Religion is simply about how to live a heaven-bound life. And, if one humbly and sincerely loves God and the neighbor, reaching God’s heavenly kingdom of mutual love does not require one to be a neuroscientist.
So why did Emanuel Swedenborg provide so many extra details on the process of spiritual salvation? The average person who lives a life of goodness from spiritual principles does not really need such doctrinal “overkill.”
A hint comes from a statement once made by George Gurdjieff that “the more one knows, the more effective one’s efforts can be.” The purpose of religion is to change our lives to become better people. Therefore, Swedenborg offered the extra information for those who wanted to understand the actual “science” behind salvation (all process proceeds according to the laws of order).
Religion basically informs us that we have a soul and a physical body. Because we have souls, the human race can survive death and live in a spiritual realm. But what Swedenborg (and Gurdjieff) brings to the theological table is that the human soul still needs to be embodied in a way that allows an individual’s personal identity to be put into a non-physical structure and organically transferred to a different realm.
According to Swedenborg, God’s living force flows into our souls—through heaven—and down into the hearts and minds of us people living on earth. But this divine influence flows through us like water through a sieve—unless a person makes the effort to allow God’s love and truth to become “fixed” and permanent in his or her life.
Swedenborg discovered that the true human soul is even beyond the consciousness of angels. So we cannot live in such a rarified sphere after death. What happens is that the Soul creates a spiritual body inside the physical body—based on the things we LOVE and seek! In other words, instead of being the mere result of our parents’ genes (which is a genetic “crapshoot”), the spiritual body is who we really are and deserve to be!
Swedenborg claimed that a person’s blood is a physical analog of an individual’s loves, affections and passions. Not only do people have different appetites, the human digestive system extracts nutrients that bring the chemical makeup of a person’s blood into concord with their affections. He claimed individuals even extract different qualities from the atmosphere (atmospheric and ethereal salts) in our respiratory systems to further promote this concord. And finally we all draw in different kinds of knowledge from the world (including religious doctrine). From these multi-sourced “foods” the soul fashions our real spiritual body using the substances that correspond to our life choices and values (loves).
We tend to view the human mental faculty of understanding and reasoning as a cognitive function. But Swedenborg claimed that the human understanding is an organized body of knowledge that forms one’s innermost bio-complexity. In the same way the physical body consists of organs that digest and prepare food, the human understanding contains non-physical analogs of these same organs by which the spirit can digest and prepare information. Angels, and those who live in heaven, have developed spiritual bodies that can receive and digest an even nobler food or quality of information—God’s teachings and tenets.
The spiritual body develops (crystallizes) within our physical bodies as we live out and act on our chosen principles of life. When individuals leave their physical bodies behind after death, they find themselves living in the environment that most suits their spiritual bio-complexity. Those who gravitate toward heaven or toward hell have differently organized spiritual bodies. Again, the soul can only create our inner reality and spiritual body from the things we hold dearest in our hearts and minds. (If the soul did not comply with our strongest wishes our very bio-fabric would rip apart!)
I am sharing these ideas with you so that you can have a more visceral notion of the consequences of one’s behavior. My new book Proving God contains a chapter entitled “The Science of Salvation” which puts the discussion of human salvation into clear scientific language!