To explore the science behind the idea of the spiritual world at first seems like an oxymoron, since modern science and religion are in conflict with each other. The reasons for the conflict between science and religion is due to both different criteria for truth, as well as false concepts in both science and and in religion. To summarize:
- Modern science in general espouses the false philosophy of Naturalism, that nature begets nature.
- Over time, religion becomes falsified by relying on the traditions and authority of men. Argument by authority is a logical fallacy and is rejected by the scientific method.
- Science is based on factual evidence obtained from the senses. Witness testimony for any phenomenon or idea is classified as "anecdotal" until confirmed by the scientific method. Completely opposite to this method, true religion is based on heavenly revelations from witnesses which are adapted to the culture receiving the revelation.
There is another case of this in terms of the revelations given to Emanuel Swedenborg in waking visions, but in this case the revelation preceded the scientific discovery by over 150 years. It concerns the science of space and time and the origin of the universe, and although Swedenborg did not have any idea about our current scientific discoveries, the heavenly revelations anticipated them far in advance. To understand it, I will briefly describe the scientific revolution that occurred between the time of Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, involving space and time and the creation of the universe.
THE SCIENTIFIC CONCEPTS OF SPACE AND TIME
Our scientific concepts of space and time have evolved over the centuries, which is summarize well in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy - Newton's Views on Space, Time, and Motion. In Greek Antiquity, philosophers first proposed that space was a void or vacuum:
The most important question shaping 17th-century views on the nature of space, time and motion is whether or not a true void or vacuum is possible, i.e., a place devoid of body of any sort (including rarified substances such as air). Ancient atomism, dating back at least to the pre-Socratic philosopher Democritus (5th century, B. C.), held that not only is such possible, but in fact actually exists among the interstices of the smallest, indivisible parts of matter and extends without bound infinitely.This idea was rejected by Aristotle, but when modern astronomy began to disprove many of the ideas of Aristotle, there was a revival of atomism and space as a vacuum in the 16th and 17th centuries. It is upon this foundation that Isaac Newton founded classical physics in the 18th century, in which he assumed that space and time were absolutes:
Isaac Newton founded classical mechanics on the view that space is distinct from body and that time passes uniformly without regard to whether anything happens in the world. For this reason he spoke of absolute space and absolute time, so as to distinguish these entities from the various ways by which we measure them (which he called relative spaces and relative times)This idea of space and time as absolutes, distinct from matter, dominated scientific theory until Einstein's theory of General Relativity in the early 20th century. As a consequence of this theory, space and time becomes a distinct object known as the "space-time continuum." Gravity from matter distorts space-time:
This warping has been confirmed by astronomical observations:
Recently, two black holes merged together and emitted a loud BURP in the form of gravitational waves which was detected by LIGO, as also predicted by Einstein's theory:
Moreover, another consequence of this theory is that it will dilate or expand time itself, according to the relative speed of the observer. The faster one approaches the speed of the light, the slower that time will flow.
Related to the concept of the space-time continuum of Einstein's theory of relativity, is the discovery of the Higgs boson in 2013. The Higgs boson is actually an excitation of the Higgs field, a field that permeates the entire universe. Among other things, this universal field explains why certain particles have mass. Although the Higgs field permeates all of space, it is distinct from the warping of the space-time continuum by gravity. See the article Why the Higgs and Gravity are Unrelated (the effect of mass has multiple causes; also the Higgs Boson has a quantum spin of 0 and the graviton has a quantum spin of 2).
SWEDENBORG: THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A PURE VACUUM OF NOTHING
Emanuel Swedenborg lived in the 18th century, and was contemporary with Isaac Newton during his childhood. Swedenborg was also a scientist and is estimated to have an IQ of over 200, but in his late 50s he began to have a spiritual awakening, which eventually caused his inner mind to open up and receive waking visions of the heavenly world for about 27 years. The main revelation concerns the spiritual sense of the Word, providing the only proof that the Bible is Divinely Inspired, and correcting many false doctrines that have entered and corrupted the Christian church. Another main objective of these revelations was to reveal that there is indeed an afterlife, our souls are eternal which continue to live after death.
Portrait of Isaac Newton
Now, back in the 18th century, Swedenborg describes an encounter between some angels and Isaac Newton, and the angels told Newton this: there is no such thing as a pure vacuum of nothingness:
"Something shall be said here concerning vacuum. I once heard angels talking with Newton about vacuum, and saying that they could not bear the idea of vacuum as nothing; because in their world which is spiritual, and within or above the spaces and times of the natural world, they equally feel, think, are affected, love, will, breathe, yea speak and act; which things are utterly impossible in vacuum as nothing; because nothing is nothing, and of nothing nothing can be predicated. Newton said that he knew that the Divine which is, fills all things, and that he himself shuddered at the idea of nothing respecting vacuum, because that idea is destructive of all things; and he exhorted those who talked with him about vacuum, to beware of the idea of nothing, calling it a swoon, because in nothing no real existence of mind is possible." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 82)In another account of the same encounter, the angels were correcting Isaac Newton of his error:
"Concerning a vacuum [Isaac Newton] said, that in the world he had believed in the existence of a vacuum; but when the angels perceived that he had an idea of a vacuum, as an idea of nothing, they turned themselves away, saying that they cannot bear the idea of nothing, since when there is an idea of nothing the idea of the essence of things perishes." (Last Judgment Posthumous, n. 290)Science would not confirm that Isaac Newton was wrong on this matter until almost 200 years later, and yet here we have an account of angels correcting Newton back in the 18th century. This is just one example among many, that Swedenborg indeed was receiving revelations from the heavenly world. I will note here he did not draw any doctrine or teaching from any spirit, but rather from the Lord alone (see Was Emanuel Swedenborg a Spiritualist or Occultist? against false accusation from religious leaders). These encounters were for the sake of countering the false ideas of atheism and naturalism.
THE SCIENTIFIC CONCEPT OF CREATION OR THE BIG BANG
Space is not a vacuum, but rather it is a field that is constantly expanding. As a consequence of Einstein's General theory of relativity, it became known the universe had a definite beginning about 14 billion years ago, and that everything started from a single point called a "singularity." The universe began as a "Big Bang" and from there, both space and time expanded to the present day universe:
Exrapolating backwards, it is known that the entire universe began from a single point or singularity of high temperature and high density. In this state of "singularity" both space and time lose their meaning. Moreover, this "singularity" has an infinite energy density, which is regarded as impossible in our current known laws of physics. As all laws of physics break down inside this singularity, it is not well known.
There are two singularities predicted by science: one right before the Big Bang that created the universe 14 billion years ago, and one inside a black hole that was created from the collapse of a dying star. Some scientists have noted the similarities between these two singularities, and in fact, some scientists propose that our universe was created from a black hole. The conclusion: at the center of a black hole is another universe. We thus live in a "multiverse." From Every Black Hole Contains a New Universe:
Successful as it is, there are notable unsolved questions with the standard big bang theory, which suggests that the universe began as a seemingly impossible "singularity," an infinitely small point containing an infinitely high concentration of matter, expanding in size to what we observe today. The theory of inflation, a super-fast expansion of space proposed in recent decades, fills in many important details, such as why slight lumps in the concentration of matter in the early universe coalesced into large celestial bodies such as galaxies and clusters of galaxies.The theory is interesting: it explains the beginning singularity, the expansion of the universe, a possible origin for "dark energy" causing the expansion, as well as the observed rotation of galaxies in different hemispheres of the universe.
But these theories leave major questions unresolved. For example: What started the big bang? What caused inflation to end? What is the source of the mysterious dark energy that is apparently causing the universe to speed up its expansion?
The idea that our universe is entirely contained within a black hole provides answers to these problems and many more. It eliminates the notion of physically impossible singularities in our universe.
REVELATIONS OF CREATION GIVEN TO SWEDENBORG
Modern science indicates that the natural universe originated from the Big Bang, a giant explosion of energy which led to the creation of suns and galaxies. Emanuel Swedenborg, as a scientist, first proposed the Nebular hypothesis as the origin of are solar system in 1734. The Big Bang and expanding universe was unknown to him. When he started receiving spiritual revelations, he was shown there are two worlds: the spiritual world of heaven, and the natural world. In the spiritual world there is a spiritual sun in which the God-Man resides, whereas in the natural world we have the sun of our solar system. One should distinguish between the spiritual sun of the spiritual world, and the natural sun of the natural world:
"It is most necessary to know that there are two suns, one spiritual and the other natural — the spiritual sun for those who are in the spiritual world, and the natural sun for those who are in the natural world. Unless this is known, nothing can be rightly understood concerning the creation and concerning man" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 107).The natural sun is the origin of all natural material things, but the spiritual sun is the origin of all forms of life. All life originates from the spiritual sun of the God-Man by influx into the natural world. Current science is deeply in error to assume that life comes from natural dead things. Since science is currently in denial of the spiritual world, it cannot explain the origin of life. The natural world is but a recipient and container for spiritual life, and life flows in from the Divine through spiritual influx. The soul is of a substance that does not interact with light:
"Spirits themselves are forms, that is, consist of continuous forms, equally with men, but of a purer nature, and not visible to the bodily sight. And because these forms or substances are not visible to the corporeal eye, man at this day apprehends no otherwise than that knowledges and thoughts are abstract things; hence also comes the folly of our age, that men do not believe that they have a spirit within them which is to live after the death of the body, when yet this spirit is a substance much more real than the material substance of its body; yea, if you will believe it, the spirit, after being freed from corporeal things, is that very purified body" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3726.4)Now, concerning the natural sun from which all things originate, from the science of Swedenborg's day there was no knowledge of the Big Bang, but he did formulate the Nebular hypothesis for the origin of the solar system, and he knew that each star was its own solar system. But continually in his writings, Swedenborg speaks of the natural sun, as if there was one natural sun. In the following passage, Swedenborg describes the natural sun as something very close to the Big Bang and the expansion of the universe:
"...the expanse of the centre of life is called the spiritual world, which subsists from its own sun; and that the expanse of nature is called the natural world, which subsists from its sun." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 380)Although the Sun of the spiritual world is distinct from the sun of the natural world, the sun of the natural world originates from the Sun of the spiritual world:
"Now, as the expanse springs from the centre, and not the reverse, as we have said before; and as the centre of life, which is the sun of the angelic heaven, is Divine love immediately proceeding from God, who is in the midst of that sun; and as from this is the expanse of that centre, which is called the spiritual world; and as from that sun sprang forth the sun of the world, and from this its expanse, which is called the natural world,—it is clear that the universe is created from the one God" (Angelic Wisdom concerning Marriage Love, n. 380)This at first does not seem true, as the sun of our solar system was formed by coalescing gases, which Swedenborg even first proposed in the Nebular hypothesis. Its possible, however, that in these revelations when Swedenborg speaks of the natural sun, what is being spoken of here is the Big Bang that arose from the original singularity at the beginning of the universe. It is known that this "singularity" was extremely dense, infinitely so according to our mathematics. Swedenborg stated the the natural world first began from the spiritual world. In the spiritual world there are successive "spiritual atmospheres" of increasing density. Compare the scientific concept of the original singularity with this passage:
"...because the [spiritual] atmospheres decrease in their progression downward, it follows that they become continually more compressed and inert, and at length in ultimates so compressed and inert that they are no longer atmospheres, but substances at rest, and in the natural world fixed substances, such as are in the earths and are called matter." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 302)Now, in the singularity at the beginning of the universe, our concepts of space and time become meaningless. Beyond this singularity physicists do not know how to grasp it. But what Swedenborg stated is that space and time were proper only to the natural world, but not to the spiritual world. In the spiritual world, there is no such thing as space and time:
"There are two things proper to nature, space and time. From these man in the natural world forms the ideas of his thought, and thence his understanding. If he remains in these ideas, and does not elevate his mind above them, he can never perceive anything spiritual and Divine; for he involves the spiritual and Divine in ideas which come from space and time; and so far as he does this, the light of his understanding becomes merely natural." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 69)When one dies and enters into the spiritual world, one enters the realm of pure ideas, which is that of the state of one's will and thought:
"All who die and become angels put off those two things proper to nature, which, as said above, are space and time; for they enter then into spiritual light, in which the objects of thought are truths, and the objects of sight are similar to the objects in the natural world, but correspondent to their thoughts. The objects of their thought which, as was said, are truths, derive nothing at all from space and time; and though the objects of their sight appear as in space and in time, still they do not think from them. The reason is that spaces and times there are not rigid as in the natural world, but changeable according to the states of their life. Hence in the ideas of their thought there are instead states of life — instead of spaces such things as have relation to states of love, and instead of times such things as have relation to states of wisdom." (Angelic Wisdom concerning Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 70)So, according to this, what was prior to the Big Bang? Space and time cease to exist, so what was prior was the spiritual world. This spiritual world has a constant influx into the natural world, and is what causes life forms to be created in this natural world. We saw earlier that Swedenborg saw that the Divine expands and in its ultimate state, the spiritual atmosphere becomes dense to form matter; this comes very close to describing the singularity that caused the Big Bang.
So, there are two possible origins here for the Big Bang: one is from the spiritual world, by a compression of spiritual atmospheres that emanate from the Divine. Another is that the Big Bang of our universe is from the creation of a black hole. In our universe, each black hole is a singularity which contains another universe. Thus each universe is a parent to multiple child universes, ad infinitum. So which is true? I think both are true: from the spiritual world, the Divine is constantly creating new universes, and these universes in turn spawn baby universes which share the timeline of its parent universe. This is my personal opinion, but in several passages Swedenborg stated that the Divine loves variety, and from variety there is the perfection of the whole. Moreover, once there is Divine influx to create life, in that life the Divine gives life the ability to propagate itself. This same pattern may manifest itself in the initial creation of multiple universes, and each universe in turn keeps spawning other universes.
Thus, as the Divine is infinite, there will be infinite things for us to explore in heaven:
In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. (John 14:2)