Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Christianity, Reincarnation and Emanuel Swedenborg

Common among New Age thought, spiritual channeling and eastern religions is the concept of reincarnation. This doctrine repeats over and over again, and it was also a way of thinking among the ancients, especially among Neoplatonic philosophers. So is this true, or is it false? That is not an easy question to answer. One must be familiar with the spiritual world, about which modern science knows absolutely nothing. Naturalists just assume we cease to exist at death. The Near Death Experience has been challenging this primitive materialisic view. But when it comes to reincarnation, confirming whether it is true or not is not easy to confirm since since the doctrine of reincarnation teaches that we are forced to forget our past lives before we are reborn again. That there may be some truth to this idea was rediscovered recently by hypnotists, who could regress people back in time to recall memories that they had forgotten. Some hypnotists, noticing the memory recall was enhanced under hypnosis, experimented a bit and regressed people from beyond the time they were born. The result was surprising: hypnotists began to uncover past lives of those who died before, sometimes uncovering historical facts and even a language or a particular accent that was unknown to the subject that was hypnotized. Hypnotists discovered that past life regression was also therapeutic in value: one can understand on a more spiritual level the limits we place on our own behavior, and the way we look at life, based on past unknown fears. Unexplained phobias or depression can be traced to a spiritual source of thought. So reincarnation may be true, right? Well let me throw in a monkey's wrench. All seemed well and good, but then some hypnotists discovered that these past lives overlap with each other chronologically. So what is going on here?

REINCARNATION IN THE BIBLE?

Opposed to eastern religions, the three religions of the book: Judaism, Christianity and Islam, state that we live once and then after we die, comes the judgment. Yet among the mystical traditions in all three religions, some mystical schools of thought subscribe to the idea, although opposed to the orthodox theology. And unfortunately - and I will be honest here - ministers and those who go to church often just live in a box. They are out of touch with society, not meeting its needs. So we now find a lot of spiritual independents, and people attracted to New Age thought, but without a proper guide to wander through the forest of ideas. Some churches are even detrimental in their doctrine - declaring after we die we just fall asleep, all to await a physical resurrection at some always future date. Its a false doctrine, as there is no literal physical resurrection of the body: however there is a spiritual resurrection of the spiritual body after death. But that is another topic. The point is, most churches are failing to address the issue because they are blissfully ignorant of it inside their box. Just telling people from scripture is not enough.

So, out of curiosity I delved into this to see what Jesus had to say about reincarnation. The topic comes several times. And in every single case, he never answers the question. He gives a different answer to a different question. Which drove the Jewish Pharisees nuts. Here are some examples:
Jesus: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.
Nicodemus: How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother's womb and be born?
Jesus: Most assuredly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear the sound of it, but cannot tell where it comes from and where it goes. So is everyone who is born of the Spirit."
Nicodemus: How can these things be?
Jesus: Are you the teacher of Israel, and do not know these things? Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. If I have told you earthly things and you do not believe, how will you believe if I tell you heavenly things? No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven. (John 3:3-13)
To be born again is to experience a spiritual rebirth, to leave one's sins behind and begin a new life. It begins with a period of temptation, but once one overcomes then one is born with a new will, with new desires: based on love for others, rather than being self-centered. One's spirit or soul is then drawn up into heaven. But notice he does not answer the question of Nicodemus. And he says why he does not answer: if he spoke of heavenly matters no one would believe. So Jesus always spoke in parables. Here is another example:
Jesus: Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?
Disciples: Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.
Jesus: But who do you say that I am?
Peter: You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. (Matt. 16:13-16)
Implied in the question is that prophets reincarnate, held to be true by some Jews at the time. But Jesus does not address that question, He asks them who he is. As a side note, Peter's answer is a hidden explanation of the Trinity: there is a trine which resides in one person Jesus Christ: You are the Christ (3), the Son (2) of the living God (1). But that is another topic. So why does the prophet Jeremiah come up? It is from this passage:
Then the word of the LORD came to me, saying: "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; Before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations." (Jer. 1:4-5)
Which implies a preexistence, after which the prophet Jeremiah became incarnate. But it can be read the other way: God simply had foreknowledge of who is to come. Here is another passage:
Now as Jesus passed by, He saw a man who was blind from birth.
And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?"
Jesus answered, "Neither this man nor his parents sinned, but that the works of God should be revealed in him. I must work the works of Him who sent Me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. As long as I am in the world, I am the light of the world." (John 9:1-5)
Implied in the question, is that the man born blind had committed a sin in a previous life. Again, Jesus does not answer the question. This just drove me nuts. Just ANSWER the QUESTION. Why does he not answer? The answer is a bit complicated, and involves spiritual matters that could not be revealed at the time. Perhaps he does give an answer in this statement:
And His disciples asked Him, saying, "Why then do the scribes say that Elijah must come first?"
Jesus answered and said to them, "Indeed, Elijah is coming first and will restore all things. But I say to you that Elijah has come already, and they did not know him but did to him whatever they wished. Likewise the Son of Man is also about to suffer at their hands."
Then the disciples understood that He spoke to them of John the Baptist. (Matt. 17:10-13)
So, Elijah was reborn as John the Baptist? Or he fulfilled the role of Elijah? And then we have this answer:
Now this is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, "Who are you?"
He confessed, and did not deny, but confessed, "I am not the Christ."
And they asked him, "What then? Are you Elijah?" He said, "I am not." (John 1:19-21)
Which could mean John the Baptist was denying he is a reincarnation of Elijah. But then again, maybe he just does not remember? My answer to this is he fulfilled the role of Elijah...but that again is another topic. The point is, when just depending on the literal sense of scripture, we just got nowhere. This is because the literal sense of scripture hides behind it the true spiritual meaning, for those willing to find it. You can't just read it and expect to understand it unless you ask the Lord to reveal it to you. Otherwise the literal sense can be "bent" to confirm what you want it to confirm. Without revelation, it is a closed book.

THE SPIRITUAL REALM AS SEEN BY EMANUEL SWEDENBORG


There is a certain spiritual uncertainty to important questions unless a direct revelation is given. It is questions such as these that led me to Emanuel Swedenborg - one who claimed to have had continuous visions of heaven and hell over a period of 25 years. He had extraordinary gifts of the mind - see The Confirmed Clairvoyance of Emanuel Swedenborg. One of the main reasons for the revelation is that most people have absolutely no idea what happens to them after they die, and deny the afterlife. And he wrote volumes concerning what he experienced. He summed up the afterlife in his work Heaven and Hell. Simply put, the world of ideas inside our mind is what becomes our reality when our body dissipates. More accurately, it is our will that survives more so than our intellectual thought, for the will - how we lived - determines who we are. So what does Swedenborg have to say? A lot. Actually more than a lifetime of study. Within our material body there is a more refined spiritual body that causes the material form to live, which is not visible to light:
With regard to the soul, of which it is said that it shall live after death, it is nothing else than the man himself who lives in the body, that is, the interior man who acts through the body in the world, and who causes the body to live. This man when loosed from the body is called a spirit, and appears then altogether in a human form, yet cannot in any wise be seen by the eyes of the body, but by the eyes of the spirit; and before the eyes of the latter appears as a man in the world, having senses, namely, touch, smell, hearing, sight, much more exquisite than in the world; having appetites, lusts, desires, affections, loves, such as in the world, but this in more excellent degree; thinking also as in the world, but more perfectly; conversing with others; in a word, he is there as in the world, insomuch that if he does not reflect upon his being in the other life, he knows no otherwise than that he is in the world — as I have sometimes heard spirits say; for the life after death is a continuation of life in the world. This then is the soul of man which lives after death. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6054)
The soul is not amorphous, or some aether in the air. It is in its complete human form. Not only that, but a male will be male and a female will be female, and this does not change to eternity:
Since man lives as a man after death, and man is male and female, and the masculine is one and the feminine another, and they are so different that one cannot be changed into the other, it follows that after death the male lives as a male, and the female as a female, each a spiritual man. It is said that the masculine cannot be changed into feminine, nor the feminine into masculine, and that therefore after death the male is a male and the female is a female (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 32).
The sex does not change. If you examine accounts of past lives retrieved through hypnotic regressions, you will find that past lives will interchange between male and female. Why? These memories one is accessing through hypnosis are not exactly "past lives."

THE COLLECTIVE MEMORY OF THE SOUL

One's memory of what one did in life survives after death - this becomes a "book" that is inscribed on everyone's life, that can be read by anyone that is close in the spiritual world. It is what is read when one first enters the light of the afterlife, to determine where you belong. And memories of different spirits are accessible in the other life through telepathy.
For there is nothing hidden which will not be revealed, nor has anything been kept secret but that it should come to light. (Mark 4:22)
Hypnosis was not known in the time of Emanuel Swedenborg. And yet he speaks of what would happen should one come into contact with the memory of another spirit:
An angel or spirit is not allowed to speak with a man from his own memory, but from that of the man; for angels and spirits have memory as well as men. If a spirit should speak with a man from his own memory, then the man would not know otherwise than that the things which he then thought were his own, when yet they were the spirit's; it is like the recollection of a thing, which yet the man never heard or saw. That it is so, has been given me to know from experience. From this some of the ancients had the opinion, that after some thousands of years they should return into their former life, and into all its acts, and also that they had returned. They concluded it from this, that sometimes there occurred to them a recollection, as it were, of things which they never saw or heard; and this came to pass because spirits flowed from their own memory into their ideas of thought. (Heaven and Hell, n. 256)
This perfectly explains past life memories retrieved under hypnosis: they are the memories of those who have gone before us. It also explains why in ancient times they held to the belief of reincarnation: when their minds were more spiritually open, they came into touch with these kindred spirits from the spiritual realm, and thought the memories were their own. Each and every individual is associated with angels and spirits which influence how one thinks and acts, and these spirits are so integrated with the personality that they think that one's own memory is their own memory. These spirits are both good and bad:
With every man there are good spirits and evil spirits; by good spirits man has conjunction with heaven, and by evil spirits with hell. These spirits are in the world of spirits, which world is in the midst between heaven and hell, and will be described particularly hereafter. These spirits when they come to a man, enter into all his memory, and thence into all his thought; evil spirits into the things of the memory and thought that are evil, but good spirits into the things of the memory and thought that are good. The spirits do not know at all that they are with man, but when they are with him they believe that all things of his memory and thought are their own (Heaven and Hell, n. 292)
It is for this reason that those who get in touch with spirits through channeling - which are typically lower order spirits - will constantly insist that reincarnation is a fact. This is false - it a fallacy that comes from shared memory between the spirit and the subject:
The spirits who are in company with a man enter into all his memory and into all the knowledges of memory that he possesses. Thus they take upon themselves all things belonging to the man, so completely that they do not know but they are their own. This is a prerogative that spirits have above man. In consequence, all things which the man thinks they think, and all things that the man wills they will. Conversely also, whatever the spirits think the man thinks, and whatever the spirits will the man wills; for they act as one by conjunction. Yet on both sides it is supposed that all these thoughts and feelings are in and from themselves, both on the part of the spirits and on the part of man. But this is a fallacy. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5843)
And the funny thing is when these spirits were told that reincarnation is not true, that these are shared memories with the subjects they influence, they get extremely upset and angry:
From much experience it has been given me to know that whatever the spirits think and speak from the memory of man, they suppose to be their own and in themselves. If it is told them that it is not so, they are highly indignant — such fallacy of sense reigns with them. To convince them that it is not so, they were asked whence they knew how to speak with me in my mother tongue, when they had known nothing at all of it in the life of the body, and how they knew other languages with which I was acquainted, and they of themselves knew not one — whether they believed these were their own. I read Hebrew in their presence and they understood it, even children, as far as I did and no farther. And all the science that was in my mind, was in theirs. From this they were convinced that when they come to a man, they come into possession of all his knowledge, and that they are in error in believing it to be their own. They have also their own knowledge, but they are not permitted to draw this forth, to the end that they may serve man through his knowledge — as well as for various other reasons, of which above (n. 2476, 2477, 2479) — and because there would be the greatest confusion if spirits should flow in from their own memory (n. 2478). (Heavenly Arcana, n. 5858)
Apparently, under hypnotic regression this barrier between the subject's memory and the memory of spirits is somehow brought down - especially when someone is asked to remember something from the time before they were born. This brings about confusion as to identity. Indeed, one spirit was so integrated with Swedenborg's memory that he thought he was Swedenborg:
Another spirit also supposed himself to be me, insomuch that he believed when he talked with me in my native language that he was speaking from his own, saying that the language was his. But it was shown that the language that belongs to spirits is entirely different, and that it is the universal language of all, and that from it ideas flowed into my native language, and thus they spoke, not from themselves, but in me; and that this is a proof that they not only come into those things which are man's, but also that they suppose them to be their own. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6199)
So one can begin to understand why Jesus did not answer the question concerning reincarnation. It involves the interaction of the spiritual world with the lower material world. And if he gave answers such as the above, the Jews probably would have stoned him for heresy. When Jesus revealed who He was they thought He was an insane demoniac. Even in the present day, many are not ready to hear about these spiritual matters. But at this time I believe these answers must be given, as there is a proliferation of reincarnation in New Age thought and the church has not addressed it, nor are they ready to address it.

THE ORIGIN OF THE SOUL

It is quite understandable why many believe in reincarnation, especially those who may have become more spiritually advanced and had their minds opened through meditation. The past memories will be of lives similar to your own. But for those that believe in reincarnation, the origin of the soul becomes problematic. In the other world Swedenborg encountered some ancients who could not adequately explain the origin of the soul:
But some of them, not indeed dissenting from the rest, but to throw light on the state of the question, said: "Souls sprang into existence when the ether gathered itself together from that great chaos, and then in the highest region divided itself into innumerable individual forms, which infuse themselves into men while they begin to think from the purer air; and these are then called souls." Hearing this another said, "I grant that the individual forms, formed from the ether in the upper region, were innumerable; but still the men born since the creation of the world have exceeded their number; how then could those ethereal forms suffice? Wherefore I have thought with myself that the souls which go out of the mouth of men when they die return to the same after some thousands of years, and enter into and pass a life similar to the former; that many wise men believe in such things and metempsychosis, is well known." (True Christian Religion, n. 79)
So, when and where does the soul originate? The answer is quite simple, and it is one that is supported by biology: the soul, or one's life, originates at conception of the seed of the father with the ovum of the mother.
...the soul is from the father and the body from the mother; for the soul is in the seed of the father, and it is clothed with a body in the mother; or, what is the same, all the spiritual that man has is from the father, and all the material is from the mother. (True Christian Religion, n. 92)
What a man receives from his father is one thing, and what he receives from his mother is another. From his father a man receives all that is internal, his soul itself or life being out of the father; but he receives from his mother all that is external. In a word, the inner man, or the spirit itself, is from the father; but the outer man, or the body itself, is from the mother; which every one can comprehend merely from this, that the soul is itself implanted from the father, and this begins to clothe itself in a little bodily form in the ovule. Whatever is afterwards added, whether in the ovule or in the womb, is of the mother; for it has no increase from anywhere else. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1815)
The soul originates from the seed of the father. And this explains why Jesus was born of a virgin - as there was no human seed, but conception was by the Holy Spirit, His soul was Divine, and this is the reason why he calls God His Father:
Every man's internal is from his father, and his external from his mother; or what is the same thing, the soul itself is from the father, and the body with which the soul is clothed is from the mother. The soul and the body together still make a one; for the soul is the body's, and the body is the soul's; they are therefore inseparable. The Lord's internal was from the Father, and thus was the Father Himself. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 2005)
Most Christian churches have fallen into the error in believing that the Father is a separate distinct being from Jesus. The New Church does not make this error, it is this doctrine which distinguishes the New Church from the older Christian churches. What does this mean? Jesus is Jehovah in human form:
The Divine Itself which is the Esse of all things was in the Lord alone, for He was conceived of Jehovah; and every man has from his father the esse of his life, which is called his soul. Hence it is evident that the Divine good of the Divine love was in the Human of the Lord, as the soul of a father in a son. And because with man nothing lives but his soul, for the body without the soul does not live, and because everything of the body is produced from the soul, thus to the image of it, in order that the soul may be in adequate condition and adapted to functions in the ultimates of order, which are in the world, it hence follows that the Esse itself in the Human of the Lord was Jehovah, which is the Divine good of the Divine love. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10125.2)
Thus the human in which He was born eventually became glorified and one with the Divine, and rose from the dead:
So was it in the Lord as to His Human; yet concerning His Human it cannot be said that it was regenerated, but that it was glorified, for His inmost, which with man is called the soul from the father, was the Divine Itself, as He was conceived of Jehovah. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 10052.2)
Thus the "Son of God" is the human that was born to Mary in time, not from eternity:
Whence is the soul of a son but from the father? and whence is his body, but from the mother? We speak of the Divine of the Father, and mean the Father Himself, since He and His Divine are the same; this also is one and indivisible. That it is so, is evident also from these words of the angel Gabriel to Mary: The power of the Highest shall overshadow thee, and the Holy Spirit come upon thee, and the Holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God; and just above He is called the Son of the Highest, and elsewhere, the only-begotten Son. (True Christian Religion, n. 112)
Finally, the Christian church invented the doctrine of a "Son of God born from eternity" - this doctrine was introduced into the Nicene Creed in the fourth century, and from that error much of Christianity became a corrupt religion that was not truly monotheistic. Swedenborg compares this doctrine of the Nicene creed to the fable of reincarnation:
That a Son of God born from eternity descended and assumed the Human, may be compared to the fables of the ancients, that human souls were created from the beginning of the world, and enter into bodies and become men; and also to the absurd notions that the soul of one passes into another, as many in the Jewish Church believed — as, that the soul of Elijah passed into the body of John the Baptist (True Christian Religion, n. 171)
PERFECTION OF THE SOUL CONTINUES FOR ETERNITY

Those who have held reincarnation as a central tenet of their belief system may be disappointed to hear that one only lives once, then comes the judgment, and then that is it, the end. But it is not the end, it is the beginning: for the perfection of the soul continues for eternity.
The Lord out of Divine mercy regenerates man, and this is effected from his infancy even to the end of his life in the world and afterward for ever. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9452)
In this life we have barely touched the surface of what we will experience in the higher planes of existence:
...it is an arcanum [hidden secret], man's regeneration in the world is only a plane for the perfecting of his life to eternity. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9334.3)
...one who is being born again passes through the ages of life as when first born; and that the state that precedes is always as an ovum with respect to the following one, and thus that he is continually being conceived and born; and this not only when living in the world, but also to eternity when he comes into the other life; and still he can never be perfected further than to be as an ovum to the states that still remain, which are without number. It is manifest from this how innumerable are the things relative to man's regeneration, when as yet man knows scarce any of them (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4379)
The means by which a soul is perfected is barely known to us, but they are based on the means of perfection in this life, beginning with acknowledgment of one's faults through self examination, and exercising love for others according to their need:
Sins are not remitted by repentance of the mouth, but by repentance of the life. Sins are continually remitted to man by the Lord, for He is mercy itself; but sins adhere to man, albeit he supposes that they are remitted, nor are they removed from him except by a life according to the precepts of faith. So far as he lives according to those precepts, so far his sins are removed, and so far as they are removed, so far they are remitted. For man is withheld by the Lord from evil and is held in good. And he is so far able to be withheld from evil in the other life, as in the life of the body he had resisted evil. And he is so far able to be held in good then, as in the life of the body he had done good from affection. From this it may be evident what the remission of sins is, and whence it is. He who believes that sins are remitted in any other way, is much deceived. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 8393)
Belief is nothing unless you live by it. But how is one perfected to eternity? There are a variety of passages I can draw from Swedenborg, but I found this one interesting - angelic spirts occasionally revert back to their natural state. This is explained in the symbolism of the Jewish law concerning touching dead bodies:
Again: The soul which toucheth any such [uncleanness] shall be unclean until the even, and shall not eat of the holy things; unless he bathe his flesh in water. And when the sun is down, he shall be clean; and afterward he shall eat of the holy things (Lev. xxii. 6, 7). And again: Any man that is not clean . . . when evening cometh on, shall bathe himself in water; and when the sun is down, he shall come within the camp (Deut. xxiii. 10, 11). That this law also has its origin from the laws of good and truth, or the laws of order, which are in the Lord's kingdom, may be evident; otherwise it would never have been commanded that the unclean person should be unclean until the evening, and should then wash himself with water, and after the sun was down should be clean. The law of order in the Lord's kingdom, from which the above law comes, is that good and angelic spirits, when they lapse into a state of self-love, and thereby into a state of falsity, are then remitted a little into their natural or lower state, and are there imbued with knowledges of good and truth as to that thing, which is signified by washing themselves with water in the evening. That washing with water means being purified from falsities, may be seen above (n. 3147, 3148); and that waters are the knowledges of truth (n. 28, 680, 739, 2702, 3058). And after they have been in that obscure state, which is signified by the going down of the sun, they return into their former state, which is signified by their being clean, and entering into the midst of the camp — on which subject, by the Divine mercy of the Lord, something shall be said elsewhere from experience. From what has been said it is now manifest that the going down of the sun, in the Word, signifies an obscure state as to truth with the good, and a state of falsity with the wicked. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3693.7)
And what happens when an angelic spirit descends to a lower natural state of self desire? That angelic spirit becomes conjoined with the mind of a person on earth who has chosen to live in the same state of being. A spirit can become conjoined with the memory of a living person to the point where they think that memory is one's own. So is the doctrine of reincarnation true or false? It is not true, but it is not exactly false either. To all intents and purposes, we will each have the experience of multiple life times in order to be perfected. And yet as a material life form, we only live once. Going down to a lower natural state is not the only means of perfection. Angelic beings are given tasks as guides for others: at birth, two angelic spirits and two evil spirits are assigned to each person at birth:
Man does not know at all that he is governed of the Lord by means of angels and spirits; and that with every man there are at least two spirits, and two angels. Through spirits communication of man with the world of spirits is effected, and through angels with heaven. Without communication through spirits with the world of spirits, and through angels with heaven, and so through heaven with the Lord, man can by no means live. His life entirely depends on that conjunction. If the spirits and angels should withdraw, he would perish in a moment. While man is unregenerate, he is governed quite otherwise than when regenerated. While unregenerate there are evil spirits with him, who so domineer over him that the angels, though present, are scarcely able to do any thing more than just to guide him so that he may not plunge into the lowest evil, and bend him to some good — in fact to bend him by means of his own desires to good, and through the fallacies of the senses to truth. He then has communication with the world of spirits, through the spirits who are with him, but not so much with heaven, because evil spirits rule, and angels only avert their rule. But when man is regenerated, angels rule, and inspire him with all goods and truths, and with fear and horror of evils and falsities. The angels indeed lead, but only as ministers, for it is the Lord alone who governs man by angels and spirits. (Heavenly Arcana, n. 50)
And the above is similar to ancient Neoplatonic thought, where an angelic genius is assigned to each person at birth. This blog entry is long, but I have barely touched the surface. Obviously broaching this topic of the spiritual afterlife brings up a host of other questions. I had to eliminate a lot of other passages from Swedenborg, there was a lot to choose from. But my intent here was to focus on the spiritual matters behind the idea of reincarnation. Perhaps, by participating in the memories of others, one can find the means to escape from limbo:



Did anyone bother to read the confidential paper that appears at the beginning of the movie Inception?


The heading of the confidential paper says PROCLUS.  Proclus, of course, was one of the last major Neoplatonic philosophers. So what did he have to say about the soul? Here is a summary from wikipedia:
Individual souls have the same overall structure as the principle of Soul, but they are weaker. They have a tendency to be fascinated with the material world, and be overpowered by it. It is at this point that individual souls are united with a material body (i.e. when they are born). Once in the body, our passions have a tendency to overwhelm our reason. According to Proclus, philosophy is the activity which can liberate the soul from a subjection to bodily passions, remind it of its origin in Soul, Intellect, and the One, and prepare it not only to ascend to the higher levels while still in this life, but to avoid falling immediately back into a new body after death.

33 comments:

  1. About angels who fall down to their natural, did you find something in Swedenborg that made their connection with human beings at that time seem to be anything different than the usual type of connections between spirits or angels and humans on earth? I'm a little unclear on how you think this makes the reality of reincarnation somehow a gray area.

    As the passages you quote show, it is a common phenomenon in the spiritual world for spirits especially, and even for angels, to inhabit the memories of a human being who is still living on earth, to the point that the spirits or angels think of themselves as being that person. This still doesn't constitute reincarnation, because they are not, in fact, that person, and that person still has a distinct soul of his or her own, which is not the soul of the spirit or angel inhabiting their memories at that time.

    Though I don't see how this makes reincarnation a gray area, it is certainly another source for the belief in reincarnation--one that I didn't cover in my article because I simply couldn't cover everything without writing an entire book. That's why at one point I mentioned that there are other reasons as well that people believe in reincarnation.

    Specifically, another reason people believe in reincarnation is that they come into conscious contact with spirits who tell them that reincarnation does happen. Most of the time this probably has quite a simple explanation: the spirits are inhabiting that person's memory, that person believes in reincarnation, so the spirits at that moment believe it as well, and tell the person that it is true.

    However, the experience of (unenlightened) spirits inhabiting the memories of people on earth, so much so that they believe they actually are that person, may also induce upon the spirits themselves the idea that reincarnation is a reality. They then pass their own mistaken beliefs on to the person on earth with whom they are in contact.

    Basically, what I'm saying is that the fact that there are experiences on the part of angels and spirits and on the part of humans on earth that give a false sense that reincarnation happens does not actually make reincarnation a gray area. It simply provides further reasons why some people, and some spirits, erroneously believe that reincarnation is a reality.

    Perhaps I'm missing the point you're making?

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    1. Reincarnation, the way that people think of it, is not true. Our soul does not pass from one body to the next. But in the spiritual world, angels or spirits can participate in not only our memories but can be the origin of the suggestion of our thoughts. Some in hell, Swedenborg saw, become almost indistinguishable from a lust or fantasy. So when we indulge in a lust, and then break away from it through repentance, not only do we learn but the spirits who originated it can learn as well. And for some of them, it was as if they lived another life by participating in our memory. So the effect is, the eastern teachings that we should "break" the cycle of rebirth and ascend higher are not exactly false, but true. That's why I said it was a grey area, neither false or true, sort of like fuzzy logic. Reincarnation is an "appearance" of truth. In a similar way the Jewish rituals are "appearances" of truth. Sort of like myths are lies that tell the truth.

      So IMO, that is how Jesus reordered heaven and hell. Hell was constantly trying to tempt Him, and he would then break away from the temptation. and in the process hell was reordered. Likewise the heavenly realms. Each human being is a microcosm, in a literal way, encompassing not only the physical realms but the realm of heaven and hell as well. And in an odd sort of way, God participates in each human experience as well. Thus in Matt. 25 he declared when we loved someone, we did it to him. It was as if he was "incarnate" in each one of us. Not literally true, but indirectly, as His spirit dwells in us.

      Sorry if I am not clear, sometimes things are just not black or white but somewhere in the middle, where we are dealing with temporary appearances of truth.

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    2. Hi Doug,

      I think I understand what you're saying. It just doesn't really seem like a "gray area" to me. Yes, ideas, experiences, and learning can be transferred fairly easily in the spiritual world, just as they can be transferred somewhat more clumsily here in the material world. But each individual still maintains his or her long-term identity.

      One analogy that helps me to keep things sorted out is thinking of each human being, spirit, or angel as a circle, which can be defined either in reference to its center or in reference to its surface area and circumference. Or perhaps as either a point or a sphere of influence. (This analogy might annoy the mathematicians less.) If defined as a center, it is unique and cannot be interchanged with any other being (this is assuming that only one unique point can occupy one space at any one time). However, if defined as the surface area and circumference, or as the sphere of influence, it can overlap with many other circles or spheres, sharing reality with them. In this way, we are both uniquely ourselves and mixed in with one another.

      Even if our experiences and memories do overlap and flow into one another, we still maintain a unique center, which is our soul, and which never passes over into or gets mixed in with another individual to all eternity. In fact, we become more and more distinctly ourselves continually to all eternity, even while growing closer and closer to those around us in our spiritual community, and close and closer to God.

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    3. Hi Doug,

      Since my very first comment on this article has apparently been lost, I'll attempt to reconstruct it here.

      I think Jesus, though not explicit, is a little more definite than you suggest when it comes to rejecting reincarnation. In each case in which it comes up, he either denies it as operating or does not accept it but moves on to a more acceptable answer.

      In the case of the man born blind in John 9, when the disciples suggest that either this man or his parents sinned to cause him to be born blind, he specifically rejected both explanations, saying instead that this happened so that God's works might be revealed in him. In rejecting the idea that this man had sinned in a previous life to cause him to be born blind, Jesus is denying a cardinal premise of reincarnation, which is that current pain and suffering is caused by sins in previous life. So by implication he is rejecting the whole idea of reincarnation.

      In Matthew 16:13-20, in which Jesus asks his disciples who people think he is, and they report that some think he is John the Baptist or one of the prophets, he passes this answer over, in effect asking them for a better one.

      In John 3:1-21, when Nicodemus (probably rhetorically) asks if a man will really return to the mother's womb and be born again, Jesus explains somewhat metaphorically that he is not talking about another physical birth, but about a spiritual birth.

      All of this adds up to a fairly systematic denial of reincarnation on Jesus' part.

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    4. Also in my original comment:

      I covered those Bible passages (but not the Jeremiah one) more fully in my recent article on reincarnation:

      The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation
      http://leewoof.org/2014/03/07/the-bible-emanuel-swedenborg-and-reincarnation/

      This article does cover some (though not all) of the ground you've covered in this article, while including some different ground as well.

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    5. Okay, I thought Blogger automatically turned URLs into links, but apparently it doesn't. So here's that URL as an actual link:
      The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation

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    6. The fact that Jesus does not answer true or false in every single answer when it comes to reincarnation, is in fact an answer. For although each born individual is unique, the spiritual world interacts with the natural in such a way that a "group soul" will share memories with each other, and in the other life it will appear just as if you had lived multiple lives. I have seen some Near Death Experiences where this is the case. Even Swedenborg described the societies that dwell together as a star in heaven, and are together because they share like personalities. A group soul will form, which will form an image of a human, and as the NT states, we will become as a cell in our own body. Each cell has its own nucleus, and yet is part of a larger system that has one brain. So the religious teachings surrounding reincarnation are not exactly false, they are based upon an appearance of the truth, and are applicable to life. Which is why Jesus did not come out and say "Hey that is false" or "That is wrong".

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    7. The thing is, if we start thinking that way, then we can't say that anything at all is false. If we follow anything far enough backward and upward to its source, there will always be a truth there. That's because ultimately, everything comes from God, and God is absolute truth, with no taint of falsity.

      However, as things move down into human minds, they can and do get twisted into things that don't accurately represent the truth that is in God, and that are therefore in themselves false. Without this possibility, there could be no falsity, no evil, and no freedom, because everything would always be a genuine representation of the will and mind of God, and we would all automatically became angels because there would be no other possibility. (In fact, we would not, but would cease to exist at death like the lower animals, because without freedom and rationality, we cannot exist eternally as distinct individuals.)

      Just because reincarnation can be an image of a deeper truth or of a different phenomenon that does actually happen does not mean that it itself is true. And just because human beings both before and after death have experiences that give the impression of reincarnation happening does not mean it actually happens.

      Reincarnation as generally understood has a specific definition: the process of an individual soul being born into another body. From what I understand of spiritual reality, this simply doesn't happen, no matter how many appearances there may be that it happens, and regardless of the fact that if interpreted spiritually, it is an image of the spiritual rebirth process, and also regardless of the phenomena of group souls and of the interaction between the minds of beings in the spiritual world and the minds of beings in the material world.

      If we want to define reincarnation differently than it is usually defined, than we can, of course, find a definition for it that represents something that actually happens, and say that it is true. However, when we do this, we are not talking about the same thing as people are normally talking about when they use the word "reincarnation."

      If I say "there's a horse in the barn," and you think I mean the animal people ride, whereas I actually mean a sawhorse, which just happens to be in the barn where I keep my cows, then what you hear is going to be false, because I'm using "horse" with a different definition than you are. You'll go to the barn so that you can ride the horse, see that the barn is full of cows, and say, "That's not true. There are no horses in the barn. Only cows."

      Just so, if we say to people, "reincarnation is not exactly false," and their definition of reincarnation is individual souls being reborn into new bodies, then they're naturally going to think we're saying that this does sort of or sometimes happen, when in fact it doesn't. We're just defining it differently. The result is not understanding, but confusion. I've read a lot of articles and comments that say things along this line: "Well, normally reincarnation doesn't happen, but in some special cases it does." That's what people are going to hear if we say, "Reincarnation isn't exactly false."

      (continued . . . )

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  2. About the soul being from the father and the body from the mother, I've come to regard that as an idea that made it into Swedenborg's writings due to the limitations of the science of his day. It was not original to Swedenborg, but had been accepted "science" for centuries based on the teachings of Aristotle. In Swedenborg's day, the idea that Aristotle's science was definitive was only just starting to break down in some intellectual circles. Up to his time, when someone settled a point by saying "Ipse dixit" ("He himself said it"), the reference was not to Jesus, but to Aristotle.

    The fact is, biology as we know it today doesn't at all support the idea that the soul comes from the father and the body from the mother.

    In the rather crude biology Swedenborg had at his disposal, it made sense. The seed (not the sperm, which Swedenborg rejected as inconsequential, but what we would call the semen) was believed to be a carrier for an offshoot of the soul of the father. The egg, or perhaps the whole menstruum, was believed to supply the body. And of course, after conception, all the substance of the body came from the mother. So it's easy to see how from ancient times right up to the time of Swedenborg this theory could be considered solid science.

    What neither Swedenborg nor anyone else from ancient times right up to his day knew about was DNA and the transmission of nearly identical genetic material (in the sense of the type of material it was) from both the father and the mother. This was not discovered until the next century. As I mentioned just above, in Swedenborg's day even the sperm cell had not been clearly identified as a bearer of heredity from the father.

    In other words, Swedenborg was using the best science of his day. However, subsequent science, plus much of Swedenborg's own theology, makes that theory untenable.

    For one thing, if what is derived from the mother is limited to the body, the Incarnation as Swedenborg described it simply wouldn't work. Jesus needed a finite human "plane," or battlefield, on which to meet and fight against the devil, meaning the combined mass of all the evil of humanity. If all he received from Mary was a body, it would not provide such a plane.

    Swedenborg is quite clear that Jesus needed to receive the entire faulty and finite heredity of humanity through Mary to supply the plane on which the spiritual battle would take place. This required him to have received the spiritual levels of finite humanity, not just the body, from Mary. Without this, his human heredity from Mary simply could not do the job required of it.

    Toward the end of his life, Swedenborg made a few brief statements indicating that the human heredity or soul came from both the mother and the father. I haven't looked into these statements enough to fully consider their implications. But I do believe that future (and even present) New Church theology will have to leave behind the old Aristotelian theory of soul-generation in favor of one that draws on a correspondential understanding of the modern process of meiosis and the genetic contributions of both the mother and the father.

    I've done quite a bit of thinking about this myself. One day I hope to write up a more organized piece about it. In today's world, Aristotle's theory just won't fly. That's because it simply doesn't square with what we know of human origins from biology, nor, in the end, does it provide an adequate scientific basis for Swedenborg's theology--including his theology of the Incarnation.

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    1. This idea that the soul comes from the seed of the father, and the body of the mother, I have pondered about that quite a bit. Was Swedenborg right or wrong about that? When he talks about it he says "does not everybody know".... and my reaction is NO, everybody does not know. So maybe he borrowed it from someone? But I can't find the source. Maybe Plato, Aristotle, or a Neoplatonic philosopher? If you know where he got it, I would like to know. Maybe it was just commonplace thinking?

      So at first, I am thinking Swedenborg is obviously wrong on this point, we now know that the father and mother contribute chromosomes that determine the nature of the body. I was going to write a blog post on that but held off on that because in other passages Swedenborg talks about how the physical appearance passes on from father to son - a bit of a contradiction perhaps. As you know, I used to think Swedenborg was "obviously wrong" when it comes to life on other planets. Now in the last 10 years these scientific articles are coming out that state that not only Mars but Venus was covered with oceans of water and could support life - long before earth could.

      But as for the soul originating from the seed, I think in essence he is still right. The seed has this "active" principle of motion, the egg just sits there. And the egg provides the outer exernal casing. That Swedenborg did not know, he just said the mother is responsible for the "external" self. I have heard somewhere that at time of conception, or perhaps from the seed itself, there is an "electro-magnetic" signature, and this signature is retained until death. Unfortunately, I heard that in a conversation and have no references for it in any scientific journals. Its something one day I would like to dig up.

      As for the virgin birth, obviously somehow Jesus got two pairs of chromosomes. As to how that happened, I think it was a form of parthenogenesis which does occur in certain animals. However the child should always be female. I wondered about that a bit until I discovered that some females have a genetic condition where they actually carry a Y-chromosome, believe it or not. These females, unfortunately, cannot bear children. Is a YY pairing possible? I don't know. I have heard of other genetic conditions where some males carry an extra X chromosome.

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    2. Hi Doug,

      Yes, the idea that the soul was from the father and the body from the mother was still something Swedenborg could say "everybody knows" in his day. However, that didn't last much longer, and today it does sound strange, because now it certainly isn't something "everyone knows."

      Do you have the New Century Edition of Divine Love and Wisdom and/or Divine Providence? If so, look up note 146 in DLW, or note 263 in DP, which provide some references. In case you don't, the references given are to Aristotle, Generation of Animals 1:20–22 and Pliny, Natural History 7:15. I have also seen a reference to Aristotle, Generation of Animals, Book 2, Chapter 4. However, that might just be different reference style for the same material. I've read Generation of Animals myself. Definitely worth a read to give some background on Swedenborg's "science" in this area. I haven't looked up the Pliny reference.

      For a fascinating history of theories about conception and the long-running debate over role of the mother and the father, see The Ovary of Eve, by Clara Pinto-Correia, 1997, Chicago University Press.

      The idea that the soul comes from the father and the body from the mother definitely did not originate with Swedenborg. It was considered common knowledge in his day--hence the "everyone knows" statement.

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    3. Hi Doug,

      My first comment, which was posted using my Wordpress identity, did not show up publicly. Is it still pending? Your comment system defaults to the Google identity, but I prefer to have the link go to my Wordpress site. My Google+ is mostly just a mirror of what I post on Wordpress.

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    4. Hello Lee - I think I got that Wordpress comment published, I didnt get to these comments again until today, which I have to do due to spam. Thanks for those references for Swedenborg's ideas. Swedenborg (as well as scripture) defines soul as the recipient of life. Biologically life is defined as beginning with conception, where the egg begins to divide. So probably the answer is the soul originates with the act of conception. That would cover the cases of parthenogenesis. And apparently scientists were able to create a human embryo through parthenogenesis in 2004, although that was not known until 2007. As for the soul, we will never perhaps know of it directly, as Swedenborg said it was composed of a substance that does not interact with light (DLW 432).

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    5. Hi Doug,

      Thanks for looking up the Wordpress comments. Some have now appeared, but my first comment on this post, about the Biblical references on reincarnation, has still not appeared. Can it still be dug up?

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    6. About the origin of the soul, my theory is a modified version of Swedenborg's modified Aristotelian theory. Short version: Each individual soul does begin at conception as a unique combination of unique offshoots of both the mother's and the father's soul.

      This theory simply updates Swedenborg's theory on the origin of the soul to account for modern knowledge of genetics, looked at through the lens of correspondences.

      We now know that a person's genetic makeup is a combination of unique scions of each parent's genetic makeup, generated in each parent by the process of meiosis. The half-genetic material derived from each parent is not identical to either parent's genetic fingerprint, but rather is itself a unique variation drawn from the parent's available genetic material. At the time of conception, that half-genetic material is combined with the half-genetic material from the other parent, producing a unique full genetic fingerprint. At that point, there is a brand new unique, though as yet undeveloped, individual.

      Now, this process, like everything else in the material universe, must exist because it corresponds to an analogous spiritual process that is its source. So if we move one step up the correspondential ladder to the human spirit, there must be a similar, though spiritual, process going on to produce the new soul.

      Based on this principle, I believe that each parent's soul produces many potentially viable scions, or offshoots, of his or her soul, each of which is unique while also drawing on and derived from the parent's available genetic material in a complex process that is the source and spiritual correspondent of the process of meiosis. These offshoots are not in themselves viable souls. They are clothed in the vehicle of the sperm and the egg, and especially in the genetic material of the sperm and the egg. At conception, when the sperm and the egg combine, along with their genetic material, the offshoots of the souls of the two parents also combine, forming a unique human proto-soul. It is as yet undeveloped, but it contains the unique spiritual genetic blueprint for the new, as yet undeveloped human being that has just been conceived.

      (continued . . . )

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    7. Hello Lee - I have published everything. Some of them are your Wordpress identity, so I don't know what happened to the first one. Last time I saw evidence of tampering and had found a hidden virus backdoor on my laptop. But this time no trace of that comment, I did not see any notification for it.

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    8. Wanted to follow up on this, where Swedenborg said the soul originates from the seed of the father. I just did a complete search on "seed", and the picture is a bit more complicated. To summarize:

      1. Swedenborg states that the soul does NOT originate from the seed or the ovum, but from a spiritual influx. This is in direct disagreement with the idea that the soul originates from the seed of the father, which he probable borrowed from others. I knew I read it somewhere, finally found it: "Who at this day does not believe that man springs from the seed and the ovum according to nature? and that there is in the seed from the first creation the ability of producing itself into such forms, first within the ovum, next in the womb, and afterward of itself, and that it is not the Divine which continues to produce? The cause of its being so believed is, that no one knows there is any influx from heaven, that is, through heaven from the Lord" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 4322)

      2. Something spiritually prior must exist before the seed: "Unless there were such an eminent perfection in prior and simple things, neither man, nor any animal, could exist and afterward subsist from seed" (DLW 204)

      3. The seed is merely a receptacle of life (DLW 269)

      4. Seeds are impregnated with a substance of a spiritual origin (DLW 310)

      5. "nature contributes nothing at all to the production of plants and animals, but ...all are produced by that which flows in from the spiritual world into the natural" (DLW 344). Also, the image of creation originates from the spiritual, not the natural (DLW 315)

      6. There is this odd passage where he says "as the soul descends the truth descends" and "that while this is being done the whole soul forms itself and clothes itself and becomes a seed" and the soul can exist in the smallest of receptacles (the seed) as much as the fullest receptacle (the body) (ML 220).

      7. Finally, Swedenborg mentions "a secret from heaven" concerning conception between a disunited married pair. He then repeats "the soul is procreated; but in its descent, while it is becoming seed, it is covered over by such things as are of his natural love" (ML 245)

      So my conclusion, at this point, is at conception there is a spiritual influx of the soul. I can go a little further with a bit of speculation, but at this point I am "agnostic" in such matters and wont publicize them. I will only point out, that if Swedenborg was wrong in some of his statements (which these statements obviously prove), he was wrong on perhaps some other points.

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    9. Hi Doug,

      Thanks for the nice summary of Swedenborg on "seed." Of course, the seed itself, being material, is not the soul, nor is it the origin of the soul. Rather, it is built by the soul as a material housing for the soul, in order to convey it to union with its counterpart from the other parent.

      It's important to understand that Swedenborg uses the generic term "seed" because knowledge of the physiology of reproduction was not sufficiently advanced in his day to clearly identify the sperm and its functions. He does speak of the ovum and its function as far as was then known. However, even in this there is some mixture of earlier beliefs about the body being formed from the entire menstruum in utero under the influence of the soul that is borne there by the male seed. The physiology of reproduction was, so to speak, in an embryonic state at that point in the history of science. This made it impossible for Swedenborg to speak with any precision about the physical counterparts of the spiritual process of reproduction.

      I've read Swedenborg's earlier unpublished scientific draft on the reproductive organs fairly carefully on these points in conjunction with my work on the notes for the New Century Edition volume of his work Marriage Love. As brilliant as his earlier scientific inquiries were, there is much there that has since been disproved. For example, Swedenborg speculated that the "seed" traveled along a pathway in the woman's body that is now known to be an impassible suspensory ligament.

      The issues involved are also complicated by the fact that Swedenborg's draft on the reproductive organs was written about 1734 (but never published), whereas Marriage Love was written and published 34 years later, in 1768. Even in that time, the science of reproduction was advancing. Though the science embodied in Swedenborg's theological works is based largely on that of his earlier scientific works, developments that happened in the decades between do also make their way into the theological works, making it difficult to pin the science down exactly on some points.

      (continued . . .)

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    10. (. . . continued)

      Even though Swedenborg did not have access to detailed knowledge of the reproductive process, today we do. And we can be much more specific about the sperm as the identity-carrying vessel, and the semen as the fluid designed to provide a means to deliver the sperm to its initial destination, from which the sperm continues the journey under its own power.

      We can also be more specific about the ovum, or egg, as the identity-carrying vessel in the female, and the menstruum in utero as the receiving vessel that provides the fertilized egg a means to implant itself and begin the process of division and specialization until the complex umbilical system can be developed and become functional.

      All of this provides us with huge advances in our ability to understand the process of human reproduction, both physically and spiritually. Using the principles Swedenborg provides us about the relationship and interaction between the spiritual and the physical, we can develop a much more precise and complex theory of the origin of individual human souls than Swedenborg was able to provide us here on earth due to the limits in our knowledge of human physiology in his day.

      In light of those principles, it's clear that the seed (today, the sperm and the egg) itself is not the soul. Rather, it is a vessel capable of carrying the soul-material from both the father and the mother to the point of conception, at which point the partial scions from the souls of the father and the mother combine to form a full (but as yet undeveloped) soul, which is the unique identity behind the new, unique human being that has now been conceived.

      This is still a simplified picture of a very complex process. But to my mind at least, the general outlines of what happens are fairly clear. And it points to the soul being formed as a unique entity in its own right at the moment of conception. Of course, at that point it is still undeveloped. But it has the spiritual genetic fingerprint that establishes it as a unique, new being that can develop into a unique, new human being.

      I have no problem with the idea that Swedenborg could be wrong on some of his statements--especially those that depend on the science and culture of his day. As with all revelation, the purpose of his writings is not to teach us about science, history, and culture, but to provide us with spiritual knowledge and understanding, and to lead us toward lives of active love for God and for our fellow human beings. Swedenborg used the science and culture at his disposal to deliver a spiritual message. It's best not to confuse the spiritual truth he was conveying with the scientific and cultural vessel in which he delivered it.

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  3. (. . . continued)

    This is my theory as I've thought it through so far. It's been decades since I studied mitosis and meiosis, so if I wanted to develop it much more specifically I'd have to brush up on the physiology involved. Meiosis is a very complex process. As I understand it, it is not entirely tied to the active genetic material of the parents. However, I do think the general outlines of this theory are sound.

    (Speaking of the complexities of meiosis, when my mother was in grade school, her science teacher taught the class that if both parents had the recessive trait, the child must also have the recessive trait. If, for example, both parents had blue eyes, the child would have blue eyes. The only fly in the ointment was that both of my mother's parents had blue eyes, but she herself had brown eyes. So she was pretty sure that what the teacher told the class was not correct.)

    As for the father contributing the essential element as posited in Aristotle's theory, what's left of that in modern genetics is that the father's genetic material does determine the sex of the child, and various sex-linked traits. This is certainly a significant part of the child's identity, which is determined by the father. However, it does not neatly parse into the father contributing the soul and the mother contributing the body as in the Aristotelian theory that Swedenborg adopted.

    Practically speaking, my theory would result in a person's spiritual makeup being derived from the spiritual makeup of both the father and the mother. Various parts of Swedenborg's theology would have to be modified to account for this. And of course, as I mentioned previously, the theology of the Incarnation would also have to be modified. And yet, I think the resulting modifications would provide a much more sound and workable system both for the Incarnation and for our individual regeneration. This is an area where the limitations of the science of Swedenborg's day put a crimp on his ability to clearly express in natural ideas the spiritual truths he was charged with delivering to the world.

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  4. About knowing of the soul directly, I think Swedenborg's DLW 432 comment means that we will not be able to study it directly through science, since it is a non-material reality, and science studies material reality.

    We can know it somewhat more directly through spiritual study and experience. In fact, in the broad definition of the soul as the human spirit, we experience it every day as our thoughts and feelings, and the mental and emotional landscape in which we live.

    However, in the narrow definition of soul, it is the highest element of our being, which is the immediate receiver of life from God. This soul is entirely above human consciousness. It cannot be studied directly even by the highest angels, who live in brilliant spiritual (not material) light. It is, in fact, the essential person, and the deepest possible "perspective" from which we could look at everything lower in us, but which itself we cannot see, except as in a mirror, because it is our essential being. It is beyond our ability to grasp or to change. It remains perfectly intact and uncorrupted even in the worst devils; and from it the highest angels get their unique individuality.

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    1. There are several passages in Swedenborg stating that our spiritual body is composed of a higher more refined substance. And I think when we discover it, we will realize there is nothing "religious" about it, heaven and hell are simply higher dimensions of reality where space and time do not exist. My latest speculation is that it may be dark matter. Dark matter does not interact with light, and is not made up of regular atoms from the periodic table, so it satisfies those criteria. Dark matter effects regular matter gravitationally. There was one researcher who tried to prove the existence of the soul by measuring slight weight losses at time of death. I think he was on the right track, but it has never been replicated, and it is a bit hard to define the exact "time of death."

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    2. However, the substance that the spiritual body is composed of is not material; it is spiritual. So it will have zero weight on material scales, and will not exist in the material universe.

      What might possibly have a slight amount of weight that we take with us when we die is the "border" (Latin limbus) of "the purest things in nature." I have heard of that experiment attempting to weigh the soul, and I am skeptical of it. However, if there is ever reliably shown to be a slight weight loss at death, it will be that border or limbus, not the soul itself, that accounts for the weight. That's assuming it is not accounted for by ordinary material processes.

      The whole concept of the limbus is a head-scratcher, and has been the subject of much debate among Swedenborgians.

      As for dark matter, scientists assume that it is made of some sort of physical matter, even if it is not ordinary matter. This would rule it out as the substance of the soul.

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  5. Another point that was in my original first comment, re: the Lord's statement in Jeremiah 1:4-5 "Before I formed you in the womb I knew you; before you were born I sanctified you; I ordained you a prophet to the nations":

    It is not necessary for us to pre-exist birth for God to know us before we were born. From the eternal, divine perspective in which God exists, all things that to us are past, present, or future are present and known in one eternal present.

    This is tricky to express in natural language, which is inevitably time-bound. So the Bible has to use words like "before" and "after" in relation to God, even though they don't really apply to God. A common device in Hebrew that reflects this reality is that often future events are prophesied in the present tense, as if they are happening right now. Swedenborg says that this is because for God, they are present even though when they were written down in the human timeline they were still in the future.

    Swedenborg especially applies this to Old Testament prophecies about the glorification of the Lord while he was on earth. In answer to the implicit question of how these things could be presented in such a detailed fashion in the spiritual meaning of the Old Testament when none of them had yet happened temporally, Swedenborg replies that God saw them all from the eternity in which he is, and from that timeless perspective, placed them in the Word before (from our perspective) they had happened.

    In fact, for God, there is no change or learning or growth due to the Incarnation. For God, all those things have been, are, and will be eternally present. However, for our benefit, and also because of the nature of material reality, bound as it is to time and space, they had to be played out in a particular time and space in the material universe.

    This does have bearing on the false doctrine of the Son born from eternity. Those who framed that doctrine saw an appearance of something that they did not grasp, because their minds were bound by time and space. Only by lifting the mind above time and space can it be understood how the Son, though born in time, could be "before Abraham," as he said. Once again, the "before" and "after" language is necessary to express divine ideas in material ideas, the latter being bound by time, while the former are not. "Born from eternity" has no meaning in material time--and that is how those theologians thought of it. So the idea was false, even though there is a deeper truth behind it that they did not (and still do not) understand.

    Back to Jeremiah, to be plain, there is no need for Jeremiah's soul to have pre-existed his birth for God to have known him "before" (in human terms) he was born. This is just a material-language representation of the truth that God is eternally present in and aware of everything, past, present, and future, that to us only unfolds in time.

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    1. About foreknowledge of particulars of people's lives before they are born - in addition to the passage of Jeremiah, I have seen case after case of just exactly that in the prophecies of Nostradamus. King Louis XVI of France, who was beheaded in the French Revolution, is a prime example. I published some of them in The Decoded Prophecies of Nostradamus. To explain it, Nostradamus may have secretly subscribed to Neoplatonic ideas of reincarnation, but kept that hidden due to the Inquisition. The bizarre thing is he also foresaw the life of a French nobleman who happened to be a Swedenborgian, and in the process wrote a little tidbit on Swedenborg himself. That, of course, took me by surprise. I had done the research on it before I knew about Swedenborg. So things are planned out in advance, and certain personality types will be born, with a particular fate, in order to "fill in the gap" in the spiritual societies of heaven.

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    2. I would say things are known in advance, but not exactly planned out in advance. Missing the distinction between the two is, I think, the reason God-believing advocates of free will often reject the idea divine foreknowledge. (For example, years ago one of my fellow seminarians argued that God knows all the possible choices, or possible futures, but does not know which actual choices we will make, and which of the possible futures will actually take place.) If "fate" means "predetermined destiny," then it is a false concept.

      I agree that God plans myriad things in advance, and provides people to fill gaps in heaven. However, the idea that God plans our ultimate destiny implies that God causes us to think, believe, and do the things we do, which is predestination--a concept Swedenborg rejects. God provides for our lives, but does not actually plan, or cause, our choices--which are, in fact, free.

      The example I usually give is that if I hold a ball up in the air and let go of it, I know that it is going to fall to the ground, but I don't cause it to fall to the ground. That's an image of the difference between divine foreknowledge and predestination. God knows what we are going to do, but does not cause us to do it. We make the ultimate choice ourselves.

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    3. Lee, if I told you of all the prophecies or foreknowledge of future events I have seen happen on a personal level you would probably not believe it. What I have observed, if you sit and do nothing, the future events (or your timeline) is planned out or foreseen far in advance. But when you take action, or change your course where the results will be practical in life, the timeline changes. Things are planned out in the smallest of details, yet it is up to us to change it through free will. Thinking does not change things, but action does. There are several cases in the Bible where things are planned out, but when people change due to free will, the future changes. For example:

      1. A prophecy is given by Isaiah to a king of Judah that he should prepare to die. The king repents, and 15 years is added to his life.
      2. Jonah is sent to Ninevah and declares it will be destroyed in 40 days. The king and people repent, cancelling the prophecy.
      3. God tells Moses he will destroy the Jews and raise another nation through his descendants. Moses intervenese, the future changes somewhat. So only the adults die in the wilderness, the children live on.

      There are some events planned out that cannot be changed. But how we react to them, or our attitude to them, is up to our free will. Sometimes events which take place which we regard as "bad", in the end turn out for the long term good.

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  6. Hi Doug,

    I've now rewritten in two comments what I had originally posted in my very first comment on this article. I put them in response to my first comment so that they'd be closer to the top. It's like the hydra. The system chops off one of my comments, and two come back in its place. :-)

    I'm also going to make a third comment there pointing to my recent article on reincarnation, which I'd originally done in my first comment. In case it doesn't come through there, here's a backup:

    The Bible, Emanuel Swedenborg, and Reincarnation
    http://leewoof.org/2014/03/07/the-bible-emanuel-swedenborg-and-reincarnation/

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  7. (. . . continued)

    I do agree that the doctrine of reincarnation is based on appearances of truth, and has lessons applicable to life. And for those who believe in it, it can have great meaning. It is not a good idea to wrench away from people the faith that sustains them and guides their lives, even if it includes ideas that are false. This may have been the reason Jesus simply indicated that reincarnation is false, rather than coming right out and flatly stating that it is false. People who believe in reincarnation can still read the Gospels and think of them as supporting their faith--which is a good thing.

    However, the fact that falsity can and often does function as truth for people should not lead us to jump to the conclusion that a particular false idea is actually true because we see it functioning as truth. If we are able to base our own faith on accurate representations or appearances of truth rather than on appearances of truth that do not accurately represent the truth, and are thus in themselves false, then we will have a more accurate picture of the material and spiritual universe in which we live. And that will provide us with a better guide for how to live our lives.

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  8. Hi Doug,

    Clearly I haven't mastered this comment system. Some comments that were meant to be together got separated from one another. I hope you (and other readers) are able to follow the thread of discussion even though it's been shuffled up a bit.

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    1. Hello Lee, not sure if you are following this blog, but someone left a comment for you below on this blog post concerning reincarnation.

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  9. Hi Lee, this is an article that was altered by you??
    http://webhome.idirect.com/~abraam/documents/Reinc_Theory.pdf

    Just one more point. When using hypnotism as a reason to see more than one life of a person on the couch, I believe that it is a misinterpretation of the person on the chair. I think he is then communicating with a spirit who is present with the person on the couch (who himself is 'disconnected').
    Reincarnation does not at all make sense to me, for a God who wants the most number of people possible to come to heaven. Not to go back and forth.
    Just a thought.

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    1. Hello Adri, you are probably correct in your viewpoint concerning hypnotism. Swedenborg confirms that in several instances spirits can become immersed in the memory of another person to the point where they think they are that person. Also that associated with each human soul there are a group of souls who have similar personality traits. Thus in hypnotism, they are tapping into these collective memories.

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