Selections from Theistic Psychology: The Science of Immortality
Human Freedom, God's Omnipotence, and the As-of Self
2.17 How Can You Do Research on God in
Even when we adopt the positive bias in science regarding dualism and God, there still remains some doubt about the feasibility of such an approach. How can theistic psychology be scientific if you cannot do research on the spiritual world or on God? Many students are initially bothered by the fact that they have to believe all this solely on the word or experience of one man. But actually you don't have to believe anything. It would be useless to find the Writings of Swedenborg in the library one day, as I have, and to believe this author because he says so. An old acquaintance to whom I was telling about Swedenborg, kept replying to every detail, "But why do you believe this strange man from another century?" From his point of view it was "believing" but from my point of view it was "understanding" and "seeing." This is what's really wonderful about the Writings of Swedenborg, that there is nothing to believe but only to understand.
It's important therefore to go further with the details of the dualist approach to see how God and the spiritual world can be incorporated in valid research.
Actually the task is not as difficult as one might at first think as soon as we consider that the spiritual world overlaps completely with the mental world, and that God reveals many facts about the spiritual world and about how the world is managed through the universal laws of rational correspondences. Theistic psychology cannot be seen as a reasonable and valid approach if one does not allow the dualist concept of "scientific revelations" by God. The scientific revelations God has given in the Writings of Swedenborg give us the details about how God intervenes in phenomena and manages them according to strict laws of rational order.
The idea of "scientific revelations" at first strikes us as preposterous. This is because we begin with the negative bias, with the unproven assumption that the physical world runs itself through natural laws. Also, we hold on to the unproven assumption that science is a human enterprise involving human intelligence struggling to understand a complex universe. These two ideas are unproven. The physical world does not run by itself -- that's the positive bias, which is also unproven to begin with. The enterprise of science is not run by human intelligence acting on its own from self, but God intervenes in its course--this too is the positive bias and unproven as yet.
There is no other choice: One must be willing to let go of the negative bias and to adopt the positive bias in order to investigate rationally the concept of "scientific revelations."
The negative bias says: No need to investigate this, no need to adopt the positive bias, just remain in the negative bias.
The positive bias says: There is a need to investigate this, one must let go of the negative bias to do it.
There is no other choice! You must choose between one or the other.
(See also the section on the positive bias above.)
The concept of scientific revelations makes rational sense in the positive bias mode of thinking. Most people, scientists including, already believe in God. What is it they believe about God? The dictionary defines God as "the supreme or ultimate reality; the Being perfect in power, wisdom, and goodness who is worshiped as creator and ruler of the universe." There are three main elements in the definition of God:
God is worshiped by the majority of scientists as the omnipotent ruler of the universe and the ultimate reality. Does it make sense then to deny God in science? No. Remember that as scientists we are trained to follow an intellectual tradition, which is the negative bias in science. Some scientists voice the belief that this is justified because you can't do research on God, or because you don't need to do research on God since God leaves nature to run itself by means of the natural laws that God created at the beginning of creation.
This assumption is shattered when you read the Writings of Swedenborg. Here for the first time, a scientist of renown has been given the ability to be conscious in a part of the mind that we are ordinarily not conscious of until we become "spirits" in the afterlife. Swedenborg was able to observe thousands of individuals undergoing the 30-hour process of resuscitation when the heart stops and the brain is dead. Upon completion of the process we seem to ourselves to be awakened and we now continue as immortal "spirits" a life in the spiritual world, also called "eternity" because there is no sense of time or aging.
Further, what Swedenborg saw and heard, every individual sees and hears when our conscious awareness switches venue from the natural mind to the spiritual mind. The natural mind contains the experiences built up through our physical body interacting with the natural world. The natural mind and the brain are closely tied functionally by the laws and mechanisms of correspondences. But the spiritual mind receives input from the spiritual world. though we are unconscious of its operation. The spiritual mind has a strong influence on the rational mind, which is intermediate between the natural mind and the spiritual mind. The rational mind is capable of assimilating information from both the natural mind (and world) and the spiritual mind (and world). When fully developed, the rational mind has two components, outer and inner. The outer component is called the natural-rational mind while the inner component is called the spiritual-rational mind.
Because the rational mind can operate with both physical and spiritual information, it becomes the basis for theistic psychology. Swedenborg wrote a book titled Rational Psychology in 1742 but starting in 1743 he found himself suddenly capable of being conscious of his spiritual mind as well as his natural mind. While this took some getting used to, he quickly adapted to his new dual citizenship and for the next 27 years he recorded his daily observations and experiments in the spiritual world. He wrote enough to fill nearly 30 volumes in English translation. This amazing record is totally unique in the history of science. No other scientist has been given this special ability while still tied to the physical body. No other source of scientific information is available about God and the spiritual world. Swedenborg also gives an integrated rational scientific theory or explanation of all of his reports. Nothing is left out of this comprehensive account.
In the past 200 years many people known in literature have referred to Swedenborg (see list below). There are three types of reactions that I noticed in the literature -- religious, psychiatric, and scientific. The religion based on the Writings is called the "New Church" or the "New Christian Church" and is well established today with several branches worldwide, though quite small and little known. The psychiatric reaction varies from "he was totally delusional" to "he was a mystic genius." The scientific reaction is only now being felt through a few forerunners in science like myself. I have coined the phrase "scientific revelations" to designate the content of the Writings of Swedenborg when looked at from a scientist point of view in the positive bias.
My point is simple and logical: Since God is the ultimate reality and ruler of the universe (see definition above) it's not logical for science to ban the concept of God from the study and description of reality.
Other attempts to link "religion and science" -- like Creationism or Christian Science -- are not serviceable to science because they are based on a subjective interpretation and perspective, or are contrary to the basic methods of science. Similarly, what is known as the literature on "the psychology of religion" does not study God and the spiritual world but people's religious practices and beliefs (see Volume 4). Swedenborg's Writings is the only empirical source of information about God and the spiritual world, and they contain the only explanatory accounts that are rational and universally serviceable to science. This is not an assertion you have to believe, since this would be useless in science. It is an assertion you can confirm rationally by evaluating the evidence.
Consider that we are more familiar with the spiritual world and God than with the neighborhood we live in or even our own kitchen or car. What is the most familiar thing you know, the most common and repeated experience in your life? It is not eating or walking or talking. It is feeling, thinking, and sensing. These are the things we do constantly even as we do other things like eating, walking, or talking. The constant in our daily living is the mental world we experience, see, and know from within.
In other words we are more familiar with the spiritual world (or mental world) than we are with the physical or natural world.
Now consider how familiar you are with God. Human beings in all cultures know that God is infinite, which means omnipotent (all power is God's power), omniscience (knows and is aware of everything), omnipresent (is present everywhere). Although this is known about God by most people, it doesn't mean they understand it rationally. For instance, consider omnipotence. People might have the idea that the power they have to move, eat, or think has been given to them by God, but now that they are living creatures, they have this power themselves, even if it originates from God. But this way of thinking is not fully rational. If God gives away some power to living creatures then God is no longer omnipotent since something else than God has power after God gives the power away.
So it's not possible for God to give some power away as long as God is omnipotent. This is a rational conclusion as part of the definition of omnipotence.
The implications are staggering. It means an individual human being has no actual power to eat, walk, talk, think, remember, or choose a preference. That would mean that we are actually biological and spiritual robots activated by the one power there is. But this would not be a perfect world, would it? You would not want to be a spiritual robot or a natural one, for we would then lose our humanity and no longer be human beings. Therefore God had to create a method or mechanism by which human beings could actually be human even though they have no power of their own.
In the Writings of Swedenborg God reveals this method. It is called the "as-of self." In other words we do not actually have a self that has its own power, but we do have an as-of self, which is the real feeling that we act freely, from our own will, and not from God.
To understand this more clearly, think of an analogy where a similar situation arises. When you are taking care of a toddler at home, or the beach, or in a park, your way of interacting is an analogy with the way God interacts with us. The toddler doesn't like to be constricted and wants to roam at will, exploring, moving around, looking, sticking the fingers here or there, laughing, and so on. The toddler is most happy when having the feeling of being completely free. It doesn't like you to stand in front of the fire place to prevent it from touching the fire. It doesn't like you to prevent it from sticking its finger in the electric plug. But you are around, sometimes blocking the way, sometimes hiding something from view, sometimes pushing slightly to change the child's direction of motion, or redirecting the child's focus by sticking something before its face. And so on. In other words you exercise all power to keep the child from getting hurt. The child can accept this as long as it feels like it retains control and freedom. Meanwhile you also provide shelter and food and clothes and insurance and a college fund for that child, arranging the child's life in particular ways. None of this care and arrangement and control comes to the awareness of the child.
In a similar way God provides and intervenes at all levels of action and environment. No detail whatsoever is possible without God's immediate control. This is true of the motion of an electron, the flight of a bird, the rolling of a stone, or what an individual remembers or forgets moment by moment. To remember something takes power and to hold something in memory takes power. To plan your next hour takes power, and to perform your plan takes power. You can see from this that since God is the only power, and since God cannot give away power, therefore God is the most intimate partner we can ever have, far more intimate than any friend or family member.
This amazing intimate relationship with God does not change or diminish whether the individual acknowledges God's partnership or not. An atheist claims not to believe in God's existence or in scientific revelations from God and laughs at those who know of God's existence and role. Viewed from the perspective of dualism, an atheist has the illusion of possessing power from self or from nature, but all along, God must be present participating in the atheist's thought processes and attitudes, because it takes power to have an attitude and to live according to it, and all power is God's power.
This raises an enormous puzzle that authors have discussed for millennia. It is the question of why, if God is omnipotent, does God provide power to the atheist to deny God? Or, why does God provide power and intelligence and skill to the terrorist who kills innocent people? Why does God create a natural disaster that kills many people? Why does God permit wars, crime, rape, abuse, children as sex slaves, deception, lies, depression, sickness? Why does the omnipotent God allow these evil injurious events to take place? -- especially since God is defined as pure Love and pure Truth.
Many people have used the presence of evil, the suffering of the innocent, and the success of dishonest people, as a rationale for disbelieving God or dethroning God in their mind. People have attempted various solutions to this basic puzzle but real progress could not be made until God provided scientific revelations to explain how the world is managed and run. The "as-of self" is absolutely essential for our happiness as human beings and for eternal life in heaven. Through the "as-of self" we can take responsibility for what happens because God cooperates in maintaining that sense of as-of self freedom.
Rationally and logically we know that God is pulling the strings of events and sequences, but experientially we feel completely free, moving and thinking from our desire or motivation.
Consider how a minute amount of power from your finger can move ten mighty men aside. The athletes are pulling on a rope, two teams against each other, and they are perfectly matched. You know they are perfectly matched because the rope is not moving in any direction, stuck in the balance of power. Now you come along and you pull the rope with two fingers. What happens? The ten strong athletes come tumbling down, losing the perfect balance of power with which the two teams matched each other.
You can see from this kind of idea how we can make decisions without any power of our own, and yet be responsible for those choices. The scientific revelations describe our thinking process as a mental operation in which other people participate, in a similar way that the two teams of athletes were pulling the rope in opposite direction. God retains power over what happens by influencing the steps of our thinking, moment by moment, all day long. This influencing process is not direct and immediate, like pulling a rope, but indirect or mediately through others with whom we are brought into communication by God (see "vertical community" in Chapter xx).
Our train of thought is influenced by the spirits, or people in the spiritual world, who are allowed to communicate with our spiritual body in the spiritual world. It's almost like a debating society with a winner and a loser. One team of spirits have disposition or desire X while another team of spirits are brought near who have disposition and desire Y. Whatever thoughts come into our awareness are through the influence of the character of the spirits then in communication with us.
We are aware of the effect of their approach but not the actual influx or influence. We are aware for instance of a particular thought or memory that we recognize as part of our past experience, and we are aware of a sequence of thoughts that come to us about an issue or plan, but we are not conscious of where these thoughts come from or why these thoughts now enter our mind instead of some other thoughts. Yet the sequence of thoughts is governed by God by means of a continuous switching around of what spirits are in communication with our mind moment by moment.
If we were aware of the spirits and their influence on our thinking we would not be pleased. We would not feel free, ever, and no longer be actually human, since the foundation of being human is to act rationally to carry out desired goals. To act from freedom according to reason is the hallmark of the human being. This is one of the reasons why God does not allow a mystical or sensory awareness of other spirits or of God until we are no longer tied to the physical body and live our life in a rational universe called the spiritual world.
But then are we free or not?
Yes we are. God maintains the perfect balance of power in every feeling, thinking, sensing and moving. We do these things without our own power and yet because of the balance of power we can act without power as long as God cooperates and participates in every detail at every moment from conception to eternity. As a result of this we can continue to develop our as-of self character and always feel that it is us in freedom that creates it. At the same time God warns us in scientific revelations that we must not attribute this freedom and power to ourselves but only to God. In this way God can develop our mind and character to its full human potential. But when we deny that God is the participant-operator of all our life and experience, we fall into unreal and injurious states of mind called "hell" and our character becomes enamored of illusions and delusions that eventually lead us to a hellish life from which we are unwilling to escape to eternity. So much is at stake whether we accept reality as it is revealed by God, or whether we reject rational revelation and construct our own world of unreality, illusion, and suffering.
Because God and the spiritual world are so intimate, close, and familiar to us in daily living, it is possible to research God and the spiritual world using the methods of theistic psychology. I should note that some people have formulated some type of research about God that cannot work, so that the inevitable conclusion will always be, "there is no valid proof." For instance suppose you set up a research study in which you randomly assign subjects to two conditions, the "prayer group" and the "no prayer group." The prayer group is instructed to pray every day morning and evening for what they need or want at that moment, while the no-prayer group is instructed to read a novel at that time. The researchers keep track of the individuals for one year and add up the successes of each group. Will they find a significant difference? No, they will not.
But this is not a valid experiment about prayer and God. It is only a test of people's idea of prayer. People do believe that praying for X often brings X to them, and they thank God for it. There is no harm in proceeding in this way for it validates the reality that we are dependent on God moment by moment to continue life. But from the scientific research point of view this kind of experiment cannot be used to study God's ways, but only people's belief systems. Hence it belongs to the atheistic psychology of religion, not to theistic psychology.
The only method by which God can be studied scientifically and rationally is through the scientific revelations God has given to humanity. Through the Writings of Swedenborg God reveals that events are not produced by human intervention because that would mean that God is not omnipotent and fully in charge. If praying could influence events directly, what would happen in a football game where each team prays for victory? Or in a war, or in a lottery, or when someone is sick. God obviously cannot give over any power to someone praying. It is still God who has to make the decision as to what is going to happen, regardless of the prayer. This is shown by the fact that many successful and happy people never pray, and many people who pray keep praying and not getting what they pray for. Prayer is good because it is speech with God. But prayers cannot direct God's decisions (see Section xx). Hence any research on the "effectiveness" of praying does not belong to theistic psychology.
God encourages human beings to pray, but not because their input is needed in the management of events. It is God who gives an individual the power to pray in the first place, as well as what to say and think, and so praying cannot have an effect of God similar to what happens when you beg someone to do this or that for you. The begging may change their mind and agree to do it, but the praying to God cannot change God's mind for this is impossible. And yet when you read the Old and New Testaments in the literal sense you are told to pray and ask God for what we need, and that if we do this, God will grant it to us. Hence it is a religious Divine Commandment that we should pray, as taught in the plain words of Sacred Scripture.
In theistic psychology we do not contradict this Commandment. But we go deeper into it. In the Writings it is explained why God gives us the Commandment to pray--not in order to influence Him, but in order to arouse our love for Him and our conscious awareness of His presence with us as a co-Participant in every detail of thought or deed. Through this love of God we enter a mental state in which we can receive a higher understanding of the truths in Sacred Scripture. Through this higher understanding of Divine reality we are able to face deeper temptations and to effect the regeneration of our feelings and thoughts all the way to the celestial level of mental operations. In this way God works to insure our ability to acquire a heavenly mind. This is why He has commanded us to pray. You can see that this rational explanation is far more detailed and scientific than the religious view that prayer influences God.
Therefore other methods will need to be developed in theistic psychology in order to study God and how the mind and the world is managed by Him (see Section xx).
Here is how Swedenborg describes this struggle:
The "natural man," which is also called the "external man," refers to the natural mind while the "spiritual man," which is also called the "internal man," refers to the spiritual mind. The conscious natural mind is filled with the things we enjoy about ourselves and our life style ("love of self and the world"). The unconscious spiritual mind is filled with the love of good and truth streaming in from the Spiritual Sun. In order to be "saved" for a heavenly life in eternity it is absolutely necessary for the natural mind to give up its loves and beliefs acquired from heredity and experience. The only way we can live in heaven is for our loves to be heavenly, that is, that we love good and truth.
The conscious external natural mind must be willing to give up its earthly loves which are contrary to heavenly loves. This arouses great anxiety and resistance because we consciously fear that if we give up our earthly loves we will have no happiness left. However after the victory of reformation of character the natural mind is realigned so that all its loves and thoughts are from the spiritual mind and compatible with it. There is literally a spiritual war taking place for our ultimate fate. Both sides are us, but one side of us is in heaven while the other side of us is in hell. The part of us that is in heaven is unconscious and consists of the love of good and truth. But the part of us that is in hell is conscious and consists of the love of self and the world.
The traits of our personality or character are determined by the hierarchy of loves or affections that we build up in the course of daily living. This build up is under the joint guidance of the individual and God. The property of God as omnipotent makes it rationally necessary that God participates in the management of every detail of our character traits. If God were removed from co-managing these details in the mind of every human being, could God still be omnipotent? It is a scientific fact therefore that God co-manages the build up of our character and personality.
God's co-management style has been revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg. God uses orderly and rational principles in this co-management operation. One such principle is to keep the individual from being conscious of God's co-presence and co-management. A second principle of co-management is to refrain from compelling the individual to make certain choices. A third principle is to prevent the occurrence of any event or decision we make that cannot be turned into good to the individual and to others. A fourth principle God uses in co-management of character is to influence decisions without the person's awareness by using the person's affective hierarchy already in place. When we make a decision on the basis of preference we have the sense that we are free since when we are free we choose what we want. Hence God activates the preferences already built up at crucial moments of decision making. In the same way God makes certain memories unavailable and certain others are primed so as to pop into consciousness.
This experience of thoughts popping into our consciousness is a common and very familiar way we live our days. Few people wonder, including psychologists, about "where" thoughts come from into our conscious awareness, and if they do wonder about it, there are no rational explanations available. For instance, in atheistic psychology today it is taught that memories are located in neuronal fibers and patterned actions, and that these are reactivated by new sensory input under conditions of similarity, contiguity, and repetition. But in atheistic psychology we can see that the activation of thoughts and their directional course of mental reasoning is done by God with a specific purpose and mechanism.
At first we want to reject the idea that God is involved in co-managing our thoughts and feelings second by second all day long and all night. We don't like this idea because it suggests to us that we are merely robots activated by God. But this resistance and puzzlement are overcome when we consider the issue scientifically. Elsewhere I discussed the new concept of "as-of self" and how it differs from "self." The concept of "self" is constructed out of the idea we form of ourselves when consider our experience, which is that the self is a private unobservable entity or subjective agent that is in charge of "me." But psychologists have come to the realization that the "self" as a conscious agent is only a portion of the "me." We cannot equate "me" with "self" because "me" includes all sorts of operations the "self" doesn't even know about, like sub-conscious, unconscious, and super-conscious operations in our mind.
In theistic psychology we want to work with the concept of an omnipotent and personal God who is the co-manager in every part and operation of the "me." This means that the "self" is a surface appearance rather than an underlying reality. The new concept of "as-of self" has been introduced in the Writings of Swedenborg in order to allow us to accept both these things simultaneously and without logical contradiction, namely: (a) God co-manages our thoughts and feelings with absolute power; (b) We are held responsible for every decision we make. At first our natural mind sees these two proportions as contradictory, but this is without the concept of "as-of self." By introducing this new concept in our thinking we are able to develop strategic ways of cooperating with God in the co-management of our personality and character.
In order to understand this better consider how we train a child or adult to acquire a particular skill like playing chess. At first the trainee is passive, merely doing what the trainer says to do -- move your pawn here or capture the bishop with your knight, and so on. As the trainee begins to understand the overall rudiments of chess, there is a desire to "let me do it by myself now." This is especially strong with children and young people. Unless you let them do their own moves they quickly lose interest and stop being involved or wanting to go on with the training. This reaction is from the "self" of the trainee who refuses to be a robot like agent. Unless you allow this appearance to continue the trained will not cooperate and the training effort will be unsuccessful. Making mistakes and recovering from them is a necessary part of the learning process.
If God's co-management were actually sensed with awareness we would lose all motivation to be active, to initiate, or to react. We would sit in a coma waiting for God to move us and to give us thoughts to think about and feelings to experience. For this reason God never allows an individual to become aware of God's presence and co-management control operations. As a result most people simply deny that God is a hands on manager of daily events, and that God's intervention in detail only happens as an exception known as a "miracle." But the fact is that miracles are special occasions when God allows an awareness of God's co-presence. this awareness is what is unusual, not the intervention, which is constant and ceaseless.
This is also the reason why it would be against God's order and rationality for God to make an external visible appearance in this world, such as at the United Nations in New York or Jerusalem or the back seat of your car when driving. Such an event would completely destroy any possibility for many people to end up in heaven, which is God's primary motive or love for which all other things exist in the universe. The reason is that the physical appearance of God, or clear demonstration of presence, would destroy the function and role of the as-of self. We would no longer be able to live with ourselves. We would feel outrage at God and go against Divine order, precipitating ourselves into the hell of our mind. Therefore theistic psychology cannot accept as valid the reports of those today who claim that they talk to God externally, with a living voice.
Swedenborg is the only modern exception, and he had to be prepared for it since childhood and only for the express purpose of integrating the experience into a scientific record. In the era prior to modern science it was possible for selected individuals to experience God's presence and voice in an external way, through the sensuous and natural mind. The earlier understanding of the world permitted people to have direct interactions with God or angels and miracles. Those people did not know that God was co-managing their thoughts and feelings moment by moment, though they believed that God was aware of their thoughts and emotions. Still, they would have reacted badly had they been told that God co-manages their thoughts and feelings.
In still earlier times called the "Most Ancient Church" or civilization, people had a single brain (no left or right brain fissure) which was the consequence of their inability to lie or dissimulate. Whatever they felt and thought automatically showed and they could not modify it. They are called "celestial minds" and Swedenborg had occasion to visit them in their heavenly habitations in order to study their marriage relations. Celestial minds are capable of being conscious in both worlds simultaneously while living on earth. The most ancient people were thus instructed by their ancestors and teachers directly from their heaven. Later they lost this ability in waking states because they had begun to abuse the power and thus to injure themselves spiritually. The capacity was therefore removed except during dreams and visions. Subsequently the celestial race died out on earth, thought they are of course all present in the spiritual world to eternity as living evidence of their nature and character.
The new race that took its place was an evolutionary opening of a new branch of people who had a split-brain. The left brain specialized in the cognitive area while the right brain specialized in the affective area. Swedenborg was the first scientist who understood the difference in function between the two brain hemispheres, and his conclusion was reached prior to his intromission into the spiritual world, on the basis of evidence gathered by the anatomical research in the 16th and 17th centuries. But after he gained conscious awareness in his spiritual mind Swedenborg was able to confirm the functional difference between left-right brain hemispheres, some 100 years prior to others in the scientific literature.
We are today remnants of that original split-brain race. The change in our brain structure was merely an effect or consequence of the change in mental function. The original human race had a mind that was incapable of specializing separately in the cognitive and affective areas. These two had a built in connection so that every thought that came into the mind had to be selected by an affective operation. If they wanted to accept something offered by someone they could not say No thanks, when they wanted it. If they thought some action is evil they could not then perform it. If they didn't like someone they couldn't hide it. If they wanted to kill someone they could not stop themselves. But the split-brain race was now able to think furiously about something and to plan something without letting it show on the outside in their way they acted or talked. Hypocrisy, deception, simulation now became not only possible, but common.
The purpose why God created the split-brain race is to allow the new generations to escape from the biologically inherited traits of a decadent ancient race. If our thinking and our feeling were not independently operational we would never be able to regenerate and undergo character reformation. In that case every human being born on earth would be a devil and would remain a devil in hell after entering the spiritual world. Obviously this result would have been totally unacceptable to an omnipotent rational God motivated by Divine Love for the human race. God provided therefore an evolutionary mechanism for regeneration.
Since we can have cognitive operations that are not directly attached to particular affective operations, it is possible for us to be taught principles of order for living through sacred scripture and doctrine of life based on it. This is called character reformation, as discussed above. Here is an example of how Swedenborg states this point:
In other words if we learn orderly and rational principles (cognitive operation) we can "subdue" the affections or loves that are contrary to these principles. All we need to do is to attach a high ranking love to these principles. The higher the love ranking we assign to principle the more it has power to modify the habitual affective hierarchy. This is why there is such an emphasis to have the addict to rely on a "higher power than myself" in the well known and effective "12 Step Program" for recovering alcoholics and drug addicts. The word God is mentioned 12 times in this program. Addiction is a powerful love that is hard to dislodge. Only a more powerful love can dislodge it. Appealing to God as "a higher power than myself" allows the individual to enthrone a strong high-ranking love that can receive the superior Divine power and thereby defeat the love of addiction.
Since "principles subdue affections" by means of still stronger affections that we attach to them, we are able to permanently change the love hierarchy that maintains the addictive love. Psychology has discovered the power of self-regulatory sentences in the self-control and management of behavior. It is common today to teach self-regulatory control in therapy, counseling, education, and training. Athletes have reported benefits from visualization and self-regulatory sentences. Religious communities have discovered the "power of affirmations" to alter and control behavior. How do self-regulatory mechanisms work?
Since the cognitive operation is partially independent of the affective alignment, we can learn rational principles of behavior such as morality and ethics. Children can learn a lot that they don't really understand until later, if ever. You can study the Writings and thereby elevate you conscious awareness to the spiritual and celestial levels of knowing and understanding. You can teach the Writings and write articles and books about it. Our consciousness can be raised all the way to our heaven so that we can understand reality in a scientific way. But by the time we close the book or the lesson, we experience a certain lassitude or fatigue from it and we are ready for some "relaxing," which normally include corporeal things like eating, being entertained, or just hanging out with no plans. We could be eating food that is unhealthy for our body and we could be having fun with disorderly and injurious activates such as enjoying portrayals of violence, deception, abuse, and illicit sex. When we are sated of these corporeal and disorderly sensuous involvements, our cognitive mind is ready to resume the lofty study of the Writings. Once again we rise in consciousness to a heavenly perception, wisdom, and rational understanding, only later to fall back again on the unhealthy and injurious affective satisfactions.
But we have the power from God, who is an active partner in our activities, to interrupt this noxious cycle, by applying powerful rational principles from revelation. To be successful we must as-of self, from commitment and dedication, attach a strong love to the rational principles. To the extent that we are willing to do this, to that extent our love is empowered to hold on to the principles by acting according to them instead of against them. By doing this as daily habit there is a connection established between the love and the principle. The higher we place this love in our affective hierarchy the more we can begin living consistently with the principles until it
Quoting from the Writings of Swedenborg:
These two passages show why it is not possible for God to eliminate the hells and bring all those miserable people into heaven. The only way God could do this is by removing their freedom to do what they love since in heaven it is not possible to think, do, or enjoy evil. But if their freedom to do what they love is taken away from them, they would not be in heaven but in another hell, much worse than before, as demonstrated by the individual in the passage above, whose freedom to do evil was removed, and consequently lapsed into a stupid stupor, until his freedom was restored, and he was back in his former hell.
The passage also shows how Swedenborg was given experimental techniques to study the human mind in the world of spirits. The technique described above is called "dissociation" which involves cutting off contact with particular evil spirits who are normally associated with the individual. It is a universal law that no one in the natural and spiritual worlds, is able to have affections and thoughts from self, but only in association with other spirits. This is called the "vertical community" (see Section xx). When anyone is cut off from the vertical community, even for a moment, the individual lapses into a stupor or coma, unable to have a single thoughts or feeling--as in the experimental case described above.
Continuing with the next passage:
Heavenly freedom is the love of sharing one's happiness with others. It is a remarkable fact that when we ascend to the heaven of our mind we are imbued with the passion to share whatever good we have with others, so that in a heavenly society every individual communicates their own happiness to everyone else in that society. In this way each is enriched by the goods of others, multiplying greatly the happiness of each and all. The larger a heavenly society, the more each individual is enriched by the happiness of all who are there. At it doesn't stop with the community itself for the happiness of the society is communicated to surrounding societies in a giant ripple effect that spreads to the universal heavens. In other words, when we ascend to our heaven in the mind, our happiness is communicated to all human beings who are also in the heaven of their mind. Though heaven is in each individual's mind it is not a place where we are alone. All those who share similar affections seem to themselves to be together as if they were living in a heavenly city. We form "heavenly societies" with those who have a heaven filled with loves similar to ours. The same applies to all the people who are in the hells of their mind. In this way God insures that the entire human race is always integrated in their loves, acting together, never alone. It is said in the Writings that to God the entire human race is as one individual, which is another way of referring to the integration of all loves in the human race.
But it is either as one angelic and well formed individual or as a hellish and monstrous individual, since the loves of these two cannot mix but destroy each other, as indicated in these two passages:
It is a remarkable fact that the sense of freedom we have comes from willing what we love. When we are allowed to choose or enjoy what we love, we feel that we are in freedom, and we are happy. Human happiness depends on this feeling of freedom, and freedom depends on choosing what we love, as explained next:
Changing our character from hellish to heavenly involves compelling ourselves to act against our freedom, because we are in our infernal loves from heredity, and so we don't want to stop enjoying hellish things and start enjoying heavenly things. Regeneration is a painful process because it requires that we act against what we love when we love evil. We resist exchanging our evil enjoyments for heavenly ones because we feel that we are giving up our freedom to choose what we love. We feel oppressed and restrained, having to enjoy some heavenly love that we actually do not like. The only way we can accomplish a character makeover successfully is to compel ourselves to act according to our doctrine of truth from Sacred Scripture. When we make this effort as-of self, God then removes the enjoyment of infernal loves so that we can come into the happiness of loving heavenly loves.
Note carefully that we must have doctrine of truth from Sacred Scripture. Lots of doctrines, philosophies, and lifestyles are around, and many there are who follow them and makes choices according to them. So it's important to know from theistic psychology that we have no power to stop loving evil enjoyments. It is not possible, any more than to lift yourself from your bootstraps (the straps will tear and you will remain on the ground). God is omnipotent, which means no one and nothing has any power. If someone or something had any power, God would not be omnipotent. This is just logical necessity.
As explained elsewhere (see Section xx), God makes it appear that we act from ourselves since this feeling of freedom is necessary for human happiness, and without happiness, there is no heaven. God must therefore insure that we have an "as-of self" by which there is the appearance that we act from ourselves. Similarly, God makes it appear that animals move on their own, and electrons seem to have kinetic power of their own. Again, omnipotence requires that it is God who activates the electron and keeps it going, and it is God who provides the strength to stand or sit, whichever we choose.
Hence it is that we have no power to change our character or to say no to a temptation. But God has revealed that He stands ready to power and activate anything we choose, within limits He specifies. If we live by a philosophy or lifestyle that is from ourselves or from some other individual, we are operating at the limits that God has specified. Certain things God will cooperate with us even then, but not certain other things. For instance, God will activate our body motions when we choose to do something that is evil like injuring somebody. This is within God's Laws of Permissions (see Section xx). God will not cooperate when He can't turn the action into something good for both the perpetrator and the victim. So sometimes evil intentions succeed and sometimes not.
When it comes to character change from hellish to heavenly, God will not cooperate outside the limits He has specified. God has specified in Sacred Scripture that we must use Sacred Scripture to direct our lives and to resist temptations and doing evil. He will cooperate when we (a) learn our doctrine from Sacred Scripture, and (b) use the doctrine of truth to combat as-of self our enjoyment of evil and our resistance to give it up. It must be as-of self for we must put up the effort of resisting the enjoyment of our evil traits. It is required that we resist our evil traits as-of self, and at the same time, looking to God for supplying the power. This is what it means to act according to our doctrine of truth from Sacred Scripture.
The Writings say that God insures that every society on the planet has a religion from which all children are taught about God and about the commandments of living. This gives everyone a free choice to submit to God's will or to go it on their own or to follow some other leader or guide.
This next Number give us important details about how God cooperates to act when we have "doctrine of truth" in our memory from prior learning. We are responsible for learning the doctrine of truth. Once it is in our memory from rational understanding, God evokes our principle in some choice situation and suddenly we are thinking about it as we are deciding and choosing.
Let's list in sequence what the above passage explains:
(i) God puts the "truth of doctrine" into our understanding when we exert as-of self effort to learn the truths of life taught in Sacred Scripture, and we thus acquire knowledge from theistic psychology ("truth of doctrine instilled by an external way"). This is a conscious effort of our own that God makes successful.
(ii) While this is happening in the cognitive organ at the conscious level, God unconsciously activates our affective organ, an action which we experience consciously as an attraction or love for these principles of truth from Sacred Scripture ("affection for good is instilled in an internal way").
(iii) God joins together, as in a marriage, the knowledge of truth from Sacred Scripture and the love we have for it. This conjoining by God of our doctrine of truth and our love for it, generates the feeling that we choose in freedom what we love. We reject the hellish preference because it is contrary to our doctrine of truth or principle of action. The doctrine of truth is our own to the extent that we understand rationally. Choosing our own is freedom. If the we do not understand the doctrine of truth in a rational way, it is not our own but external to our own. Then if we choose good over bad we feel that we are compelled to do so by some eternal agency not our own. In that case God cannot give power to the truth we know. Many times we know what is the right thing to do, but we cannot make ourselves do it. In other words, God does not supply the power. Why not? Because God must wait until (a) we understand the doctrine of truth rationally so that it is our own, and (b) we love it. Then God will supply the power to do the right thing, but not otherwise. These are the limits within which God works with us, as revealed in Sacred Scripture.
(iv) Doctrine of truth is also called "faith" here but in the Writings "faith" always means "rational faith" not "blind faith." Rational faith is the same as theistic psychology. Only if you love truth from Sacred Scripture can God withhold you from the enjoyment of evil traits. If you do not love truth from Sacred Scripture, God cannot withhold you from continuing to choose evil.
Knowing theistic psychology by itself does not give you the ability to change your character. You must see it as Divine truth that you love. First, you must acknowledge that theistic psychology is Divine truth, then God gives you the ability to understand it rationally. If you love what you understand rationally, God can conjoin your understanding and your will in a marriage of action. This gives you success in achieving character change.
Note also the role of freedom in relation to the love of truth from God:
The central issue in everybody's life is to change the inherited enjoyment of evil traits. Everything else is almost of no value in comparison. What can be as important as making sure we are prepared to enter heaven in eternity, when the only other alternative is to enter hell in eternity? Can you think of anything as important as that for you? Since we are born with traits that take us to hell, it's up to each one of us to resist the enjoyments of hellish traits and to compel ourselves from freedom to learn to enjoy heavenly traits, which are their opposites.
For instance, most people enjoy winning and work hard to give themselves that feeling as often as they can. But consider the fact that when you win you are not the one who is responsible for winning. God is. True, you cannot win unless you put up the effort, but this is an as-of self effort which then requires God's cooperation by making you the winner. Often you make the effort but God doesn't cooperate and you don't win. So when you win or when you lose, God is effecting the outcome, not you. When you reflect on this truth from Sacred Scripture, and you also love it, the enjoyment of winning cannot be the same feeling as before. Now you enjoy if it if someone else wins and you lose, whereas before you never liked losing so someone else can win instead of you. Your involvement with winning completely changes. Since you know it is God who chooses the winner, and you love that fact, you enjoy winning because God determined you should win for a useful purpose. By making you the winner, God is bringing out something good for someone else. You begin to reflect on what that might be in any particular situation. How can you benefit someone by your winning? And so on.
Now your involvement with winning is heavenly, whereas before it was hellish. Before when you didn't win, you were disappointed, depressed, angry, resentful, envious, in a bad mood, and other such evil things. You were in these evils thing. You were experiencing the emotions that evil gives you. You were attached to these feelings. Along with these downer feelings when you lost, came upper feelings when you won--pride, self-love, feeling of superiority, greed, arrogance, good mood, etc. The upper feelings are also hellish. So you were in love with this up and down involvement with winning, but now, your feelings about winning are heavenly--gratitude, obedience, wanting to be useful, considerate of others, etc.
What makes the essential difference between hellish type winning and heavenly type winning?
It is the "affection for good and truth" as the passage above declares. This is what God, our Divine Psychologist, is constantly trying to do with each of us--to "implant" this love for heavenly things. "Good and truth" are heavenly things, and this is what we must love or have an affection for. When we do, God responds by expanding our mind into a heaven, like a Garden of Paradise for our thoughts and feelings. Now we begin to change with respect to other traits that are hellish. For instance, most people don't love to pay taxes. Many people even feel free to cheat the government by not declaring certain taxable income or by making up expenses they didn't have to reduce the taxes owed. This is a hellish enjoyment and involvement. We feel good when we succeed in paying less taxes than we actually owe. We justify this by false ideas like the idea that the government is taxing us too much, or that the government officials put the money in their pockets. These ideas are cynical and unjust, also hellish traits. We are drawn into a whole network of evil enjoyments, attitudes, and beliefs.
But now, say you acquire the commitment to change your character according to the doctrine of truth from Sacred Scripture. Time comes to figure out your taxes so you can pay what you owe. You reflect from the truth of Sacred Scripture that God manages all areas in society, including of course taxes. God maintains taxation or else it would disappear. You realize that the function of taxes is heavenly. It redistributes money from those who have it to others who need it. Government services for all citizens could not be provided without taxation. Now as you write your check to the government you feel happy and clear. You love the idea that by paying taxes you are obeying God's order in managing society. You think about where your money might go and how people will benefit from it.
But this heavenly attitude is born in you only when you are in freedom as you write your check. Do you feel compelled to write it because you're scared of the penalties for not paying it? Or, do you feel free to write it because you love it, that is, you love the idea that you are obeying God's management procedures? Only if you feel free from love can you acquire as your own, the heavenly attitude towards paying taxes.
Note that heavenly freedom is the "freedom to think what is true and to will what is good." If you make yourself think in accordance with the truth of Sacred Scripture because you love it, you are in heavenly freedom. In other words, (a) you read Sacred Scripture or theistic psychology and you understand it rationally; (b) you love it because it is the truth of God; (c) you make yourself think about everything all day in accordance with this Divine truth you love; (d) God implants the love for the heavenly traits and makes it a permanent part of your mind. Repeat this process every day of your life, and your mind will become heavenly. When you pass on, you enter the conjugial heaven of eternity.
The reason I call it "conjugial" heaven, is because everyone in heaven lives in a married state with their soul mate (see Section xx).
Continuing with the Next Number:
Regeneration is a lifelong process of character change. The Divine Psychologist works with each individual regardless of whether they have a religion or whether they are atheists and materialistic scientists in the negative bias. God works with you even if you deny He exists, because if He stopped, you would disappear from existence. God has revealed that He constantly tries to bend an individual away from evil by making certain things happen or not. For instance, God makes you forget something so you don't think about doing a certain evil, which you would commit if you hadn't forgotten about it or if God hadn't kept the knowledge of it from you. God uses many other such methods that hide how much He is interfering with your thoughts, feelings, and events.
"Worship" in theistic psychology refers to love of heavenly things because they are from God. The passage above says that this love for acquiring heavenly traits ("worship") becomes part of our permanent character only when we feel free to love these traits. For instance, if we love the idea of acquiring heavenly traits because we are afraid of hell, we are not yet in freedom. Our love for heaven is out of fear for hell rather than out of a love for good and truth. We are not yet in freedom, and the heavenly traits we acquire are not really heavenly in us. This may be a necessary intermediate stage, though. In my own case, I am terrified at the idea that I might go to hell! I am motivated to get rid of my hellish traits fro that reason. I realize that this is an intermediate stage because I still enjoy hellish traits. My rational mind tells me that these hellish enjoyments take me to hell, of which I am terrified, and yet I still enjoy them! This means that I'm still not in freedom to think truth and love good, which is the true heavenly freedom. But I'm striving to acquire this freedom and I know the Divine Psychologist is assisting me through temptations (see Section xx).
This passage says that God could easily compel everyone to love heavenly traits, which means that He would then prevent anyone from enjoying any hellish trait. Why does He not use His omnipotence to prevent all evil in the universe? The passage explains that anything people are made to think, love, or do by compulsion, does not feel like it is their own. Only that which they choose in freedom feels like their own. Children who are forced to go to Church, or to take piano lessons, stop doing these things as soon as they are out of their parents' obedience and authority. Why do they stop? Because doing something they were forced to do did not become part of their love. Anything in our traits or behaviors that we do not love is pushed to the side and it becomes inert, no longer a feature of the character or personality.
Whatever is not your own cannot become a permanent part of you, and hence will not help you in the afterlife. Hence God cannot use His omnipotence to compel people to love heavenly traits and to stop loving hellish traits. If peop0le are forced to stop some behavior, the love for that behavior keeps burning and longing to be fulfilled. As soon as the compulsion stops or is no longer effective, the love springs into action. People who enjoy hellish traits and are taken to heaven feel like all life is leaving them and they lapse into a coma, or else feel tortured in agony for until they are removed and released back in their hell where they can freely enjoy their hellish traits. This is then the reason why God permits evil in the world--remember this argument! So many people cannot figure this thing out even if they are very intelligent and familiar with the literature in religion or philosophy. Some people even claim that this is the very reason they don't believe in God. Others say that this proves God is not omnipotent--there is the power of evil or the devil or Satan or "dark angels." Others say, perversely, that God is not all good and has some evil in Him. Now you can understand rationally why God allows evil.
Instead God tries to coax people into freely choosing truth and good, using many secret methods unknown to human beings.
Only what we choose freely remains permanently in our character because when we choose freely, we choose from love, and whatever we chose from love, remains forever.
A "heavenly proprium" is a permanent character we have that is suitable for living in heaven. "Proprium" is Latin for "own" or what is one's own, hence our personality and character. "Personality" usually refers to our social habits in work and relationships, while "character" refers to our ruling loves. For instance, being polite is usually a personality trait. As soon as we no longer like someone, or when we feel alienated or rebellious, we drop the usual appearances of politeness we give, and we 'let it fly' as the popular saying goes. This shows that our real character is 'to let it fly' when we decide it's time for that. When we are awakened from resuscitation, some 30 hours after death, we still have both our personality and character with us--nothing has changed. This is the first death. But the next few weeks or months lead us into experiences which liberate our real loves such as we have deep seated in our character. Our real character then emerges and our personality dies. This is called the second death. Now we are what our character really is--either heavenly or hellish, and we enter our eternal heaven or our eternal hell (see Section xx).
The passage above says that in order to acquire for ourselves a character ('proprium") that can live happily in heaven, we must acquire heavenly loves as our own. We can't just make ourselves do heavenly things and not come to like it. At first we may not like it, but later God implants the liking and the love for it. At that moment we begin to hate the former hellish enjoyments we loved. The passage says that we "need to do good and to think truth" from ourselves, which means, from our free choice to do it. Only then can we love it, and thus have it with us at the second death. The only way this can happen is in reality--in understanding the actual role of the Divine Psychologist in every detail of this character makeover process. Try to do this character makeover by yourself, without acknowledging and understanding God's actual role, and you cannot succeed. This is a fact of theistic psychology explained in many ways in Sacred Scripture, as regeneration of our character is the central purpose why God gives Sacred Scripture to the human race.
This is one of the critical concepts we need to understand in theistic psychology. There are two kinds of freedom, one true freedom called heavenly freedom, and the other false freedom called hellish or infernal freedom. Acting from self-love feels like freedom and is strongly enjoyable, but it "is anything but freedom" according to our Divine Psychologist. The amazing revelation is given here that acting from self-love is not acting from love but from hatred. For instance, suppose you criticize a friend or neighbor to make yourself feel better in comparison. You are acting from self-love, which is actually hatred of the other person. So you are acting from hatred, not love. It is similar with the "love of the world" which contrasts with the love of heaven in the afterlife. For instance, many people have the habit of lying when they can gain some money, reputation, or advantage over someone they're competing with. This act is from the love of the world, that is, the love of gaining even if we have to be unfair or deceptive to get it. It appears that we are acting from a love for acquiring good things we desire, but in reality, we are acting from hatred of others whom we cheat and deprive illegitimately of what they are entitled to.
Acting from hate against others is not freedom but infernal freedom, which is nothing but "slavery."
"The Word" refers to Sacred Scripture. It is declared here that Sacred Scripture is the only source of information and knowledge for theistic psychology. Two requirements are specified here for understanding freedom and love. One is obtaining information about it from Sacred Scripture. The second is obtaining information by self-witnessing, which involves regular monitoring of our thoughts and feelings (see Section xx).