Emanuel Swedenborg:

An Investigation into Rational Thought

 

 

 

Forward

            The Following is a collection of essays on Swedenborg. They are arranged in reversed chronological order. In other words, the first work is where I stand now and the last is what I thought of Swedenborg at first. It is interesting to see that I have actually changed from a critical frame of mind to an accepting way now. You must keep in mind that a rationale way of thinking will make it easier for you to understand his work. His ideas are based on rational thought.

 

 

True Question Religion

A Word about Divine Truth

            Page 30 from TCR, Swedenborg keeps referring to “God’s Word. What is “the Word”? I assume this is the Bible but I am not sure.

The way I understand it now is that the Word is the Divine truth. This is the Word of God. The Bible is the translation of the Divine Word into the physical world. I think this is where the problem occurs. The true meaning is lost when the Word of God is changed from the spiritual to the material. This is because everything, love and wisdom, flows from the spiritual word to the physical world. Things in the spiritual world are symbolic. In other words the language in the spiritual world is not words but direct thoughts. Spirits do not think in words but pure ideas. If this is true then the divine word which is from God, would also be an “idea”, non language type of communication. The men who wrote the Bible received the Divine Word in their minds as a form of revelation, but it would not have been in concrete words. Instead it was in a symbolic language similar to what Swedenborg reported to have experienced. In the process of reporting these revelations, the prophets could have interpreted things wrongly because it was all revealed to them in a symbolic language. It was open to different interpretations. Or perhaps it is the opposite; there is an argument that says if God is omnipotent, he should be able to see to it that the right interpretations were made. Perhaps the Divine Word is open to all interpretations to show the vast knowledge contained within. Therefore, what God intended to say might have been lost due to the nature of the symbolic nature of revelation. In Van Dusen’s hook, The Presence of Other Worlds he says that Swedenborg didn’t realize that the strange dreamlike thoughts he had were actually symbolic communication with the Lord until some time later when God himself came and told Swedenborg that he was actually conversing with God.

 

 Faith

            What is “faith” as defined by Swedenborg? In n.336, he says “Man acquires faith by going to the Lord, learning truths from the Word, and living according to them.” Does this mean that in order to have faith you have to read the Bible, supposing that “the Word” refers to the Bible? I thought that regardless of your religion, as long as you live by what you believe, you will go to heaven? That is what Dr. J always said. This is probably due to the teachings of the Bible; it has influenced the moral ideas and laws of all aspects of our lives. Even though we may not be Christian, we know of its teachings because it is dominant in our society.

You don’t have to actually read the Bible to have faith. Swedenborg referred to the Divine Word when he said the Word. This Divine Word is revealed to everyone if they just look within themselves for it. Love and Wisdom are influxed into peoples’ souls and so is good and truth; therefore, regardless of your religion, it is possible for all people to know the Truths and thus have Faith.

 

The Truth about Faith and Charity

            What is this connection between faith and charity? In n.336, it says that true faith does not exist without charity and vice versa. I thought that faith is all that was needed? This is what is taught in the Christian church today, at least as I understand it. I realize that Swedenborg says the contrary. Does it mean that charity is also needed to reach heaven? I am assuming that charity refers to the willingness of one to give freely his own things to others. Swedenborg says that charity is doing things which are useful and good. Loving things on the basis of its usefulness.

            Charity is the giving of love as well as material things. Charity is the act of being faithful because God wants people to love each other and charity is the expression of love toward someone else. It is the opposite of selfishness. They are related to each other as love and wisdom are related. Both come from God, charity is an affective, emotion, from love. Faith is not from love hut from the rational, cognitive, or wisdom.

 

Where is the Spiritual World

            In n.33, Swedenborg talks of the infinity of God. He says ‘Every created thing is finite, and the infinite is in every finite things as in its receptacles; as in men as in its images”. I do not see how this is possible. What is meant by “infinite in every finite thing”? He gave an example of everything can be divided an infinite number of times, how does this relate?

            The spiritual world exists within everything in this world. The spiritual world is infinite since space and time do not exist there. This material world, or physical world, exists around the infinite. This is also seen in people.  People are both spiritual and physical. The physical body is finite, it dies, and it is subject to physical laws. The spiritual body is also finite but is not in time or space. This is the part of humans that is innermost; it is not subject to laws of this world. I would also call this part the mind.

 

Answers to Questions

            I am interested in Swedenborg because I wanted an explanation to the questions that other disciplines fail to answer. The question of existence, of afterlife, and of the existence of God, can not he answer in scientific terms with a definite answer. I thought it would be helpful to examine other possibilities other than pure scientific explanations, since it is impossible to prove the existence of God through natural empirical evidence. The next rational step is to look at it from a different point of view. Swedenborg provided me with a rational explanation for my questions.

            The problem of the existence of God has always bothered me. I know that it is impossible to prove or disprove through physical evidence, this is why I was an agnostic. I need a logical explanation, Swedenborg I think provides this. At this point I do believe that there is a Divine Being who created everything, but I believe this not because Swedenborg said so, I believe it because Swedenborg explains it rationally to the point where I can not refute it.

 

 

Believing Swedenborg

Searching for God

            First I would like to establish my position on this subject. I cone from an agnostic point of view. I don’t deny the existence of God but I also don’t affirm it. I am basically trying to find God; to see if I believe in Swedenborg’s writings and teachings.

 

Argument for God

            The first problem for me was weather I could believe in God or not. Swedenborg provided the argument of God’s existence, saying that people can “know’ God through reason. He said that reason tells you that there is order in the universe. This order is so consistent that it could not have possibly been set by chance. Through reason you can see that there must have been some intelligent being that created this order. The only being capable of this would be God. I must tend to agree, it is a very reasonable argument.

 

To Know God

            Now I am inclined to be in the existence of God. My next problem is what religion do I follow? Swedenborg provides answers to questions that most religions I have found avoid.

            One of the statements made by Swedenborg was that God is can be “known” if men just allow themselves to know him. This means that if you stop resisting him you will be able to see. The question I had was why I wasn’t able to “know” God even though I was trying to know him. The answers is because of the angels have stopped following me around and leading me; when I was a child they guided me but now they are gone. I must also agree that this sounds rational. If God provides influx and I was resisting, which I am, then I would not be able to know God.

 

One or Three Gods

            The question of God being a divine trinity also has been asked. How can God be omnipotent and also be three Gods as is taught in the Christian church? Swedenborg says that this is untrue. God could not be three because that would mean people would worship three Gods and not one. That destroys the image of God. The answers is God is only one person but is called “the Holy Ghost”, “the Father” and “the son”, These names correspond to the body, soul, and operation (TCR pg. 254). Since God is a person he must have the same parts as a person and it can not be argued that people have a body, a soul, and an operation.

 

Space and Time in the Spiritual World

            Another thing I have learned is that our minds exist in a world within space or time. Heaven is a place without space or time, this can explain how God can be everywhere at the same time. A concept I have learned is that the spiritual wor1d is within everything that exists in the physical world. The physical is built around the spiritual world. This is correspondent to flesh around the skeleton.  This is also how it is possible for God to be everywhere in the physical world too.

 

The Creation of the Universe

            The universe was created from the divine sun. The way I understand it is that from the divine sun which is god, there cones forth light and heat. The heat is love and the light is wisdom. Through a serious of stages these transform and become physical matter and create the physical universe.

            Over all, I would have to say that Swedenborg is very rational in his explanation of everything. I admit that I was prone to disbelieve him, but he seems to be very consistent and rational in his thinking which makes him more believable.

 

 

Questioning Religion

            On page fourteen of Swedenborg’s True Christian Religion he states that every man is able, if he will, to find evidence in favor of the divine This, I take it to mean that, man is supposed to be able to intuitively “know” God, if he wants to. The problem I have with this is if this is so, then why do I not know God today? I do have a genuine desire to know of the existence of God, but I do not find myself coming to a revelation. The other part I found strange is qualifier at the end of his statement. He says “if he (man) wants to know…”  Doesn’t it seem obvious that if someone doesn’t want to believe something then he will not? At the same time, if he wants to believe in something then he will be inclined to do so regardless if it is divine or not. If I wanted to believe that Dr. J. was a delusionary misfit, then I would believe that regardless of what others say or what he tells me.

            The other question I have is the problem of God being a trinity. How can a God be both three Gods and yet remain one? Is it because this is a concept that us mortals can not understand? That’s possible. It just seems contradictory to say that there is only one God and you should worship only one God but there is three, Father, son, and the holy ghost.

            The answer to my question was quite simple. Dr. J. said that Christianity is wrong! They have corrupted the original idea of God. He is not three beings in one. Rather, God is actually one being with three names as your father can have three names. To you he is Dad, to your cousin he is Uncle, and to your friends he is Mr. Smith. This makes it perfectly clear now, but does that mean that all the religions that do teach a trinity are wrong?

 

 

Life After Death

            In Odhner’s The Spiritual World, he says several things that I question. He is merely interpreting things from Swedenborg’s writings. In his first Chapter, pg. 13, he states that ‘only when the body is awake can a man retain his full...judgment.”  The question I have is how does that relate to the ability of making decisions and judgments? Can not a spirit make judgments also? Or is it because as spirits we are totally controlled by divine influx? If that is so then it still would not make any sense, for even in this physical body doesn’t God still send us influx through our spirit? The answer is although God does control everything he has given us the power to choose for ourselves. This enables us to reach Heaven hut also leaves us vulnerable to fall into Hell. We are not robots. Then there exists a question now, if God is all powerful and omnipotent, then he should be able to control everything. Although he may control everything, he gave us choice to give us reason.

 

Swedenborg and His Visions

            The next question is that he states that Swedenborg alone was able to see in both the physical and spiritual world. The spirits could not see into this world and we can not into the spirits world. If he is the only one that can, how can God be all powerful and not be able to see this one? He also states that it is entirely impossible for a man to live in both worlds at the sane time, which means he contradicts himself because he said that Swedenborg did do exactly that. First of all, God can see into this world, I interpreted wrong. The reason Swedenborg alone was allowed to see into both worlds was that he alone was given that gift by God. Since then God has forbidden it. No one else is able to see both worlds.

 

 

Question of Thought

            The next thing that is puzzling is how the spirits that Swedenborg saw thought that his own memories were theirs and how they thought that they were “he?”  How is this possible? I thought that each spirit was a person unto itself with there own memories.

 

 

Swedenborg and Psychology

            This paper will attempt to show why Swedenborg should be included in the study of Psychology. The most important thing to remember is the purpose, we will in no way try to prove that what Swedenborg says is true or untrue. In fact, that has no relevance in our argument.

 

Psychology Defined

            The first thing we need to define is what does Psychology mean? Webster’s Dictionary defines it as “the science of human and animal behavior, or the science dealing with the mind, or mental and emotional processes’ that is simple enough. This means the study of Psychology is the study of the mind, and human behavior.

 

Swedenborg and His Quest

            Now the question is about Swedenborg. What does Swedenborg say? What are his ideas? Like many scientist, Swedenborg was interested in how things worked and why they did. In his search for answers he found himself looking toward God for the answers. He realized that the questions he asked could not be answered by the hard sciences (hard sciences meaning mathematics, physics, etc.), this is why he turned to the spiritual. Remember, that whether you believe Swedenborg or not has no importance to our argument! Just know that Swedenborg was looking for answers about life, and existence itself.

 

The Psychologist Within

            Swedenborg, in his religious pursuit, found the answers to these basic questions. He also gives an explanation as to why we think the nature of the mind and why we act the way we do. He gives an explanation of human nature and what it is too.

            Now we know that;

            1) Psychology is the study of human behavior and the study of the mind.

            2) Swedenborg explains the nature of the mind and human behavior.

            Therefore, we can conclude that Swedenborg gives an explanation of the psychology of humans. This is why Swedenborg should be included in the study of psychology. He offers a detailed explanation of what Psychology tries to explain.

 

Argument of Multi-theories

            Whether you believe in his ideas or not has no relevance because the question is not of whether you believe him. The best analogy is the nature of psychology itself. Today there are countless theories which try to explain human behavior. There are the Behaviorists, the Humanists, Psychoanalysts, etc. Each has their own ideas of the mind and how it operates. Psychology does not attempt to say one is right and the other is wrong, but simply presents the different points of view and lets the student decide which is logical and which are not. The best example is Freud.

            Psychology includes Freud in the study of mind, but if examined very carefully, there are many parallels between Freud and Swedenborg. None of Freud’s theories have any empirical proof. We can not see the Id or the Super Ego, but we accept that it is there. Why? Because Freud said it is there right? The things that Swedenborg said are also not scientifically provable. We must just accept that what he says is true in the same way we do with Freud. Swedenborg deals with the mind just like Freud does. Why then do we not include Swedenborg into the study of Psychology and yet study Freud whose theories are in essence similar to Swedenborg?

            I believe that there is no reason why Swedenborg can not be included. In fact, we are doing an injustice by not study Swedenborg. Suppose you had to decide on what type of Stereo to buy. In your decision process wouldn’t you want to know all the information you possibly can to help you make your decision? One of the things you would want to know is what types of stereos you had to choose from as well as what capabilities they had and what they all would cost. In order to make a sound conclusion as to the nature of the mind and psychology itself, isn’t it desirable to learn all the possible theories before making a decision?

            Swedenborg is simply another theory to add to the countless others already taught in psychology.

 

 

 

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