The Rope and the Ladder

Once upon a time there was a rope and a ladder. Each was highly educated but had different views of reality. The rope believed reality was continuous and offered Einstein’s ideas of the structure of spacetime as evidence. The ladder, on the other hand, believed that reality was discontinuous and its architecture was hierarchically layered. The Ladder was more aligned with quantum theory.

In spite of their scientific differences they both believed in God. The rope embraced a traditional religious system but the ladder belonged to a little known religion called “Swedenborgianism.”

The two came together one day to debate their opposing worldviews.  As a topic for their discussion they chose to deliberate on the various cognitive functions of the human mind. Here is how the debate went:

“I believe that although sensing, imagining, thinking and judging are different functions, they are merely the continuous operations of each other,” said the rope. The rope used its long body to make its point. “Sensing takes place at one end of the rope and the higher cognitive functions of reasoning, judgment and abstract thought take place at the other end.”

“That would mean that the various cognitive functions differ only in a linear fashion, as from the color black through shades of gray to the color white,” responded the ladder. The ladder then pointed to the rungs of its own structure and said, “the cognitive operations of sensing, imagining, thinking and higher abstract thought represent distinct steps.”

The rope got all tied up in knots upon hearing this. “Prove to me that these functions of the mind are discrete operations,” demanded the rope. “You’re statement seems counter-intuitive.”

The ladder began to explain the actual differences between the various functions of the mind. “In the operation of sensing like eyesight, objects from the physical world reach the brain through light waves, where they are transformed into picture-ideas. These ideas then accumulate in the memory.

“Yeah, I’m following you so far,” said the taut and attentive rope.

“Well,” continued the ladder,  “the memory becomes a new field of vision for the imagination just as the physical world presents a field of vision for the eyes. These two fields of vision are distinct realities. The mind’s imagination represents a distinct new power—the power of simultaneity.”

“You’ve lost me,” said the rope.

The ladder was happy to explain further. “The operation of imagination can look at all the ideas simultaneously that entered the eyes successively. For this reason imagination can recognize harmonies between different ideas within the memory’s field of vision and thus create new creative combinations. Without this function there would be no inventiveness.”

“I think I am following your line of thought even though it is non-linear,” said the rope, who now looked a bit more stretched.

“Now then, imaginative thoughts begin to accumulate in way that creates yet another field of vision for the mind. The next cognitive operation explores simultaneously the creative ideas that were formed sequentially. New combinations and harmonies can be brought together from different creative ideas to create reasoning and judgment. Whereas imagination is an abstraction of ideas coming from the world of senses, reasoning and judgment are abstractions of abstractions and present us with non-material concepts,” explained the ladder.

“What is a non-material concept?” enquired the rope.

“It is something that was not presented to the eyes through the physical qualities observed in the physical world. Through this new layer of abstraction, concepts of justice, ethics and morality emerge.  In other words, new meaning is derived from the simultaneous function of reasoning and judging. These abstract meanings cannot be detected by either telescopes or microscopes because they are non-material concepts,” said the ladder.

The rope now had to raise itself off the ground and hang in the air in order to grasp the rarefied words of the ladder.

This pleased the ladder. “Since you are now pointed towards heaven I would like to talk about spiritual or angelic concepts. The mind has yet another level of cognition that is so abstract, its concepts can no longer maintain their involvement with time and locality. This heightened cognitive power can view simultaneously all the best concepts of reasoning and judgment and find new harmonies, which are called God’s eternal truths. In other words, the cognitive powers of angelic perception would not recognize any physical or literal meaning in the stories of Holy Scripture. Instead, angelic minds would simultaneously raise the literal meaning of all the Bible’s words into their psycho-spiritual equivalents. This is why Jesus, who was the Word Incarnate, spoke in parables only to convey higher meaning. The Lord’s words were meant for both human and angelic consumption.”

“I think my mind has reached the end of its rope,” said the impressed cord, being touched to its very fibers by the amazing words and vertical message of the ladder. “Where did you come by this unique knowledge?”

“I read Swedenborg,” said the ladder with a smile. “By the way, some people refer to me as Jacob’s ladder.”

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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54 Responses to The Rope and the Ladder

  1. Sue says:

    I love that explanation on so many levels. For one thing, I always have trouble picturing what discrete means. Also simultaneous vs. successive. I got a really clear image of them here – thanks. (The ladder and rope in my imagination have big eyes, a la the excellent Handy Manny cartoon).

    On another level, it makes me wish I could ask some random Swedenborgians: is that true? (not that I doubt you, Godguy, I’d just like to see if other people think of it that way). The different fields: senses, imagination, reasoning? And then angelic perception in our minds while we live on earth? Very cool. So, inside my mind are these groupings of concepts that came in successively and I can see simultaneously from a higher rung?

    And on another level, I can see this would be a great way to present Swedenborgian thinking. It’s so succinct. Much better than my usual rambling, stammering, oddly subjective way of explaining Swedenborg.

    You know what I like about you, Godguy? You present ideas that a reader would actually consider reading. You are kind to your audience. You value intrigue over dogma. I’m never sure if you are “correct”, but that’s a good thing because I value attainable religious thinking over being lectured.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Thank you for the positive response! (This topic is addressed in my upcoming book “Proving God” with much, much more detail.)

    All I can do is present ideas (hopefully in novel ways). Each person must come to his or her own judgment concerning the verity of the material brought before them.

    Spiritually yours,

  3. Glenn Schoen says:

    One must be careful about conflating delightful cognitive tickles with actual comprehension.

    Swedenborg cautioned against judging something as true solely on the basis of the delight it inspires in the understanding. And while the rope-ladder dialog certainly is delightful, there is beneath that patina of delight a confusion regarding the ideas intended to be conveyed–at least with respect to what is successive and what simultaneous, or what is discrete and what continuous, according to Swedenborg.

    The standard meaning of ‘successive’ may be said to be “following in uninterrupted order (consecutive)”, while that for ‘simultaneous’ may be said to be “happening, existing or done at the same time”. We see these meanings employed in this partial explanation of the ladder to the rope: “The operation of imagination can look at all the ideas simultaneously that entered the eyes successively.”

    Prior to that partial explanation, imagination is presented as a vision of the memory, above, separate and distinct from the vision of the eyes. The idea here, and elsewhere in the rope-ladder dialog, seems to be that a simultaneous view occurs on one level, while there are successives on a lower level that are so viewed (e.g., “angelic minds would simultaneously raise the literal meaning of all the Bible’s words into their psycho-spiritual equivalents”).

    From a Cartesian perspective, what is being said is that the X-axis is the successive-axis along which continuous things exist, and that the Y-axis is the simultaneous-axis representing discrete levels from which successive things below are viewed.

    As Riemann showed, multiple geometries are possible. And the ‘geometry’ just referred to certainly has a place within the domain of all possible ‘geometries’. It might even be said to be a Swedenborgian ‘geometry’. But if it is a Swedenborgian ‘geometry’, it is so only because it is a ‘geometry’ offered by a so-called Swedenborgian, not because it is a ‘geometry’ offered by Swedenborg himself.

    What Swedenborg would say–and did say in effect–is that the X-axis is the simultaneous-axis along which continuous things exist, and that the Y-axis is the successive-axis representing discrete levels from which simultaneous things below are viewed.

    In other words, continuous, nondiscrete and simultaneous go together, as do discontinuous, discrete and successive.

    Swedenborg’s “successive” does relate to one thing following after another, but not in a West-East, left-right direction, but in a North-South, top-bottom direction. And because Swedenborg’s starting point was with successives as being up-and-down, what is left for simultaneous is what is side-by-side.

    For Swedenborg, then, and in short, ‘successive’ involves inter-level connections and communications, while ‘simultaneous’ involves the same on an intra-level basis.

    (One certainly can have on one level a simultaneous view of things below. But the use of ‘simultaneous’ here is different from Swedenborg’s use of ‘simultaneous’ with respect to the differences between discrete and continuous. And such a conglomerate view occurs on a successive level above the successive level on which are the simultaneous things that are viewed.)

    If there is confusion regarding these known basic Swedenborgian concepts, what are we to expect regarding the credibility of interpretations of the newly discovered things supposedly hidden for hundreds of years?

    Also, the notion of, e.g., reasoning and judgment each representing different levels of abstraction is a somewhat mottled–Swedenborg has such faculties or operations as being simultaneous on successive levels. That is, there is reasoning and judgment which occurs on one level, there is reasoning and judgment which occurs on another level, and so on.

    I hope one of the things that is made clear in your book is that you yourself did not discover the newly discovered things therein reported, but that someone told you that they were there, coached you on how to find them, and then you ‘discovered’ what you already had been told was there to be found. (If I am wrong about this, say so honestly, and I will gladly apologize.)

    The bulk of the above aside, I can see Sue’s point, that your style of writing, delightful and engaging, serves to pull one in to a consideration of matters that might otherwise seem dry and a drudgery to contemplate. This certainly is a positive.

    The initial tickle having dissipated, however, much work will be needed to unravel what has been raveled. If, that is, one cares to prescind the actual ideas and concepts as presented by Swedenborg.

  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Sorry for the tickle. (Didn’t some congressman recently get into trouble for that?) Anyhow, my apparent lack of caution is a consequence of writing a short blog post about “deep” subjects and leaving many things out. But this promotes discussion!

    Yes, I was told and coached about these things from someone else – Swedenborg himself! The Cartesian X-axis and Y-axis is inadequate for expressing Swedenborg’s ideas of top-down order and process. Correspondences actually portray relationships between things which share NO FINITE RATIO to each other – so how could any axis demonstrate this unless it was divided into discontinuous segments? These segments are QUALITATIVELY different!!!

    Similarly, within the human intellect the cognitive operation of imagination has no finite relationship to the “higher” function of human reasoning and judgement. One operation leads to the invention of the wheel while the other creates a system of justice. There is no finite relationship between a wheel and a system of justice.

    Furthermore, Jacob’s ladder does not portray a Cartesian grid system. (Even some physicists are now looking for new ways to describe spacetime structure that is background independent and is derived from directly from functions.)

    I am at a real disadvantage with Swedenborgians who have not looked more deeply into his scientific works. The ideas for the above blog post were inspired from Swedenborg’s “Rational Psychology.”

    No apology is necessary.

    Spiritually yours,

  5. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    It is good to correct the mistaken notion that Jacob’s ladder portrays the Cartesian grid. But where this notion came from, and who might have expressed it, I do not know.

    o The dimension which consists of discrete degrees is called height, and the dimension that consists of continuous degrees is called breadth. DLW 185

    The rope-and-ladder use of ‘successive’ and ‘simultaneous’ was mapped to the Cartesian grid in order to better show that the terms, as Swedenborg uses them, had been juxtaposed.

    o The highest things of successive order become the inmost things of simultaneous order; and the lowest things of successive order become the outermost things of simultaneous order; comparatively as a column arranged in steps, when it subsides, becomes a body coherent in a plane. TCR 214

    So, it is from one successive level that simultaneous things on a lower successive level are viewed.

    I think you’re doing a wonderful job of promoting discussion regarding your new book.


    o The wise man loves intelligence as a means, but otherwise, and if it leads the mind into error, he hates it. Rational Psychology 421

  6. Sue says:

    In the exact moment I’m reading Swedenborg I actually can follow him and understand him. Simulataneous events I guess.

    But, later, unless it was a topic that I quickly grasped, I totally forget the details. Succession fails.

    So, on this subject of continuous/discontinuous, remind me: why does it matter? To Swedenborg that is? I think it’s because he wants to explain how the world we see can correspond to the spiritual world without being exactly connected physically. ?

  7. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Yes, it is from one HIGHER successive (discrete) level that views sequential (accumulated) things simultaneously on a lower level. The Imagination looks down at the corporeal/sensual memory and human reason looks down at the imagination, etc., etc.

    The mixup here is with looking at the structure versus looking at the process.

    Swedenborg does indeed compare the hierarchy of human cognitive functions with the steps of a ladder. The column you describe indeed has steps (segments). My use of a ladder also describes outer (physical) things ascending to inner (spiritual) things. Outer = lower and inner = higher.

    If your mind is thrown off by my use of a ladder instead of a column then you are wearing your clothes too tightly. My non-Swedenborgian audience (95% of my readership) would be lost if they had to imagine a ladder whose steps where inside one another.

    Swedenborg himself said that sometimes when you add more details you can run the danger of making things more obscure to people. Modern neuroscience sees the human intellect like a rope – a ladder is challenging enough!

    Spiritually yours,

  8. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    You and Glenn are sending comments faster than I can respond. This messes up the order of the conversation because comments appear in the order that they are submitted. I could be responding to one comment while someone else’s comment slips through. But this is better than having no discussion.

    Successive and simultaneous degrees are not important to someone who is trying to live a heavenly life. It is important if you want to unify science and theology in a book for the purpose of proving God!

    Spiritually yours,

  9. Sue says:

    So, successive comments would work better than a jumble of simultaneous stuff? I told you I had waayyy too much to say on this topic.

    By the way, Amazon made me approve the delay on your book. And I did. When it comes, I’ll have something to do besides chat.

    See, you are filling a need in the blogosphere. No one else has a fun Sw. website that I know of. My own was rather boring. If you said nothing off the wall like “I admire Gurdjieff and I compare him to Sw.” we’d have nothing to talk about.

  10. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    I am glad you still are interested in my book “Proving God.” I extended the glossary and index at the last minute. Sorry!

    I hope I can continue to be off the wall in future blog posts. Let me know when I am getting boring.

    Spiritually yours,

  11. Sue says:

    Today I have the day off and I’m home and bored. Heaven. My absolute favorite state: home, alone, and bored. Doesn’t get any better than that.

    So, I have now read the above discussion out loud to myself twice. I am making progress in understanding it. I think the key statements are Glenn’s “In other words, continuous, nondiscrete and simultaneous go together, as do discontinous, discrete, and successive.” vs. Godguy’s “the next cognitive operation explores simultaneously the creative ideas that were formed sequentially”.

    We need a real-world example. Deciding whether to steal bread to feed one’s starving family. For Glenn there would be a simultaneous scenario of many points of view (the points of view of the store owner, the prospective thief, the police, etc.). To make the decision one would have to go up a level. Then one could look at all the simultaneous actions and have a discrete perception of it all from above on a more spiritual level. And figure out what to do.

    For Godguy, there would be a successive accumulation of knowledge of each point of view – one would become aware of the starving family, the store owners money problems, the policeman’s limited choices, etc. all in successive order. And then one would go up a rung and see it all simultaneously. And in seeing it simultaneously one would be able to reason out the best answer.

    So, I think both ways of looking at it would be sort of the same.

    Darn, the phone is ringing … you are all off the hook for now!

  12. Glenn Schoen says:

    As previously said, “The rope-and-ladder use of ‘successive and ‘simultaneous… as Swedenborg use[d] them, had been juxtaposed.” In response to this, you acknowledge that successive goes with discrete, rather than with continuous. I believe we’re on the same page now (i.e., we’re both on ES’s page) regarding this particular point.

    Re Jacob’s ladder… Swedenborg didn’t use Jacob’s ladder in a comparative manner with respect to the ‘human cognitive functions’ of, say, imagination, reason and judgment. Such usage is your usage. This is neither to say nor suggest that such usage is ‘wrong’, only to say that it is not Swedenborg’s usage. And your readers will be better served by an awareness of this distinction as to ‘who’ is saying ‘what’.

  13. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    I for one am glad that I was saved by the phone call!

    With that said, Swedenborg did provide a real-world example for this discussion. He used a man walking along a street in a town and another man looking down at the town from a mountaintop.

    The person below, at street level, would take in the various sights successively or one after the other. However, the man at the top of the mountain could get a view of everything that was happening in the town simultaneously. This gives the observer on the mountain another advantage – he can recognize harmonies and connections between things below and from new creative or innovative ideas.

    Swedenborg takes this model even further with other distinct functions of the human mind. Not only is human imagination similar to an observer on a mountain relative to sensory perception or a person below walking in a town street but that human reasoning and judgement looks down at everyone making observations from a mountain!

    In my blog post I simply place each cognitive function (observer) on ascending rungs of a ladder. Each rung not only accumulates knowledge successively but different QUALITIES of information. Each ascending rung represents a new power of abstraction. Neither Glenn nor you has responded to the fact that these operations have no finite relation to each other!

    Each of these distinct powers are represented in some real organic form within the multi-level architecture of neural structure.

    My book includes the geometries behind these organic substrates in the brain and neuron that allows cognitive process to shed away its physical ideas into higher order mental activity – all the way to spiritual sight. Modern neuroscience is currently seeking such a comprehensive theory of the human cognitive architecture.

    Swedenborg was way ahead of his time! Correct that, he is still ahead of our time!

    Spiritually yours,

  14. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    My book, “Proving God” serves to offer new insights on Swedenborg’s works. There are still new discoveries that can be distilled from all his discoveries. The challenge is interpreting his ideas within the current scientific language.

    If one looks at Swedenborg’s Arcana Coelestia and studies the internal or symbolic meaning behind Jacob’s Ladder they will see that it represents rungs of knowledge (lower and higher truths). These distinct levels of truth or knowledge could not be communicated to man from God if man’s cognitive architecture were not designed in a similar top-down and bottom-up way.

    Who cares who is saying what? I am trying to communicate a new and richer way of understanding Swedenborgg’s ideas – not simply quote from primary sources. This is a blog post not a thesis bogged down with evidence that appeases the scholar but cannot raise the mind to work harder.

    This is why the Swedenborg movement has stalled!!!

    I too, am burying the bone deeper!

    Spiritually yours,

  15. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    I don’t know if you are burying the bone deeper, but you certainly seem to be digging yourself in deeper.

    And I have to wonder, is “Who cares who is saying what?” a new marketing technique for interesting potential readers in what you have to say?

    Hope you’ve included some marrow in that bone your bent on hiding.

    Good luck!


  16. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    From my point of view why would anyone value who says what – over the intrinsic correctness of an idea? Quotes don’t increase understanding they only offer physical or empirical confirmation at the expense of expanding one’s understanding.

    As for the marrow, I have written a whole book! Also, every marketer knows that good advertising will quickly kill a bad product.

    The mere fact that I have written a book entitled “Proving God” requires that I bury myself into a deep whole and try to get out. That in itself will lead to some interesting reading!

    Spiritually yours,

  17. Sue says:

    Au contraire, your operations on each rung do actually seem to have a finite relationship to each other. Senses, imagination, judgement. Isn’t each lower rung accumulating a field aspect and then being observed on the higher level? That’s a pretty close and finite relationship if I’m understanding you correctly.

  18. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    I thought you read this discussion out loud twice. What finite relationship is there between the invention of the wheel and the creation of a system of justice? The former involves ingenuity the later judgement. One is material the other is non-material.

    You are challenging Swedenborg as well as me. I didn’t just make these things up. Furthermore, the whole premise behind correspondences is the similarity between things which share no finite ratio – like water and knowledge. Quantum discontinuity does not go there but in Swedenborg’s theories it does.

    Got to do a few hours of outdoor work. So any response to additional comments will not be immediate.

    Spiritually yours,

  19. Sue says:

    Hmmmm … those things are all about us in the human world. Different but definitely related. (Senses, imagination, thinking, reasoning).

    I always thought Sw’s spiritual correspondence world was more like where birds mean thoughts but they come and go, not permanent birds like here on earth. I thought that’s where the discreteness came in. Discrete because it was TOTALLY different than our ‘ontological’ world.

    BTW, it won’t hurt my feelings if you delete my comments – if you are very busy or think I’m rambling or getting annoying, just hit that old delete button. I promise I’ll still read your blog and your book. &;-))

  20. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    You have been a valuable contributor to the discussion. My challenge in communicating difficult ideas and responding to readers comments is trying to figure out what a person already understands about the topic.

    My ladder and Glenn’s (Swedenborg’s) column are just models to help illustrate ideas. No model is perfect -neither the ladder nor column gives any indication that one level (and its operation) shares no finite ratio to the level immediately above. I use other strategies in my book for such purposes.

    Yes, while physical birds are “permanent” they too fly in and out of view (come and go) just as thoughts fly in and out of our consciousness. Everything a bird does on earth can help us visualize what ideas and thoughts are doing in our mind. So they correspond. (See my blog post entitled “The Thistle and the Goldfinch.”)

    I have had to defend my position on this blog for the last two years – against very smart theologians and scientists – and I must constantly battle against mental fatigue.

    You are most welcome to continue making comments. In fact, I still am open to you writing a guest post on this blog site.

    Spiritually yours,

  21. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    >From my point of view why should anyone value who says what-
    >over the intrinsic correctness of an idea?

    “Who said what” has to do with attribution. That’s what your book is about, right? attribution? Practice makes perfect, as they say.

    You wish to prove that that ought to be attributed to non-material love what scientists attribute to material nature. Yet, you also claim that the intrinsic correctness of an idea is more important than attribution. And as far as the intended audience of your book is concerned, partly comprised of non-Swedenborgian scientists we are told, there is an intrinsic correctness to the idea that nature is due the credit that is given to it. And so they attribute reality to things material.

    You say, “No, no, no! Reality is to be attributed to something non-material!

    The scientists say, “Okay, fine. Give us something to test your claim. If we can verify it, we’ll switch sides. Maybe.”

    You say in response, “What kind of nonsense is that?! What I’m saying is correct! It is intrinsically correct!! You don’t need anything more than that!!!”

    And the scientists say, “Well, you won’t take this personally, we hope, but a little something more than your word might be helpful to us.”

    And you say, “Okay, fine. Here’s this guy named Swedenborg. Look at what he said. See?! This proves I’m right!”

    When it is noted that you misuse his terminology, and fail to show a proper understanding of comparisons that he uses, you exclaim, “So what?! I’m right! From my perspective, isn’t that more important?!!”

    Some scientists might be willing to concede that your believing you are right is more important to you than the fact that the paltry testable claims thus far offered have failed a test of truth, and then leave you to what they see as your quaint belief.

    Others may retreat to their laboratories, keenly interested in this newly discovered condition upon which their wares may be coaxed into having a salutary effect.

    And others still, for one reason or another, may be willing to give the matter a little more consideration.

    “Claims he has offered about what was written down in materials by someone he has studied for more than three decades have been shown to be false. This does not auger well for the veracity of his claims regarding things non-material. It might, however, help explain the frequency of emotional appeals, rhetorical gimmicks, and confrontational belligerence.”

    In the face of this onslaught, your shoulders slump. And, mentally exhausted, you go outdoors to work for a while, hoping that your batteries may thereby be recharged.

    When you came back in, you say, “Look, I know I said that quotes are meaningless, that they don’t increase understanding, and serve only to keep the understanding of others from expanding, but… well, here is what Swedenborg wrote in 1742, in a wonderfully insightful book he entitled, Rational Psychology,

    “The parts of the human intellect, that is, of thought are called rational ideas, or simply reasons. When these are being compared together and turned over, prior to a definite judgment being formed from them, we are said to ratiocinate; the lighter judgments that are formed are called ratiocinations. Ingenuity, therefore, consists in the forming, not of judgments, but of ratiocinations.”

    You then add, “And earlier in the same passage he defines ingenuity as the ability to grasp single things with the imagination. Specifically, he wrote, ‘One who readily perceives single things, that is, grasps them with his imagination, while the pure intellect readily concurs, though slightly–such a one is called ingenious, and this ability is called ingenuity.'”

    And now you’re warming up, and so continue, “If you consider what is being said in these quotes, you’ll be able to see that Swedenborg is calling attention to three things: imagination, reason and judgment, all of which are housed in the intellect part of the mind, that area of the brain which we today call the prefrontal lobes.

    “Imagination is the plane in which rational ideas, or reasons, have their existence. Notice that Swedenborg isn’t talking about the kind of imagination that we see active in our children, as when they, say, are busy daydreaming or interacting with their imaginary friends. No. By imagination Swedenborg is referring to something which is somewhat like what we today might call ‘working memory’. That is, it is a part of the mind in which ideas have a very real existence, where we can look at things with our mind’s eyes, turning them over, considering them from different angles, shifting, sorting, collating and so on.

    “These ideas, what we call ideas, Swedenborg called reasons. He called them ‘reasons’ because they are the objects of our reason. That is, they are the things about which we reason. The reasoning process itself Swedenborg referred to as ‘ingenuity’… though he does call it ‘ingenuity’ here, he also later mostly refers to it as we do, that is, as reasoning. Anyway, this is when we are mulling things over, considering them without forming permanent conclusions about them. You know, ‘chewing the cud’, ruminating, that sort of thing. And while we sometimes do reach intermittent, temporary conclusions about these things, unless these intermittent, temporary conclusions–what Swedenborg alluded to as ‘light judgments’ or ‘ratiocinations’–resolve into something solid, static and steadfast, they are still part and parcel of this dynamic process which Swedenborg called ingenuity and we call reasoning.

    “Now,” you go on, “when things have resolved themselves into something solid, static, and steadfast, something definite, we have what Swedenborg called, and we do too, a judgment. That is, we have reached a decision regarding what we were reasoning about in the plane of imagination, the working memory of the mind’s eye, and this decision is a final determination, aka a judgment!”

    There is silence.

    And then one of the scientists still around, one of those three who did not earlier vacate or flee from the premises, says, “Okay, I can see what you are saying. I think. Yes, we do know there is such a thing as working memory, and we do know that it is a plane wherein and upon which objects can be manipulated, as well as that it is located in a more or less specific area of the brain. We call the manipulation of these objects thinking, or, as some of our fellow scientists have referred to it, symbol manipulation. And we not adverse to thinking of this process of thinking, this manipulation of symbols, this moving about, shuffling and rearranging of objects in the plane of working memory, as a kind of reasoning. We can also think without using working memory, but no need to quibble about this right now. And, okay, once all the pieces are deemed to have been properly aligned, a judgment can be said to have taken place, as you say. But so what? This is nothing new. It’s old hat.”

    “Ahhh”, you say, “but you’re missing the point of it all!”

    “Oh? And what might that point be?”

    “These activities, these processes occur on different levels!”

    “Aha. They occur. On different levels… Yeah, okay. So what? We know about levels and layers and what not. Our geologists study the various sedimentary tiers of dry land. Our oceanographers study the different gradations of the oceans. Our climatologists study the different stratums of the atmosphere. Our physicists study different layers of physical reality. And we have neuro- and cognitive- and other scientists who study the various levels of the brain/mind–for example, some of them study the low-level R-complex (brain stem and cerebellum), some the next higher, intermediate level of the so-called limbic system (amygdala, hypothalamus and hippocampus), and others study what’s at the highest level, the neocortex, within which are the prefrontal lobes in which what you are describing re imagination, reason and judgment take place. Like I said, ‘old hat’.”

    “But don’t you see?! There’s no finite ratio between these different levels!”

    “No, I don’t see. What do you mean by ‘finite ratio’?”

    “I’m talking about imagination, reason and judgment! There is no finite ratio between these different levels! If there was a finite ratio between imagination and reason, then we could know solely from the state of the imagination what kind of reasons are being considered there. But we can’t tell that, know it, or figure it out! And if there was a finite ratio between reasoning and judgment, then we could tell from what a person was reasoning, the judgment(s) that s/he’d reach. But again, we can’t tell! There is no way to accurately and reliably predict what judgments might follow from any given person’s reasoning at any given time! Since we can’t tell these things, since there is no direct causal link between these levels, the ratio of one to the other is not finite!”

    “But they do take place within a finite range. We know that if a judgment has occurred, there has been some kind of reasoning which led to it. The reasoning may not have been sound, but it did occur, or can be said to have occurred, in one way or another. And we know that if reasoning is taking place, then there are underlying physical operations enabling its occurrence.”

    “But, again, you are missing the point!”

    “Well–again–what is your point?”

    “Since there is no finite ratio between these different levels of mind, that is, since there is no direct causal link, since there is no material causality enabling any accurate or reliable prediction from the fact of imagination to what will be reasoned about, or from the fact of reasoning to what will be concluded or terminated in a final judgment, and yet these things do occur, their occurrence must be attributed to something!”

    “Hmm. Now, that is an astute observation. Yes, indeed, there are things that are going on. And yes, we don’t fully understand everything about what transpires. That is why we scientists conduct research, why we carefully consider matters. We think about things, you know. We do what you and your pal Swedenborg call ‘reasoning’. Tough chore, but we do manage. Somehow. And we speculate, and we hypothesize. We also formulate experiments meant to test the veracity of what we have hypothesized. Or, to be more precise, we conduct experiments in order to disprove what we have hypothesized. And if the experiments fail to disprove what they are meant to test, then we either refine our experiments, or conclude that there is sufficient reason to continue to believe that we may be on the right track. You see, this is why we have asked you to give us something to test. If you give us something to test, we will do our best to disprove it. And if we cannot disprove it, we will conclude that there is sufficient reason for believing that you may be right. But one moment. I should correct myself here. I have misstated something. If we cannot disprove what you have given us to test, then we can conclude that there is not yet sufficient reason for believing that you are definitely wrong.”

    ‘But I am right! And you guys are all looking in the wrong direction!”


    “Yes, ‘oh?‘! All you do is poke and prod material things, pull them apart and put them back together again! You measure, measure, measure and have no idea what you are measuring! You think you are measuring things of nature, when all that happens in nature is nothing but an effect stemming from spiritual causes! Without the spiritual world, nothing could take place or occur in the natural world! And the reason why so many supposedly material causal links amongst the various levels fail to be captured by your carefully constructed experimental nets, is because those causes are spiritual! The interaction of the spiritual with the material cannot be empirically captured by any of even your most refined instruments! It happens by way of correspondences! Just like the interaction between imagination and reason, between reason and judgment!”

    “Uh huh. So, what is this non-material something you call ‘the spiritual world’? And how does it interact with the natural world by way of, what I think you called them, ‘correspondences’?”

    “I’m glad you asked. Now we’re getting somewhere! The spiritual world exists because of an out flowing of love from God! And it is that love, the potency of which is stepped down from God through the spiritual world, that acts into the natural world via correspondences! That’s how it happens!”

    The scientist clears his throat. “I asked what is this non-material something you call ‘the spiritual world’. In response, you presume its undefined existence. Then tell me why you think this undefined, non-material something, which only you seem to know about, exists. This does not answer the question as to what this unidentified something is that I myself, and others like me, haven’t any reason to believe actually exists. I also asked you how this ‘spiritual world’ of yours interacts with the natural world by way of ‘correspondences’, and all you can do is tell me that love from God is what enables the spiritual world to interact with the natural world via so-called, presumed and alleged ‘correspondences’. You have not answered either of the two simple questions put to you, but merely reworded the statements that were questioned.”

    “Well, I’m glad you are curious and open-minded! You ask good questions!! But this is just a blog to promote my book, and I can’t be going into much detail here. All the details are in my book! So, if you want to know more, read my book!!!”

    “I’m afraid,” says the first scientist, the one who has been doing most of the speaking to this point, “I’m afraid that time isn’t available for me to do that, at least not for the foreseeable future. It isn’t that I’m not willing to hear you out–some of your statements, though they seem to be devoid of any real meaning, do at least have an interesting syntactical construction–it’s just that I’m overly busy now with my investigations into something related to what Einstein called ‘spooky action at a distance’, or ‘quantum entanglement’. My specific area of interest is known as quantum teleportation. And if my work pans out, the transfer of information across vast tracts of space in the absence of any measurable passage of time will be possible in a commercially feasible manner.”

    “You seem capable of getting it–but don’t get it!. Sigh!”

    The second of the three remaining scientists pipes in at this point. “Ja, too me. Much work do. One week for to complete most recent paper for conference. On quantum effects of sustained attention, and its neuroplastic role in rewiring of brain. Subject fascinating. Many able overcome habits–habits obsessive, compulsive, debilitating–as result of quantum effects of sustained attention. Near 90% of patients in we studies go from what them say hellish state to free of harmful habits, which state they call heavenly. No hell. No heaven. But, ja, they able reintegrate back into society and become fully functional, useful members of communities. Most fascinating, fascinating.”

    Left alone, the third scientist says, “Hey, don’t look at me. I wish you all the best with you book. Sounds intriguing. I’d love to read it. Really, I would. But I’m working on one now myself. Well, not by myself. It’s a collaboration, ya know. With a guy named Tyler Volk. Heard of him? No? Well, anyway, we’re expanding one of the chapters of his earlier book, Metapatterns: Across Space, Time and Mind.”

    Your interest suddenly piqued, you forget the exclamation point. “Oh?”

    “Yeah. Cool stuff. The original chapter was called ‘Layers’. We don’t have a title for the book yet, but we’re thinking of naming it Layers: Viewed from a Higher Level, or something like that. Whatever. We deal with layers, levels, stratifications, hierarchies, holarchies, holons, clonons and stuff like that. It’s all about how things like that contribute to the totality of the whole. Know what I mean? And, uh, well, catch you later!”


    Then from the shadows comes a, “Psst.”

    “Huh? What’s that? Who’s there? I thought all you guys flew the coop!”

    “Nah, not all of us. Well, maybe all the scientists have. But we’re not scientists. Not in the normal, acceptable sense of the term anyway.

    “Someone told us about God, and how nothing but love comes from Him, and how without His love, we couldn’t do anything and nothing would happen.

    “It was really strange. When we heard about it, it was like we were hearing something we’ve known all along but hadn’t ever really, really thought about. Know what I mean? It was almost as if it was already there, buried deep inside of us, just waiting for someone to say something about it, and when someone did, that something inside us woke up. Quite strange and mysterious it was.

    “Anyway, we conducted some experiments of our own. None of that fancy, formal scientific stuff with machines, instruments, gadgets and what not, mind you.. Nah. We were told things like I said before, and since we already somehow and in someway knew it to be true, we figured, what the heck? Why not put it to the test?

    “So we began living as if it were true, which we did know it was, but when we started living it, we had first hand experience that, yup, it’s definitely true. That’s why I said it was a ‘scientific’ experiment. We had some notions, not so much in our heads, but more like somewhere in our beings, and we put them to the test, and then drew conclusions from the results based on our experience.

    “I don’t know that anyone is going to believe us. I mean, we can’t prove what has happened to us in a way that would satisfy people who demand proofs that are abstractly logical, rigorous, infallible, unimpeachable, empirically verifiable and so on. But then, who cares?

    “We don’t need to be successful in convincing others in order to validate what we know inside ourselves, and from our personal experience, to be true. All we have to do is live it. And you know what? Living it is its own reward. Yup. It is.

    “But not only is living it its own reward, a really weird thing happens when we do.”

    “Oh? And what is that?”

    “Others begin to notice it. And when they do, they start to wake up too.”


  22. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    You have put a lot of thought and effort into your response. It deserves to be studied closely. Unfortunately, I have to tend to my earthly paradise and do some branch pruning (it is 65 wonderful degrees outside!).

    I promise to get back to you before bedtime. I appreciate your thoughtful communications!

    Spiritually yours,

  23. Sue says:

    Wow, Glenn, that was great. Summarized the whole thing. And even with accents. (Btw, all you non-native English speakers, you have no idea how charming your English is to us. And how kind of you not to force us to discuss things in German or Spanish or Russian which would really make you laugh.)

    Godguy, I know your book already went to press, but are you sure you want to mix it up with scientists? I’m scared for you. They peer-review each other and they’re all smart as whips and it’s like a gang that we can’t ever join. We can pretend to talk like them, but they always catch us.

    Just tell them there’s a reason you call your book “Proving God”. Proving gives you leeway. Proving is a process, not a result. They can never say you’re not ‘proving’ God.

  24. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn, Sue (and even Andrei),

    What is a slug to do?

    There is no testable or empirical evidence that I am anything but a lowly slug. Worse yet, why would anyone read a book written by a slug? Especially in this busy world. My jig is up!

    You are all driving me to drink!

    Ah, there’s that unopened bottle of whisky. And there is my 18 ounce tumbler. Glug, glug, glug, glug, glug.


    Whew, that burned the throat a bit!

    Now, in my defense I would adamantly like to point out that “hiccup.” Excuse me. Oh crap, lost my line of thought. Where the heck was I?

    “Hiccup, hiccup.”

    Things are spinning around my head! Na-need to to wake p-people upph.




  25. theg says:

    Dear readers,

    Sorry for getting drunk like a skunk last night. I had horrible nightmares. I dreamt that I was running away from a giant brain. I thought I could hide from this brain if I could only escape outdoors and work on my 10-acre homestead (which needs continual upkeep).

    But the huge brain kept after me, mocking me for this, and finally backed me into a corner (of my barn) and said I could not hide from its tough and piercing questions. The brain wanted immediate answers to all of them!

    Then the huge brain made an error. It implied that Swedenborg believed that the ideas of the imagination (active memory) and the ideas of thought could both be called “reasons.”

    Feeling pressed for attribution I quoted Swedenborg that “the ideas of thought are acquired by the mind itself, while the ideas of the imagination are acquired solely by the external senses.” Also, “Thus, an idea of the imagination is an idea insinuated through the gates of the senses; while an idea of thought is one that is formed from the ideas of the imagination.” In other words each operation is distinct and one operates on a higher level than another. Only ideas of thought can be called “reasons” and cannot be associated with ingenuity, which makes greater use of the imaginative function.

    The frightening and imposing brain then expanded its frontal lobes and said, “That is nothing new. Science is familiar with symbol manipulation and even with layers within nature.”

    Fearing for my intellectual life I stated that all this was not merely pre-fontal mental activity. These distinct functions went further into deeper cognitive substrates within the neuron itself. This layering of human cognitive function is based on distinct species of geometrical bio-structure which are more perfectly adapted to change states. I reminded the giant brain that geometrical principles play no role in modern neuroscience or molecular biology – but they do in Swedenborg’s model. In this way, Swedenborg put distinct operations within a “finite range” with a hierarchy of geometries, each of which provides a “new analysis of infinity.”

    With that said I managed to chase the giant brain out of my barn and get a few back-breaking chores out of the way.

    Thank God it was only a bad dream. Where are the aspirin?

    Spiritually yours,

  26. Sue says:

    “Who cares who is saying what?” Hmmm – in a way that’s so true about conversations. Knowledge gets picked up here and there. Pieces of mystery get solved. From this blog I’ve picked up so much useful info. The word “discern” for instance as a synonym for faith/intelligence. And now – a written down definition of ratiocination. I remember trying to look up that word when I was reading Arcana C. (dictionary days) and not finding it. In context it made sense. Sort of. But words take on a reality if you can hear someone else use them. Ontological words as opposed to epistemological words.

    However when you hone down your main philosophy in life after many years of reading this and that, it really does matter “who is saying what.” Swedenborg is unique in being totally trustworthy. He is the only philosopher my skeptical brain has ever trusted. Not at first of course. But when I never caught him being self-contradicting or self-serving or lowering his standards in any way, I became convinced. My mind relaxed into his mind. If he said “it”, I’m willing to incorporate “it” into my mind without a filter. Therefore it really does matter to me whether something actually came from him.

    Godguy, I love your outlook on Swedenborg. I love your blog. I read it with my filter on, however. Glenn is a purist on Swedenborg. He really does understand Sw and know exactly what he said. Don’t bet your 10 acre spread on being able to trip him up!

  27. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    I must acknowledge that the para beginning with, “Feeling pressed for attribution…” is most upsetting to me.


  28. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    I have written a 400-page book which is a synthesis of both Swedenborg’s scientific and theological works. It was a seven-year project, including a couple of years at seminary (Pacific School of Religion and the Swedenborg House of Studies) to gain some level of academic credibility.

    I belong to two organizations whose goal is to unify science and theology – “Center for Theology and the Natural Sciences” and the “Swedenborg Scientific Association.” So I am familiar with all the issues separating both camps. My book attempts to resolve these issues with Swedenborgian concepts.

    I have given lectures at both Convention and Bryn Athyn. I have an article in the February issue of The Messenger” and an article in the most recent issue of “The New Philosophy.” Yet, you imply that I am merely trying to trip people up. How does that advance Swedenborgian thought throughout the world?

    I do not know what you mean by Glenn being a purist on Swedenborg (and what advantage that offers). Does it mean that no further insights are to be obtained from the sense of Swedenborg’s precise words? My book offers new insights into Swedenborgian concepts that offer evidence that the Swedish sage is still out in front of even the New Paradigm science (like a geometrical approach to bio-structure and human cognitive architecture). There are “Purists” who insist that Swedenborg’s science is limited to his era. Hogwash! My book offers new ways to evaluate Swedenborg’s contributions to the history of human thought.

    And when you correctly point out that scientists will gang upon me who are you worried about – me or Swedenborg? Besides, scientists are starting to ask questions that their materialistic ideology can no longer answer (not to mention that they cannot unify relativity and quantum theory for a universe that is obviously unified).

    The topic of unifying science with theology and offering evidence of God’s existence is a hot topic. Why shouldn’t Swedenborg’s ideas be brought to the table?

    Spiritually yours,

  29. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    We are real spiritual brothers. You have a good heart and a sincere affection for truth and goodness. If I have offended anyone I apologize. I have taken on a most difficult challenge – one that paints a bull’s-eye on my back.

    Spiritually yours,

  30. Sue says:

    I was referring to your comment that the big brain made an error. And it’s you I’m worried about. Not Swedenborg. God has his back. (well, He has your back too, I guess, so I take that back about being worried about you.)

    Your book does offer new insights and that’s great. Insights are subjective. And wonderful. But science is objective and its big brains are going to chew you up I think. Being a purist isn’t an advantage. But it will trump you everytime you think it made an error. In my opinion.

  31. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    The error of the Big Brain is to call “ingenuity” the same thing as “reasoning.” I offered a quote (attribution) by Swedenborg that proves ingenuity partakes of the imagination – not of genuine thought (reasoning). Since when have you become the expert on these matters?

    I suspect that you are now trying to fan the flames for your own amusement (or you don’t want me to get any yard work done). You certainly are not responding to some critical points that I have made throughout this discussion.

    Science is not as objective as you think. There is no way of testing multi-dimensional string theory. Yet, that is the area of research that all the young scientists are rushing head-first towards. I think science, as well as myself, will be doing a lot of chewing between us!

    As for science trumping me every time I think it has made an error you simply don’t know all the issues. Some scientists believe that the Big Bang theory will be replaced and that quantum theory may undergo reformulation. Other scientists are challenging Einstein’s ideas about gravity. It is open season!

    Spiritually yours,

  32. Sue says:

    Most bloggers would love to have this much commentary on a post (and wouldn’t bother to respond to each one).

    Blogs – comments – opinions – wacky readers. It’s a package. It’s not personal against you. It’s a plus for you if you look at it more positively. Will you be happier or better served if I keep my thoughts to myself? If I move on to my other areas of ‘expertise’?

  33. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    I have been dealing with the “package” for over two years now. However, I will never admit that I am the one who is fanning the flames in order that my readers will do the same.

    And don’t look at the yellow feathers in my mouth as having any meaning! I am simply a belligerent guy (like Joshua was).

    Spiritually yours,

  34. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    No, you did not offend me. What was “most upsetting” were the inaccuracies in the para referred to.

    Since reasons are the parts of thought (RP 147), and thought is a superior imagination (RP 144), it follows that reasons are parts of the imagination. Additionally, the interior imagination is indicated in AC 3337 as being synonymous with thought (“but his interior imagination, or thought, consists solely of the forms and appearances of such things as have been drawn in through the mind’s vision still more wonderfully varied, and so to speak modified.”).

    The “huge brain” was speaking to a scientist not yet familiar with the general ideas helpful in grasping the more specific ideas involved in the subject discussed. And the “huge brain” was attempting to speak to the scientist in terms that he, the scientist, might be able to understand. Gotta land on the beach before you can step ashore.

    To say that reasons cannot be called ideas of imagination is to claim that no interior or superior imagination exists.

    Also, contra conclusion of upsetting para, the ideas of thought, aka reasons, happen to be things with which ingenuity concerns itself. And, yes, sometimes reasoning is mere ingenuity. Would you like some citations supporting this?


  35. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    I was just trying to let you know that I myself was not offended by your statement “Feeling pressed for attribution.” And therefore I hoped that you were not offended by my statements.

    Now then, by “reasoning” I am referring to Swedenborg’s definition of true (proper) “thought” or rational thought. Such reasoning is not drawn from the senses but through the mind’s visions (which makes it a distinct and discrete operation). It is not a claim that no interior or superior imagination exists but that one is indeed distinctly superior – such as the relationship of true thought to the imagination.

    The imagination in Swedenborg’s view is not concerned with ethical and moral issues (the invention of the wheel is not a product of contemplating good and evil). Rationality (true reasoning) does contemplate these things. When the mind looks down at the field of things imagined it is rational thought that disposes these things into a totally new construct and “elicits some meaning not visible in the parts and the connection of parts, but lying deeply concealed.” That is why all proper thought is immaterial.

    If you want to say that their is inferior and superior reasoning – just as there are ideas of the imagination and ideas of the thought then I could side with you. However, I maintain that not all ideas are reasonings.

    This whole discussion started because I dared to use a ladder instead of a column. Good grief!

    Spiritually yours,

  36. thegodguy says:

    To whom it may concern,

    “The knowledge in its sequence by which man’s understanding ascends, while God all the time holds him in His hand and leads him, may be compared to the STEPS OF A LADDER seen by Jacob.” TCR n. 24 [2]

    Each discrete degree (step) of cognitive function contains its own continuous grades or shades. But each discrete degree is not continuous with each other (but they can correspond and communicate through contiguity – touching along a boundary). Also, as higher degrees of the human intellect are opened up the lowest level, in itself is enlightened continuously. (See DL&W n. 256)

    Spiritually yours,

  37. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy

    “The knowledge in its sequence” does not refer to the sequence or process of sensing, imagining, reasoning, and judging you’ve culled from Rational Psychology and have had the rope and ladder discuss. For example, the first piece of knowledge in the sequence mentioned is “Heretofore no one has known anything about the spiritual world, the abode of spirits and angels, which every man enters after death.” According to your conflation, this enters through the eyes from the material things of the world into the imagination which is below thought.

    Also, DLW makes the same point as the rope, “The natural degree of the human mind regarded in itself is continuous, but by correspondence with the two higher degrees it appears when it is elevated as if it were discrete.”

    Sensing, imaging, thinking and judging are continuous. While these four things are separate and distinct, and one is above the other, they are of a continuous degree, all occurring on the same level of a single discrete degree (one rung of the ladder).

    When you say, “Each discrete degree (step) of cognitive function”, it is you who is saying this, not Swedenborg. Swedenborg is not defining them as discrete degrees. The are for Swedenborg continuities within a single discrete degree. While the quality of their operation will vary according to which of the three discrete degrees is opened, they themselves and their operations nonetheless remain continuous within a single discrete degree (that one of whichever of the three discrete degrees is opened).

    You tweak, tinker, modify, reverse, tilt, scrunch things up and pivot on the meanings of terms as used by Swedenborg, and then present the result as something said by him.

    If only your position were, “I have some ideas, and here they are. To better understand them, let’s first look at what Swedenborg had to say. Swedenborg said, blah, blah, blah. Now, if we tweak, tinker, modify, reverse, tilt, scrunch things up a bit, and pivot on the meanings of terms as used by Swedenborg, I think it can be seen that what I’m saying is worthy of further consideration.”

    I, personally, think that what you are saying is worthy of further consideration. But I also think you are undermining your considerable efforts by failing to properly distinguish between what you say and what Swedenborg said.

    The reason why people stopped listening to the boy who cried wolf is because they discovered that what he was saying was not true, and his credibility suffered as a result. In the end, their failure to believe him was to their detriment. Nonetheless, every understands why he wasn’t believed, i.e., why he lost his audience.


  38. Sue says:

    GodGuy, I’ll help you get some of that barn work done today. I want to go to the horse’s mouth anyway. So don’t respond to my comment, just keep breathing in that fresh air.

    Your original post way up there was nice. Swedenborg really was all about levels and distinct parts of things. You had a good way of talking about that. The argument it spawned was wonderful and intriguing.

    So, I dusted off the horse’s mouth. Wow. You may not believe this, but I just ‘got’ discrete/successive vs. continous/simultanaeous. The Human Soul chapter of Sw compendium has it all in a nutshell. (Your post about the human mind being a ladder was meant to take place within one distinct degree at a time, and it was great, but a reader has to know more just to follow that ensuing discussion).

    Discrete degrees each exist by themselves! While they are forming one thing! They are each a little world unto themselves, yet connected by making up one thing. Something prior (the intention/cause/mysterious celestial) and something productive (the discerning spiritual working degree) and the ultimate created material thing all together compose one thing. They communicate by correspondences because they are each so unique.

    Continuous things exist on each discrete level. They are firmly connected because they are graduations of the same thing. Wisdom, for instance. You can be more or less wise along a continuum. But wisdom itself is composed of three distinct parts.

    The three parts seem like they would happen over time. Prior, posterior and ultimate. But, no, they do not. They are glommed together in each moment of time. It’s all there at once. If you think super-hard you can perceive that the creating love and the producing intelligence and the material thing are all happening at once. Ta!da! a thing exists.

    So, anyway, I just wanted to tell someone. Even though I have no one to tell except for you people who already knew that. You are educating me.

    Keep blogging. If I lived closer I really would come over and rake up sticks today or something.

  39. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    You forget that I am trying to communicate difficult ideas to a non-Swedenborgian audience. If you want to split hairs do it with other Swedenborgian scholars.

    Of course, Swedenborg never used terms like “cognitive function” but today’s neuroscientists do. My new book attempts to put Swedenborg’s ideas within the current scientific language so that I can reveal their true potency even in this post-modern world.

    I will not tolerate a Swedenborgian purist who lives in the intellectually incestuous atmosphere of other Swedenborgian thinkers – who have lost the ability to engage the outside world.

    Today’s brain scientists see the human intellect ONLY like a rope – not as a ladder. However, they are beginning to suspect levels of neural structure that go deeper than synaptic connections between neuron clusters (brain localizations). Swedenborg can offer real insights here!

    Swedenborgians talk to each other too much! I am trying to talk to a completely different audience that has no reason to take the Swedish sage seriously – a dead white guy from another era. The purpose of my new book (and blog) is to stimulate serious thought – not simply quote Swedenborg’s exact words.

    You are challenging the wrong person!

    Spiritually yours,

  40. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Thanks for the offer to help rake leaves. Isn’t there a Swedenborgian movement among women called “Gathering Leaves?”

    They are comprised of women from both of the two major Swedenborgian denominations.

    Have you thought about joining them?

    Spiritually yours,

  41. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    It may be that I initially misread your response above. If I now understand correctly what you are saying, particularly with regard to brain scientists seeing the human intellect only like a ‘rope’, then you may possibly find interesting
    The Limits and Dangers of Calculative Rationality, by Hubert L. Dreyfus & Stuart E. Dreyfus.
    , as well as the Having the Bubble section in Gene Rochlin’s Trapped in the Net.


  42. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Thanks for the links!

    Spiritually yours,

  43. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    I thought you might like ’em. Glad that you do.

    Here’s another one. I had to fire up my old computer, dig around for a copy of the html file, extract the URL, and hope that the Internet Archive had a copy. It does. Without further ado, here is Gilbert Ryle’s
    Courses of Action or the Uncatchableness of Mental Acts.


    o The history of thought may be summed up in these words: it is absurd by what it seeks and great by what it finds. — Paul Valery

  44. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Thanks for sharing with my readers.

    Meanwhile I am withholding your recent comment to my post entitled “Swedenborg, Einstein and Heisenberg.” Since you have mentioned someone else’s name (I think unfairly) I am giving that person full authority to decide on the fate of your response.

    Spiritually yours,

  45. Sue says:

    GodGuy, I was reading the links above from Glenn and comparing them with your ice cream comments about how there are distinct levels in a person’s mind. (the part that desired ice cream as opposed to the part that knew it was a bad dietary idea)

    Have you ever heard that the mind works backwards in making judgements? That the judge first decides. And then follows the trail back through imagination to create a path to the judgement he desires? I believe minds do that. “Thinking” is actually backwards from what we think it is. That’s kind of what you were saying. And that’s what Ryle was implying in the link where he tells us why we can’t explain our own thought process. Judgement is discrete from imagination. And it actually happens first. Swedenborg and Glenn wouldn’t call that ‘discrete’. But it is. In our common way of using discrete.

  46. thegodguy says:

    Dear Sue,

    Yes, from Swedenborg!

    In his model of causal process within the human intellect Swedenborg states that the first operation deals with ANALYSIS – from physical sensation all the way to “judgement.” From there, the mind switches over to SYNTHESIS which works in the opposite direction and causes a choice to be willed and determined into physical action.

    This unified process is not simply a back and forth operation. It is a CIRCUIT, which Swedenborg calls the CIRCLE OF LIFE. It starts from some affection (love) and causes that love to manifest in some “end.” My book offers a schematic of this circular process which contains mathematical precision! (Are you listening Glenn?)

    Swedenborg’s concept of discreteness goes beyond the idea of distinct units – it includes distinct QUALITIES. This presents a big problem for scientists and their materialistic ideology!

    Spiritually yours,

  47. Glenn Schoen says:

    My ears are ringing. Is someone…?

    Oh, I see. Yes indeed.

    Here is The Brain speaking (no, not the ‘huge brain’, or the ‘Big Brain’, just ES’ work The Brain (Vol II #601)),

    “The most intimate art of animal nature consists in combining and separating its liquids and essences. By this means it can so often depart and return, as it were, from spirit to body, and from body into spirit and live in each distinctly, and yet at the same time conjointly; otherwise it could not perpetuate a… circle through blood-vessels into fibres, and from fibres into vessels, which… we call the circle of life.”


    But it’s not all that bad, though, not really.

    While florid and baroque, that little passage is simply calling attention to the fact that, e.g., the blood nourishes organs, muscles, etc., carries away impurities, which impurities elsewhere are extracted from the blood, which then returns purified to nourish again.

    You know, the circulatory system of the human body; the heart saying, in effect, “In with the bad blood (veins)–OXYGENATE!–out with the good blood (arteries). In with the bad blood–OXYGENATE!–out with the good blood…” On and on and on.

    BTW, did you know that tinnitus is simply that distracting, mind-numbing background music chosen by a tone-deaf instructor for this ongoing aerobic activity? Um, maybe not.

    Anyway, fast forward some years, and we can see that this circle of life has been bumped up a level. That is, whereas the ‘circle of life’ was used to refer to the function of blood, cerebral spinal fluid, etc., moving throughout the body in the interests of nourishing, purifying and what not, ‘the circle of life’ is now used to refer to something which goes on in a person’s mind (DP 29.3, e.g.). In other words, the ‘circle of life’ that started out as referring to physical processes, has been promoted to referring to (let’s call them) mental processes.

    In referring, describing or explaining the circle of life in reference to the mind, Swedenborg used simple examples, which he considered to be ‘old hat’ to the people of his era. As one example,

    o It is known that a man learns many things in infancy and childhood for the sole use that by them as means he may learn those which are more useful; and successively by these such as are still more useful, until at last he learns those of eternal life; and when he learns these, the former are almost blotted out. AC 3982.2

    Swedenborg’s circle of life is adequately described, though not referred to by name, in the next statement immediately following in the same number.

    If DLW 241 is seen for the general, straightforward sequence that it is (man’s end/love searches through the understanding for the means by which it may take effect), and apply AC 3982.2 above, one has what we moderns refer to as a ‘feedback loop’. That is, we modify our intentions from what we learn by way experience resulting as an effect from previous intentions acted upon.

    A hint of this process is evident in this from the Dreyfus paper linked to earlier,

    “When we learned how to tie our shoes, we had to think very hard about the steps involved … Now that we’ve tied many shoes over our lifetime, that knowledge is ‘compiled’, to use the computing term for it; it no longer needs our conscious attention.”

    And we can use this to say that when one has gone from doing good from truth (e.g., “I’ll help you, but only because I’m supposed to ‘love my neighbor’), to doing truth from good (e.g., “I’ll help you because I genuinely care and enjoy being helpful”), the truths from which good originally was done have become ‘compiled’. Or, in other terms, they have become ‘second nature’.


    I’m reminded by Sue’s good insight of this,

    “A leading Realist scholar, Jerome Frank, maintains that the opinions written by the judiciary are an inaccurate depiction of actual thought processes which occur in a judge’s mind. Frank claims that judges’ decisions are not based on a systematic analysis of fact and law, but rather on a perspicacious flash termed the ‘judicial hunch.’… The motivating impulse which leads a judge to his decision is his ‘intuitive sense of what is right or wrong in the particular case.’ Once this decision is made, the judge will employ every means available to justify his or her decision within his or her own mind and to withstand criticism from his or her peers.”

    SeeHow Judges Judge: Theories on Judicial Decision Making, by Timothy J. Capurso.

    I think this is an excellent time to clarify something I said earlier. Intentionally or not, Sue alluded to this something when she said, “Swedenborg and Glenn wouldn’t call that ‘discrete’. But it is. In our common way of using discrete.”

    This ‘something’ was the distinction I had made between levels being distinct, and therefore discrete, but not necessarily being discrete in the way Swedenborg used the term in referring to discrete degrees.

    A good judge will judge fairly, a bad judge will judge according to what he can gain from his decision. In both cases, there is a process going on in the mind, which involves: a) an affection or intention from love (‘end’); b) the understanding, or thinking and reasoning operating in support of or in accordance with this affection (’cause’); and, c) what results from it finally in the decision rendered or handed down (‘effect’).

    In Swedenborg’s divvying up of things, the good judge is judging from the spiritual degree, the bad judge from the natural degree.

    Yes, end, cause and effect are separate and distinct, and yes, ES does use them in conveying the idea of his three discrete degrees (between which, he does say, there is “no finite ratio” (but this lack of a “finite ratio” is between the each of the three discrete degrees, not between levels of a single discrete degree (which levels, because distinct, are thought of and referred to as discrete in the common sense))).

    Yet, the discreteness of the processes themselves involved in the judging of the two judges above are not discrete in the way Swedenborg means when talking about the discreteness between the natural degree and the spiritual degree.

    One judge is judging from the spiritual degree of his mind, while the other is judging from the natural degree of his mind. Or, to put it another way, in the first judge the spiritual degree is opened, and so he operates from that; while in the second judge the same degree is closed, and so he operates from the next lower degree which is the natural.

    At the same time, end, cause and effect are operating in both judges–in a different discrete degree in each case.

    Gone fishing,

  48. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Now my ears are ringing!

    Swedenborg “bumps up” the Circle of Life to include process in the Spiritual World (Divine Providence n 29 [3] as well. It is the universal law of process and order AND RULES EVERYTHING. It is the progression by which first principles return to first principles – otherwise God god not be in or govern finite things from an eternal purpose (prolepsis). This is not “old hat.”

    I feel I have to be patient with you because you have not read my book. You have not even responded to all the information I have made available about discrete degrees on this blog (such as harmonies). Besides, I never said that “non-finite rations” exist between the operations of a single degree. Even the judge operating on a spiritual degree has his ruling terminate on a lower degree otherwise he could not function in a worldly courtroom.

    So I do not know what you are attempting to clarify. The more you lengthen this conversation the harder it becomes for my readers to keep track of things. I feel we are coming to the end of this discussion.

    Spiritually yours,

  49. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    1. Swedenborg “bumps up” the Circle of Life to include process in the Spiritual World (Divine Providence n 29 [3] as well.

    Yes, I did refer to this in my comment–where, for the sake of simplicity, I had said, “(let’s call them) mental processes.” This was not an attempt to redefine the nature of the process, but both because love operates in the mind, as do thoughts (cognitions) and ‘mental processes’ (“human cognitive functions”) has been referred to several times in this thread.

    2. It is the universal law of… …govern finite things from an eternal purpose (prolepsis). This is not “old hat”.

    I agree–what you are referring to here is not “old hat”. However, I did not say, suggest, imply or intimate that it was. I said that “Swedenborg used simple examples, which he considered to be ‘old hat’ to the people of his era.” I then provided one of Swedenborg’s simple examples, which begins with “It is known that“. Swedenborg used the example to establish a foundation for what he would next say. It was the example used in establishing that foundation that I said was “old hat”, not that for which the foundation was established.

    3. I feel I have to be patient with you because you have not read my book.

    I appreciate the patience. Yes, I have not read your book. I also have not had access to an ARC (not that there is any reason for me to have had access; just sayin’), and Amazon reports that “This title has not yet been released.”

    4. You have not even responded to all the information I have made available about discrete degrees on this blog (such as harmonies).

    We’re still in a state of disharmony over a particular point raised in the dialog between the rope and ladder. It would be good to clear this up before moving on.

    5. I never said that “non-finite ratios” exist between the operations of a single degree.


    6. Even the judge operating on a spiritual degree has his ruling terminate on a lower degree, otherwise he could not function in a worldly courtroom.


    As is that even the natural judge employs sensing, imaging, thinking and judging.

    7. So I do not know what you are attempting to clarify.

    That sensing, imaging, thinking and judging are not each a discrete degree in the sense that Swedenborg used discrete degrees, and that they are continuous on different discrete degrees.


  50. thegodguy says:

    Sorry Glenn,

    Swedenborg does state that sensing, imagining, and thinking (rationality) are discrete when you consider that they operate on distinct “fields of vision” and operate on distinct layers of bio-structure (which embrace distinct geometrical forms and new powers of infinity). What is complicating this discussion is the fact that as each of these degrees are opened successively during one’s life they become continuous processes on the lowest plane (all influx is top-down). This situation is similar to the conjunction (marriage) between a person’s internal and external realities (as depicted by Jacob in Scripture).

    I suspect that your brain is troubled by any interpretation that goes beyond discrete degrees being applied to a framework other than CELESTIAL, SPIRITUAL and NATURAL degrees. What is novel for you is that the NATURAL degree can consist of discrete operations in the full sense that Swedenborg used the term “discrete” degrees. For instance, If by spiritual evolution and effort an individual obtains Spiritual or Celestial development these higher things flow down and become continuous within the operations of the natural man. Yet such a noble person is distinctly more than a mere natural man. So we can have a natural man, a natural/spiritual man,or a natural celestial man (I am including women).

    You may think that “judging” between having an apple or a pear for desert is a true operation of judgement. But Swedenborg uses judgement as the discernment between moral values of behavior and ultimately seeks to be WISE. Wisdom is not sought after when one simply decides between having an apple or a pear.

    Swedenborg (even in his theological writings) most definitely equates RATIONALITY (proper thought) to the INNER person which is truly discrete from the EXTERNAL (corporeal/sensual) person.

    For anything to be anything at all it must contain three essentials. Everything in the created world consists of both continuous and discrete degrees.

    Spiritually yours,

  51. Glenn Schoen says:

    Dear TheGodGuy,

    Discrete degrees and discrete operations are not the same thing. Just like discrete operations and discrete numbers (1, 2, 3…) are not the same thing.


  52. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    I understand what you are saying perfectly well. We keep misreading each other.

    Discrete degrees are not static classifications. Each discrete degree in God’s universe consists of some actual process (operation).

    Swedenborg’s ideas are most difficult to express mathematically. He suggests that the “calculus of infinities” or “fluxions” offers a mind-boggling example.

    One discrete degree can be looked at as the “integral” and the higher degree as a “differential.” This difference can be expressed geometrically as that between a circle and a point on that circle, or when applied to real biological entities, as between the cerebrum (integral) and a neuron (differential). There is no possible ratio between the two but through contiguity (one creates the boundary of the other) they can communicate.

    As regards this contiguity in the human intellect, “sensation” causes a specific modification of the Cerebrum but a general modification of the neuron or brain cell. Swedenborg takes this dynamic deep into the neuron itself where “imagination” is a specific modification of the neuron and a general modification of the superior cortex (a discrete substrate) within the neuron itself. Rational thought and judgement is a specific modification of the superior cortex and a general modification of its individual cortices. The pure intellect (which contains a connate knowledge of all science) is a specific modification of the individual cortices and a general modification of the spiritual substance of the soul. True spiritual or angelic thought is a specific modification of an individual’s spiritual substances and the general modifications produced by the heat and light (love and wisdom) of the SPIRITUAL SUN. Celestial angels can perceive more specific modifications from this MORAL SUN – which is God’s abode in heaven!

    In this “bumping up” process Swedenborg claims that finite and limited constraints are removed while something perpetual and infinite is superadded. I hope you can see why these things can hardly be addressed in a blog post. Swedenborg’s mathematical theories go beyond the discrete numbers 1, 2, 3. His Universal Philosophy of Mathematics involves not just quantities of quantities but qualities of qualities!

    Spiritual yours,

  53. Very good web site! I truly love how it is simple to browse.
    I’m curious how I could be notified when a new write-up has been created. I have registered to your RSS which must do! Have a great day and plz excuse my poor english!

    • thegodguy says:

      Thank you! Go to “Email Subscription” (top right), enter your email address and hit the button that says “sign me up” to get on the new write-up list.

      Spiritually yours,

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