Emanuel Swedenborg: The perfect theologian for atheists and scientists

ONE of the big issues atheists have against religion is that many of the stories in the Holy Bible seem irrational and do not stand up to either scientific scrutiny or today’s enlightened sociological sensitivities. However, having been a scientist himself, Emanuel Swedenborg’s contribution to theology was unparalleled in allowing the human understanding to probe rationally, and even scientifically, the mysteries of faith.

Let me address a handful of important points in question with this short blog post.

Swedenborg offers unexpected evidence for the inerrancy and authority of God’s Holy Word. For instance, in John 1:1-3 of the New Testament, it states that in the beginning was the Word, God was the Word, and that everything created in the universe was created by the Word.

For the above premise to be true, the Holy Word must be equally infinite as God is and contain the patterning principles for the design of the universe. Although Holy Scripture is a large book containing over a thousand pages, it certainly is not infinite. Furthermore, the narratives of the Bible don’t seem to communicate principles of universal structure. Or do they?

Swedenborg discovered that God’s Holy Word contain deeper levels of meaning, which allow it to convey inexhaustible knowledge. These deeper levels of meaning, by quantum jumps back toward their origins, lawfully abstract and free themselves from their involvement with time and space. Therefore, the Holy Word, which first existed in a non-material heaven, has a non-local and pre-Planck dynamic.

Scientists who probe the mysteries of reality based on observed evidence can reach similar conclusions from Swedenborg’s multi-leveled exegesis (interpretation) of the Holy Word’s inner content. The various levels of meaning within the scaffolding and architecture of Holy Scripture represent the top-down causality between first principles and irreversible physical events. From a scientific standpoint, this means that there is a mathematically precise analog or similitude between the distinct levels of communication in Holy Scripture. Swedenborg called this multi-leveled similitude the science of correspondences.

The patterning principles in God’s Holy Word are also organic and anticipate the emergence in creation and evolution of higher order structure and bio-complexity in nature. This is why Holy Scripture is called the living Word.  Amazingly, Swedenborg states that all the levels of meaning and information in the Holy Word are ordered and arranged according to the various functions of biological organs and processes of the human anatomy. The reason for this is that all co-existence and unified cooperation among particular parts of a system are mirror images of the mutual and spiritual love of heaven—which is an expression and derivative of God’s essential character of Divine Love.

Unfortunately, a researcher would have to plow throw fifty or more of Swedenborg’s books that span both science and theology to appreciate and get an intellectual handle on this novel worldview. I have attempted to shorten this process of investigation with my book Proving God. It covers how theology, when properly understood, can not only logically interface with science but also how it offers new solutions for the mysteries that still plague contemporary scientists.

I have just scratched the surface. This new book will give both atheists and believers plenty to of new information chew on.



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
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23 Responses to Emanuel Swedenborg: The perfect theologian for atheists and scientists

  1. Adri says:

    This is a book that is the best thing you can give a friend! It is no easy read, but then life is not easy either. Highly recommended and fully Swedenborg based.
    Do our babies indicate a reverse in evolution?? Any animal baby knows within hours what to do and does it. With our babies that may take years. There is a reason for everything.

  2. thegodguy says:

    Dear Adri,

    Thanks for your support! Animal babies will never grow up to appreciate my book “Proving God” (and only some men and women).

    Spiritually yours,

  3. Roger says:

    Dear Edward, I think you have missed a point. The fact that the Bible has a deeper layer (or several deeper layers) of meaning is not readily apparent to anyone, least of all to atheists. It needs to be discovered by study and by exposure to Swedenborg’s writings, and atheists and most scientists are likely to approach it with a biased point of view. So the crux of the point is – how does one surmount this initial barrier of prejudice against anything that smacks of the supernatural and of the spirit? I have found only one answer to this “initial torque” conundrum in the Bible and other writings – grace. God generates the initial spark of interest in the atheist/scientist/sinner and he can then follow or reject the Holy Spirit’s promptings. But it is the same Spirit that impels the uneducated boor and the erudite philosopher and scientist. In the final analysis, we can all learn about deeper meanings and correspondences in the spirit world if we choose too. What matters in this sublunary world is whether we plight our troth to the Lord (or to some form of goodness, which ultimately derives from the Lord).- Roger

  4. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    Gee, I could have waited until I died and reached the spiritual world to learn about correspondences! Instead, I foolishly wasted 35 years of my terrestrial life filling my head with symbolic terms when I could have been living a life of goodness. #@$*&%#^@#$!

    All “true” knowledge leads to love and goodness. Deeper knowledge can lead to deeper goodness. The more one knows, the more it can perfect what one does (uses/loves).

    It is from the Lord’s grace that a new dispensation was given to the world!!! (If what you say about grace is true Swedenborg would only have needed to write just one book.)

    Spiritual Love and goodness must come from innocence. Innocence comes from spiritual combat and temptation. New knowledge provides the catalysis (and initial torque) for the process of temptation and re-birth to begin. Many of today’s faithful falsely believe they can skip introspection and temptations and simply “jump into” goodness – but it is as important for a church to have the “intermediate” as it is important to have the “good.” That intermediate is God’s Truth! If one studies correspondences (more detailed truths), one sees more clearly what God’s Holy Word seeks to teach us – and what obstacles await us.

    Sorry, that after writing over 500 blog posts I keep missing the point!

    Spiritually yours,

    P.S. Who are you trying to defend?

  5. Roger says:

    Dear Edward,
    All that you said is true. For Swedenborgians and for those who benefit by reading Swedenborg and literature based on Swedenborg, what you said is absolutely true.

    This does not obviate the fact that the vast majority of Christendom either does not know of or want to take Swedenborg seriously. Ditto for the academic community – including atheistic scientists as well as non-atheistic scientists.

    Regeneration is important but it can take place without knowledge of Swedenborg’s writings. If I understand Swedenborg right, then even a Buddhist or a Muslim can be regenerated without becoming a Christian or knowing anything of Swedenborg’s work.

    I guess my bottom line is: We need not despair at the state of Christendom and of the world. The Lord is at work. While some of us reap the benefit of the deeper revelations of the Lord here and now, we need not worry that the rest of humanity (including our relatives) are permanently lost. Parenthetically, I am not proposing a “universal salvation” here but a “near-universal salvation”. Ultimately, all will be well with us and those we care about. However, it is is good for us to make an extra effort to expedite the process – why live at the boundary of God’s light indefinitely?


  6. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    Yes, people of all religions and even the “non-religious” (like Cicero) can acquire a heavenly life. But what makes you believe in “near-universal salvation”?

    You are actually helping me to make my point – we do not simply need to benefit from deeper revelations concerning the Lord but deeper revelations concerning ourselves (most of which are not good)!

    Spiritually yours,

  7. Anon says:

    Adri, a minor point on this: “Do our babies indicate a reverse in evolution?? Any animal baby knows within hours what to do and does it. With our babies that may take years. There is a reason for everything.”

    Evolution doesn’t have a clear enough trajectory to say that some part of it goes ‘in reverse’. It just sort of meanders around, doing whatever works. Sometimes this means having lots of offspring that are pretty much independent right off the bat. But sometimes it means having only a few offspring and investing a lot of time and energy in each one. The second strategy is popular with a lot of large animals and those that need extra time to develop oversized brains; even with their very long gestation periods, whales, elephants, and humans, along with the other great apes, can’t get all of their development done in utero, so successful parenting means sticking around for a few years.

  8. Roger says:

    Anon said: “Evolution doesn’t have a clear enough trajectory to say that some part of it goes ‘in reverse’. It just sort of meanders around.” Unless you accept a teleological paradigm such that that of Chardin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pierre_Teilhard_de_Chardin). Note that belief in purposeful evolution (driven by – who else? – God) does not imply that there are no retrogressions. Whether we call a step progress or retrogression depends on our own limited view. In a teleological evolutionary paradigm every development fulfills the divine purpose, even if it consists of meandering steps. Roger

  9. Roger says:

    Dear Edward,

    You asked: “…what makes you believe in “near-universal salvation”?” Depends on what you mean by salvation. If it means attaining the celestial or spiritual heavens, then it is only for an elite that struggles for self-discovery and is saved. But there’s another level – natural heaven. Why wouldn’t the average Joe Schmoe who is not an oppressor, rapist, murderer or sadist not reach the natural heaven after purification and learning in the world of spirits? (Assuming he is sane – the criminally insane so not make responsible choices and , therefore, have not chosen hell.) I think this is only logical. Where did Swedenborg say that the masses will go to hell? Roger

  10. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    Swedenborg describes a scene in the spiritual world where the “wide” path leads to hell and the “narrow” path leads to heaven. He also states that those of the Christian faith participate in adultery more than any other religion. There is no reason to assume that we are any better off than those who lived during Swedenborg’s time.

    The Human race is born into evils of every kind – the human will is nothing but evil. The only good we have is from the Lord through a gift of grace called the “remains.” It is our individual responsibility to allow these remains to grow and mature within us by the evils we identify and resist during life. If one does not begin to challenge oneself spiritually here on earth what guarantee is there that one will do so in the other world? Simply waiting for things to happen in the spiritual world is a risky gamble!

    Spiritually yours,

  11. Roger says:

    Dear Edward,
    I agree that “simply waiting for things to happen in the spiritual world is a risky gamble!”. On the other hand, if we have our internal compass oriented in the right direction and we’re making an effort to progress spiritually and become better men and women (angels!), we should never despair of salvation no matter how deficient our character. Anyone who says the Our Father with meaning each day, who examines his conscience and seeks forgiveness and healing, and attempts to follow the 10 commandments is not far from the Kingdom of Heaven (even if it is just the “natural” Heaven). – Roger

  12. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    You are now cooking with gas! However, some of your earlier comments seemed to suggest that “most” people are doing the things you have identified above.

    Heaven is not a place one goes to. It is something you become. To the extent that you are willing to become a heaven in miniature on earth will lay the foundation for the extent to which you can co-create your eternal abode with the Lord.

    Spiritually yours,

  13. Anon says:

    ‘“Evolution doesn’t have a clear enough trajectory to say that some part of it goes ‘in reverse’. It just sort of meanders around.” Unless you accept a teleological paradigm’

    Well, ok, that’s circular enough–speciation is directed if someone is directing it–but you’re not really talking about evolution anymore. When biologists talk about evolution, they are talking about something very specifically non-teleological. If you want, you can think there’s some grand, vague that some being has for us all, but evolutionary biology deals with pretty specific ideas about genetics and selection pressures, which range from offering no evidence for intelligent guidance, to being in direct conflict with it.

  14. Roger says:

    The apparent lack of intelligent direction is observed only at the level of micro-evolution. If you look at the bigger picture, the end result does indicate a teleological pull that undergirds the selection pressures (or long sequences of selection pressures). Shifting gears from biology to astrophysics, I am sure that it will be hard to discern a teleological pull in every solar flare and sunspot – but the overall, long term effect is anthropic. -Roger

  15. Anon says:

    You know what they say about extraordinary claims?

  16. thegodguy says:

    Hey Roger and “Anon,”

    Do you two guys know each other? I believe you both have friends in Bryn Athyn!

  17. Roger says:

    Dear Edward,
    I do not know “Anon”. As a Swedenborgian, I do have a great respect for Bryn Athyn but I am not a member of the General Church of New Jerusalem.-Roger
    P.S. I attend the Catholic Church and I am a baptized Catholic.

  18. Anon says:

    I don’t know how many anonymouses Roger knows, but I don’t think I know a single Roger.

  19. thegodguy says:

    Dear “Anon” and Roger,

    I am amused about where this discussion is headed. Both of you are familiar with Swedenborg’s ideas yet one is a “Bryn Athyn” atheist and the other remains a Catholic. I just want to add before going further that you are both good men. I would rather take on true idiots.

    Being inclined towards theistic science I believe that Anon provides the biggest challenge (especially since he won’t order my new book “Proving God”). So I am trying to think of a scientific discussion that would offer some rational evidence of a “purposeful” creation scenario without getting caught up in endless debate. I think I might be able to do this through quantum theory. We will see.

    Spiritually yours,

  20. Roger says:

    Dear Edward,
    Sorry for continuing on this thread. This time, I have a question and not an “argument”. You wrote: “He [Swedenborg] also states that those of the Christian faith participate in adultery more than any other religion.” How does Swedenborg define adultery?

    This is a serious question because, for instance, the Biblical definition of adultery is not the same as the use of this word in popular Western culture. In the Bible (both Testaments), adultery occurs when the woman involved is married. This definition of adultery has nothing to do with the marital status of the man. When it occurs, both the man (who may or may not be married) and the woman (who has to be married) are adulterers.

    In popular Western culture, adultery is defined as: (1) The unfaithfulness of one married partner (husband or wife) to the other, (2) The act whereby an unmarried person (man or woman) has sex with a married person of the opposite sex. Clearly, this divergence from the Bible is new and is based on Western culture’s rejection of “patriarchal” values. For instance, Henry the 8th was not considered guilty of adultery when he had sex with unmarried women even though he was married. But his wives Anne Boleyn and Catherine Howard were both executed for adultery because they were convicted (whether rightly or not) for having sex with men other than their husband.

    In Islam, the definition of adultery (zina) is very different from the two definitions above. It is defined as any extra-marital sex. Sex between an unmarried male and an unmarried female is considered adultery in Islam. However, the punishment for zina is more severe for a married perpetrator regardless of whether the other culprit is married or not. An unmarried adulterer gets a lighter sentence regardless of the marital status of his/her co-perpetrator. The theory in Sharia law is that a married person, male or female, has a legitimate channel for sexual release and is therefore more guilty than an unmarried person without such a channel.

    I suspect (but I am not sure) that Swedenborg’s definition of adultery is closest to the Islamic definition rather than the classical, patriarchal Judeo-Christian definition or the modern, Western, post-patriarchal definition (see above). Again, I am asking for Swedenborg’s definition and not how you personally define adultery as a culpable offense before God and the human community.

    Also, it is known that Swedenborg considered pellicacy as not sinful, even if it is not recommended. He defined it as an unmarried man taking a mistress, or as a married man without sexual access to his wife (if she is insane or in a coma, for instance) taking a mistress without divorcing his wife. He allowed this latitude for men (presumably because of the urgency and strength of their sexual need), but not for women.

    Thanks, Roger

  21. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    It is easy to get caught up in the technical language and definitions used in Swedenborg’s visionary insights. Think deeper. Ultimately it is the quality of one’s inner spirit that qualifies an action.

    Men (particularly young men) can suffer the loss of health from a hindrance on their prolific principle. Women do not have this problem. However, more mature adult men, who have a more intense experience with spiritual regeneration can modify this need – one’s sexual energy actually begins to take part in spiritual rebirth – because the human seed begins to acquire the qualities of a new understanding which inseminates the will. This is why Swedenborg lost his “worldly” sexual drive during his 50’s.

    I am already telling you too much. I will say no more about this rarefied subject.

    Spiritually yours,

  22. Roger says:

    “I am already telling you too much. I will say no more about this rarefied subject. ”

    Dear Edward, If you are not willing to teach on this subject, then where can I find the answer? I have your book, ‘Proving God’. Is it in your book? If not, then where? I have not been able to read all of Swedenborg (very few can). Therefore, there is a need for experts to fish out the necessary answers from the ocean of knowledge that the Writings represent. I hope you write a blog entry on this subject.

    – Roger

  23. thegodguy says:

    Dear Roger,

    I edited out your more personal data. You are not abnormal. Just follow the Lord’s commandments, love your wife and you will be fine!

    Spiritually yours,

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