Scientific discovery of Spiritual Laws given in Rational Scientific Revelations. TheisticPsychology.org


Course on TheisticPsychology by Leon James, University of Hawaii, Spring 2004..Available at: www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/theistic

 

 

Selections from Student Reports
On Douglas Taylor “A Spirituality that Makes Sense”
 

 

 

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From:   www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/cooper/report3.htm

 

            The two main textbooks to this course were Testimony to the Invisible Edited by James F. Lawrence and Spirituality that Makes Sense by Douglas Taylor. The two books deal with many subjects that stem from the works of Swedenborg. Testimony is a collection of essays by seven different authors that discuss the impact of Swedenborg on a number of famous literary figures including Dostoevsky, William Blake, Emerson, William Van Dusen, and D.T. Suzuki. The book gives the reader a contextual background of Swedenborg and how his influenced has spread through the minds of many famous individuals. By reading Testimony to the Invisible one gets an impression of both the quality and quantity of Swedenborg's Writings. y reading the various essays one can see the many different interpretations and impacts that the Writings of Swedenborg have had.

 

            Spirituality the Makes Sense is a book written by Swedenborgian minister Douglas Taylor. In the book Taylor tackles many different theological concepts dealt with in Swedenborg in hopes of "making sense" of it all. The book discusses different topics including God, Jesus, the Virgin birth, the Trinity, Heaven and Hell, faith, evil, good deeds, and "as-of-self". By discussing all these subjects Taylor attempts to rationally explain all the different complications, objections, and misunderstandings that are associated with all these topics.

 

            Through the reading of these two texts as well as the ever-growing pages of the lecture notes, one is presented with plenty of material to investigate and attempt to understand the works of Emanuel Swedenborg. That is, if one feels so inclined. By a proper investigation of the texts and lecture notes, one is able to discuss the main topic of this course, which is, mystical vs. rational spirituality.

 

(...)

 

Quotations from "Spiritualitythat Makes Sense"

 

“Our idea of God governs and controls all ourwishing and thinking, whether we realize it or not.” Taylor 4

 

This quote comesfrom one of the first sentences of Douglas Taylor’s book. I thinkthat what is being said here is of the utmost importance, for if one wishes todelve into the intellectual mysteries of faith, one must realize and understandthe importance of it. Our idea of God is what controls our thoughts and ourfeelings, whether we are aware of it or not. Even if one rarely thinks aboutGod, or doesn’t belief in God, the idea of God, or lack-there-of, stillinfluences every other thought and feeling.

 

God is thefountainhead of all ideas. God is the greatest possible idea that man canfathom. God is the most important idea also. One’s idea of God determines allof our other ideas. For if God is an idea that contains infinity, then God must be within every other idea. For any otherfinite idea cannot exist apart from the infinite idea of God.

 

If one trusts inan all-loving God, then this idea floods into all other thoughts and feelings,especially when one deals with fear. If one sees God as malign, then that ideacan cause an individual to be more harmful, frustrated, angered, paranoid, oranxious. The idea of God affects everything in our minds, whether we are awareof it or not. 

 

“We are meant to have an enlightened faith,a faith through understanding.”

-         -        Taylor 113

 

This statement Ihold to have the utmost importance. Faith and religion lie at the hearts ofman, whether they are aware of it or not. But the direction that the modernmind is developing is a direction that relies more and more on logicalcoherency, reason, and understanding. If faith is going to be something thatpeople incorporate into their lives, it needs to be a faith throughunderstanding. It is important that an understanding and rationality is appliedto faith, because if it is not, then it is merely blind, ritualistic,persuasive, or mystical. If this were the case than man would not be in trueagreement with what faith he attributes himself to.

 

The purpose offaith through understanding is so that faith makes sense. If it doesn’t makesense then it is without substance. It is through the understanding that man isable to raise his love into higher spiritual warmth. In order to develop onesfaith to higher levels, one must raise their understanding of faith andspiritual matters. For faith trying to endure without understanding is like aplant trying to grow without the light of the sun.

 

“The Lord never casts anyone into hell. Noris anyone cast into hell against his or her own wishes. People freely choose togo there for eternity because, while living on earth, they have chosen hell inpreference to heaven in most situations.”

-Taylor 41

 

I enjoy this quotefor a number of reasons. The main reason is that it addresses questions thatmany people have when it comes to the topic of God. Such as, “How can there beevil if God is all good?” “Why is there a hell? Why doesn’t God take everyoneto heaven?”

 

People aren’tpunished by a life in hell; they choose to go to hell. While we are in thisworld we are blessed with the gift of freedom. Through or conscious use of ourfree will, we choose what to do. When we choose to do and think things thatcontain hellish characteristics, then we are forming hellish habits. We are choosingto look away from heavenly warmth and light. When we do this we become morecomfortable with hellish things. Thus, we make ourselves spiritually nocturnal.People are in hell, because that is where they choose to be, because that iswhere they feel most comfortable. They don’t enjoy heavenly things, becausethey didn’t live that kind of life on earth, they aren’t comfortable in heaven.They choose hell.

 

The point of thisquick discussion is to show, briefly, that many spiritual topics that manstruggles with, can be explained in a way that makessense. It can be understood. Spiritual clarity exists.

 

Mysticalor Rational?

 

In a word, the twotextbooks that we studied during this class represent both the mystical andrational approach to spirituality. Testimony to the Invisible is themore mystical approach, while Spirituality that Makes Sense, as itstitle suggests, is the much more rational approach.

 

Testimony to theInvisible is a mysticalapproach to Swedenborg because it is a collection of many people’sinterpretations of Swedenborg’ Writings. Many of the authors or the peoplediscussed in the essays were not investigators of what Swedenborg had to say,because they couldn’t get past the idea that Swedenborg had his spiritual eyesopen. Because of this, they had to take on a mystical approach, or resulted inquestioning Swedenborg’s sanity rather than data.

 

Throughout the bookSwedenborg is often referred to as a “visionary” or “mystic”, which quiteobviously suggests a mystical approach to the subject.

 

In the first quotethat I cited, Wilson discusses this “mystical” feeling people can get when entering into theintangible. It is accurate in its depiction of man’s dual existence, but thedescription of it is airy and without substance. It recognizes that life goesbeyond the five senses, but it in no way describes what exactly it is made of,what causes it, and how it functions. This is just an example of a mysticalapproach to Swedenborg that is found throughout the book.

 

The third quote Idiscussed about Emerson is the one that I believe displays the books lack ofrationality the best. In the book, Emerson disregards Swedenborg’scorrespondences and invents his own. This shows that Emerson missed the pointentirely. The correspondences that Swedenborg discovered were not some sort ofsymbolic invention, but were based on his empirical observations in thespiritual world. If one interprets correspondences as a subjectiveinterpretation by Swedenborg, then one is approaching Swedenborg mystically.For this suggests that Swedenborg was somewhere far away from reality, and seeshim as more of a visionary, literary figure than a rationalist and scientist.

 

As long as onefocuses only on the subjectivism, and experience of God, without referring tothe rational nature of God, then one treads the line of mysticism. One can seethis throughout Testimony to the Invisible because it is many people’ssubjective interpretations of Swedenborg rather than the objectiveinvestigation of Swedenborg (save Suzuki’s chapter).

 

Spirituality theMakes Sense is a much morerational approach to Swedenborg than Testimony to the Invisible. Thepurpose of the whole book seems to be “making sense” of God, the Spiritualworld, and many other topics such as the virgin birth and the trinity. Throughoutthe book Taylor quotes passages from the three-fold word(Old Testament, New Testament, and the Writings) to help explain and understandthese spiritual topics.

 

Never once, does Taylor put a misleading interpretation or changeanything that Swedenborg says. He simply describes what is being said in thethree-fold word.  The three quotes I tookfrom the book allow one to see this. They are brief passages that come from Taylor’s rational discussion of the topics of God,faith, and hell. It is not mystical because it doesn’t focus only on thesubjective experience of God; it describes the “why” and the “how”. It allowsthe reader to understand Swedenborg by discussing exactly what is being said.It doesn’t question Swedenborg’s sanity or technique, but takes it for as itis. This is a much more rational approach then the approaches we find in Testimonyto the Invisible.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/castro/report3.htm

 

I always wanted to know what happens tothose who committed criminal acts, such as murder when they reach the spiritualworld. There are many forms of murder, such as physically killing someone,gossiping, and ostracizing. Gossiping and ostracizing can cause emotionaldamage and can lead to consequences, such as isolation, suicide, and denial ofGod. Some victims of gossip and ostracism are severely affected by thesenegative words that they are unable to build or regenerate their character orthink rationally. Some individuals overcome these negative remarks, whileothers have a more difficult time in doing so. This in a way is like murderingsomeone's spiritual soul. In SpiritualityThat Makes Sense by Douglas Taylor,he discusses that murdering someone's soul means to deny an individual ofspiritual life. If we are unable to live a spiritual life or if we are deniedfrom analyzing ourselves then it becomes murderous. A malicious person isusually influenced and driven by the forces of hell and their goal is to ruin aperson's charity and faith. Taylorsays that "Spiritual murderers seduce people into believing that there isno life after death, and so they undermine the very basis of religion" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.123). We should try to avoid these spiritualmurderers so our spiritual soul will not be affected or destroyed. I alwayswanted to know whether or not spiritual murderers are able to change their badways into a good, rational character? Is it possible to change our bad waysonce we reach the spiritual world?

I really liked the chapter on the SpiritualWorld because we are able to learn what our life will be like once we leave thenatural world. Unlike the natural world, which operates by the laws of nature,the spiritual world is a world that is operated by our mind. "Everythinghappens there according to the laws of the spiritual world, according to thelaws of the mind" (Spirituality ThatMakes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.23). In the spiritual world, if we think of somethingthen they will appear or become present at that moment. I really like this ideabecause if I want to see my family then they will automatically be present inmy mind. Taylor says that "Thought brings presence is also alaw of the spiritual world. When we think of a person, he or she appearsinstantly if the Lord wills it, if some good may be brought out of it" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.24). For example, if I think of my parents and Iwant to see them because I love them and they bring all the positive and happyenergy into my life, then I probably see them. They may appear because theymake my spirit both happy and good. "We can think ofplaces physically located on the other side of this world, but in mind orspirit, we can be there in literally no time" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.24). This idea makes me very anxious and excitedbecause if I want to see the pyramids in Egypt then in the spiritual world, I will be there in notime. In the spiritual world, we can defy time and space, but in the naturalworld if we want to actually see the pyramids then we have to take a plane to Egypt.

I always wanted to know what makes hell"hell". Taylor gives some insight into why hell exists. "Butthe people who are in hell are those who love self and the world above allelse. They think of themselves first. That is what they love supremely" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg. 33). Now, I can see why hell exists because manypeople are selfish, greedy, and egotistic. I admit that sometimes I think ofmyself before others. Taking this class has helped me to change my attitude soI can reach heaven and live a more happier andpositive lifestyle in the spiritual world. It was interesting to read that"The atmosphere of heaven would be oppressive to them because hellishpeople are immersed in loves entirely opposite to those enjoyed by heavenlypeople" (Spirituality That Makes Sense,Douglas Taylor, pg.33). Hell is the opposite of what heaven is.Those living in hell cannot go to heaven because the atmosphere and lifestyleis different from their tastes. The hellish people might view heaven as anegative place in their minds, since heaven encompasses love, light, charity,and everything else that is good and just. Once I reach hell can I somehowreform myself so I can go to heaven?

Personally, I want to do more charitableworks, such as giving food and clothes to the homeless. The chapteron "Saving Faith" really made me reevaluate myself and made mewant to start charity works. I really like the passage "This charitableattitude or good will is the motivating force within good deeds that makes themgenuine works of charity" (SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor,pg.97). Doing charitable acts really brings a smile to someone's face becauseyou are doing it out of the kindness of your heart. I was watching a show ontelevision called the Extreme Makeover: Home Edition and the episode was about a boy who was paralyzed from the neck down. Itreally brought a tear to my eye when I found out that he did not see his roomsince the day of his accident because he lives in a two story house. He isunable to open the refrigerator or eat at the dining room table because it isnot at his comfort level. The show is basically about remodeling a house bydoing the interior and exterior. The design team wanted to make the roomaccessible to him and decided to include an elevator for him to go from onefloor to the next and made his room like "his own house". I feel thatthis is a charitable act because the designers made his house accessible andmore convenient to him so they can see the smile of joy on his face. One of thedesigners even said that "They felt like a small angel".

I definitely agree that "Faith isprogressive. It grows as charity grows" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg. 117). Everything comes and does not come all atone. Take Swedenborg for instance, his new or spiritual life came gradually.Faith can fluctuate depending on whether we have the three requirements ofsaving faith. The saving faith is "looking to the Lord,learning truths from His Word, and living according to them" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.116). If we have the presence of these three things thenour faith will be strong and will lead us to salvation. If we do not have thesethree requirements then we will not have "saving faith". It'simportant to have these three requirements so we can be saved and enter intoheaven.

I am happy to learn that the Lord won allthe battles of temptations so he could bring order in the spiritual world."He restored order in the world of the spirits, so that the warmth andlight of heaven could once more flow down and be received by human minds"(Spirituality That Makes Sense,Douglas Taylor, pg.62). The Lord overcame each of the temptationsbecause he loved the human race immensely and wanted to save them from ruin,hatred, and anything else that is negative. It is reassuring to know that thereis a Divine person out there who loves us unconditionally and wanted to savethe human race from destruction. The Lord was able to save and reinstall thefreedom to choose in humans, which was being destroyed from evil or hellishpeople. The Lord in the end gave up his life in the physical world so He cansave everyone from experiencing spiritual or physical annihilation.

Testimony to the Invisible represents the mystical approach to spirituality andGod. The chapter on A Mystic Looks atSwedenborg is a great example of the mystical approach tospirituality and God. Mysticism is "the first-hand experience of directintercourse with God" (Testimony tothe Invisible, Wilson Van Dudeen,pg.126). Having a personal relationship with God and being a part of God's lifeis what makes up mysticism. It's like being connected to God through prayer,faith, worship, and love. "Mystics who write attempt toshare their experience and its subsequent understanding with others"(Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, pg.133). Some people mayview mystics as irrational because they may think that their works are notfactual and unscientific. "The mystic is simply one who has directexperience of the Divine" (Testimony to the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen,pg.133). In my mind, Swedenborg would be considered a mystic since he came intodirect contact with the Divine through his travels in the spiritual world.

"Having experienced God once, oneacquires a taste for it. The mystic learns how to find his orher way back into that communion" (Testimonyto the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, pg.106). Mystics believethat God and humans are able to connect as one entity, which assumes that theyhave similar consciousness or minds. Mystics also believe that we canexperience God if we are able to become one with Him. Emerson writes that"My concern is with the universal truth of Swedenborg's sentences, not atall with he circumstances or vocabulary" (Testimony to the Invisible, Eugene Taylor, pg.163). In mymind, Emerson questions whether Swedenborg actually went to the spiritual worldwhere he conducted experiments and interviewed angels and demons. Emersonadmits that " Swedenborg's life was one worthy tobe held up as a window into the world soul" (Testimony to the Invisible, Eugene Taylor, pg.162). In mymind, Emerson praises Swedenborg for teaching individuals about their interiorsoul and about themselves. Mystics believe that Swedenborg was a mysticalvisionary because he recorded his experiences, which are abstract and spiritualin meaning. It seems that mystics do not agree with the fact that Swedenborgtraveled to the spiritual world and conducted his experiments. The mysticalapproach is different from the rational approach in that it incorporates"experience with God" and one can form "one mind andconsciousness with God." These ideas are different from that of a rationalapproach, which is logical, scientific, and incorporates God and humans as twodistinct entities.

Spirituality That Makes Sense by Douglas Tayloris a rational approach to spirituality. "But obviously, the spiritualworld does not operate according to the same laws as the natural world. It isnot the world of the body. It is the world of the mind"(Spirituality That Makes Sense,Douglas Taylor, pg.23). This shows thatthe spiritual and natural worlds are different from one another and thatdifferent laws govern each world. The spiritual world is eternal andnever-ending, while the natural world is only a temporary place that decides onwhere we will go in the spiritual world. "God is thesoul of the universe, the source of life- in fact, life itself" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.27). This shows that God created the universe and alsomanages the world. He is this Divine presence that has infinite power and is akey aspect in each and everyone's life whether we know it or not. This isrational in that we accept that there is a God who created the universe andbrings order and justice to the world. Also, acknowledging that there is aspiritual world also helps us to understand the spiritual truths much moreeasily and clearly.

"But the teaching also shows us the wayto free ourselves from evil feelings, by remembering that they do in factbelong to hell and not to us" (SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor,pg.147). If we think rationally and overcome temptations then we will be ableto drive away all the evil forces that try to corrupt our minds. Under TheisticPsychology, Swedenborg traveled to the spiritual world and conducted numerousexperiments and interviews with the inhabitants in this realm. Swedenborg wasalso able to show that there are three heavens and also three regions in ourminds. He was able to show this through models and experiments. A rationalapproach shows that there is a duality between God and humans. Since, God hasinfinite power and human beings do not, shows that God and humans are separateentities. "Our minds are even now in the world of spirits. The spiritualworld is not far away somewhere; it is all around us. . .The sense of peace orfeeling of being uplifted experienced in a particularly moving service ofworship comes from the spiritual world-from heaven" (Spirituality That Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, pg.43). This shows that our mind is both in the physicaland spiritual world, but we are not aware that our minds are in the spiritualworld. When we see the spiritual world then many of us would agree thatSwedenborg was right from the start. If we accept the spiritual truths andthink rationally now then we will be prepared in achieving the highest form ofconsciousness.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/clark/report%203.htm

 

On the other hand, “Spirituality That Makes Sense”by Douglas Taylor,facilitates the understanding of the Writings as Divine revelation, and withthis understanding comes the rational explanations of the spirit world.  In the bible there is only one story thattakes place in the spirit world and it comes from Luke 16:19-31, “…and he criedout and said, Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus, that he maydip the tip of his finger and cool my tongue; for I am tormented in this flame.  But Abraham said, ‘Son, remember that you inyour lifetime received your good things, and likewise Lazarus evil things; butnow he is comforted, and you are tormented. And besides all this, between us and you there is a great gulf fixed; sothat those who want to pass from here to you cannot, nor can those who want tocome from there pass to us.” The only other knowledge we have of the actualstructure of the spirit world comes from Swedenborg and is supported by Taylor.

 

In “Spirituality that makessense”, Taylorgives us an understanding of hell as described by Swedenborg, and it is thisdepiction that demonstrates that his book is the more rational of the two.  In the bible, hell is depicted as a place ofburning heat with lakes of fire where the inhabitants suffer for alleternity.  The truth as revealed bySwedenborg tells us that there is no actual fire burning from the outside, buta fire that burns within each soul caused by their owninsanity.  Passion, love, lust, and greedare all emotions that many have speculated or written to have a burning orfiery type of effect on humans, and since we take these traits with us into theafterlife, it stands to reason that these emotions would be the source of thoseso-called lakes of fire.  The lakesreside within each person; burning them from the inside out… forever. 

 

“Wickedness does indeed burnlike a fire. Surely all the evils condemned by the Lord in the Ten Commandmentsare hot and burning and insatiable.  Whatother hellfire need there be?  What elseis it but our burning, all-consuming selfishness that results when we havecompletely and deliberately rejected the Lord; our fiery passions andambitions, our burning lust, our heated arguments our hot anger and fierytempers, our smoldering resentment as we burn for revenge?  These are the fires of self-love burningwithin---the fires of hell…The punishment of hell, then is self-inflicted. TheLord casts no one into hell, but many people find their eternal abode there, oftheir own free choice.”(Spirituality that makes sensep.35-37).  The suffering in hellis self-inflicted because evil brings upon itself suffering as its punishment,and it is this rational concept that supports the labeling of Taylor’sbook as a work of rational spirituality and not ritualistic mysticism.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/valle/report3.htm

 

Spirituality That Makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, is abook that truly makes sense!  I enjoyedreading this book very much because it cleared up many major misunderstandingthat different religions have over the same phenomenon.  This book was easy to understand and, incontrast to Testimony to the Invisible, the author was not trying to bepersuasive.  I was really impressed withthis book because it introduced its points by first realizing and explainingwhy it is that passages from the Bible can be so confusing and misunderstood.  Then Taylor went on to prove that in order to make aclear translation of the passages in the Bible we need to examine all of thepassages on a subject not just one or two. Taylor went on to do this and in his conclusion he was very successfulin proving that all the passages in a subject have one meaning that is apparentif all the passages are examined.  Anexample of this is found on page 78 where Taylor discusses the argument that Jesus and Godare two different Devine Beings:

 

Jesus said: “I proceeded forth and came from God; nor have I come of Myself, but He sent Me.” (John 8:42)

 

“The Father is greater than I.” (John 14:28)

 

“This is my beloved Son in whom I am wellpleased.” (Mathew 3:17)

 

Taylor goes on to say: “If we were to consult onlypassages like these and ignore all the others that seem to conflict with them,we might come to the conclusion that there are three persons in God.  This is extremely puzzling to people of areflective turn of mind, because their common sense tell s them that there simplycannot be three Divine Persons or Beings, because that is the same as sayingthat there can be three infinites, or three gods.”

 

Taylor proceeds to show that God and Jesus are one Divine Being.  This is described in a physical and spiritualway.  Jesus is simply the physical bodyin which God, the soul, resides in so that he can come and encounter the humanrace.  In the second passage above we can all agree that a person’s soul is greater than theirphysical body.  If we understand thisthen the second quote doesn’t contradict the idea that God and Jesus are oneDevine Person.

 

Taylor goes on to provide a lot more proof to the conclusion that Jesus, God,and the Holy Spirit is one Devine Person.  This book is so great because it providesmany examples so that we can examine the passages from all angles. 

 

I am a fanof this book and recommend it to anyone who is seeking rationality in religion,spirituality, or passages from the Bible.

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/essig/report3.htm

 

SpiritualityThat Makes Sense

In SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor went into depthabout who God is, what the Spiritual World is all about, what faith means, whatevilness is, among other spiritual issues. Taylor is a minister of a Swedenborgian Church in Pennsylvania and offered his insight to how the writings ofSwedenborg can shed light to those who are seeking for a better understandingof rational spirituality. 

In the first chapter of his book, Taylor made clear that the idea of God must be embracedbecause it will affect every area of our lives--every thought and everyfeeling.  While most Christians aretaught that God cannot comprehended because He is much too powerful, orinfinite, Taylor insisted we must be able to comprehend who God is orelse it would be a blind faith. 

“Howcan the most noble and important idea that there is be impossible to grasp—amystery?  If God is completely beyond ourcomprehension, then He is invisible to the human mind….To think of God asinvisible to the human mind means that we have a blind faith in God.”

                                                                                                            Taylor, pg. 5

This is a new concept to those alreadyfamiliar with Christian doctrine and ideas. He presented some interesting ideas that if we have this kind of distantrelationship with God (if we cannot understand the idea of God), then we wouldbegin to think of God as unimportant because we would stop trying to even beginto understand who he is.  In turn, thiswould affect our willingness to remain obedient to his laws and we wouldeventually think about God less.

This idea served as the first entry, and Ithink it laid the foundation of understanding the rest of the book.  Without accepting the idea that there is aGod, and that God should be accessible by all of us, then Swedenborg’steachings would be useless.  I think thatwe need to go beyond the fact that God is infinite.  I think that for so long, this has remainedan excuse for further exploration at the character of God.  Although I do not accept everything thatTaylor presented in his book, I do think that it is time to stop hiding behindthe excuse that God is too big for us to understand who he is because it wouldso easy to give up at trying to know him, and therefore be apathetic in oursearch for the truth.

Later in the book, Taylor elaborated on the point that we need to have avisible God.

“Itis very important to be able to visualize the God you are praying to, the Godyou worship.  Many sincere Christiansfind themselves at some point wondering whom they should worship or pray to…But when we believe that in Jesus Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godheadin heavenly form, we can visualize the Lord Jesus Christ.  We have an object to worship, someone whom ourminds can focus its sight.  That is whyit is so important to have this concept of the visible God.”

                                                                                                            Taylor, pg.105-106 

There have not been too many passages that Ihave come across in studying Swedenborg that deal with the person of God directly.  Although this is a theistic theory, I wasbeginning to wonder where “God” actually fit in.  The ideas of heaven and hell, spiritualtruths, or marriage are quite frequently covered, but it seemed that Godhimself was more difficult to discuss.  Ithink that it is important to establish the relationship between God andman.  Yes, he is the creator, but beyondthat, who is he?  Why do we need God?  Why did God have to become a man?  Why did God create us?  I think that these are important questionsthat need to be covered in order to truly understand Swedenborg’s theistictheory.   

“Beliefin the Divinity of the Lord is the work of God. God put that light into our mind, into the higher or inmost part of ourmind—everyone’s mind.  Sothat part of the process of believing in the Lord is entirely His work.” 

                                                                                                            Taylor, p. 109

From this passage, one could conclude thatit is not by our free-will that any spiritual truths are revealed to us, rather it is God’s choice to reveal anything to us.  And this pretty much contradicts one ofSwedenborg’s main ideas.  But if you lookfurther into the passage, you get clearer picture that it is through one’sunity with God that these things are revealed. I think that many are interested in learning more about what God’s truthis.  We are all seeking revelations fromGod to understand our purpose in life.  This an important area to explore in order to give peoplethe right motivations to seek love and wisdom in this world.  This will in turn affect our spiritual lifein the afterlife.

I think that although Testimony to theInvisible tried to be as objective as possible, it was a much more emotionalresponse to Swedenborg’s writings.  Forexample, Raine was moved by Swedenborg and describedhis writings as “great splendor”.  Suzukiwas very touched by Swedenborg’s lifestyle and work ethic, as well as histheology.  There was a sense of awe ofthe essay writers in this book.  Whilethe emotional connection to God was important, there lacked rational orintellectual thought in these essays. 

Also, there was a lot reference toSwedenborg’s mysticism, whether indirect or direct.  As noted earlier, Wilson passionately believed that Swedenborg was amystic.  He noted, “In the acceptedpositive scholarly sense, the mystic is simply one who has direct experiencewith the Divine.  I doubt that anyfollower of Swedenborg’s spiritual writings would say Swedenborg did not havedirect experience of the Divine.  Then hewas a mystic.” (pg. 133).  Suzuki’s essay also referred to Swedenborg asa “Swedish mystic.”  Raine’spassage above also indicates that she thought hisrevelations came through prophetic insight.

On the other hand, Spirituality That Makes Sense, used a cause-and-effect method which made it muchmore rational.  Each section of the bookwas broken down and often times, the Scriptures were used to support the ideasof Swedenborg.  Each chapter addressed aspecific issue and gave adequate definitions and evidence to back it up.  Taylor did not rely on his own interpretation orexperiences to explain Swedenborg. Mostly, he allowed the text to speak for itself.  If he did use personal information, it wasonly to elaborate on what was being discussed.

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/jones/report3.htm

 

Quotations from Spirituality ThatMakes Sense

 

 

“No light can be shed on thismiracle of human birth until we human beings admit that we do not have life in ourselves, that life flows into us.  We receive life; we are only receivers orrecipients of life from the Lord, who alone is life in itself… No human fathergives life to his children.”

-         Douglas Taylor 17

 

 

This passage helped me to understand how the virgin birth could bepossible.  Prior to reading thisrationalization, I had often doubted the accuracy of the Virgin Mary.  Now, when I think of all life coming from theLord and a man’s semen as “the means of transmitting the soul” I can understandthat because God was the father of Jesus there did not need to be a seed totransmit the soul into Mary’s womb.  Alllife comes from God; therefore, there did not need to be a seed to transmit thelife of Jesus into Mary’s womb.  Jesusinherited tendencies toward evil, as witness by his many temptations, from hisearthly mother.  However, because hisfather was the Divine, from him he inherited only good.  This explains how Jesus could have hadtemptations greater than most, yet was still able to reject this evil.

 

“Here the last vestiges of thehuman body from May (and its mind) were crying out in desperation to the DivineSoul within, which seemed remote, afar off. The Divine soul seemed to have forsaken the human part.  “Why have Youforsaken Me?”

-         Douglas Taylor 89

-          

 

I, as have many others, have often wondered that if Jesus was God in thehuman form, then why did he ask the Lord this questionwhile he was on the cross.  This passagehelped answer this question.  Jesus waspart human from his human mother Mary. The Divine soul was still within him while he was on the cross.  When I read this part of the text, I thoughtof how many time I talk to myself during the day.  I thought about how my mind, or my soul, iswithin the spiritual world as well. Therefore, when I am speaking to myself, could it be that I amconversing with my spiritual mind? Although this sounds confusing, it made sense to me that Jesus, thehuman, while on the cross was speaking not to a separate entity, but instead tohis Divine Soul which was residing in the Spiritual world. 

 

“The Lord never casts anyoneinto hell.  Nor is anyone cast into hellagainst his or her own wishes.  Peoplefreely choose to go there for eternity because, while living on earth, theyhave chosen hell in preference to heaven in most situations.  The Lord provides us all with opportunitiesto choose heaven and hell.”

-         Douglas Taylor 41

 

 

This passage made perfect sense when Istopped to think about two facts.  First,the fact that heaven and hell are within a person’s mind; therefore, if aperson chooses, through freewill, evil then that person will reside in the hellof his mind.  Just as if a person choosesgood, then that person will reside in the heaven oftheir mind.  When the earthly body isgone and a person is in the spiritual world, that person must choose to rejectevil and accept good or live forever in the hell of his mind.  This may seem as though the Lord is “casting” that person into hell for not accepting His truths.  However, if the person has lived a life witha love for evil, then heaven will not be a gratifying place.  Understanding this concept allows one toaccept that it is the person who chooses heaven or hell, not God choosing itfor the person.

 

Each of texts delves into the topic of the Writings of Swedenborg.  Testimonyto the Invisible looks at Swedenborg as a mystic.  There is no scientific rationalization of theWritings within this book.  Spirituality That Makes Sense, on theother hand, examines Swedenborg’s Writings in a rational manner.  This can be noted while reading eachbook. 

 

Testimony to the Invisible seems to embrace a“oneness” with the Lord by seeing the happenings of the world asmysterious.  An example of this can beseen in Wilson Van Dusen’s essay “A Mystic Looks atSwedenborg”.  Van Dusen states, “Hiswriting are rational, but that is their style, not preeminently their nature…not only are his writings the work of a mystic, they are meant to help createmystics…”  Throughout this bookSwedenborg is referred to as a mystic, a great mystic.  These essays do not view Swedenborg, orreligion, in a rational manner.  However,the book helps the reader learn how many great people throughout history Swedenborg influenced.

 

Spirituality That Makes Sense goes to great lengths to explain God in arational manner.  Douglas Taylor uses science and rationality to explainmany of the “mysteries” of the Bible. One example of this is his explanation of the virgin birth.  After explaining to the reader how thefather’s semen is a “means of transmitting the soul”, Taylor explains, “Actually, it is life from theLord that directs the formation and growth of the fetus in the womb.”  Through his explanation of human birth, he isable to give a rational explanation of how Jesus could have been conceived bythe Virgin Mary.  This rational accountof God and spirituality allows the reader to fully understand faith rather thanaccept it blindly.

 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/nakamura/report3.htm

 

The second book, Spirituality that Makes Sense (hereafterreferred to as Spirituality) by Douglas Taylor examines Swedenborg in a more spiritual andrational manner.  He emphasizes faiththrough understanding, and examines it beyond the mysteries of God.  He states, “To think of God as invisible tothe human mind means that we have a blind faith in God” (Spirituality, p.5).  In otherwords, God is not invisible because He is not fully beyond ourcomprehension. 

 

A question of why God put on a human form was answered in the beginningof Chapter 5.  Since I have never readthe Bible, this part was particularly interesting to me (I have never beeninterested in a topic such as this until I took this course).  Taylor statesthat, “The Lord came to redeem,” and He “brought back the human race from thebrink of destruction when He came into the world – by paying a price” (Spirituality, p.58).  The only solution was to take the form of ahuman being, since freedom and choice cannot be taken away. 

 

Another interesting topic in the book was Chapter 11, “When Good Deedsare Good.”  Taylormentions that charity and faith must work together for it to be positive.  He states, “Feelings of charity by themselvesdo not produce genuinely good works any more that the will alone can doanything” (Spirituality, p.158).  This means that although the heart may begood, we need understanding and intellect in knowing how to accomplish it.  As taken from this passage, charitablethoughts must be put into action:

 

“That charity and faith do not profit a man so long as they remain inonly one part of his body, that is, in his head, and are not fixed in works, isevident from a thousand passages in the Word” (True Christian Religion 376 cited in Spirituality, p.165).

 

Both Testimony to the Invisible and Spirituality that MakesSense examine Emanuel Swedenborg and attempt to make sense of hisWritings.  However, the two books differin their approach.  Although both bookspraise Swedenborg in their own way, every essay in Testimony to theInvisible refers to Swedenborg as a mystic. This means that he was either delusional, he was in a trance, or hisworks are fictional.  Not only do thewriters categorize Swedenborg as a mystic, but his close followers such asWilliam Blake and Ralph Waldo Emerson are labeled mystics as well.  Conversely, Douglas Taylor takes a deep and spiritual approach toSwedenborg’s Writings in Spirituality that Makes Sense.  Taylor interpretsin simple and understandable ways what Swedenborg encountered in the spiritualworld.  It is a rational and scientificapproach that allows the Writings to be explored fully in its literal sense,and the Writings are not taken poetically.

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/le/report3.htm

 

SpiritualityThat Makes Sense

By Douglas Taylor

In this book, Spirituality That MakesSense, Douglas Taylor discusses manydifferent spiritual topics ranging from “The Spiritual World” to “Escaping fromEvil Feelings.” He uses a more rational approach to spirituality compared tothe authors of Testimony to the Invisible because he looks atSwedenborg’s concepts in a literal sense instead of using a subjectiveinterpretation. I will continue to contrast between the two books after goingover some interesting quotes/brief passages from this book.

“Theconcept of a spiritual world distinct from the world of nature is basic to allreligion. In addition to belief in God, what makes a religion to be a religion,and what distinguishes it from a system of ethics and morality, is the idea ofa spiritual world in which we are to live after the death of our body--aspiritual world where the Lord is and from which the Divine influence goesforth.”

(SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 21)

I thought this quote was very true. Thereare many religions that exist out there and most of them involve the concept ofa spiritual world. I say “most” because we have belief systems that either denyGod or the spiritual aspect altogether. I had mentioned earlier in this reportas well as in Report 1 that I consider myself to be Buddhist, but I also believe in God. After I came across this passage, Iwas curious as to how it related to my own beliefs.

Buddhism possesses spiritual concepts, however, it does not include a belief in God and aspiritual world in which we are to live after the death of our bodies. I figuredthat I had conflicting beliefs. From a Buddhism perspective, it is safe to saythat the concept of the spiritual world is distinct from the world of nature,but the belief in Buddha, reincarnation, and past lives (the ideas I grew upwith) does not fully agree with the view of Theistic Psychology. So, inreference to this quote, is Buddhism a religion? At this point, I continue toquestion where I stand in terms of my beliefs surrounding spirituality.

“Theheavenly or spiritual part of our mind is always in a state of order, alwaysenlightened by the Lord. Only our earthly, conscious mind is ever our of order. The whole purpose of our life on earth is tocooperate with the Lord in bringing our natural mind back into order so thatheavenly feelings and thoughts can flow in.”

(SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 109)

In class, I had learned about and acceptedthe idea of a distinct spiritual existence. In doing so, I was able to draw adifference between the physical brain and the mind. This quote really madesense to me when I read it. Throughout our lives, it is important to worktowards developing our natural mind in order to open the higher levels of ourmind, even if we have no consciousness of our inner mind. The formation of theheavenly mind is necessary in the process of preparation for life in thespiritual world after physical death.

Although I am still unsure of my destinyafter my death (in this life), I find this concept to be very interesting andrational. I suppose I can apply it to reincarnation to a certain extent. IfEnlightenment is the main objective, a purpose of development exists. In thiscase, with every rebirth on this earth, the soul grows and continues to prepareitself. In spite of the many logical explanations I have been exposed to aboutwhat happens after one (physically) dies, I have yet to make up my mind aboutwhat I believe in. I felt that the concept of this quote was reasonable, but Ialso find logic in the idea of reincarnation (of Buddhism).

“Soany good actions we do before evil motives are shunned as sins are not reallygood. They only appear to be good. Can a bad tree bring forth goodfruit?”

(SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 151)

There is a great deal of bad people in thisworld who do a good job of concealing their evil motives. When I read thisquote, it reminded me of how I often get suspicious of others’ reasons fordoing things. It is true, someone may “appear” to be kind through his/heractions, but in actuality, his/her underlying reason is nothing of that sort.As the text that followed this excerpt pointed out, one’s good actions of anevil motive could bring about a good effect, nonetheless, he/she really doesnot benefit from it. Consequently, no one can get away with such wrong-doings.Although bad intentions can’t always be detected by others, the mark is left onthe wrong-doer’s soul and there’s no escaping that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Rational or Mystical Approach?

Rational spirituality is based on a rationalconsciousness of God. “We can be ‘conjoined’ with God in a reciprocalduality where the parts always and forever remain distinct from each other, andthere is never a ‘melding’ or other ‘oneness’ possible” (Lecture Notes, Dr. Leon James). This particular approach is logical and views Godand humans as two separate entities, whereas the mystical approach tospirituality possesses the idea that humans can achieve oneness with God. It isbased on sensuous consciousness of the Divine. We learn that it isimportant to be able to distinguish the difference between these two attitudestoward spirituality because “one leads to happiness and rationality (rationalapproach), while the other leads to corruption and delusion (mysticalapproach)” (Lecture Notes, Dr. Leon James).

The two books discussed above are of twodifferent approaches. Testimony to the Invisible represents the mysticalapproach to spirituality and God. Instead of focusing on the facts and conceptspresented by Swedenborg, the authors of this book put an emphasis on hisexperience with God. That would be the only commonality among the individuallysubjective chapters. Furthermore, they did not seem to fully accept the ideathat Swedenborg had dual-consciousness and was able to travel to and from thespiritual world. This is the reason why he was continuously referred to as a“mystic” or “visionary” throughout the book. Of the many differentinterpretations of Swedenborg, I felt that the chapter of Wilson Van Dusen (AMystic Looks at Swedenborg) clearly revealed the mystical approach. Hereare some quotes to illustrate my point:

“Youmight wonder what the mystical experience does to personal identity. Sensingthe All, would I not be greater than most who don’t dothis? Not in the least. Sensing the All, I am the equal of all--the equal oftar paper, a dog’s bark, and stars.”

(Testimonyto the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, p. 109)

“Thefull mystical experience leaves a very broad signature on the inner life thatthen finds itself expressed in many ways. The sense of familiarity is soconsistent that I would question whether the experience of déjà vu might not bea part of mysticism.”

(Testimonyto the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, p. 121)

“Itwould be fair to ask what the mystic ultimately discovers. Swedenborg’swritings contain some of the better descriptions.”

(Testimonyto the Invisible, Wilson Van Dusen, p. 123)

Like the title suggests, SpiritualityThat Makes Sense is a book of the rational approach to spirituality andGod. Unlike the authors of Testimony to the Invisible, Taylor introduces the concepts of Swedenborg without anypersonal interpretation. He presents this information objectively, allowing hisreaders to develop a complete and accurate understanding of God and otherspiritual topics in Swedenborgian terms. All in all, this book definitely had amore rational delivery than the other book. The following quotes are goodexamples that support my declaration of this book’s rational approach tospirituality:

“Itis true that the finite human mind can never fully comprehend the Infinite. Wewould indeed require an infinite, Divine intellect tohave a complete understanding of the Infinite.”

(SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 5)

“Insummary, the Creator Himself came on earth as the Redeemer, and this coming wasachieved with the cooperation of the Virgin Mary.”

(SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 20)

“Hellis inhabited by men and women who have rejected the Lord and His commandments.They have chosen deliberately not to live according to thosecommandments.”

(SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 32)

“Wisdomimplies understanding. The concept of the Lord as a Divine Person makes itpossible for us to think of Him, to think of His Divine qualities, and also topicture Him as a real and living Person. This causeHim to be present in our mind.”

(SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, p. 166)

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/leman/report3.htm

 

In the second text, Spirituality thatmakes Sense by Douglas Taylor, Taylor explains the functional mechanics of the biblicalscriptures by explaining the logic and ideology in the terminology. Taylor takes away ambiguity by providing rationalexplanation of the symbolic references through out the scriptures. Taylor puts things into a perspective order, matching thetime line of events. This text was easier to understand. I could bettercomprehend the importance of these sacred documents with Taylor's logical interpretation. This author articulateshis theological understanding with precise commentary and spiritual diplomacy. Taylor clearly is of a rational faith. He understands thelogic and orderly relationships of the writing. As a biblical curator he guidesus through the sacred literature. His careful handling of the scriptures, andattention to Swedenborg's mastery, is a credit to the science of theology andthe Swedenborg Foundation. Here are but a few of my favorite references:

 

(pg. 4) In response to "the first andgreat commandment that we should love the Lord with all our heart, soul, mindand strength" (Deuteronomy 6:5, Mark 12:30), (page 6) Taylor explains this as an immutable law. "A law is adescription of the way a thing operates. One cannot break the laws of thephysical universe without incurring some penalty. ... Can a rotten tree bringforth good fruit? A deed is only as good as the motive from which itsprings." This is similar in content to a definition by EmanuelSwedenborg, from True Christian Religion 133, (pg. 7) "On the ideaof God and the idea of redemption...everything of the church depends." Taylor opens chapter one with that Swedenborg quote. Withthat Swedenborg laid the 1st brick in the foundation of spiritual science, andas a modern caretaker of this scared science, Taylor dutifully polishes the platform.

 

Taylor articulately explains the significance ofunderstanding the redemption. (pg. 6) He says in popular language "Toredeem" means to buy back by paying a stipulated price. In theologicalterms it refers to the whole purpose of the Lord's coming, the process by whichthe Lord bought back or redeemed the human race from every kind of destruction,and the price He paid in achieving that. (pg. 7) Salvation refers to a particularredemption--the saving or rescue of an individual person from a life of hell(here and hereafter)--not simply from the punishment inherent in evil, but fromsinning itself." On this concept Swedenborg wrote: "The Lord from eternity who is Jehovah, came into the world to subjugatethe hells and to glorify His Human; and without this no mortal could have beensave; and those are saved who believe in Him." True Christian Religion 2 .

 

Taylor breaks this down for us. He says: "Jesus isJehovah on earth in His own human form. The creator came in order to be theSavior and Redeemer." Pg. 14, "I (Jehovah) am the First, and I am theLast (Isaiah 44:6). I am Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, the Firstand the Last (revelation 22:130. "Only from the Divine can we bear witnessto the Divine. Only through what flows into us from the Lord above can we, inheart, believe in the virgin birth." Pg. 16, Taylor continues byexplaining The law of influx. The Lord operates firstin the spiritual world of causes and then in the natural world of effects.Influx is the higher action upon the lower. For example feelings of friendshipact upon our facial muscles to produce a smile. The feelings are higher, thesmile is lower.

 

(Pg. 24) "Thought brings presence"is a law of the spiritual world. In both the mind and the spiritual world,thought brings presence. Think of him clearly. The quality of the thoughtdetermines the quality of the presence." (Pg. 30) "Receiving whatcomes from the Lord is what makes heaven; rejecting that is what makes hell. "The kingdom of Godis within you" (Luke 17:21), we can safely conclude that heaven is essentially a state of mind.This state of mind is manifested as a place or a region for the simple reasonthat the whole spiritual world is a representative world. What we really feeland think in our minds is re-presented, projected outwardly there in visibleform. Our predominant state of mind--whether good or evil--creates ourenvironment in the spiritual world. "The kingdom of Godis within you." You chose what to think.

 

The baptism, representing as it did thebaptism of temptation--the washing away of hereditary tendencies to evil--was aforecast of what the Lord was about to do. A dove is well known forinstinctively remaining faithful to one mate. The dove has also become a symbolfor peace, the essential idea in peace being unity rather than division,strife, or separateness. A dove in the Word of God stands for truth wedded togoodness. The truth tells us what is good, but we must actually do the goodthing. Then truth and goodness are wedded together; there is a union, amarriage, between what we know and what we do. (Pg. )

 

Pg. 34, "All the evils forbidden in theTen Commandments and elsewhere in the Divine Word are what make hell to behell. They are the opposites of the good qualities that make heaven." (Pg.37) "The punishment of hell, then, is self-inflicted. The selfish love ofdominating is what makes hell to be hell." "Heaven may be thedominion of love, but hell is the love of dominion" (spiritual Experiences5000). Pg. 45. "The Lord always provides a churchon earth to ensure that there is a link between heaven and earth, so that theLord's will may be done on earth as it is done in heaven." Pg. 66 The Lord did not save us by His death. He saved us by Hislife, every moment of it. While He lived on earth the Lord was continuallybattling against the hells. (Luke 4:130) Jesus is our role model.

 

On page 116 of Wilson Van Dusen's "a Mystic Look At Swedenborg "Quite obviously, we stand on the borderline of a newdomain of knowledge, and we know as little of it as Marco Polo knew of China or the earliest explorers of Africa. One thing seems clear: there are mental states in which we can glimpsevistas of knowledge that remain concealed from us in "everydayconsciousness."

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/vuu/report3.htm

 

Spirituality That Makes Sense

" If hell continues to rule inside us here, we will alsohave it outside of us all around us hereafter.  If heaven reigns inside ushere, it will be all around us hereafter.  We will continue to be the samekind of person after the death of the body. "

SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, page 36

When I read this passage from the book, Ihad to read it several times to understand the meaning of it.  To me itseems that what the author is trying to put out is that death is unavoidableand being so, we have to prepare our minds for the spiritual world.  It isonly true that when death comes, it only takes away our bodies, yet our spiritlives on.  From what the book is saying, death isonly the shedding of our topcoat.  Because our spirit lives on, we have toprepare our mind and spirit in the heavenly way.  We should put what isright in our lives now while we are still in this physical body and here onearth, so that when death comes upon us, our spirit will remain true toourselves so that we will reside on whichever side of heaven or hell that wechoose.

" A knowledge of faith is only a theoretical kind offaith.  It is like the theoretical understanding of a recent graduate fromengineering school.  They have the knowledge in their heads, but they havenot experience.  They know what they are supposeto do but they haven't done it. "

SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, page 99

This is such a great reminder.  Thisjust shows to remind us that we need to act on what we believe or we might aswell not believe it at all.  Simple as that. Douglas Taylor is trying to tell us that if we know of how toattain that rational level of thinking and yet we opt to not take that route tothat thinking then we waste it all.  Knowing is one thing, as Douglas Taylor points out, but putting what we know into play is whatreally counts.  It's through practice of purpose in which we gain and growfrom our experiences.  By knowing alone gives us no growth but in ways candamper our growing abilities by not giving us the nutrition that we need tofully develop what we are capable of.  That capability is thinking at arational level.  To do so, we must put effort into action and not juststand on the sideline but get into the game.

" From all this we can conclude that no one is born anangel; everyone has to be reborn an angel.  Consequently, everyone who isnow in heaven lived at one time as a man , woman orchild on some earth.  They are now in heaven because while they lived onearth, they were prepared for heaven, cooperating with the Lord.  Theylearned to love Him and to love the neighbor as themselves, which made themangelic..."

SpiritualityThat Makes Sense, Douglas Taylor, page 29

This brought about questions to mind. Upon reading this, from what I understand that Douglas Taylor is trying to put out on the table for us is thatbecoming and angel is attainable for us humans.  It seems that if we liveour lives here in this physical body on this earth in the right manner byachieving some sort of preparation here on this earth then we would be angelsin the spiritual world after death.  He's also trying to tell us thatangels now were just like us beforehand born in a world like ours.  Beforereading this, I haven't kindled on this concept, but it was very interestingfor me to read.  I have never put the thought of the possibility of me oneday becoming an angel.  That thought is still far from realization for meright now but the thought of it was interesting to stumble upon.

 

It is very obvious here to me that in thetext Testimony to the Invisible, it perceives more of a Mystical approach fromthe writers that were involved with that book.  They pointed out falsitiesof Swedenborg that denied his notion of entering the spiritual world thencoming back.  Yet they stood strong by their faith in supporting thatMystical belief is the truth.  Spirituality That Makes Sense is a definitesupporter of Swedenborg in that Douglas Taylorcompletely supports Swedenborgstheory on rational thinking in saying that upon receiving that level ofthinking, one is able to achieve more in this life and the after life in thespiritual world.  In this text, Taylor points out several times that wemust change ourselves here in this natural world and prepare ourselves for thespiritual world numerous times.  He mentioned this by using our spirit asan example. 

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/piper/report3.htm

 

Spirituality that makes Sense

by Douglas Taylor

 

"Cananyone think of an idea that is higher or more important than the idea ofGod?  Surely, there is no loftier idea possible for the human mind tograsp.  The idea of God is not just an academic matter-an idea intendedonly for theologians and for dry-as-dust theorizing.  Our idea of Godgoverns and controls all our wishing and thinking, whether we realize it ornot.  Even atheists' ideas of God as a nonentity enter into all of theirthoughts and influence their feelings and their lives-much more than theyrealize."

Spirituality that makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, chapter 1, page 4, The Idea of God(1st paragraph)

 

Being only the second page of this book, Iwas surprised about how much this paragraph made sense to me.  There is no"loftier idea" than God.  This is the most difficult andtrying subject in my life.  I have tremendous trouble just having faithabout God.  This is a subject that everyone has an opinion about. That means that it is in our minds much more than we are conscious of. God is in every culture or society of people.  The "idea of Godgoverns and controls all wishing and thinking" is hard for me tograsp.  But just the other day, my mother told me to pray for someone andthen she corrected herself because she knows I do not pray to God likeher.  But I do kind of pray if you want to call it that.  It is moreof meditation for me.  Praying to me is putting all my thoughts and mentalenergy toward a certain person or certain situation.  Sometimes I evenlook up into the sky and speak aloud.  I have never thought of this aspraying.  And I consider myself an atheist.  But this sure does soundvery similar to praying.  I just do not pray to an entity calledGod.  So I guess this passage is correct.  It plays a part of my lifemuch more than I realize and much more than I want to admit. 

 


     

"TheLord from eternity who is Jehovah, came into the worldto subjugate the hells and to glorify His Human; and without this no mortalcould have been saved; and those are saved who believe in Him."

Spirituality that makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, chapter 1, page 7 (4th paragraph)

 

It is not just this passage that drew my curiosity but the explanation after the passage.  The first time I readit, it sounded just like the bible passages that were read when I was a kid inthe Christian church.  But reading a little further in the book explainedthe differences.  This statement is different than what the Christianchurch believes about the trinity.  It says "Jehovah"rather than his earthly name of Jesus Christ.  It is interesting becauseChristians say Jesus came to this earth separating Jesus' identity from Jehovahor God and the Holy Spirit..  The trinity is adifficult concept to grasp in Christianity.  Here Swedenborg is notseparating them.  He is saying it is the same entity.  The mostinteresting part of this passage is that Swedenborg says "HisHuman."  Instead of confusing people and referring to God asthree parts (Father, Son, and the Holy spirit)Swedenborg worded it so there would be no confusion.  "HisHuman" is referring to God in human form - Jesus who was born from avirgin and was crucified on the cross for the sinners of this world.  Ithink is just simplified the Christian version so it is understandable and morebelievable.   I always thought I was being scammed or tricked whenstudying Christianity because of all the little inconsistencies like thetrinity.  Saying it this way is much easier to comprehend. 

   


  

"Thosewho are in doubt before they affirm are those who incline to a life ofgood"

EmanuelSwedenborg, Arcana Coelestia 2568:6

Spirituality that makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, chapter 7, page 85, SomeObjections Answered (quote)

 

This is fantastic statement.  I trulybelieve this and try to live by this.  You can apply this to politics andwhat is happening in the world today.  There are too many people out therethat just accept things without investigating both sides of an issue.  Howmany people just vote democratic or republican without seeking the position ofthe candidate?  There are too many college students that I hear in myclasses that hear something from a parent or a teacher or on TV andautomatically believe it without testing it or seeking both sides and thenmaking a choice of their educated view on something.  We need to think asindividuals.  Too many Christians just blindly have faith.  This tome is a follower.  They do not know why they believe they just do.  Ithink Swedenborg is telling us to take a proactive position.  We need tosearch and study and find out what makes sense to us.  If we find out whatand why we believe, I think that we will have more answers and live a fullerlife.  Explore all other religions or beliefs systems.  Havedoubt.  Ask why.  Study and learn until it is logical to you. You will be much more fulfilled and life will have meaning for you - not anyoneelse.

 


 

"Swedenborgdeepens our ideas of the neighbor to be loved by showing that the goodnessreceived from the Lord is the neighbor; he also widens our view, extending theneighbor beyond the good received by one individual to include the goodnessin:    

                                                  -agroup of individuals

                                                 -one's country

                                                  -thewhole human race

                                                 -the church

                                                  -theLord's kingdom, including the heavens

                                                  -supremely,the Lord Himself"

Spirituality that makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, chapter 11, page 159, Levels ofthe Neighbor (1stparagraph)

 

When we think of our neighbor, we think ofwho live next to us or a few doors down.  This is not what Swedenborg ismeaning when he says "neighbor."  We need to think moreglobally when we say "neighbor."  There is a reason why Iwrote them in ascending order.  The book refers to it like rungs on aladder.  The top of the ladder is the "Lord Himself."  Thisis the neighbor we should all be considering.  If the "LordHimself" is the neighbor on the ladder that we want to affect, all theother neighbors will also be affected that are below.  Our good deeds andcharities should affect many other "neighbors" other than the one's on our street.  I think of my parentschurch that they go to now, New Hope. It is much different than the churches I grew up with.  Most of thechurches I grew up with were mainly concerned with the people in the church andthe community the church was located in.  New Hope has gone international.  They are thinking communitally, nationally, and globally.  They areconcerned with societies around the world not just the Hawaiian society. And because of this way of thinking they are tremendously successful in justabout anything. 

 

"TheLord, being the source of the goodness that is the neighbor on all theselevels, is supremely the neighbor to be loved.   

Spirituality that makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, chapter 11, page 160, Levels ofthe Neighbor (2ndparagraph)

 

Your motives must be in the rightplace.  If you do a good deed to get higher up in the church, this is notfor the Lord.  Your motives are for yourself and not the Lord.  Makesure you understand what your motives are behind your charities.  Itshould be done for "supremely, the Lord Himself."

 

"Theascending levels of the neighbor are a great guide in decision making,imparting much-needed clarity."

Spirituality that makes Sense, by Douglas Taylor, chapter 11, page 160, Levels ofthe Neighbor (3rdparagraph)

 


 

Both of the books are verydifferent.  Testimony to the Invisible I thought was a verydifficult read. Each chapter is written by different authors who wrote onsomething completely different material.  None of the chapters seemed toco-relate to each other.  It is considered the mystical approachspirituality. This mystical approach finds a more deep meaning in the words ofSwedenborg and the bible.  In other words, there is more depth than thewords themselves.  There is meaning behind the literal translation. The stories are seen as life lessons, a parable rather than actually believingthat Swedenborg had consciousness in the spiritual world.  The mysticalapproach also thinks that they can have oneness with God.  "Sensuous Consciousnessof the Divine" (Dr. James lecture notes) is what a mysticbelieves.  Humans are not equal to the Divine - God.  This is seen as"non-duality" (Dr. James lecture notes) because thebelief is that God and humans can become one "form".  This is anarrogant point of view, thinking that the mind of a human can combine with themind of the Divine - God.    

 

To me this book showed how theSwedenborgian view has been around for years and has influenced people we allhave studied about.  It showed how the concepts of Swedenborg influencedimportant people in history.  We all have been introduced to some of theconcepts of Swedenborg but have not been aware of it.  Most of the authorstalked about someone else in history that had followed Swedenborg and adaptedto the mystical approach.  As an introduction to the Swedenborg concepts,I do not think this book is a good choice.  I wanted to know whatSwedenborg wrote not what and how other people in history were influenced byhim.   

 

In the firstchapter, Jorge Luis Borges starts out by talking about Ralph Waldo Emerson.

"Inhis famous lecture of 1845, Ralph Waldo Emerson cited Emanuel Swedenborg as aclassic example of the mystic." (page 3)

 

In thesecond chapter, Czeslaw Milosztalks about Dostoevsky Crime and Punishment.

"SwedenborgianElemnts in Crime and Punishment" (page 26)

 

In the thirdchapter, Kathleen Raine starts out with anotherfamous man, William Blake.

"Thepoem by William Blake entitled "The Devine Image" comes from Songs ofInnocence..." (page 51)

 


 

The second book we read was Spiritualitythat makes Sense.  This book was much easier to read and tounderstand.  With the background of the majority of students beingCatholic or Christian, this book was much easier to read and make sense. This book is considered the rational approach to spirituality.  Therational approach uses the writings of Swedenborg as it is literallywritten.  There are no hidden messages with this approach.  Thisrational approach believes that Swedenborg did have a special consciousnessthat allowed him to visit and learn from the spiritual world.  The storiesare believed to be true and that Swedenborg experienced them himself,empirically.  In the rational approach, it is understood that the humanmind and God's mind are not on the same level.  There is a"duality" (Dr. James lecture notes) between humansand the Divine.  Humans are finite and God is infinite.  These twocan not be united together in oneness.  Although all of our influx comesfrom the Divine, there must be a distinction between to two.  If there isnot a distinction made it will eventually cause "corruption of themind" (Dr. James lecture notes).  

 

With my background in Christianity, thisbook was much easier to follow and it quoted the bible and gave Swedenborg'sexplanation of the passages.  This book also talked about things that areimportant in life and discusses questions that we all have about spiritualitylike:  the idea of God, the virgin birth, heaven, being saved, faith,evils, and charities.  This book also showed that Swedenborg's writingsare easier to understand than the bible.  It is almost like a translationfor the bible.  At least for me, I understand Swedenborg's words more thanthe bible.  This book shows the differences between the bible and thewritings of Swedenborg.  The writings seem to be much morestraight forward and does not use flowery language as the bibledoes.  It seems to not leave the translation of what is being said up toman to distinguish as happens in many Christian and Catholic churches. 

 

Chapter2:  The Creator as the Redeemer (page 9) 

"TrueChristian Religion 2:  The lord from eternity, who is Jehovah, came intothe world."  Swedenborg

 

"Isaiah9:6 says:  For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is Given; and the government will be upon Hisshoulder."  Bible

 

Chapter2:  The Creator as the Redeemer (page 15)

"ApocalypseExplained 635:2:  It is always the Divine that bears witness concerningthe Divine, and not man form himself"  Swedenborg

 

"Matthew16:17 says:  As the Lord on earth said to Simon Peter after he haddeclared His Divinity, Flesh and blood has not revealed it to you, but MyFather who is in Heaven."  Bible

 

Chapter8:  What is "Saving" Faith? (page97-98)

"TrueChristian Religion 3:2:  Saving faith is to believe in Him." Swedenborg

 

"Psalm111:10:  A good understanding have all those whodo His commandments."  Bible

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From:  www.soc.hawaii.edu/leonj/459s2004/wilson/report%203.htm

 

From the text “Spirituality that makessense” by: Douglas Taylorexplains the teachings of Swedenborg and the meaning behind the writings in thebible and backs up this information passages from the bible. Taylor tells how we need to be conscious of ouractions. Taylor explains the Trinity, what is faith, eviland how to follow faith and escape evil, it also tells of religion in history.One passage that I found interesting was in the chapter “The spiritual world2,000 years ago” where Taylor talks about the Greeks and all of their gods and how he found this tobe a very dark time. It was dark because Taylor thought there was no celestial light thatwas able to shine down and the only people to have true faith were the Jews,but even their faith was so twisted and contorted that it too became dogma. Taylor also stated that the lord gave man thischoice for without the choice man would cease to exist as human. Thus giving man the choice of heaven and hell “the lord always hasto preserve a balance between the influence of heaven and that of hell, so thatour free choice may operate.”(Taylor 53). Taylor explains through Swedenborg’s teachingsthat in the time of the Greeks that hell dominated. Hell and the devils in hellhad great power at that time due to god extending man a greater sense offreedom. With too much freedom leads to loss of freedom.If the devils lead us astray our freedom will be taken away. With control ofour mind comes control of our body Taylor states “ Anyoneable to take complete possession of our mind can, at the same time, take overour body because the body is really only in obedience to the mind ( Apocalypseexplained 10:7 12). What the mind does, the body follows.”(54)

 

     Taylor goes as far as to explain how the lord isinvolved in as simple matters as healing a scratch on our hand “Provided thatscratch is kept clean, it will heal automatically. It is not the body, ofcourse, that heals itself. The body, in itself, is just flesh. The action ofthe soul-a spiritual organism, a finite receptacle of life-is what channelslife from the lord and automatically does the healing and restores order in thebody.”( Taylor 94) I don’t believe this to be so, I think the lord has created nature to be able to takecare of itself to a certain extent in matters of simple scratches at least. Thelord has a hand in much of life but I think he created an immune system to takecare of the trivial minor details, at the same time if that scratch were to getinfected and get gang green and the person dies then god had a hand in thatbecause it was that persons time to go. I think god has bigger fish to fry, butif you wanted the lords help in healing your scratchand asked for it then he may help you or, just for asking and believing in him.I there for believe in the healing power of god, medicine and our immunity.

 

     Tylor also made a very interesting summery of matters offaith in the true Christian religion. Matters of faith hastwo parts “god is one, in whom is a divine trinity, and the lord god the saviorJesus Christ is that one. Saving faith is to believe in him.”(Taylor 185) Thismeans it is our duty to believe in and have faith in god. The only salvationfor our faith is to maintain that faith in god. There is only one god, nomatter all of his aliases there is only one. The next set is matters ofcharity. Matters of charity being “ Evils should notbe done, because they belong to the devil and are from the devil. The oppositebeing,   Good things should be done,because they belong to god and are from god.”(185) Thismeans if you do evil you are playing with the toy of the devil, if you do goodyou are playing with the toy of god. The toys of god will make you play nicely, the toys of the devil will only get you hurt.

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