A Guide to Spiritual Self-examination
Table of Contents
Please note that you can find explanations for many concepts mentioned here by clicking on the word links in the text (they are always underlined text). These linked documents have many quotations from Swedenborg's Writings that are relevant to these concepts. We recommend that you read through the essay once, then go back and click on the links, or else it will be difficult to keep track of the main argument.
Religious Psychology is not at all the same as the Psychology of Religion. The latter is a well established academic program and a long standing Division of the American Psychological Association. It is the study of religion from the point of view of monism, which is part of the materialistic science that dominated the twentieth century. In contrast, religious psychology is the study of human development from the perspective of dualist science, as exemplified in the Writings of Swedenborg (1688-1772). Our argument for dualism in science are presented in these articles:
A science of religious psychology must be universal and cannot be pre-empted by any sectarian belief system or doctrine. Science is the product of pan-human logic and rationality as we attempt to make sense of reality. There is only one reality, one logic, one rationality, namely truth or trues, which are universal, absolute, uncreate, eternal, and Divine. Religious psychology has two basic premises. One is dualism; the other is revelation. Dualism in science is the premise that there are two universes, one natural, the other spiritual. We are dual citizens, since our physical body is material, natural, and temporal, while the mind or self, is substantive, spiritual, and immortal. The relation or contrast between material and substantive was known and accepted by all the major Western philosophers and scientists up to the twentieth century, when the substantive was no longer seen as the basis for the material. This gave rise to a materialistic science that denies the possibility, the relevance, the reality and the rationality of God, revelation, and the spiritual world. Dualism in science restores the knowledge and perspective that science has evolved for thousands of years, and restores the imbalance and excesses of ideological materialism. In our view, dualism in science and religious psychology will prevail in the next millennium as it gradually replaces the old paradigm of anti-theistic ideological materialism.
This essay is an attempt to translate the ideas in Swedenborg's Writings into the language of modern science and psychology. To the extent that we succeed, the effort should make it easier for others to see how a positive science can view their cherished religious certainties: God, the Word, the Lord, the Trinity, the Incarnation, the Messiah, evil, sin, regeneration, Holy Communion, Heaven, hell, eternal life. It is awkward, perhaps even schizoid, for all of us to be educated in a science that denies these realities. Church is for Sunday, and science is for weekdays, has been a denigrating alternative we are supposed to accept and be quiet about. Praying is superstition, according to Skinner, and those who are the experts in the psychology of religion look for God, like Freud, Jung, Sartre, and Karl Marx, in the depths of the human psyche rather than in the idea of the Creator for the universe. We hope to show that science has the intellectual tools for dualism and religious psychology. Sin is real. Heaven is real. Hell is real. Regeneration is real. Love is real. Wisdom is real. Baptism is real. Praying is real. Revelation is real. And so on.
But beyond asserting their reality, our task is to show how they can have empirical meaning in a scientific system. But this no one can do without the knowledge given in revelation since the external natural senses cannot access the requisite data. So we must first show the existence of the inner senses that do have access to the relevant data through revelation, but not without it. This inner sense is the true human rational that can see spiritual reality and fact. This interior rational is far above the external rational that is built up through the external senses. This interior rational can be developed until it becomes so commonplace that one wonders how it used to be before its opening to consciousness. This we have achieved through the application of Swedenborg's Writings to our daily moment by moment life transactions. This achievement does not make us superior or special, but the vision it affords us is superior and special, and it never fails us. Anyone can do what we have, and we hope that this record of our journey, painstakingly kept track of and digested, will make it useful to your journey. We could not have done this without our daily study of the Writings of Swedenborg.
The second premise of revelation is that spiritual knowledge, that is, knowledge about the spiritual world of the mind, cannot be obtained directly by the natural senses, and therefore the mechanism of revelation exists. A modern and favorable examination of this issue in relation to Swedenborg's access to revelation, may be found in Christen Blom Dahl's book The Third Source: Swedenborg: A Physical & Metaphysical Revelation (available here full text). Also of relevance to the issue of revelation and Swedenborg's scientific empiricism and behaviorism, is the article quoted above: Overcoming Objections.
Religious psychology is non-sectarian, universal, and dualist. One issue that may trouble some is reflected in this question: How can you have a religious psychology that is scientific when each religion claims to have its own God and its own revelation, while denying the God and the revelation of other religions? This crucial issue is dealt with in the first section specifically, and throughout the essay. Your comments are welcome.
The external and internal Church
Jesus, Sun of Life, my Splendour,
Jesus, Thou my Friend most tender,
Jesus, Joy of my desiring,
Fount of Life, my soul inspiring,
At Thy feet I cry my Maker.
Let me be a fit partaker
Of this blessed food from Heaven,
For our good Thy glory given.
17th Century Hymn (Brockes Passion)
(Concordia Publishing House)
Religious psychology is the study of how the Church grows within us. The Church is the operation itself of religion. All religions operate through a church. There are many external churches but only one internal Church. External churches are cultural institutions, hence they are variegated and contrastive. External churches on this earth are related by history and ideology (or theology) . Every external church operates through Sacred Writings from which religious doctrines are drawn as guides to religious practices, traditions, laws, norms, rituals, worship, and commandments of living.
Because the external churches bicker among each
other they give an appearance of disagreement, antagonism, enmity, and strife. The
Writings they hold as sacred vary and the history of the world they give (or their
eschatology) often contradict each other. Many believers hold that their version
only is correct and genuine and doubt the salvation of others. This external
appearance of varieties of religions and their doctrinaire contradictions vanishes in the
internal operation of the Church within every person on this earth. The inner Church
is universal and absolute though it grows and develops in stages within each person.
All human beings belong to the internal Church and there are no human beings who are
devoid of it irrespective of their beliefs or awareness. Individuals of all
denominations and individuals who deny any religious affiliation all belong to the inner
Church by Divine order. The inner Church grows within each person under the careful
and constant supervision of God. It is an organic relationship of the spirit of each
person. Religious psychology explores this universal
There are three stages of growth of the Church
within each person. We may refer to them in order as first, the Old Church state of mind, second, the New Church state of mind, and third, the Ultimate Church state of
mind. The three Churches develop within us in that order. The Old Church is
the basis and containant of the internal Church upon which the other two rest. The
Old Church is born within each child when the child is told about God, sin, and the life
after death. The New Church is added when the individual returns to religious life
as an adult. This happens because adolescence and early maturity turns off the
operation of the Church within us. When we return to religious life as an adult we
do so from our own reason and free will, from rational decision and personal confirmation
of the importance of God in our life. While the Old Church state of mind appears to
us severe and restrictive in its Commandments, the New Church state of mind is experienced
with positive affections and freedom; its New Commandment is more rational and inviting,
more to our liking and philosophical inclinations. We fear the Old Church while we
love the New Church.
After the New Church state of mind is established within us on top
of the Old Church, the Third Church then develops and grows on top of the other two.
This is the crown of all Churches and brings wisdom.
This happens in maturity and old age.
To grasp these ideas better we may illustrate them by reviewing the historical development of the Judeo-Christian religion. The Jewish or Israelitish Church was established around 3,500 B.C. with the life of Abraham in Asia Minor. Its sacred Writings are known as the Old Testament and are made up of books written by prophets from about 1,500 B.C. to about 400 B.C. The Christian Church was established in the first century A.D. and is based on Sacred Writings called the New Testament.
This second Testament was added on top of
the Old Testament and the two together make up the Holy Bible of the Christian Church. In
the eighteenth century A.D. the Church of the New Jerusalem, or New Church, came into
existence. Its Sacred Writings are the Old Testament and the New Testament in
conjunction with the theological Writings
of Swedenborg (1688-1772), the Swedish revelator. Around the middle of
the twentieth century A.D. the Lord's New Church which is Nova Hierosolyma came into
existence. This third Christian church added the Writings of Swedenborg to the Old
and New Testaments considering them as the Third Testament.
The Three Testaments acknowledge each other in series: the New Testament quotes and
upholds the Old Testament; the Third Testament quotes and upholds the Old and New
This relationship of the Three Testaments may not appear as clearly in all religious Writings. Still, since the Sacred Writings always deal with regeneration, the members of all religions undergo the three stages represented by the Three Testaments. This is because the inner Church is universal and not dependent upon the details of the external cultural churches. Without this proviso people would be prevented from being regenerated in all churches but one, a situation clearly not allowable by a fair and universal God. This book will appeal to those of any religion who are interested in knowing about the growth of the three Churches within themselves. The following diagram summarizes what has been presented:
We may inquire as to what determines the growth of the Church within us. We will discuss the answer in terms of what may be called confirmation theory, which is the idea that the successive Churches are established within us when we confirm the trues of religion in our life. Thus, after the doctrines drawn from the Old Testament state of mind are confirmed in our life, the spiritual concepts of the New Testament state present themselves to our mind; then, when we succeed in confirming these doctrines, the spiritual concepts of the Third Testament state present themselves to the mind. When trues of the Third Testament state can be confirmed in our life, the Church within us is in its completed stage, though not complete in that ultimate stage. Indeed, the completion of the ultimate Church within us proceeds to eternity. In this third state we come into the image and likeness of God, an eternal and endless progression. This is the Angelic state of the mind.
We need to examine how doctrines drawn from the Three Testaments are confirmed in our life. This may be illustrated by considering the successive doctrines of the Three Testaments. The chief doctrine of the Old Testament is that God reveals Himself to us as a Human Divine Person Who created us and Who requires us to obey His Commandments under penalty of death and all sorts of inescapable punishments. His Divine omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence are absolute, infinite, and incomprehensible to us. As children we accept this doctrine with innocence and perfect faith. The Old Church then grows within us and produces thoughts, intentions, and feelings that harmonize with this doctrine. For instance, though we rather lie, steal, and commit adultery we strive not to do these things out of fear of God and a hope of reward. When we mess up and violate these Commandments, we feel guilty and uneasy; our happiness vanishes. But as soon as we repent and sincerely resolve not to continue in our sin, we can be happy again. This is the operation of the Old Church within us. Our living conscience, built up by the Old Church within us, is the confirmation in our life of the doctrine of the Old Testament.
As this operation is well established within us we come to the doctrine of the New Testament which is that God is present with each individual in an intimate relation and Personally labors to bring us to eternal happiness and fruition in His Kingdom of the afterlife. This New doctrine is more difficult to confirm in our life than the Old doctrine and requires many years to be completed. For example, whereas the Old Testament requires us to love our neighbor, the New Testament commands that we love our enemy as well. Or, while the Old Testament commands us to not commit adultery, the New Testament informs us that even the mental enjoyment of unchaste thoughts and emotions is a damnable sin, if confirmed. However, as we strive to live according to this New doctrine we find that we begin to think and feel more purely towards others. What seemed impossible before now is accomplished on a regular or routine basis. We discover that we can love the good part of our enemy, and we find that we no longer enjoy thoughts of revenge or emotions that are unchaste, but find them repulsive and aversive. We have then confirmed the doctrine of the New Testament in our life.
We then come to the doctrine of the Third Testament which says that God is the Divine Human Who alone is alive within us. This is even more difficult to confirm in our life and takes all of eternity. The reason this third doctrine is so difficult to confirm is that it takes away our selfhood. With the New Testament doctrine we are still partly in charge of our lives though we depend on God for victory and success in overcoming the selfish nature we are born with. But with the Third Testament doctrine we have totally lost our selfhood: we are not in charge of ourselves any more; in fact we are dead, we have never had life, and never will have. We are merely a vessel for God's Life within us. This is the most difficult doctrine to confirm in our life since it is difficult for us to rid ourselves of the delusional appearance that we have life of our own. We appear to think, and feel, and decide; it looks to us that God can influence us rather than being us. Yet the Third Testament informs us that our thoughts are not our thoughts but the thoughts of spirits with us, and the thoughts of spirits are not their thoughts but the reception of God's thoughts. Individual vessels receive God's thoughts, intentions, and feelings in accordance with the state of the Church in their mind or spirit, hence there is an appearance of individual variety or personality. But this variety is due to the variation in vessels as God Himself is One, Unchanging and Absolute.
It may seem at first that the doctrine of the Third Testament is abstract and impossible to confirm in one's life. Yet as we strive to observe our inner life through the study and application of the Third Testament, we begin to see how it is true. Our thoughts and feelings are not our own. They are inspired into us. They enter by an inner route from the soul and spirit and come out into our mind's awareness where we can see them. Our life is as-if our own. In this realization we suddenly feel very close to God, the Divine Human. We see that all along there was no other life but His Life. God has become the Divine Human, the only Human Who is the Very Human Itself pulsating in us. We are human vessels to His Divine Human Life. This realization becomes love into God from God, and leads to all true wisdom and blessedness.
Religious psychology attempts to uncover these steps of the growth of the Church within us. It is a discipline of study based on the successive doctrines of the Three Testaments in our mind. This book will appeal to those who want to reach in this life on earth the state of blessedness and wisdom which is promised through the Third Testament. We may gain a better comprehension of the development of the Church within us by reviewing some details of the developmental steps in the historical (external) churches.
After the Fall of the human race on this earth the process of being regenerated by the Lord evolved in three successive phases or epochs. The history of the external church is the same as the history of the internal Church within each individual. By reviewing the epochs of the external church we gain a view of the three phases of our own regeneration. The interior Church within each of us is built up by the Lord in three phases, that is in three successive degrees. The interior sense of the successive historical churches is the representation of the successive stages of evolution of the inner Church within us. This relation is pictured in the following table:
|The First Period
(3,500 B.C. - 1,757 A.D.)
|The Second Period
(1,757 A.D. - 1,938 A.D.)
|The Third Period
(1,938 A.D. - onward)
|The Old Church||The New Church||The Ultimate Church|
|The Old Testament||The New Testament||The Third Testament|
|Judao-Christian||New Christian||True Christian|
|Human Divine||Divine Truth||Divine Human|
|Invisible God||Visible God||God Man|
The First Degree
(birth to adulthood)
The Second Degree
(maturity to old age)
The Third Degree
(old age to eternity)
|The Natural Self||The Rational Self||The Celestial Self|
|Worship from Fear||Worship from Reason||Worship from Love|
The upper part of the table reviews some features of the history of the external church since the spiritual Fall of the human race on this earth. The bottom part views the corresponding interior sense of this history. By studying and meditating upon the relation between these two, many additional entries or illustrations might be given.
We may examine this correspondence by considering first the progression of the periods of the church. Insight into the Old Church may be gained through a review of the Judeo-Christian commentaries to the Holy Bible. In this view, the Old Testament and the New Testament present the literal sense of the Word, and in this sense the God of the Old Testament is invisible and incomprehensible. In order to have contact with people on earth this unreachable God is transformed in the external sense of the Word into a Divine Personality called by various Names: Jehovah, I AM, Heavenly Father, the Most High, King of Kings, and many others. The character of this Divine Personality is not the character of God since this is impossible for people to understand. The character of this Divine Personality is only a gross and imperfect appearance. It is human in its nature since Jehovah in the Old Testament talks as a human does about His anger, His frustration, His gladness, His changing His mind, and so on. So we may refer to the Old Testament God as the God in human character, that is, as the Human Divine.
The Human Divine, called by the Name of Jehovah, is not God per Se, but God as initially presentable to humans who are in the state of the Fall. The child is in such a state when first instructed about God, sin, and the afterlife. The modern scientists are in this state when they separate their science from religion. The philosophers and secular humanists are in this state when they acknowledge the existence of God but insist that humans are to work out their own destiny. The Jews are in this state as they deny the Coming of the Messiah. The Christians are in this state as they pray to the Father in the Name of His Son.
In this state of the Old Church, worshippers address an invisible God out of fear. Though they believe that God is infinitely merciful, yet they also ascribe to Him the role of Judge, and Punisher. Their image of God is mixed. They accept contradictions as Divine paradoxes that will remain forever incomprehensible to the human mind. Faith is mystical and blind, not rational and crystal clear.
There are many varieties within this Old Church mentality. For example, the New Testament divides Christian from Jew. To the Jew, God remains distant and incomprehensible and He leaves us to fend for ourselves as best we can. To the Christian, God is incomprehensible in one way but comprehensible in another way. In effect, God becomes two Divine Persons (or three Divine Persons). The idea of One God Who is Two (or Three) Persons is not an idea that can be rationally grasped. Therefore this is a blind faith, not rational.
This then is the first period of the external church and the first degree of the internal Church. The second period called the New Church was born historically (that is, externally), when people became capable of gaining a rational understanding of the New Testament in relation to the Old Testament. This occurred in the eighteenth century when some Christians began to read the Third Testament, that is, the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. In this second phase, the doctrines of the Church explain and clarify the relation between the invisible and visible God. In this state, called the New Church, the One-God-in-Two-Persons (or in Three Persons) is seen to be an irrational formula. There is no prayer or worship offered to "the Father in the Name of the Son." Rather, the Son is the visible Heavenly Father, Who is invisible as He is in Himself. He therefore has to present Himself in a visible form called the Son of God. This is not meant in the sense of a biological offspring, but a spiritual manifestation. There are thus not two Divine Persons (or Three Persons), but only One Person. And this One Person, called the Father in His invisible state, makes Himself visible as the Son. The Father and the Son are One Person in two states, one invisible as He is in Himself, and the other visible, as the Son. The Father made Himself visible as the Son by the process of Incarnation. There is not a blind faith in this but a rational one.
When we have the New Church within us, our sinful nature can at last be conquered. In this New Church state within us we proceed into mature life with a rational character and conscience by which we can learn to hate our own nature and love the Divine Truth. At last this exalted human-rational frees us from the bondage of sin. Yet the transformation is not complete. Again and again we fail in our attempt to banish selfish thoughts and wicked feelings. The ideal of purity still escapes us and we continue to suffer from anger, impatience, prejudice, harshness, and guilt. It appears to us in this state that as long as we live in this sinful body and world, we are not going to taste of the paradise of Eden. Conjugial love becomes an ideal for the future life.
However this is only an appearance to the rational self which still holds on to the actuality of self-life though it recognizes in theory that the self has no true life of its own. But when we are ultimately willing to step up to the bullock, and slay it, we eradicate the natural remnant of our former life of the flesh. Thus we enter into the Third and Ultimate Church within us. We are now willing to call the Writings by a new Name; they become the Works of the Third Testament. Now the visible Divine Human enters into intimate relations with our daily transactions. This is the crown of the inner Church. It is the true activity of regeneration that begins on this earth and continues to eternity. It is the marriage feast to which we are invited by the Lord Who clothes us in sumptuous garments fit for angelic life on earth.
The three external churches now exist on earth. Every individual irrespective of the external church one belongs to must needs undergo the steps of the Three Churches within. Whether we are born Christian, Jew, Moslem, Buddhist, agnostic, or New Church, we still must undergo the same development of the inner Church in its three successive degrees. At some point in adulthood we are reborn from the Old Church within us into the New Church, and after that we are initiated by the Lord into the Third or Ultimate Church. Throughout this process the individual may retain membership in the external church of the family. Life circumstances may seem to determine whether we also change external churches as the inner Church develops but it is clear that all external churches will have members who are at different stages of development with regards to the inner Church. Our inner state may not be visible to others but to ourselves the change is always visible. An individual who is in the third degree of life in the inner Church may worship together with co-religionists who are in the second and in the first degree without necessary strife or disharmony. Of course the actual experience of their communal worship is going to be very different depending on their different inner states. But at the external level there need be no antagonism between them.
The transformation from the New Church to the Ultimate Church occurs when we have applied sufficiently the Divine Truth we come to love in the New Church state of mind. We apply the Divine Truth to our daily life, in our transactions with others, and see it confirmed there. This happens within our efforts at repentance during religious self-inspection. In this state we begin to perceive the interior sense of the Third Testament. This sense is mirrored in our inner life, our approval or disapproval of the transactions we are given to perform by the Lord. After death we can see this interior sense mirrored in our external environment as well, as our Heaven brings forth the fruits of our regeneration.
In the state of the Old Church within us we are sinful and evil in our transactions but we do not perceive this. To ourselves in that state we appear good when we act out of obedience to the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament or to the dictates of our conscience. When we act badly in this state we recognize our sinfulness, but if we act well out of conscience we are convinced that we are good. It is a delusional state since our acting well is not from the Lord but from ourselves, and is meritorious. In this state of the Old Church within us God necessarily appears as distant, invisible, and severe. Without a punishing omnipotent and omniscient God, whether Jehovah, Allah, or Buddha-Karma, the individual degenerates into libertinage, cruelty, and irrationality. In this state the individual recognizes One God in Two or more Divine Persons. When God became flesh, the Christians and Jews insisted on Two Divine Persons in the "Godhead"; this made them feel secure, sane, and happy. The Lord's Jewish apostles in the world had to see Him as the Son of God even though they were compelled by external miracles to recognize that the Father and the Son were equal in Divinity, though not yet in their mind, One in Personhood.
But so that our conscience may evolve from fear to reason, this Old Church state within us is succeeded by a New Church state in which God is restored to the status of One Divine Person. The Son is now the external, visible life of the Father. God is One and He loves us: His external (visible to us) part is called the Son and His internal part (not visible to us) is called the Father. In this New Church state within us the miracles and parables of the New Testament are comprehended in their interior sense through the doctrines drawn from the Writings of Emanuel Swedenborg. However, in this second phase of our Church development, only the literal sense of the Writings are perceived, hence acknowledged. The interior sense is not perceived, hence it is denied or doubted.
But when we enter the Third Church within us we acknowledge-ledge the interior sense of the Writings and call them the Third Testament because we can perceive it. Though we knew from before that the Lord is the visible Divine Human we did not perceive this directly but accepted it on faith. Now in the ultimate Church within us we perceive the interior sense of this Name. We see it in ourselves, in our daily transactions where this Name dwells in a living and immediate way. In this state we worship the visible Divine Human from love; that is, we are given to have love into Him from Him. A little later in this text, we will discuss the practical details of how we can confirm the Divine Human in our daily living choices and acts of conscience that we bring to our thoughts, feelings, and actions, moment by moment through every day, and without letup.
Those who study the Writings of Swedenborg as the Word of the Lord sense strongly the attraction in the ideal of Conjugial Love given there. This attraction comes from their love of knowledge and truth. This is the affection of the rational self. Our rational self experiences great inner delight when we apprehend the meaning of a sentence or number in the Writings. We feel illuminated and we see an aspect of life which is helpful to our living. The sense of the letter of the Writings of Swedenborg has that quality of satisfying our desire to know and understand. Therefore it has the greatest of spiritual value.
We may now inquire about how this happens. In what way do the explanations in the Writings provide us with such delight? To answer this question we need to go to a second degree of meaning contained within these Writings. The only way available to this interior sense is through the Third Testament state of mind. Therefore in order to make the inquiry we must enter the third or Ultimate Church within us. After the realization occurs, for which we are supremely grateful, there is provided perception of this inner sense within the Word and illustration of their actuality in daily living. This perception is called the spiritual sense of the Third Testament.
With this preparation we may now inquire as to the interior sense of this conjugial love to whose literal sense we feel such a strong attraction.
Our daily living consists of transactions with others. Each day brings thousands of individual transactions. A look is a transaction. A smile, or being late, or keeping a person in one's mind, or a name -- all these are transactions. These transactions are provided by the Lord. There is no transaction which is random or fortuitous or pre-determined; each and every transaction is provided for a specific good. It may astonish the rational self to think of this operation, of its gigantic size, of its improbability, etc., but the external rational is not to be consulted in spiritual meanings, because it is natural, not spiritual. We must rely on the interior rational, which is purely spiritual and celestial. The external rational excludes any information that is not natural. So it is obvious that it excludes the spiritual and the celestial. But the interior rational is built up not by ideas based on the natural senses, but by ideas based on spiritual senses. These are the senses of the mind or spirit and can receive or detect information that flow in from the spiritual world.
The interior sense of conjugial love relates to these transactions of daily living. Thus in order to perceive the interior sense of the Third Testament we must see it in relation to our transactions in every day life. However there may be several ways of doing this task of relating trues of the Word to daily situations. For example, in the Old Church state we also attempt to apply the Bible to our lives but without success since what we did came from the natural self and not the spiritual self. Similarly, in the New Church state we attempt to apply the Writings to our daily living with others, to our education and counseling, and to our science. But this too lead to no ultimate success since we did it with the rational self of its own; like mighty mountains, our puny attempts were dwarfed by the stars of heaven. It's never quite enough. We're never quite there. We sense a veil, a glass ceiling of unattainable saintlihood. But as we enter the third Church within us, our rational holds still and listens with reverence to the spiritual perception that is unfolded to it from above.
With this sense or approach to the meaning of conjugial love we can begin to perceive through illustrations the Lord provides in these daily transactions. Religious psychology is the study for better managing our transactions from our perspective of the Word. The practice of religious psychology involves a constant striving to understand and discipline ourselves. The diagrams and methods used in this book represent aids or tools in better self-management in accordance with each concept of the Word. These intellectual tools may be used by a person from any religious denomination as long as the person is willing to accept the premiss that the Word is Divine and that it has an interior spiritual sense. We may call this approach, adopting a positive bias. Note carefully: we are not saying that people have to give up their native or adopted religion before they can practice religious psychology. People of all religion can read the Three Testaments in their native language, as God has provided for their universal translation and dissemination. If they read these Three Testaments thinking that they are or may be Divine Works, because they say so about themselves, then they can enter fully in all three states of development of their inner Church, without having to convert to another religion.
If we thus adopt a positive bias towards the concept of conjugial love in its interior sense, we may begin to perceive in this new mode, the mode of perception characteristic of the Third or Ultimate Church. To make this living experience clearer to our external rational (which is natural, not spiritual), we may consider illustrations. Illustrations are case histories viewed in relation to doctrine from the Word. In this case, conjugial love in its inner sense is a doctrine we want to view in relation to our daily transactions. Every person is born for heaven with a unique and specific angelic character to be attained. This character to be attained corresponds exactly to our geographic location in Heaven. Of course we will remember that "geographic location" in the spiritual world is according to our goods and trues, hence we call it spiritual geography.
The Lord supervises our transactions in order to govern our way to this angelic status. This is called regeneration. Religious self-inspection is a tool to help us discipline our daily transactions so that we may co-operate with our regeneration by the Lord. Self-management is thus a necessary activity in the state of the Third Church. The interior sense of conjugial love provides us with definitive guides to our temptations. The Lord uncovers deeper and wider areas of our evil by illustrating the meaning of the Word in these transactions. How we choose rationales to justify ourselves, for instance. How we are totally blind to trues except when immediately illustrated by the Lord. How the Lord repeatedly takes us to the top of the world with promises and then plummets us down to our shame and horror. How we are bestial except under direct and continual enlightenment and encouragement from Him. The concept of conjugial love is given us in the sense of the letter of the Third Testament so that we may, if we will, enter into its interior sense and thereby perceive our marriage.
Marital transactions are representatives of
spiritual realities. By witnessing these transactions we perceive the Lord's labor
with us. We perceive God's Creation itself. The
entire universe is merely for this purpose that God can turn our marital transactions into
conjugial love. This is the interior sense of the doctrine of conjugial love.
Religious self-inspection allows us to become more adept at perceiving the Lord's work
within us, of seeing the way by which we are led to our Heavenly Society. It ought
not to be thought that conjugial love is a doctrine only for those who are married since
preparation for marital relations goes on since birth. Individuals are born men or
women, with specific spiritual genes that represent the angelic character we become.
The external rational (which is not yet spiritual) ought not to be consulted here since it
evokes the detested idea of predestination. Rather, we wait patiently to be illustrated
with further temptations. The Lord arranges our transactions in wonderful ways to
bring us together as marital partners. Marital partners may perceive such
similarities in their childhood affections that it is wonderful to contemplate the way the
Lord managed our experiences to yield this similarity. And it is wonderful to behold
how the Lord leads us from the perception of similarity to mutuality through an identity
of thoughts, intentions and reasonings. In other words, we first perceive that we
apparently think alike, and under this impress, we are led to feel alike; at last, when we
feel alike, we are led to mutuality, where we truly think alike as a result of feeling
alike.. This is the state of conjugial love.
This process may be apprehended by our external
rational self. The activity goes on above the external rational, in our spiritual self,
which is also our internal rational, but the external rational self can perceive it
through immediate and direct illustration by the Lord of our daily transactions with
others. Pre-marital transactions are not perceived since most of us are not willing
to enter our Third Church until long after weve been married.
The subject matter of temptations in marriage is
treated of in Conjugial
Love when studied in the inner sense and applied to our daily transactions with
others. The Work also throws light on pre-marital transactions since it explains the
origin and development of scortatory loves within us. All the loves of the natural self
and of the rational self prior to regeneration are scortatory or unchaste and delusional.
There is no part of us, no thought, intention, or sentiment, that is good. Whatever
good there is in us is exclusively the Lord's Own with us. The good is not our own.
We co-operate in our regeneration when we perceive how the Lord manages and governs our transactions. This perception is our own. It is a magnificent gift from the Lord for which we are supremely grateful. It is our very consciousness, our very awareness as a human self, without which we are inanimate as a stone. When we perceive one of our transactions as a temptation we are given to see an element of our evil. It is the greatest of all opportunities because we are given thereby another chance to be redeemed: we can approve or disapprove of the representation in our deed. As we approve when the Lord gives us to act well we are illustrated from doctrine. We experience our heavenly calling.
In preparation for our willingness to enter the interior sense of the doctrine of conjugial love we may consider and discuss the developmental steps we underwent as the Three Churches were established in us by the Lord through the Word.
|OLD TESTAMENT||NEW TESTAMENT||THIRD TESTAMENT|
|INMOST SENSE (CELESTIAL)||A description of the Lord's glorification and
of the Heavens;
taught through correspondences, doctrines, & memorable relations. (PARTIALLY OPENED)
|A description of the workings out of Divine
Providence & Love;
taught through as yet unknown ways. (UNOPENED)
|An explanation of how to confirm the marriage
of good & truth within us;
taught through as yet unknown ways. (UNOPENED)
|INTERMEDIATE SENSE (SPIRITUAL)||A description of the rise & fall of the
successive external churches on earth;
taught through a knowledge of correspondences, doctrines, & memorable relations. (OPENED)
|An explanation of what is Divine Truth;
taught through the order & series of miracles & parables. (UNOPENED)
|A description of how the inner Church
develops within us (regeneration);
taught through perception & illustration during religious self-inspection. (PARTIALLY OPENED)
|A description of the delights & uses (and
their adulteration ) of external life;
taught through historicals, allegories, & hymns.
|An explanation of the morality of human
taught through the content of mircales & parables.
|A description of how our thoughts &
feelings originate from the spiritual world;
taught through rational exposition of the subject matter.
This table summarizes certain features of what we may have perceived in the Word thus far. Naturally there are going to be individual differences and peculiar obscurities to each one of us. Nevertheless a communal grasping of the doctrine is possible through our rational self. The chart may be read for greater comprehension from bottom up. The following discussion illustrates specifics which may be related to the chart in order to see the representatives of doctrine in our life.
Upon reflection and instruction we become aware that the Three Testaments contain a progressively more ideal religious ethics that govern our daily transactions. The Old Testament's Ten Commandments are blunt and proscriptive: only a barbarous nation would allow its citizens to murder, rob, libel, and commit adultery. Only individuals in a grossly degenerate state would try to justify violations of the Ten Commandments as good and decent. The New Testament's Commandment is infinitely more sophisticated, civilized, subtle: only a few individuals have been able to adhere to it in a consistent way -- the angelic spirits among us, the saints and heroes, the genuine altruists. Even so, the Third Testament's Commandments appear infinitely more radical and subtle than the New Testament Commandment for few people can stand to even read them! The Commandments of the Word are thus arranged in three successive degrees of apparent difficulty so that the Second appears infinitely more difficult to obey than the First, and the Third is infinitely more difficult to obey than the Second. This is an external appearance of the Word and represents the impossibility of fulfilling the commandments of the Word of our own efforts.
A person who appears to be fulfilling the Commandments of the Old
Testament is yet infinitely far from fulfilling the Commandment of the New Testament,
which is that we have love and goodwill towards others. We all know the truth that
our intentions and emotional reactions come and go within us at their pleasure: our
understanding and reasoning has merely a veto power over them so that they do not break
out in overt deeds. Yet the New Commandment asserts in its literal sense that we are
evil and damnable because of these involuntary impulses within us. Our will is helpless to prevent evil thoughts and emotions and yet we are
guilty for them. If our external rational be consulted here it would
say that this is unfair; but the rational is not to be consulted. Rather we must
wait patiently for illustration from the Lord. Then we can see that far from being
unfair, it is Divine Love and Wisdom having us in sight and providence. You may like
to read Rev. Ray Silverman's
application of the Ten Commandments to one's daily interactions with others.
Please click back to continue here.
When we consider all Three Testaments together, in a series, so that after our journey from Old, to New, to Third, we now are given to journey back from Third, to New, to Old, we at last are given to fulfill the Commandments of the Word to its fullest. In order to prepare ourselves for this holy journey, back to the East, as it were, it is necessary to study the sense of the letter of the Third Testament so as to draw out spiritual doctrines to guide us in our approval or disapproval of our daily transactions. Afterwards, we need to strive to understand the interior sense of these doctrines by confirming them in our religious self-inspection. Then at last we will have fulfilled the Commandments of the Word. In this journey we reproduce, as in an image, the Lord's Own glorification. His Journey as the Word of God, and as the Word made flesh, and as the Word transfigured and uplifted, is the pattern we are given to follow in our own regeneration by the Lord. The arena for our journey of regeneration is our mind -- our changing thoughts, reasonings, reactions, emotions, strivings, affections, and perceptions, in short, our daily transactional exchanges with others.
Religious ethics is a branch of religious psychology that helps us become objective and practical about our inner life with the motive to judge our transactions. It requires the method of self-exploration and self-investigation. Forensic tools must be used to unmask our pretenses and catch our deceits. We are helped by the knowledge in faith that we are guilty in every case that comes up! Our task is to prove it, to confirm it as-if of our own free will. We may prepare for this task by studying the methodology of religious ethics given us in the sense of the letter of the Third Testament.
We may illustrate this process by considering the manner in which the will and the understanding relate to each other. This topic is treated of everywhere in the Third Testament. For this example we may consider Numbers 478-500 in Conjugial Love where we are given a spiritual-psychological analysis of the kinds and degrees of adulteries we perform. As we study these numbers we are not only given a list of the adulteries but also a method of reasoning by which to identify them in us. It is required that we strive to understand this legalese language even so far as to be able to use it against ourselves so as to better convict. Under the impulse of this motivation we can learn to understand this language and experience the delights attendant to the acquisition of such mastery. To aid in this task we may use models and diagrams, lists, tables, and charts.
By way of illustration we may take Number 490 which reveals some of the operations of the will and understanding in the domain of our adulteries. It is written:
"Now, as the marriage of good and truth has been treated of in the First Part of this work, and as many things were there adduced respecting the will and the understanding, and respecting the various attributes and predicates of each, which as I think are perceived even by those who had not thought distinctly about the understanding and the will (for human reason is such that it understands truths from the light of them, even though it has not distinguished them before), therefore, in order that the distinctions of the understanding and of the will may be more clearly perceived I will here present some truths, to the end that it may be known of what quality adulteries of the reason or the understanding are, and after that of what quality adulteries of the will are. The following may serve for the cognizance of them." (Conjugial Love, 490)
There follows a list of four things, but this Number is marked as the tenth in a series of eighteen things. We may first draw an outline of the eighteen propositions and sub-propositions, as is given in the Table of Contents to Conjugal Love drawn up by the translator or editor. A related activity for study is to extract propositions wherever they can be noticed and to transform them into a language of our own thinking and reasoning, so as to better to insure that we understand them with our own intelligence and are able to instruct others concerning them. As an illustration of this activity let us take up the four sub-propositions presented in Number 490 which regard the nature of the interaction between our will and our understanding. In this exercise it is helpful to remember that the will represents the affective domain: that is, the good of love and its attendant affections, strivings, and motives, while the understanding represents the cognitive domain: that is, the truth of faith and its attendant thoughts, reasonings, principles, and value ideals.
The external, physical body of the Word is finite and appears to us today in the form of ordinary printed books. As we read a chapter, verse, or phrase in the positive bias attitude, we are presented with a natural-historical content that we can picture with material ideas in our natural imagination or automatic self. For instance, a verse in the New Testament says that "He send the rain upon the just and the unjust" (Matthew 5:45). From the physical content of this verse we can derive material ideas such as: that God is a He; that He is the Giver of rain; that there is rain; that we get rain because He sends it; that we all get rain from Him even when we are unjust in our dealings with others; that we can be either just or unjust. These are material ideas or implications drawn from the physical sense of the verse. Through the method of correspondence revealed and taught in the Third Testaments (that is, the Writings of Swedenborg) our rational is empowered to see through the external-natural sense of the verse, and into its spiritual interiors. This occurs when we are told what the spiritual meaning is of "rain," "God sending rain," and "the unjust and the just."
When we read the Word our natural, automatic self sees its historical, physical things; but our rational-spiritual self sees its spiritual things. Whenever water is mentioned in the Word (and there are hundreds of passages) it is mentioned in some particular form: rain, river, ocean, ice, flood, spring rain, autumn rain, well, fountain, and so on, as well as specific activities in connection with water: drinking it, washing with it, not having enough of it, changing it into wine, gathering it into one place, and so on. In all these passages the Word is actually discussing Divine Truth and the influx of Divine Truth into people where it shows as understanding, intelligence, thinking, reasoning, and all the other cognitive operations of our mind. Each specific reference to water in some form and associated with some specific activity, signifies some specific intellectual operation. By collecting all the passages of the Word that discuss water, and interpreting them in accordance with revealed correspondences, we are gaining many details regarding the true but hidden operations of our intellectual apparatus. The verse we are considering thus means, spiritually, that God is the source of all truth in our understanding, in our ability to reason, and that all people receive this ability, both those who have religion and those who deny it.
We shall quote from a number of passages illustrating this principle of analysis. The passages were culled from Potts' well known Concordance of the Writings of Swedenborg: (the numbers refer to the location of the paragraphs in the Arcana Coelestia, a 12 vol. work by Swedenborg)
(24) "Let there be an expanse in the midst of the waters, and let it distinguish between the waters and the waters" (Genesis 1:6) ... The knowledges in the internal man are called 'the waters above the expanse'; and the scientifics of the external man, 'the waters under the expanse!"
(27) "These knowledges (in the external memory) are 'the waters gathered together in one place,' and 'are called seas' (vers. 9,10).
(28) 'Waters' in the Word=Knowledges and scientifics.
(57) 'The waters going out of the sanctuary' (Ezekiel 47:12) =the life and memory of the Lord. (=the truths which confer intelligence).
(382) 'To wander to drink waters' (Amos 4:8) = to seek for what is true.
(680) 'Water' (John 4) = the spiritual things of faith.
(847) 'The waters had receded from upon the earth, in going
and returning' (Genesis 8:3) = fluctuations between truth and falsity.
(2240) 'They found no waters' (Jeremiah 14:3) = no knowledges of truth.
(2702) 'The afflicted and the needy seek waters, and there are none' (Isaiah 41:17) = the desolation of truth (= those who long for the knowledges of good and truth. 10227).
(4926) 'The waters of the lower fish-pool' (Isaiah 22:9) = the traditions by means of which they have made breaches in the truths of the Word.
(7322) 'Stretch thy hand over the waters of Egypt' (Exodus 7:19) = the exercise of spiritual power over the falsities which are infesting.
(8368) 'There were twelve springs of water' (Exodus 15:27) = truths in all abundance.
(9468) 'The waters of separation and expiation' (Numbers 19:6) = purification and withdrawal from evils and falsities by means of truths and goods from the Word.
(10242) 'When entering the Tent... they shall wash with waters' (Exodus 30:20) = (when in) worship (there must be) purification by means of the truths of faith.
"These passages are only a few of the many listed and it is not possible to fully understand them without reading the explanations that go with them; nevertheless, the reader may have an idea from these as to the amazing details that the method of correspondences allows us to extract from the Word on any one subject. It is evident to anyone who studies the Writings of Swedenborg that in the Word is to be found an unlimited source of information concerning the self in our dual citizenship, that is, our external-natural self and our internal-spiritual self-. It is also evident that these correspondences are not arbitrary but derive from the organic connection between the two worlds of our citizenship. The Writings of Swedenborg teach a method of rational picturing so that phrases and words of the Old and New Testaments can be seen in their interiors. Through this method the phrases and words of the Word become windows and doors into the other world we also live in. The interiors we see in the Word are also the interiors of ourselves. The de tails we see there constitute the science and knowledge of of ourselves and our life situation.
Religious psychology is the psychology in the positive bias which the Writings of Swedenborg unfold for our rational understanding. The religious psychologist acknowledges that though we must be empiricists, yet we cannot discover the spiritual facts about ourselves by ourselves. Instead, we must revive them through revelation in the Word. Swedenborg reports that Through his spiritual communications he was able to discover that the most ancient cultures on this planet were in conscious communication with their departed ancestors who came to them as angels in their meditations and dreams. Their ancestors from the afterlife appeared to them in their spiritual bodies, which resembled their former physical bodies in outward appearance. In this way they were instructed by them regarding their ideas of nature, God, heaven, hell, and the inner life of memory, morality, and feeling. These ancient wise people were thus able to read in natural events their spiritual significance and origin. They did this through a perception of correspondences which came to them by intuition. They thus had the law inscribed in their hearts; that is, they did not have to accumulate knowledges by education and science. Instead, they knew by instinct anything they wanted to know. Subsequent cultures gradually lost this inner ability as people insisted more and more to know from the external senses alone. Eventually all direct, conscious connection with the other world was lost. As a result, a written Word had to be given to humankind and all knowledges had to be learned through education and the accumulation of scientific discoveries. Nevertheless, the science of correspondences was retained in shredded form in many subsequent religions, Sacred Scriptures, and mythologies. Today, some of this knowledge is still evident in poetic and metaphoric language.
Religious psychology offers the possibility of a partial return to that state in which we can once again understand the natural in terms of the spiritual. This return is now possible because the Writings of Swedenborg give us a complete rational system of correspondences of the Word. The religious psychologist now has the new ability of investigating and researching the facts of our dual citizenship. Because we acknowledge that we cannot discover these facts by ourselves, we need to be given a method by which these facts can be discovered and applied to human welfare. Yet we must remain empiricists: we cannot merely accept the authority of a "seer" or "prophet." We need to confirm every fact through our own confirmations.
This is Good News, indeed, for the scientist! See our work on Scientific Dualism.
The Secret Code in the Bible
Religious psychology works through the methodology the positive bias. This approach was meticulously practiced by Emanuel Swedenborg in all his scientific, philosophic, theological, and personal literature. These are available in English translation of his many published and unpublished writings, including letters, drafts, and personal diaries not meant for publication by the author. We estimate from public libraries records in the United States that he must be among the top five all time writers in the history of the world with several hundred titles to his name. His books, though not in entirety, appear in the holdings of most public libraries in the English speaking world. These books for the most part have been published and sold or donated to the libraries by the Swedenborg Foundation of New York, established in 1850 by a few people who felt strongly that Swedenborg's books ought to be made available to anyone who was willing to accept them as serious scientific and theological writings by an enlightened man. The Foundation also produces multi-media works in films, television productions, art, and so on) which strive to bring to the public's attention that in Swedenborg's ideas the world may draw influences which are positive, creative, and altruistic. The Foundation has gathered historical documents and literature extracts from many famous literary and political figures who have declared to be greatly influenced by Swedenborg's writings. Selecting from that list, we may mention here the following: Honore de Balzac, Charles Baudelaaire, Hector Berlioz, Hon. John Bigelow, William Blake, Robert Browning, Elisabeth Browning, Thomas Carlyle, Andrew Carnegie, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Sir. A. Conan Doyle, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Benjamin Franklin, Johann Goethe, Heinrich Heine, Elbert Hubbard, Victor Hugo, all three James's, Abraham Lincoln, J. Ramsay MacDonald, Maurice Maeterlinck, Horace Mann, Czeslaw Milosz, John Frederick Oberlin, Sir Isaac Pitman, Edgar Allen Poe, Ezra Pound, George Sand, Friedrich Schelling, George Bernard Shaw, Sundar Singh, August Sdrindberg, Daisetz Suzuki, Henry D. Thoreau, H.G. Wells, John Wesley, William Butler Yeats.
This partial list is sufficient to show that the documentation of Swedenborgian biographers and scholars establish the fact that the positive bias in scientific and literary thinking has been steadily forming within the rational of the English speaking peoples since 1757, the year identified by Swedenborg as marking a new beginning for humankind. This was the year during which he was given by Divine intervention to be the wit ness from earth to this mind-shattering event. In that year took place the long awaited Christian hope of the Second Coming of Christ. Only, it was missed by everybody on this planet -except Baron Swedenborg, Swedish Nobleman and reputed European Scientist-Engineer.
Swedenborg then took down on paper everything he witnessed. Being an impeccably honest and intellectually meticulous genius, Swedenborg produced several hundred titles, or about 50 volumes in modern English print, telling of what he saw and experienced during 27 years of conscious dual citizenship; that is, he was living simultaneously in both this world and the world of the afterlife. These volumes demonstrate to the rationally inquisitive person that the Second Coming of Christ was meant to be in the rational of each human being on earth. The Second Advent begins a new organic evolution in the consciousness of the human race. This new organic growth of the mind will undoubtedly be discovered by future researchers in neurosciences. A similar new beginning had occurred before in the history of civilization, when the separation of the organ of the will and the organ of the understanding took place: this spiritual event in the formation of the human mind was followed by the growth of a new brain called the cortex, which in humans, now outweighs the old brain called the cerebellum. The cortex is the new seat for human rationality and freedom. Since the Second Coming of Christ is a rational new organ of the mind, it is likely that the changes in the human brain will not be as gross as before, but will take biochemical and genetic forms that adequately represent the subtlety and mathematical complexity of this new spiritual organ in our mind.
Whatever the case may be as to its physical symptoms, the psychological significance of this new era is immediately obvious and capable of being utilized for creative and altruistic purposes. Because our human destiny was carried out by this eminent ambassador, the writings of Swedenborg constitute a common property to all mankind. The historical and intellectual preparation has now been going on for more than two centuries. Many of our most influential thinkers have confessed being tremendously influenced by these writings and have used the ideas contained in them for personal understanding, creativity, and hope. Their ideas have filtered down and across the echelons of society. And so it is inevitable that ideas from the writings of this man are bringing about a complete and total revolution in all fields and departments of human endeavor.
Religious psychology is another instance of the effect of this new rational self which each of us is given by the infinite grace of God. Until this rational was granted, there was no possible way of forging a unity between science and religion in the modern world. This modern world was made possible through the First Coming of Christ which liberated humankind from spiritual infestations or disease. As history instructs, the nations of the world at the time of the Roman Empire were moral barbarians. Civilization was destroying itself through the capacity of men to make greater wars. This cruelty and materialistic outlook were the result of spiritual insanity caused by possessions and ii stations from the hells. The Bible is a record of such possessions, though this was not known except for a few openly mentioned cases in the New Testament. But in fact, once the secret code of "correspondences" is revealed in the new rational, it becomes apparent that the Bible for the most part was written in a double language: one for the natural intelligence, and another for the new rational. In other words, the historical events and sceneries depicted in the Bible were inspired and preserved by Divine intervention; this minute selection or Divine editing, was accomplished for the specific purpose of creating a written-historical record of spiritual events.
This could not be believed logically if it had been an arbitrary code revealed to or by one person. Such personal revelations have been advanced by many people and will no doubt continue to be. These personal claims at revelation are believed only by those who are willing to be persuaded by something less than one's own authority Swedenborg explains that we cannot use anything that has not been personally acquired for oneself. The only ideas and ideals that we appropriate internally are those which serve our loves or affections. This means that whatever we experience as a result of external stimulus is not our own, does not penetrate, will be lost; external stimulus means that we do things out of gain, reputation, or fear; internal stimulus means that we do things out of desire, love, worship, adoration, affection, striving, and so on.
The self-actualized people are those who live mostly from inner stimulus; hence they report that their lives are full, worth-while, happy, hopeful, and successful. By contrast, in their earlier stages of maturity they were anxious, worried, insecure, and conformist. Through normal mental growth, we act and experience more and more from inner impulse. What has been merely surface style and family habit now become personal expression. We come to discard many old beliefs, many old ways of doing things; but as well, we come to like more and more of the old things that we do retain. And so, these old things, which at first were external, now become inner impulse, inner habit, inner life. More and more of the unique genetic pattern of every individual comes outward and is expressed. Life in us bubbles with ever increasing force and wonderment.
When we accept a revelation or life perspective out of another's authority we cannot really honor it. We are just false witnesses and eventually we will go whoring after someone else's authority and cult. But when we accept some new idea from our own authority we can confirm it over and over again: we can prove it, we can support it, we don't have hesitancies about it, we can teach it to others, we can discover new places it applies to, and so on. This in other words, is the approach of science, engineering, and arts and crafts. From apprentice we must evolve into master; we have our own authority to rely on on matters of decision. The Christian Church established by the First Coming of Christ nurtured a belief system that has been called "blind faith." But this blind faith has now been healed through the Second Coming of Christ in the rational, so that we may have a rational faith rather than merely a blind one.
In the positive bias we admit that without this new rational we cannot break out from this world and must continue to be ignorant of our dual citizenship. However, with the positive bias freely adopted as a good method of procedure, we can experience and witness the birth and growth of rational faith, with its many benefits for individuals and communities. This rational faith is yet rational; that is, it proceeds like a scientist and scholar, on its own authority relying on logic, research, and evidence. From this cumulative perspective we easily discard false prophets and falsities that come to our attention. And so, this is the significance of the writings of Swedenborg, that they teach a system of ideas that turns everyone into a scientist-scholar-engineer-practitioner. There is no cultism or blind faith permitted.
Rational faith, as found in the writings of Swedenborg, is therefore the unification of science, morality, and religion. It is thus a faith universal, for all humankind, such as there once existed on this planet, and still exists on other "earths in the universe." It is satisfying to those who are in rational faith that the Bible is the source of it, rather than some entirely new and alien system. Besides its harmony with our moral and aesthetic sensibilities and standards, the Bible is an old familiar object to many many generations. Its histories and allegories, its poems and aphorisms, its proverbs and drama, are all familiar to numerous people over thousands of years. And so we have evolved complex affections that tie us to the Bible, each of us in slightly different ways. So it is satisfying now to discover that these familiar people, places, and events are allegoric representatives of the great immensity of our own mind. We have a Land of Canaan in our mind. We have a river Jordan. We have deserts and cities in our mind. We are at one time Abraham, at one time Ishmael, at one time Joseph sold into slavery and at another time Joseph made king. We are also Nicodemus, and Thomas, and Peter, and Gabriel, and the Devil. We are all these things because these things are really about the spiritual world. The historical events that have been-recorded in the-Bible occurred and were historicalized so that they can serve as a source of authority for our new rational, a new organ foreseen by God Who prepared for its reception.
One may wonder at such a grandioze drama: God preparing daily, historical events for many centuries in far away lands so that prophets may be inspired to record them * so that blind faith can develop, so that later, rational faith could be built upon it by opening up the secret code in which it was written all along, unbeknownst to the prophets or the believers! Yes, one may wonder at the fantastic nature of this. Yet after we study the matter and develop our new rational a little bit, the matter no longer looks improbable or fantastic. Consider how improbable and fantastic moonwalks, television, and hot showers would be to ancient philosophers and scientists. We can see that these artifacts are not improbable and fantastic, suddenly come upon, like in a fairy story. We can see that our technical advances have been "advances" and we can confidently retrace the steps of our discoveries. There is no hocus pocus or denus ex machine: by the sweat of our brow did we arrive at them, communally. So we feel that we own our technologies: they were not given to us by revelators, magicians, and ells. This feeling of ownership is essential for our freedom and rationality, for our very humanness. And so this is precisely what God is again accomplishing in our new growth, our new powers: we need to feel that they are ours, that we developed them cumulatively and communally.
It is not fantastic and improbable that the Bible be the foundation for the new rational intellect since the Bible is unique in that so many of us are tied to it through our inner affections, our standards for what is good and true and desirable. As well, we soon begin to realize that this secret code in which the Bible was written is not an arbitrary code God picked to give us as a strange new system of thought, feeling, and reasoning. Rather, this secret code is in actuality the origin and source of our long derived system of thinking throughout the nations on this planet. When this secret, universal code is not known the Bible cannot be acceptable to all peoples. Every people has its own culture and system of ideas and traditions. Those who have evolved from a cousin stock feel themselves independently secure; they don't wish to be told that God selected some other set of traditions and truths and their own is to be discarded, having been a fake all along. This is both unfair and irrational. And so, the Bible has not become universal, only international and cross-cultural. Those who hope from blind faith that the Bible be accepted by all, do so from ignorance of its secret code. Those who have studied this secret code through the writings of Swedenhorg can see clearly that the code it is written in is universal, not historical and national. The importance of the Bible is not that there was a people called Israel, that Abraham was its patriarch, that they had a land and kings, that they were dispersed among the nations, and so on. This is merely local history. But it becomes universal science when it is discovered that the "people of Israel" is a secret name for the "Church within us", that "Abraham" is a secret name for "our inner self", that "patriarch" is a secret name for "religion", that "land" is a secret name for "doctrines" or "teachings" or "knowledge", that "king" is a secret name for "truths", that "being dispersed among the nations" is a secret name for "having false religious beliefs", and so on. Viewed from this perspective the Bible is not at all sectarian, not even religious, if by that one means some denomination. Rather, the Bible is now a source of knowledge, a source of facts about the inner world of every human being, without ever an exception.
The Bible along with the writings of Swedenborg constitute the textbooks of religious psychology. It is not possible to discover a single fact about the inner world of the afterlife except from these sources. This is not a matter of authority. We are not elevating the authority of the Bible or of Swedenborg over some other person such as the prophets of Islam or the sages of Buddhism. It's just that no other books in the history of the world exist that were written in this secret code. This is a matter that can easily be proven once the code is known. This secret code is called "correspondences" because it is the code that the most ancient cultures on this planet were given when learning the ancient science of correspondences. This code and knowledge was subsequently forgotten or taken away by Divine intervention for reasons that can be made clear and are made clear in the writings of Swedenborg.
Through his specialty given travels in the afterlife, Swedenborg was able to converse with those in the afterlife. He discovered that all those in the afterlife are the people who depart from their physical bodies upon death`: end find themselves resuscitated a few hours later in the spirit world, possessing to their surprise, a spiritual body that appears externally to be very similar to the physical body. The resuscitated people then undergo various growth experiences which by the law and order of the spirit world takes them eventually to a final residence in a society of happiness called Heaven or a society of bestiality called hell. Those who end up in one of the many heavenly societies do so by discarding all things of falsity and evil; this discarding process is slow and painful and involves much personal struggle in the company of others. However, when the process is complete, there remains in the individual personality only those loves and pleasures that are permitted by law in the heavenly societies. Those who end up in the hellish societies do so by willingly and insistently discarding heavenly pleasures and powers, and willingly and insistently confirming as desirable only those pleasures and powers that are in accordance to the law of the hellish societies. These two loves and pleasures are antagonistic to each other, hence they are separated in our final development. God provides for the law and reality on both sides. These matters are clearly and precisely explained in all the Writings of Swedenborg.
The most ancient peoples had a conscious relation to the heavenly inhabitants through their ancestors who appeared to them in their dreams, their meditations, and their observations of nature through the secret code of correspondences. This code allowed the ancients to observe a natural event in their environment and see the spiritual or real cause of it. If a bird suddenly appeared, they could tell from the flight and from the type of bird what was happening in the spiritual regions of their own minds. They thus saw a unity between the external world and their inner world of thoughts and feelings. They instantly knew what anything meant through this code. Swedenborg reports that this code is a practical reality for everyone in the afterlife. For instance, the inhabitants of heaven do not have to labor in the fields, grow food, build houses, invent transportation devices. These things are instantaneously there whenever they feel a need or desire for it. The inhabitants of hell cannot make or invent anything on their own: no matter how hard they labor on their own they cannot build a single house or make a wearable garment. This is not because they have no intelligence but because intelligence cannot be used materially in the afterlife. People in the hellish societies use their intelligence in spiritual or irrational ways. For instance, they may plot, they may harangue, they may travel, they may discuss, they may seduce, persuade, mentally torture, fantasize, and so and so on. These are their actual occupations and daily strivings and pleasures; the external world around them then grows automatically into the correspondences of whatever moral, psychological, spiritual acts they perform on the inside. If they stop to plot revenge in their mind against someone they hate, suddenly they find themselves in dark caves with others who have a similar desire; bats and snakes and disgusting crawling things appear and form the external world. If then they stop plotting and feel they want to raise an army, they find themselves in some vaguely familiar city, with some vaguely familiar people, or strangers, sitting in some dark, dirty room and engaging in disgusting activities. This is the science of correspondences in the afterlife: it is the creation of one's external world through the confirmed loves of our heart and imagination. Similarly, the inhabitants of heaven are surrounded by gorgeous natural correspondences to their pure moral altruistic loves for the whole human race. As they are engaged in pleasing one another, they find themselves in pleasant gardens, in fabulous jeweled cities, in horseless carriages that take them quickly to where they want to see others. When they study the Word, which is the inner meaning of-the Bible (not the historical events), they experience great revelations, wonderful discoveries, new perspectives; these types of feelings instantly transform their external environment into lush gardens, sumptuously set tables with delicious foods harmonious performances of song and dance, new books and schools, non-competitive games and exhibits, new techniques and sciences, and many many more, to infinity.
This is then the truly great significance of the fact that the Bible was written in the language of correspondences. This knowledge is now newly made available once again to-humankind on this earth. That is the birth of the new rational faith which is available to all in the Writings of Swedenborg.
Now we may wonder, first, why did the human race lose the knowledge of correspondences, and second, what can we-do with it now. The answer as to why we lost correspondences is told through the code in the story of the Fall in the Old Testament, through the story of the Flood, through the story of the dispersion of Israel, through the story of Daniel's visions and adventures, through the story of John's visions in the New Testament, and through many more events described in the Bible. The secret code taught in the Writings of Swedenborg allows us to decode and interpret exactly what each element in the stories indicate about the evolution of our mind, that is, the state of our dual citizenship. The Fall, the Flood, the Dispersion, the destructions -- these are natural correspondences or resultants of inner spiritual events. The-natural events occurred by Divine law and order since they signified the spiritual reality; nothing ever happened except what represented and corresponded with the people's inner reality of thoughts and feelings.
The disclosures to be found in the Writings of Swedenborg are thus not religious disclosures but rational-scientific. The new rational in the positive bias method may discover the real nature of the universe. God is not a religion but a fact; God's Will and Power is not a philosophy but the truths of actuality in nature, and in mind.
How can we make use of this new knowledge? Religious psychology is the study of how this new rational understanding and knowledge may be harnessed in accordance with God's law and order. Its promise is infinite.
The first sub-proposition can be paraphrased as follows:
(1) The will acts only through the understanding.
Now we may give a few related transformations each of which express a similar meaning in the sense of the letter:
(1a) The affective acts only through the cognitive, and cannot act on its own.
(b) Our intentions act only through our thoughts.
(c) Good purposes act only through true reasonings.
(id) Bad motives act only through false assumptions.
(le) Charitable deeds act only through trues of faith.
The second sub-proposition can be paraphrased as follows:
(2) The understanding acts only from the will.
Some paraphrastic transformations of this in the sense of the letter are as follows:
(2a) The cognitive acts from the affective, that is, the affective is primary.
(2b) All our thoughts come from our affections.
(2c) How we reason is governed by how we feel.
(2d) What we uphold as true is decided by our loves.
(2e) Our principles reflect our intentions.
(2f) Our value ideals come from our desires.
The third sub-proposition may be paraphrased in the sense of the letter as follows:
(3) The will inflows into the understanding.
Alternate ways we can phrase this:
(3a) The affective inflows into the cognitive, that is, the affective selects its appropriate cognitive response.
(3b) Our love controls our reasoning, and not the other way around.
(3c) Our affections rule our thoughts, but not the reverse.
(3d) Our desires determine our methods, but not the other way round.
(3e) Our cupidities rule our false beliefs, not the reverse.
The fourth sub-proposition can be given the following paraphrase in its literal sense:
(4) Will and understanding conjoin in two ways: will within the understanding is more interior than understanding within the will.
Now for some paraphrases of this:
(4a) The affective and the cognitive are connected in two modes: affective within the cognitive, which is higher in the control hierarchy than the secondary mode, namely, the cognitive within the affective.
(4b) Intentions and justifications have two relations: the stronger relation occurs when intentions rule the justifications; a weaker relation occurs when justifications appear to rule the intentions.
(4c) When our desires govern our methods we are more confirmed in that way than when our methods appear to govern our desires.
(4d) When our ends govern the means we are more committed than when our means appear to govern our ends.
(4e) (The relation may also be represented by a diagram:
(4f) If our motives seduce our reason we are more confirmed in our guilt than if our reason seduces our motives.
(4g) If our intention leads us to compromise our principle we are more guilty than if our principle leads us to compromise our intention.
(4h) If our goods lead to our trues we are in a more advanced state of regeneration than the reverse situation.
(4i) It is more confirming to adjust our principles to our loves than the other way round.
Additional study of these and other relations may be found in these two documents:
As we are undergoing regeneration by the Lord we repeatedly enter into and regress from more advanced states. Hence our vision or perception is at times relatively elevated and sublime and at other times it is uninspired and obscure. These are appearances provided by the Lord in which we may learn to confirm matters in the interior sense of the Third Testament.
This activity of confirming the inner senses of
the Word is carried out during religious self-inspection.
In our marital transactions we perceive our distance from conjugial love. The size
of this distance informs us in a specific way what
our temptations are so that we may disapprove of them and thereby perceive ourselves
as freely co-operating with the Lord. Herein lie our rationality and our freedom.
Religious self-inspection in marital transactions provides illustrations of the meaning of the matters which the Third Testament deals with in its inner senses. As an example let us take the concept of marriage and the idea we have of it in the three successive degrees of the Church within us. In the state of the Old Church we are affected by the Word of the Lord declaring that the twain shall be one flesh. We see this as an instruction to be loyal partners to one another and a promise of happiness together. This ideal spurns us on to resist infidelity and to expect the benefits of a lifelong association with each other. We see ourselves as pulling together for the same goals and, in hours of anger or disappointment with each other, we pray to the Lord to have mercy upon us. This is the marital condition in the state of the Old Church within us and the sense of the letter of the Old Testament confirms this view.
Now as we are given by the Lord to enter the state of the New Church within our marital transactions, we experience a different view. We now know about the concepts of conjugial and scortatory love. We strive to dissociate ourselves from quarrels and disharmonies, attributing them to evil spirits that haunt us. We long for the day when the Lord will deliver us of spirit infestations so that we may no longer have to suffer strife and discord. With the knowledge of correspondences, and memorable relations, we search out the meaning of marriage the Lord gave when He was on earth as it is recorded in the New Testament. We now see that "the twain shall be one flesh" in a new sense and we have full confidence that the Lord will manage us to conjugial love when we get to our Heaven.
We strengthen ourselves in this expectation and resolve not to complain about imperfections down here below. Eventually we receive an altogether different view from the Lord when we are ready to enter the third degree of the Ultimate church within us. There is no longer a distance between the Lord and us so that He ceases to be in our mind a Busybody governing a gigantic estate, and we see Him instead working our marriage transactions in an interior way. He is the One, not us, to improve our marriage. He it is Who labors and fights discords; He is the General and the Soldiers on both sides of the apparent conflict. He manages our guardian angles from Heaven and our evil spirits from hell. There is not a single transaction which He does not initiate and complete. We are self-witnessing puppets affected with the delusion of Self. But note: not mere puppets, but self-witnessing puppets. We are called upon to approve or disapprove of the appearances in the Works. Each approval or disapproval is to be purified by the Word. This is the state in which we can perceive the sense of conjugial love. This sense regards the appearances that are given by the Lord in our daily marital transaction as a representation of the Lord's Grand Master Plan, that He operates. It is a blueprint of how the Lord intends the universe to be, how angels from Heaven and spirits from Hell play out the serious drama in our marital transactions, and how our marital transactions fit into God's Plan. This is a vision of the endless song which the universe signifies.
Without specific illustrations the character of
this endless song remains in obscurity, embedded in generalities that are quite
theoretical and insubstantial. But with the perception of actual cases in our own
transactions, the interior sense and life of these generalities shine through. This is not a retrospective perception such as that we have when
we are in the New Church state. Rather, it is an ongoing self-witnessing during
religious self-inspection. When we are together as marital partners we
observe with our external rational self that, within the time span of an hour, we exchange
thousands of transactions. Thoughts, gestures, emotions, expectations, habitual
sequences -- all succeed one another at a rate too fast to record in our external
memory. Yet not one of them in all eternity is without some specific significance,
brought about by the Lord to represent to us some aspect of our actuality, our being, and
the way to our future angelic character and placement in the
The sequence of our transactions represents an Order into which we are uniquely created; each married pair is unique, and is being created to eternity for a unique and particular locus or spot in the Grand Human. In our transactions there is reproduced a spiritual geography, our unique road to Heaven. By witnessing our daily transactions with others we perceive the map of Heaven and our way to it as long as our self-witnessing is a religious self-inspection based on doctrine from the Word. Any other motive for self-observation and self-exploration would not uncover this map. Instead, unbeknownst to the person, one would construct fantastic maps that serve to represent the dreamers associations with the Hells rather than the way to the Heaven for which we were created. And so, by the Lord's infinite Love and Wisdom, the Cheruvim now guard the entrance to the interior sense of the Third Testament as they once guarded the interior sense of the Old Testament.
Sound the trumpet! Praise Him!
Praise Him, Lord Almighty
Voices lifted, praise Him, praise Him,
Sun and moon both join the swelling song,
Lord of Heaven, hear the song.
Sound the trumpet! Praise Him!
Praise Him, praise our God.
Join the shout of angels,
Sing we, "Holy, Holy, Holy."
Every land and every tongue unite
To sing the endless song.
All the honor, all the honor,
All the praise forever.
(from St. Anthony's Chorale) (Coronet Press)
Our intention in this essay is to outline the psychology of religious life as viewed from self-inspection. These contain observations of the inner life of self as viewed through the light of the Word. All of us have an inner life which is personal, intimate, familiar; yet it is not as readily available to observation as the interpersonal environment is. Think of the objects around us we can all see and the sounds we can all hear entering us through our external senses. These we can easily describe or communicate or agree upon. Even some rational things which cannot be seen with the external senses are easily communicable and discussible. Think of our many exchanges on abstract topics like politics, or sports, or literary criticism, or scientific writings, or relationship stages in the biography of a couple: none of these is physical or material that can penetrate through the external senses. They are beliefs, opinions, roles, expectations, approval and disapproval. These are rational things and they make up part of the interpersonal world. Though they are abstract, non-physical, or rational, we readily observe them and can discuss them. Language allows us to discuss rational ideas not observable through the external senses, because they are not physical.
But there is also a category of rational things that is not easily observable or discussible. These are not from the inter-personal world, but from the personal and intimate world of the individual's inner life. This inner life is made up of our sensations, emotions, thoughts, reasonings, ideas, feelings, desires, attractions, affections, and loves. This inner life has content and it has dynamics.
The content of inner life is describable or
knowable through titles we readily give to any event in our experience, or to any quality
we observe. Think of what you are doing now, or were doing a few seconds ago.
One might say, for instance, that "I was writing," or that I was listening
to the sound of cars going by outside," or that "I was readjusting my body
position on the chair," or that "I was wondering where this line of reasoning
will lead me," and so on. One may intuitively grasp this idea of the content of
inner life by thinking of a library. It is not only stacked with books and
periodicals but it is also arranged in a certain order. This order is describable or
knowable through a catalogue. As we search through the catalogue of a modern
academic library we are faced with a definite order of topics and their interconnections
or cross-references. By getting to know this order, or cataloguing system, we can
find any book or periodical we want; we can find any article on any topic, and thus
we come into contact with the intellectual history and culture of our nation and of the
We can say therefore that in order to get to know
our inner life we need to study the available information, that is, its content. But
this content may not be available in the books or periodicals of a library. To get
to know the content of our own intentions, reasonings, and emotions, we need to observe
them directly. This is an empirical scientific issue of methodology, objectivity and
validity. In the language of modern psychology, we
need to observe our motives (affective behavior), our thoughts (cognitive behavior), and
our sensations and motor actions (sensorimotor behavior) in everyday living. By
observing and taxonomizing, or cataloguing, this living information on our inner life we
can construct theories and models that can explain the interconnections in this inner life.
For example, a theory can show that the thoughts we have are aroused and guided by the
feelings we have, and it can further investigate the origins of these feelings, perhaps
relating the feelings to deeper affections of character or personality. At this
point, with the help of theory, we begin to perceive a new content not seen before.
This is a higher content, still more rational, yet real and perhaps more crucial. We
may think of this deeper content of inner life as the dynamics of it, pictured as
On the left, the content of inner life is held together by its dynamics. The deeper part of content, namely dynamics, plays a more crucial function in the sense of. control or self-management. This primacy is pictured on the right of the diagram by placing dynamics above content. The two parts of the diagram together portray the idea that there is a depth or height to inner life. What is deeper is also higher and more interior, while what is external is also lower. (For more discussion on the "height" and "breath" of discourse, consult this article: Ethnographic Discourse Methodology)
As we begin to observe the content of our motivational life, cognitive life, and sensorimotor life we develop theories or explanations for this life, and through these theories we can see the dynamics of this life. This greater understanding of our inner life leads to new rational insights, new visions of ourselves, which then come back down to us as creative solutions to problems or a more effective conduct of our external life. Here, inner study pays off not only in greater inner contentment and enjoyment but in outer gain as well. We not only become better to ourselves but more useful to others. This double gain makes the study of inner life useful to society and may eventually develop in the future as a science and field of community service. (For a description of this rational society and how to build it, see our efforts in creating a community-classroom in social psychology.)
It may be pointed out that modern psychology is still in its beginning phase from the point of view of history. Think of what the science of psychology may be like five or ten thousand years from now! The experimental science of psychology has greatly advanced in the first two or three centuries since its inception. But this gain has occurred mainly in the field of inter-personal environment. There are now hundreds of sub-fields in psychology each specializing in the knowledge and control of some area of the interpersonal environment. For example, there is a "social psychology" which studies family and city life; there is "educational psychology" which tries to advance our ability to teach in public schools; there is "psychopharmacology" which investigates how drugs affect people; there is "sports psychology" and so on.
All these modern "psychologies" share the method of interpersonal observation as the sole source of information for their theories. In "clinical psychology," for instance, which studies how a therapist might best influence our thoughts and behaviors, the source of all information is the therapist or the experimenter. Various methods are employed by the clinical psychologist to attempt to see or infer the thoughts and feelings of clients and subjects. Note that in this approach it is not permitted for the experimenter or therapist to offer their own inner life as the source of the data. Within such a restriction, good or effective theories of inner life have not yet emerged in modern psychology. This is plainly evidenced by the fact that clinical psychologists are not capable to readily modify the thoughts, feelings, and motivations of their clients. Whatever influence they may have is slight and of uncertain duration and extent. The reason is that clinical, social, and educational psychologists are faced with individuals who refuse to change and resist or oppose attempts at changing them. As modern psychology continues to evolve, we predict that it will be able to incorporate other methods of gathering information on the inner life. In particular, think of the information psychologists can gain from observing their own inner life, and building theories of the self based directly on these data. It's curious that psychologists have rejected this approach, believing it to be unreliable. But perhaps the real reason behind that is that they have a distaste for it. This claim may be better ascertained as you proceed through this essay.
There have been earlier attempts to study the mental operations of individuals known as the method of introspection. This approach has gone out of style in American psychology at around the turn of this century and there is virtually no legitimate outlet for it anymore. A psychologist who would build a theory of the self based on introspection may not have a place to publish it or teach it. An example in our case has been the persistent refusal of journal editors in psychology and psychiatry to publish our paper The Private World of the Driver: Affective, Cognitive, and Sensorimotor on the grounds that the data are not acceptable. This attitude contrasts of course with the humanities where self-witnessing experiences become of chief interest in literature, biography, art, poetry, drama, and even philosophy. We predict that the future will bring more and more successful attempts at constructing theories based on self-witnessing, with useful applications to community life. (You may consult one of our attempts at this in a paper called Workbook for the Study of Social Psychology.)
This essay is concerned with religious psychology, which is a scientific field as yet in its very infancy. It is not even recognized as a scientific field by the majority of American psychologists. There is a Division of the American Psychological Association called "Psychologists Interested in Religious Issues," of which I have become a member. However, this aspect of psychology is engaged in the study of religious issues to others, but not yet the religious experiences of the psychologist. Once again, the method of approach is inter-personal rather than intra-personal. One may look upon this essay as our attempt to build toward a truly objective religious psychology in which the data are directly observed from one's own source of inner life. (We may mention here the well-received books of contemporary psychologist Dr. Wilson Van Dusen (published by the Swedenborg Foundation), an avid reader and enthusiastic writer about Swedenborg. However, we make a distinction between his approach which we call "secular Swedenborgianism" and ours, which we call "religious Swedenborgianism." See this article.)
In the future we expect that psychology as a science will evolve theories and methods that will allow one's own inner life to be the source of data. Under such a method psychology and religion can intersect without one harming the integrity of the other. Religion offers ethnic and cultural content, while religious psychology is above ethnicity at a level where ethnicity does not reach in the depth of the mind. Religion is sectarian and divisive, though it need not be. Religious psychology is universal and unifying. This essay is an attempt to share with readers the results of our self-witnessings in the area of inner religious life. By elaborating the content and dynamics of religious affections and reasonings we hope to contribute to the development of a methodology for the science of religious psychology. What made this effort possible was our discovery in 1981 of the methodology to be found in the Writings of Swedenborg (1688-1772). This intellectual giant of the Age of Reason has left behind an imposing legacy of Writings on the psychology of inner religious life. It is known that these Writings have influenced a great many figures of British and American literature including Coleridge, Blake, Emerson and the three James', especially Henry James, Sr. who wrote several treatises on Swedenborg and tried to defend his system from attack and ridicule. Swedenborg's theological and psychological Works in modern English translation comprise a set of 30 volumes. After studying them intensely for several years we are convinced that we can find in them a useful methodology for establishing a science of religious psychology. The burden of this essay will be to establish this claim upon solid foundations.
We must also state that we could not have accomplished this endeavor without the help of a Swedenborgian scholar whose lifelong study and love of the Writings benefited our own recent progress in this study. He is the late Rt. Rev. Philip N. Odhner of the Lord's New Church which is Hierosolyma, of Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. We have greatly profited from his series of written lectures dated variously from 1968 to 1983 and published in the form of General Doctrinal Classes, sermons, and tracts. Those who are familiar with Bishop Odhner's lectures will recognize the great extent of his influence in this essay.
There are three categories of readers in relation to the Writings of Swedenborg. First, there are those who have not studied them; second, those who actively study them; and third, those who innocently believe that the Writings of Swedenborg constitute the Third and final Testament of the Bible. We trust that readers from all three categories may find these ideas useful. As for us we are fortunate to have been greatly compensated for our efforts by the extreme delight we experience when we write about these topics. We are convinced that anyone who so inclines may also experience this delight through continual study. Later, you might like to see how college students reacted when Leon tried to interest some of them in Swedenborg's psychology:
Human Behavior and
Human Spirit: Quest for the Good and Truth
Function Without Structure
A Personal View on Swedenborg's Divine Love and Wisdom
Rationalism: Do We have Free Will
Heaven Is A Place On Earth: A Religious Self-Examination Experiment
Lively Swedenborg BBS Debate and Discussions
Psychology Student Reactions to Swedenborg
Is Personality Forever?
The subject matter of this essay is the study of ones own inner life. It presents a perspective which views the religious life of the person as all pervasive. It shows how the inner life of thoughts and feelings is a spiritual life. Leon used to think, like so many in this generation, that the spiritual is something rare that one must look for in special places, or that the spiritual is something we experience when in a brief moment of ecstasy, and many other such nonsense. One of the students asked one day, "Dr. James, you mentioned the spiritual. What is spiritual?" And in the middle of Leon's long-winded lecture-answer, he suddenly and desperately realized that he did not know. As a psychologist that is. And all he had to do is to say simply: The spiritual is the same as the psychological. Mind is spirit. "Psyche" means mind, hence psychology concerns itself with the spiritual. The mind-body problem is one of the oldest and best debated topics in psychology textbooks, and in the historical literature before us. You can say mind-body problem or natural-spiritual problem, and they would be essentially equivalent. The body is natural or, material and physical, while the mind is spiritual or, immortal and substantive, as in the following Table:
The orientation of religious psychology is rational, scientific and pragmatic. The theories it presents are rationally to be evaluated by others, and errors of fact and prediction can be uncovered in them and corrected progressively. It is empirical in method in that systematic data are to be gathered for confirming principles and propositions. Its theories are to be progressively elaborated by researchers, students, and scholars. As well, it has direct applications to society, particularly in self-help psychology, in educational institutions and in child rearing practices.
Religious Psychology may thus be viewed as a developing scientific field or a perhaps a science of the future. It ought to be clearly distinguished from both Religion and Psychology. Religions are necessarily denominational, cultural, sectarian, and proselytizing. They are ethnic, cultural, historical institutions that guard specific norms and rituals through which each religion remains distinctively different from others and survives across generations. This process appears to be necessary to maintain an experiential environment that is suitable to the genetic varieties of spiritual genes.
Psychology in its current state appears inalienably wedded to the negative bias of materialistic monism by which it excludes the phenomena of spiritual life. Psychology maintains an orientation and a methodology that specifically deny and exclude any personal methods for confirming the propositions of revealed Sacred Scriptures or Writings. Sacred Scripture specifically asserts that no science, scholarship, or knowledge are possible without the revelations and propositions contained in them as Divine Truth.
Psychology does not allow us to first assume that Sacred Scriptures are absolute truths about the world, its origin and relation to God, sin, and life after death, Second, psychology does not allow us to try to confirm these truths through observation, scholarship, and theory. Instead, the method of materialistic psychology requires that we first assume that Sacred Scriptures are not necessarily true in their propositions about the world and people. This is essentially similar to the Null Hypothesis approach of proof in statistics. This involves that we assume that a relationship does not exist, when we know that it does, because we already looked at the data. It's a kind of logic game or ritual. For instance, if you want prove that a drug is effective, you first assume that it is not, and then point to the data to argue that it would be unreasonable to suppose that there is no relationship. Therefore there undoubtedly is one (or, at least with little doubt). Well, this strange ritual stands in the way of spiritual investigation, which is not possible when you deny it. This is because denial is spiritual, and spiritual acts on spiritual. The denial causes it to disappear. It is obvious and crystal clear, therefore, that religious psychology must operate by the positive bias methodology.
|Religious psychology is in the positive bias orientation: it first assumes that all of Sacred Scriptures are composed of valid and true propositions, and then looks for methods by which to confirm these truths with our own observation and theory.|
In this approach not a single proposition of Sacred Scriptures may be doubted or excluded from this blanket approval and positive bias. Why would you want to, knowing that this divine revelation created for your mind's ears? If something is puzzling or weird, it's much easier to think that we don't yet understand that part. This is especially true when we begin to see that all Sacred Scriptures are written in a symbolic code that lies hidden beneath the surface of the historical and natural descriptions and propositions. This is crucial to keep in mind. Religious psychology would not be possible if the language of all revelation were not written in this double code, one historical and natural, called the surface meaning or literal sense, and the other code, symbolic and spiritual, called the underlying meaning or inner sense. This inner sense is identical with religious psychology. It is information in the ancient code of correspondences that cements all natural languages through the symbolism of the sensory organs. Scholars have investigated these cross-sensory modalities under such topics as cross-modality transfer, synesthisia, synechdoche, metaphor, simile, and the like. (If this interests you, you may later want to check out a paper Leon wrote on the subject: The Affect of Symbols: Towards the Development of a Cross-Cultural Graphic Differential)
Interestingly, one's progress in the study and understanding of religious psychology is not determined by a knowing a body of knowledge that has accumulated through many researchers over time. In fact, the entire future knowledge is already available and accumulated by Divine creation. Think of it as mental library accessible conditionally through specified mental states. If you can put yourself into that mental state, you gain access to a sector of the spiritual library, depending on your motive, your curiosity, your current knowledge, and above all, your planned use of that information: is it for good, altruistic, or is it for evil, egotistical? Only positive socially beneficial motives for study allow access, while selfish motives deny access.
Also of interest is that religious psychology needs no special laboratory since its subject matter is life as it happens, the real world. If you're an actor, your play is the real world of economic gain for you, and social reputation, of course. If you're driving on a road, the real world is made of your decisions and choices as things happen, second by second. A parent disciplines a child; a parent hugs and comforts a child. The real world of experience and human choice is the laboratory for religious psychology.
It is clear then that Psychology and Religious Psychology are distinct from each other. As well, Religious Psychology is distinct from Religion in that Religious Psychology is non-denominational, non-sectarian, non-proselytizing, non-historical. It is cross-cultural, pan-human, and universal. It is a science in the positive bias method.
Religious Psychology is a scholarly discipline that is relevant to all religions, philosophies, and academic fields. In the future one may anticipate such new sciences in the positive bias method like Religious Sociology," "Religious Engineering," "Religious Business & Management," Religious Biology," "Religious Crystallography," and so on. These religious sciences and disciplines are in the positive bias method in that they accept by premiss the truth of all propositions in genuine Sacred Scriptures. (You can later explore the relation we see between cyberspace and the spiritual world in this article on Spiritual Psychology
Some of the assumptions of Religious Psychology may be listed:
(1) All nations and ethnic groups inherit particular religious
affections (or tendencies) by heredity and tradition;
(2) Religious affections are organic spiritual phenomena and
can be scientifically confirmed;
(3) Religious affections are the source of all rational and
intellectual operations or capacities;
(4) Religious Commandments and Doctrines (or teachings) are
specific techniques and guides for better
spiritual health and development, hence for better intellectual and emotional growth;
(5) False or adulterated religious beliefs degenerate
intellectual and moral capacities and gradually wear down and destroy life and
(6) Religious affections and ideals govern societal goals and
(7) A genuine and effective religious life promotes
intelligence, creativity, and societal and individual efficiency;
(8) Intellectual growth and health is totally dependent upon true
religious concepts and ideas from Sacred
(9) Human rationality and freedom are not possible without concepts
and ideas from Sacred Scriptures learned in childhood and adulthood;
(10) True or genuine Sacred Scriptures exist for all cultures and
ethnic groups even if they appear to each other as contradictory and oppositional;
(11) The concepts, ideas, and propositions of Sacred Scriptures can
be falsified or adulterated through interpretations that serve selfish or maniacal
purposes; yet the true and genuine ideas remain in all Sacred Scriptures unchanged
and may be rediscovered again;
(12) All genuine Sacred Scriptures are written in a secret code; these codes are transmitted from generation to generation through religious instruction; the codes may be forgotten or falsified so that the genuine truths in Sacred Scriptures may no longer be known; however, these codes may be revealed again to particular individuals and taught to others, in which case the truths of Sacred Scriptures may once again be seen and known; these secret codes cannot be discovered or found out by any means but must be directly revealed to some person through Divine intervention;
(13) Truths about reality and self found in Sacred Scriptures can be
rationally confirmed and scientifically explained through data, observation, and theories;
(14) Confirmed truths from Sacred Scriptures are societal resources
since they are effective in combating social strife, ignorance, inequality; confirmed
truths form the basis of better educational systems, better methods for strengthening good
character, and for inventing better ways of managing society and solving its problems;
(15) All Sacred Scriptures contain three types of revealed truths;
these are revealed through secret codes in successive order; the first type or degree of
revelation may be called the Old Testament; the second degree of revelation may be called
the New Testament; and the third or highest may be called the Third Testament;
(16) The quality of the inner life of a person is dependent
upon the degree of revelation the person understands and lives by; the first state is
called the Old Church within us and is informed by the Old Testament revelations;
the second state is called the New Church within us and is informed by the New Testament
revelations; the third and highest (deepest) state is called the Ultimate Church within us
and is informed by the revelations in the Third Testament;
(17) Each successive degree of revelation or state of the
Church within us is brought about by our willingness and readiness to conform in thought,
feeling, and deed to the truths revealed to us as we study the Three Testaments and are
instructed in them by others;
(18) We can have a theoretical knowledge of all three states,
but only an orderly progress allows us to confirm or apply this knowledge to our life, and
hence, derive its benefits in deeper understanding, greater wisdom, and enlarged
(19) Progress in the state of the Church within us alters our
inner life of thoughts and feelings, and hence, of deeds and delights or uses; in
the Old Church state we experience a life that is a mixture of suffering and pleasure, of
knowledge and ignorance, of truths and falsehoods; in the New Church state we
experience a life of commitment and hope, of progressive rationality and a greater
capacity to fulfill our strivings and to serve society and people; at last, in the
Ultimate Church state we experience true understanding, wisdom, unbounded creativity, and
genuine altruism towards others;
(20) Practical methods of study and research exist for extracting from each of the Three Testaments, theories and models that constitute the subject matter of Religious Psychology. Some topics of Religious Psychology are these:
It may be seen from our discussion thus far that
Religious Psychology is an academic discipline that is relevant to all aspects of human
growth and community development. Study and research allow us to confirm these
principles and to adduce new ones from Sacred Scriptures. Religious Psychology is thus the study of what we do, how we do it, and
why we do it. Answers to these questions cannot exclude the
religious affections or ideals a person has. No individual is born into a society
that has no stance on the issue of who is God, what is sin or evil, and what is the
afterlife. Our stance on these issues gives a clue to our religious
affections. These religious affections externalize and show themselves in our
topics, opinions, views, attitudes, ideals, priorities, and especially, our judgments,
such as our approval vs. disapproval of something. The role of religious affections
is portrayed in the accompanying diagram:
Thus it is clear that we cannot have an inner life which is free of religion. When we feel distant from religious involvement it appears that we have no religion or that religion is relatively unimportant in our lives; but this is only an external appearance. This illusion adheres to the body, to the external behavior, to ones speech and declarations of opinion and belief, and even to one's own external thoughts and memory. However, at a more interior level of our life, that is, at the level of feelings, strivings, and other inner actions, it is clear that we cannot make any judgments or decisions without involving our ideas of good, right, and truth. These ideas are religious ideas and originate from our inherited religion and religious proclivities.
We may ask the question how we justify calling the things in the diagram "religious affections." On the surface these things appear to be merely social norms, the type one can find in any culture. Surely we learn these norms as we get socialized, and then as adults, we are guided by them in our judgments, goals, preferences, choices. Perhaps our emotions are conditioned to them by exposure, reward, and habit. All this is true. Yet we are not to think that acquired social norms and cultural beliefs are nothing but manifestations of our external life. Norms develop and evolve within the climate of religious life in both technological and primitive societies. Religion restricts and guides external freedom through tradition, ritual, and accumulated knowledge. Violation of religious laws are punished by death, imprisonment, ostracism, and reduced access to goods, services, and friendships. Secular law upholds the religious Commandments of its people in every society. This is by Divine intervention or providence.
Thus, peoples norms and habits reflect their religious affections even if they are not explicitly aware of this. People undergo an organic, inner development relative to their religious affections.
The first state of development in our religious affections can be called the Old Church state within us. It is based on religious affections for external compliance to the Commandments given in Sacred Scriptures or to societal laws based on them. For instance the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament are incorporated in our civil laws: we swear by the Bible in courts of law, we are punished if we are caught stealing, libeling, murdering, and so on.
The second state of development is called the New Church State within us. It is marked by religious affections for identifying with the Commandments (as in the New Testament) out of rational conviction rather than mere external compliance.
The third state of development of our religious affections, that is, of the Ultimate Church within us, is marked by religious affections for internalizing the Commandments through direct spiritual perception.
Thus, as the development of our religious affections proceeds from Old Church, to New Church, to Ultimate Church, we become progressively more aware of how our religious affections enter into our thoughts, judgments, emotions, and actions. At the stage of external compliance we are but dimly aware of this process and we believe that religion is separate from the rest of our life. At the stage of internalization or identification we gain awareness of the all-pervasive nature of religion in our inner and external live. Finally, at the stage of direct spiritual perception we can directly confirm the religious thesis that not a single thought, feeling, emotion, or act is independent of our religion. These states of a progressively more advanced awareness of our inner selves are produced in us by Divine intervention and supervision.
Each state of the Church within us brings its own
degree of temptations into our life. A temptation is
an organic process of spiritual growth through which our awareness is expanded.
Temptations have two phases: the temptation itself, which is marked by suffering, doubt,
and imperfection; then follows the resolution phase which is marked by awareness, delight,
and perfection. We shall study this process in greater detail as it is central to an
understanding of Religious Psychology.
Awake, my heart, and render to God
Thy sure defender, thy Maker, thy Preserver,
A song of Love and fervor.
My heart shall be Thy dwelling,
With joy and gladness swelling.
Thy Word, my nurture,
Thy Word, my nurture given
To bring me on toward Heaven.
17th Century Anthem
(H.W. Gray Co., Inc.)
We know from the teaching of the Third Testament that there isn't
any detail in the world which is not directly under the supervision of the Lord's Divine
Providence. This arcanum has been revealed before by the Lord Himself in His
teaching that not a bird nor a hair can fall without the Divine intervention (Luke 12:6,7;
see also Arcana
Coelestia 2694:3; 6494). But now it is given us, by the Lord's
graciousness, to begin perceiving the interior sense of His message to us. In the
sense of the letter of the Third Testament the correspondence for bird in general
relates to our mental organization during the process of our regeneration, and
for hair in general the correspondence relates to our willingness to examine this
mental organization for the purpose of separating in it what is true and what is false
(see Arcana Coelestia 6963:3,4).
The interior sense of bird and hair as used in the Third Testament is perceivable when their literal significance is related to the Lord's visible Divine Human at work in us.
|That is, our mental organization is to be examined in every single detail for the purpose of relating that detail to the Lord's Divine Human. This type of self-inspection is enjoined upon us as the first or chief concern in the life of the regenerating person. It may justly be regarded as the sine qua non of the existence and growth of the Church in the individual, hence the key that unlocks the floodgates of Heavenly life on earth.|
The purpose of this section is to discuss the scientifics or, practicalities, of self-inspection whose end is to judge or, adjudicate, every detail of our mental organization as to whether it is proper or improper, that is, whether it is offensive to the Lord Himself. We shall for convenience refer to this activity as religious self-inspection. Related words are familiar:
We leave out introspection" because of its negative history in American psychology. Also, "self-analysis" suggests that perhaps a pre-requisite of specialized knowledge may be necessary. The title 'self-inspection" does not presuppose any specialized knowledge or training, yet it implies that it be systematic, and thus excludes remembering from the past.
There exists of course another kind of activity which involves reviewing in memory some past event and deciding in retrospect whether it was proper or not. This is what we call "self-evaluation" after the fact. However, self-inspection is on-going and systematic, therefore it ranks with other types of scientific observation such as we have in interpersonal psychology or in physics and physiology. Religious self-inspection is a variety of self-inspection, namely whose function it is to witness an on-going activity of the self in order to note its potential offensiveness to God.
Since every religion (excluding cults) consists of God and the proprieties of our acts relative to the Divine Omnipresence, everyone on earth may practice religious self-inspection. All religions (excluding cults) lead to God and Heavenly life after death through self-discipline on earth in obedience to the law and order set forth, through Divine authority, by society.
The reason that religious self-inspection is of such great importance is that it is the only practical method available to the individual to shun evils as sins against God. Yet we are plainly told in the letter of the Third Testament that without shunning evils as sins we cannot ever be regenerated; hence Heavenly life, which is promised by religion, remains outside our reach irrespective of the amount of knowledge of Scripture we may accumulate.
It becomes therefore critical for each one of us to develop as-if of ourselves the facility of religious self-inspection. We can do this by resolutely striving to become better and better "religious self-inspectors," that is, more and more accurately to see the operation of the visible Divine Human in our mental organization. This is the signification of all correspondences when viewed in a more interior light. In Apocalypse Explained 419:20 we are told that hair signifies the ultimates of truth in the Church. This correspondence is in the sense of the letter of the Third Testament. By relating this rational fact to the visible Divine Human in the very operation of our mental organization, we can perceive a more interior sense of hair. Indeed, within our thoughts and intentions, as revealed by religious self-inspection, we perceive the work of regeneration going on as-if of ourselves. This new awareness comes about through the act of judgment we pronounce on what we find going on within ourselves in daily living. Without this religiously motivated witnessing of our thoughts and intentions in everyday living we cannot be regenerated no matter what else we also do in terms of worship and conscience. In Divine Providence 159 we are told that the Lord's reference to our white hair (in Matthew 5:36) is in the context of His explaining that we cannot of ourselves do even the least thing. Certainly thinking and intending are included in this Doctrine.
It is therefore to be presupposed that the Lord works through our acts of thinking and intending, and this without a single exception to eternity! What an intimate life a person has with the Lord! Surely there is no human relationship comparable to this no matter how close two people may get; this relationship is then Divine and is the true meaning of religion, namely, a tying to God or conjunction with Him. The very place of religion therefore must be in our thoughts and intentions; they are the only true temple where God can dwell inmostly with us. This bond with the Divine is possible only through our love into the visible Divine Human of the Lord. This love to the Lord, which He commands, enjoins it upon us as a duty of highest worship to strive to become better and better religious self-inspectors.
There is a contrast drawn for us in the Third Testament between our own hair and the Lord's white hair in Revelations 1:14, which is the white hair of the visible Divine Human in our mental operation as revealed in religious self-inspection. Apocalypse Explained 66 tells us that the Lord's white hair signifies the Divine in first and last things, that is, Divine Providence in primes and ultimates. Where are we to find Him in ultimates? Surely not in the beauty of nature or the accomplishments of technology. These are His creations, and surely we must not confuse God with His creation! Neither can we find God in the church buildings, altars, crosses, or images; neither in the paper and ink of Bibles. The only place is within. But where? The Lord is quoted in the New Testament on this issue, and He indicates that "the Kingdom of God is within you":
|Quoting from the Writings: Arcana
In the universal sense, 'the kingdom of God' is used to mean the whole of heaven, in the less universal sense the Lord's true Church, and in particular every individual who has true faith, that is, who has been regenerated by means of the life that inheres in faith. For that reason the individual is also called 'heaven', for heaven is within him, and 'the kingdom of God', since that too is within him. This the Lord Himself teaches through Luke,
Jesus was asked by the Pharisees, When is the kingdom of God coming? He answered them and said, The kingdom of God is not coming with observation, nor will people say, Behold, here it is! or, Behold, there! for behold, the kingdom of God is within you. Luke 17:20, 21.
This is the third stage of a person's regeneration, a state when he is repentant. It is like passing from shadow into the light, or from evening to morning, and this is why it is said in Verse 13, And there was evening, and there was morning, a third day. AC 29
We are given the direction by our love for the truths in the Lord's Second Advent. This Divine Coming is within our thoughts and intentions. It is available to anyone who is willing to practice religious self-inspection or active repentance in daily living. Our thoughts and intentions operate in the spiritual world, outside time and space. They are connected to time and space by definite laws of correspondence, but they are not in time and space, or of time and space. They are made up of spiritual substances just as the brain is made up of material substances from the sun and planets. The spiritual Sun and its many earths form thoughts and intentions through its spiritual heat and light. It is revealed in the Writings that spiritual heat is Divine Love and spiritual light is Divine Wisdom. Thus, Divine Love, which appears as heat as heat from that Sun, spreads into the spiritual world and cools down as it journeys down towards the outward universe, to become affective substance in the form of intentions and desires on earth within human minds, and thence through correspondence, in human brains. Similarly, the light which goes forth from this spiritual heat organizes the cognitive substances into a particular order and its usable functions in the mind. This light is Divine Wisdom or Divine Truth. It is the light we have through the Word on earth.
Those who don't know the Word, or don't read it, or read it but don't see anything Divine in it, are still subject to the same mechanism of inflow from the spiritual Sun, though they attribute it to a different source, such as their own intelligence, or science and transmitted culture. They don't consider the fact that science, knowledge, and culture in every society and tribe, is imbued with and originates from the spiritual Sun through the spiritual societies. As proof of this, consider the fact that all societies and tribes have religion, and that all religions enjoin its followers to love God and live by God's commandments or else they will pay for it in much suffering.
Thus our thoughts and intentions must be consciously related as-if of ourselves to God's Love and Wisdom. This only is the true life of religion and is available to anyone through religious self-inspection or repentance. Prior to repentance, or the act of judging our thoughts and emotions, we cannot receive the full value of spiritual heat and light. Like a dried out plant we slowly die spiritually and become insane. Religious self-inspection waters this starved plant whereby we revive.
That method of religious self-inspection will be
good or, efficient, which succeeds in replacing or exchanging our own single hair we
cannot make white with the abundant white hair of the Lord in His visible Divine Human,
white hair which is white like wool. In other words, religious self-inspection
succeeds when it yields judgments against ourselves and for the Lord. Not a single
inhabitant of the heathen Land of Canaan is to be left alive in our mental
organization. This love into the Lord will insure that we may avoid the deed of
Achan related in Joshua 7 and whose significance we are told in Arcana
Coelestia 5135:6. The commixing of truths and
falsities of worship, which was the deed of Achan, threatens each one of us if we do not
continually strive to become better religious self-inspectors. In every single
detail of our own thoughts and intentions what is of our own origin from the external
world must be found out, judged, and destroyed. Then, only then, can we continue the
conquest of Canaan within ourselves.
Prior to our judging a thought or intention it is unclean. We are told this in Arcana Coelestia 3301:7 in connection with the removal of all natural trues, even the most external, signified by the hair of the feet in Isaiah 7:20 (see Apocalypse Explained 569:17). No aspect of our mental organization prior to regeneration has any spiritual truths but only the apparent truths mixed with falsities in worldly traditions and scientifics. Nothing of the earthly can know anything of the spiritual. This Doctrine guides us to a state of innocence in receiving the trues of the Heavenly Doctrine. By contrast, after a thought or intention has been judged in self-inspection as-if of ourselves, there remains an emptiness into which spiritual light can enter and we begin to perceive genuine trues. As each successive thought and intention is found out, judged, and cast out, there is left behind a clean vessel or temple into which holy things of the Church can enter. In that measure the Church can be within us, and therefrom Heavenly life on earth. This activity must be continual, never ending in one's daily living activities. Then the Church can gradually grow more and more within us, thus transforming us.
Birds signify thoughts in general (see Arcana Coelestia 3901:6;
5149:4). These include truths of every kind. Speckled birds or birds of prey
signify trues in the understanding mixed with falsities (Arcana Coelestia 3993: 5,7).
Thoughts we have are either in harmony with truths we have or they are in disharmony. In
everyday living we continually make use of thoughts and intentions in our decision making;
these thoughts and intentions form our reasonings, and they
are in harmony or in disharmony with truths we have and receive from our study of
Scripture. There is not a single moment of life (including sleeping)
during which the operation of thinking, reasoning, or intending ceases, and in every case
the thought or idea is either proper or improper in relation to the truth we receive from
the Word. By judging each thought or intention we bring this relationship to light,
we make its relation to truth explicit.
When the operation of our thinking and intending is observed by our rational faculty we acquire useful knowledge regarding the scientifics of thoughts. This psychology of the self is to be employed as a theory about the operation of our interior organs of mind. The table below pictures this activity (follow the numbered boxes):
|THEORY or PSYCHOLOGY OF SELF||2. we identify patterns in and influences on our thoughts||3. we judge each one in relation to the Lord's visible Divine Human (This is repentance)|
|METHOD OF SELF-INSPECTION||1. we observe our own external thinking activity with our interior rational faculty||4. we strive to
modify the disharmonious activity as if of ourselves but knowing that it is from the Lord
(This is reformation)
This diagram illustrates the practice of religious self-inspection in four steps. Through our self-examination in the external thoughts (step 1) we arrive at informed views regarding our more interior thoughts such as our reasonings, intentions, and affections (step 2). Then as we judge each thought and intention in relation to the visible Divine Human (step 3), we succeed in cooperating with His Divine Providence in the very operation of our mind; we then become reformed (step 4). This activity recycles over and over again, thousands of times a day in our earthly life, and thus is our regeneration accomplished by the Lord. It is the Lord's work in us, His labor of love. Thus the Church grows in us more and more and thus are we more and more introduced into the heat and light of Heavenly life on earth. This is Divine Wisdom in us.
Open our eyes, O loving and compassionate Jesus,
That we may behold Thee,
That we may behold Thee,
Walking beside us,
Walking beside us in our sorrow.
Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant,
Thou hast made death glorious and triumphant.
For through its portals we enter
Into the presence of the Living God.
Open our eyes, 0 loving and compassionate Jesus,
That we may see to follow Thee, Jesus,
Jesus, Jesus, our Saviour,
Jesus our Saviour and Redeemer.
(G. Schirmer, Inc.)
We have discussed the practice of a constantly vigilant and watchful religious self-inspection whose function it is to separate that which is our own worldly and earthly inclination, which is unclean, from that which is clean and holy and is with us from spirit and heaven. We are in the Ultimate Church within by virtue of our active repentance through which the regenerating person develops spiritually and advances deeper and deeper, or higher and higher, into the interior of the Word, that is, the mind, which is the spirit.
Let us recall that the Three Testaments of the Word differ from each other in both the sense of the letter and in the interior senses according to the following Order: We should note here that we are not excluding any Sacred Scripture that was given as revelation to various nations and ethnic groups. Though all our examples and illustrations involve the Bible (Old and New Testament) and Swedenborg's Writings (Third Testament) this is because these are the revealed Scriptures we were born into and have formed our lives from birth onward.
|Table III. a||OLD TESTAMENT||NEW TESTAMENT||THIRD TESTAMENT|
|INTERIOR SENSE||the omnipotent Human Divine of the Lord||Divine Truth in ultimates||the visible Divine Human of the Lord|
|LITERAL SENSE||history & allegory||miracles & parables||correspondences, doctrines, & memorable relations|
|Divine Names||Jehovah; I AM||Christ; Son of God||Jesus; the Lamb; Divine Man|
The table above shows that our relationship to the Word is various as to its different parts. In this section we are particularly concerned with our relationship to the interior senses of the Third Testament since the practice of religious self-inspection requires us to judge each mental process we observe in ourselves in relation to the visible Divine Human of the Lord, this being the interior sense of the Third Testament. We have already discussed the case with bird and hair with the following observations:
case with bird and hair with the following observations:
|Table III. b||LITERAL SENSE
(life with faith)
|Hair in the Third Testament||Self-examination with the view to separate true from false||Our activity of undergoing regeneration by the Lord|
|Bird in the Third Testament||The unexamined thoughts and intentions of daily living||Our own states of hell in infernal light|
The question arises as to how we are to cooperate with the Lord in His work of regenerating us? We need to gain an understanding of the activity of repentance since it is the only method available to us for entering the life of the true Church. In this study and practice of religious self-inspection we gain knowledge of the content and dynamics of inner life, that is, we learn the psychology of the self. This message is given us in the Threefold Word as follows:
|Table III. c||OLD TESTAMENT||NEW TESTAMENT||THIRD TESTAMENT|
|BIRD & HAIR (INTERIOR SENSE)||that all things in heaven and on earth are subject to Divine
(THE HUMAN DIVINE OF THE LORD)
|that we are to lead our daily lives trusting in Divine Providence
(THE SON OF GOD)
|that we are to shun evils as sins through repentance
(THE DIVINE HUMAN OF THE LORD)
The question may now be considered as to how we are to cooperate with the Lord in His Work of regenerating us. We need to gain an understanding of the activity of repentance since it is the only method available to us for entering the life of the true Church. In this studying we need to practice religious self-inspection which is the same as getting to know the psychology of the self. To accomplish this we need to refrain from "consulting the rational," that is, the external rational built up through the physical senses, even as the Lord had to when He was a young Boy on earth (see Arcana Coelestia 2511).
One error we can easily fall into is to assume that we already know what repentance is and that the problem is only to muster the self-discipline in order to accomplish the repentance. This error, if confirmed in practice, would "sew up the womb of Abimelech and all his household" in our inner life (Genesis 20:18). The result would be the impossibility of our entering heavenly life on earth and the consequent death of the Church within us.
We can desist from this grave error when we reflect upon and confirm a distinction in degrees between the sense of the letter of the Third Testament, which is external rational, and the interior sense of the Third Testament, which is interior rational, which is spiritual and celestial. The external rational is not spiritual at all, but an abstracted natural, which is an intellectual process not yet free of the temporal and the local.
This distinction can be understood only by reference to the distinction between our abstract knowledge of repentance and our observed activity of repentance. Only the constant practice of religious self-inspection in daily living can give us the information needed to undergo the activity of repentance, to empower it from mere abstract knowledge to confirmed, lived activity.
And so as we study the Writings we need to draw out from its literal sense Doctrines of Faith that may be characterized as "spiritual-psychological" in content because these Doctrines deal with the self and the influences upon the self. These spiritual-psychological Doctrines of Faith, as applied to the actual self by each person, constitute the interior senses of the Third Testament. We should note here that we have greatly benefited from a publication called De Hemelsche Leer, written in the 1930s by a Dutch group of men through whose minds the Lord brought forth what we consider to be the Epistles for the New Church. Their central focus was to prove that the Work of the Writings called Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture.applies equally to the Writings themselves, and not just to the Old and New Testaments. Without their insight and devotion, this essay and its content would still not exist on this earth.
By way of illustration we may draw up lists of sub-activities within the general activity of repentance in daily living situations. To do this we need to follow general psychological principles, not the kind we make up from our external knowledge and rational understanding, but the kind that are patterned after the sense of the letter of the Third Testament. We may begin by considering where in our activity of repentance we are to locate the three degrees of Life as defined in the Word. To guide us in our studying we shall refer to a type of diagram represented by three concentric circles, as follows: (For more on this type of diagram as a scientific methodology, you later can consult these two reports:
The above diagram pictures the doctrinal principle that Life proceeds from the inmost degree (SUBSISTENCE -- level III), through the intermediate degree (EXISTENCE -- level II) , and out to the ultimate degree (MANIFESTATION -- level I).
A connected idea is that the inmost degree is Celestial (level III), the intermediate degree is Spiritual (level II) , and the ultimate degree is Natural (level I). This connectedness may be extended to a whole series of such trines to be found in the sense of the letter of the Third Testament, as illustrated in the following Table:
This type of tri-grammatic table (read from bottom up) may be extended indefinitely the more we study the Word. Each vertical trine constitutes three simultaneous degrees and represents a spiritual-psychological principle about the self as imaged in the Lord's visible Divine Human. This kind of table may be used as a guide or map to help us gain illustration from the Lord in the Word regarding our activity of being regenerated by the Lord. We may similarly focus on the trines of successive degrees, as follows:
|OLD TESTAMENT||NEW TESTAMENT||THIRD TESTAMENT|
|Civic Conscience||Moral Conscience||Spritual Conscience|
The table above indicates successive psychological states of development in the regenerating person (read from bottom up). For instance, in the domain of our loves or will (affective domain) (LEVEL III), we begin early adulthood with a civic conscience and with all sorts of needs; these give us the volition to obey the law, order, and mores of our culture from our external self. As we move into adulthood we begin to strengthen a moral conscience and other social affections which look out to what is fair and equitable in human relations for the sake of society. At last in maturity we evolve a spiritual conscience and religious loves whereby the Lord may regenerate us through our cooperative reformation and repentance.
A similar picture may be seen in the domain of our cognitions (LEVEL II). Knowledge and memories constitute our earliest spiritual life. This is followed by intelligence and understandings, and at last, our cognitions come into wisdom and perception. In the domain of our delights (LEVEL I) we at first experience pleasures and all sorts of sensations; this is followed by the capacity to feel happiness and more complex observations within our natural life; at last we come into tranquility (Sabbath Rest) and the confirmations of sensory life. This image of development of the self in three successive degrees represents the order in which the Lord glorified His Human and uplifted it even to His Divine Sensuous (see Arcana Coelestia 8624).
O Lord, in Thee we put our trust;
Source of peace and joy for ever more.
In days of trial be our stay.
Be our refuge, our hope.
We acknowledge that Thou only art God.
Thou art God.
In Thee we put our trust,
Source of peace and joy.
(Harold Flammer, Inc.)
To the regenerating person, religious self-inspection, self-examination, and self-exploration are the necessary activities through which reformation of character is accomplished within us by the Lord. We are enjoined by the Lord to cooperate freely, as-if of ourselves, in this task of His. In the sense of the letter of the New Testament He refers to this activity as knocking on our door where He stands waiting to be admitted (Revelations 3:20). The interior sense of the New Testament treats of Divine Truth separated from Divine Good, even as the edge of the sword is separated from its flat side when used as a weapon. Our relationship to this part of the Word is in regards to the activity of hair-splitting with our rationalizations. We are to use the cutting edge of the sword of Divine Truth to splice apart our Pharisaic excuses in the face of self-incriminating evidence. The spiritual meaning of the New Testament is to be used to effectively convict ourselves.
|November 1986: Leon's Notes on CL 293-4:
The Doctrine of the Wife is this, that the regenerating husband "Hearkens unto Sarah" that is, acts according to his moral wisdom. A husband has this wisdom from the study of the Word. This gives him spiritual rationality to the extent that he wills himself to apply it to life, that is, in interactions with his wife. In these conjugial interactions, the wife acts from conjugial love from the Lord, and the husband receives perception through wisdom, and then reacts with conjugial heat. Applying the Third Testament trues to receive the wife's loving actions, is his moral wisdom that delights and satisfies the wife.
When we husbands are in the unregenerate state of mind, we hate conjugial love, which is the sexual love of the wife alone or only, because we love "meretricious" sex, which is "crude sex with harlots", and we turn cold, that is, impotent, in the sphere of conjugial sex.
Therefore, the wife, sensing this about her husband, hides her conjugial sex love, which are her inward bosom delights, and instead, fakes or simulates crude sex, that is, lacking in sincerity, to keep him from impotence with her. She also acts less interested and hard to get for this reason, that is, angry, quarrelsome, vehement, and insistent.
Every person who strives to cast out their character evils, loves God. To those who do not know of the Three Testaments externally yet strive to cast out character evils they find within themselves, God is known by whatever traditional Name they were given, which involves the internal idea of God as a Person or Divine Human. They may not be conscious of this because of their received beliefs, but they act within themselves towards God as-if He was a Person--talking to Him, praying to Him, feeling His love, and so forth. And one can have these things only from a Person, not from an unapproachable infinite force in the universe.
Those of the Church who are actively cooperating with their regeneration by the Lord, do so by repentance and a change of life according to their rational understanding of the visible Divine Human, that is, of the Lord's operation within our thoughts, intentions, and affections. Religious self-inspection with the end of judging ourselves in every single particular, when practiced continually, constitutes the work of regeneration. We are then opening the door, as-if of ourselves, so that the Lord may dwell in His visible Divine Human with us.
It is crucial therefore that we strive ever more intensely to practice religious self-inspection with zeal and constancy, yea, with burning love. For this is the very love we have with the Lord, and our veriest life, wisdom, and happiness. When we read the New Testament, its interior sense arouses in us this burning love for the Lord. Scientifics is a tool from the Lord to help our regeneration. The principles of the psychology of self are to be Doctrines drawn from the sense of the letter of the Word. They are come by when we live our faith. Every act of judgment in our religious self-inspection becomes a piece of datum for the theory of ourselves. Scientific data are systematic observations of facts organized by a theory. If we are to be scientists ourselves, as we must be if we strive to become better self-inspectors and self-modifiers, then we are not to shun the tools that are useful and readily available for this task.
Those who have access to the interior sense of
the Third Testament (as anyone may have who but accepts the idea) have available an
extraordinarily effective psychology of the self with which they strive ever more
intensely to search out in themselves their interior areas of evil. This work is the
work of the true faithful of the Church of the Lord; these He loves especially, and they
are especially near to Him, even as the beloved disciple. These are the works of
charity through faith. This work is what leads to the genuine love of the neighbor
for the sake of the Lord. It is possible through the interior sense of the Word, and
especially if all Three Testaments are included in the Doctrine
Concerning the Sacred Scripture.
It ought not to be thought that this especially helpful tool of regeneration is reserved for a few only. It is available to any person of common sense and learning who is willing to study the Three Testaments together as the Word of the Lord, and to which three he or she applies the Doctrine Concerning the Sacred Scripture in equal measure. If this be done, the spiritual-psychological order of the self is laid bare by the Lord in His Word. We then contemplate before our eyes the Divine Human Proprium in ultimates with us.
It ought not be thought that this work is only possible to those who have a lot of free time off from their occupations and duties, for this work is to be performed conjointly with anything else we are also doing. Religious self-inspection is not a competing task, but a super-imposed task. It is a particular attitude of life, a set of mind, a bend of the character, an inclination of the heart.
Every single decision or focus of attention constitutes an interior act and is a candidate for self-inspection and judgment. Let us illustrate this view by citing common situations of everyday living. Let us say we are walking or driving somewhere. Other people are constantly appearing and disappearing in our view. We detect various things within ourselves to which we react. We may look upon someone's face, semiconsciously roam our focus upon a nose, an arm, a shirt. We are surprised by this or that. We smile to ourselves. We are curious. We free associate, mingling our thoughts and memories of people and situations. We are puzzled by something we see. It makes us laugh. We examine their clothes, what they are carrying. We conjecture about where they are going or what they are thinking. We approve or disapprove. We are curious. We investigate further. And so on.
Or let us say we are talking to someone. We try to give this or that kind of an impression. We think of other things. Our attention lapses. We pretend to have heard or understood. We smile even though we didn't catch the humor. We plan ahead to say something. We intend this or that regarding this person. We pretend not to notice something. And so on. (Later, you might like to see Leon's report on how he discovered Sudden Memory by using the technique of "mere witnessing.")
microdescriptions of our moment by moment behaviors, both external and internal, we can
enter into the scientifics of the self, of our own proprial life. We gain knowledge
of ourselves through the facts of self-inspection, of self-witnessing.
If at the same time we have judgment as an end in self-inspection, then these mental facts
will be seen ordered in the interior sense of the Three Testaments. In other words,
the interior sense of the Three Testaments, each distinctly, will fall into the facts we
uncover about ourselves. Then are we in the position of confirming the interior
sense of the Word.
When the part is judged, the whole is better. There is a change of state in that part, a change of function in the self, in our thoughts, intentions, and emotions. The instant we judge ourselves in some part, repentance has begun. This new beginning is occupied by the Lord Who all along stood knocking at the door, waiting to be admitted by us, freely, as if of our own, from our love into Him. Now, after He is invited in, He can do much more for us. And this is an exchange that must recur daily, or even, minute by minute. We cannot merely invite Him once and that's it. This is because we repeatedly shut the door again, after we opened it.
It is the Lord's Proprium in the visible Divine Human that occupies or dwells in the part of ourselves that we judged. The Lord's indwelling is made possible by repentance of an act, thought, or intention, and henceforth He battles for us when we are in the throes of temptation. This occurs when we are subsequently faced once again with the knowledge of some related evil in us, and which the Lord tries to bring to our attention relentlessly, zealously, on account of His Great Love for us, and His concern to keep us from sliding into eternal hell, to which we are taken by our inherited and acquired inclinations like a ship is imperceptibly dragged along by the current. Each part that we judged returns to 'haunt' us: this is the labor of temptation and purification thereby. But let it be always remembered that it is not our own strength that conquers but the strong arm of the Lord Who occupies that part of our mind and indwells through the Word in its three senses. Forget this, and your repentance is as nothing.
Following conquest in temptation there is joy and exhilaration. There is renewal. There is a direct perception of conjunction with the Lord's presence, a concrete understanding of His concrete presence, and a host of attendant affections into Him such as:
These benefits of religious self-inspection are easily observable, when they arrive.
The Lord regenerates through liberty and understanding. What we choose in freedom, this we love. What we love, we do in liberty. Our understanding is first attracted by certain appearances. Later we are attracted by rational truths; these shape our conscience and our ideals; they influence our character and our life goals. Still later we receive with joy the trues of religion. Then come the battles against our enslaved will. We wage these battles actively, as-if of ourselves, flashing the sword of Divine Truth, willing to choose the way of the Commandments even against our own desires and preferences. As we conquer more and more this inner Land of Canaan within ourselves, there enter Heavenly affections. Where our liberty was in chains, now we are free, delivered out of the enchantment of selfishness and wickedness.
We begin to apply the Trues of the Third Testament to our own psychological states of development. The journey down to Egypt is now seen as our state prior to the present. We now feel a spiritual difference in the quality of our hourly living. Heaven is present.
We no longer have to rationalize this, as before, when we were still in Egypt and were engaged in the labor of rationally convincing ourselves that the Spirit is, and that it is here now. Now we see ourselves already in the conquest of Canaan. Our heathen reasonings and ideals are systematically uncovered and destroyed. Nothing whatsoever from the old way of thinking, and planning, and reacting is to be left. All of the previous self must be found out, judged, and cast out with horror. Then at last we begin to feel a genuine longing for contact with the Lord. We feel awe and reverence, yet friendliness and camaraderie with Him. The Lord now becomes our Shining Humanoid Hero as we begin to realize more and more how good and delightful is the Grand Plan He has in store for us. We begin to love Him with ever more confidence as we realize that all along He has been the Boss in our life. We begin to perceive that there is no chance event in the universe. We are astounded to find that in every event in our life, in every decision we've ever made, in every thought or idea we've ever had, in every feeling or longing, He was there! He was never absent. He was an intimate co-participant in our external and our inner life.
And now He continues as before, but we are also given the opportunity to cooperate out of love into Him from Him. In this cooperation, as-if of ourselves, lie all the Heavenly states. Thus are we blessed.
For more on microdescriptions, consult this report: Taxonomy of Microdescriptions on the Daily Round: Part 1
Sent from Heaven,
Thy rays were given
On great and small to shine,
O Light Divine!
Thou blessing to all creation
Lead us to our salvation.
Oh, shine from above,
Divine Light of Love!
Show us the way unto our God, we pray!
Thou our beacon and guide shalt be!
Light Divine, we praise Thee!
(Carl Fischer, Inc.)
The Word has three senses, one within the other. The sense of
the letter is compared to a ruby or diamond; the spiritual sense within that is compared
to light that enlightens; and the inmost sense within that is compared to heat that
enkindles (see Doctrine
Concerning the Sacred Scripture., 42). This threefold relationship may be
expressed in a diagram for clearer comprehension, as follows:
The six steps joined by arrows indicate a cycle of study to be repeated endlessly in the life of men and women and angels. Step 1 constitutes the external study of the Word such as becoming familiar with its historicals and scientifics. Step 2 constitutes the study of the first internal of the Word such as the doctrinal drawn from the sense of the letter. Through this sense light is given by the Lord so that spiritual things regarding the goods and trues may be seen translucent and shining forth from the historicals, representatives, and scientifics in the literal sense of the Word. Step 3 constitutes the study of the second internal of the Word such as the recognition in oneself of the states of the Church or of the states of glorification the Lord underwent in all its series and order. These three steps are joined in the diagram by broken arrows to distinguish them from the last three steps.
Steps 4, 5, and 6 are in the opposite direction from steps 1, 2, and 3. This relation is to indicate that the uses of Divine Truth by us is dependent upon adequate study and preparation in everyday living situations. As we regularly and continually practice religious self-inspection we are in fact performing steps 1,2, and 3 relative to the Word. Only to the extent that is done, can we perform steps 4, 5, and 6 which constitute the genuine uses of Divine Truth.
At step 4 we are placed into the sphere of Heaven
through angelic affections. In this state of the Church in us we experience the
enkindling heat of love from the Lord into the Lord and toward the neighbor. At step
3 we have gained an understanding of charity in life, or the good of faith. From
this practical understanding of Divine Truth in our living situations we are enkindled
with zeal to act from celestial affections. Step 5 is thus the externalization of
angelic affections; it is the descent of the Heavenly Doctrine within us into our
perceptions or intuitions. Step 6 is the ultimate externalization (or descent) of
Divine Truth in our deeds and delights as heavenly uses on earth.
Now let us examine the way in which this 6-step
process operates constantly as we study the Threefold Testament of the Word. We are not to
think that these steps are advanced by stages of life exclusively. Rather, all of us
as regenerating persons through the Lord's Second Advent, undergo the 6 steps constantly
in the various departments of our social, psychological, and spiritual living.
In this next table the Threefold Testament is drawn to correspond to the Threefold Heaven. As there are three senses to each of the three Testaments the diagram constitutes an "ennead matrix," which is to say, a "ninefold" relation. We thus have nine varieties of relationship to the Word as there are nine types of degrees into which the societies of the Grand Human are organized.
|Diagram V. b||
The Lord as the Human Divine Omnipotent
The Lord as Divine Truth separated in ultimates
The Lord in His visible Divine Human glorified
Believing in the operation
of the Holy Spirit within us
Studying the message in the Lord's Life, Miracles, and Parables
Studying states of the
Church within ourselves
|LITERAL OR NATURAL
Obeying the Ten
Obeying the Lord's New
Studying correspondences, doctrines, and memorable relations
There are 9 zones in this ennead matrix reflecting the three senses of the three Testaments. As well, each of the three Heavens has three regions: an outer region, an intermediate region, and an inmost region; these three regions correspond to the three Testaments. The 9 zones correspond to our states of relationship to Divine Truth in the activity of being regenerated by the Lord through His Second Advent. The first level (I) is represented by steps 1,2, and 3, which are the literal sense of the three Testaments. The second level (II) is represented by steps 4, 5, and 6, which are the spiritual sense of the three Testaments. The third level (III) is represented by the inmost or celestial sense of the three Testaments. The three levels (I, II, and III) correspond to ever more interior journeys into the three Heavens, or the Word. The inmost relationship we can have with Divine Truth, or the Word, is pictured in zone 9, a state in which we perceive the celestial sense of the Third Testament. This highest sense of the Word deals with the arcana of the Lord in His visible Divine Human, the very source of all Divine Love, Wisdom, and Power in the universe and in the soul of the human race.
Later, you may wish to study this notion of the ennead matrix and its applications in life: The Ennead Matrix of the Threefold Self: Affective, Cognitive, Sensorimotor.
Jesus, Bread of Life, I pray Thee,
Let me gladly here obey Thee.
By Thy Love I am invited.
Be Thy Love with love requited.
From this Supper let me measure,
Lord, how vas and deep Love's treasure.
Through the gifts Thou dost give me
As Thy guest in Heaven receive me.
17th Century Hymn, (Brockes Passion) (Concordia Publishing House)
We have discussed
the thesis that we have a ninefold or enneadic relationship to the Word, and that the
regenerating person from the Lord undergoes these nine varieties of spiritual states. The
method through which we can cooperate, as-if of ourselves, in this reformation of our
character has been described as a particular type of religious self-inspection whose
purpose is to judge ourselves in every single act, thought, or intention of our will and
understanding. We are continually to explore and examine our
thoughts, intentions, and reactions in order to observe and identify the many varieties of
our own proprial evils, and thereupon to cast out each one of them by shunning further
voluntary contact with them as sins against the Lord. If this be done as a constant
daily practice our movement through the 9 zones becomes visible so that we may cooperate
with the Lord freely, as-if of ourselves.
In order to obtain a still clearer comprehension of how we are to perform religious self-inspection, we may consider an ennead matrix: called the "ninefold self" which is patterned exactly upon the ninefold relationship we have to the Word, as outlined before. This ninefold relationship stems from the order of degrees in which the Heavens are and which correspond exactly to the three senses of the three Testaments. It ought not to be thought that in these holy matters regarding our relationship to Divine Truth we are at liberty to invent or theorize whatever seems reasonable to us, as is the case in the various branches of science, philosophy, and theology. Instead we must always proceed from illustration given by the Lord when we study the Word for the purpose of learning the scientifics of our own regeneration that we may better cooperate with the Lord as-if of ourselves.
The ninefold self to be now presented originates from the pattern given to us by the organization of the three Testaments and their three senses as revealed in the Heavenly Doctrine. Since by Divine Order there are nine types of relationships we can have to the Word, we are to think of the self as also being constructed of these nine types of organic structure. The following diagram helps us gain a clearer comprehension of the self's nine organic parts:
Diagram VI. a
(e.g., abilities, capacities, & aptitudes)
(e.g., the social viirtues & conscience)
(e.g., love into the Lord)
(e.g., memory-knowledges & scientifics)
(e.g., understanding of correspondences)
(e.g., perception & illustration)
|DELIGHTS & PRODUCTS
(e.g., enjoyments & products of science & arts)
(e.g., production & use of doctrines)
(e.g., works of charity & states of conjugial love)
READ FROM BOTTOM UP
This table pictures a ninefold relation between the three parts of the self in successive degrees (horizontal dimension on the diagram) and in simultaneous degrees (vertical dimension) The three successive parts of the self correspond to the three successive states of the external church as portrayed in the Old Testament, New Testament, and Third Testament, respectively. The Old Testament corresponds to our Natural Self. The New Testament corresponds to the Rational Self. The Third Testament corresponds to the Celestial Self. The simultaneous degrees are ordered from inmost (Affections) , through intermediates (Cognitions) to externals (Sensorimotor Delights & Products).
It should be understood that the purpose of this
and other diagrams is to help us make more explicit and clearer the knowledge we acquire
when we study the Word from a reverend sense of duty and love into the Lord. It would not be possible to acquire an understanding of the holy
things portrayed through these diagrams solely by reading these explanations.
Rather, an understanding of the interior and real sense of these holy things can be gained
only from a direct study of the Word while striving to enact them in our daily decisions
and choices and attitudes. As an adjunct to this study, the reader
may peruse these diagrams to summarize and perhaps confirm the holy things from the
Word. Eventually every person may profit by constructing their own diagrams.
These are the memory-knowledges or scientifics we receive from the Lord through the Word.
But the real and important use of the diagrams come when they are internalized as maps of one's own progression in the regenerating life. Then, as we study the Word in the context of our daily living situations, maps or diagrams spontaneously form in our understanding making the truths received to appear in a clearer light. As we perform religious self-inspection, the internalized maps or system of degrees help us recognize the spiritual states behind our natural acts. This identification or localization contributes significantly to our efforts in shunning our evils as sins against the Lord.
Only to the extent that this work of purification and reformation is grounded in active repentance of all our evils can we cooperate in our regeneration by the Lord, in freedom and as-if of ourself. Our state of external blessedness in conjunction with the Lord is attained in proportion to our success in this holy endeavor.
Every human being is a child of God. Every religion that strengthens people's conscience for the good and the true reveres God and saves society from falling into bestiality and destruction. All religions are united in the ideal that there is no good and true apart from God. Every true religion teaches that God is One. All religious peoples of the world have Sacred Scriptures or Writings which are held to be Divinely inspired, hence Divine and Holy. In their essence all Sacred Scriptures reflect God because they are from God. These truths and realities need to be taught to every generation as rules of living. Religious feelings calm the mind and strengthen character. It is only politicking about religion that stirs disagreement, dispute, and prejudice. But when the desire is to find agreements about God, all religions have a wealth to offer. These are the varieties of good and truth, the beauty and glory of our common Divine Father.
Number 5135:3,4 in the Arcana Coelestia summarizes a number of truths which all external religions share. We may reword them as a list:
(1) There is a God Who is everywhere.
(2) God is one Divine Being, as each human being is one individual.
(3) God creates everything and controls whatever happens.
(4) God rewards those who will well, think well, and act well. But those who will, think, or act badly lose everything that is good and true with them.
(5) When we die we live in Heaven forever if we like to be good. But those who like to be bad live in Hell forever.
(6) God wants us to pray to Him every day. We need to ask Him to please show us how to be good.
(7) God wants us to study Sacred Scriptures because it is His Word and from that we can know what is good and true.
(8) God wants us to keep a day of the week holy for worship.
(9) God wants us to honor our parents, to respect the church of our religion, to love our country, and to do our duty at all times.
(10) God wants us to stop lying, and stealing, and making fun of people.
(11) God wants us to stop hurting people and He wants us to stop being unchaste.
(12) The more you try to be good according to Sacred Scriptures the more you feel free, and hence, the more you are happy and satisfied.
(13) When you try to be good you are loving the Lord God and He in turn is happy with you. But when you hurt someone and do not try to make up for it you are not loving the Lord and He is sad. The Lord keeps waiting for you to change your mind and be good again.
(14) Those who try to be good are our friends, but those who insist on being bad no matter what, are not our friends.
(15) To be good is to try to do what the Lord wants you to do. To be bad is to do what you want to do.
(16) The Lord wants you to be like Him: obedient, honest, and religious.
(17) To be religious means to watch out for God in every single act, thought, and desire.
(18) There are two ways to watch out for God in everything: first, always to listen to our conscience; second, every day to study Sacred Scriptures or the Word of God.
(19) Good angels from Heaven lead us when we follow our conscience; bad spirits from Hell lead us when we disobey our conscience.
(20) Our conscience tells us to share with our friends everything we like and enjoy.
(21) There is a good and proper way to share and a bad and improper way. We know the difference when we follow the example of parents, elders, and officials.
(22) The more you enjoy something the more you owe thanks to the Lord your God. But when you are sad or in suffering, the Lord weeps with you and looks to changing your state so that you can be happy again.
(23) When you are afraid, sad, or unhappy, remind yourself that the Lord your God is in charge and your job is to trust Him at all times no matter what happens. Keep thinking about what Sacred Scriptures teach, which is that the Lord turns every event, no matter how bad, into something good.
(24) When you feel antsy, agitated, bored, go get yourself something good to eat while you study your favorite parts of Sacred Scriptures until you are content again.
(25) When you feel sad or depressed read passages of Sacred Scriptures which tell of the Lord's grief for the human race. Let yourself cry. Then the Lord will uplift your spirit and instead of sadness you'll feel joy.
The phenomenon of temptations is central to the study of Religious Psychology though it is unknown in Psychology where the word is used to refer to lapses in our duty or morality and is not viewed as a process of organic spiritual development. It is well known in religious doctrines and the subject of temptations is explicitly discussed in all Sacred Scriptures, each in their own tradition. For example, the New Testament tells us that Jesus underwent temptations. As well, we are taught in Sacred Scriptures that our thoughts and intentions are evil and it is required that we purify them through resisting temptations. In the Old Testament we are told how Job was severely tempted by Satan. In the Third Testament we read that temptations are the very means by which the Lord regenerates everyone. A person may therefore ask, Where are my temptations? This surely ought to be an important subject in Religious Psychology since temptations are the means by which we are regenerated, and to be regenerated is the goal and love of all.
Where are my temptations? This inquiry is indeed to be taken very seriously by every individual. The state of the Church within us determines the nature and severity of our temptations at any time and in any area of life. When we are in the state of the Old Church within us we are given by the Lord to experience first degree temptations; these are at a relatively low but basic level of the self. We may think of them as natural temptations, or temptations of the Natural Self. These temptations are grouped and identified, as in the Ten Commandments: we must not give in to the temptations of
These are temptations that all socialized human beings must learn to overcome or control within their thoughts or impulses. The Lord manages every temptation so as to bring about the individual's spiritual growth. Not a single exception ever occurs as temptations follow a fixed and unchangeable Order governed by the Lord.
In Religious Psychology we may view temptations as the study of spiritual growth and development. How does the individual grow spiritually? Where can we look so as to observe this operation? To home in on this area we may consider the examples in the accompanying chart:
(Will; Love; Good)
|(i) It's not up to me to do it.
(ii) You didn't do it, did you.
(iii) Oh that, it's awful.
(iv) I don't deserve this kind of treatment.
(v) I don't feel like, so I don't have to.
(Understanding; Truth; Faith)
|(i) It does look bad.
(ii) It's not my responsibility
(iii) I'll do it some other time.
(iv) Don't bother me now.
(v) Why should I do it?
|(i) I'm too tired to do it now
(ii) I'm too busy to remember it.
(iii) I'm too nervous to try it.
(iv) I'm enjoying it too much to stop.
(v) I can't really believe that it's bad for me.
READ FROM BOTTOM UP
Self-justification is a second degree temptation that hinges on our reasonings whereby we appropriate rights to ourself and against others in the areas of duty, responsibility, and propriety. We need to observe how we make our reasoning come out with permission to do something even though we suspect it is self-serving; the reasoning we come up with appears to justify us in our stance. Deep down we know otherwise. Our higher will to be good instructs us, as it were, concerning what's right or wrong. This battle of reasonings is the visible manifestation of the temptation we are experiencing. Later, you can check these documents we have on matters related to temptations, which also contain relevant quotations from the Writings.
Within the second degree, temptations can be classified in relation to the three domains of the human mind: the will (III) the understanding (II), and sensorimotor uses of external life (I). The chart lists specific cases that occur to us when we are in the New Church state and arranges them in the three domains of the self: spiritual temptations for the Spiritual Self, moral temptations for the Rational Self, and corporeal temptations for the Natural Self.
In the external domain of life, called the Natural Self, we may focus and inspect our errors of logic. For example, we look at an excuse or complaint we just made in a situation, either to others or to ourself. We said out loud, or thought to ourself, "I'm too tired to do it now." or I'm too nervous to try it. and by saying this we feel absolved of responsibility. This feeling of guiltlessness results from the severity of our temptation. In this state we experience spiritual, moral, and logical obscurity or "darkness." This feeling of guiltlessness becomes oppressive. Deep down we know we are wrong yet we feel guiltless! It is a state of Godlessness; it hardens our heart and stiffens our neck; it strengthens our resolve to be right even if bad! It is a state of suffering and labor. We are aware that we are disturbed in our uses and in our delights. We experience a lack of delight in our dark victory. We experience negative emotions towards ourselves and others. We observe ourselves in callous behavior. We feel impure. This outlook colors everything dark blue or black. Or else we act in a manic style, too loud, too fast, too insistent, too ticklish, too defensive, too sure of ourselves, and so on. Our rhythm is off; we do not co-ordinate with others. We long for a change. We fall into further temptations as if in an unending chain. We feel ourselves out of control. We are in trouble!
This is the character and quality of corporeal temptations in the New Church state within us. They are provided for our spiritual growth in the second degree of regeneration. The New Testament gives a precise record of corporeal temptations in the New Church state. Some of these are given in the sense of the letter, but others are hidden in the interior sense of doctrines, miracles, and parables taught by the Lord in the Gospels and require a revealed code to be known. This code has been revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg (1688-1772), an event that constitutes the Second Advent of Christ in Spirit, the very one foretold by the Lord Himself when He was in the world. This idea is central to the Writings and well documented and proven in numerous places there.
When we are thus in trouble in the New Church state within us we must wait in a patient and prayerful attitude until the Lord provides us with weapons of defense by which we may change our miserable state. We continue to transact with others and to carry out our daily activities. We will ourselves not to make things worse out of already a bad situation. This process may go on for a few moments or hours or days or for longer periods of time. In His infinite mercy and wisdom the Lord supervises this growth process most keenly as would a most loving and kindly nurse in some temporary sickness we have. He is gentle but firm, yielding just a bit in one moment but insistent again the next moment. He works through our own will and understanding making sure that we lose neither our rationality nor our freedom. Thus we experience the combat as if it were our own. We feel that we are pulled and pushed by our own will and reasoning. Though we see ourself act from uncontrollable impulse, yet we claim this impulse as our own, as our deeper and higher self.
At one moment, all of a sudden and without warning, a new and fresh idea enters our reasoning and conscious thought. Our will becomes empowered with a new impulse. This new idea is now able to conquer all our previous reasonings that now try to stand up in its way, but to no avail. It is the terrible swift sword of our King and Savior, the conquering Christ, Divine Truth itself, the Holy Spirit, the Angel of the Lord! This new idea conquers all the old enemies of the land. It chases away all the old worries and anxieties. It sees through our errors in logic; it can choose between available alternatives without bogging down in technicalities. We are saved! We conquer, we overcome. We are empowered to think new thoughts, to feel new feelings, and to break forth into new actions. The period of temptation is at an end. We feel it was worth it. We have clean garments, a new house. We are pure where we were impure. Our leprosy is healed. We feel gratitude and love toward the Lord. A new closeness with Him is inaugurated. We feel and we are blessed. Contentment, happiness, and a new competence are our rewards. Truly it is then the Sabbath.
Let us now consider the nature and quality of moral
temptations. These occur in our cognitive disturbances, in the understandings
of our Rational Self rather than in the sensorimotor activities of our Natural Self.
Cognitive disturbances are about truth and faith rather than external emotions and
acts. For example, suppose we excuse our forgetting
something by thinking "Oh, well, I'm too busy to remember it." meaning,
"I'm not to be blamed for it given the attenuating circumstances." This is
a moral temptation: it challenges the Rational Self. Our rational is overcome. We
are incapable of coming up with something our rational self can use to make us feel guilty
for insufficient care. We ought to feel guilty for forgetting our duty and
responsibility, for not thinking it important enough to keep in the forefront of our focus
and attention, yet we feel guiltless. We are acting like a moral
pariah! Like a psychopath without a conscience. But we are helpless to change
our state. We are unable to convict ourself, to convince ourself that we are guilty
of neglect:. We feel self-justified and in the right. We are unable to
acknowledge our wrong or feel remorse for it. Instead we feel righteous, deserving.
We are in trouble once again!
When we experience moral temptations we are to persist in our attempts to get free by invoking the Commandments of the New Testament. We are to remind ourselves that we do love the Lord. We remind ourselves that the Lord can and will deliver us with His Divine Truth, His Spirit of counsel and comfort.
When the process is at an end, the cognitive disturbance dissipates. All of a sudden we see through the contradictions; we now can resolve the paradoxes. Whereas in the state of moral temptation we said, It's not my responsibility. It really isn't. That's all there is to it. That's the truth. etc." now we say, "Yes, but that's bringing in a non-essential element. It may be true, but it's also an excuse. And surely that takes precedence." And we really feel that it does take precedence, that the fact we were held fascinated by was merely a self-serving excuse, that though it appeared true, yet it was not good. And by this thought and feeling we are liberated from the combat.
Genuine truth, which is the servant of good, is now restored to us. Our faith becomes more beautiful and more powerful than before. We really understand things now in this new light and new warmth. We are renewed in our resolve to battle ourselves, to purify ourselves, to be healed from blindness, and deafness, and paralysis. We feel more responsible for our effects on others. We write things down to make sure we won't forget. We rehearse it in our mind many times a day to make sure we won't forget this time. We are reformed in our character. That particular weakness is no longer going to trouble us. Praise be to the Lord! Such is the character and progress of moral temptations.
We may now consider spiritual temptations which are affectional disturbances. These are the inmost and most grievous of temptations. In the New Church state spiritual temptations are about one's religious life. We experience a change in our religious affections. Our highest ideals and deepest motives are affected. It's not just that our logic is faulty (as in the corporeal temptations); neither is it merely that our rationality or morality is obscured (as in moral temptations). Here a deeper source is weakened and turned off, as it were: our will to love and be good is replaced by a will to be bad, to punish, and to taste sweetness in vengeance or rebellion. We feel that we deserve a break; we feel a kind of strength in our commitment to assert our rebellion; we feel it's our turn now, our chance that we ought to seize, our opportunity to grab. We take and we are not afraid. We reject and we feel justified. We judge and we feel privileged. These are the acts we perform within ourselves.
This state of
temptation called spiritual, is an onslaught against our inner temple of worship.
Hordes of enemies assail us yet we feel confident and secure. We lose the capacity
to feel horror or shame. We are a god unto ourself! We say to ourself, "I don't
have to do it." We say to another, "I don't deserve this kind of
treatment." We feel free to criticize, to point out errors, to give advice, to choose
between others according to our personal likes. We use our intelligence and
competence to convict others of their faults and to pressure them into directions we
select. We turn cold inside. We are no longer truly human. No one can
reach us with their love or honesty or kindness or need. It is all over with us as
nice and decent folk. It is finished with us!
Then all of a sudden the sun breaks over our
horizon and it is morning and summertime. Heat melts the coldness away and our
spiritual organs revive. How beautiful and vast and wonderful are the steps of Him
Who walks on water, turns water into wine, and feeds the five-thousand with one loaf of
bread. His strong arm is felt lifting us out of our misery. His Sheppard's voice
brings tears of happiness. There is an aura of flowers, an aroma of spices, a sphere
of freshness. Peace settles in, an impregnable fortress. We walk like a giant
oak; we extend our influence as a giant ocean. We are blessed with perception and
illustration and wisdom. Praise be to the Lord! Such is the character and
progression of spiritual temptations.
We may now inquire concerning the mechanism by which spiritual growth is accomplished by the Lord through temptations. The workings of the human mind are detailed in the explanations found in the Third Testament. After reviewing what is told therein we may ask how we might confirm these truths about ourselves. It is taught that we are born into two orders of community life. Our membership in a cultural-historical group such as "American," dawns on us at around puberty and, as we grow older, we more and more realize that we owe our way of life and our values and goals to fellow Americans who labored and thought and discovered things before us. It dawns on us that we merely inherited and acquired these things from them. As well, we realize that our daily survival depends on the community we live in; our food, our shelter, our security, our entertainment and happiness. This extensive relationship with fellow nationals, past and contemporary, may be called our horizontal community. Such is the will of the Lord that we may know our ties to others for no one lives alone.
Later in life, as we enter the New Church state within us, we come to marvel and wonder about our intimate life with spirits and guardian angels. Though we are not directly aware of them, we yet know theoretically from the sense of the letter of the Writings that they are constantly with us, that we cannot think a thought or experience an emotion without their direct involvement with us, with our cognitions and our affections and our bodily functions. This intimate relation with spirits and angels, and our dependence on them, may be called our vertical community. You may want take a few minutes to explore this notion in more detail in these two documents, but don't forget to click back here, so you can continue.
Our spiritual growth, brought about by the Lord
through temptations He provides for us, is a growth in which the vertical community
participates in a direct way. We are told that our mind is always in intimate
consociation with the minds of many others simultaneously. Hence when we are in a temptation state our activities are by no means of
neutral significance to the spirits and angels who are consociated with us at the
time. In fact, every temptation we undergo is of momentous import to myriad of human
beings in the vertical community. There is an interdependence of fate, a joint
victory or defeat, a communal celebration or mourning. When we win, they also win, but
when we lose, they also lose.
Neither the spirits nor the angels know of these
interconnections in specific detail as they are occurring. We all only know that
their thoughts draw upon our memories and that their strivings are fulfilled by our
affections; but we and they do not have a direct perception of this in the way Swedenborg
had during his years of illustration and twin-life in the two worlds. Nevertheless
the Lord gives us a perception of the contingencies between their thoughts and
our memories, and between their loves and our affections.
We may inform ourselves concerning this by studying the spiritual geography and history given us in the Three Testaments. For example, the Land of Canaan in the Old Testament contains the geography and history of our own regeneration as effected by the Lord. The inhabitants thereof identify for us the temptations we must undergo to be regenerated and to complete our spiritual growth. The accompanying diagram illustrates aspects of this relationship:
STATE OF TEMPTATION
STATE OF RESOLUTION
|Joseph carried into slavery||Joseph as ruler and benefactor|
|Absence of Benjamin||Presence of Benjamin|
|Jacob's sons fearing Joseph||Jacob's sons reconciled to Joseph|
This subject continues in this article: Moses, Paul, and Swedenborg
Throughout this essay we highlighted in blue ink some propositions to be focused on, remembered, considered, and understood by way of an overview and summary-outline. We have collected these selections in this last section in order to help those who want a convenient summary or outline to relate to. If you want to retrace the paragraph each came from, use the Find Command under the Edit Menu: Highlight the passage, give the Copy Command, then give the Find Command, then the Paste Command, then hit return.
Psychology espouses the negative bias approach while religious psychology is wedded to the positive bias method. Though they are distinct in method their goals overlap to a significant extent. This overlap is not total in that religious psychology has both natural and spiritual objectives, while psychology has only natural and moral goals. In the sense of the Writings of Swedenborg, both psychologies are "scientifics," yet natural psychology in the negative bias is quite a different scientific than religious psychology in the positive bias. The difference that is crucial is the positive vs. the negative method regarding our dual citizenship. In religious psychology we proceed with the spiritual facts as given in the Three Testaments; namely, that we have dual citizenship -- one temporal-natural, the other eternal-spiritual. Having accepted this reality as a rational reality, we are freed from the bounds of natural explanations for psychological phenomena. Instead, we now can use spiritual explanations for natural behaviors, just as the most ancient people of this planet were able to do through the science of correspondences. This knowledge was subsequently lost and the advent of the negative bias in science subsequently blotted out all rational evidence of this reality. It was doubted, then denied, that such a science could exist. This denial of our dual citizenship greatly weakened the power of psychology to apply itself to the ills of society. Consequently these ills have multiplied and intensified to the extent that it is common nowadays for everyone to experience a negative life marked by some positive moments.
Psychology in the negative bias has spent a great deal of effort in naturalistic work; that is, the work of isolating, identifying, and explaining a large number of facts about our physical, mental, and interpersonal life. Many psychologists express satisfaction at the fact that psychology as a field of knowledge has accumulated a stable degree of knowledge about human nature. This satisfaction of psychology's success is confirmed by not only coherent and ingenious theories, but as well numerous applications to society's needs in psychotherapy, counseling, neurophysiology and medicine, educational testing and instructional programming, in industrial work settings, and even in religious pastoral work. All of this success is attributed to the scientific research of psychologists in their laboratory and field observations using the rigors of statistical manipulation.
The issue that concerns us is that society continues to have vast human problems that seem to get worse despite what we all, in all the fields of science and government, can do about it. This is of concern to us, and we strongly feel that religious psychology has a significant part to contribute to this vast human suffering. Those who acknowledge the tenets of their religion proceed in their scientific work as if in the negative bias. In other words our dual citizenship is never called upon to be acknowledged in our science, medicine, engineering, business, education, the government. This separation of state and church, as it is called, is a constitutional feeling of patriotism with many. Prayer in school is opposed not because of atheism of the parents but because people feel that freedom of religious practices is thereby protected. And we agree.
The political freedom of religious practice applies to the external church, by necessity, since government does not make laws about our inner world of thoughts and feelings. The external religious behaviors include overt prayer, church attendance, monetary contributions, sacraments, rituals, publishings, schools, special foods, and the like. All these external religious behaviors are protected by the constitution and our collective love for freedom and the ideals of democracy. Within this cultural context, then, we see it desirable to separate our spiritual reality from the natural.
Religious psychology has a different vantage point on this issue of separation of our outer self or citizenship from our inner self or citizenship. Outer and inner citizenship are integrated in the same sense as an explanation integrates cause and effect. The assumption and acknowledgment of religious psychology is that we are the way the Word of God has revealed it to us in the Three Testaments (the Bible and Swedenborg's Writings). From this departure point, religious psychology evolves methods, theories, and applications. We are informed in the Word that we have dual citizenship; that is, our body lives on earth but our spirit lives in the spiritual world. The spiritual world we are told is the place of the afterlife. In the Third Testament these general facts are exploded into thousands of specific facts regarding the details of the mind, the societies of the spiritual world, and the specific mechanisms through which the interconnection between our body and spirit is accomplished. This interconnection is scientifically called cause-effect. In this case, the spiritual phenomenon is prior, precedes, and determines the natural phenomenon which is thus its result or consequence. Further, nothing in the natural world can exist without a corresponding thing in the spiritual world; if something in the spiritual world were to vanish, a corresponding counterpart in the natural world would also vanish. Finally, all natural laws are dependent on spiritual laws; if a spiritual law is changed there is an instantaneous corresponding change in a natural law; a natural law cannot be changed except by changing a corresponding spiritual law first.
These facts make it imperative that we consult the Word regarding the nature and source of society's problems. Surely it is to be expected that knowledge about the causes of effects would allow us to control the effects better. So if human problems and suffering are natural effects of spiritual causes then we may expect to solve these problems better if we study their causes. This is a principal objective of religious psychology, and in this respect we may label this interest as applied religious psychology.
We need to make a list of the problems we encounter as human communities on this planet. The information is readily available in public libraries and in the daily news. Perhaps we ought to begin with the categories now in use, much of which is the system of theory and research in psychology with the negative bias. Here is a brief selection of library subject headings that categorize much university research and government regulations in the area of human problems of major importance:
-accidents -excessive dependence
-violence -low morale
These are general labels for a multitude of physical and mental ills that beset all societies including the most advanced. These are our government's top priorities in granting research moneys to researchers in the behavioral and biomedical disciplines in the negative bias. These problems have no definite solutions though psychologists and social workers and public health practitioners all have had some recognizable degree of success in their limited endeavors. As a whole, however, they do not possess the knowledge and know how to stop the deteriorating conditions of life in crowded cities.
Religious psychologists would approach these problems from the distinct vantage point of our knowledge of the details of dual citizenship as given in the Word of the Three Testaments. For example, New Church practitioners in mental health and education have altered their practice from the theories of the negative bias to the spiritual facts disclosed in the Writings of Swedenborg. Much of this material is available from the General Church of the New Jerusalem at Bryn Athyn, Pennsylvania. This Philadelphia neighborhood of around fifty thousand people supports its own publishings, sound recordings, libraries, schools, and cathedral. They are known as New Church people or "Swedenborgians." This means that they are committed to living their life in accordance with the facts revealed in the Writings of Swedenborg, which they hold to be Divinely inspired Sacred Scripture, and call it the Word along with the Old and New Testaments of the Christian Bible. Because they are intellectually isolated within the American scene, New Church educators, scientists, and artists have had to design totally new explanations and procedures for their research and educational program. Knowing of the reality of our dual citizenship we can no longer look upon history or biography in the same way as it is presented everywhere. New Church educators have designed curricula that fit the stages of the growth of the mind as revealed in the Word. For instance, the Old Testament describes the steps of creation; in the Writings of Swedenborg it is explained that these steps of creation were accounts written down by ancient people who still knew of the science of correspondences. And so, through this knowledge, they knew a lot about the growth of the mind and what affects it. They wrote these correspondences not as a chart or list, as we might do it today, but wove them into a dramatic narrative such as we are given in the first eleven chapters of the Book of Genesis. We are informed that Moses copied these chapters from the Ancient Word, of which fragments still existed in his time. The Ancient Word was a genuine Bible given by Divine revelation. The New Church educator and mental health practitioner know this and accept it as true. There is therefore a felt religious and rational obligation to make use of these facts in one's occupation and profession.
New Church educators advise New Church parents to keep reminding their children of our dual citizenship. For example, New Church children in Bryn Athyn (and other General Church communities) are told that when they are being bad they are just doing what evil spirits put them up to; similarly, when they are being good they are to be told that they are just doing what the angels put them up to. To the average American this practice would sound dangerous; psychology and common sense seem to suggest that telling children spirits make them do things is flirting with mental trouble and emotional disturbance. Some extreme reactions might even be that the government shouldn't license schools where such things are taught to children there. These reactions stem from our common experience with emotional disturbance and mental illness which are so prevalent in our society. We read in psychology books that many mental patients hear voices from spirits, see ghosts, talk to God, claim to be given Divine rights to do what they please, and other such disturbing insanities. So right away we might think that telling children they have spirits within them would make it more likely that they would grow up to be less stable or even prone to mental illness.
However after we reflect some more and examine a number of considerations, we might not feel the same way at all. First, it is possible that society's vast problems are caused by denying that spirits are within us. Second, the Bryn Athyn community has raised many generations of dual citizens, some of whom can be found in all the branches of science, professions, and government. They have served in the military with all the distinctions of other individuals, they are indistinguishable from others in external appearance, capacity, and mental health. Third, the so called "voices" of the schizophrenic, the drug user, the mystic, the medium, may indeed be aberrations of our dual citizenship. These individuals have found ways to go against the normal spiritual order in our dual citizenship which prevents conscious connection between the two worlds. Much light is shed on this in the Writings of Swedenborg and is used in the work of New Church educators and mental health practitioners.
The perspective of New Church practitioners on the problems of society may now be explored using the subject headings previously given.
Alcoholic Anonymous has a religious creed, though it is nondenominational within the American scene. The medical and psychological programs in alcoholism are in the negative bias. Pastoral counseling includes prayer and Bible study for the spirit but uses psychology in the negative bias for mental health. Thus' wherever they turn to, alcoholics are not informed that it is spirits within them that make them drink. Recovery from alcoholism is uncertain and very slow, taking decades or a whole lifetime. Most alcoholics destroy their social life and body before they are even willing to admit they have a serious problem. There is thus an apparent helplessness we observe in alcoholism. This type of helplessness is characteristic of physical and mental addictions. In the Third Testament we are given many facts that relate to this state of helplessness. New Church writers explain that all physical and mental diseases are caused by spirits inflowing into our thoughts and feelings where they cause obsession and compulsions that lead to mental and physical illness.
This fact by itself might not be sufficient for an applied religious psychology in the positive bias. How do we use this fact in our practice? Why do the New Church practitioners not have a great deal more success than the others? Why aren't New Church Americans way above average in success, mental health, and physical strength? The reason we offer is that the facts of the Word we are given represent trues that are still to be applied to life. Bishop Philip N. Odhner, of the Lord's New Church which is Nova Hieorosolyma at Bryn Athyn, has taught for many years that New Church people, or followers of Swedenborg, need to evolve deeper stages of understanding dual citizenship before they will become substantially superior in their approach to solving human ills. This is however an individual struggle, and the community can expect to derive benefits from it only to the extent that there are individuals within it who evolve in themselves a deeper understanding of the facts given us in the Word of the Three Testaments.
Bishop Odhner's insight is open for confirmation by anyone who is willing to make the effort of actualizing dual citizenship in their everyday transactions. To the extent that New Church people live like others in their thoughts and feelings all day long, to that extent they will be harassed by the same problems and weaknesses as everybody else. But to the extent that they have their dual citizenship in front of their daily transactions, to that extent they will exhibit a superior growth and self control. This would be the principle to follow in attacking the problems of society, including alcoholism.
The Word does not specify explicitly how we should design a program of re-training alcoholics, though study of the Word's interior senses may reveal unexpected things. In the meantime, we may wonder what procedure an alcoholic should follow to get rid of haunting spirits that make them drink. In the absence of such a program that we know of, we may venture to design one on theoretical grounds as based on whatever facts we can glean from the Word. Whatever programs we design will be a reflection of the understanding we've been granted. We all receive enlightenment on issues from the spiritual world in accordance with our willingness to prepare for it in accordance with the Word's injunctions as to how we ought to conduct our lives. Then, we are told, that within our good strivings there will inflow from the spiritual world trues and wisdom and understanding.
First, alcoholics need to be taught the facts of dual citizenship. Regarding the physical body, they need to study and acquire a great deal of details about physiology and nutrition. This knowledge is equivalent to the knowledge of health food enthusiasts who altered their lifestyles in eating, exercise, and medicine,based on their self-education efforts and practices. So, the alcoholic needs to be taught those facts. Regarding the spiritual body, they need to study and acquire a great deal of details about religious psychology. This knowledge is equivalent to the knowledge of New Church people who take seriously the daily study of the Bible and the Writings of Swedenborg. Thus, the first step to rehabilitate alcoholics is to teach them the facts of their dual citizenship.
Second, alcoholics need to apply these newly acquired knowledges to their daily situations. Religious psychology teaches the practice of religious sell-inspection. This involves a type of meditation or reflection at the very time the activity is being carried out. For alcoholics this will be especially salient when they are thinking about drinking or taking actions relating to their drinking. This method is not effective unless it is practiced on a continuous basis, day in and day out. Slowly, we begin to gain a deeper insight or, a rational understanding, of what it really is like to have dual citizenship. We begin to observe how we exercise our inner freedom in thoughts and feelings and what the consequences are of such free choices. We begin to see that we are not possessed by spirits bodily, as was the case in ancient times. We are free to reach for a glass or not to reach for it, enter a store or not enter it, digest our food calmly or get all worked up over something, and so on. We are free agents of our own will. Yet we begin to see that though we are totally free we do not exercise this freedom. We typically rely, not on freedom moment to moment, but on good old habits as supported by the social and physical environment. We are conformists in our lifestyles, imaginings, reasonings, attitudes, ideals. The fact that people of one culture do, think, and feel alike, is an outcome of each person giving up a great deal of freedom for the sake of tradition and familiarity. Of course, this is necessary for communal life on earth; nevertheless, it also means that we do not exercise a great deal of our actual freedom in our deeds, thoughts, and emotions.
Cultural and family habits of doing, thinking, and feeling thus exert strong constraints against the use of freedom. This makes us vulnerable to evils and falsities by inheritance or transference across generations. The reason we see so many ills besetting society on earth is that bad habits of thought and feeling are cumulatively transmitted to every generation. By spiritual law and order, evil spirits from the hells, who delight in the harm and destruction of society, are allowed to inflow into evil habits and false reasonings. Alcoholics, seniles, malnutrition cases, helpless and ignorant people, overzealous people, cruel and violent people, and so on, are actually victims of their inherited habits of thought and feeling. Each specific disease or weakness is caused by the association with some specific hell society. There are as many ills of society as there are evil spirit societies that specialize in some form of motivational aberration. The human mind can harbor countless spiritual associations through our dual citizenship. When our spirit comes into association with one of these hell societies, our mental and bodily functions are attacked in specific ways that correspond to the nature of the attacking societies.
We always have the freedom to change our spiritual associations. The Word explains that we are kept in these associations by the spirits who exploit our affections for specific things. For example, a person may notice his or her strong affinity or affection for the thoughts and feelings they experience when taking a drink of alcohol, or some other addictive drug. This is also the case with malnutrition that is caus~by overeating some kinds of foods and not eating enough of some other kinds of foods; these bad eating habits are due to an excessive attachment of the person to the delights one feels in their taste and their other sensory effects upon us. The person is literally starving because unwilling to give up certain tastes and sensations. The person has the freedom to give them up, but is unwilling. This attachment to a destructive habit is exploited by the evil spirits. As long as people ~ unwilling to liberate themselves from this habit, they are kept within the destructive obsessions and compulsions brought on by the malicious work of the evil spirits. This is the nexus of the alcoholic's problem: how to give up thoughts, feelings, emotions, sensations, pleasures, states of mind, which they enjoy too much to give up; or which they are afraid to give up for various imagined reasons.
As long as alcoholics attempt to do this from the perspective of the negative bias they will have a great deal of difficulty regain their freedom from the compulsive habit. They have no leverage; they feel to themselves as if they are being required to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. But this impotence is rectified when they are given the facts of dual citizenship. This new frame of reference for their actions empowers them to regain their freedom from the paralysis of the will. Rational understanding gives this power. The Second Coming of Christ has created the potential of a spiritual-rational self within us. This organic change can be activated through the sincere study of the Writings of Swedenborg.
A similar approach can be employed in geriatrics, in driver's education, in nutritional reforms, in wholistic medicine, in crime and violence, and the other ills of society.
Part 2 continues here under the title:
The Horizontal and Vertical Communities of our Dual Citizenship
Part 1 starts here under the title:
Religious Psychology: A Guide to Spiritual Self-examination
Some related articles are available here:
Spiritual Associations or The Vertical Community || The Vertical Community || Spiritual Psychology || Cyberpsychology: Cyberspace and the Spiritual World || The Postmodern Paradigm Shift in Psychology || Swedenborg's Status and Significance: A Great Paradox || Elements of Biological Theology
You may like to explore many of the concepts you encountered in this essay by looking at our Swedenborg Glossary.
You can see the outline for our book called Christ Against Road Rage if yo like.