A Man of the Field
Forming The New Church Mind In Today’s World
Volume 1: Reformation
The Struggle Against Nonduality
Volume 2: Enlightenment
The Spiritual Sense of the Writings
Volume 3: Regeneration
Spiritual Disciplines For Daily Life
Volume 4: Uses
The New Church Mind In Old Age
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By Leon James
Author information appears at the end. This document is in the process of being revised. Please note the draft version marked on top. To print this document, see Printing Note at the end.
A “field” means doctrine (AC 368)
A "man" signifies faith and truth (AC 427; 4823)
The Struggle Against Nonduality
Chapters 4 and 5
Table of Contents
Man cannot discover a single Divine truth, except by approaching the Lord immediately (INV 22)
Chapter 4, Introduction
In the collateral literature of the New Church, it is common to find this type of statement:: “The Writings of Swedenborg are divinely inspired works.” On the other hand, in the literature specifically of the General Church, one commonly finds the statement: “The Writings are the Word.” What is the difference? The difference in these two statements regarding the Writings reflects the non-reconcilable doctrines between the General Church and Convention. Of course this categorical intellectual difference between the two Church organizations is also replicated and reflected in the minds of individual adherents, and to various degrees within each category, no doubt. It is important for the New Church mind to be able to rationally and clearly distinguish these two statements and the intellectual interpretations that are behind them. They represent a basic duality that can never be reconciled, and since nonduality opposes duality, carefully distinguishing between the two positions is essential for the formation of the New Church mind.
Recall that the New Church mind is defined as the individuals who are willing to be regenerated by applying the internal sense of the Writings to their daily willing and thinking. In Volume 2, which treats of Enlightenment, you’ll find the justification that the New Church mind is regenerated by means of the spiritual sense of the Writings. I therefore present methods or exercises by which we can extract the spiritual sense from the literal. These methods are taught in the Writings. In Volume 2, I discuss it under the sub-title “Applying the Letter to the Letter.” It involves substituting phrases from one part of the Writings into sentences from another part. The allowable substitutions are determined by correspondences explicitly designated or described in the Writings. Today, with NewSearch and other computer applications it is fairly easy to find such matching correspondences in the text Writings. I give several such illustrations and demonstrations.
THE DOCTRINE OF THE CHURCH IS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE SENSE OF THE LETTER OF TH WORD, AND IS TO BE CONFIRMED THEREBY
It has been shown in the preceding chapter that the Word in the sense of the letter is in its fullness, in its holiness, and in its power; and as the Lord is the Word (for He is the all of the Word), it follows that He is most of all present in the sense of the letter, and that from it He teaches and enlightens man. But these things shall be set forth in the following order:
i. The Word cannot be understood without doctrine.
ii. Doctrine must be drawn from the sense of the letter of the Word.
iii. But the Divine truth which must be of doctrine appears to none but those who are in enlightenment from the Lord. (SS 50)
The Word is not understood except by those who are enlightened. … They who read the Word from the love of truth and good, are enlightened from it, but not they who read it from the love of fame, gain, or honor, thus from the love of self … They who are led by the Lord are enlightened, and see truths in the Word, but not they who are led by self (NJHD 256).
You can see that those who are unwilling to acknowledge the Writings as the Word cannot have access to the inner sense of the Writings.
The Lord cannot enlighten such a state of mind for an idea that is not acknowledged cannot be perceived. Here then is the absolute, categorical, and permanent (eternal) distinction that separates the two intellectual states that acknowledge the sentence “The Writings are the Word” vs. “The Writings are divinely inspired.” The first mental says that the Writings have an inner sense since the Word does. In that state of mind the Word is called the “Threefold Word” and whatever the Writings teach about the character of the Word, therefore applies to the OT, the NT, and the Writings. And the Writings teach that the Word is of such a character that it is written in pure correspondences (xx), and that nothing spiritual about the Word can be understood without Doctrine (xx). Doctrine is not the literal meaning. Doctrine is to be extracted from the literal meaning (SS 50). Specific rules of extraction are taught in the Writings (see Volume 2).
The statement “The Writings of Swedenborg are divinely inspired works” contains a presupposition or intellectual belief system that is rooted in nonduality. The assumption one maintains in the background is that there exists a rational continuum which permits us to compare Swedenborg, the author, with other authors who have produced “inspired works.” This view admits the idea that there are other authors who are “divinely inspired,” even if it is granted that Swedenborg was more so than others before him. This view also admits the idea that there might be future authors who are also “divinely inspired” in the sense that the Swedenborg’s works are divinely inspired. This view also admits that there are valid comparisons one can make between some of “Swedenborg’s ideas” and the ideas of other writers. There is therefore the assumption of a rational continuum between all writers in the history of humankind. This is clearly a nonduality.
In contrast to this, is the duality that assigns permanent and categorical distinctions between the Word and all other human writings. This duality is fundamental and absolute, taught in the Writings everywhere (xx, xx). The statement “The Writings are the Word” acknowledges an intellectual context that is global, scientific, and rational. It is able to prove from the Writings that the natural and spiritual worlds are mutually interdependent and distinguishable into a discrete duality (xx). Reading and understanding the Threefold Word is the psycho-physical connection mechanism between the angels and earthlings (xx). Upon that connection the entire universe depends (xx). But the Writings establish that in order to understand the Threefold Word, we must extract its internal sense (xx).
The Writings therefore specify and teach the methods by which the internal sense ought to be extracted, and the result of this extraction process is called “enlightenment” (see Volume 2). Unless the Writings are acknowledged as the Word, and unless one applies to the Writings what it teaches about the Word, one cannot extract the spiritual sense of it, and one cannot understand the Writings. Consequently one cannot undergo reformation in adult life, hence one cannot be regenerated and saved for heavenly life.
The Writings establish an absolute duality between the Threefold Word and any other human writing (AC 10215). There is no possibility of comparison because they are not on the same continuum of discrete degrees. For the formation of the individual into the New Church mind this duality must replace the nonduality that allows comparisons. It is the duality “human book” and “Divine Book.” Human books can be “divinely inspired” but Divine Books are Divine. Who is the author of the Word? The state of mind that is immersed in nonduality, says that there were many authors, all of them divinely inspired. The state of mind that is immersed in the duality of the Writings, says that the Threefold Word has only one Author, namely the Lord. The Writings say that the Lord is to be considered the actual Author of the Threefold Word (xx).
This Divine authorship is the only intelligence capable of arranging the infinite series contained in the literal expressions that the human author has written out. It is not necessary at all that the prophets who have composed the Bible be inspired nor enlightened. Whatever they consciously saw themselves as doing while writing, was in no way responsible for the word by word composition of the sentences. They were not “inspired” and neither were they zombified or automated, or taken over by spirits, or by the Holy Spirit. Rather, we need to see the rational mechanism or scientific process by which the Lord “created” the Word. He acted as always from Firsts to Lasts through the full scale of intermediaries and being in total charge from beginning to end. The end or ultimate is the Letter of the Word. This is what the Lord created. It is a Divine intellectual edifice given to the human race as an infinite source of scientific knowledge about the Lord, heaven, the spiritual world, the natural universe, and above all, the psychobiology and of regeneration.
The New Church mind must be established on this fundamental duality: “The Writings are the Word, therefore not a human work but purely Divine” (AC 10215)This is a duality because no other work authored by anyone can be the Word. The Word has an internal sense of infinite proportions and is the Lord Himself as absolute Divine Truth. No other book has an infinite internal sense arranged in infinite rational series. All other books or human statements or ideas are in a human discrete degree while the Word is in a Divine discrete degree. There is no possibility of comparison for comparison would destroy the absolute duality which must be in our mind.
(For more discussion on how the Writings are the Word, see Chapter 8).
The nonduality view of the Writings flattens its core fundamental duality, and opens up the New Church mind to all sorts of impediments to one’s regeneration. A common idea from nonduality is that other authors also have genuine spiritual truths to reveal through their insights and experiences. Therefore their ideas and methods of spiritual development can be relevant and useful for the “spiritual growth” of the New Church mind. But if you admit this idea it could fight against all the discrete dualities taught in the Writings that we need to take up in our mind for regeneration, hence salvation. All dualities are unique permanent distinctions that never cease to eternity (DLW 226; CL 355). We want to be vigilant with respect to monitoring imported ideas that hide nondualities. The categorical and absolute distinction between the Word and all other books and insights protects the New Church mind from numerous fallacies and mental traps that destroy the rational coherence of the Writings, hence of the representational fabric of reality in our mind, leaving a delusional world of irrealities and the inevitable evil to which all delusions are connected from within.
I use the expression “secular Swedenborgianism” to designate the mind of those who are familiar with the Writings but do not acknowledge it as the Word (see the other Sections in this Chapter). This nondualist orientation sees in the Writings numerous “mistakes” or “outdated scientific facts” or “limitations due to Swedenborg’s human mind.” As a result, the entire scientific and theological foundation of the Writings lose their absolute and special Divine Authority. From then on, self-intelligence and individual experience take over our intellectual life and regeneration is completely impeded (NJHD 256).
Even the Lord had to learn the lesson that His external rational understanding of the Old Testament is not a spiritual understanding, but a natural-rational one. The spiritual sense of the Word had to be revealed by His “internal man” to His “external man.”
That "Sarai," as a wife, is the truth that was adjoined to the celestial things which were in the Lord, is evident from what has just been said concerning the signification of Sarai his wife. It is said, "the truth that was adjoined to celestial things," because the Lord possessed all truth previous to His instruction. What is celestial has truth with it, the one being inseparable from the other, as light is from flame; but this truth was stored up in the Lord's internal man, which was Divine. The knowledges [scientifica et cognitiones] that He learned are not truths [vera seu veritates], but are only recipient vessels; just as whatever is in man's memory is by no means truth, although it is so called; but the truth is therein, as in vessels. These vessels were to be formed, or rather to be opened, by the Lord, through instruction in knowledges from the Word; not only that celestial things might be insinuated into them, but also that the celestial things might in this way be made Divine; for the Lord conjoined the Divine Essence with the Human Essence in order that His Human things might likewise be made Divine. (AC 1469)
It is not surprising therefore that scholars can seriously study the Writings for years and arrive at the conclusion that they contain or advocate some form of nonduality or partial-nonduality. The Writings say that the Word is written in a literal style that people can use to support any idea or theory no matter how false and irrational (TCR 260). In the quotation mentioned earlier (see Chapter 3), Schoonheim sees in the New Testament verses, confirmation of his belief in nonduality. Wilson Van Dusen says: “The highest revelation of Hinduism is also in Swedenborg's revelations even though the two traditions had no contact.” The inside cover of the New Church Journal Arcana says in part:
Hinduism, the oldest surviving religious tradition, teaches that there are three paths to self-realization: jnana, the path of knowledge; bhakti, the path of love; and karma, the path of action. Is there a Western religious tradition that combines these three paths into one, in order to teach the goal of conjunction with the Divine? To all these questions the response is yes: that tradition is to be found in the theological writings (sic) of Emanuel Swedenborg.
The idea that revelations given in Hinduism many centuries before the Second Coming, are in some sense comparable or “similar” to the revelations given to Swedenborg, is not a possibility for many reasons that are explicated in the Writings (TCR 772). Swedenborg’s revelations are the Word of the Lord’s Second Coming. He qualifies these revelations as the greatest miracle the Lord has granted the human race since the beginning of creation (INV 43). The Writings explain that the Word is unique in style and no human writing can be compared to it (xx). Further, the Writings detail the history and development of the human mind from the Most Ancient Church to the New Church (NJHD 247, 1-7). Each civilization or era received revelations appropriate to the times and genius of its peoples. The revelations of the Writings could not have been given prior to the Last Judgment, which took place around the middle of the eighteenth century (or the year 1757, see LJ 45, TCR 115, 818).
Clearly then a distinct duality exists between the revelations given to Swedenborg and the knowledges found in Hinduism centuries or millennia before the Second Coming. Truths given to prior “religious traditions” can only be shown to be different, not similar, to the truths of the Writings. The activity of trying to show that they are in some sense similar, could admit into the New Church mind opposing ideas that the Writings refer to as an “impediment” to one’s regeneration (SE 2041). It’s extremely important therefore to be able to show and understand that no comparison can be made between the Writings and any other work. Consequently, no similarity can exist between any concept in the Writings with any concept from some other work. This is because the fundamental orientation, or background assumptions, in any work or writing enters into every sub-part of it (xx).
Take for instance the concept of “God.” This concept is used by disparate religions with different meanings. Those who are in the Jewish faith do not pray to the same God as Christians because Jews see the God of the OT in different terms from the Trinitarian perspective of the NT. The God of traditional Christianity based on the Bible cannot be similar to the God of the Writings, there being no spiritual overlap between the Old and New Christianity (TCR 647). The same is true for any concept you may consider—sin, hell, Satan, angel, Holy Spirit, Communion, love of neighbor, adultery, Church, creation, Adam, Noah, crucifixion, etc. etc.—none of these can be spiritually and rationally similar between the Christian Church mentality (First Coming) and the New Church mentality (Second Coming). And if this is true for two intellectual systems so closely tied by history and the Bible, it is even more so for Eastern religions and Christian. There can be no overlap between the two traditions since one is immersed in nonduality while the other is immersed in duality.
The Writings teach that nothing whatsoever of a higher state can appear as a revelation in a lower state (HH 269, SE 6084). The only relation there is between a higher heaven and a lower one is that of pure correspondence. For instance not a single idea of a spiritual angel of the Second Heaven can be seen or understood by a natural angel of the First Heaven (HH 209). Similarly, not a single idea of the Second Coming was perceivable by the Lord’s disciples, such as the identity of Personhood between Jesus and the Father, despite His oft repeated literal statements asserting it as He stood before them (John 10:30, AR 222). In the New Church mind, there can be no comparison between “the highest revelation of Hinduism “ and “Swedenborg's revelations.”
Chapter 4, Section 2
2. The Secular Spirituality of Gurdijeff
Gurdijeff’s system of "esoteric Christianity" includes mental exercises that are believed to develop one’s spirituality. One example is the activity of "sensing" which consists of sitting quietly and listening to the surrounds. The purpose of this exercise is to increase awareness of one's sensory environment as a means of focusing on the present and flushing out the myriad of thoughts and impressions that lurk in the mind's background all day long. It seems to help people to break away from their constant interior dialog which the conscious mind carries on during waking hours. Another exercise is to try to disengage from one's continuous stream of negative emotions (anger, dissatisfaction, jealousy, conflict, anxiety, etc.). This distancing activity appears to break their hold over us, freeing us to focus on and recognize good emotions. These in turn occasion wiser and more creative or original modes of thinking. These exercises may indeed be helpful psychologically though they are not spiritual as defined by the New Church mind. It is always the motive that creates the spirituality of an activity. Religious motives for mental disciplines are described in Volume 3.
No matter how advanced we get at psychological activities they can never turn into spiritual ones. This is because psychological activities or states are in the natural mind, while spiritual activities or states are in the spiritual mind. Only interior rational content can exist in the spiritual mind and its content originates from heaven, not the natural mind. Whatever originates from the natural mind remains natural and cannot turn into spiritual by becoming more advanced. The natural mind and the spiritual mind are separated permanently by discrete degrees (see Chapter 5). In the New Church mind spiritual truths come only from the Writings since the spiritual truths in the Writings are from the Lord. The Writings are the sole source of spiritual truths for the New Church mind since no other revelation or writing contains the truths of the Lord’s Second Coming. Spiritual growth in the New Church mind is achieved through reformation and regeneration achieved solely by means of the Writings. No other method or mechanism has been given by the Lord (NJHD 173).
Some people who attend “spiritual growth groups” may develop the notion that psychological methods are spiritual activities. But for the New Church mind spiritual is defined by the Writings, and the Writings teach that spiritual growth is only by reformation and regeneration, and this involves altering our daily willing and thinking using the Writings as the evaluation guide. Let us say that the psychological exercises are explicitly related to studying the concepts in the Writings that are applicable to these exercises. When reformation and regeneration are made the primary thing or motive, and the psychological exercises are made secondary, to fit the primary motive, then the psychological exercises could be useful tools in regeneration. In that case the group activity is spiritual for it is required for reformation to debunk all our concepts in the light of the rational principles in the Writings.
The psychological exercises in themselves, are not spiritual and cannot lead to the opening of the spiritual mind. Numerous psychological, mental, or physical exercises or disciplines can be turned into “spiritual growth” tools if done for the primary purpose of cooperating with the Lord in our regeneration. Before our reformation in adult life we are in an unregenerate state, surviving in a culture of nonduality and secularism. Our relationship to the Writings is lukewarm and unenthusiastic since what we see in it is the loss of our selfhood and freedom. We are afraid that if we lose our selfhood and freedom we will never be happy and will have wasted our life. We are also filled with dissatisfaction, rage, and rebellion. Our personality is filled with contradictions and our motives are ego-oriented from inheritance.
In this state we are not yet forming the New Church mind in ourselves. Our struggles in that state of life are psychological and moral, not yet spiritual. “Growth groups,” physical disciplines, meditation, performative arts, achieving professional expertise, and like activities then serve useful purposes in perfecting our moral strength and developing our natural rational mind. These activities are not yet spiritual. In this unregenerate state New Church people should retain loyalty to the Writings as the Word of their religion. If this idea from childhood is not tampered with but left in place, the later struggle during reformation in adulthood will be so much lighter and more efficient.
We need to learn how to interpret concepts whose source is not the Writings and how to relate to them in our mind. In today’s modern world of media and general information flow, New Church people cannot escape exposure to concepts not from the Writings. Initially the concepts that attract our interest appear similar and compatible to things we know from the Writings. They may even seem useful for our spiritual life, from which it would seem that the New Church mind should adopt them in the limited sense of their usefulness, as long as one leaves off the portions that are from a different context and not compatible with the Writings. But this appearance is not real but spurious and inauthentic. For instance, Gurdijeff's "negative emotions" might seem similar to the idea of "evil spirits" entering our thoughts through the will of "our natural man." But it’s important to remember that all Gurdijeff's concepts have nonduality within them. What matters when comparing concepts is not their outward similarity but their inward compatibility. When New Church people approach Gurdijeff's idea of “negative emotions” it should first be debunked before giving assent to it.
To debunk a concept is to look for what is within, that is, to identify its assumptions, premises, and presuppositions, for these are the things that are “within” the concept. When we analyze the background assumptions or context, we can instantly see that Gurdijeff does not have compatible assumptions with the Writings. The model of Gurdijeff rejects the most basic dualities in the Writings. Not a single concept that Gurdijeff's mind could produce would be compatible with the Writings when viewed from within. In this case, we can talk about evil spirits in connection with our negative emotions, but if Gurdijeff were present, he would laugh at us, would he not? So it cannot be that his idea of “negative emotions” could be like our idea of evil spirits.
Similarly, Gurdijeff’s analogy of the mind as a house with a basement and upper floor has been related by some New Church people to spiritual correspondences in the Writings, where the three stories analogy is used to designate the natural, the rational, and the celestial in our mind. Once again, we can be certain that Gurdijeff would reject our idea of three discrete degrees in our mind that connect only by correspondences. Therefore his analogy of the mind as a house is inwardly antagonistic to our rational idea of the mind in three discrete degrees. This points up again the utmost importance to know the fundamental dualities in the Writings. If the New Church person doesn’t know about discrete degrees, one remains exposed and vulnerable to intellectual hijacking by antagonistic systems of thought. Our reformation will then be so much more agonizing.
A comparison has also been made between Swedenborg and Gurdijeff’s attitude towards the Lord, namely Gurdijeff’s admonition that his system of mental development would not work at all if the practitioners are motivated by self-aggrandizement or belief in one's own powers. We have from the Writings the idea that self-intelligence and self-love lead to hell regardless of our religion or knowledge of the Word. But what can we make of Gurdijeff's idea of a “belief in one’s own power”? Gurdijeff's relation to the Lord is a distant one in comparison to New Church Christians who occupy the center of the region around the spiritual Sun (D.Love 11, LJ 58). The Writings gives us the closest relation possible to the Lord, hence it is not possible that someone who is more distant could give us a like spiritual understanding.
It is prudent to recognize the potential danger to the New Church mind of applying outside psychological explanations to the workings of one’s mind. The Writings present a theistic psychology and this alone should be the psychology applied to the New Church mind. Otherwise portions of the New Church mind would be formed by ideas not from the Writings. But we know from the Writings that all our willing and thinking should be from the Word in our understanding and according to it (NJHD 255). Forming the New Church mind is the preparation for becoming an angel.
But could there not be some overlap so that some concepts from science and research are like some concepts from the Writings? The answer must be, No, in the light of what the Writings say. There may appear an outward similarity but there can never be an inward similarity, because the concepts from the Writings are the Word of the Lord, and therefore they have endless spiritual ideas contained in each truth (SE 2085). No concept, idea, or reasoning that is not from the Word can therefore be interiorly similar to the Word. It is clear therefore that the New Church mind must not import a single idea that is not from the Writings. The danger of importing outside concepts is that they clash on the inside with the concepts from the Writings. This is because a concept that does not have heaven within it, has hell in it—there is no in-between. And so the hell inside the imported concepts battle against the heaven in the concepts from the Writings. Therefore we should strive to avoid importing them.
It is useful to remind ourselves many times that all things that exist are distinctly one in the eyes of the Lord, and that this principle applies as a duality. All things that are good from within constitute one Church on earth and one Grand Human in the spiritual world. All things that are not good within constitute one infernal deformed man (DP 204). The two are antagonistic and cannot co-exist. This same principle applies to all concepts and types of reasoning. In the New Church mind all concepts that are from the Writings have heaven in them; all others have hell in them. But on the surface, this is not readily apparent (SS 95). To accept a concept from another source is to trust the outward similarity, but after proper examination and critical deconstruction, it becomes clear that it would be creating a nonduality between what is from the Word and what is from elsewhere.
Further, the motivation for introducing explanations and practices that are not from the Writings is that they would be useful for our life. For our spiritual life? Everything useful for the spiritual life of the New Church mind must come solely from the Word, that is, from the Writings. Once we are committed to this truth as a commandment, we have completed our reformation, and not until then. Then at last we can begin our regeneration, which alone leads to our salvation. Is it possible to think that the Lord has not provided in His Second Coming what is sufficient and ample for our reformation and regeneration? Do we need to borrow outside things not provided in the Writings? The answer is, We do not and we must not. This is not a judgment on these outside concepts! It is not for us to make such a judgment since these concepts are not provided for us, and what do we know about what the Lord provides for others who are not of the Church? Therefore we can only discuss here that which the Writings say that anyone ought to do when motivated to form the New Church mind within themselves.
What about the potential usefulness of extraneous practices that are not spiritual?
Here my answer would be, Yes, it’s possible that some might be useful for regeneration. This is because physical behavior by itself is not spiritual, but it can become spiritual when we perform it from a spiritual or religious motivation. Many such practices and disciplines are described in Volume 3. I believe that some of the practices encouraged by Peter Rhodes may be of this type. For instance, as was said above, he recommends the activity of "sensing" which consists of sitting quietly and listening to the surrounds. The purpose of this exercise is to increase awareness of one's sensory environment as a means of focusing on the present and flushing out the myriad of thoughts and impressions that lurk in the mind's background all day long. It seems to help people to break away from their constant interior dialog which the conscious mind carries on during waking hours. This is not a spiritual exercise but a mental one, below the spiritual level which begins only with the rational ideas in the Writings. Religious disciplines are an essential tool for regeneration. The activity of “sensing” and other such exercises of “meditation” are turned into religious disciplines or tools when we do them for the purpose of our regeneration. This subject is treated of in Volume 3.
Gurdijeff’s secular psychotherapy has a nondualist foundation. On the other hand, spiritual psychotherapy in the Writings is always religious and dualist through and through. Every mental step, from emotional slavery to regenerated freedom, is taken by the individual with the Lord's hand and face in view. In what might I might call “true Swedenborgian therapy” it is not sufficient to confess the True Christian faith (TCR 1), and thereafter proceed with a secular psychology and a materialistic science. Every daily activity and routine must be suffused with the Lord's presence and leading in our thoughts, perceptions, and inclinations. I don't think it is the case that the New Church needs to borrow from other systems of mental development because Swedenborg was allegedly unable to specify life exercises in sufficient detail, or had a lack of time in his busy publications schedule, as implied by Wilson Van Dusen. (See Note 6 at end). Volume 3 gives many specific examples that show how innumerable religious disciplines can be extracted from the Writings.
Moral life may be lived either for the sake of the Divine or for the sake of men in the world; and a moral life that is lived for the sake of the Divine is a spiritual life. In outward form the two appear alike, but in inward form they are entirely different; the one saves a man, the other does not. For he who lives a moral life for the sake of the Divine is led by the Divine; while he who leads a moral life for the sake of men in the world is led by himself. (HH 319)
Participants in New Church “spiritual growth groups” sometimes seem to commingle what is secular psychology with New Church dualism. For example, a Letter to the Editor published in New Church Life (August and October issues of 1993) says regarding reading Gurdijeff’s:
"I find it difficult to understand what there is to be afraid of from collateral reading and experience. ... I feel I have a new understanding of what the Writings mean when I read them." Another letter defends Peter Rhodes' book: “Aim does not proselytize Gurdijeffian thinking; it gives credit to Gurdijeff’s for an effective approach to self-examination. ... Aim gives help by mapping the strategies of the hells. ... Aim has nothing to do with following Gurdijeff’s. It has everything to do with a sincere effort to follow the Lord through His Word."
On the same page, a letter poses the opposite view:
"it is difficult to understand why New Church people should be attracted to Gurdijeff’s" and several others voice strong opposition, for example: "His aims seem 100% personal and material ... [it is] blasphemy--the mixing of good and evil. Those who give any credence to his guidance are in grave risk of blasphemy too … How can we reconcile the clear, translucent and inspired works of Swedenborg with teachings [from Gurdijeff’s] such as: "Everything in the Universe is material"; "It is not God that is omnipotent but the Universal Will. ... I am thankful to Mr. Fox that he exposed Gurdijeff’s disorderly conceptions that are absolutely contrary to what we are taught in the Writings." It is clear from the reply by Rev. Fox that his opposition is to Gurdijeff’s, not to collateral readings in general, and indeed he presents a list of books that he considers worthwhile "for those in the New Church who feel the need to look outside the Writings for means of enriching their spiritual lives."
Yet another contributor cites 25 passages in Swedenborg which have one clear message, namely that "the Word is the only doctrine which teaches how man must live in the world in order to be happy to eternity" (AC 8939:3e). Mr. Odhner warns against the dangers of "following the various theories of finite minds" and urges that "the Divine authority of the Writings" is an affirmation that "we must renew each generation" inasmuch as "our constitution is the Writings" (p.181).
Despite differences expressed in the heat of zeal for good and truth, I note a general agreement in this polemic, that Swedenborg's Writings are the Word, hence the ultimate authority on the ways and means of regeneration.
The Word is the only doctrine which teaches how a man must live in the world in order to be happy to eternity. (AC 8939)
Enlightenment is the influx, perception, and instruction people receive from the Lord when they read the Word. (AC 10215)
I believe that “growth groups” and special mental exercises, when viewed as secular studies and experience, are compatible with the Writings when these secular ideas have no authority in our mind regarding spiritual truths. The title "spiritual growth groups" and the method of "esoteric Christianity" are neither spiritual nor esoteric (that is, belonging to the internal spiritual man). Perhaps if they had been called "social growth groups," there may be more tolerance or acceptance of them in the New Church community. But in my view, social growth groups should focus primarily on the theistic psychology of the Writings, and secondarily on other concepts, if at all. This would indicate a need for New Church scholars and teachers to prepare readings and instruction materials extracted from the Writings from passages that deal with psychology, development, reformation, and regeneration. For examples of such studies from my work, see the Notes at end.
The unregenerate natural mind is, in and of itself, composed of material ideas based on the physical senses. The highest portion of the natural mind is the external rational (AC 978, 4286; AE 355:14). Its constitution is natural-spiritual built up with material ideas. The course of regeneration as described in the Writings consists in opening the interior rational mind and to allow it to receive genuine spiritual ideas from the Writings. By this method, the spiritual mind is opened, and the things that come into it form heaven dispose the things in the natural mind in a corresponding order. Prior to this opening, the motives and thoughts in the natural mind are not really good or really true. After the process of regeneration has begun, a renewal occurs and life is gradually and noticeably transformed, day by day. New motives, new thoughts, and new acts now translate into renewed life, psychological growth, mental health, personal strength, individual ability and happiness. These are the outward benefits of the growing spiritual life within.
Chapter 4, Section 3
Henry James, Sr. was a staunch defender and promoter of the Writings. The famous father of Henry and William, believed in a form of secular Swedenborgiansim that was strangely muddled with nondualities. He was known for lambasting the New Church of his day for adopting an ecclesiastic form of administration similar to the Old Christian Church that had been vastated as a result of nondualist heresies introduced by its clergy--such as the irrational idea of a “Trinity of Divine Persons in One Godhead.” Henry James, Sr. agreed that the Church “witnesses to God’s creative presence in humanity, but of course does not constitute it, as it sometimes insolently pretends to” (quoted in Ray Silverman’s review in Arcana 1996 v.2 n.4 p.56). While the Church, according to Henry James, Sr., plays a vital role in educating the human mind, it should never take upon itself the power to dictate how Scripture should be interpreted. Doctrine, he said, should be left to each individual to figure out. He called this practice “the rubbish of ritual righteousness” and “the spiritual tyranny of dogmatism” and argued that it removes individual freedom
His attitude towards the priesthood as an institution is difficult to understand since without the priesthood there is no Church, therefore no religion (TCR 415). The Doctrine of the Church taught by the priesthood must be based on and drawn from the Word, and the Word is thereby known to many (NJHD 315). The vehement anti-sectarianism of Henry James, Sr. could be the result of a nonduality in his mind between the priesthood of the First Coming and the New Church priesthood of the Second Coming. There is also a duality between the priest’s individual character and his ecclesiastical function. An evil priest can fulfill the sacred rituals equally with a good priest (AC 1361 ). The good priest is good because his internal thoughts and his external words agree; the evil priest is evil because his internal thoughts are set against what he preaches externally (CHARITY 160). In either case, the ecclesiastical function is carried out as necessary for the existence of the external Church. It is the same with the other members of the Church, some of whom are hypocrites and some sincere (TCR 381).
Several other forms of nonduality plague Henry James’ secular Swedenborgiansim.
Rev. Silverman is very generous in his assessment of William and Henry in terms of what they took from their father’s Swedenborgian outlook and carried it forward in their own work. It may be, as Rev. Silverman points out, that Henry James, Sr., would have rejoiced in whatever influence of his ideas he could see in his two erudite and famous sons. This would be consistent with his anti-sectarian orientation towards the New Church. He apparently did not share the point of view of many religious parents in the New Church who are pained when their grown children act like they’re rejecting the Writings and its ideas about the Lord, about regeneration, about heaven and hell, about conjugial love. Their belief is that the children’s salvation is at stake. Henry James Sr. vehemently rejects this orientation as sectarian and abominable. And so, he would have approved of his sons going their way and inventing for themselves their brand of philosophy and theology.
It is amazing to me that William James, in all his books and essays, spends no more than two or three sentences, vaguely mentioning “Swedenborgian circles,” never entering into a single idea of his father based on the Writings. And this, despite the fact that William edited his father’s last work about Swedenborg and published it posthumously. This is especially significant since William James was a prolific writer and well admired for his expertise on the human mind and on religion. Yet, not a single concept of his father from Swedenborg ever enters his writing, or the many speeches and lectures he delivered over his long academic life. It stands to reason therefore that he rejected and despised everything about the Writings, not reading any of it himself, and not taking seriously a single idea of his father in relation to Swedenborg.
William’s book titled Varieties of Religious Experience (1929) has been very influential in making it respectable for modern psychologists to consider religion as a legitimate area for scientific research. It is filled with content about the human mind and its relation to the Divine through various methods of mental discipline, ritual, and introspective experiences of one’s consciousness. Surely this would be an excellent opportunity to make his father’s Swedenborgian ideas part of the varieties of religious experiences! His total silence on it proves to me that he had an aversion for Swedenborg’s ideas, so great that he could not bring himself to mention it in a serious and comprehensive work on the subject.
The same may be said about Henry James, the Son, since his many academic biographers find nothing substantive to mention save his father’s social reputation as a defender of Swedenborg and his polemical or controversial reputation regarding that subject. Swedenborgian concepts are never let into his poems, essays, and novels that are considered incisive and greatly admired.
From the secular perspective it’s not crucial that Swedenborgian ideas be directly referred to in their work. It’s enough that traces can be found in their work showing the father’s influence in terms of their special focus on the mind and their recognition of deeper levels of consciousness. But from a religious perspective this is not enough because it always comes down to the bottom line: Do they acknowledge the Lord and come to Him in His Word for salvation and regeneration? It stands to reason that if they do, they’re going to write about it and even make it a central focus in their writing. And if they don’t, then they are acting like they have rejected those ideas as unworthy for their recognition.
The intellectual mind of Henry James Sr. was a sophisticated creation of Christian and Western philosophic and literary traditions. He was led to the Writings in midlife by a psychological crisis that left him depressed and incapable of continuing his active life of letters and as head of a prominent family. He recognized his symptoms when he read about the idea of vastations in the Writings. He reinterpreted his psychological incapacity into a spiritual evolution and he boldly went ahead reading the Writings and extirpating himself from his psychological state into a new state of animated and passionate defense of Swedenborg to his polemical friends, that included Emerson (see Chapter 4 Section 6 and Chapter 7 Section 5). He fought against the New Church establishment of his day as an abominable replication of the disastrous ecclesiasticism of the Old Christian Church. He formed the opinion that Swedenborg’s revelations were meant for the entire human race and everyone ought to be allowed to take from it whatever they wanted, for in the eyes of God, revealed in the Divine Humanity of Christ, every human being is welcomed and no one is rejected. Thus he remained outside the Church and did not take up in his mind the Doctrine of the Church. This fundamental nonduality is characteristic of secular Swedenborgianism.
Religious Swedenborgiansim is the acknowledgement of the Writings as the Lord in His Word and extracts from it the Doctrine of the Church. This Doctrine is spiritual from celestial origin and has nothing whatsoever from the natural mind and human self-intelligence. It is this Doctrine in our understanding that is called the Heavenly Doctrine and our regeneration is according to the our understanding of the Doctrine and in proportion to our daily willing and thinking in accordance with it (HH 473). This Doctrine is from the Writings and therefore has only dualities in it. In contrast, secular Swedenborgianism commingles dualities from the Writings with nondualities from self-intelligence in the natural mind. The result is that all dualities are invaded and destroyed by the avalanche of nondualities. Thus one remains without Doctrine for regeneration.
It’s instructive to trace some of the numerous nondualities that emerge in the profuse intellectual reasonings that Henry James, Sr., produced in his unstoppable enthusiasm for Swedenborg’s works. First, his anti-ecclesiastical stance. Here he created a nonduality between the priesthood of the First Coming and the priesthood of the New Church. He imagined that the Church can be laid out on a continuum and measured along it from “consummated” to “alive.” He then decided that the Old Church and the New Church were both on the consummated end on account of their being sectarian. He used the word “sectarian” to designate what we would call “religious.” This is characteristic of secular Swedenborgiansim where either one throws off all priesthood, as in the case of Henry James, or one joins them all as equivalencies and in the spirit of equity, as in the case of Wilson Van Dusen (see Note xx at end). This nonduality makes no sense to religious Swedenborgianism which has exactly two categories for salvation and all spiritual growth: those who are regenerated and those who are not (TCR 574). This is not a continuum but an absolute distinction and permanent separation, as wide and permanent as heaven and hell are separated.
The conditions for regeneration have been laid down in the Writings in most specific terms. We must acknowledge our infernal status through and through, repent, reform, shun our evils as sins, refrain from doing them, holding them in aversion, and cooperating as-of self in our regeneration by taking up Doctrine from the Writings and willing and thinking accordingly in our daily and hourly activities. No other way is provided. One’s self-intelligence must not be consulted or the Doctrine is falsified and no regeneration is possible (TCR 48 ). Secular Swedenborgianism does not see all this and disputes it. Yet it is revealed that
Every one with whom the Church exists, is saved; but every one with whom the Church does not exist, is damned. (NJHD 245)
A subtle example of nonduality is the idea Henry James has of freedom. He takes up the well known and beautiful revelation from the Writings that no one is born for self, but everyone is born for others:
Man is born not for the sake of himself but for the sake of others; that is, he is born not to live for himself alone but for others; otherwise there could be no cohesive society, nor any good therein. (TCR 406)
The only freedom we have is therefore to cooperate and will in accordance with this reality of creation. He considers what kind of society would result from holding this principle in every activity and institution, and calls it “Christology.” What justifies this method of living in his mind is that it leads to a pure life of serving others, and the final outcome of this Christology is “becoming one” with God, which is the Divine Humanity Itself. This way we reach our deepest and highest reality and bliss. Clearly this entire notion is based on a nonduality between the “humanity of the individual” and the “Divine Humanity of Christ.”
In contrast, the Doctrine of the Church we have from the Writings illuminates our understanding to clearly see that the there is a fundamental and absolute duality between our humanity and the Lord’s Humanity. Ours is an image of His. We are so created that our celestial mind is capable of receiving the Lord’s Proprium in our regenerated will. The Lord therefore is the all in all in heaven, and we are in the Lord and the Lord is in us (John 14:20; TCR 111). Never will this mean that therefore there is fudging of distinctiveness and separation between the Lord’s Proprium or Humanity, and the celestial Will in which it dwells, or, which the Lord conjoins to Himself. Our humanity will always remain such as it is created in an image, and the Lord’s Humanity has always been and will always be uncreate. There can never be a mixing or a transference or a oneness other than a conjunction, adjunction, communication by influx, accommodation, correspondence, and appearance.
It is significant to note that Henry James prefers the expression “Divine Humanity” while we use “Divine Human” as in the Writings. The difference is that the New Church mind is focused entirely on the Person of the Lord as the Divine Human born on this earth, and as an historical Personage, interacted with many human beings as-if one of them. He then glorified His Natural Human conceived by Himself in the body of a designated virgin, and appears to the angels amidst the spiritual Sun through which He maintains the universe in existence and in His Order from Firsts to lasts and back. This Divine Human presented Himself one last time in the natural world at His Second Coming, which was the presentation of His Divine Rational as the Word of the Second Coming in the Writings of Swedenborg. This is the Person whom the New Church mind loves, not an abstract idea of a “Divine Humanity” within us.
The First Commandment is that we love Him more than anything else (TCR 291). This is possible only if God is the Divine Human for to love a “Humanity” as an abstraction is not possible. Loving the abstract or the invisible Divine is not possible because it is indeterminate in the mind, and this cannot be loved (DL 13; HH 15). Love is the desire and intention to conjoin, and one cannot be conjoined to something abstract but only to another human being or to the Divine Human. Loving the Divine Human is possible. When we love the “Divine Humanity” within ourselves we are still secular nondualists, but when we love the Divine Human outside of ourselves we have become religious dualists (see Volume 1 throughout). This is the intellectual orientation of the New Church mind because it is the intellectual framework of the Writings, therefore of reality and the Lord.
Henry James describes the Coming of the Lord as a universal “message” of salvation to all humankind. If we would listen to this message, says Henry James, we would abandon all forms of sectarian affiliation and devote ourselves to love others as Christ loved us. Christ was the model of Divine Humanity that we all have in us as human beings. We can become Christ-like by loving all humanity and serving others by working for their salvation as Christ did for ours. Henry James refers to Jesus as the “most lustrous in history” of all prior models of humanity. He further says that “God is manifested in the life of Christ” while the New Church mind would think that “God is manifested as Jesus Christ.” The difference is plain. Manifestation in the “life of Christ” is abstract and natural, and fits nondualism, while manifestation “as Christ” is particular to the Person or Divine Identity. The Lord did not say that the Father is manifest through His life but through Him (John 1:18). To love the Lord means that we desire to be conjoined to Him by means of His Love and Wisdom, or Good and Truth. Therefore we love the Good and Truth that is in Him and desire to receive this within our thoughts and affections. Without this reception there cannot be conjunction.
The Coming of the Lord fundamentally alters the mental condition of the human race and provides a new Church through a new Word (TCR 647). The purpose of this new revelation is to teach how we need to cooperate with Him in our regeneration, for without this there is no redemption and salvation (TCR 576). To the extent that we struggle and live the Doctrine we understand from the new Word, to that extent He regenerates us. The new mind formed by the new Doctrine becomes the dwelling place or entry point for the Lord’s Proprium, and in this we have the new spiritual life that continues to eternity (AC 5354; CL 355).
There is much that is admirable about Henry James’ passion for many beautiful central ideas in the Writings. Nothing that I said about his ideas should diminish their interest and good intentions. Rev. Silverman’s review of this man’s Swedenborgiansim is favorable and appreciative of his noble sentiments. He shows that Henry James was against the anti-sectarian portion of organized religion and that he favored the support of all Churches and religions, seeing them together as the Lord’s Universal Church, and requiring only two conditions for acceptance of anyone into it: Acknowledging the Lord’s Divinity and shunning evils as sins. Indeed, these two conditions for salvation are taught in the Writings. (TCR 389 )
As we read about the ideas of Henry James regarding the Writings, we need to note the nondualities that crop up in his thinking. Examples were given above in this section. Another example may be given. Henry James states that “the new heavens, as Swedenborg reports them, are made up of Gentiles and Christians alike” (quoted in Silverman, ibid, p. 68). Henry James’ fervor for the nonduality in universalism is so strong that he removes from his mind the discrete degrees into which the new heavens are cast:
[The New Heaven] consists of Christians as well as of Gentiles, but for the most part of the children of all in the whole world, who have departed this life since the Lord's time: for these have all been received by the Lord, educated in heaven, and instructed by the angels, and afterwards preserved, so that together with the rest, they might constitute the New Heaven. (NJHD 3)
Those who are outside the Church, and acknowledge one God, and live according to their religion in some charity towards the neighbour, are in communion with those who are of the Church; for no one who believes in God and leads a good life, is damned. From this it is evident, that the Lord's Church is everywhere throughout the world; although specifically it is, where the Lord is acknowledged, and where the Word exists. (NJHD 244)
The whole Church on earth, before the Lord, is as one man, nos. 7396, 9276; in like manner heaven, because the Church is heaven, that is, the Lord's kingdom on earth, nos. 2853, 2996, 2998, 3624-3629, 3636-3643, 3741-3745, 4625. But the Church, where the Lord is known and where the Word exists, is like the heart and lungs in a man in respect to the rest of the body, which lives therefrom, as from the fountains of its life, nos. 637, 931, 2054, 2853. Hence it is, that unless there were a Church where the Word exists, and where by means of it the Lord is known, the human race would not be saved, nos. 468, 637, 931, 4545, 10452. The Church is the foundation of heaven, no. 4060. (NJHD 246)
If you explore these Arcana Coelestia references you will discover that there is a discrete degree of separation, thus no direct contact whatsoever, between Christians and Gentiles or other religions. In order to be in the heaven that is visibly and directly in the Lord there must be an acknowledgement that He is the only God of Heaven and earth. This is only with those who accept the teachings as they are in the Writings. The nonduality of universalism and unconditional acceptance is not the reality. Heavens differ in the degree of interiorness of loves, consequently of truths. Loves that do not have the truth of the Lord’s revealed identity are more distant and less central than loves that admit the identity of Jesus Christ as the only God. Therefore though we must be tolerant of others’ creeds here and the hereafter, and respectful of them when heavenly, yet we must not remove the discreteness and eternal permanence of their loves and ours, such as we are commanded to have in the Writings and nowhere else.
The highest level of achievement in the human mind according to the universal Christology of Henry James, Sr., is what he calls the “saint of the new church” who “engages in useful, selfless service to others.” This is an admirable sentiment, and I applaud it. But I do not automatically identify with it without first inquiring what it contains conceptually. I especially want to know what’s behind this:
The most intelligible expression for God’s own perfection is USE … which … is that which he derives … from his own frank and cordial and complete adjustment of himself to the various uses, domestic, civil, religious, which society devolves upon him. This is man’s spiritual form, and it endures to all eternity, growing evermore instinct with God’s own power…” (Henry James, quoted in Silverman, ibid, p.70)
I note in this train of thought the absence of the idea that regeneration as prescribed in the Writings, is the only method by which we can engage in genuine uses. Henry James acknowledges that uses are performed “with God’s own power” but he allocates something to the individual, namely, deriving the uses from one’s “own adjustment” to them. Not only is God’s power in our “saintly” performances of uses, but also in our adjustment to them, that is, our progress in regeneration. This is not from ourselves but is also from the Lord. The focus of the New Church mind must be not so much on the good we do but on our obedience to the commandments. Then, it will follow automatically from the Lord, that our uses are good and bring goods to others. We must be vigilant in maintaining the dualities in explicit and particular terms all the time. All dualities are unique permanent distinctions that never cease to eternity (DLW 226).
The central thought in Henry James is, as Rev. Silverman describes it, that “ the key [to spiritual development] is “to become completely immersed in the life of society, to find oneself through losing oneself in unselfish service to others” (ibid, p. 71). The New Church mind would rather say that spiritual development (or regeneration) is immerse our mind in the life of the Writings, meaning, that we see our task as extracting Doctrine for ourselves and willing and thinking according to our understanding of it.
Chapter 4, Section 4
Tulk was a 19th century New Church man whose book Spiritual Christianity was published in 1846, two years prior to his passing on. He had been a prominent promulgator of the Writings though some of his ideas aroused strong criticism from New Church circles, as mentioned in Rev. Ray Silverman’s assessment of Tulk’s work (Ray Silverman, Arcana 1995 v.I n.4 51-69). The controversial issue regarded the Lord’s “dual or divided awareness” in the two states that He underwent while on earth. Rev. Silverman summarizes the issue in a sub-heading: “If Jesus is God, Why does He Pray to Himself?” The answer is given in the Writings:
HIS PROGRESS TOWARDS UNION WAS HIS STATE OF EXINANITION, AND THE UNION ITSELF IS HIS STATE OF GLORIFICATION. (…)
The Lord had to undergo these two states of exinanition and glorification because progress towards union is not possible by any other way, since it is in accordance with Divine order, and this is immutable. Divine order requires that a person should adjust himself to receive God, and prepare himself as a receiver and dwelling-place for God to enter into and live as in His temple. This a person must do of himself while still acknowledging that it is from God. He must make this acknowledgment, because he does not feel the presence and working of God, although it is God who by His intimate presence performs all the good of love and all the truth of faith in a person.
Every person must and will advance in accordance with this order, if he is to become spiritual instead of natural. The Lord advanced in the same way in order to make His natural human Divine; it was for this reason that He prayed to the Father, did His will, attributed to Him all that He did and said, and on the cross uttered the words 'My God, my God, why are you abandoning me?' For in that state God appears to be absent.
But after this state comes another, which is a state of being linked with God. In this state a man behaves in the same way, but then does so from God; nor does he then need, as he did previously, to attribute to God all the good which he wills and does, and all the truth which he thinks and speaks, because this acknowledgment is written on his heart, and consequently is inwardly in every action he does and every word he utters.
In the same way the Lord united Himself with His Father, and the Father united Himself with Him; in short, the Lord glorified His Human, that is, made it Divine, in just the same way as He regenerates a person, that is, makes him spiritual. (TCR 104-105)
We have here (along with continuing passages) the clear explanation of what the two states of regeneration are and why the Lord had to undergo them. It doesn’t say that the Lord “forgot” that He was God. When He was in a state of exinanition He was to Himself in the appearance that He was separate from the Father in Him. Nowhere do the Writings say that He was ever ignorant of who He was or what His mission was. Just as we ourselves are not ignorant of the Lord’s close presence with us when we are in temptations (AC 227). We know it, we read it in the Writings, we can write it out, we can say it—and despite this, we do not feel the Lord’s Presence. We know it, but we don’t feel it. The appearance to us is that the Lord has abandoned us, even as we know that He has not. As we progress in our regeneration we recognize this appearance, we understand its mechanism, and it has less of stronghold on the feeling of abandonment. At no time have we forgotten that God exists or that the Writings are the Word or that He is managing every single detail. Therefore we can be sure that Jesus on earth did not forget the purpose of His Coming from the moment He became conscious of it as an infant (Can 30).
August Tulk created a nonduality in his mind that would make it impossible for him to understand the duality of state spoken of in the above Number, and elsewhere. He took the idea of God’s perfection and changelessness to mean that God cannot have dual awareness, one lower and the other higher as appears from the explanation in the Writings. This nonduality is the result of consulting his own intelligence and applying it to reinterpret the literal of the Writings. This is sure to mislead. We are commanded not to consult our own intelligence regarding the Doctrine of the Church, but that this must be drawn from the literal of the Word (TCR 229). We saw this same problem with Henry James, Sr., whose universalism led him to deny the duality of the priesthood and other things about the Church (see Chapter 4 Section 2). Tulk came up with the idea that the Jesus and the Father remained One in awareness since Divinity cannot be divided.
[in the Word] they are called "drunkards" who believe nothing but what they apprehend, and for this reason search into the mysteries of faith. And because this is done by means of sensuous things, either of memory or of philosophy, man being what he is, cannot but fall thereby into errors. For man's thought is merely earthly, corporeal, and material, because it is from earthly, corporeal, and material things, which cling constantly to it, and in which the ideas of his thought are based and terminated.
To think and reason therefore from these concerning Divine things, is to bring oneself into errors and perversions; and it is as impossible to procure faith in this way as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The error and insanity from this source are called in the Word "drunkenness." (AC 1072)
That the rational would be made Divine, is signified by the "son" whom Sarah was to bear (verse 10). That the human rational truth that was with the Lord did not perceive this, and thus did not believe it, is signified by Sarah's "laughing" at the door of the tent that was behind him (verses 10-13, 15). It is confirmed that the Lord would put off this also, and would put on in its place truth Divine (verse 14). (AC 2139)
Man's regeneration is an image of the Lord's glorification (AC 4353)
Even the Lord went through states in which His “human rational” “did not believe the truth” because He could not perceive it in that state. Tulk seems to have denied the actuality of the Lord’s two states of perception. This aroused the vehement ire of New Church men in Tulk’s surround. They instantly sensed that Tulk was destroying the truth in himself by taking this position. And it seems to me they were automatically right in so far as it plainly states that the Lord underwent two states, and in one of them, He had the appearance or experience that He was separate from the Father. Not that He forgot, as discussed above. But that He was in a state of mind where this appearance of separation is what He experienced, despite his knowledge of everything about it. And this makes sense.
These recurrent states of exinanition were required so that the natural human he acquired from Mary, may face the hoards of hell and all the sordid depraved humanity. To face them without destroying them, which they would be if He had faced them in his other state called glorification. It was an act of Divine Mercy for the hells as well as an act of humility for the natural human that He was in the process of making One with His Divine. It’s instructive to see how Tulk made himself incapable of seeing this.
Tulk knew that the Divine doesn’t change in Itself. In the Lord infinite distinct things make a one that is perfect (DLW 17). To admit change into this understanding of God is to destroy the understanding. Therefore, God is changeless because infinite. But the Writings reveal that God is the life and all of each thing, and of each mind or soul (DLW 4). But because each thing is unique (DLW 226), therefore God’s indwelling of each mind is different and adapted according to appearances. Tulk took this idea and applied it to his cherished idea of nonduality of states of awareness of the Lord on earth. He came up with the notion that the Lord created the appearance of exinanition but that in reality He could not so divide His awareness. So His suffering was an appearance He gave. Also, His attributing all good to the Father not to Himself (TCR 104).
These elaborated notions infuriated some of the New Church men mentioned above, but Tulk defended his stance till the end. Tulk thought that the Divine could not possibly contain that which was contrary to the Divine, as Jehovah could not be thought of as being angry and vengeful; nor that the Lord could be angry or sweating blood from feeling weak in the heart as He anticipated the crucifixion. These appearances are not in the Lord but in the human beings to whom these appearances are manifested, each according to one’s unique reception. (4206). Tulk thought it was the most “extravagant” of ideas to believe that God Jehovah limited His infinite awareness in Jesus who had to gradually discover that He was Jehovah, and then vacillated back and forth, sometimes knowing who He was, sometimes not. He labeled this description as “impious fiction at which the heart sickens” (Quoted in Silverman, ibid, p.54).
From this position Tulk is compelled by his logic to call into question the veridicality of the literal of the Writings where this description is asserted. He saw this as equivalent to how the Writings discard the literal in the Old Testament where Jehovah is described as limited and tyrannical. The Writings also give descriptions of the Lord’s infirm Humanity while in the world, calling it His states of exinanition. Tulk would not accept these literal descriptions and saw them as referring, not to the Lord, but to the appearances of the Lord in the mind of the disciples. The Lord was not in reality going through those states since He is changeless, but the disciples were in the appearance that the Lord was vacillating between states. Similarly, the New Church mind reading the descriptions in the Writings, are also in those appearances of the letter. But, says Tulk, we must take these literal explanations in their spiritual sense, namely, that the changes attributed to the Lord are to be attributed to us, the changes we must go through in our own regeneration. This is the reason those explanations are given in the New Testament and in the Writings.
Tulk was very concerned that no new mystery be introduced into the New Church mind, a mystery that would destroy it like the mystery of the trinity that destroyed the former Church. He warned against a literalism of the Writings similar to the literalism that vastated the Jewish and Christian Church. But Tulk’s critics described his position as mere secular Swedenborgianism and metaphysics. Ray Silverman refers to various passages they quoted to prove Tulk wrong: that the Lord derived hereditary evils from the mother ; that He was introduced into celestial things only gradually “like any other man”; that the Lord had a “scarcity of knowledges in childhood”; that He was tempted by the hereditary evils in His external man; that as a result He suffered terribly; and that He overcame by His own power. (AC 1444, 1450, 1451, 1464, 1495, 1557, 1573, 1661). Tulk could not draw a distinction between the idea of the Lord knowing who He was and the Lord experiencing temptations. Tulk could not accept the idea that the Lord forgot who He was, and indeed no one should accept this. And if the Lord knew who He was, could He still be in a state of temptation?
The answer to the New Church mind must be, Yes. We are compelled to assent because the literal of the Writings assert it, and Doctrine must be drawn from the literal (SS 229). We cannot concoct an external natural idea and hold it in opposition to what the literal says. Having assented to the idea that the Lord underwent two alternating states, our mind then tries to find a rational solution to how He could know who He was and still experience suffering and temptation. This is what Tulk would not suffer himself to think through. And I believe it is due to a nonduality that he could let go, that cannot be in the Writings, and that he introduced himself by consulting his natural mind, a spiritually fatal error (SE 338).
Whenever we are faced with a clash between what the Writings assert and what our natural mind asserts, we must reject the natural mind’s version and affirm the version in the Writings. Then we are given the opportunity to rearrange our natural-rational so that our conscious rational becomes an image of the Writings. Silverman (ibid, p. 56) quotes Tulk from the Intellectual Repository (1845): “It is my thorough conviction that the Lord has not a twofold consciousness, the one Divine the other Human, but that from the first moment of His birth to His crucifixion, death, burial, He was God, and not an infirm Human Being.”
Can you see the operation of nonduality in his mind? Where the Writings give a duality—exinanition and glorification, Tulk replaces it with a nonduality (“the Lord has not a twofold consciousness”. He rejects the possibility of “fluctuations” in the Lord’s consciousness, for “this cannot be true of God.” Tulk’s nonduality requires that if the Lord realized a state of glorification, as when He was transfigured before the Peter, James, and John (TCR 574), He could thereafter be said to return to a state of the infirm human. Yet the Lord is said to have alternated between the two states until the very end upon the cross. Tulk’s logic compelled him to reject these events as actual, and reinterpreted them as appearances in the disciples. The crucifixion and death of the Lord on the cross was not something that was happening to the Lord in the Lord, but in the appearances to the witnesses. These appearances represented what was in human beings with regards to the Divine truth they hated.
Thus the Lord allowed Himself to represent the infirmities of the human race, rather than experiencing His own in the infirm Human. The Christ story is merely a representative of the human story. Jesus could not suffer “grievous temptations” no less than Jehovah could be angry at His people and wanting to take revenge for being rejected by them. Thus the letter of the Writings is like the letter of the Old and New Testament, mostly written in appearances, and once in awhile written in naked truth.
The Lord’s alternating states between limited awareness and Divine consciousness was going on even in his Childhood as it is revealed in the Writings:
The subject here treated of is the doctrine of faith, concerning which the Lord thought in His childhood, namely, whether it was allowable to enter into it by means of rational things, and thus form for one's self ideas concerning it. His so thinking came from His love and consideration for the human race, who are such as not to believe what they do not comprehend in a rational manner. But He perceived from the Divine that this ought not to be done; and He therefore revealed the doctrine to Himself from the Divine, and thereby at the same time all things in the universe that are subordinate, namely, all things of the rational and of the natural. (AC 2588)
Let me summarize the facts in my own words based on what I have extracted from the Writings about how the Lord accomplished His Redemption of the human race:
The Lord came for the purpose of creating for Himself a Divine Natural portion of Himself. This for our sake, so that we may love Him the more. Such as this love is, such is His ability to elevate us to Himself and to celestial citizenship to eternity. This was His purpose in the Incarnation.
The reason He allowed the people to crucify Him and to treat Him shamefully is that everything He did, every detail of His life, thoughts, and emotions during the 33 years, was foretold in the Old Testament in the language of correspondences, now unveiled for our most excellent use. He Graciously willed Himself to be the Servant and the Lamb—these representations were in the people’s mind, in their cruel and unloving heart. He enacted the dramatic correspondences of their shameful treatment of the Divine revelations that were entrusted to the human race. His crucifixion was the ultimate representative of the adulteration and falsification of this Divine Truth, thus inward hatred of Him.
The race sank to such a corporeal and sensual level of thinking that the Lord could not save the human race without coming in Flesh, acquiring a physical Body through a virgin in the land where the latest Word had been given, and growing up as a Divine Child whose Father was His Own Internal Man called Jehovah. His mother was the Word, that is, the Divine Truth. He split His Divine Awareness into two states so that He may accomplish the necessary tasks of creating a new mind for the human race. In His state of exinanition, He withdrew from His External Man and kept this external man in the natural state where the input was the senses of the body. He thus had to grow up, be socialized, learn Hebrew, read and memorize the Old Testament.
Even as a young Child of Three He was already conscious of who He was—the Messiah. While He read the OT His Internal Man Jehovah revealed it to the External Man Jesus of Nazareth. The Child Jesus knew who He was and what His mission is. For 30 of the 33 years He was on this earth in a physical Body He accomplished the great Redemption, which was to bring back order to the spiritual world that had gone into disorder due to the many generations that arrived there with falsified ideas of God. These half-truths of religion were manipulated by crafty men, or spirits, to avoid hell, and to infiltrate higher and higher into the levels of mind where the angels exist.
Thus they threatened the existence of the heavens, and the entire human race, past present and future, was then in danger of immediate extinction. During those 30 years, measured by earth time, the Lord accomplished His Great Works of Deliverance in alternating states of exinanition and inanition.
In states of exinanition, thus similar to all human beings, He was attacked by the hells and the dragons that rose to the entrance way of heaven with their half-truths of religion twisted to serve their ego, by which they were able to manipulate the minds of good spirits who were new arrivals in the afterlife, and even of angelic spirits at the foothills of heavenly country. This is the Pharisaic mind in all of us that we acquire through our religion when we are still are unregenerate. We are in this state of religion from childhood until adulthood, when we can undergo reformation, then regeneration. Only then is our mind cleaned, oriented, and ready for celestial preparation by the Lord who enters and arranges our mind through the spiritual truths we acquire from studying the Writings, which are the Word of His Second Coming.
The Lord created new spiritual truths in His mind that were never known and could not be invented by the rational mind of human beings. These new spiritual truths about Himself were completely adequate and effective to defeat the half-truths and the falsified truths that kept heaven beleaguered by the spiritual armies below. At the end of the 30 years the Lord completed His New Creation. The spiritual world was recreated, and therefore the human mind. Massive population migrations had to be accomplished with untold number of spirits deported from their cities and cast down into hellish territories created for them through the Laws of Permissions whereby each society of hell was allowed to keep an evil affection that particularly marked their genius. And so they too could have some enjoyment life left in their state of mind.
And He created New Heavens for the untold number of angels in all the heavens from all the planets, arranging them in a perfect human form called the Grand Human or Grand Man. Every society of angels contained a good affection which was particular to their genius, as the center of their good affections. Thus, every angelic society was different from every other, and in this integrated variety lies the perfection of the Grand Human, that is, of the evolving human race.
And He established an immutable Order by which this new universe was managed by mutual interaction of each with all. Angels supervise the Order in the hells. Angels also inflow into the spiritual world where is located our mind and thus influence our thoughts, and our conscience. Other angels inflow into the sensorimotor mind which is closest to the outward physical world coming to us from the senses, and influence our physiological functioning. All uses are thus maximally shared and no use stays merely with the individual who wills, thinks, and performs the use.
But the Lord told His disciples that He was not able to complete the New Creation until sometime in the future, at His Second Coming. This was because the human race was not ready to accept Him in their rational mind. People accepted His Divinity in their sensuous mind, as long as they were able to touch Him, see Him, witness His miracles, or read about Him as an historical figure. This was His Divine Natural. People were able to love and relate and believe this Divine Natural. But they rejected His Divine Rational. They could not believe it or understand it. (For further discussion on this see Chapter 5 Section 3).
Seventeen centuries passed during which the Lord gave spiritual truths to people through the New Testament. These truths were not sufficiently rational to allow the arrivals in the spiritual world to enter the New Heavens which were created within spiritual-rational truths. These people had to be housed in the spiritual world in cities created by the Lord and protected by Him from attacks by falsities. The Writings describe these events in the spiritual meaning of the story of Noah in the Old Testament and John’s Book of Revelations in the New Testament. The book of the Writings called The Last Judgment provides the particulars for these events, witnessed by Swedenborg and countless angels and spirits. It happened in the year 1757 relative to earth calendar (TCR 818).
At last the human mind evolved into the modern world of science and rationality in the eighteenth century. The Lord was able to prepare the mind of a man, from childhood onward, to acquire the disposition, love, and genius needed for serving the use of revelator of His Second Coming. This was the revelation of the Lord’s Divine Rational truths. He opened Swedenborg’s physical and spiritual capacities for dual citizenship, enabling him to be fully conscious in the natural and spiritual worlds.
 Now, since it has been granted me to be in the spiritual world and in the natural world at the same time, and thus to see each world and each sun, I am obliged by my conscience to communicate these things. For of what use is knowledge unless it be communicated? (ISB 18)
He was thus able to observe and experiment with the laws and conditions of the spiritual world as well as the natural world. In this way the Lord created the New Word of His Second Coming as the Writings. In it, every word, phrase, and sentence is a form of the infinite Divine Truth.
When the Word is opened the Lord appears (AE 612)
Viewed outwardly Swedenborg’s books appear just as the books of the prophets in the Old and New Testaments. But inwardly, they were not Swedenborg’s words, but the Lord’s. The angels also read the New Word of the Second Coming that was given in an earthly form to a man to compose and write as-of self. But they do not see any of the natural words or meanings, but only the spiritual meanings that are within. Hence the way the Writings are written in heaven differs from the way we know them here. But the order of ideas and their interrelationships, is the same. By influx, angels can give us heavenly light while we read the Writings so that we can see through the letter, as if not seeing it at all, and perceiving instead the spiritual truths and their perfectly arranged series of truths. If we then love these celestial secrets, we receive through them, or within them, the celestial blessings of eternal happiness, conjugial love, love of neighbor and innocence.
One hundred years after Tulk, the Dutch Thesis was born among a few whose ideas appear in De Hemelsche Leer (through the 1930s). This idea is that the Writings are the Word and therefore everything said about the Word of the Old and New Testaments apply equally to the Writings, which they began to call the Third Testament. However, unlike Tulk’s ideas which are contaminated by nonduality and by consulting his own intelligence (see above), there is no nonduality in De Hemelsche Leer. What allowed them to escape Tulk’s errors is that they did not consult their own intelligence with respect to the Doctrine of the Church but inerrantly followed the rule laid down in the Writings, that all Doctrine must be drawn from the literal and confirmed by it (TCR 229).
DOCTRINE IS TO BE DRAWN FROM THE LITERAL SENSE OF THE WORD, AND PROVED BY MEANS OF IT.
This is because the Lord is present in that sense, and He teaches and enlightens us. For the Lord never performs any act except in fullness, and the Word is in its fullness in the literal sense, as was shown above. This is why doctrine is to be drawn from the literal sense.
The doctrine of genuine truth can even fully be drawn from the literal sense of the Word, for the Word in that sense resembles a person wearing clothes, but whose face and hands are bare. Everything needed for a person's faith and life, and so everything needed for his salvation, is there uncovered, though the remainder is clothed. In many passages where it is clothed it still shows through, like a woman's features through a thin silk veil over her face. Moreover, since the truths of the Word increase in number as they are loved and this love gives them shape, so they show through and become visible more and more clearly. (SS 229)
When all our Doctrine is drawn from the literal and confirmed by it, nonduality cannot creep in. (For further discussion on De Hemelsche Leer see Note 8 at end).
When I first tried to understand this commandment I was puzzled. How can I draw Doctrine for myself out of the literal of the Writings? What will the language of that Doctrine be—would it not be literal? Then what’s the difference between the literal and what I draw from the literal? Elsewhere the Writings explain that what we draw from the literal is the spiritual meaning. Therefore the Doctrine in my mind or understanding is a spiritual interpretation of the literal. What happens when I write it down—will this literal description of my Doctrine be the spiritual meaning of the literal of the Writings? Now I realize that it would not be. In other words, the spiritual meaning cannot be written out in natural language!
The literal language of the Doctrine I write out is still literal even though the meaning of it in my mind is spiritual. Doctrine in my mind is the spiritual meaning of the literal of the Writings. This is why we are commanded to confirm our Doctrine with the literal of the Writings. This confirmation process compares the literal of the Doctrine I write out with the literal of certain relevant passages from the Writings They must agree. If they don’t, then the Doctrine in my mind is not genuine, assuming that what I wrote out is a veridical paraphrase of the Doctrine in my mind. You can see how this would prevent injurious heresies. People write and teach Doctrine they extract from the literal of the Writings. Obviously we must not accept anything taught by anybody automatically, without figuring out whether it is true or not (AR 794). How do we figure out whether the Doctrine taught by our Church teachers is genuine, not false? We do so by comparing the literal language of the Doctrine with the literal language of the Writings. If there is a clash, we reject the Doctrine no matter where or from whom it comes. This is the commandment of Nunc Licet that must be the procedure in the formation New Church mind (TCR 508).
Future research in theistic science (see Note xx) will explain this operation in more detail than we understand it today. It is clear now that the Writings cannot be understood without Doctrine (AE 356). The literal of the Writings contains apparent contradictions that must be resolved by contextual comparison with other parts of the literal. This is an external rational operation of exegesis. They do not as yet lead to Doctrine in our mind but are a necessary prelude or preparation for it. Once the literal is contextualized appropriately by comparisons, it is taken up in the memory from where we are aware of it, can write about it, can teach it. The second we apply it to ourselves, it becomes Doctrine! Not until then. For before then we only have the literal of the Writings in our memory and in our external rational level of thinking about truths and the Lord.
But any part of this knowledge that is applied to self is illumined by the Lord so that we become consciously aware of the spiritual meaning within, that cannot be written down. This is because the ultimate reference (‘designatum’) is not a sentence but a an act—of willing something, understanding some truth, and performing some act. These acts of the mind and body are seen in heavenly light from above. We can perceive what is in our willing—from hell or from heaven, and likewise what is in our thinking and acting out. We can see the existential or biographical series to which our act belongs, thus, its larger context in our regeneration and progression to a heavenly mind. We can see the sin of it, or the use of it. Thus we become wise from this perception. When we arrive in heaven these perceptions are back with us and we can now discuss them in the spiritual angelic language.
For additional discussion on the spiritual sense of the Writings see Volume 2.
Chapter 4, Section 5
The idea of a nonduality of good and truth, or love and wisdom, suggests itself to the New Church mind when reading that in the Lord these make a one distinctly:
II. THE DIVINE LOVE AND WISDOM PROCEED FROM THE LORD AS ONE. … In the Lord infinite things are distinctly one (n. 17-22). … Love apart from union with wisdom cannot do anything (n. 401-403). … Spiritual heat and spiritual light, in proceeding from the Lord as a Sun, form one, as the Divine Love and the Divine Wisdom in the Lord are one (n. 99-102). (DP 4)
There is a difference between saying good and truth are distinctly one and good and truth are one. The latter is nonduality, the former is duality. What makes a “one”? It is the uniting of distinct parts--either uncreate in the Lord like love and wisdom, or created, as an angelic husband and wife that make a conjugial one (CL 177). Or, an “infernal union” that is allowed by the Lord between evil and falsity make a one (DP 17). There is a principle given for how unions take place: two distinct elements that are still separate ascend in discrete degrees as they are perfected into a union of one (D.Love 5, DP 4). Note that what “ascends” (or deepens) is not the element itself involved in the union, which remains at its own discrete level. The corresponding act in a higher degree is what forms the perfection and wholesomeness of the union. It’s the perfection that ascends by a series of discrete degrees through correspondence.
The increasing perfection is never a nonduality but forms a duality of distinct elements united into one. The unity is maintained by both successive and simultaneous order. Should any prior or lower element vanish, the unity collapses and dissipates. A unity can only exist in a context of the action together of elements of duality (HH 56). In a context of nonduality there cannot be a unity for there is no “one” there (HH 56). A “one” is formed only by other distinct elements just like there is no “whole” without its parts held together. The Writings tell us that we can understand this better if we compare it to the way the heart and the lungs act together and neither can survive without this conjoint being and existing. The human body makes a one but it is not a nonduality since it remains structured by distinct elements. Thoughts cannot exist without affections or love and neither can love exist without thoughts. Distinct parts that are not united into a one are said to be unreal (DP 4).
One may get the impression from the following and similar passages, that good and truth, the building blocks of all reality, constitute a nonduality:
Good has no reality unless united to truth, and truth has no reality unless united to good. It appears, indeed, as if good has reality without truth, and as if truth has reality without good; but still they have not. … If you say to anyone simply "good", and not that this or that thing is good, has good any reality? It has reality when it is used of something which is perceived to be good. … From this it is clear that to will has no reality, but to will this or that has reality. (DP 11)
But this idea is not a nonduality as can be seen by collating distinct passages.
First. In the universe, and in all things in general and in particular therein which were created by the Lord, there was a marriage of good and truth. Second. After creation, this marriage was severed in man. Third. It is of the Divine Providence that what has been severed should be made one, and thus that the marriage of good and truth should be restored. (DP 9)
There does exist good separated from truth, and truth separated from good. (DP 14)
It is with difficulty that a man in this world can enter into either the one or the other conjunction or union, namely, of good and truth, or of evil and falsity; for as long as he is living in the world he continues in a state of reformation or regeneration. (DP 17)
If good separated from truth “exists” the two cannot be the same. We need to inquire further as to how the separation takes place and what is its use.
The “division” of good and truth in created things is allowed for the sake of our salvation, as explained here:
However, because a man, while he lives in the world, can be in good and at the same time in falsity, and also in evil and at the same time in truth, and even in evil and at the same time in good, and thus as it were a double man; and because this division destroys that image, and so destroys the man; therefore the Divine Providence of the Lord, in all its operations both in general and in particular, has in view that this division shall not be. Moreover, since it is better for a man to be in evil and at the same time in falsity than to be in good and at the same time in evil, the Lord permits this, not as if He willed it, but as if He were unable to prevent it, on account of the end in view, which is man's salvation. (DP 16)
The duality of good and truth is shown by their ability to be disunited. This would not be possible if good and truth were to be a nonduality, thus no longer distinct. This duality of distinctness is thus maintained in creation both when they form a one (as in the Lord, in angels, and in regenerating persons) and when they are divided (as in those who are in the natural state without the spiritual). To provide a means for regeneration the Lord allows that good and truth be capable of separation. This is why it is repeatedly said good and truth are distinctly one (duality), and not that they are one (nonduality). By being separated, truth in the conscience can motivate us to receive good and act from it. This would not be possible if they could not be divided.
The reason why a man can be in evil and at the same time in truth, and why the Lord cannot prevent this on account of the end, which is salvation, is that man's understanding can be raised up into the light of wisdom and see truths or acknowledge them when he hears them, while his love remains below. Thus he can be in heaven with his understanding but with his love in hell; and this cannot be denied to him, because the two faculties, rationality and liberty, cannot be taken from him; for by virtue of these he is a man, and is distinguished from the beasts; and only by means of these faculties can he be regenerated and consequently saved. (DP 16:2)
The New Church mind strives to cleave to the dual idea of good and truth as a unity on the one hand, and good and truth as a unity-to-become. The first represents the Lord in our mind, the other represents the regeneration by the Lord of our mind’s character. It is in this sense that we can rationally understand the Lord’s well known statements that He is in us and we are in Him (John 14:20). This is not a reference to nonduality. The Lord in us remains distinct from us and consists of adjunction and conjunction, not a commingling or continuity, which is impossible:
Every created thing, by virtue of its origin, is such in its nature that it may be a recipient of God, not by continuity, but by contiguity. By the latter and not by the former there is conjunctivity. For it is in accord, because it has been created in God by God. And having been created thus, it is an analogue, and by this conjunction is like an image of God in a mirror. (DLW 56)
Note from this passage that there is a distinction being made between continuity and contiguity. It is said that the Lord conjoins us to Him by contiguity or conjunctivity, but not by continuity. Why this difference? The reason is that continuity would create a nonduality between us and the Lord, as is commonly done in Eastern nonduality (see Chapter 2).
Neither can there be any ratio between the celestial in which the angels of the highest heaven are and the Divine of the Lord, but there can be conjunction by correspondences. (D. WIS. 12)
The merely human rational could not have a life in common with the Divine rational itself, either as to good or as to truth
That it cannot have a life in common, is evident from the mere fact that the Divine is Life itself, and thus has life in Itself; whereas the merely human is an organ of life, and thus has not life in itself.
In other words, there cannot be a sensuous contact or commingling with the Lord’s Divine substance but only through appearances that are accommodated to our substance through correspondences. The unity of the Lord and the angels (AR 55) is not a nonduality but a conjunction called reciprocal conjunction”:
 But these things can be better apprehended from the reciprocal conjunction of good and truth in the man who is being regenerated by the Lord, for as before said the Lord regenerates man as He glorified His Human (n. 10057). When the Lord is regenerating man, He insinuates the truth which is to be of faith in the man's understanding, and the good which is to be of love in his will, and therein conjoins them; and when they have been conjoined, then the truth which is of faith has its life from the good which is of love, and the good which is of love has the quality of its life from the truth which is of faith. This conjunction is reciprocally accomplished by means of good, and is called the heavenly marriage, and is heaven with man. In this heaven the Lord dwells as in His own, for all the good of love is from Him, and also all the conjunction of truth with good. The Lord cannot dwell in anything of man's own, because it is evil.
 This reciprocal conjunction is what is meant by the words of the Lord in John:
In that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in Me, and I in you (John 14:20).
All thing of Mine are Thine, and Thine are Mine, but I have been glorified in them. That they all may be one, as Thou Father art in Me, and I in them, and that they may be one in us (John 17:10, 21, 22).
Reciprocal conjunction is thus described; but still it is not meant that man conjoins himself with the Lord, but that the Lord conjoins with Himself the man who desists from evils; for to desist from evils has been left to the man's decision, and when he desists, then is effected the reciprocal conjunction of the truth which is of faith and of the good which is of love from the Lord, and not at all from man; for that from himself man can do nothing of good, and thus can receive nothing of truth in good, has been known in the church; and this also the Lord confirms in John:
Abide in Me, and I In you. He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for without Me ye can do nothing (John 15:4, 6).
(AC 10067) (see also TCR 371)
The Lord is the “all in all in heaven” (TCR 98) refers to how the as-of-self of each angel is actually the received Proprium of the Lord, so that angels perceive the inflow of the Proprium while simultaneously retaining the feeling of self acting in freedom according to one’s will and thought.
Now since everything that a man does from freedom appears to him to be his own for it is of his love, and, as was said above, to act from one's love is to act from freedom, it follows that conjunction with the Lord makes a man appear to himself to be free and consequently to be master of himself; and the nearer the conjunction with the Lord the more free he seems, and consequently the more he seems to be master of himself. He appears to himself more distinctly to be master of himself because the Divine Love is such that it wills that what is its own should belong to another, thus to a man or to an angel. Such, indeed, is all spiritual love, and pre-eminently the Divine Love. (DP 43:2)
The reception of the One and Unchanging Proprium is distinct and unique to each angel so that to surrounding others, the personality of the angel is familiar and delightful.
The duality or distinctness of all things when united into a one applies at all levels of creation and existence:
The love and wisdom acting simultaneously and in harmony, form each and all things, yet in all of them, they are themselves distinct from each other. Love and wisdom are two distinct things, just as heat and light are; heat is felt, so is love: and light is seen, so is wisdom; wisdom is seen when a man is thinking, and love is felt when he is being affected. Yet, in the work of forming, they do not operate as two, but as one (D.Wis. 3).
Such a one is everything which is visible to the eye in the world; and such a one is everything which is not visible to the eye, whether it is in the interior parts of nature or in the spiritual world. Such a one is man, and such a one is a society of men. Such a one is the Church, and also the universal angelic heaven before the Lord; in a word, such a one is the created universe, not only in general but also in every particular. (DP 4)
As there are the two things, love and wisdom, effecting formation of the embryo in the womb, there are, in consequence, two receptacles, one for the love, the other for the wisdom; consequently also there are pairs everywhere in the body, which are, in a similar manner, distinct from each other, and yet united: there are two cerebral hemispheres, two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, two chambers in the heart, two hands, two feet, two kidneys, two testicles: the other viscera are in two parts also; and everywhere the part on the right side has respect to the good of love, and the part on the left to the truth of wisdom. That these two are so conjoined that they act as one mutually and reciprocally, any diligent investigator can see, if he takes the trouble (D.Wis. 3)
These passages teach that all things that are anything must be “distinct from each other, and yet united.” It is never the case that a nonduality can exist in anything created since anything that is a “one” is so from its distinct elements forming a union. No object or entity can be from itself but only from distinct others that are united in a one:
form makes one more perfectly in proportion as those things which enter into it are distinct from one another and yet are united. … A one without form does not exist, but form itself makes one (DP 4).
Anything that is created is distinct and retains that distinction when united to others. This fundamental duality opposes the idea of a nonduality in which the distinctness of the elements commingle, vanish, or dissipate. To admit a nonduality into the New Church mind results in obscurity and vagueness. Thus it is to be avoided. Since there is an endless number of nondualities that can sprout in the New Church mind, overcoming nonduality becomes a method or tool for regeneration. It is the rational discipline implied in the statement taken as the Motto of the Second Coming: Nunc Licet (TCR 508), “now it is permitted to enter intellectually into the mysteries of faith.” The rational analysis of the concepts we have in relation to the Writings is the labor of eliminating mystery. We cannot stand still with what we’ve already got without sliding back and losing it. The power we gain is through the opening of the interior rational mind, and the more we live deeper concepts the more we can be regenerated. Everything hangs on that.
At the present day the term Faith is taken to mean the mere thought that the thing is so because the church so teaches, and because it is not evident to the understanding. For we are told to believe and not to doubt and if we say that we do not comprehend, we are told that this is just the reason for believing. So that the faith of the present day is a faith in the unknown, or blind faith . . . Real faith is nothing else than the acknowledgement that the thing is so because it is true; for one who is in real faith thinks and says, ‘This is true, and therefore, I believe it” (Doctrine of Faith 1, 2)
When we apply this passage to the New Church mind, we go beyond the literal meaning of the expressions. We begin to see through the literal a more specific application, which is more internal because more particular. The particular is always more interior than the general (AC 4345 ). With this new inward orientation, we can see that “At the present day” refers to our unregenerate state prior to reformation in adult life (AE 803; AC 8780; AC 3518). “The term Faith” refers to the level of our thinking in the pre-reformation period. Our faith then is called a “term” because it is external and natural, not yet spiritual or genuine faith. When we read the Writings our understanding is fixated to the literal level and has little depth. In that state, we believe that “the thing is so because the church so teaches” and we experience difficulty in comprehending many sentences. We fall into the illusion that the Writings deal with a difficult subject matter, somewhat specialized and scholarly. It is theology, we say to ourselves, and this was written by a Swedish gentleman born in the 17th century and originally written in Neo-Latin. Etc. etc. In this state we have no love and passion for the Writings. It is our religion book, not our favorite book. As the passage says, “it is not evident to the understanding” and we complain that “we do not comprehend.”
“Faith of the present day” refers to our New Church faith prior to our reformation in adult life. About this faith, the Lord says that it is “a faith in the unknown, or blind faith.” Our faith is called “blind” because our level of thinking is stuck in the external rational sentences of the literal text. At some point we hear about the idea that the Writings have an inner sense, and it is this inner sense that is spiritual and of celestial origin, but not the outer literal sense such as it is. When we hear of this our reaction is one of disbelief and rejection. This is why the Lord calls this New Church faith “blind faith.” In contrast, the New Church faith we have after reformation in adult life is called “real faith.” This new reformed faith is said to be the “acknowledgement that the thing is so because it is true.” Faith by “acknowledgement” is meant in contrast to faith that “the thing is so because the church so teaches.” One is real and genuine, the other spurious and false. To be able to acknowledge a sentence in the Writings means to figure out its external rational meaning, and then, to apply it to one’s willing and thinking in daily life. The first part is called reformation; the second part regeneration.
The New Church mind is born with our reformation. Reformation is a cognitive task; regeneration is an affective task. In reformation we figure out what’s what by serious and intense study of the Writings. We go through all our main concepts in our belief system and knowledge, and examine each under an analytic microscope, trying to see the nondualities, replacing them with dualities from the Writings. This stage of cognitive labor is like the labor pangs of a woman giving birth. At the end of the process there is born the New Church mind. This mind contains nothing that is not from the Writings. Everything in it is exclusively from the Writings, and its contents keep growing daily and multiplying, with our continued studies of the Writings. The growth of this New Church mind in ourselves is called regeneration. Only when regeneration begins (after reformation) can the Lord begin to enlighten us and to give us what He calls “real faith.”
Now our comprehension of the Writings is no longer limited to the literal. We begin to see how the literal applies to our own willing and thinking as they occur. In other words, as we go about our daily tasks we perform willing and thinking. Now as we look down from our inner rational mind to our external self performing the tasks, we can witness or monitor the stream of our willing and thinking. We can evaluate each portion of our willing, and each portion of our thinking, in the light of the Doctrine that is in our mind from daily study of the Writings. This is the very moment when the Lord gives enlightenment or the “real faith.” He elevates our understanding to the light of heaven (DP 168). We can see through our willing and thinking like we see through a window, sometimes clearly, sometimes not. Or through a cloud, sometimes thick, sometimes thin (AC 1059). This real faith is not a belief or persuasion but a seeing that the literal sentences of the Writings refer not to what they appear to say, but to a portion of my individual reality, individual and unique standpoint. This is my standpoint as an individual, what I was created to become, what my unique contribution will be to the perfecting of the Grand Human or the human race. In this actualization of uniqueness, we reach our fullness of being, as the Lord intended it from the creation of my unique soul. We are then in heaven, for heaven is within us, and more precisely, within the truths we possess from the Writings, and even more precisely, within our love of these truths.
Chapter 4, Section 6
The current status of NDE can be gauged by selections from the Web sites dedicated to the work of Raymond Moody, author of the popular Life After Life book (1988).
Dr. Moody recorded and compared reports of several hundred persons who “died” of heart failure on the surgical table, then were successfully “resuscitated.” His research describes the results of analyzing the verbal reports of people who came forward as having head a near-death experience. He outlines nine elements that tended to occur frequently in the independent reports of hundreds of people:
A strange sound. A buzzing or ringing noise, while having a sense of being dead
Peace and painlessness. While people are dying, they may be in intense pain, but as soon as they leave the body the pain vanishes and they experience peace.
Out-of-body experience. The dying often have the sensation of rising up and floating above their own body while surrounded by a medical team and watching it down below, feeling comfortable. They experience the feeling of being in a spiritual body that looks like a sort of living energy field.
The tunnel experience. The next experience is that of being drawn into darkness through a tunnel, at an extremely high speed, until reaching a realm of radiant golden-white light.
Rising rapidly into the heavens. Instead of a tunnel, some people report rising suddenly into the heavens and seeing the earth and the celestial sphere as they would be seen by astronauts in space.
People of light. Once on the other side of the tunnel, or after they have risen into the heavens, the dying meet people who glow with an inner light. Often they find that friends and relatives who have already died are there to greet them.
The being of light. After meeting the people of light, the dying often meet a powerful spiritual being whom some have called God, Jesus, or an angel. Also, although they sometimes report feeling scared, they do not sense that they were on the way to hell or that they fell into it.
The life review. The being of light presents the dying with a panoramic review of everything they have done. In particular, they relive every act they have ever done to other people and come away feeling that love is the most important thing in life.
Reluctance to return. The being of light sometimes tells the dying that they must return to life. Other times, they are given a choice of staying or returning. In either case, they are reluctant to return. The people who choose to return do so only because of loved ones they do not wish to leave behind.
(“Dr. Raymond Moody’s Research” On the Web at
www.near-death.com/experiences/experts2.html Accessed May 2002)
Note that every item is a report about a sensuous or corporeal experience and realization. There is no rational understanding of what the visual elements are, nor an attempt to interpret them as symbols: light and dark, God, the spiritual world and how it relates to the mind, what correspondences are that actuate our thinking and sensations and make them to be correspondences of spiritual things, what dying is in relation to regeneration, and so on. Because there is no rational content in these visions and sensations, they are not spiritual, for only the rational can contain the spiritual. Visions and sensations in which there is no rational, are dead and have nothing spiritual in them (D. Wis. 2).
The Word is not understood except by a rational man; for to believe anything without having an idea of the subject, and without a rational view of it, is only to retain words in the memory, destitute of all the life of perception and affection, which is not believing (NJHD 256).
The human rational faculty cannot comprehend Divine, nor even spiritual things, unless it be enlightened by the Lord (WH 7)
Knowledge of the Writings allow a more rational interpretation of these near death experiences in the following way.
Without familiarity with the Writings, people’s ideas of the afterlife tend to be natural involving space and time and social identity. Nevertheless because these ideas are somewhat rational, rather than merely corporeal, they constitute suitable cognitive vessels for inflowing by spirits. The correspondential effects of this inflow are the sensory details that have cropped up independently from hundreds of people in the near death (NDE ) reports. Note that this is how the sensations and visions are produced in the near death experience. There is no rational spiritual content in the meaning they have of the visions and sensations. The meanings they have of the visions is natural without any spiritual in it since the spiritual begins with the rational (HH 468). Which may mean that the spirits who inflow into such concepts are “corporeal spirits” and they themselves think at this sensuous level about the spiritual. This, despite the fact that these spirits have been in the spiritual world for a long time—which greatly amazed Swedenborg (SE 5529). When he reminded them that they are spirits in the afterlife, they acquiesced, but then quickly sank back into a state similar to their sense-based materialism on earth, which is their usual state in the hells they live in. Thus, they do not know that they are spirits and some of them foolishly deny that there is an afterlife (SE 2287-8). Hence they are called not living but dead (AC 7217), for in the spiritual world only the rational is alive. At this level of corporeal thinking these spirits may inflow into the sensations and visions of NDE experiences. Hence these experiences cannot be spiritual until they are elevated into some rational content.
Here is an NDE report which was quoted in an article in the Harvard Divinity Bulletin:
I have no doubt that there was more to my experience than I can remember, for the memory loss that resulted from my illness was severe. The memories that I do have, however, are vivid and unforgettable and they changed my life. The reality that I was in was more real, more intense, than anything in this current world of ours. It was hyper-reality.
I was in a place. Around me was flatness and barrenness. To talk about a sequence to the experience is to distort it. There was no time there. I now know that time is a convenient fiction for this world, but it did not exist in that one. Everything seemed to be at one moment, even when “events” seemed to occur in a sequence. … What seemed to be the sky, the land, and everything was of a pale blue-gray color. It was like being on a raft in the middle of the ocean where sky and sea merge into one monochromatic world, but I felt as though I were standing on firm land. There was only the blue-gray vastness that seemed to stretch endlessly.
Beside me was a Being, whom I never saw but whose presence I felt constantly. Its presence was constant, enormous and powerful.
With the Being beside me, exuding love and comfort to me, I re-experienced my life, and it was not what I would have expected. … It was a re-experiencing of my life, but from three different perspectives simultaneously.
One perspective was my version of my life as I might have recounted it to anyone patient enough to listen. However, it was not so much the reliving of overt events as it was re-experiencing the emotions, feelings, and thoughts of my life. … However, as I was re-experiencing my version of my life, I was also experiencing my life from the perspective of those with whom I was involved. I felt what they felt, I lived their emotions as they acted with and reacted to me. This was their version of my life. … And there was more. At exactly the same time I experienced a third view of my life. … It was an unbiased view, free of the subjective and self-serving rationalizations that the others and I had used to support the countless acts of selfishness and lack of true love in our lives. To me it can only be described as God’s view of my life. …
I did not find myself in hell, but I was suffering torment. It was horribly painful to experience the fullness of my life and I was filled with contempt for myself. How could I have been so incredibly stupid as to believe my own lies? … All of this–the three-way re-experiencing of my life and self-judgment–was simultaneous and yet separate and distinct. …And through all this the Being was at my side. I felt nothing but love and support from the Being. It exuded emotion: you are loved, you are lovable; your worst fault is that you are human. It goes with the territory. I remember the words, “Don’t worry, you are only human.” …
Next—if I can really talk about next, for time and sequence do not really exist—I felt that I was given an understanding of everything that is, at least everything that is really important. I felt as if all the secrets of the universe were revealed to me–not mathematical formulas, but simply how the universe operates, what is true, how things are. I now knew everything.
(Quoted in: “Intimations of Immortality: Three Case Studies” by Huston Smith. The Ingersoll Lecture for 2001-02 Harvard Divinity Bulletin on the Web at
www.hds.harvard.edu/dpa/news/bulletin/ingersoll.html (Accessed June 2002)
Again you can see that this description does not contain any spiritual-rational content, consequently it has no spiritual meaning since the spiritual begins with the rational. Those who are impressed by these types of NDE reports see them as showing that there is an afterlife and that death does not bring cessation of consciousness. This weak evidence is made to be more important and weighty in their mind than the entire testimony of Scripture (see quote from Huston Smith later in this Section). It is weak because it does not have rational content. Contrast this to the New Testament and the Writings. Both are filled with rational content that are spiritual. For instance, that there is God; that there is heaven and hell; that love is the chief commandment; that spiritual development depends on being reborn and gradually regenerated in character; that God is omnipotent; that the Word is Holy and contains heavenly secrets; etc. This is rational content, and it must weigh in one’s estimation as proof of the existence of the afterlife far more than a physical demonstration of a miracle or a vision, which only leads to persuasive faith, and this is no genuine faith that remains in the afterlife (DP 131).
For the New Church mind, only rational concepts taken up from the literal of the Writings can become the Divine Doctrine within us. This Divine Truth is accommodated to each individual’s level of understanding and love, and becomes a dwelling place for the Lord in what is His Own in us (AC 9684). No sensuous or direct experience can develop the spiritual in us because experience is natural—corporeal, sensuous, and external rational or symbolic. Explanations and theories people generate on the basis of all direct sensuous experiences are not spiritual, cannot be spiritual, and impede the spiritual in the New Church mind if they are taken as spiritual in themselves. All ideas about the spiritual that are derived from natural experiences are based on nonduality. All ideas derived from the Writings are rational dualities.
A number of movies and TV broadcasts have incorporated the ideas from NDE reports into dramatic episodes. Millions of people who have seen these imaginative portrayals may have admitted into themselves these natural material ideas about the afterlife. They may reason with these ideas in the understanding, and they may confirm them by various reasonings. These confirmations in the New Church mind may create a stumbling block to regeneration if it is not realized that these descriptions of the afterlife are from a corporeal origin and not spiritual. They are based on the material idea of nonduality between the natural and the spiritual. Which means that if the word spiritual is used within this nonduality framework, only a form of corporeal spirituality is understood by it. This is the way corporeal spirits in hell think about the spiritual (DLW 424[xix] ). Thus we cannot count on NDE’s to enlighten the New Church mind but to obscure its clear vision from the Writings. I’m saying this only about the New Church mind that is to be formed exclusively form the Writings.
Rational spirituality remains totally out of sight in NDE reports and explanatory accounts of them. Rational spirituality is the spirituality in the Writings, therefore also, of the New Church mind formed by them. Look at the Moody research list above: There are no items that refer to something rational in the mind. All items refer to something corporeal and sensuous: buzzing noise, feeling of peaceful relief from pain, sensation of floating, spiritual body like an energy field, high speed motion, light and dark, riding to heaven and seeing the earth globe below “like astronauts,” being greeted by dead relatives, seeing “God, Jesus, or an angel,” reliving important life events, reluctance “to return,” and being instructed.
Following his involvement with “near death experiences” Dr. Moody went to popularize mirror gazing in the dark as a method of contacting spirits. Here is an account by a current researcher in the area:
by G.W. Fisler
The psychomantium is an ancient form of mirror gazing that has been popularized by Dr. Raymond Moody, M.D. It has its roots in the oracles of ancient Greece. This type of mirror gazing is used to contact spirits of departed loved ones.
A comfortable, high backed chair is placed about 3' from the mirror. The top of the backrest of the chair should be below the bottom of the mirror. The feet of the chair should be trimmed to allow the chair to slant farther back than is normal.
The person sitting in the chair should not be able to see his/her reflection in the mirror. The area around the chair and mirror is surrounded by a black velvet curtain. This black void should be all that is reflected in the mirror. A lamp with a 15 watt bulb is placed behind the chair. This is the only illumination in the room.
Proper mental preparation is essential for this procedure to work. Dr. Moody starts his participants at 10:00 AM. They are requested to bring personal items from the deceased person that is to be contacted. Throughout the day they discuss the deceased. At dusk the participant enters the psychomantium. He/she is told to stay as long as they like. They were also told to blank their mind except for thoughts of the deceased and to gaze into the mirror.
I recommend Dr Moody's book "REUNIONS: Visionary Encounters with Departed Loved Ones" for a complete explanation of his findings. I will try to hit the high points:
My experiments in this area are still ongoing. As soon as I have enough data I will try to make some sense of it and will publish the findings here.
(Accessed on the Web at astralthyme.com/psychomantium.html in June 2002.)
There is an understandable progression from an interest with “near death experiences” to experiments with trying to contact spirits. To the New Church mind this type of activity increases involvement with direct sensuous consciousness of the spiritual world, an exploration that is harmful to the development of one’s rational consciousness:
It is rarely granted at the present day, however, to talk with spirits, because it is dangerous. For then the spirits know, what otherwise they do not know, that they are with man, and evil spirits are such that they hold man in deadly hatred, and desire nothing more than to destroy him both soul and body, which indeed happens with those who have so indulged themselves in fantasies as to have separated from themselves the enjoyments proper to the natural man. Some also who lead a solitary life sometimes hear spirits talking with them, and without danger; but that the spirits with them may not know that they are with man they are at intervals removed by the Lord; for most spirits are not aware that any other world than that in which they live is possible, and therefore are unaware that there are men anywhere else. This is why man on his part is not permitted to speak with them, for if he did they would know. (HH 249)
Man can speak with spirits and angels, and the ancients on our earth frequently spoke with them (n. 67-69, 784, 1634, 1636, 7802). But at this day it is dangerous to speak with them, unless man is in true faith, and led by the Lord (n. 784, 9438, 10751). (EU 1)
It is clear from this that the New Church mind is warned against trying to contact spirits, and in fact, this direct contact is forbidden and prevented by the Lord on account of the dangers of such direct communication to those still on earth. Whatever “phenomena” and “visions” are reported by experimenters must therefore be delusional encounters with spirits, not real communication with them, since this is prevented by the Lord. It is particularly harmful to Christians who know the Lord but seek to strengthen their faith through sensuous proof of the existence of the afterlife. In that case the seeker is called a “thief” and “robber:”
Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not through the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, he is a thief and a robber. But he that entereth in through the door is the shepherd of the sheep. I am the door; through Me if anyone enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and shall find pasture. The thief cometh not but to steal, and to murder, and to destroy (John 10:1-2, 9-10); (AC 5135)
The reference to being a thief and robber is to destroying the “remains” of good and truth that the Lord stores up in the interior mind for use in regeneration and life in heaven (AC 5135). Seeking to strengthen faith through spiritism destroys the genuine faith we have from our Christian childhood.
From infancy until childhood, and sometimes till early manhood, by instruction from his parents and teachers a man is imbued with goods and truths; for he then learns them with avidity, and believes them in simplicity. … The Lord insofar as possible then removes from that abode the goods and truths of early childhood, and withdrawing them toward the interiors stores them up in the interior natural for use. These goods and truths stored up in the interior natural are signified in the Word by "remains" … But if evil steals the goods and truths there, and applies them to confirm evils and falsities, especially if it does this from deceit, then it consumes these remains; for it then mingles evils with goods and falsities with truths till they cannot be separated, and then it is all over with the man. (AC 5135).
Another example of psychological nonduality is the debate whether Swedenborg was a “mere nutcase” or one of the greatest “visionary mystic” ever known. Kant’s official position: Swedenborg was a ridiculous seer of fantasies. Emerson final assessment on Swedenborg: possibly the greatest theological genius, but partly delusional. Modern psychiatrists: Swedenborg is an obvious case of religious schizophrenia. (see Note 9 at end for more on this.)
The Writings reveal that the unregenerate natural mind is entirely nondualist from heredity and intellectual materialism (DP 324). This means that all activities that this mind defines as religious and spiritual will be in fact sensuous and corporeal, thus, with nothing spiritual in them.
With many in the world this does not take place, because they love the first degree of their life, called the natural, and have no desire to withdraw from it and become spiritual. The natural degree of life regarded in itself loves only self and the world, for it clings to the bodily senses and these occupy a prominent place in the world; but the spiritual degree of life regarded in itself loves the Lord and heaven, and also itself and the world, but God and heaven as higher, principal and ruling, and itself and the world as lower, instrumental and serving. (DP 324:10)
Everyone born in the New Church, and every adult who joins the New Church, are in an unregenerate state, just as those who are not in the New Church. Therefore the New Church mind cannot be inherited and one cannot be born into it. We must first enter a state of reformation, which occurs in adult life (AE 803; AC 8780; AC 3518: ).
Thereafter our progress depends on reading the Writings and taking up its innumerable dualities. Gradually we destroy all the nondualities in our mind, and set in their place the dualities of the Writings. These ideas from the literal of the Writings are external rational concepts—not yet spiritual (AC 978, 4286; AE 355:14). But now, as we begin to will and think from these new concepts in our daily activities, the concepts act like cognitive “vessels” and they become infused by correspondence from the activity of angels inflowing. This is the first opening of the spiritual mind. Now begins our spiritual life, progressing in proportion to our regeneration. The progress of this is proportional to how we cooperate in the process (see Volume 3).
When approaching the Writings in a secular way, without wanting to acknowledge it as Divine, the level of thinking about its concepts sinks back to the sensuous and corporeal level (AC 6310). The genuine rationality of the Writings is totally lost when readers attempt to pick and choose what seems real to them and what seems to them Swedenborg’s fantasy or poetry. An example is the medical view on NDEs within a framework of nonduality in science:
I am approaching Swedenborg empirically, from this side of the divide, to see how far we can move toward believing his reports of heaven and hell without resorting to divine revelation. This requires recognizing him to have had an extraordinary talent ordinary people lack, which is where the notion of savants comes in, for that is the key denotation of the word. (…)
Far from being retarded, Swedenborg was one of the most remarkable men history registers. When Alfred Binet designed the Stanford-Binet intelligence test he looked for the most brilliant persons who ever lived. Swedenborg was listed among these few. (…)
Images that derive from sense reports of our three-dimensional macro-world map attach no more isomorphically onto the world of spirit than they do onto the micro-world of quantum mechanics or the mega-world of relativity theory. I take this to mean that we can take seriously the abstract outlines of what Swedenborg saw without assuming that the concrete images that filled in those outlines are literally true.
(“Intimations of Immortality: Three Case Studies” by Huston Smith. The Ingersoll Lecture for 2001-02 Harvard Divinity Bulletin on the Web at
www.hds.harvard.edu/dpa/news/bulletin/ingersoll.html (Accessed June 2002)
You can see from this that even a favorable view of Swedenborg’s genius cannot break through to the spiritual-rational truths in the Writings. Swedenborg’s “abstract outlines” are “taken seriously” but they cannot be “literally true”—according to the above author. The understanding at this level of thinking cannot accept the literal of the Writings in a spiritual way. As a result, all concepts about the content of the Writings formed at this level remain natural-rational, not spiritual-rational. What’s amazing is that people can compose summaries, reports, and abstracts of the Writings that are correct and serviceable to the New Church mind who sees in them what the author could not. I discovered this when I taught a history of psychology course focusing on Swedenborg. If you read the students’ reports without knowing what they are, you can’t readily tell that they actually believe nothing further about it than that Swedenborg was a genius (see Note 10 at end). They do not believe that his experiences were real. It’s possible for the external rational (which is natural) to textually represent or summarize passages from the Writings in a reasonably accurate way without any understanding of what is interiorly spiritual in it. In that case the mind merely dismisses the parts that “Swedenborg claims” to have seen, like the Memorable Relations and Earths in the Universe.
It is understandable that New Church people have a desire to reach out to the world and share the revelations about the spiritual world. But I’m wondering if this can really be achieved by relating NDEs to Swedenborg’s descriptions of resuscitation. One such example may be presented from the Web:
Many people report that during the near-death experience they notice others in the spirit coming to help them. Friends and relatives who had passed on before them now come to greet them and offer assistance. People report that this is a very happy time, that everyone in the spiritual world was glad to welcome them.
Swedenborg has much to say about this whole experience. "All, as soon as they come into the other life, are recognized by their friends, their relatives, and those in any way known to them: and they talk with one another.... I have often heard that those who have come from the world rejoiced at seeing their friends again, and that their friends in turn rejoiced that they had come. Very commonly husband and wife come together and congratulate each other, and continue together." In the other world, "Everyone can find their friends, parents, and children."
(Rev. Grant R. Schnarr “Swedenborg And The Near Death Experience” on the Web at www.newchurch.org/faq/indepthfaq/swedenbNearDeathExperience.html Accessed June 2002)
I think the intent of this message is to share the Great News revealed in the Writings. My concern is that doing it in this way encourages the view that contact with spirits is something anyone can have while still alive on this earth. Hundreds of thousands of people have now reported that they’ve had a near death experience. The Web presents thousands of sites on this topic. Reports are multiplying and extending as NDE becomes a cultural experience. People have visions of cities, God, Beings, hellish spirits, and the future. Here is one near death experience—what are we to make of it?
I was floating above my body. I saw green shower caps. The people in the room all wore those stupid caps. There were five or six caps and they were panicky. … I found myself in the right-hand corner of the room. … I felt a wonderful feeling wash over me - a sense of peace and power. I felt love and a sense of wonder as I realized that any question I could come up with would be answered.
There was Jesus. I was stunned and said, "I don't believe in you." He smiled and said the etheric equivalent of tough shit, here I am. Looking at his eyes, I asked, "You mean, you've been with me the whole time and I didn't know?" And his reply was: "Lo, I am with thee, always, even beyond the end of the world." Now, I wasn't into lo so I said, "Hey, man, this is the seventies and we don't say lo. Come on." He kind of grinned, I guess I was amusing him, and answered, "You want to be reincarnated?" "Hey, give me a break," I yelled (only I made no sound). "I just died. Don't I get a chance to rest?"
The Light came and I was given a choice - I could remain trapped in earth, seeing and hearing everything, but unable to help anyone, not even my daughter (I was told this was limbo), or I could stay with God. I chose God. … The White Light in front of me was sorta like a white light bulb only it was so strong.
Then I was instantly zapped to a domed room with square screens up and down the walls, on the ceiling - hundreds of television screens. On each screen was a home movie of one event in my life. The good, the bad, the secret, the ugly, the special. Everything was going on at once; nothing was chronological. All was silent.
God said to me: "I gave you the precious gift of life. What did you do with this gift? I answered in a puny, wimpish voice, "I'm only twenty-three. I didn't know I was supposed to do anything. I have a two-year-old daughter. I spend my time and energy on her." It wasn't a good answer, but it was the truth. I was the judge and I was satisfied. I guess that was what God wanted. But the next time this happens, I'm having a list ready.
(“Jeanie Dicus' near-death experience” on the Web at www.near-death.com/dicus.html accessed June 2002)
To have near death experiences has become a wide cultural phenomenon and there is no evidence that any of the developments have to do with the reality of the spiritual world. One area of expansion is the ADC (After Death Communications), which is a commercial attempt to establish contact with relatives for a fee:
Not all people are contacted by their deceased loved ones. We don’t know for certain why some are and some aren’t, but it seems that fear, anger, and prolonged heavy grief inhibit the possibility of having an ADC.
Based upon our research, we suggest the following: Ask for a sign that your relative or friend continues to exist. Pray for him or her and others who are affected by the death, including yourself. We recommend that you learn how to meditate, especially if you are currently bereaved or have unresolved grief. … These deep relaxation exercises will also allow you to unfold your inner, intuitive senses. In fact, you may have an ADC experience while you are meditating.
Our research indicates that after-death communications are a natural and normal part of life. Therefore, we feel ADCs deserve the same public awareness and acceptance that near-death experiences (NDEs) have already received.
(“After-Death Communication--Joyous Reunions With Deceased Loved Ones by Bill Guggenheim & Judy Guggenheim co-authors of Hello From Heaven! published by Bantam Books. Accessed June 2002)
There is a tremendous increase of reports of NDEs as it is integrated more and more into the long standing interests relating spiritism, psychic forecasting, foretelling the future, and paid mediums. Can it really be the case that these activities could lead to a greater interest in Swedenborg’s Writings? I don’t think so because the sub-culture around near-death experiences operates at the level of thinking that excludes rational dualities and admits only material dualities, or nondualities. The NDE concepts and experiences are similar to dreams that one thinks were actual events. Dreams operate within material ideas, also called corporeal and sensuous. There is nothing rational in the ideas of a dream. Dreaming is done in the corporeal mind or level of thinking and consciousness. There is no awareness or consciousness of the spiritual meaning or origin of dreams and the correspondences by which all mental phenomena are produced in our mind.
But this is not to deny that there may be a medical phenomenon to be explained by natural rational ideas, but not by spiritual-rational ideas. It is possible, I think, that drugs in the brain and total stress could facilitate near-death experiences viewed as a kind of dreaming or hallucinating. This is a medical issue that remains at the material level of explanation. Of course the New Church mind knows that dreaming is done by the mind, not the brain. The mind is natural-spiritual at the lower levels, and rational-spiritual at the upper levels. While dreaming, consciousness operates at the sensuous level of thinking and awareness. All the concepts are material or not yet rational. To elevate consciousness above the sensuous we must acquire rational concepts such as God, the spiritual world, heaven, sin, conjugial love, good and evil, and so on. If we dream of heaven it will be a sensuous heaven.
In contrast to this we can think of heaven as a spiritual place within the mind that is made out of spiritual truths about God and love. This is a rational idea, not sensuous. More interior truths are more rational and heaven is within rational truths. In the New Church mind heaven is purely rational, and this rational then produces by correspondence the magnificent sensuous environment of angels. The reverse process is impossible: namely, that sensuous experiences produce spiritual-rational realities (AC 10049).
Assuming that most people who report NDE’s actually have them, a medical question arises as to why so many people have these types of experiences. It’s possible, I think, that certain brain states react to drugs and total failure of major organs in a way that facilitates these types of dreams or visions. This is quite possible in my estimation. But as you can see, these experiences or visions are not spiritual experiences even though they are spiritually produced phenomena, as are all phenomena!. They are psychological and natural experiences, like hallucinations, dreams, and intelligence IQs, though NDEs may be a new category not yet known to the established science of psychology. I do not question the existence of NDEs and like all newly discovered phenomena in science, its real nature will take years of research to determine. And I can see that NDEs may have a medical relation to failure of vital organs and functions.
Let’s keep in mind that it has never been proven that people today can actually see into the spiritual world or that their visions or experiences of people and places are actual spiritual places rather than natural visions that are taken for spiritual. What motivates me to adopt this stance is the teaching of the Writings that communication with spirits is not allowed by the Lord because it would be spiritually injurious to the individual (HH 249).
The danger comes from the vulnerability of the individual’s mind in relation to the spirits. When we become spirits a few hours after death we go about in our spirit-body living the exciting life in world of spirits (HH 445). But some spirits arrive in a natural mentality due to their exclusive focus on corporeal and sensuous lifestyle and an aversion for acquiring rational ideas and reasoning. These spirits are called “corporeal spirits” (DLW 424[xix] ). Since the heavenly life begins with the rational, their lack of rational life causes them to sink down into the hells where they can enjoy a life of fantasy by denying that there is an afterlife convincing themselves that they are living on earth somewhere (SE 2287). These are the spirits that seek communication with people on earth (HH 257). The good spirits or angels NEVER seek such communication, and thus never engage in it today for the reason that it is injurious to people who are still in their physical body (HH 249).
Dr. Ian Thompson (see Acknowledgment at end) raised this possibility in an email commentary on this section of the book: Is it possible that these corporeal spirits are responsible for causing people to have the NDEs? My answer is that in general communication with spirits is possible but today on this earth it is not allowed by the Lord. The Writings say that communication with spirits is normal and general on other planets (EU 71) and was like that on this planet prior to the Flood. At that time the human brain had no fissure at the center and was made of one whole part. This corresponded to the fact that heaven and earth were united. But when that race destroyed itself by profaning their celestial nature, a new human race was created with the civilization of Noah. This race had a split brain by correspondence to the Lord’s surgical separation of the will and the understanding. This was necessitated by the fact that the will was corrupted and could not be saved. Henceforth a new will had to be created by the Lord in each individual, and this could only be done through the individual’s conscious and voluntary cooperation. Hence from then on people could only be saved by a life of reformation and regeneration.
From these scientific facts described in the Writings I would conclude that NDEs do not represent actual communication or contact with spirits. Recall that thousands (some estimates I’ve seen on the Web say millions) of people have reported NDEs. How could this be since the Lord does not allow them? It’s inconceivable that the Lord would allow all these people to be injured spiritually. I do not question that NDEs occur to some or most of the people who report them sincerely. To go back to Dr. Thompson’s question, it is possible that the people during an NDE experience are in correspondential contact with corporeal spirits? This is possible since all mental activity is through such contact (HH 296). But this is not a direct contact so that the experiences, visions, or content of the reports are not actual but imaginary. Otherwise the contact would be injurious.
Since the NDE experiences are caused by the usual unconscious and correspondential influx, their content cannot be actual or veridical. This is the reason our thoughts are our own unique thoughts even though they are caused by spirit societies through correspondential communication. As spirits influence our mental activity by correspondence they NEVER influence them by direct communication since spirits are not conscious of the identity of the people to whom they are hooked up. The Lord couples and uncouples each of us to spirit societies, moment by moment, even as our emotions and thoughts flow by. You can know that the Lord is switching spiritual societies on you when a new train of thought comes into your mind, or when you suddenly experience a different emotion (e.g., sitting in traffic and getting enraged at someone, etc.). But neither you nor the spirit societies with whom you are then coupled, are allowed to be aware of each other, each other’s identities, each other’s memories, etc. (HH 256).
Further theistic science research is needed to decide on this issue. But whatever the eventual conclusion it will have to take its departure point from the principle that such communication is not allowed and why. The disallowance by the Lord today on this earth of direct or veridical contact with spirits is related to His disallowance of miracles (TCR 501). I discuss this specifically in Chapter 5, Section 3. Direct contact with spirits or direct witnessing of miracles establishes in the mind a persuasive faith of the spiritual world and God, instead of a rational faith. The new civilization of the Lord’s Second Coming is a rational spiritual life. The New Heavens cannot be entered without a rational mental foundation while still in the physical body. The Old Heavens (prior and up to 1757, see SE 5746), were partially based on sensuous consciousness of those there. This state is not permanent and they were in danger of becoming a nonduality with the hells (SE 5742-6). The Lord had to further purify the spiritual organs of the human mind in order to make it purely rational-spiritual so that nothing from the earth’s material sensuousness was part of its formation.
Since the Second Coming therefore the Lord’s Divine management of the race is motivated to create the spiritual-rational level in all individuals so that they may have the physiological capacity to breath and live in the New Heavens. There cannot be any Old Heavens left and all those in the Old Heavens had to acquire this new spiritual-rational from the Writings. Those who could not, or would not, had only other choice: to choose lower regions of life, outside the Heavens. Today the New Church mind begins with reformation in adult life and the struggle we put up against all our nondualities must include strengthening our motive to avoid reliance on sensuous consciousness or direct proof of an afterlife. We do not seek miracles as proof; we do not seek direct contact with departed ones. We talk to the Lord and we pray to Him that we may be worthy of His Presence with us, but we do not ask Him to appear to our eyes. We love Him by obeying His commandments and we seek for Him in our rational-spiritual consciousness, for that is where our heaven is.
Consider the following experience described by Swedenborg. Viewed superficially it may sound to some like the NDE descriptions quoted above:
On another occasion also when I was led away from ideas formed from sensory impressions in the body a heavenly light appeared to me. That light led me even further away from those ideas, for the light of heaven holds spiritual life within it…. While I was surrounded with this light bodily and worldly interests looked to be underneath me. I was still aware of them, but it seemed as though they were more remote from me and did not belong to me.
At this time it seemed to me as though I was present in heaven with my head but not with my body. In this condition I was also allowed to observe the general breathing of heaven and also the nature of it. It was interior, relaxed, spontaneous, and corresponded to my own breathing in a ratio of three breaths to one. In a similar way I was also allowed to observe my heartbeats complementing those of heaven. At this point the angels told me that the beating of the heart and the breathing of the lungs in each individual being on earth sprang from those corresponding actions in heaven. They also said that the reason why one heart beats or a pair of lungs breathes at a different rate from another is that the beat of the heart and the breathing of the lungs in heaven is spread out into a kind of continuum and so into an endeavor whose nature is such that it gives rise to those varying motions in living beings, the variations in each one depending on its particular state. (AC 3885) (italics added for emphasis)
Note that “heavenly light” is the rational understanding that is present when we are “led away from ideas formed from sensory impressions in the body.” As discussed in this section, NDE reports remain in the “sensory impressions” and therefore lack the rational. As the passage indicates, the rational part is the spiritual and the sensory is natural or physical. This “heavenly light” acts within the rational and is inhibited by a focus on the sensuous. So we are contrasting sensuous consciousness with rational consciousness (see Chapter 5 Section 3).
Next not this part of the passage above: “While I was surrounded with this light bodily and worldly interests looked to be underneath me. I was still aware of them, but it seemed as though they were more remote from me and did not belong to me.” This does not refer to OBEs (out of body experiences) that often form part of the NDEs (near death experiences). OBEs are reported as physical experiences, as for instance, when the one floats upward from the operating table and looks down on the one’s body and the surrounding surgeons and equipment. OBEs are physical phenomena manifested in the mind, not rational, hence not spiritual. The light that illumines this scene is physical light, not rational-spiritual or celestial. In Swedenborg’s report it is said that what he saw was not the “light of heaven” and not earthly light. What did he see? He saw “bodily and worldly interests.” Not his body and bed, but interests or concerns that had to do with the body and everyday worldly things. This shows his report is not like that of NDEs.
Note also that his “presence in heaven” was through his head, which represents the rational part of a human being, while the rest of his body was on earth. Only the rational part can be in heaven. In the afterlife we leave our physical body and resuscitate in a spirit-body. This is not a physical body but appears like one to outside perception. In reality the spirit-body is an outward reflection of the mind, which is spiritual. Only those spirits can enter heaven who possess a rational mind that contains spiritual concepts (HH 468). The others sink down into corporeal spirituality, which contains no rational.
What did he see in heavenly light? He noticed that the breathing on earth was three times slower than that of heaven. At first this sounds like a sensory observation, not rational. But actually it is rational. Note that he refers to “the general breathing of heaven and also the nature of it.” This is very abstract, not sensuous. Swedenborg had to have a sense of what is the “general heaven.” In other places he explains that the general heaven is united into an integrated whole called the “Grand Human” or Grand Man. Numberless societies arranged in the anatomical and physiological form of the human body. The arrangement is not physical, but rational, and relates to the mental genius of the inhabitants, each distinguished by a rational taxonomy of affections (DL 10).
And as he perceived this rational organization of the spiritual world, what did the angels tell him about it? They discussed correspondences, which is a rational idea incorporating many complexities of discrete degrees and symbolism that Swedenborg discusses elsewhere. Further, that the breathing of the heavenly sphere “gives rise to those varying motions in living beings.” These motions, as explained elsewhere, refer to the system of rational hierarch that orders and manages the action of the organs in the body and the mind—hence complex and rational.
To show the rational nature of genuine spiritual experience, we can consider the Number prior to the passage quoted above:
As in the world it is quite unknown that there is a correspondence of heaven or the Grand Man with all things of man, and that man comes forth and subsists therefrom, so that what is said on the subject may seem paradoxical and incredible, I may here relate the things that experience has enabled me to know with certainty.
Once, when the interior heaven was opened to me, and I was conversing with the angels there, I was permitted to observe the following phenomena. Be it known that although I was in heaven, I was nevertheless not out of myself, but in the body, for heaven is within man, wherever he may be, so that when it pleases the Lord, a man may be in heaven and yet not be withdrawn from the body.
In this way it was given me to perceive the general workings of heaven as plainly as an object is perceived by any of the senses. Four workings or operations were then perceived by me. The first was into the brain at the left temple, and was a general operation as regards the organs of reason; for the left side of the brain corresponds to rational or intellectual things, but the right to the affections or things of the will.
 The second general operation that I perceived was into the respiration of the lungs, and it led my respiration gently, but from within, so that I had no need to draw breath or respire by any exertion of my will. The very respiration of heaven was at the time plainly perceived by me. It is internal, and for this reason is imperceptible to man; but by a wonderful correspondence it inflows into man's respiration, which is external, or of the body; and if man were deprived of this influx, he would instantly fall down dead.
 The third operation that I perceived was into the systole and diastole of the heart, which had then more of softness with me than I had ever experienced at any other time. The intervals of the pulse were regular, being about three within each period of respiration; yet such as to terminate in and thus direct the things belonging to the lungs. How at the close of each respiration the alternations of the heart insinuated themselves into those of the lungs, I was in some measure enabled to observe. The alternations of the pulse were so observable that I was able to count them; they were distinct and soft.
 The fourth general operation was into the kidneys, which also it was given me to perceive, but obscurely. From these things it was made manifest that heaven or the Grand Man has cardiac pulses, and that it has respirations; and that the cardiac pulses of heaven or the Grand Man have a correspondence with the heart and with its systolic and diastolic motions; and that the respirations of heaven or the Grand Man have a correspondence with the lungs and their respirations; but that they are both unobservable to man, being imperceptible, because internal. (AC 3884)
We come back to our earlier conclusion, namely, that genuine spiritual phenomena or awareness are in the rational sphere, and unless the topic is rational, it is not spiritual. Sensuous consciousness of the spiritual world is not allowed by the Lord because it is injurious, as already shown.
Chapter 4, Section 7
Stephen Larsen’s books and articles on what he calls “technologies of the sacred” illustrate what psychological forms of nonduality can seem acceptable or attractive to the New Church mind. William James’ Varieties of Religious Experience is often referred to as the book that legitimized consciousness as research area in modern psychology. The consciousness literature in psychology has been grouped by many under a new rubric called “transpersonal psychology.” Stephen Larsen reviews this trend in an article in Studia Swedenborgiana (June 1980 v.3 n.4, pp. 7-70). His book the Shaman’s Doorway was published by Harper & Row in 1966. The subtitle is: “Opening the Mythic Imagination to Contemporary Consciousness.” The authors whose work he cites are many, but I can just mention some: Boehm, Joseph Campbell, Erickson, Foucault, Freud, Erich Fromm, Aldous Huxley, William James, C.G. Jung, Kant, Kohl berg, Maslow, Robert Ornstein, Swedenborg, Charles Tart, Van Dusen, and others.
The literature of transpersonal psychology is full steeped in nonduality. The use of concepts from duality such as “sacred,” “Divine,” or “angelic” etc., is strictly within nonduality. Even dualities from the literal of the Writings such as “correspondences” and “spiritual world” are flattened into nonduality. This flattening effect, however, is not recognized in that literature, and the explanations appear to be dualist. But this surface dualism is a secular Swedenborgianism (see Chapter 4 Section 2). They need therefore to be deconstructed in the light of duality lest they enter and form a foothold in the New Church mind, which must remain purely religious by interpreting all concepts within the fundamental duality (see Chapter 1).
The “spiritual disciplines” of the consciousness technology are many, as reviewed by Larsen; they include: “shamans, druids, wicca (“wise women”), meditation, yoga, philosophy, ecstatic states, visionary narratives, mythology, ritual, archetypal elements in dreams, healing, ESP.” Since 1980 additional popularized items that belong on such a list include: OBE (Out of Body Experiences), NDE (Near Death Experiences), psychic forecasting, prayer technologies.
I can cite an example from Stephen Larsen (Ibid, p. 21) to show how psychological nondualism seeks to designate Swedenborg’s status as corporeal, not rational. He compares Jacob Boehm and Swedenborg:
I knew and saw in myself all three worlds, the external and visible world being of a procreation or extern birth from both the internal and spiritual worlds; and I saw and knew the whole working essence…and how the fruitful bearing womb of eternity brought forth [Jacob Boehm].
I … lay awake but as in a vision … yet in the spirit there was an inward and sensible gladness shed over the whole body; seemed as if it were shown in a consummate manner how it all issued and ended. [My spirit] flew up … and hid itself in an infinitude, as a center. [Swedenborg, Journal of Dreams, n. 87]
Larsen relates these two visionary descriptions to William James’ concept of “’positive paranoia’ in which the universe becomes intensely meaningful, in a benevolent, and not baleful way” (Larsen, p. 21). You can see that there is nothing rational in either quotation. What was Boehm’s fantastic understanding? It was this: “and I saw and knew the whole working essence.” Nothing rational here. And the quote from Swedenborg’s Journal of Dreams gives nothing rational either, as far as it goes. Clearly he is describing a dream, which is an activity of the corporeal mind, well below the rational. Having one type of dream and another does not create anything spiritual in the mind. In contrast, the Writings do not present Swedenborg’s dreams since everything in the Writings is rational of spiritual origin. Dreams and visions are explained in the Writings as corporeal within which are spiritual things. These spiritual things are not in the mind of the dreamer, but in the mind of the spirits who are connected by correspondence to the sleeper (SE 779, 3181). Nothing in the mind of the sleeper can be spiritual.
Here is a further example of looking at Swedenborg’s experiences from a perspective of secular nonduality. Larsen says that “Swedenborg practiced some of the classical psychophysical techniques of the inward explorer, including special breathing, concentration and visualization. … Swedenborg was not simply a “mouthpiece” for divine revelation, despite his own frequent assertions this was so.” (Ibid, p.25). Note that what is written in the Writings is not considered as the Divine Word. Self-intelligence is used to assess whether what is written is true or not true—a spiritually fatal step for the religious New Church mind (AC 8941). Note also that the Writings record much detail of Swedenborg’s corporeal activities, like the ones mentioned by Larsen. But it is clear that these were not “psychophysical techniques” but body movements that were produced by spiritual events in which Swedenborg was participating. This is the exact reverse process from psychophysical techniques in which the corporeal activity is said to produce the spiritual result. This is why Larsen calls it a “technique” within a section titled “Technicians of the Sacred.” The Writings reveal that this “reverse influx” is impossible (EU 102).
Larsen quotes Swedenborg’s description of how he sometimes held his breath as a child when he prayed and practiced harmonizing his breath with his heart beat (SE 3320, 3464), to which Larsen says “Young Emanuel, a prodigy of the inner quest, quietly practiced yogic pranayama.” (Ibid, p. 27). Here again is the nonduality between Swedenborg’s merely natural activities with his later spiritual experiences as the appointed revelator through whom the Writings were to be given. The duality in Swedenborg’s life is that there was a “before-after” paradigm in his special Divine role. Whatever he did in the “before” phase was discretely different from anything in the “after” state. The attainment of the discrete “after” state did not come from Swedenborg’s own struggle as a seeker in the “before” phase. Nothing that he could do from himself as a seeker could bring him to the beginning of the “after” phase. There is no continuity between the two (nonduality) but a discrete and absolute separation from the Divine (religious duality).
First, as to withdrawal from the body, it happens thus. Man is brought into a certain state that is midway between sleeping and waking, and when in that state he seems to himself to be wide awake; all the senses are as perfectly awake as in the completest bodily wakefulness, not only the sight and the hearing, but what is wonderful, the sense of touch also, which is then more exquisite than is ever possible when the body is awake. In this state spirits and angels have been seen to the very life, and have been heard, and what is wonderful, have been touched, with almost nothing of the body intervening. This is the state that is called being withdrawn from the body, and not knowing whether one is in the body or out of it. I have been admitted into this state only three or four times, that I might learn what it is, and might know that spirits and angels enjoy every sense, and that man does also in respect to his spirit when he is withdrawn from the body. (HH 440)
Larsen points out that Swedenborg’s practice since childhood with different techniques of consciousness raising “alone certainly did not occasion his spiritual breakthrough” (ibid, p. 33). He points to something “qualitatively different which began to happen to him in his middle fifties” (from 1744 onwards). Continuing: “Swedenborg was a Christian before a shaman, and insisted that his visions be consistent with his deepest belief. … He insisted that his “senior shaman” be from no lesser spirit, but the Lord himself” (p. 36). Note again the nonduality of secular Swedenborgianism: it is Swedenborg who insists on choosing the Lord as his inner guide, which is in opposition to the rational duality of the Lord choosing him and him choosing the Lord, the first being real, the other spurious or imaginary.
One final example will be given from psychological nonduality as it interprets the details about how Swedenborg was prepared to receive the Writings. Larsen refers to “the mysterious process of transformation by which a man may ‘give birth to himself’. (Ibid, p. 46)
And something like this must have been happening to Swedenborg. As he writes in the next to last paragraph in the Journal of Dreams:
It seemed that a rocket burst over me spreading a number of sparkles of lovely fire. Love for what is high, perhaps.
The comparison was to a
“wonderful culminating scene in which he [a person referred to] became a woman, and in the throes of giving birth. He writes:
Celestial trumpets and choirs of angels proclaimed this wonderful birth…I reached down and pulled the baby up to my face and glory of glories…it was me! But a transformed, almost spotless, perfected me.
(Larsen, ibid, p. 46)
These corporeal visions are equated with “higher consciousness” and even with “divine consciousness.” We see once more the general truth that all nondualities are devoid of spiritual content, because not rational. What are they? They are not ways of investigating correspondences. One cannot learn anything spiritual by going from corporeal experience to rational-spiritual insights. The Writings call this direction impossible (D.WIS 2). All spiritual insights or truths can exist only in the interior rational mind. Nothing from below, that is the natural mind, can enter into this spiritual mind. Nothing whatsoever (TCR 623 ). Hence, any experience of the natural mind cannot yield a single spiritual truth (SE 2299).
Spiritual truth can only originate in heaven, and descends into the interior rational mind, first, then by correspondence activates the conscious rational mind (which is natural). Now the conscious rational mind possess external concepts that contain within them genuine spiritual truths. This is what the Writings call being a spiritual person. The process starts with shunning corporeal nondualities and taking up rational dualities from the Writings. This literal knowledge in our mind is called the Doctrine of the Church and its quality or genuineness is proportional to our right understanding of the literal knowledge. And this understanding or Doctrine is right in proportion to our progress in regenerations. And this depends on our willing and thinking daily in accordance with the Doctrine in our understanding. No other way of regenerating and salvation is available to the New Church mind (HH 473).
The last example from psychological nonduality cited above shows how far a field the natural mind can whisk one away from the fundamental duality of the New Church, which is that the Writings are the Divine Word in a discretely new dispensation from anything that existed before. There is no gradual continuity between the “before” and the “after” as pointed out above. There is only a duality separated by discrete degrees that is absolute and permanent. This duality is what the Writings call the human “rational” because it is an accurate and true description of the only reality that there is, or can exist. The reason is that the Lord creates and manages the universe by means of His Divine Rational (or Divine Truth). And this is within every object or detail of the natural and spiritual worlds. Hence it is a Rational creation and all its rules and principles are rational. All spiritual truths reside in the rational mind, and there is no spiritual that is not from the rational. The interior rational mind is made of the will and the understanding, like the natural mind, but functioning at a discrete degree higher than the will and understanding in the natural mind.
To see this clearly is crucial for the regeneration of the New Church mind. This process begins not at birth, but as an adult (AC 3518). From the moment we reach this age, we are required to start forming the New Church mind in us. And this is accomplished through two venues: fighting nonduality in our understanding (Reformation--see Volume 1) and fighting evils in our will, that is, practicing spiritual disciplines from the religious motive (Regeneration—see Volume 3). This motive is to as-of self cooperate with the Lord in His regenerating us.
IV. EVILS IN THE EXTERNAL, MAN CANNOT BE REMOVED BY THE LORD EXCEPT THROUGH MAN'S INSTRUMENTALITY. In all Christian Churches this tenet of doctrine has been accepted, that before a man approaches the Holy Communion he shall examine himself, see and acknowledge his sins, and do the work of repentance by desisting from them and rejecting them because they are from the devil; and that otherwise his sins are not forgiven, and he is condemned. (DP 114)
This conscious cooperation day by day is the means of our salvation, for without means nothing gets accomplished (TCR 371 ).
The “technologies of the sacred” are not an option for the New Church mind. Mental experiences of consciousness can only be raised within the natural discrete degree. All phenomena of consciousness such as ecstatic states and visionary events are trapped within the natural discrete degree. They can be corporeal, or sensuous, or rational. But they cannot be spiritual. The spiritual begins one discrete degree above the natural and there is no relation possible between the highest consciousness or most ecstatic vision, on the one hand, and on the other, the lowest spiritual truth. This is because the rational based on the sensuous is called external rational and this is purely natural (AC 978, 4286; AE 355:14). The natural mind can only become spiritual if the interior rational is allowed to dwell within it by correspondence. The spiritual then has a natural within which to exist.
But the spiritual cannot dwell in the natural unless the natural mind has been rearranged into a rational order. We do this by our systematic and daily cumulative study of the Writings from the day we chose to reform to the day of eternity. When we enter heaven our mind has been arranged into a rational-spiritual order so that the Lord’s Proprium may dwell in our will. From then on we act from the Lord’s Proprium and no longer from our own self (HH 341). This is the highest bliss angels can have for they act spontaneously as-if from self, knowing it is from the Lord. They see themselves will what is good and true, and they marvel at it and are instructed by their willing.
Such is the spiritual mind we must form out of our New Church mind in order to prepare it for heavenly life. We take up the external rational things from the literal of the Writings and we create the Doctrine of Life in our mind. This Doctrine deepens and is more and more spiritual as we will and think from it all day long, hour by hour, and minute by minute, yea, second by second.
An article by Rev. Erik E. Sandstrom (“The New Age and the New Church” New Church Life May 2002 202-216) gives the history of the New Age culture in Christian countries since its beginning, going back to the gnostics who invented the idea that people can have salvation apart from the New Testament and the acknowledgment of the Son of God as the Savior. They replaced Jesus Christ, the Son of God, with “the Christ energy” that people can put into themselves and achieve salvation thereby. In the Middle Ages and after, the idea was carried forward by the secret brotherhoods and fraternities like the Rosicrucians and Freemasonry. In the modern era, the New Age point of view was promoted by the Age of Reason practiced in the secular scientism of Descartes, Newton, Voltaire, Rousseau, Kant and others. In the eighteenth and nineteenth century Eastern religious ideas were imported into Europe through popular beliefs in reincarnation, nonduality between self and God, and theosophy and anthroposophy (see Chapter 3, Section 7). In the twentieth century New Age nonduality took the form of transcendentalism with Emerson (Chapter 4 Section 6 and Chapter 7 Section 5) and the Gnosticism of Christian Science (see Chapter 3, Section 5).
Aldous Huxley is a well known “secular humanist” who contributed to the popularity among intellectuals that the universe is evolving into becoming conscious. The rate of this evolution is proportional to how many individuals are able to raise their own consciousness by comprehending the laws of nature, of which we are made. Bertrand Russell is a self-declared “atheist” known for erecting an intellectual framework that leaves God out of it. The most educated segment of the population in the United States today allies itself with secular humanism and New Age spirituality. Carl G. Jung combined the idea of an evolutionary self-awakening of the universe, with the idea of a mental unity of the human race outside the time and space of history and biography. Individuals had the capacity to access the racial “archetypes” and see them in oneself. The understanding of this relation elevates our consciousness and is therapeutic, according to Jung. You can see the nonduality in these proposals. They are all motivated to find a way around the idea of creation by a God from infinity and outside the reality of human beings. The denial of this fundamental duality between uncreate and created, is at the top echelon of these intellectual efforts.
Rev. Sandstrom also discusses the links between New Age Gnosticism and the New Church. New Age practitioners discovered Swedenborg’s reports about spirits and his discussions about the hidden “esoteric” meaning in the Bible which they fancied could be used to “connect” with mystical powers and energy. Traditional Christians fought the Gnostic heresies but created their own nondualities, especially the idea that Christ had a merely human part from birth and a Divine part from eternity. The nonduality lies in seeing a permanent aspect of the Lord as continuous with mere humans. This human aspect was ascribed to Christ’s Vicar on earth so that some Divine power or association was assigned to the Pope. In contrast, the New Church duality assigns an absolute separation between created humans and the Lord’s Human which was glorified and made one with the Divine. Nothing from created humans remained in the Lord after Glorification was completed (AC 2288).
Rev. Sandstrom summarizes the “main beliefs” of the New Age culture as having four themes. The first is that human evolution is evolving into a higher form of itself that will bring a oneness with nature or the universe. The second belief is that individual advances in consciousness towards the higher human form is possible through some disciplines like “special therapies, spiritual beliefs, yoga, medicine, reincarnation, mantra, trances and channeling.” The third belief is that spiritual transformation to a higher human form is achieved through self-empowerment. The fourth belief is that the material world of self and the spiritual world of God are really just one—which justifies the idea that “All is one. God is in me. I am god.” All four New Age beliefs were discussed earlier in this Chapter with regard to their nondualities in contrast to the dualities of the Writings. The nonduality of this mindset is illustrated graphically by nineteenth-century German philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He declared the death of God and described the human being as a rope stretched between animal and deity.
New Age nonduality was imported into America where it was mixed with spiritism and Mesmer’s notions about magnetism. This is not surprising since the spiritism that is allied to nonduality is a corporeal spirituality that would see the spirit as an energy form. As I point out elsewhere, this is a pseudo-spirituality since there is nothing rational in it (see for example Chapter 4, Section 5). Rev. Sandstrom notes that according to some historical accounts of the New Church in America, many of those who counted themselves as New Church were attracted to New Age nonduality concepts like spiritism and Gnosticism. This cultural context encouraged corporeal ideas of heaven seen in Swedenborg’s Memorable Relations.
Those who are raised in the New Church today hear about the Memorable Relations in early childhood. Children’s books and activities are used to foster this knowledge. Clearly, the earliest view one has of heaven is the view of children as a “place” with houses and streets and wonderful fun. But with the development of the rational as one enters the education years the idea of heaven gradually becomes less sensuous and more rational. For instance, the natural idea of “sexuality” is rejected and the rational idea of conjugial love is installed.
As young adults we can read or reflect on the Lord’s teaching that heaven is within you (Luke 17:21).
Heaven is in the man; and there is a place for him in heaven according to the state of life and of faith in which he is (AC 9305)
It is not a place but a state of mind. This is the introduction of a fundamental duality in the mind. Places and states are discretely different—a rational idea that connects with the idea one forms of the natural world and the spiritual “world.” New Church adults who maintain the child’s sensuous or physicalistic ideas of heaven have not progressed spiritually and have remained unregenerate. Other ideas nonduality are heard and adopted, such as the physicalistic notions about the resurrection of all the dead corpses on this earth, as portrayed in the Old Testament (Isaiah 26:19). In contrast, the New Church mind that progresses in regeneration acquires the discrete duality of natural and spiritual, so that resurrection is seen as something that occurs in the spiritual world, not the physical world. Similarly, reincarnation is rejected by the New Church mind as a nonduality between life on earth and the life after death.
The idea referred to by the Lord as “I in you and you in Me” (John 14:20) can be taken at the corporeal or at the rational level of thinking. The merely natural idea leads to the nonduality: “God is in me.” But the duality of discrete degrees reveals the rational idea of “God’s influx in me.” People who don’t know about influx might say instead, “God’s will in me” but never, “God in me” in the sense of “Divine Person inside me—a strange corporeal and impossible idea. Similarly, the idea of the Divine Human or God Man can be taken as a nonduality or a duality. As a nonduality it leads to the nonsensical idea that “man can be Divine.” As a duality however, “Divine Human” leads to the idea of a discrete, absolute, and permanent difference “Infinite Divine Man” and “finite created human beings.”
Another idea of New Age nonduality is that direct communication with spirits, angels, or God is possible and preferable to indirect communication such as reading the Word. This is contrary to the Lord’s teaching (HH 249). The New Church duality is that communication between earthlings and spirits can only take place through correspondences—the duality barrier of discreteness cannot be crossed directly or by immediate experience such as Swedenborg had (D. Wis. 2). This is discussed further in Chapter 4, Section 5). Rev. Sandstrom points to DLW 187 where it is said that without the concept of discrete degrees the mind is lost in a sea of nonduality:
From all this it can be seen, that one who knows nothing about discrete degrees, that is, degrees of height, can know nothing about the state of man as regards his reformation and regeneration, which are effected through the reception of love and wisdom of the Lord, and then through the opening of the interior degrees of his mind in their order. Nor can he know anything about influx from the Lord through the heavens nor anything about the order into which he was created. For if anyone thinks about these, not from discrete degrees or degrees of height but from continuous degrees or degrees of breadth, he is not able to perceive anything about them from causes, but only from effects; and to see from effects only is to see from fallacies, from which come errors, one after another; and these may be so multiplied by inductions that at length enormous falsities are called truths. (DLW 187)
“Experiencing esoteric highs is not a sign of regeneration! Only light from the Word can uncover states of evil. Unless evil is shunned, any supernatural experience just drapes man’s interior evil with Scripture or Doctrine. Thus the claim that experiencing Swedenborg’s kind of spiritual awareness would be to our own advantage, is met by Swedenborg’s own sharp epithet: That is the direct road to insanity! (Swedenborg Epic p. 344). Swedenborg said his experience had not happened since creation (Invitation to the New Church 43, 44, 52).
Nonduality received intellectual support by the architects of materialistic science and positivistic philosophy. Spinoza and Hegel are influential proponents of pantheism, the view that matter and God are one substance—thus identical to Eastern nonduality (see Chapter 2). Jakob Bohme (1575-1624) played an influential role on many European architects of nonduality:
Schelling, Hegel, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Hartmann, Bergson, Heidegger, Alfred North Whitehead, Carl G. Jung, Albert Schweitzer and Protestant mysticism.
(Preface to Stoudt, John Joseph: Sunrise to Eternity: A Study of Jacob Boehme's Life and Thought. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1957 quoted on the Web at users.aol.com/DoniBess/boehme.htm Accessed June 2002)
Here is a sample of Boehme’s “dynamic theology” that has spread so extensively into American thinking today, both secular and Christian:
Jacob Boehme, on his mystical Aurora
>> I contemplated man's little spark, what it should be valued before God along side of this great work of heaven and earth. ...
I therefore became very melancholy and highly troubled. No Scripture could comfort me, though I was quite well versed in it ...
When in such sadness I earnestly elevated my spirit into God and locked my whole heart and mind, along with all my thoughts and will, therein, ceaselessly pressing in with God's Love and Mercy, and not to cease until he blessed me ..., then after some hard storms my spirit broke through hell's gates into the inmost birth of the Godhead, and there I was embraced with Love as a bridegroom embraces his dear bride. ...
What kind of spiritual triumph it was I can neither write nor speak; it can only be compared with that where life is born in the midst of death, and is like the resurrection of the dead. ...
In this light my spirit directly saw through all things, and knew God in and by all creatures, even in herbs and grass. ... In this light my will grew in great desire to describe the being of God ... <<
(Aurora, xix, 7-13. Stoudt, op. cit. p 58-59.)
(Quoted in “Jakob Böhme (1575-1624)” by Donivan Bessinger on the Web at users.aol.com/DoniBess/boehme.htm Accessed June 2002).
Swedenborg was once asked to give an opinion on Jakob Boehme’s ecstatic approach to religion. This was his answer in a letter:
Letter to Beyer, February 1767
My opinion concerning the writings of Boehme and L...**
I have never read them, and I was forbidden to read dogmatic and systematic books in theology before heaven was opened to me, and this for the reason that otherwise unfounded opinions and notions might easily have insinuated themselves, which afterwards could have been removed only with difficulty. When heaven was opened to me I had therefore first to learn the Hebrew language, and also the correspondences of which the whole Bible is composed, and this led me to read through the Word of God many times. And since the Word of God is the source from which all theology must be taken, I was thus enabled to receive instruction from the Lord, who is the Word.
** probably, William Law, 1686-1761
Swedenborg was the first New Church mind in history. The Lord did not allow his mind to be exposed to the conjectures of theology invented by various well known authors that were acclaimed in their generation, because their “unfounded opinions and notions might easily have insinuated themselves, which afterwards could have been removed only with difficulty.” This is the same reason we need to protect our New Church mind “before heaven was opened,” in other words, before we have completed our reformation.
The Lord cannot enlighten anyone with His light, unless He is approached immediately and acknowledged as the God of heaven. (INV 38)
Chapter 5, Introduction
The system of ideas that make up Eastern nonduality was given ages ago to Hinduism and the other Asiatic nations. The chief form this revelation takes is to define salvation as the elimination of all dualities. Dualities are attributed to Atman (Self) which is the source of the delusions of attachment. These delusions vanish like a dream upon awakening or enlightenment, and Brahman (God) is left as the Reality, the Emptiness that is devoid of all attachments or qualities. This is described as existence or being that is above thinking and willing, above rationality and affection. Salvation consists in stepping out of the elaborate delusion of being a self or individual, and awakening as the being of God. The revelations given to the Hindu religion thousands of years ago were not intended for Westerners who were then being prepared for receiving the revelations of the Old Testament, the revelations of the New Testament, the revelations of the Koran, and the revelations of the Writings. These Western revelations were all based on absolute dualities.
In the course of time Westerners created their own indigenous forms of nonduality by opposing the duality that was in their heritage from revelation and the Word. When charity is no longer first in a religion, it is called the religion of Cain (AC 330) which dethrones charity as the chief thing. This change initiates nonduality in that religion and its influence gradually spreads and permeates all of it until it has invaded or corrupted every categorical duality received in the original revelations.
Thus a revelation that prepares people for receiving spiritual-rational truths is turned into a sensuous persuasion that looks for other ways to climb in (AC 10430)—not solely through the Word but through meditation, fasting, corporeal punishments, physical and mental regimens, anti-rational mysticism, group chanting, long prayers, self-mortification, and the like. These are forms of nonduality in the Western mind because they contain the idea that the corporeal is in continuous degree with the spiritual. This nonduality leads to the notion that the way to become spiritual is to exert maximum possible effort in doing selected physical things.
Chapter 5, Section 2
What the rational is shall be briefly told. The intellectual of the internal man is called "rational," but the intellectual of the external man is called "natural;" thus the rational is internal, and the natural is external; and they are perfectly distinct from each other.
But a truly rational man is no other than he who is called a celestial man, and who has perception of good, and from good perception of truth; whereas he who has not this perception, but only the knowledge that a thing is true because he is so instructed, and from this has conscience, is not truly a rational man, but is an interior natural man. Such are they who are of the Lord's spiritual church. They differ from the celestial as the light of the moon differs from the light of the sun; and therefore the Lord appears to the spiritual as a moon, but to the celestial as a sun ...
 Many in the world suppose that a rational man is one who can reason acutely about many things, and so join his reasonings together that his conclusions may appear like truth; but this is found in the very worst of men, who are able to reason skillfully and persuade that evils are goods, and that falsities are truths; and the reverse. But he who reflects can see that this is vicious fantasy, and not what is rational.
The rational consists in inwardly seeing and perceiving that good is good, and from this that truth is truth; for the sight and perception of such men are from heaven.
That they who are of the Lord's spiritual church are interiorly natural, is because they only acknowledge as truth that which they have received from their parents and masters, and afterward have confirmed in themselves; and do not see inwardly, and perceive, whether it is true from any other source than that they have confirmed it in themselves.
It is otherwise with the celestial; and it is from this that the latter are rational, but the former interiorly natural. The internal celestial which is represented by Joseph, is in the rational; whereas the spiritual good which is represented by Israel, is in the interior natural (AC n. 4286); for it is the spiritual who are represented by Israel, and the celestial who are represented by Joseph. (AC 6240)
We learn from this passage that the level of thinking and reasoning in our natural mind is not yet human. The natural mind is built up solely from concepts and rules of logic that apply only to physical existence or functioning. All animals share with “humans” the ability to think and reason at the level peculiar to each species. Some, like bees, are only capable of giving the appearance of thinking and reasoning in the way they are able to communicate the location of food to the other bees in the hive, who then are able to fly directly to the location. This appearance of intellectual ability is the result of built in physiological activity in interaction with sensory input. Other animals like the apes, known today as “primates,” and also the dolphins and whales, have been shown to possess cognitive and linguistic abilities. The natural mind in homo sapiens is far above that of the animals because our race has an upper portion called the external-rational or the natural-natural. No animals are capable reasoning at this level as they lack this upper portion.
This natural-rational level of thinking is what makes it possible for humans to be regenerated, that is, to be born anew and to be regenerated by the Lord. The new mind is called the spiritual mind while the old mind is called the natural mind. The early generations of the race had a celestial mind (xx) and were able to communicate directly with angels and teachers already in heaven. After this ability was removed by the Lord due to misuse and profanation, a new race was raised such as we are today, namely, that we do not possess a sensuous spiritual mind while we live on earth (xx). This means that our regeneration is made possible only by the natural-rational mind. This is effected by means of the Word which consists of revelations about the spiritual world. The natural-rational level of thinking and reasoning is capable of understanding these revelations, invent a Doctrine based on the revelations, and live life in accordance with this Doctrine. This is the only way the New Church mind can be reborn and regenerated. We must develop Doctrine for ourselves based on the Writings, then arrange our daily willing and thinking in conformity to this Doctrine. To the extent we do this, to that extent the Lord opens our spiritual mind.
The spiritual mind, as indicated in the passage above (AC 6240) has three levels: natural-rational (First Heaven), which is also called spiritual-natural. These various names may sound confusing at first, as it did for me at the beginning, but it is required that we learn them and distinguish them. Without this intellectual effort we are unable to create Doctrine from it, and yet it is Doctrine from it in our understanding, that we must have in order to see how it applies to our willing and thinking. So the natural mind can reach up to the spiritual level of consciousness by loving the rational concepts in the literal language of the Writings. This is the called the First Education (see Chapter 8, Section 3). When we have studied the Writings over several years of intellectual activity, we have taken up into our natural mind knowledges or “external scientifics” of the ideas expressed in the literal language, either the original Latin or some faithful translation.
These ideas are expressed in a natural language, and therefore it is not possible to convey directly any spiritual truths. Spiritual truths can only be transmitted directly as far as the spiritual mind. There it “terminates,” that is, provides a plane or dwelling for their existence. The natural mind far below cannot directly access by consciousness or awareness anything whatsoever of these spiritual truths residing there in the spiritual mind the Lord opens for us, to the extent we cooperate. Clearly then, the knowledge and reasoning level of the literal of the Writings must reside in the upper portion of the natural mind, which is called the natural-rational (also: the external rational). How then do we get to the spiritual truths we must have for our regeneration?
Spiritual truths from the literal of the Writings is by enlightenment only. The Lord Himself is the Writings, that is, in the spiritual truths therein. Therefore He alone can give us these truths, and He desires to give as many as we can take, for this is His Love. But we are not willing to take a single spiritual truth prior to undergoing reformation in adult life. This is because spiritual truths require us to rearrange everything in our mind that was there before reformation, regardless of our religion or philosophy or education. This we resist. But eventually we are ready to compel ourselves to go through with reformation. This means that we begin to examine our concepts and our loves behind them, and we begin to ask whether they are in conformity with what we have taken up from the Writings. At that moment the Lord gives enlightenment regarding the single particular issue you were struggling with.
This momentary enlightenment from the Lord is like a flash of lightening in which we can see and understand what we couldn’t before, or just didn’t even know about. Each spiritual truth, or seed deposited by the Lord in our spiritual mind, is one of these flashes of lightening. As we progress, we begin to have a memory of the flashes, what they were about specifically. This is the beginning of our spiritual consciousness. It is a rational consciousness, not a sensuous one. We cannot see heaven or have communication with the spiritual world, but we have the Holy Spirit in our spiritual mind. The Holy Spirit can also reside in our natural-rational mind, in which case it is called the interior-natural or natural-rational. The natural-rational or interior-natural is the level of consciousness in which the angelic spirits of the First Heaven exist.
We can progress in our regeneration all the way to the opening of the interior-rational or celestial-rational level. This is the existence of the angels of the First Heaven, and is the genuine human existence. This is the genuine human being. The passage above says that “the rational consists in inwardly seeing and perceiving that good is good, and from this that truth is truth; for the sight and perception of such men are from heaven.“ Following our reformation we are able to reason whether something is good or true merely by holding it up to the light of the literal of the Writings. To the extent we then apply this understanding to our daily willing and thinking, to that extent we enter into the spiritual meaning of these goods and truths. Prior to entering their spiritual meaning we only understand them in a natural-rational way. But applying them to willing and thinking brings the spiritual meaning out of them and we can see and understand them. When we reach the celestial state, we can perceive the truths and no longer need to reason about them whether they are true or how they are true.
All of this requires the reformation of the unregenerate natural mind. When our natural mind is in nonduality we make a distinction between the physical body and mental life. This is not a duality however since the mental is also seen as emerging from the physical and being located in it. This physicalistic idea of the mental is then made to be equal with the spiritual. This is a nonduality that is opposed to the duality of natural and spiritual as being in discrete degrees. In nonduality, mental and spiritual occupy a continuum on one end and the body and the physical world occupy the other end. At our reformation, this nonduality is replaced by the discrete duality of the natural world and the spiritual world. We now acknowledge three discrete levels in the human mind. They are called natural, spiritual, and celestial degrees. These three degrees are represented in the constitution of every created thing, large or small. The natural mind or degree is part of the order of the natural world and its mode of construction. It is called the spiritual-natural of the First Heaven. The spiritual mind or degree corresponds to the spiritual-rational or Second Heaven. The celestial mind or degree corresponds to the celestial-rational in the Third Heaven (AC 978, 4286; AE 355:14).
The external rational level of thinking, although it is in the natural mind, is such as to be capable of being infilled with spiritual-natural and spiritual-rational ideas that the angels have. For example the idea of God is first learned from instruction and reading through the external rational mind. At this level of thinking “infinity” has a natural meaning. This is shown by the fact that the only infinity we can think of is that which gets bigger and bigger--like distance, numbers, size, time, energy, speed, and so on. Therefore we think of God’s omnipresence as being everywhere in space and his omnipotence as unlimited power. These are external rational ideas of God, also called material ideas of God rather than spiritual. Similarly, Heaven and hell have physicalistic properties at this level of thinking. Note that when we dream we also instantiate physicalistic scenes. The dream itself is a spiritual event or activity in the mind, but its order and construction represent the order of the natural world and our material ideas about it. There is no spiritual content to physicalistic ideas or mental visions. They are operations in the natural mind. Spiritual things only operate in the rational or spiritual mind that is a discrete degree above the natural mind.
How the rational faculty may be cultivated shall also be told in a few words. The genuine rational faculty consists of truths and not of falsities; whatever consists of falsities is not rational. There are three kinds of truths, civil, moral, and spiritual. Civil truths relate to matters of judgment and of government in kingdoms, and in general to what is just and equitable in them. Moral truths pertain to the matters of everyone's life which have regard to companionships and social relations, in general to what is honest and right, and in particular to virtues of every kind. But spiritual truths relate to matters of heaven and of the church, and in general to the good of love and the truth of faith.
 In every man there are three degrees of life (see above, n. 267 [in HH]). The rational faculty is opened to the first degree by civil truths, to the second degree by moral truths, and to the third degree by spiritual truths. But it must be understood that the rational faculty that consists of these truths is not formed and opened by man's knowing them, but by his living according to them; and living according to them means loving them from spiritual affection; and to love truths from spiritual affection is to love what is just and equitable because it is just and equitable, what is honest and right because it is honest and right, and what is good and true because it is good and true; while living according to them and loving them from the bodily affection is loving them for the sake of self and for the sake of one's reputation, honor or gain. Consequently, so far as man loves these truths from a bodily affection he fails to become rational, for he loves, not them, but himself; and the truths are made to serve him as servants serve their Lord; and when truths become servants they do not enter the man and open any degree of life in him, not even the first, but merely rest in the memory as knowledges under a material form, and there conjoin themselves with the love of self, which is a bodily love.
 All this shows how man becomes rational, namely, that he becomes rational to the third degree by a spiritual love of the good and truth which pertain to heaven and the church; he becomes rational to the second degree by a love of what is honest and right; and to the first degree by a love of what is just and equitable. These two latter loves also become spiritual from a spiritual love of good and truth, because that love flows into them and conjoins itself to them and forms in them as it were its own semblance. (HH 468)
This number teaches many important things about the rational portion of the mind. We can summarize some of these points as follows:
(1) The rational or spiritual portion of the mind is above the natural mind and it is developed only by spiritual-rational truths. All spiritual truths are rational. There are three degrees of truths: civil, moral, and spiritual. Therefore there are three degrees of the rational mind. The first two (civil and moral truths) originate from the natural world, from society and self, but the third (spiritual truths) originate form the spiritual world.
(2) There are two distinct degrees in the rational mind. The lowest or external rational is called civil and moral. The highest rational is called spiritual-rational. Note that the spiritual begins with the highest degree in the rational mind. This degree is also called the interior rational or the spiritual rational.
(3) The lowest or external rational develops “by a love of what is just and equitable.” Note that this is not yet spiritual. It is an external form of the rational, not yet interior. This external rational is bound up with natural ideas. Civil truths can exist in the mind of an atheist who denies God, the Church, heaven, and hell. The spiritual rational is not bound up with the natural but originates entirely from the spiritual world.
(4) Further, the external rational also develops “by a love of what is honest and right.” The moral truths that form this level of thinking are still external, bound up with the natural world. Atheists can think with such truths even though they deny the existence of spiritual truths such as God and heaven.
(5) The highest degree of the rational mind develops only by means of spiritual truths, and so it is called the spiritual mind. These truths originate solely from the spiritual world and we receive them consciously by means of the Word. It develops “by a spiritual love of the good and truth which pertain to heaven and the church.” This is the beginning of the spiritual mind and is the genuine human. Civil truths and moral truths are not yet part of the genuine human. The Lord alone is the genuine Human, hence only that which is from the Word about the Lord can be the genuine human in us.
(6) The Word is the only source of spiritual truths since the Word is from the Lord and is the Lord in His Divine Truth. All spiritual truth is rational because it is from the Lord alone and the Lord is the Divine Rational by which He maintains the universe. Truths that are not from the Word are not from the Lord and are not spiritual. Nothing originating from society or self-intelligence can be spiritual truth. Spiritual truth cannot be discovered by experience, intuition, or intelligence.
(7) Civil and moral truths from society and self, can become spiritual when they are infused with spiritual truths from the Word. For example, you can be equitable and honest from two different motives: either natural or spiritual. If you are honest because you love society or because you want to be honored by society, your level of willing and thinking is still natural. But later you can be honest from a love of the Lord and heaven; then you first become spiritual and you can think from spiritual truths.
(8) If you are a scientist and love to discover truths about the world, you are not yet spiritual and your level of thinking is still natural. No spiritual truths can be discovered by a scientist or a seeker in this way. No spiritual reasoning, or wisdom, is possible at this level of the external rational mind. But then you can be motivated to discover scientific truths because you understand that scientific truths correspond and represent spiritual truths. Swedenborg was such a scientist. This kind of science may be called theistic science since the scientist then acknowledges that natural truths discovered by scientific research are outward effects that represent or contain spiritual causes. These spiritual causes cannot be discovered by natural research but only by extracting them from the Word.
(9) If you are a seeker of truth and try to discover truths by intuition, meditation, reflection, discipline, or study of the realizations of others, you are not yet thinking spiritually, but only naturally in your external rational mind. But then you can turn to the Word, acknowledge it as the Lord, and confirm the spiritual truths from the Word as the operating cause of the truths you acquired from intuition, experience and study of the experiences of others. Then for the first time you begin to think spiritually. Note that it is not possible to reverse this process. You cannot confirm spiritual truths from the Word by means of truths obtained elsewhere. But you can confirm truths obtained anywhere by means of spiritual truths from the Word. Note that truths from the Word are to be believed because they are from the Lord. They are not to be believed because of the truths you have from somewhere else. The natural cannot lead to the spiritual, but the spiritual can illumine the natural.
The spiritual therefore begins with the interior rational, which is called the spiritual-rational. And consequently, so does the human (HH 468). Everything below the interior rational is not genuinely human but only imitates the human. The human mind is so constructed as to contain within it a spiritual mind that can be activated and grown through acquiring spiritual-rational truths from the Writings, which is the Divine source for interior rational truths in the new age of the Second Coming. These are spiritual ideas from a celestial origin, because from the Lord. All ideas in the spiritual mind must be spiritual and cannot be of natural origin. That is why there is a discrete degree between the natural mind and the spiritual mind. The two interact by correspondence only, not directly. Spiritual truths from the Lord through the angels inflow into the spiritual mind, whereupon our natural mind is affected and reacts to the influx in accordance with correspondences (DLW 260-3). This reaction in the natural mind is conscious and we’re aware of it in various ways (DLW 263).
One way we’re aware of spiritual ideas inflowing is that the concepts into which they inflow suddenly are illuminated by heavenly light. It’s a “seeing into” experience, or insight, in the sense that we say in our conversations: “I see what you mean.” The correspondence reaction to the influx occurs into certain general ideas in the external rational mind. For instance, the concept of God that is rooted in the external rational mind is a natural idea of God, not a genuine spiritual called the spiritual-rational. When spiritual influx animates the natural concept we suddenly see it illumined with heavenly light. This means that we can see a higher (or deeper) meaning to it. This new meaning is higher, because spiritual, that is, more interiorly rational, more genuine human, and closer to the celestial. Our goal in reformation is to build up these cognitive “vessels” in the external natural concepts, as many as possible. These rational intellectual ideas or concepts are acquired by reading and studying the literal language of the Writings. The Word is always written in a natural language: Hebrew, Greek, Latin. This natural language does not allow the direct expression of spiritual ideas. Instead, the spiritual ideas are in our understanding, when it is enlightened by the Lord while we read the Writings.
Our understanding therefore contains two parts, external and internal. We understand the literal in our external understanding, which is called the external-rational or natural-rational level of thinking and reasoning. We understand the spiritual within the literal, in our internal understanding. When the two are simultaneous, then we experience illustration, that is, we can see the spiritual things in our internal understanding while we can see the natural things in our external understanding.
For instance, we can see in our external understanding that God is infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, and omnipresent. But in our internal understanding we can see that God is omnipresent not in space but apart from space (DLW 70). If the Lord were present in space, He could not be omnipresent—an idea that was incomprehensible before in the external understanding which sees only in natural light. In this light, the explanation that “God is omnipresent not in space but apart from space” sounds like poetry and is seen in obscurity. But the internal understanding sees in heavenly light, and we can clearly see the distinction between what is uncreate (love, life, truth, endeavor) and created (matter, space or ether, energy, plants, animals, human beings, heaven, hell). The uncreate is present within the created and animates it with life and purpose. The “presence within” cannot be physical, for then it would like the created. Hence the uncreate is present within the created in another dimension than space. And this other dimension is called the spiritual world where there is no space, just as in our dreams there is no space but apparent space, changing at the will and whim of the dreamer.
As heavenly light illumines the concepts from within, we can see new content in them which could not be seen before in natural light. The concept of infinity now is seen more clearly as that which has no beginning and no ending, whereas before “no ending” was the only focus that made sense. The idea of “no beginning” made no sense. Now we can see that natural things that are created can go on without an ending, but that does not make them infinite. For instance, there is no largest number because one can always add one more digit to it. But this does not mean that counting is infinite since it has a beginning. Life has no beginning for it exists in the Lord. Truth has no beginning for the same reason. Similarly with love which is the source of all heat and motion as well as emotions and feelings.
Another example is the distinction between the natural-rational idea of “self” and the spiritual-rational idea of “as-of self” (AC 47, 233, 1712, 2877, 5664, 10299; NJHD 148; DP 102, 210; CL 82; SE 5958; LJ 299; AE 864).
Operating with the concept of self, we cannot see the meaning of freedom in relation to omnipotence. Since God is omnipotent, therefore self would have no freedom unless God removes Himself so things can go on happening according the free choices of the selves. But when heavenly light enters our natural concept of self, we suddenly see a new thing called as-of self. “Self” = “as-of self.” Now we can see a spiritual-rational meaning to freedom and its relation to a spiritual meaning of omnipotence. The as-of self is a feeling the Lord grants us in every succeeding moment. This feeling is that we are alive and acting from our desires by means of our thinking. We do what we love and gives us delight, unless we inhibit it by some other love, by which we give consideration to the laws, our reputation, sin, altruism. We think what we please. We move our limbs or eyes as we wish. We take responsibility for our actions. All this is granted by the Lord so that we may feel freedom and be in it. This feeling is given by the Lord so that we may be happy and self-reliant.
But now the new meaning of “self” is that it is not acting from itself and it doesn’t have life in itself (DLW 23). The self is only a receptacle or a biological organ for the reception of life, of ideas, of feelings and intentions, of pleasures and joys. The Lord hides the influx from our awareness so that we can continue to feel free. When the natural-rational hears this, it denies it and becomes enraged. It cannot see what is within it (or above it), hence it’s nothing, or nothing of importance to it. But in the light of heaven we can see the spiritual within the concept of “self” and now we no longer call it the self but the as-of self. When we enter heaven we become capable of perceiving the influx (HH 8). The joy and bliss we experience then is immensely increased, and so also the feeling or sensation of freedom.
There is with those who are being led by the Lord a certain inward sight or consciousness in regard to things that are to be done, especially in the act of doing them. This sight is so clear to those who are led by the Lord, that they do not do any least thing unless it is either by the Lord's good pleasure, or by His consent, or by His permission. These are distinct from each other, and the person is also given to see them distinctly, but this fact cannot be understood by anyone except by such a one.
Others, no matter how well the matter is explained, along with all the circumstances, still do not believe it, because they do not understand. For example, even spirits who are quite intelligent still cannot be convinced that it is so. They who know it, and do not want to think from themselves, and are therefore in the way of truth, acquire such a sight. The main reason why others cannot believe this is that they think they would then be deprived entirely of their own free will in doing and thinking what they love, supposing they would thus be as if dead. I said to them, however, that then they are alive, because living from oneself is rather death, because there is nothing of good from what is one's own. Therefore no one should be surprised if someone says he sees what should be done; because this is truth, and it is part of faith. 1748, 20 February. (SE 891)
Another example is the concept of “prayer.” Prior to influx the natural-rational idea is that prayer is a method given to us by God to influence His decisions. If we pray the right way our influence on God’s decision is greater than if otherwise. Christians are taught to end important prayer requests by “in the Name of Jesus Christ we ask it” or an equivalent formula (“I ask in the name of your Son”). Allied with this concept is the concept of how Christ redeemed us by His sacrifice on the Cross. Therefore we need to “invoke” the power of this Redemption by referring to it in our prayer. This is thought to “mollify” the Father who then grants us the prayer request. But when we read the Writings we modify these apparent facts into new facts: The Lord already forgives so there is no need to mollify Him. There is no power in outside rituals or the formulaic expressions we use for prayers. There is no influencing the Lord through prayer since the Lord independently decides on all things by His Laws of the Divine Providence.
These are entirely new facts in the external rational. Now influx can enter these new concepts and enlighten us as to their spiritual meaning. We can see the meaning of “prayer” in heavenly light. There is no power in prayer, no effectiveness, no influence. Prayer is for ourselves, as a method we might need to turn ourselves to the Lord. When we are turned to the Lord already, there is no need for prayer—the angels do not pray in the usual sense.
Practical piety is to act in every work and in every duty from sincerity and right, and from justice and equity, and this because it is commanded by the Lord in the Word; for thus man in his every work looks to heaven and to the Lord, and thus is conjoined with Him. But to act sincerely and rightly, justly and equitably, solely from fear of the law, of the loss of fame or of honor and gain, and to think nothing of the Divine law, of the commandments of the Word, and of the Lord, and yet to pray devoutly in the churches, is external piety; however holy this may appear, it is not piety, but it is either hypocrisy, or something put on derived from habit, or a kind of persuasion from a false belief that Divine worship consists merely in this; for such a man does not look to heaven and to the Lord with the heart, but only with the eyes; the heart looking to self and to the world, and the mouth speaking from the habit of the body only and its memory; by this man is conjoined to the world and not to heaven, and to self and not to the Lord. (AE 325:4)
Another example is the concept of “sin” and “spiritual punishment.” We think about the “sin of Adam and Eve” and the punishment of being banished from Paradise and the end of a heavenly life on earth. There is obscurity in our thinking when we link this idea to the concept of God’s omnipotence and omniscience. We wonder: Why did God ask in the garden: Adam, where are you? Did He not know? Why did God ask Adam what He had done? Did God not know? Why did God allow Adam and Eve to eat of the tree, and then punish them for it? Why did He not prevent them through His omnipotence? And things of this nature that bring obscurity, not clarity. But when we read the Writings with understanding we can clearly see from heavenly light that this is a rational parable for the idea that God allows us to sin and disobey His commandments. The Lord in His omnipotence could withdraw His power so no act could occur—but He doesn’t for the sake of the sinner, that we might retain the feeling of freedom. For without that feeling, we could not be regenerated and prepared for heavenly life (AE 802).
But this shall be illustrated by examples. It is commanded in the Word that man must not commit adultery, must not steal, must not kill, must not bear false witness. It is known that man is able to do all these things of himself, also that he is able to refrain from them because they are sins; and yet he is not able to refrain from them from himself, but only from God; yet when he refrains from them from God he still thinks that he wills to refrain from them because they are sins, and thus he refrains from them as if from himself; and when this is done, then because he calls adultery a sin he lives in chastity and loves chastity, and this as if of himself (AE 802).
In view of these considerations, you can see that physical and mental effort as a way to become spiritual cannot possibly succeed because body and spirit (or mind) are in discrete degrees to each other with no direct contact and they only interact by correspondence (DLW 186). This means that physical effort and mental discipline no matter how much, only grows continuously and cannot break through to the higher levels of the mind where the spiritual is. Only rational content can bring our consciousness to the spiritual. The way to become spiritual is, first of all, to develop external rational powers of analysis and reasoning by studying and understanding the revelations of one’s religion. These are given to all peoples so that they may prepare rational vessels in the mind suitable for their heavenly life. This is called reformation. Second, rearranging one’s daily thoughts and intentions so that they conform to one’s understanding. This is called regeneration. These are the two essential steps given in Western religions—know the Commandments of God and live accordingly. For the New Church mind, the Commandments of God are in the Writings as the Doctrine of the Church and the Doctrine of Life.
Scientifics and knowledges, because they are of the external or natural man, are in the light of the world; but truths, which are become truths of love and faith, and have thus obtained life, are in the light of heaven (n. 5212). Nevertheless the truths, which have thus obtained life, are comprehended by man through natural ideas (n. 5510). Spiritual influx is through the internal man into the scientifics and knowledges which are in the external (n. 1940, 8005). Scientifics and knowledges are the receptacles and as it were the vessels of the truth and good of the internal man (n. 1469, 1496, 3068, 5489, 6004, 6023, 6052, 6071, 6077, 7770, 9922).
Therefore by "vessels" in the Word, in the spiritual sense, are signified scientifics and knowledges (n. 3068, 3069, 3079, 9394, 9544, 9723, 9724). Scientifics are as it were mirrors, in which the truths and goods of the internal man appear, and are perceived as in an image (n. 5201). And there they are together as in their ultimate (n. 5373, 5874, 5886, 5901, 6004, 6023, 6052, 6071, 6077). Scientifics, because they are in the light of the world, are involved and obscure respectively to those things which are in the light of heaven; thus the things which are in the external man respectively to those in the internal (n. 2831).
To the extent that we take up from the Writings suitable scientifics in our external mind, to that extent the Lord opens the rational-spiritual mind from the interior, and then for the first time we become spiritual (DLW 425). The approach is therefore rational, not corporeal. The more we understand rational dualities the more we become spiritual, in proportion to our progress in thinking and willing accordingly. All dualities are unique permanent distinctions that never cease to eternity (DLW 226).The rational depends on concepts of duality to be able to develop. Dualities feed the rational because all things are created into an image of the Lord, and this image is Divine Human. The Lord creates all things through Divine Truth and truth is rational (xx). This is why all things have a rational basis. Becoming rational is therefore the only way to become spiritually sane and in alignment with reality. Without developing the rational mind we cannot become spiritual.
The Rational is predicated solely of the celestial and spiritual Natural (9Q2)
The human commences in the inmost of the rational, AC n. 2106 (AC 2666)
In other words, the sensuous and natural-rational cannot be spiritual since they are below the spiritual-natural. Whatever is below the spiritual-natural is not yet spiritual but merely natural. Without the spiritual-rational in the afterlife one sinks down to the corporeal level, which is the infernal level (AC 6310).
Evils are as it were heavy, and fall of themselves into hell; and so also falsities that are from evil (n. 8279, 8298).(HD 170)
Every concept of nonduality that occurs in the New Church mind must be deconstructed and analyzed to see where the fallacy lies. The more we deconstruct the concepts of our nonduality, the more rational we grow. Dualities represent discrete degrees of creation while forms of nonduality represent destroying the idea of discrete degrees in our mind. The revelations of the Second Coming could not be given prior to the ability of the human race to understand the rationality of discrete degrees (DLW 188). Swedenborg was the first human being to be able to understand it, and thus he could serve as the revelator for humankind. This is why the revelations of the Second Coming are called the Divine Rational of the Divine Human (xx). Hence it is that the level of our mind that receives the truths of the Divine Rational is called the spiritual-rational, and is the beginning of being human (AC 2666). It is also called the interior rational and also the celestial:
The spiritual man is not the interior rational man, but the interior natural. The interior rational man is what is called the celestial man.
What the difference is between the spiritual and the celestial man has already been frequently stated. A man is made spiritual by having the truths in him conjoined with good, that is, the things of faith conjoined with those of charity, and this in his natural. Exterior truths are there first conjoined with good, and afterwards interior truths.
Interior truths are not conjoined with good in any other way than by enlightenment flowing in through the internal man into the external man. From this enlightenment Divine truths are manifest only in a general manner, comparatively as innumerable objects are seen by the eye as one obscure thing without distinction.
 That the spiritual man is relatively in obscurity see AC n. 2708, 2715, 2716, 2718, 2831, 2849, 2935, 2937, 3241, 3246, 3833. It is this spiritual man who is represented by Israel (AC n. 4286). The spiritual man is so called from the fact that the light of heaven, in which is intelligence and wisdom, flows into those things in man which are of the light of the world, and causes the things which are of the light of heaven to be represented in those which are of the light of the world, and thereby to correspond.
For regarded in itself the spiritual is the Divine light itself which is from the Lord, consequently it is the intelligence of truth and the wisdom thence derived. But with the spiritual man this light falls into the things which are of faith in him, and which he believes to be true; whereas with the celestial man it falls into the good of love.
But although these things are clear to those who are in the light of heaven, they are nevertheless obscure to those who are in the light of the world, thus to most people at this day, and possibly so obscure as to be scarcely intelligible; and yet as they are treated of in the internal sense, and are of such a nature, the opening of them is not to be dispensed with; the time is coming when there will be enlightenment. (AC 4402)
What a wonderful announcement by the Lord: “the time is coming when there will be enlightenment.” This is the result of Advent of the Age of Nunc Licet, that is, the new way of thinking and reasoning from rational truths revealed in the Writings of the Second Coming. The Old Testament revelations were given to the external natural mind. The New Testament revelations were given to the interior natural mind, which is called natural-spiritual. This resides in the external rational level of thinking. It makes us into spiritual persons, capable of thinking by means of truths in the New Testament. These truths, in their essence, are spiritual and Divine, revealed by the Lord Himself, by which the human race can become spiritual. But this is only a stepping stone to the final Temple, which is made of the celestial truths in the Writings, not revealed before. These Heavenly Doctrines appear natural or external rational because they are given in a natural language in which the celestial Doctrine is hidden and inaccessible to the natural mind.
The interior rational is the celestial, and the true human. As the passage quoted above says: “Interior truths are not conjoined with good in any other way than by enlightenment flowing in through the internal man into the external man. From this enlightenment Divine truths are manifest only in a general manner, comparatively as innumerable objects are seen by the eye as one obscure thing without distinction.” The Lord enlightens our natural mind when we read and study the truths in the literal language of the Writings. At first, this enlightenment is relatively obscure, but as our regeneration proceeds, it gets more and more interior and clear. The clarity and interiorness of the enlightenment is proportional to our love for the Writings and for the spiritual Doctrine within it.
Chapter 5, Section 3
In the New Church mind nonduality takes a more intellectual form, not corporeal-sensual but above that level which is called the external rational. The external rational is a natural-rational, not yet spiritual-rational. The interior rational of the New Church mind is called the genuine spiritual-rational and its content or source is from the Writings (TCR 1-3). The Writings warn that we must not confuse these two rational levels of willing and thinking, for all thinking is from willing (HH 499). In Genesis we are told that both Abraham and Isaac referred to their wife as “my sister.” This was a ruse to appease the treacherous designs of a predator king who had a reputation of being attracted to women of great beauty. (AC 1495). The meaning of calling one’s wife “sister” is that it stands as a warning to us that we must not consult our external rational ideas in matters of doctrine and faith. Instead, all things genuinely spiritual are given only through interior rational ideas which alone are spiritual and celestial from heaven.
[in the Word] they are called "drunkards" who believe nothing but what they apprehend, and for this reason search into the mysteries of faith. And because this is done by means of sensuous things, either of memory or of philosophy, man being what he is, cannot but fall thereby into errors. For man's thought is merely earthly, corporeal, and material, because it is from earthly, corporeal, and material things, which cling constantly to it, and in which the ideas of his thought are based and terminated.
To think and reason therefore from these concerning Divine things, is to bring oneself into errors and perversions; and it is as impossible to procure faith in this way as for a camel to go through the eye of a needle. The error and insanity from this source are called in the Word "drunkenness.” (AC 1072)
When man is being instructed, there is a progression from memory-knowledges to rational truths; further, to intellectual truths; and finally, to celestial truths, which are here signified by the "wife." If the progression is made from memory knowledges and rational truths to celestial truths without intellectual truths as media, the celestial suffers violence, because there can be no connection of rational truths-which are obtained by means of memory-knowledges-with celestial truths, except by means of intellectual truths, which are the media. (AC 1495)
In this passage the external rational level of thinking is referred to as “a progression from memory-knowledges to rational truths.” Our “memory-knowledges” are the things we know through our physical senses. For instance, we can read the Writings and summarize what we have read, or portions thereof. These memory-knowledges are called natural ideas because they are in the natural mind from the physical senses. When we begin to reason from these memory-knowledges, the level of thinking remains at the natural level, but now it is called “rational truths” because they are from the literal of the Writings. The passage above then says that once these natural-rational truths are acquired, more advanced instruction can be given. This new and higher level of thinking uses “intellectual truths.” These truths are not of a natural origin. Their source is the illustration or enlightenment we are given progressively in proportion to our regeneration. The intellectual truths are within the natural-rational truths, and this is why they are called interior rational, in contrast to the external rational.
We must acquire the natural-rational ideas first. This comes from the regular study of the Writings as a scholarly activity. Note that the Writings include scientific and theological subjects. Both science and theology, when based on the Writings, serve to develop our external rational level of thinking and reasoning. With this level of thinking there is also an associated level of willing, for the two must always operate jointly to be anything. But the external rational level is not for salvation, but only a means to salvation. External rational truths are called “vessels” into which inflow the interior rational ideas when we are enlightened. These intellectual truths cannot inflow into our consciousness until we have undergone reformation in adult life (AE 803; AC 8780; AC 3518:). Until then we remain natural, and our task is to build a solid foundation for our eventual interior rational illumination.
That it may be known how these things stand, something shall be said respecting order. The order is for the celestial to inflow into the spiritual and adapt it to itself; for the spiritual thus to inflow into the rational and adapt it to itself; and for the rational thus to inflow into the memory-knowledge and adapt it to itself. But when a man is being instructed in his earliest childhood, the order is indeed the same, but it appears otherwise, namely, that he advances from memory-knowledges to rational things, from these to spiritual things, and so at last to celestial things. The reason it so appears is that a way must thus be opened to celestial things, which are the inmost.
All instruction is simply an opening of the way; and as the way is opened, or what is the same, as the vessels are opened, there thus flow in, as before said, in their order, rational things that are from celestial spiritual things; into these flow the celestial spiritual things; and into these, celestial things. These celestial and spiritual things are continually presenting themselves, and are also preparing and forming for themselves the vessels which are being opened; which may also be seen from the fact that in themselves the memory-knowledge and rational are dead, and that it is from the inflowing interior life that they seem to be alive. This can become manifest to anyone from the thought, and the faculty of judgment. (AC 1495)
Here we see that only that is spiritual which flows in from heaven. Prior to our reformation it appears to us that we are acquiring spiritual truths when we are studying the Writings. But we are warned not to call these truths “wife” which refers to celestial truths. We must call them “sister” which refers to natural rational truths, not spiritual. Even the Lord had to discover this from interior warning because at first He thought that His study of the Old Testament as a Child was going to lead Him to spiritual truths. But He was instructed from Himself from within that this was not so, and that spiritual things are going to be revealed to Him from within. These spiritual truths could not be revealed to Him without first learning the literal of the Old Testament (AC 1495).
The New Church mind must likewise first acquire external rational truths from the literal of the Writings, realizing that these are not yet spiritual things. The genuine spiritual things will only be revealed later, after reformation in adult life. The basis for the arts and sciences is the influx of spiritual things into the natural concepts and techniques. But the scientists and artists are not conscious of this influx and do not even know of its existence. They just feel inspired and find inventive ideas in themselves. But scientists and artists who are undergoing regeneration experience the illumination from within into the their external ideas from the senses. (AC 1495)
The external rational manufactures things from the physical world as it is turned to it and fed by it through the senses of the body (AC 978, 4286; AE 355:14). If we take up concepts from revelation, examine them with our own intelligence to see if they be genuine truths, we will inevitably and ultimately conclude that they are not (AE 714). ). For trusting self is opposite to trusting the Divine outside of the self. For instance, at the beginning of a new revelation charity is always first and faith second. In other words what makes the religion is charity in the form of faith and never faith as primary to charity. This means that salvation cannot be obtained by developing faith but only by developing charity. Faith cannot regenerate, but only charity does the regeneration through faith.
But in the course of time faith is made primary and charity secondary. This occurs when one’s own intelligence is consulted about whether or not the truths of revelation are genuine and to be believed. This is the activity of our external rational from which we must desist. Instead, we must put on the affirmative for revelation in its literal sense, as it is given through a revelator. Only after the affirmative acceptance is one’s own intelligence to be consulted, not whether it is true, but how it is true. This is called confirming revelation with rational things and is an essential activity for the spiritual to be able to inflow within these rational things.
Some forms of nonduality in the New Church mind stem from the struggle to understand the meaning of unity within the Divine Human. How are we to understand the well known teaching that in the Lord infinite things are one distinctly? (DLW 17; DP 4, 223) How are we to understand that Love and Wisdom (or good and truth) are one in the Lord, proceed as one from the spiritual Sun, but are then separate in creation? How are we to understand that the Father and the Son are one? There is the impression one could form that nonduality exists in the Lord. But this notion is not consistent with the inherent dualities of the Writings. One can avoid nonduality by maintaining focus on the idea of “distinctly one” and not merely “oneness.” The unity of infinite things in the Lord is not an amalgam or potage nor an emptying of dualities. Each thing retains its distinctness in the unity and contributes to the perfection of unity by its unique and permanent quality (LJ 12). The idea of “oneness” is natural because it does not retain the duality of permanent distinctness and uniqueness. But the idea of an integrated unity composed of distinct elements is a spiritual idea.
The concept of infinity in the New Church mind is contrastive to the infinity of “emptiness” in Eastern religions and philosophies. It is also different from the infinity defined by scientists which is imagined to be a property of space or number. Among the many scientific revelations in the Writings is the truth that infinity cannot apply to space or number (AC 1382, TCR 27). The Lord’s infinity and omnipresence is not in physical space, but in the higher discrete degrees that are within physical space (TCR 31).
The New Church mind is surrounded by a context of nonduality in science and culture. The pressures of nonduality come from without and from within. The rational concepts we take up from the Writings are like seeds that grow into beautiful and useful gardens, unless neglected.
The human mind resembles the soil in which spiritual and natural truths are planted like seeds, and they can multiply without limit. (TCR 350)
Proper care of truths is essential for their growth given a psychological environment that is hostile to their development and maturation. Religious disciplines, discussed in Volume 3, afford proper maintenance of truths in our mind. Every truth is capable of being deepened to eternity (AC 5122, 5354). The deeper or more interior the level of understanding of a truth the more perfect is our understanding and the more the Lord can elevate our presence to Him. For closeness to the Lord comes only through truths by which we live:
The presence of the Lord is predicated according to the state of love toward the neighbor and of faith in which the man is. (AC 904)
Rational analysis of concepts is a useful tool for maintaining the care of truths that have been implanted in us. In the New Church mind the Lord implants truths solely through the Writings. Hence the importance of daily study.
Chapter 5, Section 4
In the new dispensation of the Second Coming (the “Crown of Churches”), the idea of salvation by regeneration is far apart from nonduality—as far apart as there is distance between rational spirituality and corporeal spirituality, or between heaven and hell. When the corporeal self or consciousness looks upward, it sees nothing but darkness, despite the fact that the brilliant spiritual Sun is blazingly shining on it (TCR 691). But when the interior rational self or consciousness looks downward (or outward), it sees the sensual-corporeal self in bright light and magnified detail. The revelations of the Writings are like a bright sun that is illuminating sevenfold the reality to our rational understanding. All other writings, past, present, and future, cannot have this illumination, for what is in the Writings is the infinite Word or Divine Wisdom Itself. Such is the perspective given by the Writings on themselves in relation to all others:
A person who lifts up his mind towards God, and acknowledges that all the truth of wisdom comes from Him, and at the same time lives in accordance with order, resembles someone standing on a lofty tower watching a densely populated city below him and seeing what goes on in its streets. But a person who convinces himself that all the truth of wisdom comes from his own natural enlightenment, that is, from himself, resembles someone living in a cellar under that tower, watching the same city through narrow holes; he can see no more than the wall of one house in the city, and study how the bricks in it hold together.
Again, a person who draws wisdom from God is like a bird flying high, spying out everything in the gardens, woods and villages round about, and flying towards things that can be of service. But a person who derives what belongs to wisdom from himself, without believing that this still comes from God, is like a hornet flying close to the ground, and, when it sees a dunghill, flying up to it and taking pleasure in its stench. (TCR 69)
Corporeal spirituality in contemporary Western thinking is the persuasion that the physical body can serve to access absolute truth and divine consciousness. This notion is inherent in nonduality and automatically follows from the idea that there is only one real substance. According to this, consciousness does not need ultimates which are only illusions that vanish and disappear upon illumination. Nonduality cannot be otherwise since it lacks the revelations of the Second Coming which has brought to the human mind a new understanding of reality, namely, that the universe is constructed into discrete degrees that are both successive and simultaneous (DL 184). Nothing can vanish or disappear because successive discrete degrees are also in simultaneous discrete degrees, with the originating degree (called celestial) being in the inmost of the simultaneous degree. The causal degree (called spiritual) is in the middle of simultaneous degree, and the ultimate degree of effects (called natural) is in the outmost of simultaneous degree (DLW 212).
Clearly then nothing can vanish without destroying all and every degree must remain present forever. This is also the meaning of the principle that God rules all “from firsts to lasts” (DLW 304; TCR 63). The natural world thus has the spiritual world within it, and heaven within that. Heaven cannot survive without the natural world, which is why the human race is created on every planet in an ever expanding and never-ending physical world:
THE REPRODUCTION OF THE HUMAN RACE ON EARTH WILL NEVER CEASE
… the human race will continue in existence, and reproduction will not cease. (LJ 6)
In the New Church mind every central fiber of every concept taken in from nonduality runs in an opposing direction to this reality. The forms of discipline and initiation in corporeal spirituality show this. Westerners may benefit from vegetarianism, meditation, Yoga, Tai Chi, etc., as physical or natural (medical) practices, but not as spiritual or religious. These disciplines and practices within nonduality require that they be done as spiritual acts, which is why they are turned into corporeal spirituality when admitted into the New Church mind. Meditation as a spiritual practice based in nonduality is opposed to reflection or self-examination as spiritual practice based on the Writings. In Eastern systems of nonduality, meditation serves to gain divine consciousness and to achieve union with the divine. As Van Dusen puts it:
Going within means turning your attention inward and letting come what may, as in meditation. There is no tradition of danger in this realm from the twenty-six centuries in Hinduism and Buddhism. (…) Why are some Swedenborgians afraid to follow what Swedenborg and countless millions of others did? (…) [In meditation] the Lord is present and gently leads and instructs. (…) Focusing on God within is the primary way to God, enlightenment, or to regeneration the world over.”
(From an article titled “More on Looking Within” which appeared in the April 2002 issue of The Messenger (Swedenborgian Church of North America)
It is not accurate to describe Swedenborg’s spiritual experiences as meditation. Swedenborg refers to what he did as “It pleased the Lord to open my eyes so that I can converse with spirits” etc. (EU 1) By no means can this be equivalent to the meditation done by “countless millions” for the past twenty-six centuries. Meditation is a corporeal practice affording sensuous consciousness (see below) while Swedenborg’s enlightenment was in the realm of rational consciousness. There is no overlap between these two activities and one is as far above the other as rational consciousness (Second Coming) is above sensuous consciousness (First Coming) (see Note 11 at end). Swedenborg’s case is absolutely unique, never duplicated before and never to be duplicated again. The New Church mind is empowered with rational consciousness, but not with sensuous consciousness of the spiritual world as Swedenborg had, that he might author the Writings from direct experience. Meditation only affords corporeal sensuous consciousness, thus neither rational consciousness (which is obtainable only by studying the Writings), nor sensuous consciousness of the spiritual world such as Swedenborg had, which is not obtainable by anyone.
In rational spirituality, reflection and self-examination are self-witnessing activities in the course of one’s daily performances in every small detail of choice and preference (see Note 20 at end). It is a monitoring activity of one’s motives and affections, one’s interpretations and meanings. Its purpose is to assess and evaluate one’s affections and thoughts, whether or not they are in conformity with the teachings of the Writings. Every thought and affection must originate either from heaven or from hell (TCR 115; AC 904). There is no in-between. If an affection or idea originates in hell, we are required to condemn it, and hold it in aversion. This lifelong process of choice and aversion is called regeneration. This is what can save the New Church person, not looking inward to reach cosmic consciousness. Growing closer to the Lord involves rejecting evil affections and persuasions in the course of one’s many daily acts, not the performing of physical rituals of meditation or purification.
It should be known, moreover, that, so long as man is in knowledges only, and not in any life according to them, he is in his proprium and led by self; but, when he is in a life according to them - and to the same extent - he is elevated out of his proprium, and is led by the Lord. This man does not perceive, but still it is so; and so far as man is led by the Lord, so far is there good in him, or good is what he wills and thinks. But it should be thoroughly known, that nobody can live according to the knowledges from the Word, except from them he reflect upon his thoughts, intentions and deeds, that is, examine himself, and abstain from evils and do good as from himself: otherwise, there is no reception by man; and if there is no reception, there is no conjunction with the Lord; therefore, neither can he be led by the Lord. (SE 5945)
Corporeal spirituality is practiced by Christians today. These persuasions are identified in the Writings. One is the idea that the physical act of Baptism (“Holy Water”) or partaking of the Communion Bread and Wine (“Divine substances”) have and bestow spiritual power in and of themselves, rather than being a representative ceremony that rationally contains spiritual and sacred things. This corporeal idea of the Holy Supper instituted by the Lord is similar to the Hindu and Buddhist acts of spiritual “initiation” performed by Masters and “holy men.” This corporeal practice is also present among Orthodox Jews (as was the case with my mother and extended family members), who believe in the healing power of some rabbis on account of their holiness or personal merit with God. Much TV evangelism attracts Christians who want demonstrations of spiritual holiness in the form of healing, miracles, intercessionary prayer, and the excitement of mystery and mass hysteria.
The mystical secrets which many diviners have in vain busied themselves to trace in the Word, lie hidden solely in its spiritual sense. (AC 9280)
The Writings reveal that this type of interest as faith is not genuine and the Lord is not in it despite the claims or expectations. It is injurious to one’s spiritual regeneration to demand sensuous proof of God’s power . The Lord does not allow miracles because they compel faith and close down our rational (AC 7290). The rational is the beginning of the genuine human and the spirituality of the corporeal is ruled by dragons and those who turn themselves into demy-gods (AR 550). It is not a good leadership to follow! Rational consciousness is the way to go. This is what the New Church mind is filled with from the Writings. The proof of faith must be in our understanding, not sensuous apprehension. Our absolute confidence is in it, not from persuasion, not from authority or education, but from life. It is in this life of good that the Lord enters and gives us peace, assuredness, goodness of character, and profundity of vision in every intellectual issue.
The Writings discuss another corporeal idea among Christians. This is the very common persuasion that prayer is more “effective” when we add phrases such as “in the name of Jesus” or “in Christ’s name we ask” etc. “Such a prayer has in it nothing of life from truth and good” (AE 805). It is similar with Bible-based tele-evangelists today who claim to perform miracles and cast out devils by the power of an invocation (e.g., “Get thee behind me Satan” or “By the power of Jesus” etc., and also by the power of laying on of hands attributed to some individuals (“It is a special gift of God”). These are corporeal ideas and practices because they attribute spiritual holiness and power to sensuous rituals and objects. This reduces the spiritual to that which is material, a form of nonduality. It’s a point of view that is opposed to rational spirituality since corporeal spirituality looks downward to the body and nature, while rational spirituality looks upward to heaven. Rational spirituality sees that God cannot transfer His indivisible omnipotent power to anyone:
That the Divine power is infinite, or that it is omnipotence, is there clearly evident from the fact that neither the angels of heaven nor the devils of hell have any power whatever from themselves. If they had any at all heaven would fall to pieces, hell would become a chaos, and with these every man would perish. (AE 1133)
Jews and Christians are waiting for the Messiah to come in one case, and to come back, in the other case. But in the New Church mind there is no waiting for the Messiah because the Lord has made His promised Second Coming in the eighteenth century (TCR 772). The Second Coming was to be made in Spirit and Truth, as promised in the New Testament (John 4:23). It was to be a prelude to the Kingdom of Heaven, of which the Lord that is within us (Luke 17:21). Clearly then the Second Coming was to be effected in the mind, where alone Spirit exists. The spiritual world of heaven and hell are in the mind and nowhere else. Hence the Lord’s Second Coming refers to two sets of events that were to happen, one in the spiritual world and the other here on earth.
The events in the spiritual world are described by the Lord in the Gospels (Matt 24) and by John in Revelations (see all of AR). The events in the natural world are the giving of a new Word for the New Church in the form of the Writings. Therefore when Swedenborg had completed the last Work of the Writings in 1770 titled The True Christian Religion, the following remarkable event happened:
After the completion of this book, the Lord called together His twelve disciples, who had followed Him in the world; and a day later He sent them all forth throughout the spiritual world to preach the Gospel, that the Lord God Jesus Christ is king, and His kingdom shall be for ever and ever, as foretold by Daniel (7:13, 14) and in Revelation (11:15):
Blessed are they who come to the wedding supper of the Lamb Rev. 19:9.
This happened on the nineteenth of June in the year 1770. This was meant by the Lord's saying:
He will send his angels, and they will gather together His chosen people from the bounds of the heavens on one side as far as the bounds of the heavens on the other. Matt. 24:31. (TCR 791)
I was forty-five years old when I first read this passage. How astounding and exhilarating it was to read this. I ran to where my wife was and read it to her. How astounded we both were could hardly be described. A deep joy entered our internal mind and rested there ever since, as a kind of foretaste of the real peace we hope to have in heaven.
No one can see the truth of the Second Coming whose mind is not in a state of rational consciousness, as we are prior to our reformation. Natural and rational consciousness are in discrete degrees from each other:
Man's thought is the receptacle of truth, and his will the receptacle of good; and reception is not possible unless man is conscious of it. (AE 802)
Facts which come from sensory evidence enter a person's consciousness or perception during his earthly life, for they are the basis of his thinking. (AC 991)
Temptations are conflicts with evils and falsities. When a person is victorious in them he is strengthened, for he fights from truths and for truths against falsity and evil. The person is not at the time directly conscious of fighting from truths and for truths because the truths are present on the inner levels of his mind and therefore do not plainly enter his consciousness, which belongs to the outer levels. (AC 8924:2)
Conscience, in its essence, is a consciousness of what is true and right, nos. 986, 8081. (NJHD 139)
There is with those who are being led by the Lord a certain inward sight or consciousness in regard to things that are to be done, especially in the act of doing them. This sight is so clear to those who are led by the Lord, that they do not do any least thing unless it is either by the Lord's good pleasure, or by His consent, or by His permission. These are distinct from each other, and the person is also given to see them distinctly, but this fact cannot be understood by anyone except by such a one. (SE 891)
What is put in front of us commands our consciousness, so when kept in the same idea, or confronted with the same object, all related thoughts cannot but come forward. (SE 1132)
People cannot help thinking that they are aware of their own thoughts, because our inward organs are joined with the outward ones so as to give that effect. In fact, they are joined through continuous connections. Nevertheless, they have a thinking still more subtle than they are normally aware of, and in fact, when one is an inward person, one knows there is something deeper, but knows no more than that.
However, there are inwardly very many things that are understood by angels. But this thinking cannot be described easily, and I would assert that it hardly exists except in those who are led by the Lord. From it, they also know and understand within themselves what must be done, such a sense being given in many matters in different ways. They know at the time that the Lord is doing this. (SE 1307)
Our interior sight, which we think so subtle, is yet so gross, that, as I have often said to spirits, who imagined themselves capable of thinking so acutely as to baffle all attempts to apprehend their thoughts, if they should see what was comprised in a single idea - if its interior could be fully laid open - they would perceive whole cohorts of elephants, and armies, and regiments of serpents, representatively exhibited. This, however, the spirits cannot believe, as they, like many persons on the earth, regard their most acute perceptions as having relation to the most minute things [instead of objects so large]. - 1748, March 23. (SE 1641)
Prior to reformation we know nothing about an interior mind from which we act but are not conscious of. This interior mind is the interior rational level of thinking, also called the rational-spiritual level. When we are still in the unregenerate state the only consciousness we have is that of the natural or sensuous. Though we hear of God, sin, and salvation, we only understand these concepts sensuously or naturally (for examples, see Chapter 5 Section 1).
Prior to the day I found the Writings in our university library I was a Christian waiting for the Lord’s return and the end of this world. I was then in a state of sensuous consciousness regarding spiritual things. I did not see that the Jewish Church I was born into and the Christian Church I adopted in adulthood were in a discrete state of duality in relation to each other. In my mind the two religions seemed like a nonduality. I used to think: Jesus is the King of the Jews. He was circumcised like me. He brought Jehovah to the Gentiles, turning them into Jews. Unfortunately the Jews themselves missed the Divine boat and still do not believe. So the Christians are the inheritors of the religion of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob while the former Jews have been disinherited. Thus the Jewish religion continues with the Christians, with new religious rituals since animal sacrifices are barbaric in a gentler world. This was the sum total of my point of view until finding and reading the Writings. I was also inwardly proud that I was born a Jew, and that I was smart enough to be able to accept the winning side between the old Jews and the new Jews who call themselves Christians.
From hindsight I see how utterly unable I was to conceive of a discrete duality between the Old Testament and the New Testament. The two religions had in fact no overlap. Not one idea from the Christian mind could be transferred to the Jewish mind. My mind had to completely exit from the Old Testament perspective before I could be in the New Testament perspective. I was not aware of this because my understanding and awareness of what is spiritual remained, for awhile, at the level of sensuous consciousness. But in the meantime, to the extent that I was worshipping the Lord in full sincerity of heart, to that extent the Lord was opening my rational-spiritual mind as I was studying the New Testament. Purely spiritual concepts were being created in my mind that was above my clear awareness. For instance in my sensual idea of the Messiah as God’s chosen human to be our intermediary, the Lord introduced from within the rational idea of the Divine Messiah by such statements as “I and the Father are one” or “If you’ve seen Me you’ve seen the Father” or “All power has been given unto Me” etc. I was not conscious of this opening of my rational-spiritual mind.
I became aware of my rational consciousness only when I started reading the Writings and found to my amazement that I agreed with everything. I could not come across a single sentence that I could not simply agree with. This was a unique and first time experience for me. And my awareness of rational consciousness became even more visible to me when I tried to tell others about the Great News of Swedenborg’s Writings. I received nothing but ridicule and denigration that can be summed up in one sentence: How can you be so naïve as to believe whatever this man said centuries ago! It was useless to explain and re-explain with great enthusiasm. I was running up against an intellectual wall of stone that would not budge even slightly. It was then that I became fully aware of the difference between sensual consciousness and rational consciousness.
Sensuous consciousness is perceiving naturally while rational consciousness is perceiving spiritually (HH 464 ). Jews cannot see anything spiritual in the New Testament, seeing the whole thing as a historical plot that has become a modern delusion. Christians take up spiritual ideas from the New Testament but only in obscure light that they call “mystery.” The New Church mind takes up spiritual ideas from the Writings in clear light. This clear spiritual light is the light of rational consciousness. God is inherently rational and creates all things by means of truth. Every physical object is constructed within from the spiritual substance of truth externalizing by degrees outward to form that unique object. Every motion, every order, every principle or law, is constructed out of the rational and has the rational in it.
To love God we must understand Him, and this means rationally understand. No one can love something that is not understood (TCR 7). Hence to love God, to know Him, is to understand and acquire rational concepts in the mind. Into these rational concepts or spiritual truths, God inflows with His Spirit of Love and Truth. Thereby we are conjoined to Him and can receive his greatest blessings: eternal joy in conjugial love in heaven. All those who can receive this must have rational concepts into which they can be received. This is why it is said the human begins with the rational (AR 936).
The human commences in the inmost of the rational, AC n. 2106 (AC 2666)
There may be individuals born into the New Church who have not studied the Writings in a scholarly and intense degree but are relying for their salvation on social membership and worship rituals. They remain in sensuous consciousness in which state they cannot see from themselves that the Writings are the Divine Word. Every New Church mind has to go through a series of developmental steps in attaining rational consciousness. This can be achieved only to the extent that one can take up interior rational truths from the Writings. And this capacity is proportional to the progress of one’s regeneration. This refers to the extent to which we are willing to re-align our daily thoughts and intentions to conform to the our growing understanding of the Writings.
Why does the Lord in His Second Advent appear only in our mind? Why couldn’t He also come to us in Person, in the sky as we look up, just as He promised?
Where the Lord speaks in the presence of His disciples about the ending of the age, meaning the last stage of the church, He says towards the end of the predictions of its successive changes of state:
Immediately after the affliction of those days the sun will be darkened, the moon will not give its light, and the stars will fall from the sky, and the powers of the heavens will be shaken. And then will the sign of the Son of Man appear in the sky, and all the tribes of the earth will wail; and they will see the Son of Man coming in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory. And He will send forth angels with a loud blast of the trumpet, and they will gather His chosen from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other. Matt. 24:29-31. (TCR 198)
To sensuous consciousness the literal meaning of this promise stands in the forefront of the natural mind and one is unable to shake it off. To rational consciousness the wording of this promise stands transparent, revealing its spiritual meaning.
In the spiritual sense this does not mean that the sun and the moon will be darkened, stars will fall from the sky, and the Lord's sign will appear in the skies, and that they will see Him in the clouds accompanied by angels with trumpets. All the expressions here have spiritual meanings referring to the church; and they describe its state at its end. In the spiritual sense the sun, which will be darkened, means love to the Lord. The moon, which will not give its light, means faith in Him.
The stars which will fall from the sky, mean items of knowledge concerning truth and good. The sign of the Son of Man in the sky means the Divine truth given by Him in the Word being made visible. The tribes of the earth, who will wail, means the failure of all truth to do with faith and of all good to do with love. The coming of the Son of Man in the clouds of heaven with power and glory means the Lord's presence and His revelation in the Word. The clouds of heaven mean the literal sense of the Word, the glory the spiritual sense of the Word. The angels with the loud blast of the trumpet mean heaven from which Divine truth comes. Gathering the chosen from the four winds from one end of the heavens to the other means the new heaven and the new church, composed of those who have faith in the Lord and live in accordance with His commandments. (TCR 198)
Only those can have rational consciousness and see the interior spiritual meaning of revelation who read the Writings as the Lord in His Word for the New Church mind. And this only to the extent that they are also willing to change their daily thoughts and intentions to be in alignment with one’s growing understanding of these truths. The mind from rational consciousness can clearly see why the Lord could not also come in the natural sky. First, this would block all development of rational consciousness and force people into a persuasive Christian faith from which they could not recover. Thus would their salvation fail. Sensuous consciousness facing the new spiritual ideas brought by the Lord would trap them in the corporeal mind from which they cannot rise. Those who come into the afterlife in such a mental state are unable to acquire rational spiritual concepts and therewith enter heaven (AC 5128). Heaven is a rational idea available only to rational consciousness such as the angels are in. This is the basic message of the new truths the Lord brings to our mind in the Second Coming.
So the Lord could not come to us in Person in the physical sky without robbing our salvation, which He could not do. Therefore He could only come in the rational mind to our rational consciousness of Him. This is what He meant when He declared to His disciples that He must depart from our sensuous consciousness in the world so that He can then come in our rational consciousness as the Holy Spirit (John 14:16, 16:12). The disciples wanted to hold on to His Body. This is what was real to their consciousness. But the Lord could not agree to that for it would have meant robbing them of rational consciousness, that is, from life in heaven.
The natural mind does not see that the rational is the entry point to the spiritual. Because from the natural mind we can only see as far as the external rational concepts we have built up through intelligence, knowledge, and experience. But the highest possible level of thinking the external rational can attain is a discrete level below the interior rational which is called the spiritual rational (AC 978, 4286; AE 355:14). To know and understand the Lord we must ascend by correspondence to the spiritual-rational degree through the rational concepts we procure for ourselves from the Writings and apply them to our daily willing and thinking. That level of thinking or understanding is called rational consciousness. This phrase that does not occur in the Writings but it is a useful way of discussing what the Writings explain about truths as being in a successive sequence of discrete degrees corresponding to the three heavenly degrees (DLW 67). Celestial truths are at the inmost of spiritual truths and the two together are within external rational truths. These are then discrete degrees of consciousness for the rational mind since our level of thinking is determined by the level of influx into our mind. This in turn is determined by our progress in reformation and regeneration.
The more interior, or higher, the truths we understand and live as our daily willing and thinking, the higher is our rational consciousness. The higher this is the closer we are to the Lord because all truths come from Him and the truths nearer Him give us a closer understanding of Him, hence a closer presence with Him in proportion to our daily willing and thinking in accordance with our understanding. To understand the Lord our concepts must be rational since all concepts about Him that are from Him are rational. The Divine Human’s Rational is within the Divine Human’s Natural, as the spiritual-rational is within the natural in us (AC 3508). What is in the Divine Natural is only spiritual and celestial, while we are mixed and impure in our fallen natural.
You can now see why it is said that the spiritual is another way of saying the rational, meaning, the interior rational. Therefore also why the human in us only starts with the rational level. There is an external rational in the highest portion of the natural mind and there is an interior rational in the spiritual mind (AC 978, 4286; AE 355:14). These two types of rational are in discrete degrees. In the natural mind only the external rational is above the animal level. Everything below that in the natural mind is animal, which is made of the sensuous and corporeal.
This is the reason animals cannot be saved for eternal life (CL 96). The Lord did not create a plane in their natural mind for containing rational truths. This is also why they cannot acquire human language since this has a rational syntax that humans can acquire at the level of thinking called the external rational. Without this organ thinking rational truths is not possible. Eternal life in heaven exists within us within the rational ideas, not below that level of mind. The rational is the entrance point to heaven. Animals appear in heaven to angels and they are real appearances that can be touched, held, and heard. But they are created instantaneously in correspondence to the affections of the angels. As the angels proceed to other affections, the animals no longer appear.
You can see the spiritual power of rational concepts or spiritual truths. When the affections (or loves) of angels are activated, they are conscious in their understanding of the outer form of these affections. These outer forms are called truths. The affections from within, and their truths from without, conjoin into a marriage of good and truth which produces the incomparable and magnificent sensuous environment in heaven. Angels have the power to create any environment through this internal marriage within their mind. They do not call this their own power, but the Lord’s power operating within their rational truths.
Nonduality is opposed to duality, and since duality is part of the rational-spiritual, no concept from nonduality can rise in the New Church mind to its rational or spiritual level. This applies to the New Church mind that is composed of only concepts of dualism from the Writings. The Writings gives us only dualist concepts. It is clear then that nonduality would act in the New Church mind like extra heavy ballast inside a balloon cage—it will never rise, or if it’s already afloat, the weight will pull it downward until it hits bottom. The bottom of the mind is corporeal consciousness. Duality on the other hand has rational buoyancy and elevates consciousness by successive discrete degrees all the way to the highest point called celestial-rational consciousness. This is the understanding and power of angels.
Concepts of duality reveal the Lord while nonduality clouds the vision. Duality sharpens distinctions and reveals how infinite distinct things make one perfection in the Lord. Sensuous consciousness is dark or empty with respect to rationality. Rational consciousness is the light the Lord talks about in so many places (Luke 11:33-34, DP 166). The only source for this light is the Heavenly Doctrine given to humankind as the Writings of Swedenborg.
Even those who acclaim the Writings as Divine revelation can falter in their ideas when relying on sensuous consciousness for access to the Lord. An example is the case of Warren Felt Evans, a well known and influential Swedenborgian (1817-1889). According to a review by Jim Lawrence in The Messenger (June 2002), Evans defined for himself a new relationship with God that is based on sensuous consciousness rather than the dualities in Writings. He accepted these dualities but not, it seems, at an interior rational level. This he reserved for sensuous consciousness, as shown by his journal entries of how he attained “mystical” union with God. Evans wrote:
At times my soul has had a clearer sense of the Allness of God than I ever before experienced. One night on my bed my soul lost itself in the All. It seemed to me that there was nothing but God; that he was the life, the support, the substance of everything which exists … This inward consciousness of God, this living and moving in the Divine element had made all times and places alike.
I have recently enjoyed a deeper consciousness of the love of God … then I ever before reached. … My growth in the spiritual life has gone forward by new manifestations of God to my consciousness. … Long have I found God so near to me that I could not move without moving in Him. I am floating in the depths of the ocean of the Infinite Life…
(Jim Lawrence, “Warren Felt Evans and His Swedenborgian Healing Practice” The Messenger June 2002 page 91)
Note that the New Church mind based solely on the Writings could be not be looking for sensuous contact with the Lord. Getting closer and closer to the Lord is a gradual process of acquiring more and more interior truths from the Writings, and daily willing and thinking in accordance with them. There is no contact with the Lord apart from these interior-rational truths (AC 10199). Evans went on to develop a healing science similar to Christian Science, animal magnetism, and other forms of new age spirituality, which is discussed in Chapter 3, Section 5. This only proves my point, that sensuous consciousness leads away from the spiritual when it is made to lead rather than obey the rational.
Heaven’s sensuous exterior is produced by interior-rational truths in the understanding of angels. One cannot attain heaven by entering from without, as if it were a natural place. The New Church mind can enter heaven only through the interior-rational truths from the Writings. Once we have these, then we can experience the sensuous closeness to the Lord of being near the spiritual Sun. This is conjunction with the Lord, not through our experience, but through the interior-truths in our understanding. The New Church mind obtains these interior truths by studying the Writings, taking up rational dualities as Doctrine of Life, and willing and thinking accordingly.
The only protection for the New Church mind against fallacies based on sensuous consciousness is the commandment that we all our Doctrine must be confirmed by the Writings (TCR 225). We cannot go off on our own and rely on exploration and experiencing. The Lord forbids us to do this because it leads to confirmation of self-intelligence as against the Lord, and this is perdition (AC 8869, 8941). Every single belief or attitude in the New Church mind must be confirmed by the literal of the Writings. As in the case above with Evans: his mind was filled with the idea that what he was experiencing sensuously in experience was contact with God, and so he made a doctrine of it, that led to him to further beliefs about healing power and spirituality. None of this can be confirmed by the literal of the Writings. Hence it is not from the Writings, and therefore it has no place in the New Church mind.
Chapter 5, Section 5
Deconstructing the connection between the Writings and all other sources is a useful intellectual exercise for strengthening the New Church mind. It guards against building bridges to other systems on the basis of superficial impressions of similarity. The desire to evangelize or share the Writings does not require the commingling of ideas. The desire for pluralism and tolerance of diversity does not require that one accommodate to the spiritual principles of others. It is not uncharitable to identify for oneself where precisely lies some incompatible idea in relation to the Writings. Ideas of religion and belief that are harmful to the New Church mind may not be harmful to others. This is not a judgment we need to make, or want to. The Writings explain that nondualities of religion that are not confirmed by an evil life do not condemn, and that people who hold them in this life can be instructed in the truths of the Writings in the afterlife:
Evils, which are of the will, are what condemn man and thrust him down to hell, and not so much falsities, unless they become conjoined with evils, for then the one follows the other. The truth of this statement may be seen from the case of very many of those who are in falsities, and are yet saved, which is the case with many among the Gentiles, who have lived in natural charity and in mercy, and with Christians who have believed in simplicity of heart. Their ignorance and simplicity excuse them, because in these there can be innocence. But it is otherwise with those who have confirmed themselves in falsities, and have thus contracted such a life of falsity that they refuse and reject all truth; for this life of falsity must be vastated before anything of truth and thus of good can be inseminated. It is, however, still worse with those who have confirmed themselves in falsities under the influence of their cupidities, so that the falsities and the cupidities have come to constitute one life; for these are they who plunge themselves into hell. (AC 845)
In like manner by this "multitude" are signified they who are of the church, but not within it, as is the case with the Gentiles who live together in obedience and mutual charity and have not genuine truths, because they have not the Word. (AC 7975)
Note in the above passage that the Lord considers people of all religions as being “of the Church” but only those who have the Writings can conform to the New Church mind. When believers of all religions arrive in the afterlife they are instructed in genuine spiritual truths about the Lord, heaven, and hell. The angels and angelic spirits instruct every new arrival regarding the spiritual truths of the Divine Human, which means, the spiritual truths the Lord has revealed about Himself in the Writings. When Swedenborg published the last book of the Writings in 1771 called The True Christian Religion (TCR), the Lord gathered together the twelve disciples that had followed Him in His First Coming (TCR 791). He then sent them out to the far reaches of the spiritual world, with a copy of True Christian Religion in their hand, and they went forth to preach the New Word of the Second Coming. In this way, the entire spiritual world was instructed regarding the new revelations of the Divine Human. Thus are also instructed all those who arrive in the spiritual world today.
The New Church mind needs to consciously figure out why the ideas from the Writings are incompatible with the ideas of nonduality, whether in Hindu, Buddhist, or Western contexts. The Writings assert that here is no continuity between truths and falsities (AC 9128). There are no half-truths. When we encounter the idea of “God” or “enlightenment” in nonduality we need to see that these words are not used in the way they are in the Writings. The old Christian Church is obviously closer to the New Church than Hinduism, and yet the Writings tell us that the Old Christian Church and the New Church are discretely apart. The doctrines of the Old Christian Church, started by the Lord at His First Coming, cannot be imported into the revelations of the Lord at His Second Coming. The New Church ideas of Trinity, sin, forgiveness, regeneration, heaven, hell, and so on, are not accepted by the Old Christian doctrines (AE 805, NJHD 172, AC 3398). This rejection is provided by the Lord for their protection so that the new revelations would not be profaned by them.(see also AR 839, 618).
Salvation is not effected by looking to the Father, that is, by praying to Him that He may have mercy for the sake of the Son; for the Lord says, "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life: no one cometh to the Father, but by Me" (John xiv. 6) … (NJHD 310)
And yet all those who lead a life of conscience and do not confirm in themselves the falsities of doctrine, can be instructed in the afterlife and saved (AC 716, 2490, 2600, 2759; HH 2, 321; SE 3537).
It is the same with the nonduality of Eastern religions. While nonduality induces in the New Church mind a resistance to regeneration, this may not be the case for others. Nonduality may not be hurtful to their salvation as it is to ours. We can profane things that they cannot since they are not willing to acknowledge the dualism of the Writings that we acknowledge. We can certainly assume that the Lord allowed the development of nonduality among the Gentiles of Asiatic peoples because first, it does not harm them, and second, it may help them (CL 340). But these same ideas can be harmful to the New Church if incorporated and made to fit with the dualism of the Writings. It might be a good intellectual exercise for every New Church person to go through the process of proving from the Writings that not a single nondualist concept can exist in the Writings. This will be discussed further in the subsequent sections.
One example discussed in the Writings is the identity of Personhood between Jehovah and Jesus, this being the cornerstone of the New Church (AR 915). While the Old Christian idea is “Two Divine Persons From Eternity in One Godhead,” the New Church idea is “One Divine Person From Eternity in Two Aspects”—one aspect being Father/Essence/Love and the second: Son/Existere/Truth. This oneness between Father and Son is not a nonduality but a unity of two distinct and permanent aspects belonging to the one and only Lord, eternally the same. The dividing of the Lord into two Persons is not from the Word but from the council of bishops, and taught to every generation since by Church doctrine.
Chapter 5, Section 6
In our natural mind we can think of faith at two levels: the external rational level (upper portions) or the sensuous-corporeal level (lowest portions) (AC 6310). The ideas we have about faith at the lowest level is called “persuasive faith.” This level of thinking about faith extinguishes true faith and salvation which depend on free choices from one’s understanding. Persuasive faith takes away this internal freedom:
AC 2682 Persuasive light ... is of such a nature as to illuminate falsities equally as well as truths, and to induce a belief in falsity by means of truths, and a belief in truth by means of falsities, and at the same time trust in themselves.
AC 9368 They who are in Persuasive Faith abandon faith, if they are deprived of honors and gains, provided their reputation is not endangered; for Persuasive Faith is not within the man, but stands outside, in the memory only, out of which it is drawn while it is being taught. And therefore after death this faith vanishes, together with its truths; for then only that much of faith remains which is within the man; that is, which has been rooted in good; thus has been made of the life.
AE 548 By the power of hurting like scorpions is signified the persuasive [power], which is of such a nature, as to take away from the understanding the light of truth, and bring on infernal darkness.
AE 579 With those who conjoin the truths of the Word to the affection of the love of self, the natural mind also is closed, and only the ultimate of this mind is opened, which is called the sensual, which clings most closely to the body, and stands forth nearest to the world. Thus does man's spirit become corporeal, and then it can have no lot with the angels, who are spiritual.
AC 305 To be "cast out of the garden of Eden" is to be deprived of all intelligence and wisdom; and to "till the ground from which he was taken" is to become corporeal, as he was previous to regeneration.
AR 462 Those who have confirmed with themselves untruths of religion derived from self-intelligence … do not admit them more closely into their thought than to mere contact, and then out of an interior recess of their mind they emit as it were a fire that consumes them, the other knowing nothing of this except by the indications of the facial expression and tone in reply, if the enchanter does not control that fire, that is, the wrath of his pride, by simulation. This enchantment is practiced at the present day to prevent truths' being accepted, and, with many, to prevent their being understood.
TCR 759 Falsity cannot see truth, but truth can see falsity; and everyone is so made that he can see and grasp truth on hearing it. But if he has convinced himself of false doctrines, he cannot bring truth into his understanding so as to lodge there, since it finds no room; and if by chance it does get in, the crowd of falsities gathered together there throw it out as not belonging.
AE 1114 The worldly and corporeal man does not see God except from space, thus as the whole inmost in the universe or in nature, consequently as extended. But God must not be regarded from space, for in the spiritual world there is no space; space there is an appearance from something like it.
In the New Church mind nonduality in any form acts as persuasive faith because it springs from sensuous consciousness, not from rational consciousness, and only rational faith can be true and saving for the New Church mind. Therefore admitting into ourselves concepts from nonduality corrupts the rationality of the Writings in our mind. It may be argued that there can be no harm in merely reading the literature and pointing to “similarities” between Swedenborg and this or that author, or between ideas from the Writings and this or that philosophy or religion. But it is taught that there cannot be a similarity in generals when there are no similarities in specifics since the specifics (or particulars) make up and constitute the generals (AC 4345). If such similarities are perceived, they are not real but superficial due to the common use of certain words in the language.
There are two types of falsities or apparent truths—those that have genuine truths hidden within and those that do not (AC 845; SS 95). What kind are we dealing with in regard to concepts based in nonduality? Nonduality is opposed to the dualities of the Writings in a general way, as shown above, and therefore they must be opposed also in all their specific ways. Therefore it is not possible for any concept from nonduality to be actually similar or compatible with any concept from the Writings.
And if they are singly incompatible, they are opposed. Holding opposing concepts in one’s mind inevitably results in the destruction of truth and order. Clearly then, nondualist concepts tend to become impediments to one’s continued regeneration. This is a very serious matter about which we ought to be very prudent. Here are clear teachings from the Writings regarding the impediments to regeneration that we must avoid:
NJHD 21 Care ought to be taken lest falsities of religion be confirmed; because there arises thence a persuasion of the false, which remains with man after death, nos. 845, 8780. How pernicious the persuasion of the false is, nos. 794, 806, 5096, 7686.
AC 794 Falsities are principles and persuasions of what is false. (…) Persuasions immensely increase when men mingle truths with cupidities, or make them favor the loves of self and of the world; for then in a thousand ways they pervert them and force them into agreement. For who that has imbibed or framed for himself a false principle does not confirm it by much that he has learned; and even from the Word? Is there any heresy that does not thus lay hold of things to confirm it? and even force, and in diverse ways explain and distort, things that are not in agreement, so that they may not disagree?
AC 806 A persuasion of falsity extinguishes and as it were suffocates everything spiritual and celestial; as everyone may know from much experience, if he pays attention. They who have once conceived opinions, though most false, cling to them so obstinately that they are not even willing to hear anything that is contrary to them; so that they never suffer themselves to be informed, even if the truth be placed before their eyes. Still more is this the case when they worship the false opinion from a notion of its sanctity. Such are they who spurn every truth, and that which they admit they pervert, and thus immerse in fantasies.
AC 794 Nothing therefore is of more importance to a man than to know what is true. When he knows what is true, and knows it so well that it cannot be perverted, then it cannot be so much immersed in cupidities and have such deadly effect. What should a man have more at heart than his life to eternity? If in the life of the body he destroys his soul, does he not destroy it to eternity?
AC 5096 They who have confirmed themselves in falsity are no longer in any freedom to choose and receive truth; and they who have much confirmed themselves therein are not even in freedom to see truth, still less to acknowledge and believe it; for they are in the persuasion that falsity is truth, and truth falsity. This persuasion is such that it takes away all freedom to think anything else, and consequently holds the very thought in bonds and as it were in prison. This has become evident to me from much experience with those in the other life who have been in persuasion of falsity through confirmations in themselves.
How are we to know if we hear of a new concept whether it is compatible to the New Church mind? This is discussed below.
Chapter 5, Section 7
One who knows nothing about discrete degrees, that is, degrees of height, can know nothing about the state of man as regards his reformation and regeneration, which are effected through the reception of love and wisdom of the Lord, and then through the opening of the interior degrees of his mind in their order. Nor can he know anything about influx from the Lord through the heavens nor anything about the order into which he was created. For if anyone thinks about these, not from discrete degrees or degrees of height but from continuous degrees or degrees of breadth, he is not able to perceive anything about them from causes, but only from effects; and to see from effects only is to see from fallacies, from which come errors, one after another; and these may be so multiplied by inductions that at length enormous falsities are called truths. (DLW 187)
The Doctrine of Degrees is the fundamental scientific explanation of how things are created in the universe. Every thing that comes into existence is formed by a prior thing. This formation process is accomplished by the mechanism of successive discrete degrees:
In a word, they are degrees of the formation of one thing from another; thus they are the degrees from first or highest to last or lowest, where formation subsists. Therefore things prior and posterior, also things higher and lower, are such degrees. All creation was effected through such degrees, and all production is by means of them, and likewise all composition in the nature that belongs to this world; for in analyzing anything that is composite you will see that one thing therein is from another, even to the very last, which is the general of them all. (D. Love 11)
The form of reality and how it is maintained in order by God cannot be understood in a rational way without making conceptual use of the Doctrine of Degrees (DLW 184-187). This is a scientific explanation of the structure or form of reality, of creation, and its Divine management. This doctrine is a revelation of the Second Coming in the Writings of Swedenborg. Nothing about the natural and spiritual worlds can be understood without a knowledge of the doctrine of discrete degrees:
A knowledge of degrees is like a key for opening the causes of things, and for entering into them. Without that knowledge, scarcely anything of cause can be known. For without it, the objects and subjects of both worlds appear so simple as though there were nothing in them beyond that which meets the eye, when yet the things that appear are as one to thousands, indeed, to myriads, compared with the things which lie hidden within. The interiors which do not lie open can by no means be disclosed except by a knowledge of degrees. (DLW 184)
The doctrine of successive and simultaneous degrees is not found anywhere in the known intellectual history of humankind (DLW 201). This knowledge could not have been understood by the human mind before it was revealed in the Writings. Nonduality is unaware of it in both Eastern and Western versions today. The Doctrine of Degrees gives a fully rational accounting of dualism, from which one can see and prove in what specific ways nonduality is opposed in a fundamental way to the truths of the Heavenly Doctrines.
The declarations of angels on this subject are as follows: There is nothing so infinitesimal, they say, as not to have in it degrees of both kinds. Not the least constituent in any animal, for example, not the least constituent in any plant, nor the least constituent in any mineral, and not the least constituent in the ether and air. Moreover, because the ether and air are vehicles of heat and light, there is not the least constituent of these that does not have in it degrees of both kinds; and because spiritual heat and spiritual light are vehicles of love and wisdom, there is not the least constituent of these either that does not have in it both such degrees.
 I have it from the declarations of angels also that the least element of affection, and the least element of thought-indeed, the least element of any idea in the thought-consists of degrees of both kinds, and that any least element which does not consist of these does not actually exist. For it has no form, thus no quality, neither any state which can be changed and varied and so come into being. (AC 223)
The Doctrine of Degrees teaches the idea that each item (or thing) that comes into existence is the effect of a prior cause acting on it through the laws of correspondence. This is called successive degrees. No one before Swedenborg has known that the “great chain of being” consists of continuous and discrete degrees (D. Love 11). Philosophers and scientists were able to think only of continuous degrees. Even in theology, the notion of a spiritual substance was thought of as similar to matter, as we can see from how hell and purgatory was portrayed by painters, poets, writers, and story tellers of the past and those in the movies and novels of the present. The existence of discrete degrees is still not recognized in science today, which remains opposed to dualism. Science remains stubbornly entrapped in materialistic monism despite the revelations in the Writings. The idea of discrete degrees is a new scientific and philosophical revelation and to understand it rationally, requires knowing about correspondences and taking them as real.
Only he who knows how degrees are related to Divine order can comprehend how the heavens are distinct, or even what is meant by the internal and the external man. Most men in the world have no other idea of what is interior and what is exterior, or of what is higher and what is lower, than as something continuous, or coherent by continuity, from purer to grosser. But the relation of what is interior to what is exterior is discrete, not continuous. Degrees are of two kinds, those that are continuous and those that are not. Continuous degrees are related like the degrees of the waning of a light from its bright blaze to darkness, or like the degrees of the decrease of vision from objects in the light to those in the shade, or like degrees of purity in the atmosphere from bottom to top. These degrees are determined by distance.
 On the other hand, degrees that are not continuous, but discrete, are distinguished like prior and posterior, like cause and effect, and like what produces and what is produced. Whoever looks into the matter will see that in each thing and all things in the whole world, whatever they are, there are such degrees of producing and compounding, that is, from one a second, and from that a third, and so on.
 Until one has acquired for himself a perception of these degrees he cannot possibly understand the differences between the heavens, nor between the interior and exterior faculties of man, nor the differences between the spiritual world and the natural world, nor between the spirit of man and his body. So neither can he understand the nature and source of correspondences and representations, or the nature of influx. Sensual men do not apprehend these differences, for they make increase and decrease, even according to these degrees, to be continuous, and are therefore unable to conceive of what is spiritual otherwise than as a purer natural. And in consequence they remain outside of and a great way off from intelligence.#
# Things interior and things exterior are not continuous but distinct and discrete according to degrees, and each degree has its bounds …
One thing is formed from another, and the things so formed are not continuously purer and grosser …
Until the difference between what is interior and what is exterior according to such degrees is perceived, neither the internal and external man nor the interior and exterior heavens can be clearly understood …
It’s possible to “know about correspondences” and even apply them to interpret passages of the Word, dreams, poetry, lyrics, art, even natural scenes and events. This way of looking at correspondences is secular and natural, not rational or intellectual. The Writings reveal that there are three levels of rational conscious thinking in humans:
Memory-knowledges [scientific] are of three kinds: intellectual, rational, and sensuous. … These memory-knowledges which are from things of sense come to man's sensation or perception when he lives in the body, for he thinks from them. The rest, which are interior, do not come so much to perception until man puts off the body and enters the other life.
I will make man and beast to fail; I will make the fowls of the heavens and the fishes of the sea to fail (Zeph. 1:3),
where the "fowls of the heavens" denote things of reason, and the "fishes of the sea" lower rational things, that is, man's thought from sensuous memory-knowledges.
The interior can perceive what takes place in the exterior, or what is the same, that the higher can see what is in the lower; but not the reverse. … Still more can those do this who have perception, as perception is more interior in the rational. What then could not the Lord do, who had Divine celestial perception, and thought from the affection of intellectual truth, which is above the rational! (AC 1914)
The subject here treated of is the doctrine of faith, concerning which the Lord thought in His childhood, namely, whether it was allowable to enter into it by means of rational things, and thus form for one's self ideas concerning it. His so thinking came from His love and consideration for the human race, who are such as not to believe what they do not comprehend in a rational manner. But He perceived from the Divine that this ought not to be done; and He therefore revealed the doctrine to Himself from the Divine, and thereby at the same time all things in the universe that are subordinate, namely, all things of the rational and of the natural. (AC 2588)
"Grapes in the wilderness" denote rational good not yet made spiritual; the "first-ripe in the fig tree" denotes natural good in like manner; "Israel" denotes the ancient spiritual church in its beginning (AC 5117)
There are in man derivations from the intellectual part, which is in the light of heaven, down to the sensuous, which is in the light of the world; unless this were so, the sensuous could not have any human life. The sensuous of man has no life in consequence of seeing from the light of the world, for the light of the world has no life in it; but in consequence of seeing from the light of heaven, for this light has life in it. When this light falls with man into those things which are from the light of the world, it vivifies them and causes him to see objects intellectually, thus as a man; and from this, by knowledges born from things he has seen and heard in the world, thus from things that have entered through the senses, man has intelligence and wisdom, and from these has civil, moral, and spiritual life. (AC 5114: 2)
From these passages one can gain an understanding of the difference between the two rational levels of thinking in human beings. This is a fundamental duality that must be recognized in psychology and physics if we are to think as scientists beyond the barrier of appearances.
But this is only the first part of the Doctrine of Degrees, namely the successive causation of things or events through discrete degrees, from God (or First) to the ultimates of the physical world and nature (last). The second part is even more astonishing, namely, that once brought into existence, an item or process is kept in existence by successive influx. If this should cease for a moment, the item would cease to be anything and dissipate from existence. Subsistence, that is, continued existence, is achieved through successive re-creation of the item by means of influx through successive discrete degrees that are present as simultaneous degrees.
The third part is even more astonishing than that, namely, that in the sequence of successive discrete degrees each prior degree remains in the item as the degrees succeed one after another (DLW 217). The first or earliest cause (closest to the spiritual Sun) remains in the inmost of the item’s structure. Then the next successive discrete degree remains the middle position of the item, and the last successive degree is in the outmost of the item (which is natural). Consider for instance a stone and the atoms, energy, and space it is made of (these belong to its ultimate discrete degree). The physical part of the object is known to be distributed on continuous scales such as size, atomic weight, specific gravity, sub-atomic composition, etc. This is the outmost discrete degree of the created object. No matter how much we study and know about this outmost degree it will never be able to reveal its “within” which refers to the middle discrete degree it contains.
The outmost degree of the object is called the natural degree, the middle degree is called spiritual, and the inmost degree is called celestial. The existence of the spiritual and celestial degrees within every natural object was not known until revealed in the Writings. Dr. Ian Thompson, a physics professor at the University of Surrey (England) and a long time scholar of the Writings, has discussed how discrete degrees may be introduced into contemporary physics (see Note 12 at end).
Clearly then, every thing that exists is brought into existence by continuous non-stop influx of successive discrete degrees, and is kept in existence by simultaneous discrete degrees. The Writings reveal that thoughts and feelings are states of spiritual substances that are fiber like and are laced together in intricate patterns and structures that develop and evolve to eternity (AC 4803, 6648, 5354). These fibers and structures are indestructible and permanent because sustained that way by God.. They are the human individual itself.
For more discussion on discrete degrees see Volume 1 Chapter 7, Section 1.
Chapter 5, Section 8
The purpose of marriage is to achieve the conjugial union. A summary of this relationship is listed in this outline:
(1) Each sex has implanted in it from creation a capacity and inclination that gives them the ability and the will to be joined together as though into one.
(2) Conjugial love joins two souls and thus two minds into one.
(3) A wife's will unites itself with her husband's understanding, and the husband's understanding in consequence unites itself with his wife's will.
(4) A desire to unite her husband to her is constant and continual in a wife, but inconstant and intermittent in a husband.
(5) A wife inspires the union in her husband according to her love, and a husband receives it according to his wisdom.
(6) This union takes place gradually from the first days of marriage, and in people who are in a state of truly conjugial love, it becomes deeper and deeper to eternity.
(7) A wife's union with her husband's intellectual wisdom takes place inwardly, but with his moral wisdom outwardly.
(8) In order that this union may be achieved, a wife is given a perception of her husband's affections, and also the highest prudence in knowing how to moderate them.
(9) Wives keep this perception in them hidden and conceal it from their husbands for reasons that are necessary in building conjugial love, friendship and trust, so that they may have bliss in living together and happiness of life.
(10) This perception is a wisdom that the wife has. A man is not capable of it, neither is a wife capable of her husband's intellectual wisdom.
(11) A wife from her love continually thinks about her husband's disposition towards her, with a view to joining him to her. This is not true of a husband.
(12) A wife joins herself to her husband by appeals to his will's desires.
(13) A wife is joined to her husband by the atmosphere of her life emanating from her love.
(14) A wife is joined to her husband by her assimilation of the powers of his manhood, though this depends on the spiritual love they have for each other.
(15) A wife thus receives into herself an image of her husband, and from it perceives, sees and feels his affections.
(16) A husband has duties appropriate to him, and a wife duties appropriate to her, and a wife cannot enter into duties appropriate to her husband or a husband into duties appropriate to his wife and perform them properly.
(17) These duties also join the two into one, and at the same time make a single household, depending on the assistance they render each other.
(18) According as the aforementioned conjunctions are formed, married partners become more and more one person.
(19) Partners who are in a state of truly conjugial love feel themselves to be a united person and as though one flesh.
(20) Truly conjugial love regarded in itself is a union of souls, a conjunction of minds, an effort to conjunction in breasts, and a consequent effort to conjunction in body.
(21) The states produced by this love are innocence, peace, tranquility, inmost friendship, complete trust, and a mutual desire in mind and heart to do the other every good; also, as a result of all these, bliss, felicity, delight, pleasure, and, owing to an eternal enjoyment of states like this, the happiness of heaven.
(22) These blessings are not at all possible except in a marriage of one man with one wife.
Explanation of these statements now follows.
Consider the differences that are revealed here between husband and wife. For example: “(3) A wife's will unites itself with her husband's understanding, and the husband's understanding in consequence unites itself with his wife's will.” Clearly the man and the woman bring complementary portions to the “united person.” What does it mean that the “husband's understanding in consequence unites itself with his wife's will”? First, note that the wife assumes the primary or initiating role by uniting her will to his understanding. After that, the man unites his understanding with the wife’s will. How does he do this? When the will and the understanding are united, the will is the all in all in the understanding (AC 8882). The will shapes and forms the understanding which it unites to itself. The man’s understanding therefore is shaped and formed by the wife’s will, so much so that the man’s understanding is nothing but the form of his wife’s will. Clearly the man cannot retain an understanding of his own independent making, for this understanding cannot be united to the wife’s will. Only that portion remains in the man’s understanding which is capable of being united to the wife’s will. In practice this works out that the husband has to learn to love acting from the wife’s will more than from his own will. (For more explanation on this principle see Chapter 9, Section 1).
Consider two other items in the list above: “(4) A desire to unite her husband to her is constant and continual in a wife, but inconstant and intermittent in a husband. (5) A wife inspires the union in her husband according to her love, and a husband receives it according to his wisdom.” Again it is clear that the wife is primary and initiates the conjoining process. The creation of the united person (or conjoint self) progresses from the wife’s love by means of the husband’s wisdom. The higher his intelligence, the more closely her love binds them together. If the husband’s wisdom is lacking, the wife cannot effect the union from her love. The husband’s wisdom is proportional to his regeneration. You can see that progress in forming the internal union depends on the husband since the wife’s love in forming it is constant, but the husband’s wisdom is not, because his love is not constant. Only progress in regeneration can the man’s love become steady, consequently his wisdom.
Now consider these items: “(8) In order that this union may be achieved, a wife is given a perception of her husband's affections, and also the highest prudence in knowing how to moderate them. (9) Wives keep this perception in them hidden and conceal it from their husbands for reasons that are necessary in building conjugial love, friendship and trust, so that they may have bliss in living together and happiness of life. (10) This perception is a wisdom that the wife has. A man is not capable of it, neither is a wife capable of her husband's intellectual wisdom.”
The wife receives from the Lord a special ability to perceive her husband’s inner states of affection. He himself does not have this perception of her or of himself. It makes sense therefore that in the united person the wife occupies a primary role since her motive is constant, and since she initiates conjunction and perceives her husband’s inner states, whether in favor or against conjunction, given that his love for it is variable and not constant like hers. Thus it behooves the husband to recognize his wife’s primary role and to honor it and cooperate with it: “(15) A wife thus receives into herself an image of her husband, and from it perceives, sees and feels his affections.”
There are two states of marriage, one external the other internal. We start by learning to form the external marriage with the spouse. When we undergo reformation, we begin striving for the internal marriage union. This proceeds till the end of life in accordance with progress in our regeneration. Some New Church marriages never go to the second phase of internal union. Just because one is born into the New Church doesn’t mean that we are saved, for salvation is only through regeneration. Today, and for many more generations to come, New Church people are born with similar inheritance as others. In addition they are raised and enculturated in the same social environment. Therefore when New Church marriages are contracted the husband isn’t ordinarily reformed yet. This occurs only in adult life after the merely received religion becomes one’s own through daily study of the Writings, and then only to the extent that one is willing and thinking according to one’s understanding of it.
You can see that marriage for New Church couples is going to start in the external phase. One cannot jump directly into the internal phase. Nor is it a sure thing that just because a husband is studious and knowledgeable about his faith and the Church that therefore he will advance from the external marriage to the internal union. This advance is taken by steps and unless he goes through these steps there is no discrete beginning for the internal union. It’s important therefore to know what are steps so that husbands may consciously cooperate with the Lord in the reformation, regeneration, and progress towards conjugial union.
In the state of the external marriage, the husband has to struggle with male prerogatives that impede progress towards internal union. Male prerogatives are rights that a man claims for himself that are given to him by religion and culture. For example, culture gives a man precedence over women in many things, if not all. Men rule over women in many ways, and this is fully sanctioned by social custom and norms. Women are treated by men as weaker, less intelligent, less rational, less capable, more fickle, and so on. Women are forced to do menial domestic jobs and if they complain or refuse they are pegged and discriminated against by family and society. Men systematically discount the opinion of women in comparison to their own. Men interrupt women when they talk, or refuse to listen to topics raised by women. Men abuse women and take advantage of their goodness and weakness. Women are more responsible in relationships but are abused by their husbands and boyfriends. Women are discouraged in many ways from achieving equality with men in opportunity, salary, recognition. And many such things. In the external phase of the marriage, husbands practice these discriminations yet deny that they practice them. Thus the women are unhappy, unfulfilled, made to be confused, kept down. It’s a man’s world, and it’s hostile to women.
XII. THAT OF THE EXTERNAL CAUSES OF COLD, THE THIRD IS RIVALRY FOR SUPREMACY BETWEEN THE PARTNERS. The reason is because, among its principal objects, conjugial love looks to union of wills and thus to liberty of agreement. Rivalry for supremacy or rule, ejects these two objects from the marriage; for it divides and sunders the wills into sides, and turns the liberty of agreement into servitude. So long as this rivalry continues, the spirit of the one meditates violence against the other. Were their minds then opened and observed by spiritual sight, they would appear as antagonists fighting with daggers, and it would be seen that they regarded each other with alternate hatred and favor--with hatred when in the ardor of rivalry, and with favor when in the hope of dominion and when in lust.
 After the victory of the one over the other, the antagonism withdraws from the externals of the mind and betakes itself to the internals, and there with its disquiet it remains concealed. Hence comes cold both to the subjugated or servant and to the victor or master. Cold comes to the latter also because there is no longer conjugial love, and the deprivation of this love is cold (no. 235). Instead of conjugial love comes heat from supremacy; but this heat, though utterly discordant with conjugial heat, yet, by the mediation of lust, may be outwardly concordant. After tacit agreement between them, it appears as if conjugial love had become friendship; but the difference between conjugial friendship in marriages and servile friendship is as the difference between light and shade, between living fire and fatuous fire, yea, as between a man in full flesh and a man consisting only of skin and bone. (CL 248)
Christian husbands who claims to be reborn become familiar with the Word and then use sentences from it as a weapon of justification to continue abusing their wives. It is customary to quote Paul and Peter’s advice that women should be silent in worship, should obey their husband, and be submissive in all things to him.
Wives, submit to your husbands as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior (Ephesians 5:22-23)
Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit to their husbands in everything. (Ephesians 5:24)
Wives, submit to your husbands, as is fitting in the Lord. (Colossians 3:18)
Wives, in the same way be submissive to your husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, (1 Peter 3:1)
As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. (1 Corinthians 14:34)
Thus the Christian reborn husband lords it over his wife and confirms it with Scripture. The poor wife has no choice but to submit. What can she do if her husband quotes Holy Scripture against her? She tries to submit graciously, but inwardly a great and deep barrier is erected that separates her from this man to whom she is married. She longs for something fulfilling but may not know the source of it. Sometimes she blames or doubts herself. It is a sad and tragic situation.
Here is how one Christian argues about the subject:
This does not mean that the wives have no say in the family, but rather that they may enjoy the security and protection of their husbands’ authority.
If Eve had submitted to Adam’s authority, they might very well not have got into trouble.
God’s priorities are: Himself first and foremost, then the husband, then the wife, the children, the fauna and flora and the mineral world in that order.
A lower order cannot reign over a higher order, although there is always the danger of rebellion (Exod.4:24,25). Here we see Moses’ life endangered because his wife wouldn’t let him circumcise their son. This was rebellion against her husband and against God.
As long as the wife submits to the authority of her husband, she is under the protection of that same authority. In 1Tim.2:9 we read of the clothing of woman. Wives must be circumspect and know when to speak up. (1Tim.3:11).
(We need a Word for Today on the Web at
www.elkana.org.za/boodskappe/we_need_a_word.htm Accessed June 2002)
And here is a quote from a Pastoral Letter:
To Jesus Christ be power, honor and glory forever. Amen.
All around us homes are crumbling because Godly authority is not recognized. A wife thinks she makes better decisions than her husband and will not submit to his leadership.
In a family setting, the captain of the ship is the husband. His word is to be obeyed. The wife agrees to come on board his ship when she marries him. She makes the commitment that her husband will be captain of the family, through good times and bad times, until death ends the journey.
Embassy of Heaven: God’s Government on Earth. From the Pastor's Desk. On the Web at www.embassyofheaven.com/newslett/news9504/news9504.htm accessed June 2002)
In the New Church mind these male prerogatives are as entrenched as in others. New Church men will quote passages from the Writings to keep women in their place, under their dominion. They deny that it is dominion, and point to the Writings. Thus, under the guise of obedience to the Lord, they subjugate women generally, and their wife in particular. What can the wife do? She reads the same passages and is disturbed by what they appear to say. A frequently mentioned idea is that the wife is the love of her husband’s wisdom (CL 56 and elsewhere).
Woman was created by the Lord through the wisdom of man because from man. … Women were created, by the Lord, affections of the wisdom of men … The wife is the love of a wise man's wisdom. (CL 56)
the husband is perfected in wisdom and … the wife grows to love that wisdom in her husband (CL 137)
After the wedding the representation changes, for then the husband represents wisdom and the wife represents love of that wisdom. This love, however, is not the first love referred to before, but a secondary love which the wife has from the Lord through the wisdom of her husband. The Lord's love, which is the first love, is the love in the husband of becoming wise. Consequently, after the wedding the two together, the husband and his wife, represent the church." (CL 21)
Since in heaven the husband is wisdom and the wife is the love of wisdom … (CL 44)
Wisdom and its accompanying love increase in married partners, so conjugial love is purified in them. (CL 145)
the husband gets from his wife the charming blush of her love, and the wife gets from her husband the bright gleam of his wisdom, since there the two partners are united in soul. (CL 192)
[Conjugial] love induces on the wife the form of love, and on the husband the form of wisdom (CL 367)
People who are in a state of truly conjugial love look to eternity in their marriage because eternity is inherent in this love. Its eternity is owing to the fact that this love in the wife and wisdom in the husband grow to eternity, and as these grow or progress, the partners enter more and more deeply into the blessings of heaven - blessings which their wisdom and love of wisdom at the same time carry concealed within them. (CL 216)
The truth of good or truth from good is in the male and is the masculine itself, and that the good of truth or good from truth is in the female and is the feminine itself, and that there is a conjugial union between these two (CL 61)
How are we to rightly interpret the revelation that in the heavenly marriage the wife is the love of her husband’s wisdom or the good of his truth? There are two ways of understanding this, one that is inimical to conjugial love and wives, the other that is in accordance with it. The hostile interpretation by men is self-serving and can be paraphrased as: “Religious law dictates that women should subordinate themselves to a man’s understanding as this is superior to a woman’s understanding.” This idea is hurtful to the women and comes from hatred towards them, hatred that men are born with and must get rid off in order to undergo reformation and regeneration.
When they hold the first interpretation in aversion, men can instantly perceive the other interpretation, which is, that the wife is the will (love) of her husband’s understanding (wisdom), as defined below in the section on the conjoint self (see Chapter 9, Section 9). Reference to the church in the quote above is to this conjoint self: “after the wedding the two together, the husband and his wife, represent the church" (CL 21)”. Conjugial couples are growing in internal union. This means that they each learn to love to act from the union of the two rather than from the independent self. I refer to the union of the two as the “conjoint self.” This conjoint self is constituted of the will and the understanding, but differently from the self of the husband and the self of the wife. The conjoint self is constructed from the will of the wife and the understanding of the husband. This is why it is said in CL 56 and elsewhere that “the wife is the love of the husband’s wisdom.” The will is the all in all of the self, therefore the will or love of the conjoint self is the all in all of it. Hence the understanding of the conjoint self, which is the understanding of the husband, is formed in complete accordance by this will or love. In other words, she acts by the husband’s reformed understanding from her own will, and he acts by his reformed understanding from her will. In this way they act in perfect union.
There is no attempt here on the part of the husband to dominate or override his wife’s opinions or perceptions on any topic whatsoever. This he now holds in strong aversion. His love now is to act by his reformed understanding which is formed from the wife’s will. Women who feel dominated by religious justifications practiced by the men in the Church are suffering, languishing, and kept from the fullness of their being. For example:
Last summer, I was part of a group of women who read some of the book, Marriage Love [Conjugial Love]. I allowed myself to notice and experience fully my emotional and cognitive reactions to the book, so that I could start to heal my pain about the teachings in it, and come to see how it could possibly fit into the scheme of revelation. With the loving support of the other group members, I was able to identify in what way the book (or how I had come to understand it), was hurtful and confusing, and then to see it in newer, less hurtful ways.
What hurt me the most was that, in the book, a woman is defined by men in terms of her essence, form, purpose, and spirituality (ML 32, 33, 63, 66, 75, 88, 125, 320). Men are not defined in terms of women in the same ways, but in terms that are independent of women or a marriage relationship. I was hurt by these teaching because I know that I am a whole person with my own individuality, whether single or married. I have been hurt by defining myself in terms of other people, especially my husband.
(Roslyn Taylor “Marriage Love: Hurts and Confusion” Voice: A Newsletter for Caritas October 2001 Volume 2, pp. 6-7)
The author reports she was able to overcome her initial feelings by gaining new understanding of what the Writings say about women:
The healing I received was in being able to accept that all of the incomplete statements about a woman and her role in marriage, when taken together with other teachings in the Writings, generate a picture of a whole female human being. She is conscious of life first in her will, then offers love to their marriage relationship to make it a sacred reflection of the holy marriage of divine love and wisdom in the Lord. (Taylor, ibid, p. 7)
I want to bring the focus back to the husband because he is the actual source of the problem when a wife feels herself to be placed in a lower position than her husband on account of his gender.
IX. THAT IN ITSELF THE INTELLIGENCE OF WOMEN IS MODEST, ELEGANT, PACIFIC, YIELDING, GENTLE, TENDER; AND THE INTELLIGENCE OF MEN IN ITSELF IS GRAVE, HARSH, HARD, SPIRITED, FOND OF LICENSE. (CL 218)
And yet it is the man who enjoys the advantage as a result of what the Word says in the literal in some places that appear to legitimize his superior status. This is true of reborn Christians who quote the New Testament to keep their wife in place, and it is true of the New Church man who quotes the Writings to maintain himself in a superior or dominant position relative to this wife. The fact is that one can find passages that appear to say that men are the intelligent and the wise, and women are to love their husband’s intelligence and wisdom. The implication held over the women’s head like the sword of Damocles is that they don’t have their own intelligence, being born “a form of the love of their husbands” while men are born a “a form of understanding.” In their own right (CL 159).
The dishonest part of this is for men to use these statements of Scripture to grab the dominion over women, and especially their wife. They deny that they are motivated to dominate the wife. They claim that this is the way it is, as the Word declares. They claim that they are not the ones who have made it this way. They claim that they are merely obeying the Lord in His Word who commands that man should be the head of the wife and woman should submit. But the truth is that nowhere in the New Testament or in the Writings does it say that the men are to have dominion over the wife. Nowhere does it say that a man must not choose to listen to his wife and abide by her will and judgment in every subject or area of their marriage. The fact that they do exert dominion in decision making proves that they are not following the Word but only themselves. This is most serious because unless they stop it, they cannot enter into an internal union with their wife, and if they cannot do that, they cannot live with her in heaven. Will they live there with another woman? No—unless they overcome their impediments to regeneration. And practicing dominion over the wife will prevent regeneration. Much is at stake here.
Furthermore, there are many passages in the Writings that say the opposite, namely, that women’s wisdom and intelligence far surpasses that of man (CL 56). How could this be and which is it really? The answer is that in the internal union women’s intelligence rules, while in the external marriage relationship, man’s intelligence rules. In the first or external phase of marriage there is not yet an internal. The man’s intelligence then rules in marriage. This is an unregenerate state and reflects the natural antipathy and hostility men have against women. Male prerogatives in a man’s world dominates the intelligence of women, and suppresses it, denigrates it, ignores it. The wife whose husband is in this external phase of marriage is abused, unhappy, longing for the fullness of her being. All sorts of feminist movements and philosophies have erupted from this abuse and frustration and injustice. These are psycho-political activities, not spiritual. The Writings show that the spiritual of marriage is the internal union of one woman with one man to eternity. There is nothing spiritual about the first phase of marriage, even though it has been consecrated in the Church and even though the couple worships there at requisite times. Nothing spiritual, even though the husband quotes Scripture to his wife to justify their relationship such as it is.
There is nothing spiritual about the Word when read in its external historical and literal phase. When the Writings are used for politics, that is, for justifying a husband’s command over his wife, there is nothing spiritual in the action or in the Scripture being quoted. It is merely a natural power play using this or that tool.
The wife comes alive internally when the husband has reformed himself and has set for himself the commandment that he will henceforth love to act from his wife more than to act from himself.
This solves the whole problem of marriage. (See also Chapter 9, Section 1).
Nothing else but man’s aversion for this idea keeps marriage in the external phase. Thus keeps wives from living the fullness of their being.
When the husband adopts this policy, and compels himself to follow it, he has been reformed. Now he is facing the opposite direction from before—instead of away from his wife he is now facing his wife—internally, spiritually, in religion, in reality. Now he can begin the journey of regeneration, which is the creation of a new conjoint self, which rises out of the union of the two into one. This new conjoint self grows day by day. The wife is happy now because she has been immersed at last in her true life. She now has a husband who will listen to her! This is such a rarity on this planet. She feels thankful to the Lord, closer to Him. She now begins to see and perceive the actual possibility of her heaven with this man. The Lord has given her a man she can take to her heaven, a man who is willing to go to her heaven since he has wisely seen the futility of trying to go to his own heaven.
Now at last she has the real work of her life cut out for herself—to change this man into something that can conjoin himself to her interior mind. The Lord gives her the perception of what her husband is like internally now (CL 166). Her husband is kept totally blind as to his internals, regardless how studious and adept he becomes in understanding and teaching the Writings. She can see into his character, he can only infer it or affirm it, but he can’t see into it. Obviously this is arrangement is just what is needed to allow him to change. For he must change if he is going to her heaven, that is, the only heaven the Lord is offering him. This is what I call the Doctrine of the Wife—the idea that a husband cannot have salvation except through his wife when he willingly acts from her instead of himself. Acting from her is his salvation. (See Chapter 9, Section 1).
The internal union between husband and wife is gradually created by the Lord by opening the spiritual mind of the couple. When the husband learns to love to act from his wife, she can be in the fullness of her being because her wisdom is celestial while his wisdom is spiritual (CL 223-5, 32). Celestial wisdom is in a discrete degree higher and more interior than spiritual wisdom. No idea from celestial wisdom can be apprehended by spiritual wisdom, such is the difference. But the two interact by correspondence. When the wife’s celestial wisdom enters the husband’s spiritual wisdom from within, the husband experiences enlightenment. He now can perceive the interior truths of his own knowledge and intelligence. In this state of enlightenment he can read the Writings and understand far deeper things, more clearly and particularly. Now he can apply these new interior truths to his willing and thinking, and his regeneration progresses, and he is happier than he ever was before.
When this couple arrives in the afterlife the two are ushered into their society and they see the house waiting for them. The mind of the husband had been adequately prepared. Now the two can form their perfect inmost union to eternity (CL 355).
The conjoint self cannot be born or made in heaven, only perfected there. It must be born and grown up on earth. This is why it’s crucial that the couple enter phase 2 of their marriage. When this happens is up to the husband and his willingness to reform, as indicated above. The conjoint self is built up when the husband’s understanding is united to the wife’s will. This state anticipates here on earth the angelic state they will have when they reach there. In this state the husband has learned to love acting from the wife’s will more than from his own will. In other words, whenever he wants to do X and she wants him to do Y, he will decide to do Y. This decision is at first not the preferred way of acting. He would prefer to do X even though he know she wants him to do Y. Nevertheless, out of religious principle or discipline, he chooses to do Y just because he wants to become that kind of a husband, which he knows from religion that it is a conjugial husband, the kind the Lord wants him to be. Further, the husband is willing to change his understanding so that it agrees with her will. Eventually he too will choose Y even before she needs to tell him.
Understanding, when it is united to the will, is nothing else than the form of the will (AC 7342). The all in all of the conjoint self is the will because the will is the all in all of the understanding. The will is the substance and the understanding is the form of it. The will receives love from the Lord and the form of this love appears as the understanding. Since the will of the conjoint self is the wife’s will it is clear that the husband’s understanding in the reformed state is nothing else than the form of the wife’s will. You can see that it is not possible in this arrangement for the man to rule over the wife, as he does in the external marriage before the internal is within it. And you can also see that the understanding of the husband must be in accord with the wife’s will since the will always rules the understanding. This is how it is in heaven where true conjugial love exists.
So the crucial question now is: How is the husband going to prepare his mind so that he can have this conjoint self with the wife? How is he going to overcome his resistance and aversion for choosing to act from his wife instead of from himself?
The answer is given in Chapter 9 where I discuss conjugial disciplines for husbands.
End Notes and References
A directory of all my publications, with full text access to most of them, is available on the Web at
Leon James. “Substantive Dualism: Swedenborg's Integration of Biological Theology and Rational Psychology”
Leon James. “Scientific Dualism.”
Leon James. “Religious Psychology or Theistic Science: A Guide to Spiritual Self-examination”
Leon James. “Swedenborg Glossary of Theistic Science”
Leon James. “Do the Writings Contain Scientific Revelations?” New Church Life , July 1995, 115(7), 325-330.
Also available on the Web at www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/409ss99/nfile2.htm
Leon James. “Dualist Science and the Writings of Swedenborg” New Church Life , June 1995, 115(6), 264-270.
Leon James. “Overcoming Objections to Swedenborg's Writings Through the Development of Scientific Dualism” New Philosophy 2001 v.CIV n.3 & 4 pp. 153-217. Available online at:
Leon James. “The Fourteen Scientific Fallacies in AC5084: Implications for Science Education.” New Philosophy, July-December, 1996, XCIX(3 & 4), 439-450
Examples of promoting dualism in science in New Church literature include:
Gregory L. Baker, Religion and Science: From Swedenborg to Chaotic Dynamics (New York: The Solomon Press, 1992)
Linda Simonetti Odhner, The Bread of Life With Honey From the Rock: A Chaste Union of religion and science New Church Life March 1989, pp. 117-122
Leon James, Swedenborg's Religious Psychology: The Marriage of Good and Truth as Mental Health Studia Swedenborgiana December 1993, Vol.8, No-3, pp. 13-42
Ian Thompson, Foundations of the Theory of Spirit, Mind and Nature from Theism www.TheisticScience.org
W. F. Pendleton Topics From the Writings (Academy, 1928)
Leon James. “My Pre-Swedenborgian Discoveries and Inventions (1960-1980)”
Mark Carlson. “Evolution, the Limbus, and Hereditary Evil (Part 2)” New Church Life June 1990, pp.259-275.
Barry C. Halterman. “Swedenborg's Influence on Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803-1883)”
Jane K. Williams-Hogan. Swedenborg: A Biography Available online here:
Leon James “Swedenborg Revolution in the Social Sciences”
Leon James “Spiritual Psychology”
Wilson Van Dusen, The Distinctiveness of the Church of the New Jerusalem New Church Life March 1994, 112-114.
Peter Rhodes, Gurdijeff’s and Swedenborg General Church Sound Recording Library, Bryn Athyn, 1976.
Leonard Fox, Gurdijeff’s: Guide to Heaven or Hell? New Church Life June 1993; (see also his reply in the October 1993 issue.)
Leon James “Moses, Paul, and Swedenborg, or Ritual, Faith, and Theistic Science: The Three Phases of Religious Behavior”
Leon James “Religious Behaviorism”
Leon James “De Hemelsche Leer--Part 1--Degrees of Consciousness”
Leon James “Spiritual Geography--Graphic Maps of Consciousness for Regeneration”
Leon James “Overcoming Objections to Swedenborg's Writings Through the Development of Scientific Dualism” New Philosophy 2001 v.CIV n.3 & 4 pp. 153-217. Available online here:
Dr. James’ Student Reports on Swedenborg are listed in this directory:
Leon James, “Genes of Consciousness: Spiritual Genetics for Regeneration”
Ian Thompson, Foundations of Theistic Science The Theory of Spirit, Mind and Nature from Theism (containing several articles)
Leon James, “Vertical Community”
Leon James, “The Will and the Understanding or The Affective and the Cognitive or Good and Faith or Heart and Lungs or Internal and External Mind”
Leon James, “Affective and Cognitive Resistance to a More Healthy Lifestyle
Leon James, “Notes on the Doctrine of the Wife:
See our Web site at www.DrDriving.org
List of Media Interviews with Leon James and Diane Nahl
Articles on Driving Psychology by Leon James and Diane Nahl
Leon James and Diane Nahl. Road Rage and Aggressive Driving: Steering Clear of Highway Warfare (Prometheus Books: New York, 2000).
Leon James and Diane Nahl. Heaven on Wheels: Principles of Christian Driving Psychology www.aloha.net/~dyc/articles/christ.htm
Leon James. “Drivers Behaving Badly: DBB Ratings”
Hatfield, E., & Rapson, R. (1996). Love and sex: Cross-cultural perspectives. New York: Allyn and Bacon.
Hatfield, E., Cacioppo, J., & Rapson, R. L. (1994). Emotional contagion. New York: Cambridge University Press.
Leon James “The Universal Modes of Enactment in Human Experience: A Self-Witnessing Account of the Discovery of Sudden Memory and My Interpretation of Its Significance for the Human Race”
Leon James “Autobiography: Sudden Memory as the Integrating Mechanism on the Daily Round”
Leon James “Objective Autobiography: Sudden Memory”
Leon James “Radicalist Empiricism. The Universal Modes of Enactment in Human Experience. A Self-Witnessing Account of the Discovery of Sudden Memory and My Interpretation of Its Significance for the Human Race”
Leon James “The Hexagram of Sudden Memory “
Leon James “Discoveries and Inventions--Sudden Memory”
Leon James “The Hexagram of Sudden Memory” (excerpts)
Leon James “Pre-Swedenborgian Discoveries and Inventions (1960-1980)”
Leon James and Diane Nahl “Workbook for the Study of Social Psychology”
Leon James “The Analysis of Transactional Engineering Competence” www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/tec.html
Leon James “Community Archives in Social Psychology”
Leon James “Understanding Discourse: From Ethnosemantics to Transactional Engineering”
Leon James “Genetic Culture: Primacy of the Affective over the Cognitive”
Leon James “Lectures in Social Psychology (directory of chapters)”
Leon James “Lecture Notes on The Psychology of Knowledge: The Discovery of Sudden Memory“
Leon James “The Method of Self-Witnessing”
Leon James “Religious Psychology or Theistic Science: A Guide to Spiritual Self-examination”
Leon James “Self-witnessing our emotions in daily life”
Leon James “General Instructions for Your Research Project: The Four Options--Customizing My Daily Emotional Spin Cycle”
Leon James “Temptations entry in the Swedenborg Glossary” www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/instructor/gloss/temptations.html
Leon James “Self-Witnessing the Threefold Self”
Rev. Ray Silverman teaches at the New Church Academy in Bryn Athyn. He and his wife Star are the authors of a successful book Rise Above It! – “a curriculum for spiritual growth based on the Ten Commandments.” A seminar program is based on the book and is called Touchstone Seminars: A Life-changing Experience. See Web site at newearth.org/user/touchstone/
Harrie G.D. Groeneveld “The Second Coming of the Lord in the Doctrine of the Church” De Hemelsche Leer, First Fascicle, 38-43, 1930 (quoted above in Chapter 7 Section 8) Available online at www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/409ss99/thompson/mscan1.html See also its reprint version in the restart issues of De Hemelse Leer, April 2002 issue, Dr. Rutger Perizonius, Editor (Van der Heimstraat 5, 2582 RX, The Hague)
Rev. Ernst Pfeiffer “Elucidation of Mr. Groeneveld's Address” De Hemelsche Leer, First Fascicle, p.82-95; 127-131, 1930 (quoted above in Chapter 7 Section 8) Available online at www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/409ss99/thompson/mscan2.html See also its reprint version in the restart issues of De Hemelse Leer, April 2002 issue, Dr. Rutger Perizonius, Editor (Van der Heimstraat 5, 2582 RX, The Hague)
Rev. Theodore Pitcairn, “The second Education” De Hemelsche Leer, Third Fascicle, p.22. 1935 (quoted above in Chapter 7 Section 8; Chapter 8 Section 3) (Available online at www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/409ss99/thompson/mscan8.html )
James, Leon (2002) “The Substitution Technique: A Method for Extracting What the Writings Say About Themselves as the Word” De Hemelse Leer, Vol. XIV No. 2 (April 2002), 103-109.
The following New Church ministers are quoted in this book:
Rev. Donald L. Rose, Sermon titled “The Colt Loosed For the Lord’s Service” General Church, Bryn Athyn. Undated (quoted above in the Introduction to Volume 1)
Rev. Erik E. Sandstrom, The New Age and the New Church (Part Two). New Church Life, June 2002, 251-260 (quoted above in the Introduction to Volume 1; Introduction to Chapter 2; Chapter 4 Section 6; Chapter 6 Section 3; Chapter 7 Section 2)
Rev. Mark Carlson. “Evolution, the Limbus, and Hereditary Evil (Part 2)” New Church Life June 1990, pp.259-275. (quoted above in Chapter 3 Section 7).
Rev. Dr. Ray Silverman’s review of Henry James, Sr. in Arcana 1996 v.2 n.4 p.56 (quoted above in Chapter 4 Section 2 and Section 3)
Rev. Grant R. Schnarr “Swedenborg And The Near Death Experience” on the Web at www.newchurch.org/faq/indepthfaq/swedenbNearDeathExperience.html Accessed June 2002 (quoted above in Chapter 4 Section 5)
Rev. Douglas M. Taylor “Self-Esteem” New Church Life March 2002 v.CXXII No.3 pp. 99-105 (quoted above in Chapter 6 Section 7)
Rev. Edward S. Hyatt, Sermons on the Word. Swedenborg Genootschap, 1935 (quoted above in Chapter 7 Section 8)
Rev. Hugo Lj. Odhner, “The Transition from Human to Divine Philosophy” Written in 1921. Published in The New Philosophy 1974; 77:43-71. Available online at: http://www.newchurchissues.org/SR/hlo74.htm )
(quoted in Chapter 7 Section 8)
Rev. Theodore Pitcairn, “The second Education” De Hemelsche Leer, Third Fascicle, p.22. 1935 (quoted above in Chapter 7 Section 8; Chapter 8 Section 3) (Available online at www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/409ss99/thompson/mscan8.html )
The Letters and Memorials of Emanuel Swedenborg. Translated and Edited by Rev. Alfred Acton (Bryn Athyn, PA. Swedenborg Scientific Association, 1948) (quoted above in Chapter 7 Section 8)
Rev. Geoffrey H. Howard titled "The Transformation of a Man into a Husband and a Woman into a Wife through Marriage" appeared in New Church Life, June 2001 issue, pages 243-248. (quoted above in Chapter 9 Section 1)
Rev. Ernst Pfeiffer “Elucidation of Mr. Groeneveld's Address” De Hemelsche Leer, First Fascicle, p.82-95; 127-131, 1930 (quoted above in Chapter 7 Section 8)
I wish to thank Dr. Ian Thompson for his invaluable editorial assistance with several drafts and for supplying many of the citations to the Writings (see Note 12 above ). I also wish to thank Rev./Dr. Ray Silverman who spent much appreciated effort reading and critiquing an earlier draft (see Note 21 above). Rev. Robert Junge made critical comments on several key issues that greatly improved my discussion of them. I am very grateful for their contribution. Their astute observations helped me to avoid critical errors and to strengthen the presentation in numerous places.
The author, Dr. Leon James, is Professor of Psychology at the University of Hawaii. His Web site and information on his professional background is located here: www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/leon.html
A directory of articles and books by Leon James, with full text access is available here: www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/leonj/leonpsy/leonarticles.html
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