I recently authored the book The Symbolism of the Psalms, a massive work which combines a new translation with commentary from Swedenborg, which I previously blogged about here: The Symbolism of the Psalms: A Comprehensive Spiritual Commentary (updated with this new release). This originally began as a project to correct the translation of the Psalms, which one can read about in a blog post here from 2014: A Clairvoyant Dream of a New Translation of the Psalms. The translation follows the Masoretic Hebrew original.
The reason for the translation is that it quite apparent from Swedenborg's interpretation of scripture that every word of scripture is important. A slight mistranslation of the original Hebrew can significantly alter the meaning. A spiritual interpretation demands more exactness, and translators unaware of the spiritual meaning have been very inconsistent in their translations. The translation then evolved into collecting quotes from Swedenborg on different passages of the Psalms as an aid for study. And so, a full fledged commentary on the Psalms was born. It is now available from Apocryphile Press. The work also restores the original poetic structure of each Psalm exposing the reader to the Hebrew parallelism where parallel lines are clearly shown.
I will discuss here in detail some points brought up by Swedenborg on the very first word of the first line of Psalm 1. It is based on the commentary of this work so readers can see how it can be useful in opening the spiritual sense of the Psalms and all of scripture.
WHAT IS TRUE SPIRITUAL HAPPINESS?
Happy is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked
The word for "happy" is also the same Hebrew word as for the tribe of Asher, and is distinct from another word that is translated as "blessed." Swedenborg, who had visions of the heavenly world, states that this happiness exceeds all understanding, and is based on the internal good within us that we receive and act upon. We will only discover it when we shed off the anxieties and cares of the physical world:
"As regards the happiness of eternal life, the man who is in affection for good and truth cannot perceive it when he is living in the world, but a certain enjoyment instead. The reason is, that in the body he is in worldly cares and in anxieties thence which prevent the happiness of eternal life, which is inwardly in him, from being manifested in any other way at that time." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 3938.7)This is where the commentary from Swedenborg has the advantage over other Biblical commentaries: none of them had the direct spiritual experiences he did. This experience of true spiritual happiness goes beyond the normal enjoyments of everyday life, many witnesses who have had a Near Death Experience have experienced this, and it has been life changing for them where they have a new perspective on life.
So what do we carry with us to the afterlife? It is the good we do to others, for the sake of making them happy. The happiness of being useful is what leads to eternal happiness, and it grows to eternity. We will exist in harmony with others, who we will all know as if they were our long lost childhood friends. Sometimes we make a connection with another, many times not, and circumstances may separate us from our true friends and loves. That love we have in our heart is what will grow to eternity.
The Divine love flows in from the spiritual world into our physical forms; Divine love finds rest in us when we do good to others. True spiritual happiness makes a descent into several lower levels, or degrees, which Swedenborg describes in the work Apocalypse Revealed when discussing the tribe of Asher (which means "happiness" in Hebrew):
"[Asher] signifies mutual love, which is the love of doing good use to the community or society, with those who will be of the Lord's New Heaven and New Church. By Asher in the highest sense eternity is signified, in the spiritual sense eternal blessedness, and in the natural sense affection for good and truth; but by Asher here is signified the love of doing uses, which is with those who are in the Lord's celestial kingdom, and is there called mutual love. This love descends proximately from love to the Lord, since the Lord's love is to do uses to the community and to each society in the community; and He does them through men who are in love to Him." (Apocalypse Revealed, n. 353)The different degrees of happiness are as follows:
- Eternity (the highest celestial level), or the Eternal Good
- Eternal happiness (the intermediate spiritual level)
- Affection for good and truth (which we experience in the physical)
Achieving spiritual happiness can be achieved by simply focusing on it, and withdrawing from things of the sense, which Swedenborg discusses at length (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6201). Most do not even think of it, as people's minds think of external things of the body and the world. They thus discount anything spiritual as they cannot see it. It is also necessary to have combats against evil in order to attain eternal life (Heavenly Arcana, n. 59)
One's eternal happiness is not just entering the afterlife, it is based on one's affections for good and truth in this life. This is why it is said that every man will be judged according to their works (Matt. 16:27). We should not see judgment in a negative way; but rather this life is a chance to open up these higher spiritual levels, the more good we do, the greater the happiness. This is what Jesus meant by laying one's treasure in heaven (Matt. 6:20-21). But to build up one's treasure, one should seek to lead an active and useful life, with intent on serving the Lord. For all actions are governed by intent, and the highest intent is to serve the highest Good, which is God Himself.