FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
Table of Contents
- What is the purpose of this website?
- What is the Science of Correspondences?
- Who is Emanuel Swedenborg?
- Why should I believe what Emanuel Swedenborg wrote?
- What is the connection between science and religion?
- Why is the Science of Correspondences so important?
- What is true science?
- What is true religion?
- How is this website organized?
- Where should I start?
- Abbreviations for works of Swedenborg cited
1-What is the purpose of this website?
The purpose of this website is to reintroduce mankind to a more complete science, one that is not only concerned with natural effects but also relates these effects to mental causes and spiritual purposes. According to the Science of Correspondences, our personal and social problems have causes, our beliefs, intentions, thoughts, words and actions have consequences, our life has meaning and the universe has a noble purpose. Above this temporal natural world, lie eternal or higher-dimensional realms of infinite meaning and splendor.
2 – What is the Science of Correspondences?
The Science of Correspondences is the Eternal Wisdom that relates and conjoins nature, mind and spirit, body, mind and soul, Heaven and Earth, God and man. Due to mankind’s fall from grace, this science was eventually lost and veiled. However, by the mercy of God, in 1745, it was revived and communicated to mankind through the revelation and writings of Emanuel Swedenborg.
We erroneously believe that Reality is the material world; we value our physical life, body, house and possessions above everything else. But Emanuel Swedenborg has discovered that, in reality, our three-dimensional material world is the lowest plane of a higher-dimensional universe. The material world is a world of effects. This material world is simply manifesting the uses, causes and purposes of higher worlds. These worlds are not physical; they are spiritual. And the higher spiritual realms are more real or wholly than the physical world. What are these spiritual realms? They are the realms of our consciousness, rational mind and emotional heart. Our consciousness, thoughts and feelings are more real than our physical body. Our body is temporal but our consciousness, loves, beliefs and ideas are eternal. We think we are flesh and bones but, in reality, we are our will and understanding. This is our soul or what we are in Reality. Our will is what we love the most and our understanding is what we believe to be true. The reality of our life simply manifests or corresponds to our loves and beliefs. Therefore, if our reality is cruel and meaningless, it must be because our loves are not Good and our beliefs are not True. We are free to choose our own reality. But, If we desire a beautiful and meaningful life, our will must be conjoined with Divine Good and our understanding must be conjoined with Divine Truth.
Swedenborg discovered that Truth and Goodness are not matters of opinion; they are emanations of Reality. If we are perplexed by the universe, it is because our ideas about the universe are false. If we are disheartened by the events in our life, it is because our intentions are not pure or unselfish. Everything that is happening in the world and in our own personal life corresponds to what is occurring in the spiritual world. The key to understanding our life and the universe is the Science of Correspondences. Emanuel Swedenborg was given this key by the Lord more than two hundred years ago. This key is a manifestation of God’s mercy.
3 – Who is Emanuel Swedenborg?
Emanuel Swedenborg was a scientist, philosopher, theologian, inventor and engineer but, foremost, he was a seeker of Truth. In fact, the major part of his life on earth was devoted to scientific inquiry. But, at the age of 57, by the mercy of God, he gained conscious entrance into the spiritual worlds where he communicated with angels, spirits and devils. For the rest of his life (27 years), he was not only conscious in the physical world; he was also conscious in the spiritual world. This unusual power was granted by the Lord so that he would record what he saw and heard for the benefit of mankind. Since he was in constant communication with the spiritual worlds, he could see that the physical world was simply manifesting the forms, uses, causes and purposes that were in Heaven and Hell. He then set out to discover how the spiritual worlds are related to our physical reality by communicating with the citizens of Heaven and hell.
Swedenborg could actually see that Heaven and angels were in the order or form of a human being. These angels resided in God’s Light or Truth while other spirits were in the darkness of their own fantasies or hell. In the course of his conversations with angels, he determined that angels were truly unselfish. And he was told that this was where real or Heavenly joy was derived. All angelic delights resulted from being useful to others and the Lord. In fact, each angel was engaged in a unique use or function located in a specific place in the order of Heaven or the Divine Human. Swedenborg also discovered that, in hell, devils derived their infernal delights from being egotistical and engaging in works of mischief, lust and maliciousness. But he could see, by the Lord’s Providence and unbeknown to themselves, that even devils performed a useful function in the universe: they continually tempted and tested the faith of human beings.
Swedenborg was also interested in how human beings fit in the scheme of the universe. He soon realized that the spirit of every human being was located midway between Heaven and hell. He would then conclude that human beings were only recipients of spiritual influences from Heaven and hell. But, by Divine Love and Providence, they were free to choose between the Truth of angels or the falsity of evil spirits. Finally, he could clearly see and understand that all spirits, including human beings, were compelled to justify their loves, actions and behavior by their beliefs. If their intentions and actions were innocent, good or unselfish then they had to believe in unselfish or Divine Love. But, if their desires and behavior were egotistical, they were compelled to construct a fantasy or lie that would justify their real loves and beliefs.
Swedenborg’s experiences in the spiritual world are part of more than 30 volumes of relevant information about the purpose of creation, the meaning of Sacred Scriptures, the essence of the human soul, the real meaning of Love and Intelligence, the true essence of Good and evil, the real difference between Truth and falsehood, and the transition of a human being into the spiritual world after the death of his body.
4 – Why should I believe what Emanuel Swedenborg wrote?
Like all human beings, Emanuel Swedenborg should be judged according to his works, not according to the opinions of others. Therefore, in order to fully judge him, we would have to read and fully understand everything that he ever wrote. During the first 57 years of his life, he wrote many books on science, philosophy and religion. But, like all scientists and philosophers, these ideas came from his own personal mind and he never claimed to own the Truth. As a human being, he possessed unusual abilities. For example, when he would inquire into any subject, he would not only discover and understand the general principles like most of us do; he would also continue to probe all the particular details in order to gain a fuller understanding. It turns out that this is the quality that we need in order to understand the complexity of the universe. Every thing seems simple on the surface but, behind this simplicity lies a complex organization. And the more an organism appears smooth and simple, the more complex is its organization. For example, on the surface, a human being appears to be a simple functioning organism with one body, one head, two arms and two legs. But, behind this simplicity, we know that it is a complex organization of atoms. cells, nerves, veins, muscles, glands, organs, bones and tissues. And above this physical system lies an even more complex psychological order. And this psychological order is real and organic because Love is a real substance that is organized in a real form (Truth).
Besides his intellectual capacity, Swedenborg had other important spiritual qualities that only the Lord could know about. Because of these human virtues, Swedenborg was chosen by the Lord and permitted to penetrate consciously into the various levels of Heaven and hell in order to obtain the kind information that would help humanity. Therefore his writings are simply manifesting the mercy of God. In fact, at the start of his mission, Swedenborg was publishing his writings freely and anonymously. And it would be ludicrous to think that Swedenborg would lie and invent stories after witnessing that all our secret thoughts and lies are in plain view in Heaven and some of their corresponding fruits manifest themselves in the torments of hell. Much of what Swedenborg has to say about our present situation is not pleasant to hear. The Truth is hard to bear but the Truth is eternal; it will never change. If our intentions are sincere and we love Truth more than ourselves and the world, the Truth will speak to us. If not, we should ignore it until we are ready.
In the scientific world, scientists first examine the facts of the real world and then develop a theory that tries to match the facts as much as possible. The theory is usually abstract; it consists of a set of laws and equations made up of abstract symbols, numbers and mathematical equations. But, in order to determine how true the theory is, they then must test the theory in the real world. For example, when they discovered electricity, scientists developed an elaborate theory of electromagnetism which consisted of equations that described in mathematical symbols the behavior and relationship of electrical currents and magnetic fields. In true scientific fashion, they then proceeded to test the theory in the real world. Well, we know what happened next. The theory proved to be so valid or true that it revolutionized the world. Like all scientists, Swedenborg claims that his ideas were developed from true facts he obtained in the spiritual world. Remember that scientists could not see electrical currents and magnetic fields and yet they proved conclusively and without a doubt that they exist in the substance of the material world. Swedenborg claims that there are spiritual currents and fields in the substance of the spiritual or psychological world. He says that there are harmonious or good fields of spirit as well as discordant or evil fields in the spiritual realm. These spiritual fields are received by our own being and, depending on its quality, they alter for better or worse its emotional and mental currents. He also claims that every being in the universe emits a spiritual sphere of life that affects the whole universe. And, in turn, every being is affected by the fields of the universe that are in correspondence with the quality of his own being. In fact, what Swedenborg has discovered is the magnetism and electricity of the spiritual realm. This universal magnetism and electricity he calls Love and Wisdom. Just as in the physical world electricity separates all things into positive and negative and magnetism reintegrates all things into One whole, Wisdom separates and Love reintegrates in the spiritual world. And, just as electricity and magnetism are really the two united components of the electromagnetic field of Light from the natural sun, Love and Wisdom are the two components of the living field from the Spiritual Sun. Swedenborg also describes how these spiritual currents and fields behave and are related by means of spiritual Laws.
To be fair, we should treat Swedenborg like a scientist. In other words, we should test his theory (doctrine) of Love and Wisdom in our own life to determine if it is true. All the problems in the world today stem from the fact that we are ignoring the most important part of our humanity: the human mind (understanding) and heart (will). Even scientists have recently admitted that it is mind that shapes physical reality. If this is true then we should turn our attention to the understanding of the human mind and heart. Fortunately, Swedenborg has left us a treasure house of information about the human mind and heart and their relationship with the spiritual world. This treasure chest full of gold, silver and precious stones has been sitting in plain view for more than two hundred years. But the problem is that most of us could not see (understand) it. I think Swedenborg understood that it would take centuries before the mind of man could understand these difficult ideas. But he made sure that they would be there when we were ready to hear the Truth. Today, I think that many of us have the capacity to understand that human problems cannot be solved by physical means. Real life, peace and joy are not elements of the physical world; they are part of the spiritual and psychological realms. It is our inner state of being or our inner relationship with God and others that determines whether we are contented, not our outer circumstances. And our state of being stems from our loves, principles and beliefs. We need to understand the Laws of the psychological world so that we can restore the emotional and mental currents of our being and receive the beneficial influences of Love and Wisdom from the Spiritual Sun. Fortunately, Swedenborg has left us all the tools we require. Personally, I know that the writings of Swedenborg have been able to answer every question that has troubled me about the universe. In fact, I now understand that the only way we can attain Heavenly Peace is by means of understanding: the more we understand, the more peaceful we become. Fulfilling our selfish desires and lusts only results in temporary and infernal delights that culminate in the vicious spiral of addiction, shame, remorse and suffering. The only way we can feel Heavenly or eternal Joy is by means of compassion and usefulness; the more unselfish and useful to others we become, the more real joy and Love we can feel.
5 – What is the connection between science and religion?
Scientists have recently discovered that the universe is higher-dimensional. They claim that subatomic physical particles such as quanta emerge from a higher-dimensional realm of possibilities. These possibilities or propensities are STATES of Being. Thus, beyond the three-dimensional world is the higher-dimensional realm of BEING. If the realm of Being is a reality, we can reasonably assume that the physical universe did not emerge out of nothing but that it was originally derived from this higher-dimensional realm. And, furthermore, this physical universe must continue to be governed, organized and sustained by these higher dimensions through correspondence and influx. In which case, religion is simply concerned with the higher-dimensional realm of BEING. All legitimate religions in fact agree that God is Infinite Being. This is why there can only be ONE God who is the Father of All. Only God has Being in Himself and all existential beings derive their being and existence from God by correspondence and influx.
Moses said to God, “Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you.’” (Exodus 3:13-14)
“I AM” is Infinite Being and the universe was derived from Infinite Being by correspondence and influx. Science is concerned with the lower dimensions of physical space, matter and time while religion is concerned with man’s relationship with the higher dimensions of Heaven.
6 – Why is the Science of Correspondences so important?
It is important because it restores value, meaning and purpose to human life by reconciling religion and science.
7 – What is true science?
Scientists always claim that they are searching for the ultimate Reality or the Theory of Everything. But is this really the case? Throughout history, scientists have tried to discover Truth by using facts or information obtained from the physical senses. But, lately, with the emergence of quantum theory, they have reached a dead end. Quantum theory says that, at the deepest level, the physical world disappears completely. There is no more matter, time or space; there is only possibility and consciousness. And the existence of quanta or physical reality is dependent upon consciousness. What does this mean? It means that the whole physical universe is produced and sustained by means of consciousness or mind. Of course, then we have to ask: “What is consciousness or mind?” Scientists have nothing to say about consciousness because it cannot be detected by any physical organ or instrument. It seems they are always reluctant to advance beyond the level of sensual knowledge. And so they leave us with another cold and meaningless model of the universe. Recently, some physicists have even concluded that, at a higher level, the universe is an undivided wholeness. But, once more, they have nothing to say about this wholeness or our relationship with it. Scientists always relegate questions of value, meaning and purpose to the domains of philosophy and religion. They can never answer our deepest questions, like ” What is the purpose of the universe?” If we knew the purpose of the universe, we would understand how to live. If Reality lies beyond the natural mind and we refuse to move beyond the world of physical effects, we will never discover the real Truth.
The Truth is that our mind and emotions are not just personal; they are part of the universal world of consciousness or spirit. We erroneously believe that we only live in the physical world but, in reality, we are also members of a spiritual society. Before he discovered the world of spirit, Swedenborg was also a philosopher, scientist and engineer. This is the natural place to begin searching for Truth. But, because he loved Truth, not self-glorification, he was able to advance beyond natural science and discover Reality. Some scientists pretend that they are searching for Truth. But then they fall in love with their own theories or equations and seek to be praised and glorified for their discoveries. In order to find the real or complete Truth, we have to love the Truth more than ourselves or our very life. Swedenborg discovered that, in reality, Truth and Goodness are always connected. We are prevented from understanding anything that is higher than our level of being or Goodness. A lustful or angry philosopher will never discover the real Truth until he changes his ways. An arrogant and vain scientist will not understand the meaning of his equations until he becomes humble. In fact, Swedenborg said that the simple-minded enter Heaven more easily than those who are learned or accomplished in the world. This is because the simple-minded are humble at heart; they are able to receive more Good and Truth. Many philosophers and scientists are kept out of Heaven by their love of self. They think that their knowledge or intelligence comes from their own brain or self when, in reality, all Truth and Goodness emanates from Heaven. The fact is that the Truth, in all its details, was in front of the eyes of scientists and philosophers for 225 years and yet they were unable to see (understand) it.
The Science of Correspondences focuses on the realm of consciousness and its relationship with the physical world. By understanding the realm of mind, we can answer many troubling questions. For example, we are perplexed by disease. We do not know what causes most diseases and their number keeps increasing every day. We can say that they are caused by viruses or malignant cells. But does that really answer the question? We then have to ask: “What causes viruses and malignant cells?” Medical science attempts to cure diseases at the level of effects or symptoms. Physicians try by various methods to destroy viruses and malignant cells or to mask symptoms by the use of molecular medicines. But effects are always tied to causes in the universe. And most diseases originate at the level of cause or consciousness. If we do not address the cause, the symptoms continue to manifest themselves. Swedenborg says that we are physically ill because we are spiritually ill. Health is in correspondence with Holiness. The organs and cells of a human being whose soul is pure and good are in correspondence with the perfect order or form of the Divine Human. But how many of us have a soul that is truly pure and good? For example, the human heart corresponds to the human will. And, by correspondence, a person who has a callous heart or an unmerciful will must ultimately develop heart trouble and hardening of the arteries. We also know that human beings inherit all kinds of hereditary diseases. Swedenborg says that this is because human beings pass on their spiritual imperfections to their children. This does not imply that we should abolish conventional medicine. It essentially means that, if doctors truly want to help and cure their patients, they should study human physical anatomy in conjunction with its spiritual correspondences. Physical medicine and human psychology should complement each other. For example, if I have hardening of the arteries, I should know that it is partly caused by my ancestors’ lack of mercy which they have passed on to me. If I then work on being less judgmental and more merciful, I would not only improve my own health but also the health of my own descendants:
As death is from no other source than sin, and sin is all that which is contrary to Divine order, therefore evil closes the very smallest and most invisible vessels, of which are composed the next larger ones, also invisible; for the vessels which are smallest of all and wholly invisible are continued from man’s interiors. Hence comes the first and inmost obstruction, and hence the first and inmost vitiation into the blood. When this vitiation increases, it causes disease, and finally death. If, however, man had lived a life of good, his interiors would be open into heaven, and through heaven to the Lord; and so too would the very least and most invisible little vessels (the traces of the first threads may be called little vessels, on account of the correspondence). In consequence man would be without disease, and would merely decline to extreme old age, even until he became again a little child, but a wise one; and when the body could no longer minister to his internal man or spirit, he would pass without disease out of his earthly body into a body such as the angels have, thus out of the world directly into heaven. [AC 5726]
In reality, the whole natural world exists by virtue of the spiritual world. If there were no spiritual world, the physical world would vanish. This is what scientists mean when they say that a quantum only exists when it is observed by consciousness. Natural science can be very useful if we understand its limitations. In fact, many real Truths are confirmed by mathematics. For example, projective geometry validates the existence of the spiritual realm. And, recently, mathematicians have discovered fractals or self-similar structures. They have found that many natural forms such as trees are natural fractals. But, more than two-hundred and thirty years ago, Swedenborg, while in the spiritual world, discovered that the whole universe is a fractal. From his observations, this fractal is in the form of a human being. And so, individual angels as well as whole societies of angels appear in the shape of a human being. Everything tends towards the human form in the universe, even minerals, plants and animals tend towards this form. This is because Divine Order emanates from the Divine Human. This is what is meant by “Man was created in the image and likeness of God.” What is the significance of all this? This means that, if scientists and astronomers really want to understand the universe, they should be studying human anatomy, not focusing on galaxies, stars and planets. Galaxies, stars and planets are just lower-dimensional phenomena or three-dimensional cross-sections of a higher-dimensional Divine Being. For example, the cycles of biological life and the circular motion of moons, earths and planets are a representation of the fourth dimension in our three-dimensional world. When a living being grows, he is growing in the fourth dimension. And this fourth dimension is only the first dimension of Spirit. There are higher dimensions beyond that. Truth and Love are real higher or inner dimensions. In fact, we perceive Truth by means of rationality and Love by means of will. The Heavens of Truth and Love or spiritual Light are within our consciousness. Swedenborg says that, in the spiritual world, when angels look up at those angels and societies of angels that are on a higher level, they appear as stars in the sky. We actually have a model of the universe in the human body. We may think there are billions of galaxies in outer space but the human body is the most complex organization in the universe. According to various sources, there are approximately 100 trillion cells in the human body. There is an average of 100 billion neurons in the human brain. The length of the optic nerve is only 0.5 cm but it is composed of 1,200,000 nerve fibers. This is just a sample. How could all these parts be organized into one whole functioning organism if they were not in correspondence with the Divine Order of the Divine humanoid in Heaven?
That God is infinite is well known, for He is called the Infinite; and He is called the Infinite because He is infinite. He is infinite not from this alone, that He is very Esse and Existere in itself, but because in Him there are infinite things. An infinite without infinite things in it, is infinite in name only. The infinite things in Him cannot be called infinitely many, nor infinitely all, because of the natural idea of many and of all; for the natural idea of infinitely many is limited, and the natural idea of infinitely all, though not limited, is derived from limited things in the universe. Therefore man, because his ideas are natural, is unable by any refinement or approximation, to come into a perception of the infinite things in God; and an angel, while he is able, because he is in spiritual ideas, to rise by refinement and approximation above the degree of man, is still unable to attain to that perception. [DLW17]
That in God there are infinite things, any one may convince himself who believes that God is a Man; for, being a Man, He has a body and every thing pertaining to it, that is, a face, breast, abdomen, loins and feet; for without these He would not be a Man. And having these, He also has eyes, ears, nose, mouth, and tongue; also the parts within man, as the heart and lungs, and their dependencies, all of which, taken together, make man to be a man. In a created man these parts are many, and regarded in their details of structure are numberless; but in God-Man they are infinite, nothing whatever is lacking, and from this He has infinite perfection. This comparison holds between the uncreated Man who is God and created man, because God is a Man; and He Himself says that the man of this world was created after His image and into His likeness (Gen. 1:26, 27). [DLW18]
This idea that God’s infinite essence is manifested or exists as the Divine Human in the higher dimensions of Heaven and as Humanity in the lower dimensions of Earth is the most difficult idea for finite human beings to fathom or comprehend. This is because, in the lower dimensions of Earth, the Divine Human is manifested as living human beings. And it is difficult for us, imperfect human beings, to believe that we have the potential to manifest Heaven on Earth. But the fact is that this is the real Purpose of the universe. In fact, Swedenborg says that “neither can there be a church on the earth unless there be an angelic heaven through which it may exist and subsist, nor conversely an angelic heaven unless there be a church on the earth.” However, since our purpose can only be realized freely and willingly, it means that we also have the choice to squander our existence. And it seems that this is what many of us have chosen to do. The Divine Human is the key to understanding not only the New Testament but the Old Testament as well:
What scientific conclusions can we draw from what Swedenborg has discovered about the universe? Here is the essence of what Swedenborg wrote, as I understand it:
Part I. The Purpose of Creation
1 Reality, God or the Lord is One, Holy, Infinite, Eternal, Uncreate, Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent and Infinitely Alive.
2 God’s Life is Divine Goodness or Love.
3 Divine Love is a substance that is infinitely and Divinely Ordered.
4 This Divine Order is called Divine Truth, Divine Wisdom, Divine Form, Divine Human or The Word of God.
5 The physical universe is the lower-dimensional manifestation of the higher-dimensional reality of the Divine Human.
6 Through Divine Love and Wisdom, the universe Eternally involves and evolves.
7 Involution is the propagation of Love through Wisdom by the continuous creation of all useful beings.
8 Therefore every being that exists in the universe must have form, use and substance.
9 All substances in the universe are derived from Divine Love and all forms and uses are derived from the Wisdom of the Divine Human.
10 Evolution is the propensity of all created beings to realize their true essence or conjoin with Love by means of the uses of Wisdom.
11 Usefulness generates joy in all created beings.
12 This joy returns to God as Love.
13 Therefore the Divine Purpose of every created being is to realize Divine Love through Divine Wisdom.
Part II: The Relationship between Heaven and Earth
14 The universe is infinitely alive, purposeful, meaningful and useful.
15 The soul of the universe is Heaven or the Divine Human.
16 Heaven is infinitely organized in a fractal of angels and societies of angels, which must necessarily all have the form of the Divine Human in various degrees of perfection.
17 All angels who constitute Heaven were and are derived from the human race on planets such as Earth.
18 Every thing that is created must tend towards the human form because Divine Order and Creation are synonymous with the Divine Form or the Divine Human.
19 The body of the universe is the material world.
20 The material universe is a realm of effects.
21 These effects are in correspondence with their spiritual forms, uses, causes and purposes in Heaven.
22 Human beings are also present in the world of spirits as human spirits or souls.
23 A human soul has substance and form which is its will and understanding.
24 A soul’s principal love and beliefs generate its corresponding form and environment in the spiritual world.
25 Heaven is manifested on Earth as the Universal Church.
26 This Universal Church consists of all those human beings who freely and willingly choose to obey the Laws of Heaven.
27 Those human beings who obey the Laws of Heaven truly Love God.
28 The Laws of Heaven are synonymous with Divine Order.
29 These Laws are also contained in God’s Word or Bible.
30 Heaven is a kingdom of Divine purposes and uses.
31 Divine Love acts by means of Divine Wisdom in every use.
32 Usefulness generates joy in angels, human beings, useful animals, plants and minerals.
33 This joy returns to God through the Divine Human as Love.
34 Therefore the whole universe exists to manifest and freely realize Divine Love.
35 However, since human will is free, human beings can also freely choose not to realize Divine Love nor their Divine purpose.
36 This explains the origin of evil, evil spirits, devils and human hells in the universe.
37 Human hells are the creation, throughout the ages, of human beings who have freely chosen to transgress the Divine Order or the Laws of Heavenly Society and have developed infernal souls.
38 Infernal souls or devils consist of infernal or egotistical loves and false beliefs.
39 These infernal souls also generate their infernal forms and infernal environments or hells.
40 The hells continually attempt to manifest themselves on Earth through living beings as disorder, immorality, violence and disease.
41 By Divine Providence, these actions serve a useful purpose: they continually tempt and test the faith of human beings.
42 The hells are also continually ruled, subdued and contained by the Lord and His angels.
As far as I understand, this is the essence of the information Swedenborg was able to obtain from his observations in the natural and spiritual worlds. But, like everyone else, I am still trying to understand the details. It took Swedenborg 27 years and 30 volumes to experience, write and communicate some of the details. As he discovered, the wonders of Heaven are infinite and, to understand them, we need an Eternity. But we should remember that Swedenborg was only allowed to do this because he was given the means and permission by the Lord. For example, whenever he descended into the hells, he was accompanied by a multitude of angels for his protection. By the mercy of God and the courage and kindness of Swedenborg, we now have a true model of the universe: the human body. And this model even comes with a scientific manual from its Creator: this manual is the Word or Bible. But the Bible, as we may have noticed, is a book that is sealed with seven seals. Fortunately, by the mercy of the Lord, Swedenborg was also given the key to the understanding of the Bible. That key is the Science of Correspondences. If you think natural science is difficult to understand, you have not tried to understand spiritual or Divine Science. In fact, Swedenborg needed to write the twelve volumes of the Arcana Coelestia (Mysteries of Heaven) just to interpret the spiritual sense of Genesis and Exodus. This is because every word of the Bible has a different meaning on each level of Heaven. I understand now why he said that the Science of Correspondences was known in ancient times as ” The Science of Sciences.” The problem is not that humanity has not uncovered a great amount of knowledge; it is the fact that we do not understand how everything is related to everything else. As Swedenborg discovered, there is no particle in the universe that does not have a place in the Divine Plan of Heaven. We have all the pieces of the puzzle. We just have to put them in their true places if we want to see the true picture.
Now, Swedenborg discovered that everything that is in the natural world corresponds to what is in the spiritual world. And the spiritual world includes both Heaven and hell. It would then be natural for us to ask; why would God let all the negativity that is in hell be manifested on Earth? If God is Divine Good and Love itself, there must be a good reason. William Worcester has a beautiful answer to this question:
Some one may ask how it is, if natural things are embodiments of the Lord’s love and wisdom, that there are cruel and evil things in nature. Where, as the forces of life descend from the Lord to the plane of nature – where do they become perverted? Men pervert them, indulging hatred instead of love, and false thoughts instead of truth. And the Lord permits these perverse feelings and thoughts also to appear in nature, producing evil animals and plants, and all vile and cruel things. When men were good and innocent, nature was all good, reflecting their innocent life; but when evil life increased on earth and in hell, then it was said, “Cursed is the ground for thy sake. . . . Thorns also and thistles shall it bring forth to thee.” (Gen. iii. 17, 18; TCR 78; DLW 336-342; AE 1201)
And why does the Lord permit the creative power to flow into nature through the channels of human life, through heaven and through hell, producing many evil and unheavenly forms to mar the world about us? He does it that nature may teach us truly of our own character; that nature may serve as a mirror showing us both the beauty of innocence and the hatefulness of evil passions. The world around us is both an inspiration and a warning. It is important to learn to read the book of nature, seeing to what thing in ourselves each object of nature corresponds. William L Worcester, The Language of Parable (New York: New-Church Press, 1897)
8 – What is true religion?
Many people these days pretend that they can live happy and fulfilling lives without religion. But when we understand how the universe and humans came into being, we know that they are only deceiving themselves. It is impossible to be truly contented without having a harmonious relationship with God and other human beings. Why? Since God is INFINITE BEING or the One and only self-existent Being in the universe, our own being is completely dependent upon our relationship with Infinite Being or God. God created the universe to realize His own substance or Divine Love. And real joy or contentment can only be derived from Love or reciprocal conjunction between God and ourselves. Thus, discovering what is really Good and True from the doctrines of a legitimate religion is necessary in order to develop the loves and beliefs that lead to a meaningful, purposeful and joyful life.
Since religion seems to be the cause of much of the disorder and violence that is manifested on earth, others of us believe that it is enough to live a moral life. But we should not be fooled by appearances. The fact that some mindless and cruel individuals may use the literal sense of Sacred Scriptures to rationalize their evil behavior should not cause us to dismiss God and His Word. In fact, by their evil, violent and cruel actions, these selfish individuals prove that their beliefs are false. And it would not be just of us to blame God or religion for the foolishness and selfishness of men. Moreover, Swedenborg discovered that we can live a moral life and not be connected to Heaven. If our moral life is rooted in self-love and love of the world, it is natural. In order to be connected to God and Heaven, our moral life must be rooted in our understanding of the Word and in our love of God. This is how our moral life becomes spiritual. In fact, the Word of God is the means by which we can be conjoined with the Lord, Heaven and angels.
Many of us want to love God and obey His Laws. We are told that His Laws are contained in His Word or Bible. But when we read the Bible, we are unable to understand a word of it. At the literal level, the Bible makes no sense; at best, it resembles a fairy tale or a historical document. How can a serpent speak and why should we care about the personal life of Jacob, Isaac and Esau, persons who lived thousands of years ago in totally different circumstances? And yet, so-called scholars and preachers do not hesitate to interpret the Bible according to their own personal beliefs. What is even more tragic is that we can justify our own immorality by quoting the literal sense of the Bible. Swedenborg says that we can prove anything we like by means of the literal interpretation of the Bible because the literal sense is so full of contradictions. This explains why some human beings perform the most evil acts in the name of religion. How can we be good and avoid evil if we do not understand the difference between Goodness and evil? Most of us do evil and call it Good. We must understand that, like Goodness and Truth, evil and falsity are connected. In order to continue to sin or transgress the laws of Divine Order, we have to keep lying to ourselves. Swedenborg keeps repeating that the natural world is a manifestation of the spiritual world, and there cannot be an effect without a cause. We just have to look at the violence, poverty, corruption, disease and wars around us to conclude that, by transgressing the Divine Order, we have created our own hell. And yet, Heaven is also manifested on Earth; there are beautiful sunsets, pleasing landscapes, delicate flowers, gentle animals, and innocent children.
Since every human being has a heart and lungs which correspond to his will and understanding, he must necessarily have loves and beliefs. But, when it comes to spirituality and religion, most people have no problem believing and uttering the most horrid falsities. Usually, these falsities are in a form to justify their own evil. For example, some people say that they do not believe in anything; they just believe in themselves and the reality of the physical world. Unfortunately, Swedenborg has discovered that to love others and to love and believe in the Lord is the religion of Heaven while to love and believe in oneself and the world is the religion of hell. These same people say that they will believe in the spiritual world when they have concrete proof. Well, Swedenborg has witnessed that even diamond, which is the most concrete thing in the physical world, is sustained by its corresponding Eternal Truths in the spiritual world. If it were not for these Truths, it would disappear. In fact, the whole physical universe is concrete proof that Heaven and God are real. All the beauty that is manifested on Earth is in correspondence with the Love and Wisdom of Heaven. Unfortunately, we are distracted by the petty manifestations of hell. The disturbances of hell are the price we have to pay in order to preserve freedom in the universe. But how could the universe with its complex organization and various levels of freedom, meaning and order exist if it were not sustained and maintained by the mercy and Providence of higher worlds.
Some people say: “What is the use of acknowledging and loving God? It is enough to live a moral life!” But Swedenborg discovered that “the acknowledgment of God brings about the conjunction of God with man and of man with God, and the denial of God causes their separation.” If we are not conjoined with God, we cannot receive the beneficial influences from Heaven. In order to justify their actions, some people also say that evil, sin and hell do not exist. By correspondence, this would be like believing and saying that negative emotions, obsessive thoughts, darkness, war, corruption and disease do not exist. This is a total denial of Reality. Since humanity fell from grace, we are suspended in spiritual freedom between Heaven and hell. Heaven is our inmost or spiritual mind from which we derive rationality and Love, while hell is our lower, sensual or egotistical mind which dwells in falsehood, lies, fantasy and selfishness. The Truth is that we all are in the spiritual world but we are not conscious of it. But, for 27 years, Swedenborg was fully conscious in the spiritual universe and he traveled throughout its different levels and realms. By the mercy of God, he tells us in great detail about his spiritual experiences in his writings. Throughout his writings, Swedenborg describes how he is incessantly assailed by evil spirits who maliciously try to keep him from discovering the real Truth. Fortunately, he is always protected by the Lord and His angels. In fact, it is only by the grace of this protection that he was able to descend into the deepest hells where he witnessed the most hideous atrocities.
One thing we know for sure is that, presently, many of us are living in darkness: we are all perplexed by what is happening in our being as well as in the world. We are flooded or overwhelmed by confusion, doubt, fear, anger and despair; we don’t know who or what to believe, who to trust or what to do. Even the very persons who should be helping and guiding us, the politicians, preachers and heroes, have proven to be corrupt and perverse. And, in turn, these negative emotions and thoughts manifest themselves in society as violence, perversity and disease. We then keep asking ourselves: ” What is going on here? If there is a God, why has He abandoned us in such a mess?” The fact is that God never abandoned us; we abandoned Him. Most of us love the world and our self more than the Lord, Good and Truth. The Bible says this is what happens at the end or consummation of an age and the beginning of a new one.
The Truth is that the Bible is a wondrous book about the Lord and it speaks to everyone. Swedenborg says that when a simple-minded person or a child reads the Bible from the goodness of his heart, the angels gather around him to listen to the Word because the Word is also the Law of Heaven. The child thinks he is reading a fairy tale but the angels understand the higher meaning of every word and this fills them with heavenly joy. When we use the Science of Correspondences to understand the Bible, we discover the purpose of the universe and the real Truth that God wants us to hear. In its higher or internal meaning, the Bible is really a book about Divine Science and human psychology; it is a book about the Macrocosm and Microcosm, God and man and their relationship. Like a scientific book, it discusses universal Laws. In fact, the Jewish nation calls the Bible: the Torah or Book of the Law. We understand perfectly well that the natural or physical world has Laws. Well, we should understand that the spiritual or psychological world has its own corresponding Laws. We have proof that if we properly understand and use the Laws of the physical world, we can achieve great things. By understanding the Laws of physics and chemistry, human beings have produced the airplane, radio, television, the computer and the internet. They have accomplished this by understanding, obeying and properly using the Laws of gravitation, chemistry, magnetism, Light and electricity. But human beings have yet to understand the Laws of spirit, God or the Divine Human.
We know that natural science is difficult to understand. It took thousands of years to discover the Laws of the physical world. Many people do not even try to understand natural science. Nonetheless, like everyone, these persons are still subject to the same physical Laws. A healthy or orderly society must also have Laws: it needs these civil Laws to preserve the freedom and life of its members. Those who choose to disobey these Laws eventually find themselves in jail where they can no longer harm others. What we should understand is that we are also citizens of the spiritual world. And the spiritual world also has Laws. It has these Laws to protect the freedom and soul of its citizens. Like natural Laws, spiritual Laws will never change; they are Eternal Laws. If you are a fool, you will think you can fly by ignoring the Law of gravitation and jump off a tall building. If you are wise, you will patiently try to understand the Laws of gravitation and atmospheric pressure until you create and build an airplane. Then, you will really fly. We have ample evidence to conclude that if we disobey or abuse the Laws of the physical world, we can hurt or even kill our bodies. Similarly, if we disobey the Laws of the spiritual world, we can destroy or condemn our souls. What is our soul? Swedenborg says that, like our body is made up of physical organs, our soul consists of spiritual organs. Our two most vital organs are our heart and lungs. These organs connect us to the physical atmosphere by the air we breathe and the food we eat. Without these universal goods, our lungs collapse , our blood becomes anemic and we die physically. By correspondence, the two most vital organs of our soul are our will and understanding. These organs keep our soul alive by means of the spiritual atmosphere. What is the spiritual atmosphere? Swedenborg tells us that the spiritual atmosphere of thoughts and emotions is kept alive and continuously purified by means of Divine Love and Wisdom. We could not know this on our own; we could only observe its effects. This means that our soul cannot live and function without Love and Wisdom from the spiritual atmosphere. This is an actual fact. Without Love and Wisdom, we are internally dead and we become disheartened, depressed, confused and physically ill. Some of us even become suicidal or criminally insane. Most of us try to fulfill this spiritual hunger by using artificial substitutes like natural food, sex, drugs, alcohol and tobacco. But the only thing we accomplish is the gradual destruction of our body.
We are miserable because we take care of our heart and lungs but ignore our will and understanding. The Truth is that thoughts and emotions are more real or substantial than physical things. Our physical body will disintegrate but our beliefs, intentions, desires, emotions and thoughts will remain eternally. They are an integral part of the eternal spiritual realm. Our will is what we love the most and our understanding is what we believe to be true. These two spiritual organs are always connected, like our heart and lungs. We are compelled to justify our loves by our beliefs. This is where and how we obtain our sense of self. We are what we love and believe. This is one of the most powerful things Swedenborg has discovered. If you understand this you have the power to transform your soul and, by correspondence, your life.
You may have noticed that through the course of our life our loves change. For example, when we are an innocent child, we love to play. And this playing brings with it a feeling of true joy. Why does an innocent child love to play? This play not only brings him joy; it serves a useful purpose. This is how he learns new things. Most parents know that, from the moment he is awake until he goes back to sleep, their child cannot stay still. He must play and learn or else he becomes cranky and starts to behave erratically. But, when he is playing, he learns and experiences joy. The purity of this joy can be seen on his face. In fact, this is a spiritual joy. Now, remember that our loves must necessarily be in correspondence with our beliefs. This is a universal law that we cannot escape. If an innocent child loves to learn and experiences spiritual joy, we should find out what his beliefs are. He believes God is good and loves him. He believes his parents love him and are looking out for his well-being. He innocently believes other people want his best interest. He loves God, his parents and other persons as much as he loves himself. Sometimes he speaks to imaginary friends in his mind. But are they imaginary or real? An innocent child lives in paradise because his heart and mind are in Heaven. Now, what happens next? We then become a rebellious adolescent who challenges his parents’ authority. This is a normal stage of psychological development because we are now forming an individuality that is distinct and separate from God. However, what happens when we choose to remain in this state of self-love and love of the world indefinitely? We doubt that God and the spiritual world exist. We blame our parents for our problems. We tend not to trust other people because we think they are out to hurt us. We envy those who have more than we do. We hate our work but we work because we want money. And why do we desire wealth? We desire riches to stop working, to have worldly power, to be served by others, to have more than they do and to be better than they are. When we refuse to grow up spiritually, we tend to hate everybody but we love our self and the pleasures and vanities of the world. Our life then becomes meaningless and joyless because we only desire to fulfill our selfish lusts and vanities. Is there a way out of this hellish spiral of addiction and suffering? In fact, when we reach the age of maturity and have successfully formed a unique individuality, we should begin to develop spiritually through repentance and temptations. We should freely and willingly return to innocence by resisting the evil urges of our natural self and by allowing the Lord to transform our soul through faith and charity. Swedenborg has discovered the order of Reality. If we want our life to change, we must stop lying to ourselves and discover where we are in Reality. We can discover where we are in the spiritual world by using the table below:
Whether we know it or not, each one of us has been created with a specific use in the universe or Divine Human. This use will not only bring real joy to us personally, it will also benefit our neighbor, our country, the whole human race and the Divine Human. But how can we discover our true purpose if we break our connection with the spiritual realm of causes and purposes? Most of us erroneously think that we can love and believe whatever we want. On the physical level, this is like saying that we can see, eat and breathe whatever we want. In fact, some of us believe they can live in darkness, breathe smoke, eat garbage, drink alcohol and be healthy. If we want to sustain our body, we need Light, warmth, pure oxygen, water and real food or bread. If we want to see, we need Light and, if we want to be warm, we need heat. These are facts that we cannot escape. Similarly, if we want to understand anything, we need Divine Truth and, if we want love in our heart, we need Divine Love or Goodness. Nothing else will help. Like there is a natural world, there is a spiritual world. We can deny it all we want; it will always be there. Can we deny that we have thoughts and feelings? Truth and Goodness are not matters of opinion: they are emanations of Reality. They are the Light and heat of the spiritual world. We know that, without Light and heat from the natural sun, we would be doomed physically. Well, without the spiritual Light and heat from the Spiritual Sun, or the Wisdom and Love of the Lord, our souls are destroyed or condemned. In order to understand anything more clearly, we need spiritual Light or Truth. But real intelligence or Wisdom does not originate in our brain. Swedenborg says that it is present in our understanding by influx from Heaven. Similarly, in order to have real warmth in our heart, we need real Love. But real Love or positive emotion does not originate in our personal heart; it is present in our spiritual heart or will by influx from Heaven. The natural heat of the sun is present in our bodies as magnetism and electricity. Similarly, the spiritual heat or Love of the Spiritual Sun is present in our will as life. Without Love, we are internally dead and we begin to die physically. The Holy Spirit of Truth and Goodness is continuously present by general influx in animals, plants and minerals, and by particular influx in the hearts and minds of human beings. Swedenborg says that animals, plants and minerals derive all the benefits of this Spirit because they behave according to Divine Order. But he says that human beings, because they are not in Divine Order, receive this Spirit indirectly by particular influx.
What is particular influx? Swedenborg says that we receive the Holy Spirit indirectly from the angels and good spirits that are continually present with us in the spiritual world. He says that, if it were not for these guardian angels, we would rush headlong into the lower levels of our mind or hell. Therefore, the Lord is continually guiding us through His guardian angels. How do we recognize these angels in our mind? Swedenborg discovered that it is on the plane of our conscience where these angels operate. It is then obvious that, if we continually lie to ourselves, our conscience becomes obstructed and we lose our connection with Heaven. You may also have noticed that our guardian angels or conscience can never compel us to do anything. Because our will is free, these angels only have the power and permission to remind us of what we should be doing for our own personal benefit and the good of all humanity. But, most of the time, we freely and willingly choose to ignore our conscience, follow our lower instincts and suffer the consequences. Our lower or unconscious instincts, in the spiritual world, are in correspondence with malicious spirits and devils from hell. All the selfish, negative, hateful, envious, lustful, angry and violent emotions with their corresponding obsessive, perverted and morbid thoughts are in correspondence with these evil spirits. These spirits are continually assailing us in the spiritual world and attempting to use us to manifest hell on Earth. The Truth is that they do not have the power to make us do anything. We give them the power by freely choosing to follow our lower instincts. But Swedenborg says that these evil spirits also serve a useful function. By assailing our soul in this way, they are continually testing our faith in God or what we believe is Good and True. If we keep our faith during these temptations or spiritual trials, our will gradually becomes braver and purer.
Most of us are under the false impression that we can love God and do whatever our heart desires. But the Lord Himself said: If you love me, keep my commandments (John 14:15). We read the Ten Commandments and they seem simple enough to understand. We then say to ourselves:” I did not break any commandment. God, please tell me why am I still miserable!” Swedenborg says that the Bible has two more levels of meaning. And so, beyond the literal sense of each Commandment or Law, there are two other spiritual Laws. The Laws of the first or literal level are civil Laws. In fact, they mirror the Laws of a civilized society. However, the Laws of the other two levels are the Laws of Heaven or spiritual society. In physical society, we are present as a physical body and, in spiritual society, we are present as a human soul. Swedenborg says that this human soul consists of substance and form. Its form in the spiritual world corresponds to its spiritual substance. If its substance is pure and unselfish, its form is graceful and beautiful while, if it is vicious and selfish, its form is deformed and grotesque. And, like our body, our soul interacts with other souls in the spiritual society. One of the Laws of spiritual society is the fifth Law or Commandment: Thou shalt not kill. Most of us are sure that we have not killed anybody in physical society. But what about in spiritual society? Listen to what Swedenborg has to say about this:
Thou shalt not kill. That this signifies not to take away spiritual life from anyone, also not to extinguish faith and charity, as also not to hold the neighbor in hatred, is evident from the signification of “killing,” as being to deprive of spiritual life. That “killing” means this in the internal sense, is because in this sense spiritual life, or the life of heaven with man, is treated of; and spiritual life, or the life of heaven with man, is the life of faith and of charity; therefore by “not to kill” is signified also not to extinguish faith and charity in anyone. The reason why “not to kill” is also in the internal sense not to hold the neighbor in hatred, is that he who holds in hatred continually wishes to kill, and also would kill in act unless prevented by the fear of the penalty, of the loss of life, of reputation, and the like. For hatred is of evil, is contrary to charity, and breathes nothing but the murder of him whom it hates: in the world the murder of his body; in the other life the murder of his soul. This is meant by the words of the Lord in Matthew:
Ye have heard that it was said to them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment; but I say unto you, that whosoever is angry with his brother rashly shall be in danger of the judgment; and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council; and whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of the Gehenna of fire (Matt. 5:21, 22).
Hatred against the neighbor is meant by being “angry with the brother rashly,” and the degrees of its increase are described by saying to him “Raca,” and by calling him “a fool” (that anger is a turning away from charity, and is from evil, thus that it is hatred, see n. 357, 4164, 5034, 5798, 5887, 5888). [AC8902]
If this is true, then most of us have broken all the Laws of the spiritual world and continue to do so. What is terrifying about this is that, like in physical society, if we break the Laws of spiritual society, we are put in a spiritual prison. And many of us are already in jail but do not realize it: we are in the prison of our own selfish and hellish ego. The choice is up to us. We can choose to obey the Laws of spiritual society or Heaven and function freely with other loving souls or, we can choose to disobey them and end up in a spiritual prison or hell with other hateful or lustful souls. Like we cannot escape the Laws of the physical world, we cannot circumvent the Laws of the spiritual world. This is why the Lord said that every jot and tittle of the Law shall be fulfilled. (Matthew 5:18).
Most of us know that Love and Wisdom are fulfilled or realized by means of faith and charity. But does anybody really understand what faith and charity are? Once again, we think we can define these sacred words in a way that fits our corrupted lifestyle. We think faith is simply saying ” I believe in the Lord!” and charity is giving money to the poor. If we do these two simple things, we can continue to fulfill our lusts and nasty habits. But, according to Swedenborg, faith and charity have a completely different and infinite meaning. In fact, the subject is so complex that he had to write several volumes to convey all its subtleties.
In many places, it is very difficult to understand what Swedenborg is trying to say but, in my experience, I have found that he is always trying to convey infinite Truth through the limitations of language. Every Truth is both simple and infinitely complex, like the human body and soul. The Laws of Spirit also seem simple but they are difficult to understand and, more importantly, difficult to obey. Now, after much struggle and suffering, I am certain that every word that Swedenborg wrote is true. We must remember that he lived in a time when many mathematical and scientific concepts were not even discovered. And yet, because he could see into the spiritual world, he was able to divine and understand many concepts that were beyond his time.
Unlike the imperfect governments of human societies on Earth, Heaven is perfectly ruled by Divine Order. There are many Laws in the spiritual world but all those who are in Heaven understand the most basic Law of the spiritual world: God is the source of all Good and Truth. Swedenborg says that human beings are simply recipients. Without Good and Truth, human vessels are empty or dead; they are like radio receivers without electricity and radio waves. Those who are in hell choose to believe that the music comes from the receiver itself; they mistakenly believe that their good and truth come from their own self. And so they live in the dark realms of their own egotistical desires and false beliefs. Swedenborg says that even those in hell receive Love and Wisdom but, because of their love of self and the world, this Divine Truth and Goodness is transformed into hate, lust and insanity. This is because Love and Wisdom correspond to heat and Light, And Light and electricity manifest the form and qualities of the being they enliven and illuminate. In fact, all the human hells were created by the different forms of love of self and love of the material world. Once again, if all those who are in the hells chose to repent and renounced their selfishness and wrong beliefs, they would just have to do their time in hell and eventually be released from their spiritual prisons. In the spiritual world, spiritual prisons are created by the prisoners themselves. These human hells exist because they manifest their perverted loves and beliefs outwardly. Therefore, if all the prisoners were reformed, the human hells would vanish. But Swedenborg discovered that those who are in the hells choose to be there because they delight in their evil loves and false beliefs. He also said that God does not care if we are rich, poor, tall, short, pretty, ugly, white, yellow, brown, black, red, simple, sophisticated, famous or ordinary in the world. God is interested in the state of our soul, not our body. And, because He is Omniscient, He knows more about our soul than we do; He knows all our secret thoughts, desires and plans. Since He also knows our real purpose, He is continually guiding our soul to Heaven by the providential events in our life. Unfortunately, we often choose to ignore His messages and continue to behave egotistically. God cannot compel us to go to Heaven because the universe is not only a universe of Laws; it is also a universe of freedom. We are equally free to practice love or hate, as we may surely have observed. The Lord is a God of Love, not of fear. We should freely choose to love Him because He is infinitely Good; He is Love and Truth itself. Your earthly father may love you like a human father should but your Heavenly Father loves you with a Love that is Divine, Eternal and Infinite. There are no orphans in the universe; every human being has a Heavenly Father who truly loves him/her.
Many people want to know why we find ourselves on this Earth and why we have to journey through all this suffering. In order to acquire a self that is distinct from God, we must evolve from the material level of the Earth, as it is only on Earth that we are able to FREELY and willingly choose between Good (unselfishness) and Evil (selfishness). Only what we intend, believe and do from the freedom of our self can become truly ours. If God were to compel us to love Him, we would be like automatons or robots. And, if God wanted robots as companions, He could have created them instantly. But these robots would never be able to freely and truly love Him in return. Evolution is a long, tedious, gradual and arduous process because God desires to be loved FREELY and WILLINGLY. All angels were once human beings that evolved from the Earth and FREELY chose to love God in return. Therefore, since Heaven is a spiritual society, we are on Earth to learn how to associate and live with other human souls; we are being prepared for the real life of Heaven. But we cannot just read a book, say that we believe in God and go to Heaven. Swedenborg relates his experience of certain recently departed souls who arrived in the spiritual world and asked to be taken up to Heaven. Apparently, these souls believed that they had lived an honest life and that they deserved to be in Heaven. The angels, who can see through every soul, agreed to let them into the first threshold of Heaven so that they would understand their situation. The souls were really happy and anxious to enter Heaven. But, when they tried to enter, they only experienced torment and agony and they begged to return to their dimmer and more comfortable realms. But, if Love is kind and Truth is pure, why did they experience the Wisdom and Love of Heaven as hell? The fact is that our soul has to be strong, courageous, unselfish and innocent to bear the spiritual Light and heat or Truth and Love of Heaven. God is perfectly just and completely impartial: all those souls that have the courage, strength and purity to enter Heaven can do so. After all, this is why God creates the universe. It is not that God does not want us to be in Heaven; we just do not have a strong enough soul. We need to purify and strengthen our soul if we want to have the fortitude to enter Heaven. Therefore we are not on Earth to fulfill our lusts and natural desires; we are here to build our souls. This is why we suffer so much. Swedenborg calls these spiritual combats ” temptations.” When our soul passes through these dark states of confusion, affliction, hopelessness and despair, the universe seems cruel and meaningless and we are tempted to lose our faith in God and become a non-believer. But, if, through our faith in Divine Good and Truth, we overcome these negative feelings and lies, our soul becomes wiser and stronger. We have to come to a point where no outward appearance or event can shake our faith in God. What appears devastating on our level of understanding is usually beneficial in the long run. This is because God knows exactly what experiences our soul needs to grow. When we are in school, we should experience, study and learn, not waste our time. Yet, most of us squander our time on Earth searching for ways to obtain things that are truly worthless. We wish to glorify our self, we want the world to glorify us and we want to revel in material wealth and worldly pleasures. The Truth is that all the treasures of the physical world have no intrinsic value of their own; they simply correspond to spiritual realities. For example, in Heaven, gold corresponds to the goods of Love and precious gems represent the Eternal Truths of the Word. Therefore we can fulfill all our natural desires and possess the glory of the whole world but, in the end, we will have nothing. The currency of the spiritual world is Love and Wisdom. And those who are the wisest and most loving are in Heavenly Joy and Peace.
In our own personal life, if we were expecting a cherished friend to come live with us, we would prepare a pleasant place for him to live. Well, before each person is created, God prepares a home and a use for him in Heaven. Swedenborg says that Heaven is not a place where we loaf around and praise God; Heaven is a kingdom of uses. Every angel has an employment in a particular part of the Divine Human. This means that each angel has unique qualities which no other angel has. This is the reason God creates each and every human being; He created us so He could have another friend in Heaven. In fact, the Lord said: ” In my Father’s house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” John 14:2. But why does God need us? Why does He go to all this trouble? God is infinite and Eternal. He has Infinite Power and Glory; He has no needs. Yet, there is one thing that He cannot do by Himself: God cannot love Himself. Think about this! Even though He is infinitely Holy or perfect, God cannot love Himself. Yet, some of us, imperfect as we are, erroneously believe that we can and should love our own self. Why is it that God cannot love Himself?? Because it would be a contradiction in terms. Swedenborg says that real or Divine Love cannot love itself; it can only delight in the joy of another. This is the definition of real or Heavenly Love. In fact, this is why God must continuously create new beings in the universe. God continuously creates the universe in order to realize Divine Love. This Divine action is reflected in the life of all created beings. Why do we go to all the trouble to create a family? After all, we are just multiplying our problems by doing so. But we do it because we intuitively understand that loving and sharing are the most fulfilling things in the universe. Without love in our life, we may still be physically alive, but we are inwardly dead. We cannot be self-centered and be loving. This is the mistake every human being makes. Every person wants to remain an egoist and go to Heaven. This is contradictory and impossible. Swedenborg says that love of self is not real love; it is hellish or infernal love. An egoist naturally loves his family because he believes it is part of himself. He also naturally loves those who admire and praise him. However, when he is no longer venerated and glorified, his so-called love immediately turns into hate and revenge. Some of these egoists also say that they do not wish to be hypocrites; they have to express their negative emotions and ideas outwardly. They may not be hypocrites but their soul is egotistical, hateful and evil. The fact is that there are persons who have struggled to become sincerely good and loving and are now in Heaven while there are others who continue to express their anger and viciousness in hell. If we want to be in Heaven, we have to come to a point where the very joy of our life comes from being truly useful and loving to others. And by others, I do not just mean our immediate family; I also mean all other human beings and even animals, plants and minerals. How many of us can say that about our own life? Most of us pretend to be loving but, secretly, we seek our own glory at the expense of others.
The only thing that is preventing us from being in Heaven is the condition of our soul. We can only reach our place in Heaven by purifying and strengthening our soul through the practice of Love and Wisdom. In physics, we understand that, when ocean water is heated by the sun and reaches a specific temperature, it automatically rises into the sky and becomes a fluffy white cloud. By correspondence, once our soul becomes innocent and unselfish, through the guidance of the Lord, it will automatically rise up to its corresponding Heaven. This is a Law of the spiritual world. But we cannot just say that we love God and do whatever we want. If we really love Him, we must freely and willingly obey His Laws. Remember that, like a civilized society, the spiritual world is a realm not only of Laws but of freedom. This means that, in everything that we freely will and do, we are choosing to go to a Heaven of mutual Love and Wisdom or opting to go to a hell of egotistical lust and lies. All those who are in Heaven sincerely love the Lord, Goodness, Truth, uses and other persons more than themselves and the world; they not only obey the Laws of Heaven, they are also really free and joyful. On the other hand, those who choose not to obey the Laws of Heaven are automatically drawn into the hellish bondage or prison of their own egocentric souls; they have freely chosen to be there. God and angels want nothing more than to increase the population of Heaven. This is the purpose of the universe and the propagation of the human race. And Heaven is infinitely large: there is always room for more angels. While in the spiritual world, Swedenborg observed that the greater the number of angels there is in an angelic society, the more Love and Wisdom it emanates and the more perfect is its human form. And this Love and Wisdom is shared by each one and all in Heaven.
9 How is this web site organized?
As much as was possible, this web site was organized in accordance with Divine Order. For the most part, I have chosen to let Swedenborg speak in his own words because I am not sure I fully understand what he wrote. In fact, every time I re-read any part of his writings, I see things I did not see before. This is surely because what we see (understand) is completely dependent upon our organ of sight (understanding). As our understanding develops, we can see more fully and clearly. In the end, this website is simply a gateway into a universe of correspondences that is waiting to be explored. After we discover a few correspondences, we will notice that the whole physical universe itself is full of meaning because it corresponds to spiritual realities. Every physical manifestation is a word in the book of universal life. For example, the next time we see the sun rise, we will experience the Spiritual Sun dawning in the spiritual world and a new era of Truth and understanding. When we see the behavior of a lamb, we will be reminded of the obedience and innocence of angels in Heaven. We could not understand the book of life because we did not know in what language it was written. We now know that it is being written in the language of correspondences. If we want to understand the book, we must learn the language. We must remember, as we read and understand Swedenborg’s words, that we are moving in the spiritual universe itself, which, in reality, is the realm of mind and affections. Our own mind is part of the spiritual world like our physical body is part of the natural world. In fact, our guardian angels can see all our thoughts and real intentions. And we cannot hide anything from God:
… it is manifest that in the other life everyone’s life, and consequently everyone’s affection, is in plain view; and therefore anyone who believes that his previous character, and the consequent quality of his life, is unknown there, or that he can there hide his disposition as in this world, is much mistaken. Moreover, not only are those things seen there which a man has known about himself, but also those which he has not known, namely, such things as by frequent practice he has at last immersed in the delights of life, so as to cause them to disappear from his sight and reflection. The very ends of his thought, of his speech, and of his actions, which from a like cause have become hidden from him, are most plainly perceived in heaven, for heaven is in the sphere and perception of ends. [AC4633]
10 Where should I start?
In spiritual reality, every time is NOW, every place is HERE and every thing is connected to everything else by means of Divine Love and Wisdom. This means that we can start to understand any thing, anytime and anywhere. But what we must realize is that our level of understanding is completely dependent upon the level of our will; how much we understand of Truth is dependent upon our level of Good. In other words, in order to understand the Truth, we must be Good while, in order to be Good, we must understand the Truth. How can we resolve this dilemma? Essentially, what we have to do is to spiral our way up the tree of life. We can always understand a bit more than we do now and by bringing our level of Good in line with this new Truth we can attain a higher level of Good. By repeatedly doing what we now understand to be True and Good, we can gradually transform our will. Wisdom is like food; it must be digested in order to become part of our being. Therefore this Wisdom will only transform your will or being if you put it into practice in your physical life. If need be, it has to change what you believe, think, say, feel and do, why you do it and how you do it. You should believe what is true and will what is Good simply because it is Good and you should do it in a way that is True; you should become a loving human being and you should realize this Love in a way that is Wise.
Spirituality is about holiness or becoming Whole. Swedenborg says that we are born into all kinds of evil or selfishness. Psychologically, most human beings are fragmented; their psyche is in disorder. Due to the fall of man, our understanding is disconnected from our will. For example, God and Divine Order are synonymous. Yet most human beings say that they believe in God while they act contrary to Divine Order. They also think they can be good with some people and bad with others. They think they can be good on Friday, Saturday or Sunday and evil the rest of the week. For example, some businessmen believe they can pray and worship God on the Sabbath day and swindle, rob and cheat their fellow humans the rest of the week. Do not be deceived:
Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. Galatians 6:7-10
We are not what we say or believe ourselves to be; we are what we freely love and do in public and in secret. We cannot waver indefinitely; we must choose once and for all if we want to be wholly good or evil. If we really believe in Good and Truth, our life must reflect our beliefs. If we really believe in God, we must obey His Laws. The sad thing is that, if we do not consciously choose Goodness, we will just drift unconsciously and gradually into evil.
The substance of our spiritual body is realized by fusing our loves and beliefs through corresponding works or actions. We only become evil by fusing selfishness and falsehood through evil actions. And we can only become truly good and loving angels by fusing unselfishness and true thoughts by means of useful and loving deeds. Therefore, the most important thing to understand is that the evil and falsehood that inflow into our heart and mind are not our own. We only appropriate evil when we FREELY and WILLINGLY choose to agree with it and make no attempt to resist it. Similarly the Good and Truth that inflow into our heart and mind from Heaven are not our own; they belong to the Lord alone. We should humbly accept these goods and truths as a gift from God. In order to be reformed and regenerated, we must study and understand the Word, repent, forgive, resist the temptation to be selfish and consciously do what is Just, Loving and True. We want our soul to resemble the beautiful form or Divine Order of the Lord. The more Love and Wisdom we embody, the more we are in Heaven, the more conjoined we are with God and the more peaceful and contented we become. And, like our body always needs fresh air, natural food, Light and heat to sustain itself, our soul always requires pure ideas, holy emotions, Love and Wisdom to be alive. Without Light or Wisdom, we cannot see or understand and without heat or Love, our heart becomes cold and our life becomes meaningless. In fact, Swedenborg said that Love and Wisdom are the food of the angels. If this is true then, presently, most of mankind is starving, thirsting and gasping for air. One last thing, we must remember that this website is simply an introduction to the works of Swedenborg. If we want to study and understand Truth, we should refer to the complete works of Swedenborg and the Bible. The Bible is the Word or Truth and the works of Swedenborg help us understand its higher meanings, Swedenborg says that the literal sense of the Bible corresponds to the clouds of Heaven and its spiritual sense is the glory and power of God.
11 ABBREVIATIONS FOR WORKS OF SWEDENBORG CITED
All translations of Swedenborg’s works used on this web site are in the public domain.
AC Arcana Coelestia Vol. 1 , 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12
AE Apocalypse Explained
AR Apocalypse Revealed Vol. 1 , Vol. 2
CL Conjugial Love
ContLJ Continuation of Last Judgment
DLW Divine Love and Wisdom
D Life Doctrine of Life
D Lord Doctrine of the Lord
DP Divine Providence
DV De Verbo
DSS Doctrine of Sacred Scripture
DW DL Divine Wisdom Divine Love
EU Earths in the Universe
HH Heaven and Hell
ISB Intercourse between the Soul and Body
Inv. Invitation to the New Church
LJ Last Judgment
NJHD The New Jerusalem and Its Heavenly Doctrine
PP Summary Exposition of the Prophets and Psalms
SD SE Spiritual Diary
TCR, SS True Christian Religion
WH The White Horse