I am a Swedeborgian Christian who has also embraced the ideas of George Gurdjieff. Allow me to share with you one big, big reason. Perhaps Emanuel Swedenborg’s most shocking theological claim is that there was once a more ancient Word of God in existence—a Bible before the Bible. Swedenborg refers to this original sacred text simply as the “Ancient Word.”
As a young boy, George Gurdjieff was exposed to traces of this prior and earlier version of God’s sacred text that Swedenborg claimed was in the possession of a more remote human civilization.
In Gurdjieff’s book Meetings With Remarkable Men he describes how his father, who came from a long line of bards (singer/storytellers) would recite ancient legends and begin discussions as to their possible extra meaning that lay hidden deep within their literal words.
Gurdjieff describes one such event when his father sang to him the legend of the Babylonian hero Gilgamesh. Gurdjieff said that the twenty-first song of this legend eventually became engraved on his memory.
I will tell thee, Gilgamesh,
Of a mournful mastery of the Gods:
How once, having met together,
They resolved to flood the land of Shuruppak.
Clear-eyed Ea, saying nothing to his father, Anu,
Nor to the lord, the great Enlil,
Nor to the spreader of happiness, Nemuru,
Nor even to the underworld prince, Enua,
Called to him his son Ubara-Tut;
Said to him: ‘Build thyself a ship;
Take with thee thy near ones,
And what birds and beasts thou wilt;
Irrevocably have the God’s resolved
To flood the land of Shuruppak.’
Gurdjieff’s father, who was taught this tale from generations and generations of storytellers before him, suggested that the legend of Gilgamesh came from the Sumerians, a people more ancient than the Babylonians. Furthermore, he believed that this legend was the origin of the account of the Flood story in the Hebrew Bible.
The young Gurdjieff later came across a magazine article describing an archeological dig in Babylon that uncovered tablets over four thousand years old. The magazine article published the deciphered text of the tablets—it was the legend of Gilgamesh! Gurdjieff, was shocked that the exact same story on the tablets had been told to him, by his father, who had received this story from an even more ancient oral tradition.
(For what it is worth, legends of a Great Flood can be found in hundreds of ancient cultures throughout the entire earth!)
While you might think that the Gilgamesh story and the biblical story of Noah indeed have some similarities you might recoil at the idea that the one was the origin of the other. But Gurdjieff’s father (as well as Swedenborg) would stress that it was the hidden or symbolic message that was transferred from one account to the other. It was this deeper sense of meaning that made these stories sacred and holy.
Swedenborg claimed that the Ancient Word consisted of a symbolic language that was more remote from the symbolic language of the Hebrew and Christian Bible but that the hidden communication and message was still the same—a communication from God’s infinite depth to serve as a guide for the spiritual growth of the human race.
Gurdjieff regretted having begun too late to “give the legends of antiquity the immense significance that I now understand they really have.”
How awful it is that the post-modern world and its secular trajectory of “reasoned thought” views Holy Scripture as a non-relevant document chock full of silly and insane scenarios. Sorry, but many of today’s intellectual elite do not have the cognitive powers of simple bards to distill higher meaning.