I am grateful for Swedenborg’s evils

Visualize this: A man named Emanuel Swedenborg finds himself in bed with a beautiful woman. He makes a sexual advance towards her. She rejects his advances, saying, “You stink.”

What a bummer! How humiliating!

Swedenborg wakes up and records this unflattering dream in his notebook. Unfortunately, he feels no relief that he has just had a bad dream—the bummer and humiliation goes much deeper than the notion of being sexually rejected by a human female. Swedenborg has been intensely exploring deeper levels of consciousness, especially his own. He interprets this dream as meaning that something in the inner quality of his heart and mind is too foul-smelling to allow him to enjoy heavenly and pristine angelic beauty, which the woman symbolized.

This dream happened during a most challenging period in Swedenborg’s life. He was recording many similarly troubling dreams in this period, which seemed to illustrate his spiritual faults in the most graphic and startling ways.

Daytime was no better.

Swedenborg was a God-centered scientist who was seeking ultimate truth and rational proof of the human soul. His scientific writings and publications were insightful and profound, yet during this same chaotic period he had the uncomfortable epiphany that when he removed the ideas of reward, honor, prestige and fame from his projects, he observed that his mind became noticeably unenergetic. Apparently, much of his genius was being fueled by self-love, vanity and pride. (Try contemplating how difficult it is to challenge your identification with your own efforts and giving all credit to the Lord God!)

Swedenborg realized that if he were going to make any further genuine truth-discoveries it would take more than exercising and improving his intellect. It would require improving the quality of his heart. This new challenge was made clear to him when on one unique evening he reported receiving a visit from the Lord Jesus Christ, who asked him point-blank, “Do you have a bill of health?” Swedenborg understood the Lord’s words to mean—was he appropriately and spiritually cleansed for such a sacred undertaking.

I have studied Swedenborg for almost 40 years and I find the period just before his turning into a theologian most dynamic. He would not have been permitted to serve the Lord in bringing a new dispensation to the human race unless he had fearlessly met his inner demons head-on and resisted their diabolical influence. He humbly approached the Lord for assistance in conquering these negative inclinations, and became repulsed by anything smacking of any kind of affirmation of self.

Swedenborg’s combat with his dark side was successful and he was given access to heavenly secrets. He then devoted his life to theology.

When one reads his deeper interpretations of the Holy Word, one discovers a similar theme of conscious self-struggle throughout its sacred narratives. It was divinely revealed to Swedenborg that the Bible’s stories symbolically portrayed all the hidden details of the severe suffering the Lord intentionally undertook in order to make His human nature at one with His divine nature (this theme runs through both Old and New Testaments). This miraculous process of Glorification required that Jesus humble Himself in order to defeat the inclinations of His physical flesh and all the worldly aspects of a human ego. That is why He was born on this troubled planet from a human ovum (to have real hereditary human defects to work with and conquer—in order to keep the doors to heaven open for the human race).

So while the Lord was preaching and talking the talk, He was simultaneously walking the walk!

Unfortunately, such intentional self-suffering is the opposite of what most people value in their delusional approach to worship. Instead, the majority of people attend places of worship in order to feel good about themselves—which misses the whole point of spiritual transformation, rebirth and regeneration. People desperately seek an affirmation of self through their religion from the belief that they are doing good and that God loves them—regardless of whether they are making any serious efforts in self-examination to dig up their personal dirt and clean the “inside of the cup.”

In this kind of religious scenario “hope” is constantly misdirected.

So I will give Swedenborg credit where credit is due. I am most thankful that he was brave enough to discover, accept and wage an intense battle with his various ignoble traits so that humankind could enjoy the wonderful fruits and spiritual innocence of his labors.


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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4 Responses to I am grateful for Swedenborg’s evils

  1. Forrest Dristy says:

    You make an excellent point. (About Swedenborg’s evils) Thanks.

    • thegodguy says:

      Dear Forrest,

      You are most welcome. Swedenborg’s life and struggles (as well as his writings) offer us powerful lessons for our spiritual growth!

      Spiritually yours,

  2. James Desiderius says:

    Thank you for writing a very eloquent and heartwarming account of Swedenborg’s own personal trials.

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