Textbook of Theistic Psychology
For Permissions Note and Conditions of Use see Volume 18
Subject Index, Index to All, Sections and Reading List is in Volume 18
This is a Selection from Volume 5
Research Methods in Theistic Psychology
Theistic psychology is based on three empirical methodologies--
(1) Extractive analysis of Sacred Scripture as Divine
The diagram above pictures the three distinct methodologies that exist in theistic psychology. Extractive research is the basis and beginning of all other methodologies. An illustration of this technique is given in the next section immediately below which extracts the universal scientific meaning of Genesis Chapter 22. This meaning is also called the correspondential meaning of Sacred Scripture. Human consciousness refers to the awareness of meaning. Meaning is therefore the basis and content of our consciousness. What is the origin and source of meaning? Few people know the answer. It is given in theistic psychology.
The source of meaning is truth, which is a spiritual substance streaming forth from the Spiritual Sun, and radiating into the mind of every human being through the rational ether that surrounds our mind in the spiritual world (see Section). Truth is therefore the very basis and substance of consciousness, or spiritual life in immortality. And the origin of all truth is Divine Speech, which comes forth through the Spiritual Sun from the Divine Human who is in the midst of it, as Swedenborg often observed, and all can observe who dwell in the heaven of their mind, its highest region of consciousness called celestial (see Section xx).
You can see then why it is that extractive research is the very foundation for theistic psychology. Through this activity we can extract new meaning from Divine Speech coming down to our conscious awareness through the layers of our mind--celestial, spiritual, natural. Extractive research is the process of becoming conscious of higher meaning.
You can communicate your findings in extractive research by keeping a record of the process by which you are being enlightened, that is, becoming conscious of spiritual and celestial meaning. The higher your conscious awareness of meaning, the closer is your conscious awareness to Divine Speech. Divine Speech contains infinite new meanings for the human race to extract. This is the evolutionary mechanism created by God for human beings to grow in rational consciousness in their endless immortality. Extracting new truths from the infinite source of Truth, which is the Mind of the Divine Human called the Divine Rational or "Holy Spirit."
These are the two fundamental principles for extractive research:
No other genuine source of
meaning or truth is possible for theistic psychology than Divine Speech, the
infinite source of all truth forever.
2. No other method of extraction is possible for theistic psychology than that which is specified in Sacred Scripture from Divine Speech.
These two principles come from the Writings of Swedenborg in many places where it deals with the issue of how to extract the "inner correspondential sense of the Word." Approximately half of the text the Writings is devoted to this topic. Obviously, how to extract scientific correspondential meaning from Sacred Scripture ("the Word"), is the major topic in the Writings. It is obvious therefore that these principles must be learned, followed, and applied in all extractive research in theistic psychology. Any research where the appropriate methods of extraction were not followed, is therefore not part of theistic psychology.
You can see why this research rule is critical for the validity of theistic psychology. People over the centuries have offered numerous hypotheses, theories, and interpretations of many parts of Sacred Scripture. Why should anyone follow these interpretations, except from persuasion, blind faith, or authority--none of which are rationally acceptable. Therefore theistic psychology would be just like all the other fields of philosophy, science, and social debate. This is the reason that God has created a rational mind in human beings, capable of becoming conscious of Divine Truth through the descending meanings of Divine Speech. Consciousness, or rational understanding of Divine Truth, is the very foundation of our immortality, rationality, and goodness.
Divine Speech is the endless source of meaning or higher and higher consciousness of living. It is also the source of the principles we are to use for extracting meaning from it. We cannot use just any method our intelligence dictates, and if we try, only chaotic and delusional meanings are obtained--not from Divine Speech, but from self-intelligence. Evidence of this is how religious ideas and harmful and irrational dogmas, have arisen throughout the centuries. In every instance, the extraction process was faulty.
The Writings of Swedenborg reveal that God maintains a very close and strict control over what people do in their mind when they approach Sacred Scripture as Divine Speech. If you approach Sacred Scripture as not Divine Speech, but some individual's inspired genius, then God shuts down completely the extraction process. You will then not be able to extract any meaning or truth from it. Everything you come up with will be your own theory, not an extraction from Divine Speech. The reason for this is to protect you from injuring yourself through what is called "profanation" and "the sin against the Holy Spirit that cannot be forgiven." This refers to the psychobiological fibers in the mind where the interpretation or meaning is permanently stored. In other words, if you distort the meaning of Divine Speech and attribute the source of that falsity to Divine Speech, you are creating two permanent forces in yourself that battle each other to death--except that they are immortal. You are then locked into an endless life of mental agony to eternity.
To avoid this horrible fate, God will protect all those who approach Sacred Scripture.
Evidence of this is the fact that many people read Sacred Scripture and look at it as a story or as part of great literature--not as Divine Speech. They point to how it's written in an old fashioned way, how it is ignorant of all science, how it contradicts itself in many places, how it presents an inconsistent picture of God, how it is written for one ethnic group, how portions are often written by ignorant people, how many parts are poetic and visionary and don't make rational sense, etc. In other words, it is not possible to prove that what is designated as Sacred Scripture from divine speech, is different from other texts and books. This inability to prove it is the result of the strict rule God follows in preventing anyone from extracting any spiritual truth when the person is going to profane it, that is, reject it. This first line of protection against extractive research is called the "Cherubim," which refers to a Divine Animal described in the Old Testament as protecting the "seat of God."
The second line of protection against the self-injury of profanation, is that God controls the exact pace and progression of the new meanings we can extract. There are three general rules for genuine extraction in theistic psychology:
(1) use of correspondences as defined in Sacred Scripture
(2) enlightenment by God of new meaning or truth
(3) choice making based on the extracted doctrine of truth from Sacred Scripture
This three-part cycle defines the extraction process now and into our eternal heaven, where the process continues on the same basis. Swedenborg reports that the people he interviewed in their highest heaven acknowledged that they all their intelligence, wisdom, and knowledge comes from "the Word" they read every day and have implanted in their memory. Angels have such an amazing knowledge of correspondences that they can answer any complicated question about the anatomy and physiology of the human body. The knowledge and meaning comes to them automatically as they think of some topic. This is because they internalize the celestial text of Sacred Scripture, so that Divine Speech can come to their conscious awareness as an infinite database of knowledge instantly accessible.
From all this you can now see that theistic psychology is not like non-theistic science in which many people become experts regardless of their character. It is not necessary to be a struggling regenerating person in order to be an expert scientist in today's world. You can be a great mathematician and at the same time have a terrible personality that bullies others and cares only for self. You can have a hellish character and yet be a genius for making money or inventing new managerial methods and ideas. You can be a popular philosopher or writer and yet be an alcoholic or sex addict. You can be a great doctor and a terrible husband and father. But you cannot extract any truth from Sacred Scripture except in exact proportion to your struggles for regeneration and character reformation. This is the very reason Divine Speech is given to humankind. It is not available for any other use.
The three-step process starts with the study of correspondences as defined in the Writings of Swedenborg. If our motive for studying is in the positive bias (see Section xx), then God gives us enlightenment of spiritual truth so that we can become conscious of higher order correspondences--natural-rational correspondences, spiritual-rational correspondences, celestial-rational correspondences (see Section xx). We must collect these new meanings into a coherent statement or system called "the doctrine of truth from Sacred Scripture." The final step is to apply this new meaning to our choice making in the course of the day, every day. This applied feature involves the experience of temptations at various levels--natural, spiritual, celestial (see Section xx).
This three-step process of extractive research is therefore an individual and independent effort that every person must put out in the course of character reformation or regeneration. This is the normal process that has been provided by God for the salvation of every individual, that is, of the preparation of our heavenly proprium or "new will" (see Section xx).
From all this it is clear that one of the main objectives of theistic psychology is to teach people the spiritual literacy skills of extracting new meanings from Sacred Scripture as Divine Speech.
Predictive research is represented by the many theories, models, and principles that I present in this book in all four volumes. In theistic psychology all theories and interpretations are called "predictive" because they predict that the principle or theory will be confirmable by Sacred Scripture.
Any theory or principle that has not been confirmed is not part of theistic psychology. It has an ambiguous status since it is not known whether it is a true representation of reality or a false one. But when the proposed interpretation or theory is confirmed by Sacred Scripture, it takes on a new status. It is now known that it is a true representation of reality and has the equivalent status to extractive research. This is the creative feature that we must have as independent researchers of Divine Speech. We can never rely on someone else's authority or understanding, for this would be useless to us spiritually at the second death (see Section xx).
The doctrine of truth from Sacred Scripture that we extract as-of self by means of our mental effort and desire, is a true doctrine created by the Divine Human in our our very own proprium. This is the Divine Human's conscious presence in our very own rationality and freedom. This is the optimal condition for our loving the Divine Human because the infinite God is then present in our very own conscious mind. This is the highest potential reachable by human beings. It is a state of mind called "the Third Heaven" in the spiritual world. Swedenborg often visited with those who dwell in that state and has described their characteristics. This is the character of our very own mind at its highest level of operation. Every person can attain to this height in their mind through the spiritual techniques made available by God to every person living in the world today.
Applied research in theistic psychology centers around the "self-witnessing" method. This is a term I created before I started reading Swedenborg and reflects the kind of empirical approach I was interested in for several decades. Imagine my delight in discovering in the Writings of Swedenborg that the self-witnessing method is the key technique for regeneration, character reformation, and spiritual development. Volume 3 discusses applications of theistic psychology in several major areas of daily life.
The diagram above shows applied theistic psychology with a lateral arrow because its focus goes outside research with Sacred Scripture. Extractive research is pictured with a vertical arrow upward because knowledge and information is being extracted from the scientific meaning of Sacred Scripture as Divine Speech. Predictive research is pictured with a vertical arrow downward because it projects ahead what we have not confirmed in Sacred Scripture. Additional comments about the diagram are given in the Preface.
The analysis presented in the next section is an illustration of the extractive methodology. It clearly shows that the scientific sense of the Old and New Testaments is entirely independent of their historical and poetic sense which serves for the Jewish and Christian religions. People from other religions can read these Sacred Books of Divine origin, but they may not see them as universal, of equal relevance to all peoples. They may have their own religious literature which is more relevant to their cultural group. And even if they appreciate the universal significance of the Bible and the Writings of Swedenborg, these remain in their eyes as belonging to a particular historical ethnic tradition to which they may not belong. Their absolute universality cannot be acknowledged when evaluated from the point of view of their literal meaning.
Few people know about the details of the scientific revelations in the Writings of Swedenborg. One of the main revelations is the unveiling of the code of correspondences in which all Sacred Scripture is written in a natural language. The section below shows how this is done by Swedenborg. When we consider the decoded meaning, it turns out that it is about the anatomy of the human mind and how every person can develop spiritually as a way of preparing for immortal life in the spiritual world. This is obviously a universal topic that has nothing to do with the ethnic-historical narrative in the literal meaning of Sacred Scripture.
Swedenborg demonstrated that the literal-historical meaning of all Sacred Scripture has nothing to do with the universal meaning of Divine Speech which lies hidden within the literal text. Thus, while all Sacred Scripture is a cultural document tied to an ethnic group and religion, its internal scientific meaning, when reconstructed through correspondences, is universal for the entire human race. The universal scientific knowledge is the Divine Speech that is contained or hidden within the literal-historical text. The Writings of Swedenborg have revealed the precise method of this reconstruction process from Sacred Scripture to Divine Speech. The central feature of this reconstructive method is called the code or laws of correspondences. Whether you say "reconstructive research" or "predictive research" it is equivalent, but the image of it is contrastive in the two cases. "Reconstructive" implies upward movement from a lower to a higher consciousness of God or Divine Truth. "Extractive" implies a downward movement from higher to a lower correspondences. Both perspectives are valid and simultaneous.
With regard to correspondences, God has rendered it impossible to figure out this hidden universal scientific meaning without the code of correspondences being revealed. All other codes made by human beings are automatically inaccurate and invalid, leading to the wrong conclusions. This is a protection for researchers and believers against committing profanation with Sacred Scripture, as explained above (see also Section xx). The Christian Bible is the most published book in the world and if you check the library shelves you will see that more books have been written about the Bible than any other topic. Despite this amazing intellectual effort, not one author has ever even suspected that the Bible is written in a code, which when decoded, yields a textbook of theistic psychology. All sorts of other ideas have been fabricated, but not the actual reality, as revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg, and as everyone can confirm in theistic psychology.
So the books of Sacred Scripture in the Western tradition turn out to be science books of universal relevance to every person, regardless of religion, culture, century of birth, or planet.
No religion or ethnic group can claim primary ownership or reception of Sacred Scripture, or the "Threefold Word," when considered from the perspective of their hidden scientific meaning revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg. They are Divine scientific revelations given to humanity independently of religion, culture, or century. This was not known about the Old and New Testaments until the Writings of Swedenborg made the revelation in the eighteenth century.
So now every religion can claim the Old and New Testaments for its own, since the purpose of religion everywhere is to prepare the individual for immortality. In that basic sense religion has been more scientific than science, given that science has become non-theistic and ridicules the idea of preparation for immortality. Religion is far closer to being scientific since it teaches that there is one God and that our souls or spirits are immortal. But now we have something far more scientific than religion, namely theistic psychology extracted from Sacred Scripture.
It’s important to understand that nothing can take away the connection people feel towards the Old and New Testaments as the source and center of their religion—Jews, Christians, and New Church Christians ("Swedenborgians"). The fact that these books of Sacred Scripture also have a scientific sense hidden within, in no way weakens their holy function as books of religion for Judaism, Christianity, and the New Church. In reality, the scientific sense within the literal only strengthens the importance of the literal. The Writings explain that the literal meaning is the "most holy" because it contains all the levels of meanings that Divine Speech embodies.
The literal religious sense of these sacred writings are not affected in any way by the fact that there is also a universal scientific sense hidden within. This too was intended by God to bring untold benefits to humankind.
This intimate connection between Sacred Scripture and theistic psychology is easy to understand when you consider what is the content of this scientific meaning when it is reconstructed through the method of correspondences. The laws of correspondences govern not only the style of Divine Speech but also the causal relationship between natural phenomena as effects and the spiritual phenomena as their causes. Obviously, this kind of science supports religion because without religion there is no Sacred Scripture and without Sacred Scripture there is no theistic psychology .
As the extractive research in the next sections demonstrates, the universal scientific content or subject matter of Chapter 22 in the Book of Genesis, is the anatomy of the human mind and the steps of spiritual development every person undergoes, though some individuals are willing to go further than others. The purpose of these Divine scientific revelations in Sacred Scripture is to give human beings everywhere the ability to change their inherited character and to prepare it for life in heaven to eternity. No scientific knowledge can be more important than this when we consider what's at stake.
It is clear therefore that the purposes of religion and theistic psychology overlap with each other, namely, to prepare people for their life in eternity. The approach each uses is however different. Religion tries to universalize the literal of Sacred Scripture. Evangelism is therefore the main objective for both the education of their children and for finding converts outside their community. Theistic science eliminates the literal and extracts the universal from it using the prescribed methods that the literal specifies.
Note that the literal of Sacred Scripture remains all important, even in universal theistic psychology. This is demonstrated in several ways. First, it is the literal that tells us what correspondences are and how they must be applied. Second, all predictive research or new doctrines must be confirmed by the literal meaning of Sacred Scripture. Third, the historical and scientific facts revealed in Sacred Scripture are completely and fully accurate. These three criteria are explicitly specified in the literal text of the Writings.
Obviously then, there are parts in the text of the Writings that are universal in their literal meaning. These portions of the text of Sacred Scripture are called "naked truths." In other words, they are spiritual truths that anyone can recognize, even without the knowledge of correspondences or advanced literacy skills in text analysis. There is therefore an overlap between religion based on the Writings and theistic psychology, at those portions called "naked truths."
Religion and science use different methods and different concepts. Both are needed for improving life on earth and preparing it for life in the spiritual world. Religion is needed because all Sacred Scripture has been given to establish a religion. Without religion on this earth we would not have Sacred Scripture and there would be no way in which Divine Speech could reach our mind. The Writings say that without a rational and systematic system of explanation, religion cannot succeed because the modern minds will not believe what they cannot understand rationally. And so theistic psychology based on the universal sense of Sacred Scripture is needed. The two support one another like a cup supports the liquid inside. People of all religions can study and accept the methods of theistic psychology, while they could not do this with religion without abandoning their own.
The diagram above shows that literacy comes first in mental development. Then religion, which cannot be understood without literacy since genuine spiritual ideas are rational and require rational understanding. Without rational understanding only a mystical or persuasive belief system is possible. The Writings show that only a rational belief system allows the development of a regenerated character capable of living in heaven. Once religion is established in the mind through a connection with Sacred Scripture, we can elevate our understanding of God by studying Sacred Scripture as Divine Speech--which is the scientific knowledge that is hidden within Sacred Scripture. This new knowledge reinforces and solidifies our connection to religion since it explains the detailed mechanisms by which God operates the universe, details that are not available in the literal sense of Sacred Scripture. As the Writings explain, what we can understand rationally about God, we can accept permanently to eternity because we can then love it in freedom.
The more we develop our rational consciousness of God the more God enlightens us and the more we can explain the details of God's activities and how we fit into it.
We are going to review how the Writings extract the scientific sense of the Old and New Testaments using the code of correspondences. This code is like a DNA code because it consists of the scientific laws that describe the exact relationship between natural events as effects and spiritual events as causes. Note that Swedenborg did not invent this code. Nor does it represent his attempt to interpret the Bible figuratively, as some have done. Rather, Swedenborg observed in the spiritual world what happens when he reads Bible verses in the natural world. Since he had dual consciousness he was able to see what spiritual events were happening when particular natural events were occurring on earth, namely, his reading a particular verse or phrase.
Note also that this code is the spiritual DNA of natural events, so that it is not restricted to the Old and New Testaments. This is what makes it scientific. The code is about the scientific laws that interconnect the two worlds. The reason that the Old and New Testaments are written in this code is that these books of Sacred Scripture are Divine Speech. The words and verses spoken by God through the mind of earthly prophets, were heard as well by the inhabitants of the spiritual world. Everything God imparts to the human race follows this sequence of descent from God. It first goes through the three heavens and only then into the minds of people who are still living on earth (see Section xx).
The books of the Old and New Testaments therefore exist in heaven, as witnessed by Swedenborg, but in their spiritual language. Swedenborg also saw the Writings that he himself had authored. Although he wrote every line himself, from his own thinking and understanding, he wrote only what he was requested to write by the Divine-Human Himself from whom he received this communication while writing. The Writings complete what the Old and New Testaments had begun, so that the entire revelation took these three sets to complete. Hence they are called the “Threefold Word,” because Divine Speech is called "the Word" in Western tradition.
You can see from this that the Sacred Scripture we possess here on earth has a relation to the Sacred Scripture in the spiritual world. This relationship is that of external to internal. Divine Speech starts in its inmost form as received in the celestial language of the highest heaven. This level of meaning is carried by "celestial-rational correspondences" of Divine Speech. From there it filters down to the spiritual language of the intermediate heaven by means of "spiritual-rational correspondences" of Divine Speech. From there it is filtered down to the spiritual-natural language of the lowest heaven by means of "spiritual-natural correspondences" of Divine Speech. From there it filters down to the world of spirits where are the natural minds of the people still on earth. This now is the level Divine Speech that we are familiar with, namely, the literal text of the Threefold Word in a natural language, and then translated, into different natural languages.
It’s crucial to realize that the celestial meaning (Third Heaven) is contained within the spiritual meaning (Second Heaven), and both are contained in the spiritual-natural meaning (First Heaven), and all three are contained in the natural-historical meaning (the versions known on earth). Once you realize this, you can also see that all four levels of meaning are also in our mind since the anatomy of the mind is the same as the geography of the spiritual world (see Section xx).
Since we are conscious only in the natural mind, while still on earth, the only way we can know what the three inner meanings are is by using the code of correspondences to reconstruct, or extract, each of the three inner meanings. This is what Swedenborg has done. He has applied the code of correspondences to the verse by verse, and word by word analysis, of the entire books of Genesis and Exodus, in the Old Testament, and the Book of Revelation in the New Testament. In addition he adds numerous samples of verses from the other books of the Old and New Testaments to demonstrate that they too use the same code of correspondences as in these three books.
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