In this unique heavenly doctrine Swedenborg puts forth the dynamic concept of ultimate causality that all life comes from God, and without some connection to God, an individual would instantly turn to froth and perish! Ka-poof!
Since this divine connection is perpetually challenged by the inclination of humans to be drawn into the vanities and allurements of the physical world, and not heaven, Swedenborg maintained that God created a contingency plan. The Lord God devised a secret method or gift by which this connection could be primitively maintained (and hopefully built upon).
Swedenborg called this gift or connection the “remains,” by which the Lord secretly collects and implants, within the more interior and deeper levels of the human mind, feelings and ideas of spiritual and eternal value learned during the innocent years of our infancy and childhood. (Think of the “remains” as a deposit God makes on our future.) This divine and most crucial implantation allows angels from heaven to have a plane of activity within the human heart and mind, particularly the human heart or will. All human salvation must proceed from these “remains.” (The “remains” simply keep the door open for salvation but do not guarantee it.)
It is in the development and evolution of these “remains”—from the choices we make in adult life—that our spiritual re-birth takes place. The evolution of our remains can be understood in several ways. One way is that, over time, it becomes an expanding plane for conscience and spiritual morality to take hold in our lives. In a more scientific explanation, the “remains” cause real structural change to our inner lives by rearranging the knowledge and ideas in our memories into more noble belief systems—which are true bio-centric structures manifesting the quality, character and organic form of the evolving human spirit.
If you feel that such an unusual idea within the context of salvation has no Scriptural support, let me offer you the following biblical passage that Swedenborg points to concerning this topic: I will make a residue, when ye shall have some that escape the sword among the nations, when ye shall be scattered in the earth; then they that escape of you shall remember Me. (Ezekiel 6:8,9)
This higher order structural bio-evolution can be looked at as the creation of a purer or spiritual body within the gross physical body. In other words, the spiritual things we love and the spiritual thoughts we embrace form all the organic processes of this rarefied body of the soul. This bio-structure survives death.
The reason why salvation also brings about new spiritual bio-complexity is that the “remains” are a real living residue. In the same way that human red blood cells build and maintain the physical body by its various residues (substances), influences from God can leave real residual effects on the human mind and augment its psychical structure and integrity. This spiritual residue becomes operational in people who sincerely, love God and love the neighbor—whether they know it or not. However, those who know about it can offer more assistance by which they can both consciously hasten and take this process further.
Swedenborg maintained that there were three levels in heaven. It is God’s hope that some individuals on earth will make the additional efforts necessary to obtain these higher levels of angelic life. Such individuals develop their remains to higher degrees of organic perfection from having a more spiritually principled, loving heart. God is able to implant (seeds of peace), and cultivate more divine teachings within those who have made the extra efforts to acquire this non-ordinary knowledge.
For instance, an often-overlooked detail of Swedenborg’s concept of remains is that these divine influences are not only implanted within the natural and worldly mind of individuals but specifically within the interior natural mind (as opposed to the exterior natural mind). The interior natural mind is the subconscious while the external natural mind is one’s habitual mind (artificial consciousness). Knowing this detail allows an individual to participate in God’s plan for salvation with greater precision (and have a better handle on the obstacles).
I know of only one other individual who offered a similar idea to Swedenborg’s profound theological concept of remain—George Gurdjieff. He called “remains” the magnetic center.