James, Leon. (2006). Theistic Psychology: Teaching the Scientifics of the Interiors of the Third Testament. De Hemelse Leer, July/October issue, 140-154.
Teaching the Scientifics of the Interiors of the Third Testament
by Dr. Leon James
Professor of Psychology
University of Hawaii
This article is based on Lecture Notes written by Dr. Leon
James at the University of Hawaii and used for a course titled Theistic
Psychology: The Scientific Knowledge of God Extracted from the correspondential sense
of Sacred Scripture. It is available at:
Professor James believes that this is the first time in modern science history that God is taught in a science course at a public university of higher learning in the United States. This new scientific development is made possible by considering the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg in their inner correspondential sense. It is to be noted that religion, theology, or Doctrine for the New Church, are based on the literal sense of the Writings. This sense necessarily contains natural and historical facts and details. Reading the Writings at this literal level of interpretation necessarily excludes people who are culturally strangers to, or even inimical to, the Christian and Western traditions and practices.
As a result, the idea has evolved in the New Church community that the spread of the Writings to other nations will be accomplished through evangelization efforts, as was the case historically with the spread of the Christian Church after the Lord’s First Coming. However, when we consider the Writings in their inner correspondential sense, this historical enmity between cultures and religions disappears, and is replaced by universal meanings and principles that apply to all humanity. This universal knowledge and content of the Third Testament is the basis upon which theistic psychology rests and evolves. Professor James developed theistic psychology over the past twenty-five years through the intense study of the English Fascicles of De Hemelsche Leer.
The approach used in theistic psychology is to make the literal, cultural, and historical statements of the Writings disappear from view, as it were, and to pay attention to its interior correspondential sense, which applies universally to all people regardless of culture, religion, and belief system. Every reference in the literal of the Writings to historical entities such as Jews, Moslems, Hinduism, New Church, etc., are understood as statements about individual states when people regenerate – regardless of their religion, culture, or belief system. In this way, theistic psychology becomes a literal and scientific formulation of the interior truths of the Third Testament.
It is to be noted that theistic psychology is the
scientifics of the interior meaning of the Third Testament. In other words, the
college students who take this course, most of whom are in their early twenties,
are completely unfamiliar with the Writings and are not yet regenerating.
Hence they comprehend the scientifics of the interior meaning of the Third
Testament only in a natural way. Nevertheless I have discovered that this
study is extremely beneficial to them in terms of natural good and natural
truth. Students of different religions and cultures have taken this course since
2001. Their reactions, understandings, and attitudes are expressed in their
reports, which may be read on the Internet at:
It would be unfeasible to teach the Writings in the Letter to students in a science course at a public university in the United States. This is because there is a judicial mandatory separation between “state and church,” and the public school curriculum, from grade 1 to graduate school, must stay free of religious topics. Since the Letter of the Writings is written within the Western Christian context of history and ideas, it is excluded from study in public schools. Theistic psychology makes it feasible to teach the scientifics of the interiors of the Third Testament in public schools since the historical and cultural references are made to vanish, as it were, so that what is being studied is universal in application, independent of and above the merely cultural and historical.
Theistic psychology identifies several levels of comprehending the scientifics of the interior truths of the Third Testament. Studying and memorizing these literal expressions of interior truths can be done by anyone in an external state. This insures a natural understanding of interior truths. As we make progress in our regeneration, we understand these interior truths more and more spiritually, and eventually we understand them in a celestial way, in proportion to our regeneration.
Ideas and interpretations of the Writings that are produced by self-intelligence or the authority of someone else, are not admissible in theistic psychology. This insures that false and strange doctrines do not creep into the body of knowledge of theistic psychology as it cumulates over the generations of “scrutators” of the Third Testament. The expression “extractive research” is used in theistic psychology to refer to the “method of correspondences with enlightenment.” That which comes into the scrutator’s mind through this method is called genuine knowledge, and all else is excluded.
Enlightenment is not a mystical experience. Nor is it difficult to understand precisely what it is. From the perspective of theistic psychology enlightenment is a psychobiological process of the human mind corresponding to the biological process by which sunlight and its heat are received by plants and which they use to fabricate their nutrition. Spiritual light in which there is spiritual heat proceeds from the Spiritual Sun into the mental world of humanity where it enters the mind of every existing human being simultaneously, and proceeds outward and downward by successive degrees of correspondence. The cognitive organ of understanding and the affective organ of the will in every human being are constructed and animated by this universal “influx,” and we make use it for willing and thinking in daily activities.
The operation of enlightenment in the cognitive organ is also called “revelation”: By "revelation" is meant “enlightenment when the Word is read, and perception then” (AC 8694). When we read the Writings Sacred Scripture (“the Word”) we can comprehend the revelations in a spiritual way when we are enlightened while reading and reflecting. It is not necessary at the moment of enlightenment, that we actually read the printed sentences on the page or computer screen. It is equally effective if we memorize and think the sentences or phrases to ourselves and reflect upon their universal meaning, which is the meaning of how it applies to oneself. This is why this knowledge may be called psychology, but it is theistic psychology, because it is from God through the correspondential sense of the Writings Sacred Scripture.
In this reflection upon the universal meaning, it is essential that we be motivated to apply the truth to self. To be motivated to apply the truth to one’s willing and thinking is to search for the universal meaning of the phrase or sentence. This universal meaning applies to every individual regardless of background, culture, and religion. Hence we call this universal meaning theistic psychology. This process of extracting the scientific meaning from the Writings Sacred Scripture is the process of practicing the method of correspondences with enlightenment. It is what this magazine has been promoting as being a “scrutator” of the Third Testament.”
The correspondential sense that is extracted from the literal of the Writings is applicable universally to every human being. In the world of modern science, all principles of science are universally applicable and there are no exceptions based on culture, geography or planet. Hence the correspondential sense of the Writings is considered by science as scientific, because it is universal. This is not the case for every part of the literal meaning of the Writings, which science does not consider scientific. The Doctrine of the Church in the New Church is based on the literal of the Writings, and this is not universally applicable as it includes history and culture. But that which is universally applicable, having been extracted from the literal sense, is considered scientific by theistic psychology.
The idea of “scientifics” as used in the literal of the Writings, refers to knowledge of the natural rational truths of the literal meaning, which contrasts with the comprehension of “interior meaning” that is based on spiritual rational truths. From the perspective of science and theistic psychology, some of the literal sense of the Writings is not universally applicable, hence not scientific, while its extracted universal sense, is scientific, because universally applicable. Again it is to be noted that the scientifics of the interior universal sense is at first understood naturally by the students. They have no access to the interior spiritual-rational and celestial-rational truths themselves, but only to their scientifics. The actual comprehension of the scientifics of interior truths will develop only gradually and by lawful stages, to the extent that the person is regenerating over the years and decades of study.
A similar distinction was discussed in DHL:
Before passing on let us consider briefly the place of what is called Swedenborg's scientific works. From what has been said it can be seen that it is only in so far as these works are seen as spiritual scientifics that they have a rightful place within the borders of the Church, that is in so far as the corresponding spiritual scientifics are seen within the apparent worldly scientifics of their letter. In Providence the scientific works were not written to give, man a literal or factual account of the physical world; but to act as an ultimate basis for the giving of the Writings. The scientific works were given because they contain natural scientifics which correspond to spiritual scientifics. In the future no one will think of even discussing the point as to whether the scientific works agree with the facts of worldly science; for to do so brings the mind down to the sensual corporeal plane; just as now a New Church minister does not discuss whether the account of creation given in Genesis agrees with the actual mode of the creation of the World, for to do so brings him into the sphere of the perverted Christian church.
If viewed from within, the Writings and philosophic works will indeed be seen to be in agreement with the true scientifics of the world, but not if viewed from without, or from the scientific.
(Rev. Theodore Pitcairn, The Second Education. De Hemelsche Leer, Third Fascicle, p.22)
Enlightenment may therefore be defined as the spiritual comprehension of the universally applicable scientific meaning within the literal meaning. It is to perceive how the sentence applies to self and to all other human beings. This is what makes it into a science – universal and objective applicability. Enlightenment, or the perception of spiritual meaning, is not received when our motivation for reading and reflecting upon the Writings is other than application to one’s own willing and thinking and their regeneration. Our interest must be no other than the desire to reform our inherited character by facing spiritual combat in temptations. The scientific truths we extract that apply to our willing and thinking, are to be formed into a doctrine of truth and life, by which we can fend off doubts and relapses in our regeneration. This is the ultimate purpose of enlightenment.
Enlightenment is not something superfluous or special, reserved for certain types of scholarship and piety. Enlightenment is the psychobiological process by which every person’s affective and cognitive organs of the mind are regenerated and prepared for eternal life in heaven. Without enlightenment no one can be prepared for heaven. Either we are enlightened in this world, or failing that, in the afterlife. No one enters heaven without being enlightened while reading the Writings Sacred Scripture. Everyone who is resuscitated in the world of spirits is given instruction in the Writings Sacred Scripture since they alone contain the rational heavens of our immortality. Those who have lived a life of conscience and use are happy and willing receivers of the truths of the Writings. Others are unwilling. And those who are willing, receive them at different degrees of interiorness, depending on their state of regeneration.
The extracted knowledge of theistic psychology may be studied by anyone for any purpose, but everything in it will be understood naturally, and nothing in it will be understood spiritually – unless one is enlightened by God while it is being read or applied.
It is not possible to perceive spiritual meanings without being ‘online’ as it were, connected to “mediate influx” in a deliberate and conscious way. This ‘online’ feature applies to enlightenment since it is the organic operation of spiritual light in the cognitive organ of thinking and reasoning. As long as we are plugged in the correct way, enlightenment flows and operates in our conscious mind. The organic venue for this process of illustration is the interior-natural organ (this is explained in Section 8 titled Thinking With Angels: Our Virtual Heavens, not included in this article).
When the Writings discuss some particular historical ethnic group or religion, we are to search for the scientific meaning behind the discussion, just as Swedenborg performed for us with the Old and New Testament portions of Sacred Scripture. The Writings Sacred Scripture teach that all Sacred Scripture is written in correspondences and that we are to extract spiritual doctrine from them. The Writings Sacred Scripture are written in natural-rational correspondences, which is a discrete degree above the New Testament Sacred Scripture, written in natural-sensuous correspondences. The angelic spirits in the first heaven of the mind read the Writings Sacred Scripture as we do, but it is clear that they know nothing about any of the historical names, nations, periods, and places mentioned in the Writings. Instead of these things, they see the interior-natural correspondences of these things. Our interior-natural organ can give us enlightenment to see these spiritual-natural correspondences of the Letter of the Writings, not exactly as the natural angels do, but in an image that is so close that we can speak with them and think with them.
The scientific meaning of “Abraham” is a celestial mental state in every person’s mind regardless of religion or planet. Similarly with “Jerusalem,” which refers to the spiritual-rational correspondences out of which is constructed the second heaven of every human mind. By this method of correspondences the reader makes the historical names “vanish,” and likewise, with all references to natural things (AC 1405; 3776). When we read the Writings Sacred Scripture we think and reason in our external natural understanding by means of the natural-rational correspondences of the literal meaning. But the angels who are with us, only perceive the spiritual-natural, the spiritual-rational, and celestial-rational correspondences that are within the literal meaning we are reading.
When the Word is being read by man, angels neither know nor perceive what eighty-six is, nor are they concerned about what age Abram was when Hagar bore him Ishmael. Rather, when such a number is read, the real things embodied in that number instantly present themselves to them, as when all other expressions are read, these present themselves as the things which they have been shown to mean in the internal sense. (AC 1963)
when the Word is being read by man the angels may thereby be in their happiness of wisdom (AC 5398)
this sense is for the angels who are with man while the Word is being read, consequently that there is from this source an influx of holiness, and a perception of it, with those who are in the life of faith and charity (AC 8971)
They said that these persons are mentioned with honour in the Word for the reason that in the internal sense the Lord is meant by them-by "Abraham", "Isaac", and "Jacob", the Lord in respect of the Divine and the Divine Human; by "David" the Lord in respect of the Divine Royalty; and by the "Apostles" the Lord in respect of Divine Truths; also that when the Word is read by man the angels have no perception whatever of these men, for their names do not enter heaven (HH 526)
When we read the Writings Sacred Scripture we encounter discussions about Abraham or King David or one of the Apostles. These names repeatedly appear within the literal meaning of the Writings. What is the scientific or universal meaning of these names? They each refer to regenerating mental states and their dynamic activity in spiritual growth. This applies to all people regardless of background, religion, or planet, though no doubt with realistic differences. When we read one of the many superb Memorable Relations throughout the Writings, what do the angels who are with us get out of it? Especially when our children read them in the innocence of ignorance? The angels have no idea of number or age. What then do they think of when numbers and ages are mentioned in the Memorable Relations? Neither do they know of directions like north or south. Neither do they know of the European nations and cities, as those which are mentioned in the Memorable Relations, nor the names of the bishops of the Church, and so on.
It is clear that the Writings Sacred Scripture exists at discrete levels and that the Letter is different at each level. The method of correspondences starts at the natural-rational level of the literal meaning, collecting facts and organizing them into an orderly scientifics of doctrine that we use as a tool in daily spiritual combat with our temptations brought to us by God for this very purpose. This doctrine based on the literal sense of the Writings Sacred Scripture may be called abstracted, to distinguish it from the later doctrine that is extracted.
Abstracted doctrine does not use the method of correspondences, and hence does not depend on enlightenment. We all start with principles of life and religious doctrines that are abstracted, paraphrased, contrasted, and reflected on in sermons, lessons, discussions, and studies. They are the foundation of our moral-rational life, and hence of civilization and society. Further on down the road of maturity we begin to go beyond mere abstraction. We leave the discrete degree of the literal and its natural-rational abstractions in our mind, by making the literal meaning “vanish” from central focus, and as a result, we begin to think with angels of the natural heaven (AC 1405; 3776).
But as he grows into a young adult, if he develops his power of reason, he employs what is in his interior natural to work out the reasons for things, which are truths of a yet higher nature. These are extracted so to speak from what is present in the interior natural. (...) This is the manner in which a person rises with his understanding from the world up to heaven. (AC 5497)
The phrase “to rise with the understanding from the world up to heaven” refers to enlightenment through Sacred Scripture. Our thoughts suddenly begin to operate by means of spiritual-natural correspondences of the Writings Sacred Scripture. We are with the angelic spirits that inhabit the first heaven in our mind. And by progressive enlightenment in our interior-natural organ we climb up Jacob’s ladder of discrete correspondences in our mind, “as though” we actually were in the presence of the angels who dwell in our spiritual mind.
We receive this light of heaven when we read the Writings as Divine Speech rendered in the correspondences of Sacred Scripture. To read the Writings as Divine Speech in correspondences is to read them with enlightenment. The abstract doctrine of the literal meaning is suddenly seen infused with heavenly light so that its interiors are perceived as truth from the Divine Human. This interior perception in enlightenment cannot possibly be at the same discrete level of meaning as the literal. The literal of the Writings Sacred Scripture and the abstracted doctrine of the literal, now both become spiritually empowered with a comprehension that is a discrete degree above them.
We may learn and memorize and apply abstracted doctrine for decades before we begin reformation and regeneration. Abstracted doctrine is necessary for making us ready for reformation, and we could not become ready without it. But the Writings tell us that the time must come in adulthood when we choose to begin our reformation and regeneration. Now we must enter a discrete degree within the abstracted doctrines that we have collected in our mind until then. We do this under the supervision of the Divine Human who provides the spiritual light or enlightenment.
The Divine Human is commanding us, through the literal meaning of the Writings Sacred Scripture, that we must become scrutators and begin practicing the method of correspondences with enlightenment. This involves the deliberate intention and systematic application procedures called extractive research, that is to say, spiritual meaning that is “drawn out” by means of correspondences during moments of illustration.
 But what is the nature of the revelation with those who are in good and from this in the affection of truth, cannot be described. It is not manifest, neither is it altogether hidden; but it is a certain consent and favoring from within that a thing is true, and a non-favoring if it is not true. When there is a favoring, the mind is at rest and is serene, and in this state there is the acknowledgment which is of faith. The cause of its being so is from the influx of heaven from the Lord; for through heaven from the Lord there is light, that surrounds and enlightens the intellect, which is the eye of the internal sight. The things which are then seen in that light are truths, for this very light is the Divine truth which proceeds from the Lord. That this Divine truth is light in heaven, has been frequently shown. (AC 8694)
This passage describes in natural expression a spiritual phenomenon that we experience mentally when extracting theistic psychology knowledges for ourselves. The extracted information is called “revelation” because it cannot be perceived as true except by enlightenment. The spiritual meaning which is the content of revelation or enlightenment, “cannot be described” with natural expressions because “it is not manifest.” But “neither is it altogether hidden.”
What does this mean? Something that cannot be described in language that refers to natural objects and conditions, which are “not manifest” in natural perception? The closest specific description given for it is that “it is a certain consent and favoring from within that a thing is true, and a non-favoring if it is not true.
Methods of Extractive Research
The procedures for extracting scientific facts from the Writings Sacred Scripture are surely endless in number when we consider that the Writings Sacred Scripture mark themselves as the last portion of the overall Sacred Scripture that took thousands of years to deliver to humanity. It calls itself “the Crown of Revelations” because “it will endure forever.” Quoting:
LII. This New Church, truly Christian, which at this day is being established by the Lord, will endure to eternity, as is proved from the Word of both Testaments; also it was foreseen from the creation of the world; and it will be the crown of the four preceding churches, because it will have true faith and true charity. (CORO 0)
We now know that heaven and earth must stay connected in creation so that there will never be an end to earths in the natural world. An endless series of civilizations and generations will be using the Writings Sacred Scripture for extracting the information they will need to regenerate. Every generation must extract its own information because each generation is unique in relation to all the others, and their regeneration will depend on new and more interior truths that prior generations have not seen.
This is why it is rational to think that the number of methods by which spiritual information can be extracted from the Writings, is endless. But here are three methods of extraction that were given me to discover that I would like to share with other scrutators of the Third Testament. Perhaps others have also made these and similar discoveries in their scrutatory study of the Writings. They are serviceable to our generation for extracting certain types of spiritual facts that are suitable to a civilization such as ours, whose genes of consciousness are formed by natural-rational correspondences.
The substitution technique involves parallelisms in the Writings that are explicitly stated in the Letter. It may also be called the method of applying the Letter to the Letter (see my earlier article in HL XIV No. 2 April 2002, 103-109). The Letter of the Writings must define the substitution for it to be permissible. Some substitutions are near to each other, as they are mentioned closely to each other in the Sacred Text, while other substitutions are more distant from each other, so that several steps of parallelisms must be reconstructed and demonstrated.
I illustrate near substitutions in the following table which is based on a search for equivalence statements in the text, as for instance "it is the same whether you say that...", besides others like it that could also be searched.
Let’s take a passage that allows several substitutions according to the table above. I have bolded the words in the original, and also in its duplicate paragraph below to indicate the substitutions: Quoting:
The natural mind, by its two capacities called rationality and freedom, is in this state that it is capable of ascending through three degrees, or of descending through three degrees. It ascends by reason of goods and truths, and descends by reason of evils and falsities. And when it ascends, the lower degrees which tend towards hell are closed, but when it descends, the higher degrees which tend towards heaven are closed. The cause for this is that they are in reaction. These three degrees, higher and lower, have neither been opened nor closed in man in earliest infancy, for he is then ignorant of good and truth, and of evil and falsity. (DLW 274)
[making the substitutions;]
The natural man, by its two capacities called rationality and freedom, is in this state that it is capable of ascending through three degrees, or of descending through three degrees. [The man] ascends by reason of love and faith, and descends by reason of evils and the hells. And when [the man] ascends, the external degrees which tend towards hell are closed, but when [the man] descends, the internal degrees which tend towards heaven are closed. The cause for this is that they are in reaction. These three degrees, internal and external, have neither been opened nor closed in man in earliest infancy, for he is then ignorant of love and faith, and of evil and the hells.
It this case, it turns out that the original and the substitutions are so close that the two paragraphs hardly seem different in meaning. Nevertheless, the second paragraph is not merely a synonymous paraphrase of the original, but reveals new features that are more interior. To see this requires more detailed study and examination. (see Note 8, not included here).
Let us take another passage where the substitutions create a more dramatic difference:
The very essence and life of faith is the Lord alone (AC 30)
The very essence and life of conscience is the Lord alone
The second sentence containing the permissible substitution from the Table above, is a more interior meaning than the original. We knew that the life of faith is the Lord since faith is truth from the Lord, and what is from the Lord is the Lord. Hence, the very essence and life of faith is the Lord alone. This is the literal meaning. But we did not know (prior to the substitution) that the very essence and life of conscience is the Lord alone. This is a new spiritual revelation contained within the first revelation of the Letter. We must now confirm this new more interior perception by finding a passage in the Letter that states that the life of conscience is the Lord. As for example: Quoting:
The new will with the spiritual regenerate man is conscience (NJHD 1919)
 A person does not feel this struggle to be anywhere but in himself, and he feels it as the pangs of conscience. Yet it is the Lord and the devil (that is, hell) who struggle in man; their struggle is to gain control of the person, to see which is to possess him. The devil, or hell, attacks the person and calls forth the evil in him, while the Lord protects him and calls forth the good in him. (TCR 596)
Genuine conscience is given by the Lord through the knowledges of a true faith (SE 3615)
With angelical spirits there are bonds of conscience, which conscience is from the Lord. (SE 3850)
Judgments are based on what is the Lord's when they accord with truths and spring from conscience. (AC 9160)
When conscience dictates, it is in like manner said in the Word that "Jehovah speaks;" because conscience is formed from things revealed, and from knowledges, and from the Word; and when the Word speaks, or dictates, it is the Lord who speaks; hence nothing is more common, even at the present day, when referring to a matter of conscience, or of faith, than to say, "the Lord says." (AC 371)
You can see from these series of passages that a conscience that is genuine is from the Lord and is the Lord. Quoting: “nothing is more common, even at the present day, when referring to a matter of conscience, or of faith, than to say, "the Lord says."
In summary, we go through three steps in the method of substitution when scrutating the Letter of the Third Testament. First, we find parallelisms in the Letter that are explicitly identified in the plain meaning of the literal sentences. Second, we make the substitutions and reflect on the new formulation. This new meaning is more interior than what could be seen in the original text of the Letter. It has been spiritually enriched by the different series or contexts which are brought together by the substitution. Third, find new passages that explicitly confirm the new meaning.
Note that the new perception after substitution is more interior than the older perception before substitution. Despite this, the new perception is not yet a discrete degree higher than the old perception. It is in the same degree, which is natural-rational at a more interior continuum. Performing this three-step method builds natural-rational vessels that are needed later for influx and enlightenment. This occurs when we apply the new meaning to our hourly willing and thinking all day long. Then, at some point -- unexpected point -- we receive enlightenment. That’s when for the first time we can see the meaning of the new perception in a spiritual degree.
Without having practiced the substitution method regarding some topic, there are not any such cognitive “vessels” that can be enlightened. Of course, it is possible for people to practice the substitution technique implicitly, not as a formal research technique, but spontaneously, since our thinking about Sacred Scripture is always in the company of angels who prompt the train of our thoughts in favorable directions for noticing parallelisms and discovering the substitutes.
This approach for extracting scientific information from the Writings Sacred Scripture is illustrated in the section 15.3 titled Genes of Consciousness (not included in this article). It consists of arranging words or phrases from the Writings in sets that they belong to, according to the Letter.
Each row forms a trigrammatic set that acts as a rational unit. There are numerous such triplets in the Letter of the Third Testament. I discovered that when I read a sentence that contains one member of the set, I perceive a more interior sense of it when I contextualize the member through its set. Further, if you inspect each column up and down, you are forming a new rational set in the organization of your memory-knowledge. Now, when you read about Love, for example, you can supply the rest of the series in your mind – Love is to Wisdom as the will is to the understanding, or as celestial is to spiritual, or as Jerusalem is to Assyria, and so on. This context of the series allows the perception of a new meaning which is more interior than what you had before without the context. Now, this new rational unit will serve as a cognitive vessel for a more interior enlightenment. This more interior perception becomes actual at the moment you apply it to your willing and thinking in daily activities.
This method is illustrated in section 15.3.5 titled Enneadic Gene Structures, not included in this article. It uses a chart or matrix created by putting together two series obtained from the method of rational series. Such charts are made of intersections that have dynamic properties relating to the development of mental states in regeneration, as frequently described in the Third Testament when explicating the correspondential sense of Genesis in the Old Testament. In the example below, the first column lists some phrases that are frequently encountered in the Letter of the Writings, and the second column lists the mental state map location that corresponds to rational series found in the Letter. “AF” refers to the affective organ called “the will”, and “CO” refers to the cognitive organ called “the understanding”. Levels 3, 2, and 1 refer to the three degrees: celestial, spiritual, natural.
For instance, the first entry of “Divine good of the rational” refers to the mental state “AF3.” This refers to the affective organ (AF) at the celestial level (3), which is often called “celestial good” and “celestial love.” The fourth row entry of “Good thus conjoins itself with truth in the rational” is translated into the summary chart as “AF2 + CO2” which refers to the affective organ or the will (AF) at the rational level (2) conjoining (+) with the cognitive understanding (CO) also at that level (2). The last entry of “memory-knowledges and knowledges from the natural man” is specified as “CO1” which refers to the operations or cognitions of the cognitive organ (CO) at the natural level (1).
When we recognize in our mind, as we are reading the Third Testament, that “Divine good of the rational” is celestial willing (A3), we are providing an enlarged context for it as it is embedded in its own rational series, as defined by the patterns we can observe in the Letter. This enlarged and more systematic mental thesaurus of the Letter of the Third Testament becomes a vessel for more interior perception of truths in the next phase of enlightenment, which occurs the moment that we apply this larger interior thesaurus to some part of our willing and thinking during our mundane day to day activities.
The elevation of meaning during the extraction process is due to the operation of the interior-natural organ, as discussed section 8 titled Thinking With Angels -- Our Virtual Heavens, not included in this article.
Note: To access the various Sections mentioned in this article, please consult
The Making of Theistic Psychology by Leon James. Available on the Internet at:
Teaching the Scientifics of the Interiors of the Third Testament
Leon James, November 2006
The purpose of this reply is to clarify the issues raised by the Editor, Rutger Perizonius, regarding the meaning of “scientifics of the interiors” described in my article (HL 2006 140—154), and also to continue the doctrinal exchange to which other scrutators are invited to participate.
Most of the Editor’s comments and objections can be taken care of by further clarifications. It may be that the expression “scientifics of the interiors” appears at first as a contradiction given that the Third Testament uses the word scientifics “mostly in the external or natural sense” as the Editor points out (HL 2006:141). In fact, so does the article. In other words, what can be taught in a classroom setting is limited to an external or natural comprehension of the interior sense, regardless of how this is taught, whether in the scientific language of theistic psychology or in the religious language in which the articles in De Hemelsche Leer are written. I recognize that it is not possible for students to acquire in this way a spiritual understanding of the interior sense of the Third Testament. A spiritual understanding of the Third Testament can only be acquired from the Lord through genuine doctrine and a knowledge of correspondences:
“No one can see the spiritual sense except from the doctrine of genuine truth; from this doctrine the spiritual sense can be seen, when there is some knowledge of correspondences. (…) This is the reason why it is not permitted anyone in the natural world, nor in the spiritual world, to investigate the spiritual sense of the Word from the sense of its letter, unless he is wholly in the doctrine of Divine truth and in enlightenment from the Lord, (…) He thinks falsely who says with himself, I know many correspondences, I can know the true doctrine of the Divine Word, the spiritual sense will teach it to me. This cannot be done. But, as has been said, let him say with himself, I know the doctrine of Divine truth, now I can see the spiritual sense, provided I know correspondences. But still this must be in enlightenment from the Lord (…).” (De Verbo 21)
Hence the question arises whether it is possible and practical to teach a natural or external comprehension (“scientifics”) of the interiors of the Word in the context of a classroom course, as in my case, or in the context of conference lectures and magazine articles, as was attempted in the case of the authors of De Hemelsche Leer a generation ago. Although their audience and mine are distinctly different, yet the commonality is that in both situations scrutators are attempting to write down or verbally explain the interior sense of some portion of the Third Testament which they had received in illustration from the Lord. Is such communication or teaching possible, and what would be its effect on students or readers? This question is relevant not just for theistic psychology students but also for scrutators today who are attempting to communicate their spiritual understanding to other scrutators, as we do in this publication.
General Issues in the Editor’s Commentaries
Suppose we wanted to teach the contents of De Hemelsche Leer to scientists who have rejected the materialistic philosophy called the negative principle and have declared themselves in favor of the affirmative principle (AC 2568). These scientists need not be members of the New Church, but they need to acknowledge that the Writings of Swedenborg may be accurately or truthfully called Sacred Scripture or “the Word” in the sense that all its sentences actually originate from God but are expressed in a natural language through the mind of Swedenborg.
There may not be many scientists in this generation who are willing to acknowledge this. I believe that this new type of thinking called “theistic science” (vs. non-theistic or anti-theistic), is the trend of the future in all of science, and thence, in public education. At any rate, right now there are plenty of students who are in preparation for becoming scientists and who, at the same time, are willing to acknowledge the possibility that Sacred Scripture exists, and that the Writings of Swedenborg are Sacred Scripture. That there is such a group of people today dispersed among the millions of college students, I have seen myself for several years now through teaching my course on theistic psychology at the University of Hawaii to college students majoring in psychology as part of their preparation to be professional scientists.
At first I attempted to teach the letter of the Writings, thinking that it contained many naked truths that are serviceable as scientific facts about the world. One example is the revelation about the nature of cause-effect relationships as correspondences across discrete degrees. Other factual information that is serviceable for science includes details about the process of resuscitation, details about how our daily thought processes are influenced by spirits, and details about the process of mental development at the natural and rational levels.
But I ran into an insurmountable problem trying to teach the letter of the Writings to a classroom of students who had different religious identification (Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu), including some who declared themselves against religion. There were too many passages in the letter of the Third Testament that made objectionable and offensive (to them) statements about their religion. This was a psychological stumbling block they could not get past. There are also many ideas expressed in the letter that appear gender biased in the traditional sense of male dominance. This is unacceptable to many women students today.
Before I gave up the idea of teaching spiritual things from the Writings I realized that the Third Testament teach the method of correspondences by which the historicals of the letter of the Word can be made to “vanish” “just as if the letter did not exist”:
“whatever in the sense of the letter involves a question and is determined to persons, in the internal sense falls into an idea undetermined to any person; for in heaven among the angels the historicals of the letter vanish when they leave man and enter heaven” (AC 3776)
“But the internal sense, as has already been clearly shown, is of such a nature that all things in general and in particular are to be understood abstractly from the letter, just as if the letter did not exist; for in the internal sense is the Word's soul and life, which does not become manifest unless the sense of the letter as it were vanishes. (AC 1405)
As explained in my article (HL 2006 140-154) I have developed course materials to teach theistic psychology to students who at the outset are willing to acknowledge that the Writings of Swedenborg could possibly be Divine Speech or Divine Truth expressed in Sacred Scripture in a natural language. This acknowledgement is called the “positive bias in science” in contradiction to the “negative bias in science” which is what the students had been exposed to in their education until then. Once this acknowledgement is voluntarily made, students are presented with the materials that I have created as a scrutator of the Third Testament.
The students are not able to understand this material in a spiritual way, that is, in an interior-natural way, but they are able to comprehend it in an external-natural way. The assigned reports that succeeding generations of students have written for the past several years, as well as the class discussions, confirm this limitation. Students are only able to learn a natural explanation of the interior ideas that I as a scrutator can understand spiritually and rationally. You may examine all the student reports over the years, which are published on the Web at: http://www.soc.hawaii.edy/theistic/index.htm#part2
A similar issue may be raised with the historical attempt of the writers of De Hemelsche Leer in the 1920’s and ‘30s to teach members of the General Church the distinction between the letter of the Writings (Heavenly Doctrines) and its interior sense. The articles in De Hemelsche Leer by Pfeiffer, Pitcairn, Groeneweld, Zelling, and others, may be considered a course curriculum fashioned for the General Church mind to teach the existence and reality of the interior sense of the Third Testament. The two principal students whose remarks appear in De Hemelsche Leer – Bishop George DeCharms and Dr. Rev. Hugo L.J. Odhner, acknowledged in their replies that the Writings are the Word, but refused to acknowledge that they contain an inner sense expressed by correspondences, in the same way as is the case for the Word of the Old Testament and the Word of the New Testament.
When I first read De Hemelsche Leer it was plain to me from the various dissenting replies of DeCharms and Odhner, that they comprehended the De Hemelsche Leer articles in an external or natural way, not spiritual. In other words, the written articles in De Hemelsche Leer, or the group lectures at conferences, were taken only in an external sense by the members of the General Church. As a result, they only saw contradictions instead of doctrinal truths. Though there was clear proof provided in De Hemelsche Leer of the internal sense of numerous expressions and Numbers of the Writings, the dissenters only comprehended the external or natural sense of these Numbers. Hence they saw no proof or demonstration of the existence of the interior sense in the Third Testament. They were unable to comprehend the internal sense that was laid out for them in the articles. They repeatedly denied the existence of such a sense and accused the authors of De Hemelsche Leer to imagine that there was one. Their exchanges in that magazine proves unequivocally that one can teach or describe the spiritual sense of the Word, but that none can understand it spiritually except those who are enlightened by the Lord, having undergone regeneration (De Verbo 12; AC 10400).
This experience is replicated in the teaching of theistic psychology to students in a science course who are willing to acknowledge at the outset, that the Writings could possibly be Divine Speech expressed as Sacred Scripture by means of correspondences. This is called taking on the affirmative principle or the positive bias in science. The negative bias in science is to deny that The Writings could possibly be Divine, and to deny that there is a Divine.
If we taught a course on the internal sense of the Old and New Testaments through the letter of Arcana Coelestia, what would the students understand? Consider young people who are in training as ministers in the New Church. They would first only understand the Numbers in an external or natural sense. Even though the content of the course involves a description of the interior sense of the Word, the students initially understand that spiritual content in a natural way. This would then be called teaching the scientifics of the interior sense of the Word.
Specific Issues in the Editor’s Commentaries
(1) Although “the word theistic does not occur in the Word” as pointed out by the Editor (HL, 2006:141), the use of this word is not in contradiction to the Third Testament. Swedenborg’s pre-theological works can be appropriately characterized as theistic science in contrast to the works of his contemporaries that may be called non-theistic science. By Divine Providence many details of Swedenborg’s theistic science were incorporated into the letter of the Third Testament. The basis of this theistic science is that God’s omnipotence is exercised in every singular of the natural and spiritual worlds by means of good and truth substances arranged in discrete layers by the laws of correspondences.
(2) There are numerous passages in the Third Testament that are written in a language that describes the various religions on earth in negative terms. For instance, about the Christian religion, it is said that “not a single truth has remained in it, and … it is like a ship that has suffered shipwreck” (INV 40). About the Jewish religion it is stated that it is only a “semblance of religion” (AC 4864) that it is “idolatrous” (AC 4845), and that its people “as also at the present day” regard every truth as falsity (AC 4865), and many other such things are stated that people find offensive, according to contemporary standards of communication and dialog.
The Writings make statements about other religions and their leaders or prophets which are fundamentally offensive to the members of those religions. I for one am concerned about how certain people will react when these statements become well known in today’s divisive world. Our front line defense against the accusation of bigotry and insult is the idea that these statements have an internal sense that has absolutely nothing to do with these religions and people. Such is the case in theistic psychology which makes these historicals of the letter “vanish” by teaching the scientifics of their interiors. For the sake of the common good and the protection of the Third Testament, I think that theistic psychology should be a communal work among scrutators who, under illustration from the Lord, are capable of extracting the higher and more interior correspondences in the letter when it discusses historicals and religions.
Even though the Writings are universally inclusive of people of all genuine religions, as pointed out by the Editor (HL 2006:141), nevertheless this message of universal inclusion is totally lost on the people of those religions, when they are faced with the unacceptable descriptions of their doctrines, beliefs, practices, and prophets. The literal sense of the Writings becomes therefore a major stumbling block to those who are not of the New Church. Short of the inherently slow pace of evangelization, the major portion of humanity on this earth is barred from the useful knowledges and facts that are contained in the Writings. Theistic science based on the correspondential sense of the letter is a way that the Writings can be redeemed from rejection and made useful in the eyes of the world.
(3) Within the finite printed text of the volumes of the Writings, there are contained an infinite set of rational truths in “endless variety” to eternity (AC 6023, 6023). Much of this knowledge is available in “naked goods and truths” where the spiritual sense is rendered explicitly (SS 40; AE 816). Memory-knowledges of naked truths may be called “scientifics of the interior sense” because they are spiritual things that stand out in the literal sense. When a scrutator puts together many of these naked truths, these are formed into a coherent rational knowledge of the individual that people from any religion can understand and accept, as long as they are willing to assume the affirmative principle that God provides different versions of Sacred Scripture to different nations at different times in history. Hence they can accept the scientifics of the interiors of the Writings as Divinely revealed scientific truth, even though they do not form part of their religion. While they cannot relate affirmatively to some of the historicals of the letter, they can do so to the scientifics of the correspondential sense.
The scientific knowledges in the naked truths of the letter of the Third Testament, include detailed facts and much information about the mental world and the spiritual world of eternity in the afterlife of all people, regardless of culture and religion. These scientifics of the interiors called naked truths in the letter, contain facts about resuscitation, about mental development in the natural mind, about the history of religions, about cause-effect relationships between the natural world and the spiritual world through discrete degrees, about the extension of the human race across the earths in the universe, about conjugial love and marriage, about the Spiritual Sun that can be seen by every person after resuscitation, and many other scientific facts about heredity, about correspondences, about the laws of permissions, fortune, accidents, and much more. These descriptions, explanations, and facts are rational and objective, and as well, empirical since they were observed and confirmed by Swedenborg over 27 years of daily experience.
People of other religions and cultures who are willing to take on the affirmative principle, can accept these observational facts by Swedenborg because the ideas are rational and consistent, and Divinely inspired. Those who have not confirmed themselves in false religious dogmas, can be led by the Lord to accept these scientific facts without having to abandon their childhood religion and convert to the New Church. The scientifics of the interiors can therefore serve an intermediate use, given that the Lord only gradually “bends, never crushes” (AC 1992) a person’s ideas held from childhood religion. It is revealed that “heathens” and people from other religions are instructed by angels who had originally belonged to the same religion (HH 515).
(4) Arcana Coelestia, teaches the scientifics of the interiors of the Word of the Old and New Testament. It frequently uses the technique of explication saying that expression A “signifies” expression B, where A is an expression used in the Word of the Old or New Testament, and B is an expression referring to the spiritual sense of A. The entire work of Arcana Coelestia, when considered in its letter, constitute the scientifics of the spiritual sense of the Word of the Old and New Testament. As people read Arcana Coelestia, they only have at first a natural idea of B. Even though B refers to a spiritual idea or truth, still, it is understood only naturally, not spiritually. Later, as people enter the phases of regeneration, they are given by the Lord to perceive B from an interior-natural perspective which becomes increasingly and gradually spiritual and celestial.
When we apply this same technique of correspondences to the literal sense of the Third Testament, we can focus on the fact that all passages that are offensive to the other religions, as discussed above, vanish from view, and instead one has an explanation of the interior sense which universally refers to mental states of individuals from any religion. We can put these explanations together into a science of theistic psychology which does not contain those passages that are offensive to them, but their correspondences instead. These revealed facts then become non-sectarian references to universal human states. They can acknowledge this as the science of theistic psychology.
Those who are taught in this way, like my students who are from different religions, can benefit from learning the scientifics of the spiritual sense because these are an ordered collection of universal facts that apply to them, to their mind, their mental states, their expectations of what happens in the afterlife, based on direct revelations by God to Swedenborg. Perhaps not all can accept this attitude, but many can.
It is indeed not possible that students of theistic psychology can understand this knowledge spiritually and rationally, since this depends on one’s relationship to the Lord through the literal of the Word, without which there cannot exist a New Church in the individual’s mind. Nevertheless, the scientifics of the spiritual sense of the Word, as collected and rendered in theistic psychology by contributing scrutators, is of use psychologically and socially to the world at large. Through this kind of study, real facts about the afterlife, about heaven and hell, about conjugial love, about the evolution of the Grand Human, and so on, are heard, memorized, and added to their knowledge and comprehension of the world around them.
Theistic psychology can become a force in all of science, weakening its current powerful hold on the natural mind through its promotion of the negative bias against God and the actual reality, the true science of cause-effect relations in the world which are created and maintained by God through correspondences. Theistic psychology can be a force against dogmatic fundamentalism in all religions, when this is based on a literal and restricted interpretation of their religious books. The idea that their holy books contain universal truths expressed in correspondences may lead them away from the excesses of literalism that justify sectarianism and disunity among the peoples of the worlds.
Since theistic psychology or theistic science is produced solely by scrutators, in the sense recognized by De Hemelsche Leer, it becomes a cosmopolitan intellectual avenue by which spiritual and rational knowledge revealed by the Lord, can be transferred or communicated to millions who would never consider changing their religion, but who yet are in mental states led by good, hence by the Lord. They can benefit by this knowledge which would remain closed to them through the literal of the Writings, which they are unwilling to hear or retain. What they cannot hear through the scientifics of the letter, they can hear through the scientifics of the spiritual.
(5) It is indeed correct, as the Editor insists, that my students in theistic psychology, “will never have access to the spiritual and celestial sense, because the only entrance to those higher senses is through the letter of the Word with which they are unfamiliar” (HL 2006:147). Hence I have repeatedly stated that the students will not be able to themselves produce any knowledge of theistic psychology, nor will they be able to understand this knowledge produced by scrutators, except in a natural perspective. Nevertheless, they will have a natural-rational comprehension of interior-natural and spiritual-rational truths. This is their knowledge of the scientifics of the interior sense which covers facts about the afterlife and God’s complex relation to the universal race.
The reason that only scrutators, as recognized in De Hemelsche Leer, are to legitimately produce theistic psychology is that only in this way can true facts be extracted and collected from the correspondential sense of the Third Testament. Nothing produced in any other way can be trusted to be genuine doctrine. Nothing in theistic psychology can be contrary to genuine doctrine received by scrutators as they are regenerating ever more deeply through the “circle of love” and the “circle of life (DP 29).
As the Editor points out, “all those in the Grand Man, that is in heaven, who do not form His heart and lungs are unfamiliar with the Word” (HL 2006:147). In the same vein I can point out that all those who do not know or acknowledge the letter of the Third Testament, but who know its spiritual scientifics through theistic psychology, are thereby enabled to enter the Grand Human through its many parts and ways other than the heart and lungs – as long as they are in some good that is compatible with this knowledge that is extracted from the letter. They know from theistic psychology that the God of their religion is a Divine Human, that conjunction with Him is salvation, immortality, and heaven, and that this conjunction is achieved through withholding oneself from doing evil to the neighbor because it is a sin against Him.
(6) Those who acknowledge the letter of the Third Testament are part of the New Church. But we are cautioned that it is not their acknowledgement of the Third Testament that makes heaven with them, but the quality of their understanding of the Third Testament, and not the understanding by itself but the doing of it in life (SS 76, TCR 245). This is also the meaning that I intended when referring to “extracting theistic psychology for ourselves” (Editor’s comment, HL 2006:153). The expression “for ourselves” refers to the requirement for scrutators of making use of doctrine in life, for their own willing, thinking, and doing in the course of daily mundane activities. This is the only motive for the scrutator’s effort that is compatible with good, and hence with one’s own regeneration.
(7) The distinction I made between abstracted doctrine and extracted doctrine needs to be clarified, as the Editor points out (HL 2006:153). I meant to refer to the same distinction that was made by Pfeiffer and Pitcairn, when addressing the General Church view that the Word of the Writings is not written in correspondences, but that one obtains a spiritual understanding of it by deepening one’s comprehension through comparison of multiple passages and arranging them in an order. This is what may be called “abstracted doctrine” in the sense that it is an abstract paraphrase and ordering of the literal.
But the “extracted doctrine” is the doctrine “drawn out” by means of the knowledge of correspondences and illustration from the Lord. The genuine spiritual sense of the Writings can only be drawn out through correspondences, and once the doctrine is drawn out, and phrased, it then must be confirmed by the literal sense in other passages. In this way the genuine doctrine is seen to agree with the literal and is not merely somebody’s intelligence.
According to the article by Philip Odhner in the same issue (HL 2006:160), “illustration or enlightenment from the Lord, and the science of correspondences, are needed for the seeing of the internal sense of the Word.” Since the General Church critics quoted in DHL were unwilling to acknowledge any correspondences in the letter of the Third Testament, they lacked what was needed for the seeing of the internal sense of the Writings. They did not see the difference between doctrine that is merely an abstracted and paraphrased version of the literal of the Writings, versus doctrine that is extracted from the literal by the use of correspondences and enlightenment from he Lord. For scrutators to understand what is involved in this difference is critical.
(8) I hope the Editor will see fit to publish the portions of the article that he left out from the submitted manuscript, mentioning only their titles – The Method of Substitution, the Method of Rational Series, and the Method of Mapping. These three sections deal with a subject close to the heart of scrutators – how to draw out doctrine from the letter of the Third Testament. It would be useful for us to share whatever method that any of us is given to discover. Although the Method of Substitution was introduced in a previous article (HL April 2002, 103-109), the other two methods have not yet been discussed among scrutators.
A Reply to the Editor’s Commentary on
Teaching the Scientifics of the Interiors of the Third Testament
Leon James, December 2006
Since a limited space is available here, readers who wish to see the entire reply of nine pages can view it on the Web at: www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/theistic/interior-scientifics.htm
The Third Testament uses the word scientifics “mostly in the external or natural sense” as the Editor points out (HL 2006:141). What can be taught in a classroom setting is limited to an external or natural comprehension of the interior sense, regardless of how this is taught, whether in the scientific language of theistic psychology or in the religious language of DHL. I recognize that it is not possible for students to acquire in this way a spiritual understanding of the interior sense of the TT. A spiritual understanding of the TT can only be acquired from the Lord through genuine doctrine and a knowledge of correspondences applied under illustration (DeVerbo 21)
Hence the question arises whether it is possible or practical, and beneficial, to teach a natural or external comprehension (“scientifics”) of the interiors of the Word in the context of a classroom course on psychology in a public state university.
At first I attempted to teach the letter of the Writings, thinking that it contained many naked truths that are serviceable to the science of psychology. Examples include details about the resuscitation process, details about how our daily thought processes are influenced by spirits, and details about the process of mental development at the natural and rational levels. The Writings are full of this kind of information that is serviceable to theistic psychology.
But I ran into an insurmountable problem trying to teach the letter of the Word to a classroom of students who had different religious identification (Christian, Buddhist, Jewish, Hindu), including some who declared themselves against religion. There were too many passages in the letter of the Third Testament that made statements about their religion or religious leaders and prophets that were objectionable and offensive to them .This made the use of the letter of the Writings inappropriate for teaching psychology in such a non-religious context.
Before I gave up the idea of teaching spiritual things from the Writings I realized that the TT teaches the method of correspondences by which the historicals of the letter of the Word can be made to “vanish” “just as if the letter did not exist” (AC 3776, see also AC 1405)
As explained in my article (HL 2006 140-154) I have developed course materials to teach theistic psychology to students who at the outset are willing to acknowledge that the Writings of Swedenborg could possibly be Sacred Scripture or Divine Truth expressed in a natural language. This acknowledgement is called the “positive bias in science” (affirmative principle) in contradiction to the “negative bias in science” which is what the students had been exposed to in their education until then (negative principle). Once this acknowledgement is voluntarily made, students are presented with the materials that I have created as a scrutator of the TT. These materials care called theistic psychology, as explained in my article.
The students are not able to understand this material in a spiritual way, or in an interior-natural way, but they are able to comprehend it in an external-natural way. You may examine all the student reports over the past few semesters, which are published on the Web at: www.soc.hawaii.edy/theistic/index.htm#part2
The students who come to the course with a religion say at the end of the course that their religion is much clarified and their faith much strengthened. Those without a religion say at the end that they feel elevated and enlightened to have discovered their new relationship with God or the “Divine Psychologist” in their mind. They do not see themselves closer to a religion, but only to God as a practical, daily, scientific concept. They are delighted to discover that they are immortal human beings and that resuscitation awaits them barely a few hours after death. They love the idea that heaven is an eternal conjugial state conjoined to one’s soul mate.
Besides this, they feel empowered with new psychological tools of thinking and reasoning with such concepts as cognitive reformation of the understanding, affective regeneration of the will, distinct heavenly layers of human consciousness, hell, and the anatomy of the mind (celestial, spiritual, natural); and much more. These are the beneficial things that they have learned through the natural scientifics of the interiors of the TT.
The benefits of teaching the correspondential sense of the OT, NT, and TT appear to me quite significant. It allows professors and scientists to teach the many serviceable ideas and facts that are in the Writings of Swedenborg. It allows books of the Writings to be used as textbooks in public courses. This would not be possible if they were teaching the literal sense of the Writings, since this is what the New Church religion is based on, and religion cannot be imported into science.
A continuation of this article as a reply to the editor's comments is available
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