An Ancient School

A long, long time ago there was a tribe of people who developed a special way to preserve their special knowledge of the spiritual reality hidden within all the created objects and processes of physical nature.

On one such day the elders of this society gathered to determine which children to choose to convey this special knowledge in order preserve it and carry on the tradition of their culture. They always decided on a malleable young child who hadn’t formed any particular ideas about the world yet but who was beginning to understand their verbal language.

All decisions of these elders were completely adhered to by everyone in their tribe. So it was a great honor if a child was taken from the parents and put under the complete care of special teachers. These teachers would take the child and put him in a cave for five years with just enough light to keep him from going blind and just enough food to keep his body functioning. So the child was deprived of many external imputs.

During this five-year period the teachers would concentrate on developing the child’s mental world. The child would not only be instructed about spiritual ideas but how these ideas were related to each other in profound organic ways. Some ideas would form the basis (the soil or ground) of one’s mental field of vision or inner landscape. Other ideas were used by the teachers to act like seeds that could be planted in this mental soil, take root, grow, branch out, flower and become fruitful.

These ancient teachers were careful to cultivate in the child a world of ideas that attracted the most noble feelings of love and purity—just as an earthly environment composed of a wide variety of beneficial and useful plants and trees would attract animals and purify the air. The child would learn that some ideas could soar above others because they represented a higher viewpoint like that of birds. The child would also learn that love and goodness were to be put at a greater height (like mountain peaks) than mere self-interests (the valley below). And above all, the child would learn that all these ideas came from a Creator-God, who nourished and gave life to everything that exists, like the warmth and light of the sun and the rain which fell from “above” to form rivers of life-information that collected into an ocean of wonderful ideas within the child’s memory.

Then, after five years time, the child would finally be brought out of the cave to see the world of nature.


Just imagine the result! You see, such a child would not see the physical world the way a modern society does. This child would see the ideas and feelings of his heart and mind given physical and visceral expression all around him! This child was able to observe the sacred mind of God in all the mountains, rivers, plants and animals observed in the physical world. Everything in nature corresponded to some spiritual quality.

Now let’s fast-forward a couple thousand years to our post-modern society and imagine someone trying to convey this same knowledge in a book. This is the profound challenge of the Swedenborgian Church, which has been given access to this divine and rarefied knowledge. How will they take this knowledge out of their books and teach these unique ideas in a way that will be successfully incorporated into modern culture and the modern mindset? How does such symbolic thought prove to be infinitely important to a world that is money-hungry and afraid of physical death?

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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2 Responses to An Ancient School

  1. Bob Vining says:

    Sounds alot like Helen Keller’s story.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Bob,

    Helen Keller was certainly Swedenborgian. The difference in the story above is that a child would learn about spiritual realities/symbolism before learning about the physical world. I think Helen Keller learned about the physical world before being introduced to Swedenborg’s spiritual ideas. But it would still be interesting to speculate how she perceived physical and spiritual relationships (correspondences).

    I appreciate your insight!

    Spiritually yours,

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