An abridged version of this article was published as:
James, Leon. (2007). A Reply to the Editor's Commentary on Teaching the Scientifics of the Interiors of the Third Testament. De Hemelse Leer, January issue, 64-66.


A Reply to the Editor’s Commentary on

Teaching the Scientifics of the Interiors of the Third Testament


Dr. Leon James

Professor of Psychology

University of Hawaii


The purpose of this reply is to clarify the issues raised by the Editor, Rutger Perizonius, regarding the meaning of “scientifics of the interiors” described in my article (HL 2006 140—154), and also to continue the doctrinal exchange to which other scrutators are invited to participate.


Most of the Editor’s comments and objections can be taken care of by further clarifications. It may be that the expression “scientifics of the interiors” appears at first as a contradiction given that the Third Testament uses the word scientifics “mostly in the external or natural sense” as the Editor points out (HL 2006:141). In fact, so does the article. In other words, what can be taught in a classroom setting is limited to an external or natural comprehension of the interior sense, regardless of how this is taught, whether in the scientific language of theistic psychology or in the religious language in which the articles in De Hemelsche Leer are written. I recognize that it is not possible for students to acquire in this way a spiritual understanding of the interior sense of the Third Testament. A spiritual understanding of the Third Testament can only be acquired from the Lord through genuine doctrine and a knowledge of correspondences:


“No one can see the spiritual sense except from the doctrine of genuine truth; from this doctrine the spiritual sense can be seen, when there is some knowledge of correspondences. (…) This is the reason why it is not permitted anyone in the natural world, nor in the spiritual world, to investigate the spiritual sense of the Word from the sense of its letter, unless he is wholly in the doctrine of Divine truth and in enlightenment from the Lord, (…) He thinks falsely who says with himself, I know many correspondences, I can know the true doctrine of the Divine Word, the spiritual sense will teach it to me. This cannot be done. But, as has been said, let him say with himself, I know the doctrine of Divine truth, now I can see the spiritual sense, provided I know correspondences. But still this must be in enlightenment from the Lord (…).” (De Verbo 21)


Hence the question arises whether it is possible and practical to teach a natural or external comprehension (“scientifics”) of the interiors of the Word in the context of a classroom course, as in my case, or in the context of conference lectures and magazine articles, as was attempted in the case of the authors of De Hemelsche Leer a generation ago. Although their audience and mine are distinctly different, yet the commonality is that in both situations scrutators are attempting to write down or verbally explain the interior sense of some portion of the Third Testament which they had received in illustration from the Lord. Is such communication or teaching possible, and what would be its effect on students or readers? This question is relevant not just for theistic psychology students but also for scrutators today who are attempting to communicate their spiritual understanding to other scrutators, as we do in this publication.


General Issues in the Editor’s Commentaries


Suppose we wanted to teach the contents of De Hemelsche Leer to scientists who have rejected the materialistic philosophy called the negative principle and have declared themselves in favor of the affirmative principle (AC 2568). These scientists need not be members of the New Church, but they need to acknowledge that the Writings of Swedenborg may be accurately or truthfully called Sacred Scripture or “the Word” in the sense that all its sentences actually originate from God but are expressed in a natural language through the mind of Swedenborg.


There may not be many scientists in this generation who are willing to acknowledge this. I believe that this new type of thinking called “theistic science” (vs. non-theistic or anti-theistic), is the trend of the future in all of science, and thence, in public education. At any rate, right now there are plenty of students who are in preparation for becoming scientists and who, at the same time, are willing to acknowledge the possibility that Sacred Scripture exists, and that the Writings of Swedenborg are Sacred Scripture. That there is such a group of people today dispersed among the millions of college students, I have seen myself for several years now through teaching my course on theistic psychology at the University of Hawaii to college students majoring in psychology as part of their preparation to be professional scientists.


At first I attempted to teach the letter of the Writings, thinking that it contained many naked truths that are serviceable as scientific facts about the world. One example is the revelation about the nature of cause-effect relationships as correspondences across discrete degrees. Other factual information that is serviceable for science includes details about the process of resuscitation, details about how our daily thought processes are influenced by spirits, and details about the process of mental development at the natural and rational levels.


But I ran into an insurmountable problem trying to teach the letter of the Writings to a classroom of students who had different religious identification (Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu), including some who declared themselves against religion. There were too many passages in the letter of the Third Testament that made objectionable and offensive (to them) statements about their religion. This was a psychological stumbling block they could not get past. There are also many ideas expressed in the letter that appear gender biased in the traditional sense of male dominance. This is unacceptable to many women students today.


Before I gave up the idea of teaching spiritual things from the Writings I realized that the Third Testament teach the method of correspondences by which the historicals of the letter of the Word can be made to “vanish” “just as if the letter did not exist”:


“whatever in the sense of the letter involves a question and is determined to persons, in the internal sense falls into an idea undetermined to any person; for in heaven among the angels the historicals of the letter vanish when they leave man and enter heaven” (AC 3776)


“But the internal sense, as has already been clearly shown, is of such a nature that all things in general and in particular are to be understood abstractly from the letter, just as if the letter did not exist; for in the internal sense is the Word's soul and life, which does not become manifest unless the sense of the letter as it were vanishes. (AC 1405)


As explained in my article (HL 2006 140-154) I have developed course materials to teach theistic psychology to students who at the outset are willing to acknowledge that the Writings of Swedenborg could possibly be Divine Speech or Divine Truth expressed in Sacred Scripture in a natural language. This acknowledgement is called the “positive bias in science” in contradiction to the “negative bias in science” which is what the students had been exposed to in their education until then. Once this acknowledgement is voluntarily made, students are presented with the materials that I have created as a scrutator of the Third Testament.


The students are not able to understand this material in a spiritual way, that is, in an interior-natural way, but they are able to comprehend it in an external-natural way. The assigned reports that succeeding generations of students have written for the past several years, as well as the class discussions, confirm this limitation. Students are only able to learn a natural explanation of the interior ideas that I as a scrutator can understand spiritually and rationally. You may examine all the student reports over the years, which are published on the Web at: http://www.soc.hawaii.edy/theistic/index.htm#part2


A similar issue may be raised with the historical attempt of the writers of De Hemelsche Leer in the 1920’s and ‘30s to teach members of the General Church the distinction between the letter of the Writings (Heavenly Doctrines) and its interior sense. The articles in De Hemelsche Leer by Pfeiffer, Pitcairn, Groeneweld, Zelling, and others, may be considered a course curriculum fashioned for the General Church mind to teach the existence and reality of the interior sense of the Third Testament. The two principal students whose remarks appear in De Hemelsche Leer – Bishop George DeCharms and Dr. Rev. Hugo L.J. Odhner, acknowledged in their replies that the Writings are the Word, but refused to acknowledge that they contain an inner sense expressed by correspondences, in the same way as is the case for the Word of the Old Testament and the Word of the New Testament.


When I first read De Hemelsche Leer it was plain to me from the various dissenting replies of DeCharms and Odhner, that they comprehended the De Hemelsche Leer articles in an external or natural way, not spiritual. In other words, the written articles in De Hemelsche Leer, or the group lectures at conferences, were taken only in an external sense by the members of the General Church. As a result, they only saw contradictions instead of doctrinal truths. Though there was clear proof provided in De Hemelsche Leer of the internal sense of numerous expressions and Numbers of the Writings, the dissenters only comprehended the external or natural sense of these Numbers. Hence they saw no proof or demonstration of the existence of the interior sense in the Third Testament. They were unable to comprehend the internal sense that was laid out for them in the articles. They repeatedly denied the existence of such a sense and accused the authors of De Hemelsche Leer to imagine that there was one. Their exchanges in that magazine proves unequivocally that one can teach or describe the spiritual sense of the Word, but that none can understand it spiritually except those who are enlightened by the Lord, having undergone regeneration (De Verbo 12; AC 10400).


This experience is replicated in the teaching of theistic psychology to students in a science course who are willing to acknowledge at the outset, that the Writings could possibly be Divine Speech expressed as Sacred Scripture by means of correspondences. This is called taking on the affirmative principle or the positive bias in science. The negative bias in science is to deny that The Writings could possibly be Divine, and to deny that there is a Divine.


If we taught a course on the internal sense of the Old and New Testaments through the letter of Arcana Coelestia, what would the students understand? Consider young people who are in training as ministers in the New Church. They would first only understand the Numbers in an external or natural sense. Even though the content of the course involves a description of the interior sense of the Word, the students initially understand that spiritual content in a natural way. This would then be called teaching the scientifics of the interior sense of the Word.


Specific Issues in the Editor’s Commentaries


(1) Although “the word theistic does not occur in the Word” as pointed out by the Editor (HL, 2006:141), the use of this word is not in contradiction to the Third Testament. Swedenborg’s pre-theological works can be appropriately characterized as theistic science in contrast to the works of his contemporaries that may be called non-theistic science. By Divine Providence many details of Swedenborg’s theistic science were incorporated into the letter of the Third Testament. The basis of this theistic science is that God’s omnipotence is exercised in every singular of the natural and spiritual worlds by means of good and truth substances arranged in discrete layers by the laws of correspondences.


(2) There are numerous passages in the Third Testament that are written in a language that describes the various religions on earth in negative terms. For instance, about the Christian religion, it is said that “not a single truth has remained in it, and … it is like a ship that has suffered shipwreck” (INV 40). About the Jewish religion it is stated that it is only a “semblance of religion” (AC 4864) that it is “idolatrous” (AC 4845), and that its people “as also at the present day” regard every truth as falsity (AC 4865), and many other such things are stated that people find offensive, according to contemporary standards of communication and dialog.


The Writings make statements about other religions and their leaders or prophets which are fundamentally offensive to the members of those religions. I for one am concerned about how certain people will react when these statements become well known in today’s divisive world. Our front line defense against the accusation of bigotry and insult is the idea that these statements have an internal sense that has absolutely nothing to do with these religions and people. Such is the case in theistic psychology which makes these historicals of the letter “vanish” by teaching the scientifics of their interiors. For the sake of the common good and the protection of the Third Testament, I think that theistic psychology should be a communal work among scrutators who, under illustration from the Lord, are capable of extracting the higher and more interior correspondences in the letter when it discusses historicals and religions.


Even though the Writings are universally inclusive of people of all genuine religions, as pointed out by the Editor (HL 2006:141), nevertheless this message of universal inclusion is totally lost on the people of those religions, when they are faced with the unacceptable descriptions of their doctrines, beliefs, practices, and prophets. The literal sense of the Writings becomes therefore a major stumbling block to those who are not of the New Church. Short of the inherently slow pace of evangelization, the major portion of humanity on this earth is barred from the useful knowledges and facts that are contained in the Writings. Theistic science based on the correspondential sense of the letter is a way that the Writings can be redeemed from rejection and made useful in the eyes of the world.


(3) Within the finite printed text of the volumes of the Writings, there are contained an infinite set of rational truths in “endless variety” to eternity (AC 6023, 6023). Much of this knowledge is available in “naked goods and truths” where the spiritual sense is rendered explicitly (SS 40; AE 816). Memory-knowledges of naked truths may be called “scientifics of the interior sense” because they are spiritual things that stand out in the literal sense. When a scrutator puts together many of these naked truths, these are formed into a coherent rational knowledge of the individual that people from any religion can understand and accept, as long as they are willing to assume the affirmative principle that God provides different versions of Sacred Scripture to different nations at different times in history. Hence they can accept the scientifics of the interiors of the Writings as Divinely revealed scientific truth, even though they do not form part of their religion. While they cannot relate affirmatively to some of the historicals of the letter, they can do so to the scientifics of the correspondential sense.


The scientific knowledges in the naked truths of the letter of the Third Testament, include detailed facts and much information about the mental world and the spiritual world of eternity in the afterlife of all people, regardless of culture and religion. These scientifics of the interiors called naked truths in the letter, contain facts about resuscitation, about mental development in the natural mind, about the history of religions, about cause-effect relationships between the natural world and the spiritual world through discrete degrees, about the extension of the human race across the earths in the universe, about conjugial love and marriage, about the Spiritual Sun that can be seen by every person after resuscitation, and many other scientific facts about heredity, about correspondences, about the laws of permissions, fortune, accidents, and much more. These descriptions, explanations, and facts are rational and objective, and as well, empirical since they were observed and confirmed by Swedenborg over 27 years of daily experience.


People of other religions and cultures who are willing to take on the affirmative principle, can accept these observational facts by Swedenborg because the ideas are rational and consistent, and Divinely inspired. Those who have not confirmed themselves in false religious dogmas, can be led by the Lord to accept these scientific facts without having to abandon their childhood religion and convert to the New Church. The scientifics of the interiors can therefore serve an intermediate use, given that the Lord only gradually “bends, never crushes” (AC 1992) a person’s ideas held from childhood religion. It is revealed that “heathens” and people from other religions are instructed by angels who had originally belonged to the same religion (HH 515).


(4) Arcana Coelestia, teaches the scientifics of the interiors of the Word of the Old and New Testament. It frequently uses the technique of explication saying that expression A “signifies” expression B, where A is an expression used in the Word of the Old or New Testament, and B is an expression referring to the spiritual sense of A. The entire work of Arcana Coelestia, when considered in its letter, constitute the scientifics of the spiritual sense of the Word of the Old and New Testament. As people read Arcana Coelestia, they only have at first a natural idea of B. Even though B refers to a spiritual idea or truth, still, it is understood only naturally, not spiritually. Later, as people enter the phases of regeneration, they are given by the Lord to perceive B from an interior-natural perspective which becomes increasingly and gradually spiritual and celestial.


When we apply this same technique of correspondences to the literal sense of the Third Testament, we can focus on the fact that all passages that are offensive to the other religions, as discussed above, vanish from view, and instead one has an explanation of the interior sense which universally refers to mental states of individuals from any religion. We can put these explanations together into a science of theistic psychology which does not contain those passages that are offensive to them, but their correspondences instead. These revealed facts then become non-sectarian references to universal human states. They can acknowledge this as the science of theistic psychology.


Those who are taught in this way, like my students who are from different religions, can benefit from learning the scientifics of the spiritual sense because these are an ordered collection of universal facts that apply to them, to their mind, their mental states, their expectations of what happens in the afterlife, based on direct revelations by God to Swedenborg. Perhaps not all can accept this attitude, but many can.


It is indeed not possible that students of theistic psychology can understand this knowledge spiritually and rationally, since this depends on one’s relationship to the Lord through the literal of the Word, without which there cannot exist a New Church in the individual’s mind. Nevertheless, the scientifics of the spiritual sense of the Word, as collected and rendered in theistic psychology by contributing scrutators, is of use psychologically and socially to the world at large. Through this kind of study, real facts about the afterlife, about heaven and hell, about conjugial love, about the evolution of the Grand Human, and so on, are heard, memorized, and added to their knowledge and comprehension of the world around them.


Theistic psychology can become a force in all of science, weakening its current powerful hold on the natural mind through its promotion of the negative bias against God and the actual reality, the true science of cause-effect relations in the world which are created and maintained by God through correspondences. Theistic psychology can be a force against dogmatic fundamentalism in all religions, when this is based on a literal and restricted interpretation of their religious books. The idea that their holy books contain universal truths expressed in correspondences may lead them away from the excesses of literalism that justify sectarianism and disunity among the peoples of the worlds.


Since theistic psychology or theistic science is produced solely by scrutators, in the sense recognized by De Hemelsche Leer, it becomes a cosmopolitan intellectual avenue by which spiritual and rational knowledge revealed by the Lord, can be transferred or communicated to millions who would never consider changing their religion, but who yet are in mental states led by good, hence by the Lord. They can benefit by this knowledge which would remain closed to them through the literal of the Writings, which they are unwilling to hear or retain. What they cannot hear through the scientifics of the letter, they can hear through the scientifics of the spiritual.


(5) It is indeed correct, as the Editor insists, that my students in theistic psychology, “will never have access to the spiritual and celestial sense, because the only entrance to those higher senses is through the letter of the Word with which they are unfamiliar” (HL 2006:147). Hence I have repeatedly stated that the students will not be able to themselves produce any knowledge of theistic psychology, nor will they be able to understand this knowledge produced by scrutators, except in a natural perspective. Nevertheless, they will have a natural-rational comprehension of interior-natural and spiritual-rational truths. This is their knowledge of the scientifics of the interior sense which covers facts about the afterlife and God’s complex relation to the universal race.


The reason that only scrutators, as recognized in De Hemelsche Leer, are to legitimately produce theistic psychology is that only in this way can true facts be extracted and collected from the correspondential sense of the Third Testament. Nothing produced in any other way can be trusted to be genuine doctrine. Nothing in theistic psychology can be contrary to genuine doctrine received by scrutators as they are regenerating ever more deeply through the “circle of love” and the “circle of life (DP 29).


As the Editor points out, “all those in the Grand Man, that is in heaven, who do not form His heart and lungs are unfamiliar with the Word” (HL 2006:147). In the same vein I can point out that all those who do not know or acknowledge the letter of the Third Testament, but who know its spiritual scientifics through theistic psychology, are thereby enabled to enter the Grand Human through its many parts and ways other than the heart and lungs – as long as they are in some good that is compatible with this knowledge that is extracted from the letter. They know from theistic psychology that the God of their religion is a Divine Human, that conjunction with Him is salvation, immortality, and heaven, and that this conjunction is achieved through withholding oneself from doing evil to the neighbor because it is a sin against Him.


(6) Those who acknowledge the letter of the Third Testament are part of the New Church. But we are cautioned that it is not their acknowledgement of the Third Testament that makes heaven with them, but the quality of their understanding of the Third Testament, and not the understanding by itself but the doing of it in life (SS 76, TCR 245). This is also the meaning that I intended when referring to “extracting theistic psychology for ourselves” (Editor’s comment, HL 2006:153). The expression “for ourselves” refers to the requirement for scrutators of making use of doctrine in life, for their own willing, thinking, and doing in the course of daily mundane activities. This is the only motive for the scrutator’s effort that is compatible with good, and hence with one’s own regeneration.


(7) The distinction I made between abstracted doctrine and extracted doctrine needs to be clarified, as the Editor points out (HL 2006:153). I meant to refer to the same distinction that was made by Pfeiffer and Pitcairn, when addressing the General Church view that the Word of the Writings is not written in correspondences, but that one obtains a spiritual understanding of it by deepening one’s comprehension through comparison of multiple passages and arranging them in an order. This is what may be called “abstracted doctrine” in the sense that it is an abstract paraphrase and ordering of the literal.


But the “extracted doctrine” is the doctrine “drawn out” by means of the knowledge of correspondences and illustration from the Lord. The genuine spiritual sense of the Writings can only be drawn out through correspondences, and once the doctrine is drawn out, and phrased, it then must be confirmed by the literal sense in other passages. In this way the genuine doctrine is seen to agree with the literal and is not merely somebody’s intelligence.


According to the article by Philip Odhner in the same issue (HL 2006:160), “illustration or enlightenment from the Lord, and the science of correspondences, are needed for the seeing of the internal sense of the Word.” Since the General Church critics quoted in DHL were unwilling to acknowledge any correspondences in the letter of the Third Testament, they lacked what was needed for the seeing of the internal sense of the Writings. They did not see the difference between doctrine that is merely an abstracted and paraphrased version of the literal of the Writings, versus doctrine that is extracted from the literal by the use of correspondences and enlightenment from he Lord. For scrutators to understand what is involved in this difference is critical.


(8) I hope the Editor will see fit to publish the portions of the article that he left out from the submitted manuscript, mentioning only their titles – The Method of Substitution, the Method of Rational Series, and the Method of Mapping. These three sections deal with a subject close to the heart of scrutators – how to draw out doctrine from the letter of the Third Testament. It would be useful for us to share whatever method that any of us is given to discover. Although the Method of Substitution was introduced in a previous article (HL April 2002, 103-109), the other two methods have not yet been discussed among scrutators.


See earlier article at:

James, Leon. (2006). Theistic Psychology: Teaching the Scientifics of the Interiors of the Third Testament. De Hemelse Leer, July/October issue, 140-154. Available here:

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