Monday, November 5, 2018

Who is the Son of God?

Who is the Son of God? This would seem to be a simple question, but in the New Church a revelation has been given as to who is the Son of God, revealed in Jesus Christ. Among many Christians, the phrase "Son of God" automatically invokes in their mind the second person of the Trinity. However this concept of "second person" did not exist in early Christianity, but rather was invented by men in the fourth century A.D.

The original definition of the Son of God is found in scripture, in the Gospel of Luke. When Mary is told by Gabriel that she will give birth to a son, she then asks a question:
"And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin? And the angel answered her, The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy— the Son of God" (Luke 1:35)
So, for the first three centuries of Christianity, the definition of the "Son of God" was that Jesus was born of a virgin. He had no human father, and was conceived by the Holy Spirit. This was the definition of Son of God, pure and simple. This changed in the fourth century A.D., when a council of men invented a Son of God "born from eternity." This is a falsehood. The Son of God is Jesus Christ who was born in time to the virgin Mary. This is declared as a prophecy in the Old Testament:
I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee (Ps. 2:7)
Where "this day" is the day when he was born in time to the virgin Mary. And for this reason Jesus calls God His Father, and this is also predicted in the Psalms:
He shall cry to me, ‘You are my Father, my God, and the Rock of my salvation.’ And I will make him the firstborn, the highest of the kings of the earth. (Ps. 89:26-27)
This doctrinal concept is the foundation of the New Church which distinguishes it from the older Christian churches that have become corrupted by the Nicene Creed. Once one understands this, the logical inconsistency in Christianity disappears completely. This is set forth by Swedenborg in his work True Christian Religion:

"The Human, by which God sent Himself into the world, is the Son of God. The Lord frequently said that the Father sent Him into the world, and that He was sent by the Father (as Matt. x. 40; xv. 24: John iii. 17, 34; v. 23, 24, 36, 37, 38; vi. 29, 39, 40, 44, 57; vii. 16, 18, 28, 29; viii. 16, 18, 29, 42; ix. 4; and in many other places); and this He says because by being sent into the world is meant to descend and come among men; and this was done through the Human, which He assumed by means of the virgin Mary; and also the Human is actually the Son of God, because it was conceived of Jehovah God as a Father (according to Luke i. 32, 35). He is called the Son of God, the Son of Man, and the Son of Mary; and by the Son of God is meant Jehovah God in His Human; by the Son of Man, the Lord as to the Word; and by the Son of Mary, properly the human which He assumed... As to the Lord, the Divine which He had was from Jehovah, the Father, and the human was from the mother; these two united are the Son of God." (True Christian Religion, n. 92).

So are there three persons? No, there is one person, the Lord, who is Jehovah in human form. And it is Him alone that we should acknowledge and worship. For Jesus is the Father in human form: He is the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15).


  1. Hi Doug,

    Good piece.

    It has fairy recently become clear to me that in addition to Swedenborg's rejection of three Persons of God, a critical component of his rejection of the Nicene Trinity is a rejection of the Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit existing from eternity.

    As you say, the Bible does not present the Son of God as existing from eternity, or being "born from eternity," but as coming into existence and being born in time, at the time of the Incarnation. Even John 1:1-14 does not, as is often claimed in Nicene Christianity, say that there was a Son from eternity. Rather, it says that the Word (logos) was with God in the beginning, and that the Word became flesh as Jesus Christ--which was something new that took place at a particular point in time and in a particular place on earth.

    Swedenborg does speak of a pre-existing trine of Divine Love, Divine Wisdom, and Divine Power in God, and this parallels his version of Christian Trinity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. But Swedenborg is quite clear that the Son did not exist until the Incarnation, and that the Holy Spirit, strictly speaking, did not exist until after Jesus was fully glorified and became one with the Father. (There is a bit of biblical fuzziness about this because the birth stories in Matthew and Luke say that Jesus was conceived from the Holy Spirit.)

    I would only point out that the idea of three "persons" in God did predate its fourth-century formulation in the Nicene Creed.

    Tertullian, who apparently converted to Christianity within the last few years of the second century, and produced extensive writings in the first few decades of the third century, is the first Christian author known to have used the Latin terms trinitas ("trinity") and personae ("persons") in relation to God. Though I am no expert on the history of Christian doctrine, Tertullian seems to be the primary source for the later formulation of God as a Trinity of Persons, although his specific formulation was rejected because it considered the Son to be created by the Father and subordinate to the Father rather than existing from eternity and equal to the Father, as in later Nicene theology. Tertullian seems to have thought that the Son was created by the Father as a conduit for the creation of the world (drawing on John 1:3).

    Tertullian thus seems to be the bridge between the New Testament account of the Son of God being born and coming into existence in time and the later Nicene formulation of three Persons of God coexisting from eternity, and the Son being "born from eternity." However, even the "Nicene" doctrine of the Trinity of Persons was not fully formulated in its presently accepted form until the Athanasian Creed was composed one or two centuries later, and subsequently accepted as authoritative by Nicene Christianity.

    At any rate, commentary by Swedenborgians that focuses only on Swedenborg's rejections of the Persons, and not on his rejection of the existence of the Son and Holy Spirit from eternity, does not fully grasp and appreciate the argument Swedenborg makes especially in True Christianity. Once we notice that Swedenborg is also arguing that the Son and Holy Spirit came into existence in time (and space), and did not exist from eternity, much of his argument in TC and elsewhere becomes clearer and more cogent.

    That's why despite my quibbles about "persons" going back earlier than the fourth century, I enjoyed your compact presentation of the Son and Holy Spirit as coming into existence at the time of the Incarnation.

    1. If we were to go from scripture alone, Luke 1:35 is key, it states the Son of God was born in time to the virgin Mary.

      To further clarify, the Nicene Creed formalized a Son begotten from eternity, but this was an addition to the Apostle's Creed. The Apostles Creed is much earlier from the 2nd century A.D. (for a comparison, see The Nicene Creed: a distorted version of the Apostle's Creed and Is the Nicene Creed Biblical? Does the Nicene Creed define True Christianity?.

      But you are right, a Trinity of three persons is first found in Tertullian. Likewise the idea of a "Son begotten from eternity" is also found in the writings of some early church fathers (see Quotes from the Early Church Fathers: Christ Begotten from Eternity.

      We can see in the early quotes that they merged the pre-existing Word of God with the Son of God, not understanding the Son of God was the human form born in time. That this is so is declared in John 1:14: "And the Word was made flesh".

      Now, with all that said, Swedenborg does state that the Word of God, the Divine Truth, did pre-exist in the form of a Divine Man, which is called the Angel of the Lord in certain passages. This is not a "second person" but is the visible form of God in the heavens, as Divine Truth when it descends take on the form of a Divine Human. The Divine Human had several degrees of existence below the Divine itself, but was lacking a "Divine natural", which was only assumed when He was born as a human. I should probably do another blog on this, as some may incorrectly think that by saying the Son of God was born in time that Jesus had no pre-existence.

      What many have trouble with, with God becoming incarnate, and assuming a human form that was made Divine, is that God "changed His nature." We can see this in the following statement of the Nicene Creed, where it opposes the following statements:

      "'The Son of God is created,' or 'changeable,' or 'alterable'"

      And I saw somewhere another statement made to the same effect: the Divine became incarnate, and assumed and glorified a human - this goes against the Greek philosophy that the Divine is unchangeable. So many thus deny the human was made Divine and think of the human form of Jesus as just another man. Swedenborg says on this point that the "Divine natural" (the Son of God) only existed as a potential, which was realized in time with the virgin birth. All of which I find a bit interesting, Swedenborg does provide a lot of revelations about His pre-existence and those were the passages I found most interesting when I first encountered his writings.

    2. Hi Doug,

      On the thorny issue of God changing, see this article:

      Does God Change?

      The paradox of God being unchanging and eternal, yet becoming human in time and going through a life cycle here on earth—a paradox that the early Christian fathers failed to resolve when they encountered it, leading to their false doctrine of a Son born from eternity—stems from our human inability to entirely banish time and space from our thinking.

      From a divine point of view, there was no time when God's experience as Jesus Christ here on earth did not exist, because God exists outside of time, and sees all of what we experience as progression and change through time from an eternally present awareness. In other words, what we think of as past, present, and future is all in the present for God, for whose consciousness there is no such thing as past and future.

      This is why God could embed the entire glorification process of Jesus Christ in the highest, heavenly meaning of the Old Testament even though Jesus Christ had not yet been born when the books of the Old Testament were written.

      Also, the process of glorification was not, from a divine perspective, one of God "developing" or "progressing" in a temporal sense, but rather a process of God progressively flowing out into the natural from within. This could take place only in time and space because it took place within Creation—which is itself an emanation from God but distinct from God, as Swedenborg explains extensively in Divine Love and Wisdom.

      Still, my understanding is that the Divine Humanity does not partake of either physical or spiritual substance, but consists entirely of divine substance. As I understand it, the physical and spiritual substance that Jesus gained from his human mother was progressively purged out of him in the course of his glorification process, and replaced with divine substance—a process that was completed in the tomb, when the last of what he had from Mary was dissipated.

      So the "divine natural" is not a physical natural, nor even a spiritual natural, but is in fact a divine natural composed of divine substance. In a different article, I liken the glorification process to the process of petrifaction of wood, in which the original woody, cellular substance is entirely replaced with stony substance, while retaining the form of the original wood.

      In other words, the process of glorification is not really a process of Jesus "changing" from merely human to divine human, even though that's how it unfolded in time. Rather, it is a process of the Divine flowing out as divinity into the lowest, or natural, level.

      So yes, God was already human before the Incarnation. However, that humanity did not exist as a human presence on the divine natural level as it did after the Incarnation.

      This new divine humanity does have the ability to be directly present with people both on the spiritual and on the natural level, as demonstrated by Jesus' forty days of appearing to his followers after the Resurrection. To my knowledge he no longer appears visibly in the material world after the Ascension, although theoretically he could do so. But Swedenborg makes it clear that he does appear visibly to angels and spirits in the spiritual world as a human being who is the Lord. And many people, including Swedenborg himself, attest to seeing and encountering Jesus Christ, which seems to happen via their spiritual sense rather than via their physical senses.

      I should add that Swedenborg says that before the Incarnation God manifested himself to humans by filling an angel with his presence because there was not yet a divine humanity by which he could manifest himself to humans. If you are aware of any passages in Swedenborg's writings saying that God manifested directly as human in some form or fashion before the Incarnation, I would be very interested to see them.

    3. Hello Lee,
      On the glorification of Jesus Christ, he was born as a another man, derived from Mary, but this body was transformed into a Divine Man, which Swedenborg calls a "Divine Natural." Before the incarnation, yes, Swedenborg does states that the Divine would invest its presence in an angel (Heavenly Arcana, n. 1925). However, Swedenborg does also speak of a Divine Human that pre-existed:

      "Before the coming of the Lord there was a Divine Human of Jehovah in the heavens, for by passing through the heavens He presented Himself as a Divine Man before many on earth. But at that time the Divine Human was not so one with the Divine itself, which is called the Father, as when the Lord made it in Himself altogether one." (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6000.7)

      "the Divine Human before the Lord's coming into the world, was Jehovah Himself flowing in through heaven when He spake the Word; for Jehovah was above the heavens, but what passed from Him through the heavens, was then the Divine Human, inasmuch as by the influx of Jehovah into heaven, heaven was in the form of man, and the Divine Itself thence was the Divine man. This now is the Divine Human from eternity... But because Jehovah by this His Divine Human could not flow in longer with men, since they had so far removed themselves from that Divine, therefore He assumed the Human and made this Divine, and thus by influx thereby into heaven He was able to reach even those of the human race who received the good of charity and the truth of faith from the Divine Human, which was thus made visible, and thereby deliver them from hell" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 6280.1-2, also see 6371.2)

      My guess is, this pre-existent Divine Human is what became invested in an angel in order to present "mediately" with men (see Doctrine concerning Sacred Scripture, n. 99).

      Now, in heaven there are three degrees, and in these three degrees of heaven there is the Divine Celestial (love), Divine Spiritual (wisdom), and finally the "Divine Natural" (use) which is the plane where men reside in the natural world of time and space. But then comes this rather interesting and bizarre passage, where Swedenborg asks about this Divine Natural before the Lord was born:

      "I have been told from heaven that in the Lord from eternity, Who is Jehovah, before the assumption of the Human in the world, there were the two prior degrees actually, and the third degree in potency, such as they are also with the angels; but that after the assumption of the Human in the world, He put on also the third degree, which is called the natural, and that thereby He became a man similar to man in the world, with the difference, however, that this degree, like the prior degrees, is infinite and uncreated in Him, while these degrees in angel and in man are finite and created." (Divine Love and Wisdom, n. 233)

      From the perspective of the "eternal now," what is actual and what is potential or future are indeed present. But the way this reads, in time, the Divine did indeed change. The way I would look at it is from Divine order, a process exists where we are to be born and make our potential an actuality in use, where we fulfill our "potency" (see Divine Love and Wisdom n. 239). There is a possible conclusion here, that the Divine has the ability to manifest itself as a human in multiple incarnations, when needed. This might be considered heretical, and open up a Pandora's box, thus this may be something we are not allowed to know at this time. It would not occur again on this planet, as we have conjunction with heaven via angelic spirits who have already been born and died on this planet. But in this manner we can say the Divine does not change: the natural plane is where the potential is made actual. However this conclusion is a bit weird and strange, its something to ponder.

    4. Hi Doug,

      Drawing on your last point, and DLW 233, my understanding is that the Lord did not change due to the Incarnation in the sense of becoming someone or something different, but rather expressed on the natural level the divine nature that had previously existed in actuality only on the divine heavenly (celestial) and divine spiritual, thus making the third "essential component" (essentialia), the divine natural, actual rather than only potential. So it was a "change" only in the sense of fully expressing the divine nature on the lowest level that had formerly existed only in potential.

      It is similar to an artist creating a work of art, which doesn't so much change the artist as express something of the heart and mind of the artist in embodied form.

      Thanks also for the other quotes and references. I think they are talking about the same general phenomena as AC 1925, only as it took place in heaven rather than as it took place all the way down to the earthly level of this world.

      Based on the passages you quote and similar ones, my understanding is that the "Divine Human" that existed before the Incarnation was the Grand Man of heaven itself (or an individual angel or angelic community), heaven being seen as the Lord's presence in heaven (as Swedenborg defines it in various places).

      A simpler way of saying this is that the Lord's pre-existing Divine Human was the angelic heaven itself. So the Lord relied on angels to supply a Divine Human. This is essentially the same phenomenon as the Lord filling an angel with his divinity in order to speak to humans on earth, and to speak the Word to its human authors.

      This is also why the pre-existing Divine Human was not powerful enough to save when humans receded too far from God and heaven. It was dependent upon the amount of power that could be expressed through angels and the angelic heaven, which is finite, not infinite. The Divine Human that existed after the incarnation, by contrast, is infinite, and capable of expressing the full infinity of God's power.

    5. Here are two more passages, from Nine Questions, that flesh all of this out a bit more:

      2. QUESTION 2
      Did the Lord have from Jehovah the Father a rational soul to which the Divine Esse was united, whence He became truly God and truly Man?

      The Lord from eternity, or Jehovah, was Divine Love and Divine Wisdom, and He then had a Divine Celestial and a Divine Spiritual; but before He assumed the Human He did not have a Divine Natural; and because the rational can be attributed solely to the celestial and spiritual natural, it follows that Jehovah, the Lord, did also put on the Divine Rational by assuming the Human. He had a Divine Rational before assuming the Human, but this was by means of an influx into the angelic heaven, and whenever He manifested Himself in the world it was by means of an angel filled with His Divinity. For the purely Divine Essence, which, as has been stated, was purely Divine Celestial and Divine Spiritual, transcends both the angelic and the human rational, but existed by means of influx. Its nature can be inferred from what is said below in connection with the sixth question. Luther and Melancthon teach that in Christ Man is God and God is Man; and this is in accordance with Holy Scripture. See TRUE CHRISTIAN RELIGION n. 137. But Calvin denied this, affirming merely that only Christ is God and Man.


      6. QUESTION 6
      Was the Divine Human of Jehovah before the incarnation a Person subsisting of itself, as the Existere, form or body of God? Or was it an angelic form assumed as required for the purpose of manifestation?

      Does it not follow that the Divine Human before the incarnation was different from the Divine Human now after the incarnation, since the Divine Trinity is in the Person of the Lord?

      Before the incarnation there was no Divine Human other than a representative one through some angel or other whom the Lord filled with His Spirit, as was stated above. And because this was representative therefore all things of the church at that time were representative and like dim shapes. But after the incarnation representatives came to an end as the shades of evening and night do when the sun rises. But the representative Human in which Jehovah presented Himself in the world before His actual coming was not Powerful enough to enlighten men spiritually; therefore enlightenment was brought about by means of types and figures alone.

      Other relevant passages worth reading: Arcana Coelestia #3061, 4687.

    6. About the possibility of multiple incarnations of the Divine, this is part of Hindu belief. However, though I would hesitate to limit the power of God to accomplish what God wants to accomplish, I am skeptical of the multiple incarnation theory.

      The purpose of the Incarnation was to take on a fully Divine Humanity through glorifying the Lord's human nature, and in doing so to defeat the mounting power of evil known as the Devil. Having once done this, it doesn't seem to me that the Lord would need to do it again.

      It does strain credulity to think that the Lord could fully accomplish these goals here on this earth, when according to Swedenborg there are hundreds of thousands of other inhabited planets, each with its own area of the universal heaven. Did Jesus Christ face all of the evil from those planets as well? I'm not aware of a place where Swedenborg says he did. And the Incarnation was tied specifically to the spiritual low point of this planet—which wouldn't necessarily correspond to the low point of other planets.

      However, I also think that the main purpose of Earths in the Universe was not to titillate with stories of fascinating aliens, but rather to deal with the "scandal of particularity," on a cosmic scale: How could Jesus Christ be the savior of not only all people on earth, even those who lived in distant lands and had never heard of him, and therefore could not believe in him and be saved, but even the savior of humanoids on other planets, who have no possibility of hearing of Jesus, and thus believing in him and being saved?

      Right smack dab in the middle of Earths in the Universe, after covering the planets of our solar system, and before covering a representative sample of planets from other solar systems, Swedenborg places a chapter titled, "Why the Lord Wanted to Be Born on Our Planet and Not on Some Other" (#113-122). This chapter, I believe, is the heart of Earths in the Universe, and the primary purpose for which Swedenborg published the book.

      In that chapter he says that the Lord chose to be born on this planet primarily because we have written language and the technological means to publish, preserve forever, and broadly disseminate the Word, which bears witness to the fact that the Lord has become human. This capability does not exist on other planets, which are not technologically developed as our earth is (see EU 136, 155), and which receive direct divine revelation from within, which is shared only locally, among family members, and therefore fades out and is corrupted over time. Furthermore, the knowledge that the Lord has become human can be spread to the angels and spirits from other planets via the spiritual world, so that this knowledge does not remain limited to our planet alone. In addition, the inhabitants of our earth correspond to the external, physical senses, such that the Lord could become complete down to the very lowest and outermost level here on our earth in a way that would not be possible on less physically-oriented planets.

      All of this explanation strongly suggests that the Incarnation is a unique event that takes place only on this earth—as unbelievable as that may seem to the skeptical mind. Among the likely hundreds of thousands of planets inhabited by intelligent life, WHY US?!? Isn't it a bit too fantastical to think that we just happen to live on the one planet in the entire universe on which God chose to be Incarnated?

      And yet, that is exactly what Swedenborg says is the case.

      So once again, though I would hate to limit the power of God to do whatever God wants to do, I am skeptical of the multiple incarnation theory.

    7. Thank you Lee. Question #2 above does confirm what I suspected - the Divine Celestial and Divine Spiritual made itself known by influx into an angel before the incarnation; as angels possessed a finite lower natural. Thus when the angelic societies began to lose power against the power of hell, and humanity began to get cut off, it was necessary for the Divine to become incarnate so that the Divine could flow into the natural plane from the Divine Natural. However I don't think it is the Grand Man of heaven itself; it is the Divine, which up until the incarnation could only flow in through the upper heavens and required "delegation" to an angel to operate in the natural plane.

      Now, what I found interesting, upon the resurrection Jesus was completely glorified with a Divine Human, where everything that was created or human from Mary had now become transformed into a Divine Human. As I understand it, the spiritual body after death is derived from the soul, and as the soul of Jesus was the Divine itself, the body he rose with was completely derived from the Divine. This Divine Natural form differs from us in that it is "infinite and uncreated."

      Now, what is interesting, is this passage implies that the incarnation of Jesus was for the "salvation of the human race" -

      "When they were told that the Lord on our earth assumed the human, they mused awhile, and presently said that this was done for the salvation of the human race." (Earths in the Universe, n. 8)

      This seems to be the human race on this planet. Why? Because communication between man and heaven is effected by angelic societies that are particular to a planet:

      "the spirits of every earth appear about their own earth, for the reason that they are of a dissimilar genius in consequence of a dissimilar state of life from others; and in the other life diversity of state disjoins, while similarity of state conjoins; and chiefly for the reason that they may be with the inhabitants of their own earth, who are of a similar genius. For apart from spirits a man cannot live, and spirits of a like nature to him are adjoined to every one" (Heavenly Arcana, n. 9968) also: "the spirits of each earth appear around their earth, for the reason that they are of a similar genius with the inhabitants, being from them, and that they may be of service to them" (EU, n. 139)

      As humanity became corrupt, communication via angels and spirits began to be cut off, and to restore the Divine had to become incarnate on this earth. So the incarnation is specific for the salvation of this earth. One thing that distinguishes us from other planets is that unlike us they have complete communication with heaven through spirits and angels:

      "On every other earth Divine truth is manifested by word of mouth through spirits and angels" (EU, n. 120).

      What this implies, is that should there ever be another planet that becomes cut off like we were, it would become necessary for the Divine to become incarnate there. Or, knowledge of us would somehow have to become known to them. Against this theory, Swedenborg states the Divine Natural did not exist before the incarnation. That can either be taken as universally true, or true locally from the perspective of our planet. But this statement seems to imply it was unique:

      "That it pleased the Lord to be born, and to assume the Human, on our earth, and not on another, was for many reasons, of which I have been informed from heaven" (EU, n. 113)

      However, this is one area on my "question list" that I intend to ask when I pass from this life to the other.

    8. Hi Doug,

      Swedenborg used the term "human race" more broadly than we do today, applying it to the inhabitants of all planets. This is in line with his view of God as being truly human, from which our humanity is derived. He described the inhabitants of all other planets as appearing entirely human, with only slight physiological variations. He did not have the concept, common in science and science fiction today, that evolution on other planets could produce very different lifeforms than it produced on our planet.

      Every section of Earths in the Universe leading up to #8 speaks of humans, and the human race, as existing across all planets, not just on our earth:

      "It needs to be known that all spirits and angels are from the human race; they are near their own world, and know what happens there." (#1)

      "It is a very well-known fact in the next life that there are many worlds inhabited by human beings, and there are spirits and angels who have come from them. Anyone there, whose desire springs from a love of truth and the purpose it can serve, is permitted to talk with spirits from other worlds, so as to get proof of the multiplicity of worlds. He can thus learn that the human race does not come from only one world, but from countless worlds; and moreover what these peoples' character is and how they live, and what sort of religious worship they practice." (#2)

      "Anyone who believes, as each one of us should, that the Deity's sole purpose in creating the universe was to bring into existence the human race, and from this to people heaven - the human race being the seed-bed of heaven - must inevitably believe that, where there is a world, there must be human beings." (#3)

      "Anyone who correctly weighs these facts must conclude that the whole of this immense structure is a means to serve the ultimate purpose of creation, the establishment of a heavenly kingdom in which the Deity can dwell with angels and human beings. For the visible universe, that is, the sky shining with countless stars, each being a sun, is but a means to the creation of worlds, and human beings to live on them, from whom the heavenly kingdom may be formed. These facts must inevitably lead a reasonable person to think that so immense a means designed for so great a purpose could not have been made for the benefit of the human race, and the heaven from it, coming from one world." (#4)

      "Moreover, the heaven of angels is so immense that it answers to every single part of the human body, tens of thousands of individuals to every single member, organ and internal part, and to every one of its affections. I have been allowed to know that there is no way that such a heaven with all its correspondences could have come into existence without drawing on the inhabitants of very many worlds." (#5)

      "These spirits are therefore allowed to travel around, and also to go outside the solar system and visit others to acquire knowledge. They told me that there are worlds inhabited by human beings not only in this solar system, but beyond it in the starry sky, and in countless numbers." (#6)

      "As regards the religious worship of the inhabitants of other worlds, it is generally true that those of them who are not idolaters all acknowledge the Lord as the sole God. They worship the Deity not as something invisible, but in visible form, because in fact when the Deity appears to them, He does so in human form, as He did once to Abraham and others in this world. All who worship the Deity in human form are acceptable to the Lord. They say too that no one can properly worship God, much less be linked to Him, without having some idea of Him which can be grasped; and this is only possible if He has human form." (#7)

      So when it says in #8 that the Lord's Incarnation was for the salvation of the human race, this clearly includes the inhabitants of all planets, not just earth.

    9. Hello Lee,
      Yes, Swedenborg does use the term "human race" to apply to humans across all planets. I have read testimony that some scientists are puzzled as to why life tends to evolve towards the human form on other planets, also, some of them are biologically compatible with us and that our human race is a branch of theirs. Since some look like us, that led to some paranoid reactions from the U.S. military. But thats another story.

      However the statement in Earths in the Universe is applicable to the human race on this planet. The point is, God would not have needed to become incarnate if we had maintained communion with the angelic heaven. On other planets this communion with heaven and the angelic spirits has not been broken. And as the revelations state, human life cannot exist and continue if this contact is broken. So it became necessary for God to become incarnate on this planet, we now have immediate communion through the Holy Spirit and not just the angelic heaven.

      That the incarnation was necessary for the human race on this planet, is declared in the Final Judgment:

      "It is indeed possible that the human race on one earth may perish, which happens when it entirely separates itself from the Divine, for then man no longer has spiritual life, but only natural, like that of beasts. And when man is such, no society can be formed and kept in restraint by laws, since without the influx of heaven, and thus without the Divine government, men would become insane, and rush unchecked into all wickedness, one against another.

      "But even if the human race by separation from the Divine should perish on one earth, which however is provided against by the Lord, yet still it would continue on other earths." (Final Judgment, n. 10.2-3)

      And this is concluded by this statement, that the Incarnation was for the salvation of the human race on this planet:

      "It has been told me from heaven that the human race would have perished on this earth, so that not one man would have existed at this day, if the Lord had not come into the world and assumed the Human on this earth, and made it Divine; and also unless the Lord had given here such a Word as would serve the angelic heaven for a basis and conjunction. That by the Word conjunction is effected of heaven with man, may be seen in the work on "Heaven and Hell" (n. 303-310). But that this is so, can be comprehended only by those who think spiritually, that is, by those who through the acknowledgment of the Divine in the Lord are conjoined with heaven, for these only can think spiritually." (Final Judgment, n. 10.4)

      So strangely, the Incarnation was not just for spiritual salvation, it was for the continued physical existence of the human race on this planet. We all tend to take our life for granted, not being aware of this spiritual connection that is required to maintain it. Since in Earths in Universe it is stated that humans on other earths still have this communion with the angelic heaven (as far as Swedenborg is aware), it seems to me that the incarnation was for the salvation of the human race specific to this planet. Other human races are already aware of God as a Divine Man through direct revelation.

    10. Hi Doug,

      Yes, there is some fuzziness about exactly which humans Swedenborg is talking about at any given time.

      We struggled hard with this in the translation and notes of Other Planets (OP), as it is titled in the New Century Edition, specifically in relation to Swedenborg's description in #42 of the layout of the planetary areas of our solar system in the spiritual world. In that description, Swedenborg does not specify (as I came to believe) that he is speaking from the perspective of spirits from our planet, residing in our planetary region. As a result, we had a major debate about what layout, exactly, Swedenborg was describing in OP 42, and how to draw a diagram of it.

      In the end, after I spent many, many hours gathering and comparing related passages from various parts of OP and from the parallel passages in AC and Spiritual Experiences, we settled on a diagram that was not what any of us originally thought, but that we all agreed was what Swedenborg was describing. You can see the results in the recently published NCE volume of the Shorter Works of 1758, pages 607-609 (note 428 and the diagram).

      This is a long way of saying that Swedenborg is not always clear exactly which perspective he's speaking from.

      On the subject we've been discussing, my own view (which could be mistaken) is that the Lord needed to incarnate only once, and that if in the future another planet were to become so physical-minded that its population was in danger of being cut off from the spiritual world, God would not need to incarnate again, but could appear there with the Divine Human that he took on through the incarnation on our planet.

      It does strain credulity to think that there will be no other highly materialistic planetary cultures that get all focused on the physical world (hence our development of science and technology) to the point of doubting the existence of God and spirit and therefore being in danger of getting cut off from the spiritual world and dying out as a human race. I suspect we are simply the first planet in the universe to become so materialistic, and that God took the first opportunity to incarnate and become fully expressed as the Divine Humanity.

    11. There are multiple passages in "Earths in the Universe" (or "Other Planets") where God does appear to them as a Man. Whether that was under a pre-incarnate Angelic form, or as Jesus in a post-resurrection form, it is not clear.

      Since we brought up this particular work, its the one I did not know what to do with when I republished a digital version of the Rotch edition under the name "The Divine Revelation of the New Jerusalem." Its a problematic work which lead many to reject Swedenborg offhand, so I wish that New Century Edition had an explanatory preface (I just checked the online PDF). The biggest issue is what he says about the "inhabitants of Jupiter." However if we cross-check the original passages in the Spiritual Diary, there is this rather interesting passage of a vision Swedenborg sees before he discusses the inhabitants of Jupiter:

      "During the whole night, both when awake and asleep, representations were shown me of those who are worshipped as saints and gods. The gods and goddesses of the ancients are still represented, as Venus, Diana, Phoebus, Jupiter, and indeed each in his or her own peculiar attire... but whether these are only fantasies, and they remain in these fantasies, or whether some spirits present themselves in their stead, cannot be sufficiently confirmed. Some suppose themselves to be [those deities], and so present themselves. Jupiter was represented with a continuous power, as it were, of lightning, which cannot be described because it cannot be conceived..." (Spiritual Diary, n. 440).

      This was seen in January of 1748. And it just so happens later in January of 1748 Swedenborg then starts speaking with the "spirits of Jupiter", and some of them are worshipped as saints. It could be here Swedenborg saw a planet and falsely concluded that it was Jupiter, not realizing it was a correspondence with those who desired to be worshipped as a god or saint. The association with Jupiter was simply chosen as Jupiter or Zeus was the head of the Roman and Greek pantheon.

      Something similar can be said of the interstellar travellers "of Mercury" - as Mercury was the god of travellers. I think I like this theory, it can explain a lot. Not everything, as Swedenborg does accurately describe the rings of Saturn which at the time people thought were solid.

    12. Hi Doug,

      The full NCE volume of The Shorter Works of 1758 does have a general Introduction that has a section on Other Planets, plus an Appendix listing five theories about the problems posed by the discrepancy between its claims and modern science.

      The Introduction does take up the question of whether the inhabitants of the various solar planets correspond to contemporary (to Swedenborg) schemes of the astrological significance of the planets, and also the characters of the ancient Greek and Roman gods they were named for. It concludes that although there are some similarities, the correspondence is rather faint, and doesn't provide a clear tie-in with Swedenborg's descriptions of the inhabitants of the various planets.

      However, given that we have known for many decades that those planets are not inhabited, nor could they ever have been inhabited by advanced life forms, I have long thought that there must be some reason Swedenborg identified particular groups of spirits that he met in the spiritual world with those planets. It seems likely that their characteristics connected with some associations in his mind in relation to those planets.

      Perhaps your tie-in with SE 440 can at least partially explain Jupiter. And the connection of the traveling Mercurians with the wing-footed god Mercury seems clear enough. Perhaps over time associations with the other planets will be uncovered so that we will have a more comprehensive idea of how he could have associated those particular cultures in heaven with those particular solar planets.

    13. Hello Lee,
      That is good to hear. The astrological explanation can only explain, IMO, Jupiter and Mercury. As for Saturn, Swedenborg accurately describes the appearance of the rings at a time when science thought they were solid rings. If you want my personal theory on that, read the book, "The Ringmakers of Saturn" - you can get it here: The author has several lectures and interviews on youtube; looks like he had a secret clearance. I bet you probably were unaware of that theory.

      I checked out an NCE quotation of James Lawrence in his article here -

      For Heavenly Secrets 8615.3, it has this weird quote:

      "Correspondence is all-powerful"

      In Heavenly Arcana (Rotch Edition) it is translated like this:

      "Correspondences have all power"

      The original Latin is "correspondentiae omnem vim habent" which is literally translated by the Rotch edition. I just happened to pick one sentence at random. It is plural, and uses the verb "have". So it looks like the NCE uses a free or dynamic translation? And instead of "Divine" it prefers "Deity" (Latin is "Divinum").

  2. Hi Doug,

    I looked through Bergrun's book (the PDF you linked), and glanced at his YouTube stuff. It's about the same as all of the other UFO conspiracy theories. Grainy pictures conflated into vast spaceships, vague whisperings of top-secret information, complicated extraterrestrial explanations of phenomena that are well-explained scientifically. None of it has any sound scientific basis whatsoever.

    The rings of Saturn have been studied extensively, and considerably more since Bergrun published his book over 30 years ago. The rings and gaps are pretty well understood by now. We have discovered shepherd moons that we didn't previously know were there, and the dynamics of the rings have been extensively modeled. There is no need for UFOs and extraterrestrials to explain them. I'm sure Berglund is very sincere, but this is all pseudo-science together with some imaginative interpretations of natural phenomena driven by an unfounded belief in extraterrestrial visitors.

    It's no different than Schiaparelli's and Lowell's intricate systems of canals on Mars, which turned out not to be there at all. It was all imagined based on the low-resolution, grainy view of Mars that was available at the time, and their belief that Mars must be inhabited.

    Once again, I wish you would abandon all the pseudo-science and UFO conspiracy theories, and study real planetary science. There is a lot of very fascinating material available. Yes, there is much still to learn. But it is now so well-established that none of the other planets in our solar system can now, or ever could, support advanced life forms that there just isn't any doubt about this anymore. Your continuing to fall for all of the pseudo-science and conspiracy theories detracts from your otherwise excellent work analyzing and expounding Swedenborg's theology. And that is a real pity.

    What passages in Swedenborg are you referring to when you say that he accurately described the appearance of the rings of Saturn? AC 8952 and EU 104?

    If so, the description there is vague enough that it doesn't provide any scientific model of the rings. It simply says that the inhabitants don't see them as rings, but as a snowy whiteness in various directions in the sky. In fact, they are rings; they're simply rings made of particles of various sizes rather than solid rings. Either one could appear as a "snowy whiteness" to putative inhabitants of Saturn. Keep in mind that Saturn has a very thick cloud cover, such that anyone on its surface would have no clear view of the sky. Even if the rings were a vast reflective mirror constructed by aliens specifically to provide additional light to the planet, it would still appear to any inhabitants only as "a whiteness in various directions in their sky."

    If there are other passages you're referring to, please do give me the references. Thanks.

    1. I believe those are the passages. The point is, back then scientists thought they were solid (Jacob Lorber even thought they were solid and thick enough to support life). The rings are composed of basically many snowballs, and to see them in all directions of the sky is only possible if one was in or near them, above the cloud cover of Saturn. Same goes for the moons, which Swedenborg states serve for "nocturnal lights".

      Bergrun is incorrect about the origin of the rings (one of the moons leaks water which feeds the rings, and they are probably the remnant of one or more destroyed moons), another military witness suggested they are there to simply mine them. He, and other independent witnesses, have indicated that NASA blurs or cuts the photos before releasing them to the public. He was an insider at NASA with strong credentials and he certainly put his good reputation on the line. Regardless, its another theory, no reason to abandon it until proven just like the others. Even if proven, it brings up more questions than it answers.

      I could of course just focus on the theology, but this subject always comes up which cause people to completely ignore the theology altogether. Given Swedenborg's other clairvoyant abilities, some of which was factually verified, there has to be a valid explanation for this.

    2. Hi Doug,

      All of these things have been proven wrong time and time again. There are thousands of scientists involved in the various NASA missions, not to mention the missions of all of the other space agencies around the world. The idea that all of them are either deceived or deceiving the public is just too ludicrous for a rational person to accept.

      Unfortunately, irrational people will reject massive amounts of scientific data in favor of nutty, irrational theories that have no basis in reality. Latching onto these crazy, irrational, unscientific theories as a way to explain E.U. will only further convince any rational, scientifically literate person that Swedenborg was crazy and irrational, and will cause them to reject him even more. Meanwhile, the irrational conspiracy theorists don't need any convincing. Latching onto their theories doesn't convince anyone that wouldn't already believe in aliens on the moon, but it will drive away people who actually have some actual knowledge of science. It's a lose-lose proposition.

      I would love to refer people to your articles on various subjects. But I don't because I do not want them to come across your alien conspiracy theory posts and reject Swedenborg altogether.

    3. I understand your viewpoint Lee but at this point its just another theory. If the work on Other Planets is listing various theories (none proven) just add it to the list. We are not talking about the cases that have been explained or disproven but the 1% of cases that fall into the "unexplained" folder. None less than Stephen Hawking talked about the cylindrical form as being most ideal for interstellar travel; he was investigating that cylindrical object or asteroid that came into our solar system before he died. Its a complicated subject and a blog is perhaps not the right forum to do it. I have avoided talking about it for other reasons. I think its there as a means of protection against profanation of spiritual truths, yet another subject. Those who follow the truth will recognize the truth despite this.

      That said, it could be what Swedenborg saw was a "spiritual" solar system where these other extraterrestrial societies corresponded closely with our society in one way or another (such as those of Mercury and Jupiter, in their own way). But that theory in turn has its own problems - such as they see those of earth as backwards and evil, and are averse to our evil ways, and this aversion would cause them to be more "spiritually distant" in the spiritual world. Also I think there are passages where when he goes outside the solar system, for some planets the angels describe our sun as a visible star. And if thats true, one can perhaps calculate the brightness of our sun and apply a limit in light years and start to narrow down the list.

    4. Hi Doug,

      Sure, it's a theory in the same sense that all scientific knowledge is theory. Scientists who are knowledgeable about the theory of science know that scientific investigation and experimentation doesn't actually prove anything in an absolute sense, but rather disproves competing theories and gives us greater confidence that theories that have not been disproven are sound.

      So yes, it's "just a theory" that there are no advanced inhabitants of the other planets and moons in our solar system. But saying it that way obscures the fact that by now we have amassed huge amounts of scientific data all of which makes it almost certain that the other planets and moons in our solar system are not capable of supporting advanced life forms.

      So is it a "theory"? Yes. If one day we send a robotic probe to the surface of Venus and snap a photo of a happy human community that thrives in the blistering heat and corrosive atmosphere of Venus, all of our previous evidence that Venus cannot support advanced life would be shown to be mistaken, and we would have to drastically revise our science of life. But until that happens, the evidence is so overwhelming that we can, for all practical purposes, take it as a fact that none of the other planets or moons in our solar system is capable of supporting human beings living on the surface of their planet in an earth-like ecosystem, which is what Swedenborg describes in Earths in the Universe.

      However, one thing on which we do agree is that Earths in the Universe serves as a protection against profanation of spiritual truths.

      It does this by warding off people who will read Swedenborg from a materialistic perspective. Such people will reject Swedenborg's writings as a whole because it's so obvious that he was wrong about every planet and moon hosting human life, which, in their minds, means that he must be wrong about everything else he says he heard from the spiritual world. In other words, precisely because Swedenborg was wrong about a now known scientific reality, anyone who cannot read Swedenborg for spiritual truth, but insists on focusing on material knowledge, will reject Swedenborg's writings and his teachings.

      This, I believe, was provided by God to prevent materialists from being forced to believe Swedenborg's spiritual teachings because he predicted scientific knowledge that he could have had no way of knowing based on the science of his day, and therefore could have known only from supernatural sources.

      In other words, I believe God intentionally embedded 18th century scientific error in Swedenborg's writings precisely to protect the spiritual truth that God revealed to the world in those writings from being accepted and then profaned by people whose minds are hopelessly entangled in materialistic or "earthly" thinking. It is better for such people to reject Swedenborg out-of-hand than for them to be convinced by external "miracles" of Swedenborg dramatically predicting future science, only to twist and reject the spiritual truth contained in his writings because they themselves are unspiritual.

      Meanwhile, people who focus on spiritual truth out of love for the Lord and love for the neighbor will eagerly drink in the beautiful spiritual truth in Swedenborg's writings, while considering such things as whether there are people on the moon, and whether Swedenborg was mistaken about this, to be relatively unimportant.

  3. Hi Doug,

    Hmm, I had read Jim's article, but hadn't noticed that he used a quotation from an unpublished NCE volume. I don't use anything that hasn't been published yet because it is subject to change. There are some questions on that wording, "Correspondence is all-powerful." It wouldn't surprise me if it changed before publication.

    I wouldn't say that the NCE uses "a free or dynamic translation." Rather, it makes a better effort to translate Latin idiom into English idiom than any previous translation.

    Correspondentia is a tough one. There isn't an ordinary English word to translate it, so we have to use the various forms of "correspondence." Unfortunately, to people unused to Swedenborg's theology it doesn't have much meaning at first. "Correspondence" is used almost entirely to refer to letters, emails, and so on.

    As for making it singular instead of plural, correspondentiae is a concept, which works in the plural in Latin, but not so well in English. The effort is to use more ordinary English idioms and modes of expression rather than blindly carrying Latin forms over into English.

    Divinum is another one that is tricky to represent in English. In Latin it's not a noun, but a substantive adjective. These are used extensively in Latin, and read quite naturally. In English, though we do sometimes use substantive adjectives, they tend to be abstract and distant-sounding, whereas in Latin substantives are commonly used for concrete things as a class. Translating Latin substantives into English substantives, such as divinum into "the divine" gives an odd, abstract, detached feel to something that in Latin doesn't have that sense and feel.

    I'm not crazy about "the Deity" because it's a bit odd-sounding in English. However, it is an effort to make the translation more concrete by translating a Latin substantive adjective as an English noun. Though traditionalists might think of this as "a free or dynamic translation," in fact it is a better representation in English of the construction used in the original Latin. Substantive adjectives don't function the same way in English as they do in Latin. Translating a Latin substantive as an English one usually misrepresents the Latin.

    A similar problem comes in translating bonum as "good." "Good" is usually used as an adjective in English. We talk about a good movie or a good apple. We don't talk about "a good." That's just not English. Latin, however, does talk about "a good," and by that, it means "a good thing." Translating it as "good" misrepresents the Latin, which is not talking about the quality of being good (an adjectival function), nor even about the concept of goodness, but rather about an actual thing that is good (a noun function).

    Substantives are adjectives used as nouns. They should usually be translated into English as nouns. But doing so is fiendishly difficult, because the Latin doesn't say what good thing it's talking about. It's talking about good things in general. And we don't have an equally colloquial way of saying that in English. So we either misrepresent the Latin by talking about "goods and truths," which is not what the Latin means, or we use somewhat clunky English that gets tiresome when used extensively, such as "good and true things," which is what the Latin actually means.

    Previous translations settled for a style that was almost transliteration rather than translation. It simply represented Latin substantives as English ones, even though that misrepresents the meaning of the Latin. The New Century Edition makes an effort to accurately represent the meaning of the original, even when this requires changing the syntax and sentence structure.

    The idea is to translate Latin idioms into English idioms that express the meaning of the Latin in meaningful English.

    1. Ok interesting, didn't know that was not published yet. I did notice that Swedenborg pluralizes words as nouns that are normally not nouns, I figured that was his way of speaking and not a feature of Latin. But in terms of translation, he opted for the most literal and thus used Schmidius' Latin translation. As for "correspondence" - it is a unique word, I always wondered why he didn't use the word "symbol" instead. It now means letter writing, but even there its meaning is retained, as correspondences are a means of communication with heaven.

    2. Hi Doug,

      About Swedenborg's use of the word correspondentia, see this fascinating article by Jim Lawrence:

      CORRESPONDENTIA: A Neologism by Aquinas Attains its Zenith in Swedenborg

      This link takes you to an abstract where you can download the full article in PDF format. While I don't necessarily accept all of Jim's views and conclusions, this article provides some great information and is well worth a read.

    3. Well done article, very interesting word history. It should have said here, however, that the Lord prepared Swedenborg from his earliest childhood, and that this "natural" knowledge was a preparation for the spiritual. Many of his concepts were formulated before his spiritual vision was opened.

      I looked in the Oxford Dictionary, and one of the earliest usages of the word "correspondence" in English I found from "Pseudodoxia Epidemica" by Browne in 1646:

      "there is nothing infallible but God, who cannot possibly erre. For things are really true as they correspond unto his conception, and have so much of verity, as they hold of conformity unto that intellect, in whose Idea they had their first determinations"


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