Spiritual versus Worldly Art

One of the little talked about revelations concerning angels and heaven made by scientist/theologian Emanuel Swedenborg’s three-decade exploration of the spiritual world is the topic of angelic art.

Swedenborg tells us that angelic art is far superior to that of terrestrial artists on earth. In fact, angelic art is almost beyond human comprehension and therefore, he offers very few clues as to how we might envision the quality of this artwork. I also suspect that angelic music and dance also follow along the same line.

Having spent a part of my education in art school, Swedenborg’s references about spiritual art definitely captured my mind. However, I not only wondered if the art of terrestrial artists was simply inferior, but actually in opposition to angelic art.

I am talking about something deeper than painting the Virgin Mary lovingly holding the baby Jesus.

I was once at a get-together with a group of spiritual seekers. I found myself sitting next to a woman who was involved with modern and interpretative dance. Having been exposed to the sacred dances and movements developed by George Gurdjieff, I mentioned to her that he created bodily movements that were mathematically designed to portray the laws and process of the universe.

She turned to me and said, “but is it art?”

I inwardly recoiled at hearing this most unexpected—for me—response. And I spent some time after that pondering what art really is.

In Swedenborg’s address at his college graduation he states, “That is not art which reaches its effect by chance.” Whoa! Many of today’s artists allow their work to come forth through the expression of free spirit. Just let it happen spontaneously! Terrestrial art is both personal and one’s free expression. Rules would simply put the artist in creative bondage. That wouldn’t be “true art.”

One of the anti-intuitive themes promoted by mystical philosopher George Gurdjieff was that human art has degenerated since ancient times. Swedenborg states that the “Fall of Man” essentially consisted of exalting personal expression—instead of God’s expression, or, of expressing the sacred laws of the universe. This downward trajectory, if true, would certainly offer tangible evidence as it found new expression in the types of music, dance and art being created throughout history.

Self-expression (from the proprium) was certainly not the style of ancient peoples and cultures. All their art, like Egyptian hieroglyphics and symbolic art in ancient India, embraced cosmological and theological themes. The whirling dervishes of the Sufi religion say they are moving according to the laws of the universe (angular momentum rules the motion of planets and is represented in Planck’s constant of quantum mechanics). When Native Americans dance to the rhythmic beat of drums they feel they are taking part in the “heartbeat” of the universe.

These art forms are completely self-less. Nothing of personal expression drives the rich creativity of these earlier cultures. Art was not originally created simply to entertain our worldly senses— but instead, to communicate special knowledge and help open the door to spiritual salvation.



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 http://www.staircasepress.com
This entry was posted in god, Inner growth, Reality, religion, science, spirituality, symbolism, unity and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Spiritual versus Worldly Art

  1. Glenn says:


    Did you consider it art, and/or in accordance with the laws and process of the universe ( or that it might help to open the door to spiritual salvation), to change my comment (in the ‘Holy Scripture’ blog) so as to: a) fashion it to your liking; and, b) convey a deceptive, dishonest and deceitful impression to your readers? See [1] for the original comment, and [2] for your fradulent version of the original comment.

    Some already know what you have done, and I can tell you that the reaction was not one which can be said to be kindly disposed towards you.

    You cannot talk about truth and simultaneously show such a blatant disregard for it, and I do expect an apology for your unconscionable behavior.

    The apology can take the form of ensuring that the comment in its entirety is displayed as submitted for your readers.

    Failing that, it would behoove you to remove your fraudulent version.

    And failing this, it would be wise of you to expect that a true accounting of the matter eventually will be made publically available.


    PS Did you know? There are browse add-ons which enable a webpage to be captured? There are. I make use of one such add-on so I might have a record of the comments I submit (wherever I might submit comments). While I can’t see the comments of others which are ‘awaiting moderation’, those of mine which are ‘awaiting moderation’ do show up and become a permanent part of the record.

    PPS You may wish to first discuss the matter with your wife before deciding how to respond.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    Thanks for the warning! I am tired of you taking me and my readers on “trips to the zoo.” You act like this is your blog. If you don’t believe in my premise that true science and (Swedenborg’s) theology are one, then that is fine with me!

    I have given you lots of opportunities to express yourself on this blog (with more challenging statements than the ones I recently edited) but since I have taken on a major new book project I cannot allow you to drag me down every alley of your mind. I don’t care about Feynman. He separated love from physics. Swedenborg united the two – in fact, love is the origin of all true science. If you disagree with this assumption let me leave you (and those who do not have a fond disposition towards me) with this Swedenborgian quote:

    “The truth of nature, and the truth of revelation, however separate, are never at variance.”

    Spiritually yours,

  3. keith says:

    I enjoyed your comments on art. You are stretching my mind & heart. You write — here on your blog — in a way that ‘keeps it simple’ for us lay people. I appreciate it. I received Proving God from Amazon.com last week and know it will not be a simple read. That is fine; I will tackle it. But for your blog, I appreciate that you keep it more basic. Otherwise you might discourage us from visiting!

  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear Keith,

    Knowing that you study Swedenborg’s theology you should be used to the exercise of having your heart and mind stretched. I use my blog as a means to give readers a “taste” of what they can expect from me (and my books). The Lord has not finished revealing newer and deeper truths to the world. My observations of Swedenborgian culture is that it is “flattening” out. Evidence of this is that most study today is focused on doctrine while moving away from personally challenging one’s mind to think from correspondences.

    Discouragement should not take the place of making true effort – we have to go beyond ourselves. Basic explanation of complex ideas can result in fictitious help. Higher knowledge needs to be earned!

    Spiritually yours,

  5. Glenn says:


    Higher knowledge needs to be earned!

    If this so, why are you handing it to people on a “silver plater”?

    Or is it your estimation that “love is the ‘ultimate science'” does not constitute higher-knowledge?


  6. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,

    My book “Proving God” is not easy to understand (nor are some of my blog posts). One of the comments I received (from Sue) is that she felt that she knew how to make my ideas easier to grasp. But this is not my goal. Sharing understanding is more difficult than sharing knowledge. Sharing knowledge is a simple matter of putting data into one’s memory banks. But sharing understanding is a process that goes deeper and requires real effort on both sides.

    Spiritually yours,

  7. Glenn says:


    One of the comments I received (from Sue) is that she felt that she knew how to make my ideas easier to grasp. But this is not my goal.

    Reminds me of that old adage, “Catch a man a fish, feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, feed him for a lifetime.”

    An alternate version might be, “Hand ’em a carrot, and they’ll eat. Dangling a carrot, and they’ll follow.”


  8. thegodguy says:

    Dear Glenn,


    Spiritually yours,

  9. Glenn says:


    >> An alternate version might be, “Hand ‘em a carrot, and they’ll eat.
    >> Dangle a carrot, and they’ll follow.”

    > Precisely!

    I notice the consistency between your response here, and your earlier ‘Simon says’ pronouncement of, “I fully expect people to follow my lead…” (To be found at the conclusion of the ‘Holy Scripture’ blog).

    Please notice in return that I corrected my initial mistake–proof positive that mistakes can be corrected. In this instance, it is true, ’twas a spelling mistake that was corrected (‘Dangle’ as opposed to ‘Dangling’). But if one kind of mistake can be corrected, so too can other kinds of mistakes.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s