depicted as a place of burning heat with lakes of fire where the inhabitants suffer for all eternity.  The truth as revealed by Swedenborg tells us that there is no actual fire burning from the outside, but a fire that burns within each soul caused by their own insanity.  Passion, love, lust, and greed are all emotions that many have speculated or written to have a burning or fiery type of effect on humans, and since we take these traits with us into the afterlife, it stands to reason that these emotions would be the source of those so-called lakes of fire.  The lakes reside within each person; burning them from the inside out… forever. 

 

“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 Taylor’s book as a work of rational spirituality and not ritualistic mysticism.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/valle/report3.htm

 

Spirituality That Makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, is a book that truly makes sense!  I enjoyed reading this book very much because it cleared up many major misunderstanding that different religions have over the same phenomenon.  This book was easy to understand and, in contrast to Testimony to the Invisible, the author was not trying to be persuasive.  I was really impressed with this book because it introduced its points by first realizing and explaining why it is that passages from the Bible can be so confusing and misunderstood.  Then Taylor went on to prove that in order to make a clear translation of the passages in the Bible we need to examine all of the passages on a subject not just one or two.  Taylor went on to do this and in his conclusion he was very successful in proving that all the passages in a subject have one meaning that is apparent if all the passages are examined.  An example of this is found on page 78 where Taylor discusses the argument that Jesus and God are two different Devine Beings:

 

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)

 

Taylor goes on to say: “If we were to consult only passages like these and ignore all the others that seem to conflict with them, we might come to the conclusion that there are three persons in God.  This is extremely puzzling to people of a reflective turn of mind, because their common sense tell s them that there simply cannot be three Divine Persons or Beings, because that is the same as saying that there can be three infinites, or three gods.”

 

Taylor proceeds to show that God and Jesus are one Divine Being.  This is described in a physical and spiritual way.  Jesus is simply the physical body in which God, the soul, resides in so that he can come and encounter the human race.  In the second passage above we can all agree that a person’s soul is greater than their physical body.  If we understand this then the second quote doesn’t contradict the idea that God and Jesus are one Devine Person.

 

Taylor goes on to provide a lot more proof to the conclusion that Jesus, God, and the Holy Spirit is one Devine Person.  This book is so great because it provides many examples so that we can examine the passages from all angles. 

 

I am a fan of this book and recommend it to anyone who is seeking rationality in religion, spirituality, or passages from the Bible.

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/essig/report3.htm

 

Spirituality That Makes Sense

In Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor went into depth about who God is, what the Spiritual World is all about, what faith means, what evilness is, among other spiritual issues.  Taylor is a minister of a Swedenborgian Church in Pennsylvania and offered his insight to how the writings of Swedenborg can shed light to those who are seeking for a better understanding of rational spirituality. 

In the first chapter of his book, Taylor made clear that the idea of God must be embraced because it will affect every area of our lives--every thought and every feeling.  While most Christians are taught that God cannot comprehended because He is much too powerful, or infinite, Taylor insisted we must be able to comprehend who God is or else it would be a blind faith. 

“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.”

                                                                                                            Taylor, pg. 5

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, Taylor elaborated on the point that we need to have a visible God.

“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.”

                                                                                                            Taylor, pg. 105-106 

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.” 

                                                                                                            Taylor, p. 109

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, Wilson passionately believed that Swedenborg was a mystic.  He noted, “In the accepted positive scholarly sense, the mystic is simply one who has direct experience with the Divine.  I doubt that any follower of Swedenborg’s spiritual writings would say Swedenborg did not have direct experience of the Divine.  Then he was a mystic.” (pg. 133).  Suzuki’s essay also referred to Swedenborg as a “Swedish mystic.”  Raine’s passage above also indicates that she thought his revelations came through prophetic insight. 

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.  Taylor did not rely on his own interpretation or experiences to explain Swedenborg.  Mostly, he allowed the text to speak for itself.  If he did use personal information, it was only to elaborate on what was being discussed. 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/jones/report3.htm

 

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.”

-         Douglas Taylor 17

 

 

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?”

-         Douglas Taylor 89

-          

 

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.”

-         Douglas Taylor 41

 

 

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 rational manner.  Douglas Taylor uses science and rationality to explain many of the “mysteries” of the Bible.  One example of this is his explanation of the virgin birth.  After explaining to the reader how the father’s semen is a “means of transmitting the soul”, Taylor explains, “Actually, it is life from the Lord that directs the formation and growth of the fetus in the womb.”  Through his explanation of human birth, he is able to give a rational explanation of how Jesus could have been conceived by the Virgin Mary.  This rational account of God and spirituality allows the reader to fully understand faith rather than accept it blindly.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/nakamura/report3.htm

 

The second book, Spirituality that Makes Sense (hereafter referred to as Spirituality) by Douglas Taylor examines Swedenborg in a more spiritual and rational manner.  He emphasizes faith through understanding, and examines it beyond the mysteries of God.  He states, “To think of God as invisible to the human mind means that we have a blind faith in God” (Spirituality, p.5).  In other words, God is not invisible because He is not fully beyond our comprehension. 

 

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).  Taylor states that, “The Lord came to redeem,” and He “brought back the human race from the brink of destruction when He came into the world – by paying a price” (Spirituality, p.58).  The only solution was to take the form of a human being, since freedom and choice cannot be taken away. 

 

Another interesting topic in the book was Chapter 11, “When Good Deeds are Good.”  Taylor mentions that charity and faith must work together for it to be positive.  He states, “Feelings of charity by themselves do not produce genuinely good works any more that the will alone can do anything” (Spirituality, p.158).  This means that although the heart may be good, we need understanding and intellect in knowing how to accomplish it.  As taken from this passage, charitable thoughts must be put into action:

 

“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, Douglas Taylor takes a deep and spiritual approach to Swedenborg’s Writings in Spirituality that Makes Sense.  Taylor interprets in simple and understandable ways what Swedenborg encountered in the spiritual world.  It is a rational and scientific approach that allows the Writings to be explored fully in its literal sense, and the Writings are not taken poetically. 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/le/report3.htm

 

Spirituality That Makes Sense

By Douglas Taylor

In this book, Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor discusses many different spiritual topics ranging from “The Spiritual World” to “Escaping from Evil Feelings.” He uses a more rational approach to spirituality compared to the authors of Testimony to the Invisible because he looks at Swedenborg’s concepts in a literal sense instead of using a subjective interpretation. I will continue to contrast between the two books after going over some interesting quotes/brief passages from this book.

“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.”

(Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 21)

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.”

(Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 109)

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?”

(Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 151)

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. Leon James). This particular approach is logical and views God and humans as two separate entities, whereas the mystical approach to spirituality possesses the idea that humans can achieve oneness with God. It is based on sensuous consciousness of the Divine. We learn that it is important to be able to distinguish the difference between these two attitudes toward spirituality because “one leads to happiness and rationality (rational approach), while the other leads to corruption and delusion (mystical approach)” (Lecture Notes, Dr. Leon James).

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, Taylor introduces the concepts of Swedenborg without any personal interpretation. He presents this information objectively, allowing his readers to develop a complete and accurate understanding of God and other spiritual topics in Swedenborgian terms. All in all, this book definitely had a more rational delivery than the other book. The following quotes are good examples that support my declaration of this book’s rational approach to spirituality:

“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.”

(Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 5)

“In summary, the Creator Himself came on earth as the Redeemer, and this coming was achieved with the cooperation of the Virgin Mary.”

(Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 20)

“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.”

(Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 32)

“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.”

(Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 166)

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/leman/report3.htm

 

In the second text, Spirituality that makes Sense by Douglas Taylor, Taylor explains the functional mechanics of the biblical scriptures by explaining the logic and ideology in the terminology. Taylor takes away ambiguity by providing rational explanation of the symbolic references through out the scriptures. Taylor puts things into a perspective order, matching the time line of events. This text was easier to understand. I could better comprehend the importance of these sacred documents with Taylor's logical interpretation. This author articulates his theological understanding with precise commentary and spiritual diplomacy. Taylor clearly is of a rational faith. He understands the logic and orderly relationships of the writing. As a biblical curator he guides us through the sacred literature. His careful handling of the scriptures, and attention to Swedenborg's mastery, is a credit to the science of theology and the Swedenborg Foundation. Here are but a few of my favorite references:

 

(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 12:30), (page 6) Taylor explains this as an immutable law. "A law is a description of the way a thing operates. One cannot break the laws of the physical universe without incurring some penalty. ... Can a rotten tree bring forth good fruit? A deed is only as good as the motive from which it springs." This is similar in content to a definition by Emanuel Swedenborg, from True Christian Religion 133, (pg. 7) "On the idea of God and the idea of redemption...everything of the church depends." Taylor opens chapter one with that Swedenborg quote. With that Swedenborg laid the 1st brick in the foundation of spiritual science, and as a modern caretaker of this scared science, Taylor dutifully polishes the platform.

 

Taylor articulately explains the significance of understanding the redemption. (pg. 6) He says in popular language "To redeem" means to buy back by paying a stipulated price. In theological terms it refers to the whole purpose of the Lord's coming, the process by which the Lord bought back or redeemed the human race from every kind of destruction, and the price He paid in achieving that. (pg. 7) Salvation refers to a particular redemption--the saving or rescue of an individual person from a life of hell (here and hereafter)--not simply from the punishment inherent in evil, but from sinning itself." On this concept Swedenborg wrote: "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 save; and those are saved who believe in Him." True Christian Religion 2 .

 

Taylor breaks this down for us. He says: "Jesus is Jehovah on earth in His own human form. The creator came in order to be the Savior and Redeemer." Pg. 14, "I (Jehovah) am the First, and I am the Last (Isaiah 44:6). I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last (revelation 22:130. "Only from the Divine can we bear witness to the Divine. Only through what flows into us from the Lord above can we, in heart, believe in the virgin birth." Pg. 16, Taylor continues by explaining The law of influx. The Lord operates first in the spiritual world of causes and then in the natural world of effects. Influx is the higher action upon the lower. For example feelings of friendship act upon our facial muscles to produce a smile. The feelings are higher, the smile is lower.

 

(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 kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21), we can safely conclude that heaven is essentially a state of mind. This state of mind is manifested as a place or a region for the simple reason that the whole spiritual world is a representative world. What we really feel and think in our minds is re-presented, projected outwardly there in visible form. Our predominant state of mind--whether good or evil--creates our environment in the spiritual world. "The kingdom of God is within you." You chose what to think.

 

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 China or the earliest explorers of Africa. One thing seems clear: there are mental states in which we can glimpse vistas of knowledge that remain concealed from us in "everyday consciousness."

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/vuu/report3.htm

 

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. "

Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, page 36

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. "

Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, page 99

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.  Douglas Taylor is trying to tell us that if we know of how to attain that rational level of thinking and yet we opt to not take that route to that thinking then we waste it all.  Knowing is one thing, as Douglas Taylor points out, but putting what we know into play is what really counts.  It's through practice of purpose in which we gain and grow from our experiences.  By knowing alone gives us no growth but in ways can damper our growing abilities by not giving us the nutrition that we need to fully develop what we are capable of.  That capability is thinking at a rational level.  To do so, we must put effort into action and not just stand on the sideline but get into the game.

" 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..."

Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, page 29

This brought about questions to mind.  Upon reading this, from what I understand that Douglas Taylor is trying to put out on the table for us is that becoming and angel is attainable for us humans.  It seems that if we live our lives here in this physical body on this earth in the right manner by achieving some sort of preparation here on this earth then we would be angels in the spiritual world after death.  He's also trying to tell us that angels now were just like us beforehand born in a world like ours.  Before reading this, I haven't kindled on this concept, but it was very interesting for me to read.  I have never put the thought of the possibility of me one day becoming an angel.  That thought is still far from realization for me right now but the thought of it was interesting to stumble upon.

 

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 Douglas Taylor completely supports Swedenborgs theory on rational thinking in saying that upon receiving that level of thinking, one is able to achieve more in this life and the after life in the spiritual world.  In this text, Taylor points out several times that we must change ourselves here in this natural world and prepare ourselves for the spiritual world numerous times.  He mentioned this by using our spirit as an example. 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/piper/report3.htm

 

Spirituality that makes Sense

by Douglas Taylor

 

"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 Douglas Taylor, chapter 1, page 4, The Idea of God (1st paragraph)

 

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 Douglas Taylor, chapter 1, page 7 (4th paragraph)

 

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 Douglas Taylor, chapter 7, page 85, Some Objections Answered (quote)

 

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

                                                  -one's country

                                                  -the whole human race

                                                  -the church

                                                  -the Lord's kingdom, including the heavens

                                                  -supremely, the Lord Himself"

Spirituality that makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, chapter 11, page 159, Levels of the Neighbor (1st paragraph)

 

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, New Hope.  It is much different than the churches I grew up with.  Most of the churches I grew up with were mainly concerned with the people in the church and the community the church was located in.  New Hope has gone international.  They are thinking communitally, nationally, and globally.  They are concerned with societies around the world not just the Hawaiian society.  And because of this way of thinking they are tremendously successful in just about anything. 

 

"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 Douglas Taylor, chapter 11, page 160, Levels of the Neighbor (2nd paragraph)

 

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 Douglas Taylor, chapter 11, page 160, Levels of the Neighbor (3rd paragraph)

 


 

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

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/wilson/report%203.htm

 

From the text “Spirituality that makes sense” by: Douglas Taylor explains the teachings of Swedenborg and the meaning behind the writings in the bible and backs up this information passages from the bible. Taylor tells how we need to be conscious of our actions. Taylor explains the Trinity, what is faith, evil and how to follow faith and escape evil, it also tells of religion in history. One passage that I found interesting was in the chapter “The spiritual world 2,000 years ago” where Taylor talks about the Greeks and all of their gods and how he found this to be a very dark time. It was dark because Taylor thought there was no celestial light that was able to shine down and the only people to have true faith were the Jews, but even their faith was so twisted and contorted that it too became dogma. Taylor also stated that the lord gave man this choice for without the choice man would cease to exist as human. Thus giving man the choice of heaven and hell “the lord always has to preserve a balance between the influence of heaven and that of hell, so that our free choice may operate.”(Taylor 53). Taylor explains through Swedenborg’s teachings that in the time of the Greeks that hell dominated. Hell and the devils in hell had great power at that time due to god extending man a greater sense of freedom. With too much freedom leads to loss of freedom. If the devils lead us astray our freedom will be taken away. With control of our mind comes control of our body Taylor states “ Anyone able to take complete possession of our mind can, at the same time, take over our body because the body is really only in obedience to the mind ( Apocalypse explained 10:7 12). What the mind does, the body follows.”(54)

 

     Taylor goes as far as to explain how the lord is involved in as simple matters as healing a scratch on our hand “Provided that scratch is kept clean, it will heal automatically. It is not the body, of course, that heals itself. The body, in itself, is just flesh. The action of the soul-a spiritual organism, a finite receptacle of life-is what channels life from the lord and automatically does the healing and restores order in the body.”( Taylor 94) I don’t believe this to be so, I think the lord has created nature to be able to take care of itself to a certain extent in matters of simple scratches at least. The lord has a hand in much of life but I think he created an immune system to take care of the trivial minor details, at the same time if that scratch were to get infected and get gang green and the person dies then god had a hand in that because it was that persons time to go. I think god has bigger fish to fry, but if you wanted the lords help in healing your scratch and asked for it then he may help you or, just for asking and believing in him. I there for believe in the healing power of god, medicine and our immunity.

 

     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.

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