Involution, Evolution and Influx (a new doctrinal challenge)

Those who are familiar with scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s idea of spiritual causality understand that God’s influx moves as an orderly process from non-physical beginnings to physical results in the spacetime arena. This theistic model of purposeful causal process starting from higher or innermost things to lower or external things is formulated within a triune order as ends, mediate causes and effects.

This top-down order is fine when contemplating God’s order in the process of creation—from spirit to matter. However, when considering the process of evolution and the emergence of bio-complexity there is a change in the order of action and influx—because effects more closely resemble ends or first principles.

For instance, when Swedenborg describes the growth of a human fetus the process is from innermost things to outermost things—then to mediate things! So instead of the top-down order of 1-2-3, we get 1-3-2! This “switcheroo” even happens between the relationships of the three essentials in the Holy Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Scripture first offers us the 1-2-3 order of divine process. God the Father is first. God the Son (Jesus) is second. And the Holy Spirit acts last—that is, the Holy Spirit manifests last. This sequential order is confirmed by the fact that in John 7:39 the “Holy Spirit was not yet, because Jesus was not yet glorified.” But when we consider Swedenborg’s statement that the Holy Spirit is the Divine Proceeding it becomes the mediating force and causal link between Divine Love (innermost essence) and Truth (form finding existence in externals). In other words, when all three elements are in their proper cosmic arrangement (simultaneous order) they manifest a different relationship.

So the order of action, once the Holy Spirit enters the equation, is 1-3-2. This is because although it acts last in time, it has a greater (higher) degree of holiness than the “lower” flesh and blood of Jesus, which consists only of physical matter (externals).

Glorification is the evolutionary process by which Jesus perfected and unified His human nature and human form with His Divine Nature. Through humiliation and acts of service the Holy Spirit transformed Jesus’ physical body into a perfect conductor of heavenly order and Love—until all its operations were purely holy. This is why Jesus ascended into heaven with His body because it became the Holy Spirit in the fullness of time!

We see this change of order in the operation between the human soul, the human body, and the resulting action, which proceeds from the conjunction and mediation of the two. Here, the spirit (and its aim) first flows into the body through mediate causes and structures (1-2-3) but when the body produces a useful action (corresponding to the wishes of the spirit) the proceeding or mediate cause which harmonizes the two takes the third or outward position (1-3-2) because usefulness comes forth from the body’s actions and therefore becomes the new external or outermost effect.

The direction of God’s influx is not simply from heaven into physical forms but into forms of dynamic uses. It is usefulness that first mediates between inner and outer realities (1-2-3) and later manifests (1-3-2) in the outer.

It is through the order 1-3-2 that utility and usefulness ascends back to heaven and evolves. But I will stop here for now.


About thegodguy

EDWARD F. SYLVIA, M.T.S. Philosopher/Theologian Edward F. Sylvia attended the School of Visual Arts in New York and received his Master of Theological Studies at the Pacific School of Religion in Berkeley, CA and a Certificate of Swedenborgian Studies from the Swedenborgian House of Studies. He is a member of the Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences (C.T.N.S.) and the Swedenborg Scientific Association (S.S.A.). Award-winning author of "Sermon From the Compost Pile: Seven Steps Toward Creating An Inner Garden" and "Proving God," which fulfills a continuing vision that God’s fingerprints of love can be found everywhere in the manifest universe. His most recent book, "Swedenborg & Gurdjieff: The Missing Links" is an edgy collection of anti-intuitive essays for personal transformation that challenges and inspires. He has been a student of the ideas of both Emanuel Swedenborg and George I. Gurdjieff for over thirty years. Read more about TheGodGuy, his books and his ideas at
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11 Responses to Involution, Evolution and Influx (a new doctrinal challenge)

  1. Except that looking especially at today’s particularly accomplished, “developed” world reality, it’s difficult to see any deep “usefulness”, at the level of a strong “God’s plan”. Looking at the result of these most important Christian 2000 years, the more and more definite impression today (but much less before) is rather that “something was wrong” with it, basically and now finally, just at those “fundamental” levels. It’s too late now to evoke that usual apology of “good God, bad humans” kind: those “human” defects are too deep, dominating, hopeless, always progressing… Not enough of usefulness even for a small Kingdom of Heaven for the best (let alone the idea of the “paradise for all”). You may try to speculate about a possibility of “future success”, despite modern disaster, but that would be only arbitrary, unfounded fantasy, just contradicting that logic of usefulness: according to the latter, there should be something seriously useful (deeply progressive or at least truly fascinating) and real already in this, material (human) world.

    As a very small but characteristic and close example, take these “science and religion” studies, so generously supported and realised by devoted adherents to goodness and divine love (according to their own statements). It goes on for many decades already, at an unprecedented level of support and organisation, in the golden centres of the richest parts of the world. The evident result is that science and religion remain even more separated and opposed today (especially precisely in the USA, the centre of that activity) and what is especially disappointing, there is no essential, no any real progress in either science or spiritual life due specifically to those studies. Prizes greater than Nobel are generously distributed (really for nothing, between us), numerous (and often huge) projects are launched with industrial regularity, but things only degrade, just in the fields involved, without any progress. Where’s the promised and postulated “usefulness”, at least in this, most “spiritually involved” top-level activity? Moreover, the banal low-level nepotism and subjective egoistic (unmerited-profit-driven) “self-organisation” practices do flourish in this activity as well as in usual research and elsewhere (explaining the absent progress, despite really huge material support). Always trying to serve God and mammon (and thus falsify the Holy Scripture)… Needless to mention, after that, a much larger, world-scale destruction – instead of any “usefulness” – in more secular elitist and other activities, so richly represented in the omnipresent media: just one big satanic show! Few really regret it, but even they don’t know what to do else, they are not “useful” either…

    Even if your own activity (including the forthcoming book) could be considered useful, in that high sense (I suspect it to be your hope, but with all due respect, it’s not evident at all!), you may find yourself in a very special situation of being almost the only case of successful divine plan, just like Jesus Christ himself. Indeed, if nothing has really changed for better with high usefulness since his last appearance here (while spiritual life and belief have evidently and strongly degraded, at least since Renaissance), then we can have today only the same “density” of usefulness represented at best by isolated, very rare persons. Maybe God just wanted to create only his small family, or “team”, for further top-level science-and-religion research in paradise? Or maybe He wanted more, but the result was eventually reduced to it (and even this reduced result remains a fantasy, though not yet completely disproved, contrary to the large-scale success)?

    In summary, thus, your problem is that there is no necessary usefulness – and today it’s really much more evident than in the time of Swedenborg’s inspired fantasies. Ah, in his time it was so much easier to dream and talk to God himself… True miracles were everywhere. Try now to state that you’re talking to and being instructed by God in person, we’ll see the result… 🙂

  2. Also, somewhat but not really off-topic, a general problem of your “scientific” approach is that, quite similar to traditional blind belief, it’s not really “falsifiable”, it does not provide definite, practically verifiable statements putting it at risk of being explicitly wrong but also providing a hope for being explicitly, strongly confirmed. All your “explanations” are precisely of “doctrinal”, interpretative, not decisive nature (one can propose other “plausible” schemes), quite similar to traditional theological scholasticism. This is especially obvious in our apocalyptic times of quickly changing world: so will it soon indeed collapse, how, and what will result? Or if it will survive, then again how, why, and what will follow? If instead of clear, “risky” answers (for a very near future!), you only say the usual “just be good and patient and then one day we’ll meet in paradise”, but now in THIS very special situation and within your SCIENTIFIC (=falsifiable) approach, then something is seriously wrong with it…

    By the way, even the divine, very “unscientific” Bible did take this risk and did fail, at least in the New Testament, when it famously stated (by words of Jesus) that the announced “big”, apocalyptic changes guided from heaven should occur during the life time of listening disciples. Nothing of the kind happened (although there were important terrestrial, explicable changes), the Christian Bible was falsified (God’s promise failed), but that was a scientifically honest endeavour.

  3. thegodguy says:

    Dear Andrei,

    The “Second Coming” is not a physical event. Nor, are the words and narratives of Scripture to be taken only literally. Without knowing that God’s Holy Word contains a quantum language whereby its narratives contain higher (expanded) spiritual meanings one cannot adequately speak concerning its sacredness, inerrancy, or authority.

    My new book “Proving God” shows how Holy Scripture is a multidimensional document containing the patterning principles for top-down causal processes in the universe – as well as the dynamics of spiritual salvation and the creation of a heaven from the human race.

    This information is foreign to you (and your worldview) and therefore you can form no rational judgement concerning such things.

    Spiritually yours,

  4. Sue says:

    You leave me speechless, almost. Ends to causes to effects doesn’t resonate very well in my mind (I’m working on that). And then you add a twist!
    I have to translate to myself: ends is Love/intention. Causes is ? … and effects is what we see in the physical world. And the effects have the others within them, so I’m not sure they have a “lower” holiness. But since you seem to be pretty sure about that, I’ll not argue. You could be right.

    Reminds me of a misprint I once saw in a church brochure about the cost of a new building:
    “The cause of the center was $3,500,000.”
    I liked that so much it’s on my bulleting board at work. It was so enlightened! What caused that new building? Money looking for a purpose.

  5. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    The Lord even made his physical body and corporeal/sensual mind holy (lower things)!

    This was a difficult topic. I don’t even think many Swedenborgians know that Emanuel switches the order of process for different situations.

    I have been contemplating this topic for several years. I will try something simpler next time. By the way, if you are still interested in humorous topics on this web blog check out “You can’t get into heaven with a bruised testicle” (April, 29, 2009).

    I don’t mean to be offensive or crude but this is exactly what Scripture states!
    I used it as a laughable example of why God’s Holy Word must contain higher meanings – otherwise such a notion would not make any sense. It has to do with the quality of the prolific principle in generating “uses” from within a person’s heart and mind. A “bruise” represents a heart (will) that has been injured by some false or hurtful principle in one’s life.

    I like the phrase “money looking for a purpose” (as cause). All things in the universe move in the direction of God’s Grand Purpose -even if we cannot recognize it. That includes good things and evil things.

    Spiritually yours,

  6. “All things in the universe move in the direction of God’s Grand Purpose – even if we cannot recognize it. That includes good things and evil things.”

    That’s a perfect expression of the most canonical blind belief. The only problem is that all the interpretational work you (and Swedenborg, and other “scholars”) do is just about “recognising it”, apparently in a rather logically complete form. Otherwise it’s irrelevant because just as you state above, believers believe in the God’s Grand Purpose irrespective of – or even despite – any such logical recognition, while being led exclusively by their “intuitive”, spiritual, God-given internal feeling. It’s either or: either you accept the above attitude of an incomprehensible but always positive (progressive) superior purpose and then all “explanations”, especially of any logical, quasi-scientific nature are redundant if not misleading, or else you do try to understand the purpose (as you actually do) and then put this recognition in the first place, at least for an “enlightened” minority (supposedly more advanced in the direction of the divine purpose).

    You didn’t answer the essential part of my critics in the above comments. I do not emphasize here anything of my worldview, just respond to your statements in the blog article. Their essential part is not so much about “top-down causation”, which is the basis of any canonical religion. The subject of your particular interest, here and elsewhere, is just the reverse, “bottom-up” logic and meaning, “usefulness” of the human terrestrial result, or “the creation of a heaven from the human race” (with the help of love, etc.). Quite a Christian attitude, by the way. My objection, or question, was that there is practically nothing useful (in that sense) or promising in the observed result today, maybe apart from very rare exceptions, after which the whole construction becomes at least illusive. It’s not really a problem for a blind belief, but you do try to have something more, a coherent kind of at least a general construction. So the essential, bottom-up link is missing there – and I cited rather convincing examples in the above comment.

    All in all, it seems that counting on a truly miraculous, inexplicable and crucial future change to come always “from above” (top down) is essential for ANY, either canonical or more explanatory theological thought. It’s not that I would be “against it” (everybody loves gifts from above! 🙂 ), but it’s difficult to attribute any “scientific” flavour to a system of knowledge essentially based on such inexplicable miracles that can only be “recognised” post factum, by their results but not in their real causes and mechanisms.

    Finally, are you trying to jump the gap between you and divinity? Can it ever be possible or permitted, even in principle? Or are you just trying to “peep” illegally (and quite naively) into the God’s secret lab? I would like indeed to find a consistent basis (and especially result) in these “science-and-religion” attempts, but I fail to see anything concrete of that kind, until now… That’s why I ask you about details.

  7. Sue says:

    Wow, what a great discussion. I’m glad I found this place. Andrei, you make excellent points and you are a wonderful sounding board for anyone who who wants to ‘prove’ God. No one (that I know of) has ever been able to prove God starting from science. I think it’s impossible, but I’ll read the upcoming book with an open mind.
    Here’s my 2 cents on what Swedenborg means by uses: it’s subjective. Uses are not apparent in the physical world in the sense of actually improving the world. Science might expect objective results. But usefullness doesn’t deliver. It’s an expression of someone’s intention – it’s delightful for the person performing uses. The world can still be crappy, even if usefullness is in play.
    Being a scientist himself, I think Sw. would agree with you, Andrei, in that “you can’t get there (paradise) from here (logic)”. But that doesn’t mean you can’t get there at all.

  8. Of course, Sue, I see that “usefulness” here refers to (progress of) internal spiritual human dimensions, rather than comfort-increasing material applications of science and technology. For example, it’s very convenient to exchange instantaneously like that across the oceans, but it’s the irreducible content that really matters, and I’m not sure that there’s currently a real progress with this one. Moreover, experience seems to show that there’s a sad complementarity between material and spiritual versions of usefulness, so that the more humans can technically, the less they cost and merit spiritually, internally (at least within the absolutely dominating modern tendency). They’re definitely on the way to hell, opposite to paradise, these, real, today’s humans. It’s the tendency (change) that matters, rather than individual fixed positions, and it’s very easy to trace the tendency by comparing older and younger living generations. How are they today, young adults, even at your best places? You can hardly find them even remotely interested in any ideas like those discussed here. Even that banal, much more comprehensible “scientific usefulness” becomes too (and ever more) complicated for massive interest, even though it does underlie almost all practical life and its (increasingly missing) progress. So the real world is not “still crappy”, as you say, it is already and the more and more crappy, as a matter of fact. And that implies that if humanity is still, despite everything, on its way to “inevitable” paradise (I can feel that conviction in you incorrigible believers in all good things 🙂 ), then a huge, miraculous, “apocalyptic” change does approach because only this one could reverse completely the current tendency. You see, in practice, you too are strangely interested in Maya esoterics etc., looking thus for “something else”, something completely different from either conventional science or religious belief… And I’m afraid even less conventional and rather interesting Swedenborg’s theology doesn’t provide the necessary answer for today’s real world.

    Conventional science cannot not only prove or disprove God, it cannot even explain what the simplest material object of a quite material world, the electron, actually is and why it behaves as it does. This allegedly “objective” form of knowledge pretending to be a higher modern replacement of religion explicitly postulates supernatural, inexplicable miracles at the very basis of its world construction. How can it then understand such infinitely more complicated phenomena as life, human mind, society and global ecological system? They just empirically manipulate objects, adjust correspondingly their “mysterious” postulates (fixed, unproven, contradictory statements) and … make you, duped taxpayers unconditionally and luxuriously support their expensive, totally stagnating and increasingly dangerous games (think e.g. about genetic manipulations, including all OUR genes, without the slightest idea about the true underlying dynamics, already at a quite material level). I don’t think that existing theology, in all its braches, can prove or disprove anything essential, let alone God, either. The reason is the same as for official, positivistic science: in order to get a much greater result, one should “discover” the corresponding much greater “input knowledge”, i.e. one should provide an explicit, well-specified, concrete knowledge extension, exceeding any word play or technicalities of the same level (either “more love” or “more formulas” or “more bits” won’t do).

    You and everybody interested in the real problem solution with those necessary qualities, can find the one I propose through my links. I don’t want to impose it here, but don’t want to leave your lack of knowledge without a positive answer either. A qualitatively, explicitly larger (and deeper) knowledge – and only such kind of knowledge, not any speculations or computer games without real novelty – CAN produce a qualitatively greater result, including the missing unity of “science” and “spirit” (in their extended forms, of course). Does it seem unnatural to you? From my part I can only add that we’re dealing with a usual “closed circle” here: in order to increase usefulness (today even ANY usefulness) one … should be/become more useful! As always, it’s one and the same process of “enlightenment”, including both “solution” and its “result/application”… Will it be difficult for you to guess the reaction (and action) of useless/fruitless but luxuriously supported official sages of any tendency to useful knowledge progress coming from elsewhere? That’s the real problem and real impasse of your so “developed” society. It remains only to hope for something like Maya’s miracles, right? 🙂

  9. thegodguy says:

    For Andrei and Sue,

    Again, Andrei, we are still in essential agreement about the state of human society. However, I am amused that you have already judged my book (and the uselessness of Swedenborg’s ideas for the world).

    Yes, my upcoming book “Proving God” offers “an explicit, well-specified, concrete knowledge extension” that exceeds “same level” paradigms. My book has nothing to do with conventional science or conventional theology but with completely novel ideas concerning both! You are not familiar with these ideas so you should keep your confidence in check! I have studied Swedenborg for more than 35 years and I cannot even come close to exhausting his scientific and theological material.

    You certainly are trying to impose your solutions on my readers and that’s fine with me! I seek to promote serious discussion and different viewpoints. However, I have preserved your links on previous posts to my blog site. But I doubt you have returned the favor (please inform me if this one-sided status has changed). Are we not ultimately addressing the issues of the human heart and reciprocation?

    Or, are you trying to make a one-sided point that “more love” will nor do?

    Spiritually yours,

  10. Sue says:

    I think I part company with you two over whether the world is getting ever more crappy or just maintaining its crappiness. Hey! I must be an optimist because I think crappiness is a constant. I could give all sorts of examples to show that today is better than the past. You could give examples to show the opposite.

    Andrei, I followed your links just to see if I could understand your points better. But my love of Swedenborg is totally ingrained in me by now. You know how you probably ‘just knew’ universal irreducible complexity theory was correct? It just meshed with you? Well, that’s how Sw is for me. I call it my “Swedenborg Explains It All” theory.

    GodGuy, I like the title of your upcoming book. “Proving God” sounds like a process. It won’t matter if you really prove God, the process will be valuable.

  11. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    I agree with Andrei that the world needs solutions to its problems. However, I haven’t lived on the earth long enough to verify if conditions are getting worse. But the world of humanity in general is not interested much beyond their terrestrial needs.

    Swedenborg actually promoted the idea of “irreducibility of complexity.” In fact, if you follow this train of thought (extend it to non-similar or discrete levels) you get complexity and dynamical magnitudes that are LAWFULLY removed from their normal involvement with time and space. (Even some serious physicists are now trying to formulate a theory of causal process from a “pregeometric” realm!)

    Therefore, Andrei’s “instinctive” acceptance of “irreducible complexity” can lawfully (from a scientifically plausible theory) be extended to the phenomena Swedenborg describes in the Spiritual World! This is what I illustrate in novel ways in my book!

    Consider this, all complexity (systems) consist of SIMULTANEOUS order whereby successive (sequential) processes are uniquely ordered (cooperate) from a unifying principle which coordinates and subordinates all the singulars. Everything in the universe exists through coexistence.

    The essence of love is to UNITE! Which makes it the perfect non-material (psycho-spiritual) first principle in the the created universe.

    Andrei – I told you we were really spiritual brothers. How about a hug! And you, Sue, are a spiritual sister. Hugs to you too!

    Spiritually yours,

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