Like and Dislike

©LilacPOP PhotographyThe topic of consciousness and selfhood presents many problems for neuroscientists with their current methodology of explaining mental activity solely in terms of physical processes or through third-person observation.

Lately, however, these scientists are looking into the importance of feelings as the key ingredient behind person-level experience. In this regard, 18th Century scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg was way ahead of his time.

He was not only the father of the neuron theory (brain cell with its connections), he theorized that the neuron itself contained deeper layers of structure where the higher cognitive functions of abstract, rational, intuitive and spiritual thought operated.  (Current neuroscience is also moving in the direction of multi-leveled structure within the neuron as well as current theories in physics, which proposs that the universe is structured into layers of existence!)

During the course of one’s lifetime these layers of human consciousness were opened up according to new feelings, that is, new principles of love.

According to Swedenborg, personal consciousness consists simply of one’s likes and dislikes. On the lowest corporeal level of mind, an individual likes or dislikes things according to the comfort and physical pleasure something provided in the world. Higher up in the chain of consciousness, an individual likes or dislikes certain ideas that have accumulated in the memory. Above this level—called human reasoning and judgment—a person likes or dislikes more abstract notions of civility, ethics and morality. At the highest level, one cultivates likes and dislikes from things learned through religious or spiritual considerations. On this final level, what one likes and dislikes become issues of good and evil.

At each distinct level of consciousness described by Swedenborg, a different quality of feelings sits in the cockpit of mental activity. At each new or higher level in this model, personal level experience becomes nobler and one’s heart becomes more inclusive—moving from self-gratification and merely personal pleasure to concerns about others to spiritual love for others.

We cannot prove this hierarchical model in a laboratory, but we all respond with “gratitude” to those individuals who operate and affect our lives from elevated levels of heart and mind. Therefore, we can each prove to ourselves that who we are and how we think (person-level experience) is based on what we love.

Swedenborg found the principles of like and dislike represented in the dynamics of physical nature, human anatomy and in the human psyche. Physical objects expanded when they got warmer and contracted when they got colder. Similarly, the structures of the physical human body expanded (dilated) when the person was happy, attracted to, and warmed-up to something, but became constricted when a person grew cold towards something or found it repulsive.

Swedenborg called this similarity between physical actions and mental actions correspondences. In other words, the principle of like and dislike had its analog in all created things—from the mineral world to bio-complexity to the human heart and mind.

Such a model of reality would certainly be a lawful result of a God of Love!

I have explored Swedenborg’s amazing insights, which straddle and unify both science and theology in my new book Proving God. If nothing else, it will allow you to explore your likes and dislikes on deeper levels of your personhood!

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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4 Responses to Like and Dislike

  1. Kathryn Pruiett says:

    I have a question….maybe I already know the answer, but I’m going to ask it anyway. Dealing with the neurons and cognition….what if they are damaged? How does that affect spiritual growth? When the mylen sheath is destroyed, preventing the neuron from “firing”……as in MS. For many MS patients, it is mobility that is affected, for some it is primarily cognition….it’s not their fault, however it DOES affect how they think, and act….so how does it affect their spiritual growth when reasoning and cognition are limited? Just curious!

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Kathryn,

    My understanding of Swedenborg is that an individual is not responsible for his or her actions if the brain is impaired or damaged. Even worldly judicial systems take such things into account. Spiritually speaking, those of us with healthy nervous systems are the unlucky ones – we are responsible for all our choices (once we reach adulthood).

    Spiritually yours,

  3. Kathryn Pruiett says:

    Ok…if they aren’t responsible for their choices, does that mean they stop growing spiritually? Or is their some aspect that is still growing? Perhaps I am looking at this from a purely natural perspective, I know they are in spiritual protection, but somehow growth HAS to take place, I’m just not sure where, or how? In the spiritual world, I know they will be “whole” and disease free….so will their “struggles” and “trials” actually serve as growth ultimately?

  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear Kathryn,

    The Lord God is constantly perfecting the Grand Human (heaven). Unless we consciously choose to blow it, and embrace evil as the ruling principle in our hearts, the Lord uses numerous secretive ways to prepare us for adding to that perfection. The Lord uses all struggles and trials for this ultimate goal.

    I hope that helps some.

    Spiritually yours,

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